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A Question About

II Peter 2:1, 2

From a Wisconsin reader comes the following question: 

Dear Editor: 

Would you please explain II Peter 2:1. According to an article in the Lutheran News (Christian News?—HCH), verse 2 refers to us as Protestant Reformed. I would appreciate an explanation of verse 1. 

Thank-you. 

In the unending love of Christ, 

Reply

First of all, let me remark that as a matter of policy, questions for this department will no longer be accompanied by the names of the correspondentsunless specifically requested. The questions as sent in to the Editor, however, must be signed; as a matter of personal policy, I throw all unsigned correspondence in the wastebasket unread

Now the question. 

1) As far as the reference to Christian News is concerned, although both Prof. Hanko and I usually scan this paper, I did not notice the article to which my correspondent refers nor any reference to the Protestant Reformed Churches. Hence, if my questioner is not satisfied after this answer, he is welcome to write again and furnish me with the article in question. 

2) II Peter 2:1 reads: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Briefly, I would call attention to the following elements: 

In the first place, the apostle, having written in the preceding context about the true prophets (II Peter 1:16-21), now prophesies that false teachers shall arise in their church. And he introduces this warning by emphasizing that this may be expected because it has always been the case in the church: it took place already in the old dispensation that there were false prophets, who were also warned against in the Law (cf. Deut. 13 and Deut. 18). These false teachers shall be characterized by two things, according to the text. They will import their heresies into the church secretly, stealthily. This is always characteristic of a heretical teacher, of course. He cannot succeed if he stomps in wearing wooden shoes. He must deceive. He must work stealthily. He must leave a pious impression. He must fool people into thinking that he speaks in the name of the Lord and as a Christian teacher; and he must make an appeal to Scripture. But all the time he is secretly leading away from Scripture. Meanwhile—and here is the second characteristic—they bring in damnable heresies, heresies of damnation, i.e., which have their origin in hell, so that through these false teachers and their false teachings “the gates of hell” attempt to prevail against the church. 

In the second place, these false teachers even deny the Lord that bought them. Negatively, we may rule out at once any interpretation of this expression which would teach that those whom the Lord bought by His precious sacrifice could finally deny Him and go lost. This is the well-known Arminian heresy of the denial of the perseverance of the saints and, with it, of the efficacy of the atonement. As Canons V, 8 so aptly puts it, and as is the current teaching of Scripture concerning particular atonement, “the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ cannot be rendered ineffectual.” If therefore we follow the King James translation, the statement can only mean that these false teachers belonged to the church outwardly, though they never truly were of the church. They outwardly belonged to the church, and in that same sense outwardly (by their name and by their profession) belonged to those that were saved by the blood of Christ. But now according to their false teaching they deny that Lord Who bought them, that is, the very Lord of Whom they once professed that He bought them. And thus it also becomes evident that actually and objectively the Lord had never really bought them, and they did not belong to His sheep: for then they would not fall away. 

There is another possible interpretation, however, on the basis of the original. Perhaps if .I translate the expression literally as follows, this will be more clear: “the-having-bought-them-Lord denying.” Then the text does not mean that they deny that the Lord had bought them, or that they deny that they once had been bought by Christ whereas they formerly professed this. Nor does the text then emphasize that they deny the Lord as such and in general. But the emphasis falls upon the aspect of the atonement itself. They deny the atoning Lord. They deny the atonement and the necessity of the atonement for themselves or for anyone. They still claim to belong to the Lord, but they deny that the Lord is an atoning Lord. In other words, they teach, positively, the false doctrine that they are saved by works. In my opinion, this second interpretation has much in favor of it. 

In the third place, the text emphasizes a fact which many today are reluctant to emphasize, namely, that such false teachers gather to themselves swift destruction; and the reference is not to any temporal destruction, but to final destruction. In other words, such false teachers run swiftly to hell! 

I do not know what questions this may raise for my correspondent with respect to verse 2. But I have tried to fulfill my mandate, to explain verse 1. 

Questions About The “New Theology”

From a reader in Holland, Michigan comes the following: 

Dear Brother, 

Today one reads much about the new theology, neo-orthodoxy, and recent scientific data which compels theologians to accept new exegetical ideas in regard to the Scriptures. 

What must we say about this? Our fathers gave us our Doctrinal Standards. Are they becoming obsolete? Are there really new truths which call for a new interpretation of the Scriptures? Doesn’t the authority of the Scriptures depend on its infallibility? 

We’re living in an age of confusion and doctrinal indifference. Your comments will be greatly appreciated. You may do so in The Standard Bearer.

Your brother in the Lord, 

Reply 

This questioner gives a rather large order which I will have to fill on the installment plan, I’m afraid, lest I hog too many pages. But the questions are both interesting and pertinent. 

For the sake of simplicity and also because this is a rather key question, let me begin with the last question: “Doesn’t the authority of the Scriptures depend on its infallibility?” 

This is a question which is much discussed today in connection with the so-called “new theology.” The latter is inclined to answer this question negatively and to maintain that somehow the authority of Scripture can be maintained while the infallibility of Scripture can be denied. Authority does not depend on infallibility; hence, it is safe to deny infallibility without running the risk of denying authority.

Perhaps my answer to this question will come as something of a shock. I also answer No. I do not believe that the authority of the Scriptures depends on Scripture’s infallibility. In the first place, I believe that the authority of the Scriptures depends on the Author of the Scriptures, God Himself. Because the Scriptures are the Word of God written, they are vested with and characterized by the authority (sovereign authority, mind you!) of God Himself. In the second place, I believe that the infallibility of Scripture is not only directly taught us by the divinely authoritative Scriptures, but that such infallibility necessarily follows from the fact that the Scriptures are of divine authority. Authority and infallibility go hand in hand. In the third place, I believe that it is certainly impossible to deny the infallibility of Scripture and at the same time to maintain its divine authority. This would result in the totally contradictory idea that divine authority could inhere in that which is fallible and erroneous. In other words, it would make God a liar. And this is too blasphemous to conceive. 

Moreover, I believe the above answer is in harmony with Scripture and the confessions, specifically the Belgic Confession, Articles 3 and 5. 

I will try to answer the remaining questions in the next issue.