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- 2 Peter 2:4 - 10
We left off last week with gentle warnings for the church to stay awake and stay alert. There will be people embedded within the church community who will assume the name of Christian but have no saving faith in Christ. The ways to recognize these kinds of people are through their words and their ways, what they do and what they say. There are potentially 2 kinds of non-Christians within a church community or a Christian circle: those who do not believe and have very little influence; and those who do not believe and have a ton of influence.
The opponents that Peter is writing about and warning the church about are in the second category. These are people with enormous influence who do not believe the gospel, are not born again and have no Master. Peter does not tell the church to kick them out or give them the cold shoulder. Instead, he says resist their influence.
Judgment has come and will come
In verses 4-10a, Peter will make the case that God will bring judgment on these opponents that use the church as a personal platform. And God will reward the true church for enduring this and many other trials. The way Peter will make these points is through examples from the Old Testament of judgment and rescue, justice and mercy.
He begins in verse 4 with the example of God’s judgment on the angels. “For God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…” This is probably a reference back to Genesis 6:1-4, when “…..the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them….”
The impact of the fall
It appears that the corruption of the earth through Adam and Eve’s initial disobedience had an effect even on the angels. They saw that the daughters of man were attractive and took them as their wives. Jude says in verse 6 that these angels did not stay within their own position of authority but left their proper dwelling. This was a sin against God. And God did not spare them for it but cast them into hell. There, in chains of gloomy darkness, a place without light, they wait for the coming judgment. They got it bad now. They will have it worse then.
God deals with it
Peter’s point is this: God acts swiftly and justly to the sins of all “beings,” human and angelic. He does not waver in His justice. When sins are committed, even by angels, those sins are dealt with, not overlooked or ignored. God has been dealing with the same things that these churches were dealing with and He had been dealing with these things for a long time. If anyone notices, recognizes and responds appropriately to the sins of man and angels, it would be eternal God. The immediate impact for these believers in the churches is to take heart, be confident, trust that God will bring justice to those who are doing wrong. He always has and He always will.
The flood of the ancient world
The next example of justice or judgment is the flood of the ancient world. God did not spare the ancient world but brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly. After the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, sin began to spread and it spread through people. So as the population increased so did the corruption of the world. By the time of Noah in Genesis 6, the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind was only evil continually. God was grieved in his heart by this corruption and determined to blot out man and animals from the earth (at least mostly).
If there is every any doubt that God sees, knows and cares about injustice, wickedness and corruption, the flood is proof that He does. The flood has turned into somewhat of a cute story about animals coming into a giant boat but it’s really not a cute story and most animals are quite stinky. The flood is a window into God’s enormous heart of justice and holiness. It reminds us of Who God is.
The world of the ungodly
This flood came upon the world of the ungodly. Jesus says in Matthew 24:38 and 39, “….. in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
The world of the ungodly is not necessarily people doing the worst things imaginable all the time. The world of the ungodly is a world unaware of God, people carrying on with life as usual. The application for the churches is that God judges people who are very unaware of God and that includes the opponents in the church who have pushed God out of their minds. God sees and knows people who do not see and know Him. He is Lord of all.
Did not spare
Those are the first 2 ancient examples of judgment. So far, Peter has used the words “did not spare” implying that judgment was imminent and appropriate and not interrupted by an act of mercy. Now, mercy and rescue will be introduced. Verse 5, “He (God) did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…” Genesis 6 says that Noah found grace or favor in the eyes of the Lord. So then, Noah was preserved, along with his wife, 3 sons and 3 daughters in law. Noah did not go with the flow, run with the cool kids, and coalesce into the surrounding culture. He was different because He lived the kind of life human beings were meant to live: a life of faith, trusting and obeying God. And He was preserved from judgment.
Representing the Christian experience
Noah represents the Christian experience on a really grand scale. We are not fitter inner people. We really love Christ and His ways. So we do what He says, happily. This kind of lifestyle represents a new culture and it actually preaches to people. Noah was a herald, a preacher. And what did he preach? He preached judgment and mercy. “The rain clouds are forming, the fountains of the deep are shaking and here is the boat.”
A simple message
I don’t think the message is too much more complicated. “You will not survive the deluge of justice and wrath to come. Don’t think you can. Be preserved by God.” The application for the churches is this: God preserved Noah within a corrupt culture. God will preserve you too.
Sodom, Gomorrah and Lot
We have covered 2 examples of judgment and 1 example of mercy. We have one more example of judgment and mercy to go. Sodom and Gomorrah (judgment) and Lot (mercy). Verse 6, “…..by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly….” Sodom and Gomorrah represent the evils of a society that has no God to govern the instincts of the people.
These cities did have a god but not Creator God. Their god was creation god, not Creator God. So they had collectively agreed that the be all and all of all happiness is right here with us. We do not need anything more than what we have right now. So our longings and desires will not drive us to God but will drive us to each other. We can be satisfied without the Great Satisfier of the soul: God Himself. This was bad thinking that began in the garden and has morphed and grown out from there.
Jesus take on it
Jesus will say in Luke 17:28-30 that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were not necessarily all outlandish sinners, some were just average, ordinary, b-grade sinners, people doing average things. They were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. However judgment was coming. And this is a difficult concept to get our minds around. Because, we sometimes imagine that a busy life doing things that are generally good will absolve us from future judgment.
So we try to live in the category of good enough to avoid judgment and maybe even not bad enough to be kept out of heaven. But the Scriptures do not give categories of people beyond 2. There are those who do not believe the gospel and are under judgment; And those who believe the gospel and have received mercy.
Peter is saying that God judged the people of Sodom and Gomorrah by turning the cities to ashes. This is meant to be an example for what happens to the ungodly. There is no happy ending to a life lived without faith in Christ. The believers in these churches were not told to celebrate the judgment on the ungodly but they were to consider the justice of God. The angels didn’t get away with it, the ancient world of Noah did not get away with it. The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah did not get away with it. These opponents in the churches who have claimed authority without being submitted to the Master will not get away with it either. Judgment will come. It always has.
And that leads us to the second example of someone receiving mercy or being rescued. It is Lot. “….and he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).” If you have read the account of Lot in the book of Genesis, you may question Peter’s assessment of Lot’s character. He does not appear to be a very righteous person not just while living in Sodom and Gomorrah but also before he moved there and after he left there. Yet here he is put forward as an example for the churches. Why?
A few things he represents
I think there are a few things that Lot represents. The first is the fact that Lot lived within the culture but did not live like the culture. He was distressed by what he saw. His righteous soul was tormented day after day by what he was seeing and hearing. He could not do anything to change it but he chose to not engage in it. The church is to have the same visceral response to wrongdoing. We are to be very uncomfortable when people do and say things that contradict the authority of the Master. This is because we love the Master.
There is a certain level of uncomfortability that Christians feel when encountered by godless living or speaking. We are affected. And that is good thing. Lot was tormented day after day by the actions of other people. So when you feel distressed by the godlessness of the world both local and global, that is a sign that you are spiritually alive. And to be alive is to feel things that make you happy and sad.
The mercy of God
The other thing Lot represents is the mercy of God. Lot is not a biblical hero. He is a biblical character. The greatness of the Lot story is the mercy and grace of God, not Lot’s perfect moral character. His righteousness came mainly from his orientation toward God, his God-given capacity to recognize and shun evil. The shining Hero of the Lot story is God Himself. Lot did not claw his way out of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was rescued. God rescued Lot in the same way that God preserved Noah. And God will rescue and preserve these believers even though they are surrounded by influences outside of their control.
Rescue and judge
That is the summary in verse 9. If God has meted out justice and mercy throughout all time, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority;” The point is this: God has and always will deal with the wrong and reward the right. Judgment may not be immediate. It may not be as quick as we like. But God’s patience is not a sign of his lack of concern. The Judge of the earth will judge the earth.
Rescue the godly
And the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials. Notice, what it does not say: it does not say that the Lord knows how to “keep” the godly from trials but that the Lord knows how to “rescue” the godly from trials. And the difference is huge. Because if we think that God will prove His love for us by keeping us from trials, then we will often feel unloved and uncared for. But if we know the Scriptures, that trials will come as sure as the morning, then trials will only serve to secure our confidence that our Rescuer will come. He always has rescued His people and He always will rescue His people.
One more example
We have covered 3 examples of judgment and 2 examples of mercy but I want to add one more example of mercy to even out the score. The third example of mercy is me (and you, if you are a believer this morning.) We could easily be examples of judgment but we are not. We have been spared the wrath and judgment of God not because we have made ourselves sparable; But because Someone Else was not spared but condemned.
Romans 8:23 says Who the Someone Else is, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” This is the essence of the gospel message. God’s love and justice is displayed at the cross. God’s justice demands death. God’s love demands mercy. The cross embodies both. Justice went to the Son. Love goes to us.
Holy justice and holy love
So the cross eliminates the so-called contradiction between God’s love and justice. He is both. He contains the fullness of holy justice and holy love. No sin is ignored. All sins are dealt with one of 2 ways: either through the death of the Christ who bore our sins on the tree or through eternal punishment and separation from God. We bare them or He bares them.
There is this universal reality across all cultures and generations. It’s Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” We all fall short. But here is the hope within that reality of our falleness. Romans 3 goes on: We “……. are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
The unanswered question
The missing piece or the unanswered question in the story of Noah and Lot is this: what about Noah’s sins? What about Lot’s sins? Who will be punished for those? God would pass over those sins temporarily so that their sins and our sins could be lumped together in one enormous burden of imperfection to be placed onto the shoulders of the perfect Son, never to be carried again. Many lambs would be slaughtered until the Lamb of God would come and take away the sins of the world. And bring us into the eternal kingdom of God, forgiven and free. That is what He has done and promises to do.
So be preserved. Be rescued. Be saved by King Jesus. Let’s pray.