Today I will attempt to tackle II Peter 2:1. This verse says:
“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.” ESV
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” N
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” NIV
In his second epistle, Peter deals quite a bit with the issue of false teachers within the church. He spends a good deal of time describing their character and actions. This is the primary context of the letter of II Peter.
In looking at 2:1, we will be focusing on one specific phrase: “even denying the master who bought them.” Peter, here, is describing false teachers. Everyone who gives a fair reading to this epistle would agree that these false teachers are not saved. There is no disagreement about that issue between Arminians and Calvinists.
The real issue is this: if false teachers, who are not saved, have been bought by their master, does that mean that Jesus died for their sins? The bigger question is what this leads to: did Jesus die for the sins of every individual or only for the sins of the elect? This is often referred to as General Atonement vs. Particular (or Limited) Atonement.
The best explanation I have read about II Peter 2:1 comes from Wayne Grudem in his book, “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.” Grudem focuses on 2:1 on page 600 of his text. I have quoted him here because he deals fairly with the issue in a manner better than I could.
According to Grudem, “The Old Testament allusion is probably to Deut. 32:6, where Moses says to the rebellious people who have turned away from God, ‘Is not he your Father who has bought you?’ (author’s translation). Peter is drawing an analogy between the past false prophets who arose among the Jews and those who will be false teachers within the churches to which he writes…In line with this clear reference to false prophets in the Old Testament, Peter also alludes to the fact that the rebellious Jews turned away from God who “bought” them out of Egypt in the exodus. From the time of the exodus onward, any Jewish person would have considered himself or herself one who was “bought” by God in the exodus and therefore a person of God’s own possession. In this sense, the false teachers arising among the people were denying God their Father, to whom they rightfully belonged. So the text means not that Christ had redeemed these false prophets, but simply that they were rebellious Jewish people (or church attenders in the same position as the rebellious Jews) who were rightly owned by God because they had been brought out of the
That about sums it up. The key is that in 2:1, Peter is not discussing Jesus’ specific work of redemption on the cross when he writes, “even denying the Master who bought them.”
As with most of the previous verses from this series of posts, II Peter 2:1 is often forced by some people to mean more than it actually says. It seems that many of the verses that form the bedrock of Arminian theology actually mean far less that some Arminians give them credit for. Let us all be fair to the biblical text (Calvinists, that means you, too), and try to honestly determine what the original authors meant.
Up next: II Kings 20:1-6.