In this companion epistle, the apostle Peter describes the brethren as having obtained like precious faith (II Peter 1.1). In the previous epistle, Peter was encouraging the brethren to hold up under the pressure of persecution, but this epistle addresses persecution of a different type. In his second epistle, Peter is encouraging the brethren to beware and not believe false teachers and their treacherous teachings.
One commentator1 states the following about II Peter, “False teachers were prevalent. Heretics and scoffers were exercising a pernicious influence, and against such teachings and teachers this epistle sounds a note of warning.” As difficult as it may be to accept, there are those who will take the Scriptures and contort them into teachings that are not God derived.
Peter describes these teachers as ones who promote pernicious ways; Thayer says that pernicious is “utter destruction.” The KJV New Testament translates the Greek word for pernicious as destruction in Matthew 7.13; waste in Matthew 26.8; perish in Acts 8.20; die in Acts 25.16; and damnable in II Peter 2.1. No matter the way in which one translates the word, the connotation is not one of health and prosperity. Sadly, Peter says that many will follow these damnable, destructive doctrines.
What is even more telling is that the teachers of pernicious ways will “with feigned words make merchandise of [Christians].” To me, this is absolutely unimaginable. I do not use artificial fictitious words. I do not treat people like they are a product that can be bought and sold. And I don’t expect others to do this either. But the fact, from Scripture, is that there are people whose sole purpose is to persuade Christians by using false teachings and theologies. In so doing, these teachers will buy and sell Christians like they are nothing more than a product that can be found in a local market.
The reality of II Peter is that not every teacher teaches truth. There are millions of facts, thoughts, and understandings. Not everything taught is sound. Not everything is healthy for godly spiritual thought. Just because something is presented as logically sound, does not make it true. The reality is: all teachings are not true. In fact, there are teachings that will lead to your death and destruction. The question that remains is: do you want to be unknowingly led to your death?
Peter assumes that Christians want to live because they have “obtained like precious faith.” However, he does not allow faith to remain in isolation. It is II Peter chapter 1 which provides the means by which one can obtain salvation in full assurance of never falling from salvation. Yes, Christians have faith. But faith is not enough to save. According to Peter, Christians who have faith, but no virtue, nor knowledge, nor other spiritual maturing characteristics (II Peter 1.5-8) will not be able to discern the difference between a false teacher and a true teacher.
As we close, we must accept that our calling (Acts 22.16) and our election (II Peter 2.10) are just as concrete as the possibility of being deceived by a smooth persuasive theologian. Let us not be deceived to our death.
1 The New Analytical Bible, King James Version, Dictionary and Concordance, World Publishers; p. 1415