Christians turned False Prophets
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:2)
Here is a very powerful testimony from the apostle Peter explaining that their will be false teachers arising among them, just as Paul and Jesus had taught, and these false teachers are people who have denied the Master who bought them. We will clearly see these men were obviously true Christians who have forsaken the faith, turned away from Christ, and have turned to another gospel. Indeed, Peter says the Master "bought them." The Calvinist himself claims in his doctrine of Limited Atonement that only "the elect" were bought by God in Christ. And here we have those who were bought at a price denying their Master.
1. The Master had bought [agorazo] them. They were clearly true Christians.
Now Calvinists have a little maneuver they have designed which they sometimes try to implement to try and avoid the obvious implications of this passage. First they will point out that the word despotes ("Master") is never used in the New Testament to refer to Christ but only to God the Father (note verse 4). With this in mind they proceed to the word "bought" which is used to denote a temporal deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Dt 32:6). Arguing that God the Father could not have bought these false prophets because it was the blood of Christ which bought real Christians and seizing upon the fact that the Israelite exodus was only a temporal deliverance, they may claim these false prophets only had a temporal but not enduring "saving faith." Therefore, they claim that this passage has nothing to do with Christians denying Christ. As we shall now see, this entire Contrivance is nothing but a means to avoid Peter's teaching.
Now, before we prove the Calvinist wrong on this point let us think about something crucial here. Is the Calvinist now betratying his own heart and claiming that Old Testament Israelites were not born again? If so, then what shall he do with his doctrine of Total Depravity? For it is necessary for him to claim Old Testament Jews were also born again to maintain that doctrine. Were some unregenerate men also bought? If they were not born again how was it they were obeying God when they crossed the Red Sea and then later denied God? In any event, the Calvinist is caught in his own dilemma. He wants to say these Old Testament folks were born again on one hand but here claim they only received temporal deliverance on the hand. So which is it? Moreover, if we do not even bring up this issue, how is it that denying God in one sense is somehow acceptable, but denying God in another is not? It is obvious this argument concocted by Calvinists falls apart before it begins.
First, let us recognize that Peter is indeed referring to false teachers during the time of the exodus. If we look to the book of Jude, which is essentially a condensed version of 2 Peter, we find an identical message:
"For certain men stole in, those of old having been written before to this judgment, ungodly ones perverting the grace of our God into unbridled lust, and denying the only Master God and our Lord Jesus Christ. But I intend to remind you, you once knowing these things, that the Lord having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, in the second place destroyed the ones not believing" (Jude 4-5),
Here we do indeed clarify that Peter and Jude are discussing false teachers of the Old Testament. However, also notice here that these men also are said to have denied Jesus Christ. The Calvinist claim simply does not pan out.
Peter is presenting a typology of false prophets among the Israelites in those days as a pattern of those false prophets among the church in these days. In fact, Peter says explicitly there were false prophets then just as there will be false prophets among you and it is these false prophets of his day who are denying the Master who bought them.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies even denying the Master who bought them.
What Peter is obviously doing here is comparing the Israelite exodus and the false prophets who arose and denied God and Christ at that time, with the church's deliverance and false prophets who arise and deny Christ in this time. Just as God their Master had "bought" the Israelites from Egypt so also Christ had "bought" these Christians. He is the Passover Lamb. It is just a little bit ridiculous to assume that Peter has only the Israelite false prophets in mind in chapter 2 and is warning the Christians about them (they were all dead).
"You were bought [agorazo] with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
"You were bought [agorazo] at a price; do not become slaves of men" (1 Corinthians 7:23).
"These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased [agorazo] from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb" (Revelation 14:4).
What is so interesting here is that Calvinists elsewhere take passages like this to mean Christ purchased "the elect" from among men. But here they do a 180 degree turnabout when the very same thing is being discussed because it does not suit their agenda. To get around this problem they may actually resort to redefining the terms used in this passage in order to escape their dilemma.
2. The false prophets Peter has in mind had escaped the corruption of the world.
"For if after they have escaped the corruption of the world" (2:20).
This is the identical to the terminology Peter earlier used of those who have become Christians in the very same letter:
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world" (1:4)
You will also note that these individuals were also the elect (1:10). So here we find clear evidence that Peter perceived born again Christians as those people who have escaped the corruption of the world and had become partakers of the divine nature (i.e. the Spirit). Therefore, these false prophets who had also escaped the corruption of the world had been born again Christians.
3. The persons in question had "full knowledge" of Jesus Christ.
The Greek word "epignosis" is most properly translated as "full knowledge." This connotates the concept of a intimate personal relational knowledge of Jesus Christ as in Jesus' own words "I never knew you!" and "whom He foreknew he predestined." The Greek word "fully known" is the verb form "epiginosko." Peter describes Christians as those who have full knowledge of God in the very same letter.
"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the full knowledge [epignosis] of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our full knowledge [epignosis] of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires....For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your full knowledge [epignosis] of our Lord Jesus Christ....Therefore, brethren, be the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do this things you will never fall" (2 Peter 1:3-4,8,10).
Now notice the similarity of the language used of the false prophets:
"For if, after they have escaped the corruption of the world through the full knowledge [epignosis] of our Lord. It would have been better for them not to have fully known [epiginosko] the way of righteousness, than to have fully known [epiginosko] it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. " (2:20).
The false teachers had in fact come to the "full knowledge of the truth." They had known Christ. They were born again Christians. In the following passage we can see clearly that coming to a full knowledge of the truth is through salvation.
"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a full knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new man, which is being renewed in full knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Col 3:10).
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may fully know the mystery of God, namely, Christ" (Colossians 3:10).
Clearly, "full knowledge" here refers to the fact that these men were once regenerated and fully knew Christ in a relational sense, which is only possible through the new birth. They are now false prophets who have fell into complete apostasy.
4. They have been entangled "again" in the affairs of the world.
"they are entangled again in them and overpowered" (1 Peter 2:20).
Logically, one cannot be entangled "again" in the affairs of the world unless he has once escaped that state. And this is precisely what Peter has said, "they have escaped the corruption of the world."
"The dog is turned to his own vomit again"
5. Their last state is worse than the first.
"their last state is worse than the first" (2 Peter 2:20).
This is not possible unless they had first become Christians. This is what Peter means when he says it would have been better if they had never come to the full knowledge of the truth than to have known and turned away.
6. They have "turned" from the holy commandment.
"than after knowing it to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them"
The Greek word here is "epistrepho" and means "to turn" and connotates the idea of a "turnabout." It is sometimes translated as "converted." In that sense, these men have "converted" from Christianity back to their old ways. They have turned back.
"The dog is turned to his own vomit again"
There can be no doubt that Peter is talking about men who were Christians and who have turned back to their old ways. Just as false teachers arose in the Old Testament, now false teachers arise in the last days. In fact, they are false prophets who were bought by the Master. They had escaped the corruption of the world just as Peter previously says Christians had done. They had come to full knowledge of the truth which is by definition relational knowledge of Christ. There is no way one can honestly argue these men have simply taken a temporary "backslide" when we look at all the information Peter gives us about them. And it is also incredulous to claim they were never really Christians. They are total apostates and false prophets who knew the way of life and have turned away from it back to the way of death and destruction. We honestly insist they were never born again in the first place. Given the terminology from Peter which we have examined that was used to describe Christians, there is no way one can honestly say these false prophets were never true Christians since Peter uses the same terminology concerning them. Peter is talking about men who were saved and have turned back from Christ and the holy commandment and back into a religion based on false teaching.
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.... forsaking the right way they have gone astray.... For if, after they have escaped the corruption of the world through the full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overtaken, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have fully known the way of righteousness than after having fully known it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2 Peter 2).
Of course many Calvinists will try to resort to some kind of contrivance here and invent some kind of idea that is not present in the text itself to impose his fantasies into it. But the message is plain and truth cannot be escaped. They were born again Christians who have apostasized and become false prophets and their last state is worse than the first. Jude reminds us clearly that God saved a people and after having saved them he destroyed those who were later unbelieving. The message is as true today as it was then. Paul teaches the same message in 1 Corinthians 10. You must make your calling and election sure or you will fall as these men fell and became false prophets.
"For certain men have secretly crept in, who long ago were written about for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Master God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Though you already knew this, I want to remind you that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe." (Jude 4-5).