Peter warning against false teachers is a major theme in II Peter 2. After reminding the Christians that God knows how to punish false teachers while delivering the godly (v. 3-9), he focuses on the consequences of the false teacher’s work. It isn’t pretty. One thing we see is that false teachers’ actions are compared to Balaam. Peter says that these people are, “Cursed children which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity ...” (II Pet. 2:14-16). Balaam’s sinful actions are also referred to by Jude (Jude 11) and Jesus (Rev. 2:14).
Who was Balaam, and why should false teachers be compared to him? Balaam was a Gentile, and also a prophet. It’s apparent that God talked to him and told him what to say to the representatives of Balak (Num. 22:6-14). Perhaps God had talked to him on other occasions, but we’re sure He spoke to Balaam in this context. In fact, Balaam even spoke a Messianic prophecy (Num. 24:17-19)! Numbers 22-24 and chapter 31 record Balaam’s work and ultimate end in the greatest detail. Please spend some time reading Numbers for a deeper understanding of Balaam.
Balaam’s command from God was, “Don’t go with the elders of Moab and Midian to Balak’s house, and don’t curse Israel.” Throughout this event, Balaam was quick to say that he wouldn’t curse Israel even if he could receive Balak’s house “full of silver and gold” (Num. 22:18, 23:24-26, 24:11-13). At the same time, it is apparent that the “wages of unrighteousness” (II Pet. 2:16) had a strong appeal to him. Therefore, after refusing to go with the elders the first night, when they returned, and he talked to God again, he was ready to go with them the next morning (Num. 22:21) even though this wasn’t what God had allowed (v. 20).
Notice that Balaam tried to figure out a way “around” God’s word when he joined the elders who took him to Balak. He would do a similar thing when he told Balak how to harm the Israelites without actually pronouncing a curse on them (Num. 31:14-16; Num. 25; etc.).
What can we learn from this? One thing is that false teachers try to find ways “around” God’s word. Many are quick to agree with what the Bible says, but they try to maneuver themselves into a position where they can do what they want as well. This was Balaam. No, he would never blatantly curse God’s people, yet he found a way to cause them to be punished by God whereby 24,000 died in a plague. Did this not play into Balak’s plans? Men today do a similar thing when they twist God’s word to their own destruction (II Pet. 3:16). When we follow after false doctrines, then we will be punished (Ezek. 18:20). The false teacher will answer for his wrong, and so will we when we follow after him!
Peter says, do not end up as a “cursed” instead of a blessed child! Don’t walk in the way of Balaam, looking for “loopholes” or ways around what God has said. Accept what the Lord has said, believe it and obey it and tell it to others, and watch your blessings increase!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The first chapter of II Peter ends the argument he started in verse 16 by reminding his readers that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (v. 20). He maintains, “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (v. 21).
These last verses in II Peter 1 maintain that Peter and the apostles have not been following myths or fairy tales (v. 16). They had been eyewitnesses of Christ on earth (v. 17-18), and if you don’t believe their words, trust the very word that has come from God (v. 19). Why can I trust God’s word above all else? The answer is in II Peter 1:20-21.
God’s prophecy is not of any “private interpretation.” What does this mean? Through the years, I have heard men say that this means there cannot be a “private interpretation” of the Scriptures themselves. This is not what Peter was saying! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to listen and observe people and see many who have twisted the Scriptures and now teach their own “private interpretation” of the Bible. Peter warned of it happening in the first century, and it continues today (II Pet. 3:16).
What does “no private interpretation” mean? Remember the context of this chapter! Peter was declaring, “No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination” (NET). To borrow from brother Clinton Hamilton, “the meaning of Scripture is not under view, but the origin of Scripture is the issue” (Truth Commentaries, II Peter, p. 98). Thus, the reason why Peter could say that God’s revelation is more “sure” than an eyewitness (v. 19), is because the Scripture originated with God Himself (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21)!
The Bible you hold in your hands is more precious than any other writing on earth. What are you doing with it? Do you know it? Do you read it? Do you study it? Do you obey what you have learned? If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” you are wasting precious time! Get your nose in The Book and learn, believe, and obey (Eph. 3:4; Rom. 10:17; Heb. 5:9, 11:6)!
Peter thought it necessary to remind the brethren of the inspired word so long as he lived (II Pet. 1:12-15). Now, we know why! Could there be anything greater than God’s word in our minds? How often is our Bible open in a day? Why are we depriving ourselves of the source of God’s wisdom (Ps. 119:98-100)? The prophets didn’t make this stuff up (II Pet. 1:20)! The Holy Spirit told them what to say or write, and they responded to that call (II Pet. 1:21)! What will we do with the Divine truth given us
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The words of Peter in II Peter 1:19 are fascinating to me and cause me to stop and consider what he was saying to the Christians (v. 1). “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” Remember in the context that Peter was telling the readers (us) why the words preached by him and the other apostles ought to be trusted. They are not myths or fables, but statements of truth (v. 16). One reason we can know he spoke the truth is that he was one of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ transfiguration (v. 17-18). The second reason is in verse 19. He begins by saying, “We have ALSO a more sure word of prophecy …”. Therefore, in addition to the eyewitness testimony, we also have prophecy or God’s word revealed to us.
To speak of prophecy or the prophetic word simply means what has been revealed by God. In short, Peter says you can trust what I am telling you because I was a witness to Christ on earth (v. 16-18). Yet, if this is not enough, you have all the prophetic words, the words I want to spend my life reminding you, to listen to (v. 19). Trust what has already been revealed!
Peter’s statement reminds me of things Christ said on earth. When Jesus spoke of the rich man and Lazarus, we notice how Abraham rebuked the rich man and told him his brothers “have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them” (Lk. 16:29). Jesus told people that if they did not believe Him, they could believe His works for they were a greater witness than John (Jn. 5:36). If this was not enough for them, He then challenged them to, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (Jn. 5:39).
Over and over Jesus, the apostles, and all encourage us to search the Scriptures and know that we possess the truth (Jn. 17:17). God inspired all Scripture, and this makes the Bible an exceptional and unique writing (II Tim. 3:16-17). Read what is said (Eph. 3:4), test it (I Thess. 5:21), and trust it (II Pet. 1:19). This “sure word” is truth and will stand when this world is on fire (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs