The theme of II Peter is assurance and growth in spiritual knowledge. Peter sees the danger of false doctrine in the church and warns the believers to beware (chapter 3:17). In other words, the two letters together emphasize the perils of the church: Satan can come as a lion with persecution (I Peter), or he can come as a serpent with false doctrine (II Peter).
We could contrast II Peter 2:20-22, where we have a description of false Christians. They have escaped the pollutions of the world, not the corruptions; that is, they have merely washed on the outside, and have not been changed on the inside. They have a head knowledge of Christ and not a heart-faith. They are not truly saved, for they go back to the old life after awhile.
Chapter 2 deals with warnings concerning false teachers. The danger of false teachers is so great that the Holy Spirit used both Peter and Jude to warn us against them! Please keep in mind that a false teacher is not a person who teaches false doctrine out of ignorance. In Acts 18:24-28, we see Apollos teaching false doctrine (the baptism of John ), but he was not a false teacher. Many of the great leaders of the church in centuries past held to doctrines that we believe are not Biblical (infant baptism, union of the church and state, etc.), but we cannot call them false teachers. A false teacher is one who knows the truth, but who deliberately teaches lies that he might promote himself, get financial gain, and be able to live in sin and please himself. He uses deceptive means to twist the Word of God to suit himself. In verses 1-9 Peter explains the condemnation of these false teachers; in verses 10-16 he gives their character; and in verses 17- 22 their claims.
Today we live in a day of false teachers. You may detect them by the way they exalt themselves instead of Christ. Whenever you hear someone exalting himself and emphasizing what he has done and his accomplishments--beware. He is a false teacher and his life is full of lust and sin. Today, as Christians, we should not only know the Bible in our lives. God wants us to have balanced lives, learning the Word and living the Word. In I and II Peter this great apostle is admonishing us to grow in grace and knowledge and to live daily, showing forth the life of Christ in our lives. Each of us should know the Bible in our heads, stow it in our hearts, show it in our lives, and sow it in the world!
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