The Holy Spirit Speaking Through Peter

 

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The Apostle Peter was one of the leaders of the Early Church. He had a marvellous ministry from the time he was baptised in the Holy Spirit. As we see in the Book of Acts, God used him to lead thousands to Jesus Christ and was His instrument in His performing of wonderful miracles. After much experience in ministry, Peter wrote the Book of 2 Peter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter has many God-inspired lessons for the Church today.

 

Uninstructed unstable teachers who twist the Word of God

 

The Apostle Peter was not an academic or brilliant intellectual. Neither did he judge people in terms of how academic or ingenious they were. But note in 2 Peter 3:15-17 under the leading of the Holy Spirit, he warned us to avoid the errors of untaught and unstable churchgoers and religious teachers who twist the meanings of the Scriptures: “…as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.” By severely twisting the meanings of the Word of God, these churchgoers and teachers had destroyed their relationship with Him.

In Greek, the word “untaught” above is a form of the word “amathes” which means “ignorant [1] or “a person who has not been taught or instructed”. [2] These people Peter was referring to had read the Scriptures, but they had not been taught or instructed in them correctly. They had very poor foundations in the Word of God. There are many like this at present also.

In Greek, the word “unstable” is a form of the word “asteriktos” which means “the tendency to change and waver in one’s views and attitudes”. [3] Peter is here referring to a similar type of attitude to the one Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4:14. In the latter verse, Paul spoke of being carried about by every wind of doctrine that passes through the churches.

 

These teachers used temptations about greed to exploit believers

 

In 2 Peter 2:1-22, Peter refers to the same or similar liberal religious compromisers to those mentioned in Jude. 2 Peter 2:3 says of these false teachers “By coveteousness they will exploit with deceptive words”.

These teachers were presenting the Gospel in a twisted corrupted form. They were teaching about Jesus Christ primarily as a fulfiller of covetous desires for money, wealth, earthly blessings and so on. 2 Peter 2:14-15 says: “They have a heart trained in covetous practices. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Balaam ruined his prophetic ministry because of a love of money and wealth.

In Greek, the word “exploit” in 2 Peter 2:3 is a form of the word “emporeuomai” which means “buy and sell, trade in”. [4] A form of the same word is used in James 4:13 to mean “we will buy and sell” (N.K.J.V.) or “we will engage in business” (N.A.S.B.). So “emporeuomai” relates to business or commerce.

Therefore, the false teachers referred to in 2 Peter 2:3 were treating Christianity and giving offerings to God as a commercial business enterprise. This is why the King James Version of this verse says these false teachers “make merchandise of you”. They saw all believers as prospective “customers” who could be used supposedly of God to make them more prosperous and outwardly successful.

Because God is so gracious and merciful, He did not immediately judge these false teachers. He permitted them to become very prosperous through their selfish using of His people as their religious business customers. But as Jeremiah 48:10 reveals, a curse hangs over those who do the ministry of the Lord deceitfully: “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully…”

One day, God will hold such greedy leaders accountable. In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, God reveals why He sometimes allows such false prophets among His people. He does this to test to see “whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and your soul.” At present, God has allowed there to be many false teachers and false prophets in the Church to test if we really love Him or love the selfish sin-compromising forms of religiosity such people promote.

In John 2:16, Jesus criticized some of the Jews who worked in God’s temple for turning the place into a business enterprise: “And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise’.” In Greek, the word “merchandise” here is “emporion” which means a “market, market-house” or “a place for engaging in business”. [5]

The word “emporion” is closely related to the word “emporeuomai” used in 2 Peter 2:3. So the false teachers in the early Christian Church were similar to the type of Jews Jesus drove out of the Temple with a whip. The false teachers Peter referred to were greedy experts in fund-raising and obtaining offerings in order to make themselves richer.

You may think such things do not happen today. But I will give you a modern example. A Pentecostal pastor told me about a large Pentecostal minister’s conference in Australia he recently attended. He said one of the speakers stated, “God not only supplies our needs. He also supplies our greed”.

I once heard a preacher say that running a church is like running a business. As supposed Biblical proof of this, he quoted the usage by The King James Version of the word “business” in Acts 6:3 in relation to individuals doing the ministry of deacons in the Church. But note that in this verse in the original Greek, the word “business” is “chreias” which instead simply means “office, duty, service” [6] and has nothing to do with running a business or commercial enterprise.

In 1 Corinthians 6:10, Ephesians 5:3-7 and Colossians 3:5-6, Paul reveals that greedy or covetous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom and will suffer His dreadful anger against sin. Ephesians 5:5-7 warns: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul told us not to keep company with anyone claiming to be a Christian brother who is covetous or greedy: “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person.”

 

They taught a false liberty

 

2 Peter 2:18-19 reveals more about the qualities of these false teachers: “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through licentiousness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” Here Peter says these false teachers promise believers a false type of freedom. This false liberty actually brought its followers into bondage to sin.

 

Good public speakers whose messages lacked solid Biblical content

 

Note also Peter says “they speak great swelling words of emptiness.” In Greek, the word “speak” in this expression is a form of the word “phthengomai” which means “to speak, with focus upon verbal sound rather than content [7] or “speak bombastically”. [8] “Bombast” means “high-sounding language, signifying very little”. [9] “Phtengomai” literally means “produce a sound”. [10] It can also mean “call out loudly”. [11]

This means these false teachers were very good professional speakers who focussed mainly on how their messages sounded to their listeners. These false teachers concentrated on hype. They spoke little which had solid Biblical content or basis.

There is nothing wrong with aiming to be a better speaker. But if you have little Biblical basis for what you say, this is useless.

In Greek, the word “swelling” in verse 18 is a form of the word “huperonkos” which means “excessive boasting”. [12] Vincent says the following about “huperonkos: “The word means ‘of excessive bulk’…it denotes a kind of speech full of high-sounding verbosity without substance”. [13]

These teachers were always building themselves up in the estimation of their listeners. Even when talking about God and Jesus Christ, they were either openly or subtly boasting about their spirituality, natural skills, special calling in God and the supposed great results of their ministries. Outwardly they were very good speakers or orators. They motivated and inspired many churchgoers with high-sounding words which lacked Biblical substance.

In Greek, the expression “of emptiness” is a form of the word “mataiotes” which means “being useless on the basis of being futile and lacking in content [14] or “emptiness as to results”.[15]

These teachers were attracting listeners by their special heretical version of Christianity. But Peter said their teachings lacked content. Their teaching was outwardly attractive to the flesh but it lacked many key Scriptural foundations.

As Vine’s definition of “emptiness” shows, the swollen words of these teachers were also producing poor results in the lives of those who were attracted to them.

There are many fine Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches and preachers in Western countries. But sadly too many are showing signs of following some of the same types of errors mentioned in Romans 16:17-18, 2 Corinthians, 1 Timothy 6:1-10, Titus 1:10-11, Jude and 2 Peter Chapter 2. The degree of falling into these errors varies among such churches and preachers.

There needs to be a large-scale repentance in teaching and practice in the West. Too many churches and leaders have left their first love. One of the greatest desires in my life is to see this wonderful large-scale repentance and returning to their first love.

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         Explain what 2 Peter 3:15-17 means when it mentions “untaught and unstable people” who twist the Scriptures to their own destruction?

2.         What does the expression “By coveteousness they will exploit with deceptive words” mean in 2 Peter 2:3?

3.         Explain what 1 Corinthians 6:10, Ephesians 5:3-7 and Colossians 3:5-6 teach about coveteousness.

4.         What does 2 Peter 2:18-19 mean when it says:

a)             “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption…”

b)             “…they speak great swelling words of emptiness”?


 

[1] Bauer, page 42.

[2] Louw and Nida, page 329, footnote 8.

[3] Ibid, page 376.

[4] Bauer, page 256.

[5] Louw and Nida, page 581.

[6] Bauer, page 885.

[7] Louw and Nida, page 398.

[8] Bauer, page 857.

[9] “Modern Home Dictionary”, Collins, 1972, page 118.

[10] Bauer, page 857.

[11] Ibid, page 857.

[12] Louw and Nida, page 432.

[13] Marvin R. Vincent, “Word Studies in the New Testament”, Volume 1, W. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1887, page 702.

[14] Louw and Nida, page 625.

[15] Vine, page 658.


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