When Man Rejects God's Authority (2 Peter 2.10-16)
2 Peter 2.9-10 reassures the reader of this great epistle that God has already demonstrated His ability and willingness to deliver the righteous from trials and the unrighteous to judgment. However, verse 9 doesn’t simply stop with “until the day of judgment” with a period at the end. The Holy Spirit makes a special note here about those who will deserve that judgment in v.10 “and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” (2 Peter 2.10a)
The verses that follow (10b-16) describes the effects of abandoning God’s authority for our lives. If the phrase “walk in a manner worthy of God” (2 Th. 2.12) can be thought of as a nutshell-version of godliness, perhaps “despise authority” can be the opposite side of the same coin. All sin can be traced to the rejection of God’s authority. In the Garden, man was instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2.16-17). Eve, closely followed by Adam, decided not to submit to God’s authority and ate, introducing sin and its consequence into the world. (Romans 5.12). Today most have little to no regard for the authority of God over mankind. This passage in 2nd Peter is valuable to us because it turns the clear lens of scripture toward those who despise God’s authority and presents a clear and unflattering view of those who choose themselves over the Lord.
Bold and Willful
“Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” (2 Peter 2.10b-11)
Those who reject the authority of God march in lockstep where even the angels dare not tread. One would think that the angels, who are superior to humans in nearly every imaginable measurement of power, would have some license or liberty to adjust, amend, or ignore the commandments of God. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those angels who have kept themselves free from sin (see v.4) understand the danger of speaking and acting against the will of God. There is much speculation as to who the “glorious ones” are in this passage, which is translated “dignities” in the KJV, but the point of the passage is not identifying those individuals.
To ignore the authority of God is to do what even angels will not do. This places a huge premium on knowing what God has commanded us to do and carrying out His will to the exclusion of all other options. This stands in stark contrast to much of the religious world, where the opinions and traditions of men are given equal or greater weight than the inspired word of God. Jesus would summarize this sort of thinking and practice in Mark 7.8: “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” When we run headlong into the perilous territory of defying the Almighty, don’t be surprised at His reaction. After all, the passage before this one (2.4-8) clearly demonstrates that God will not let this go unpunished.
Like Irrational Animals
“But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed…” (2 Peter 2.12a)
Rejecting God’s authority is the surest way to demonstrate one’s ignorance and lack of wisdom. Without regard for God’s will and word, man cannot be expected to act much differently than the irrational animals. Animals act only on their urges to feed, mate, challenge one another for dominance and to stay alive. When one examines the lives of those who reject God’s authority, their thought processes more closely resemble instinct than intelligence. It is therefore of little wonder to see the total disregard for life present in societies where God’s authority has been maligned and abandoned.
These who disregard the authority of God will receive what they have done back to themselves. In this final form of Lex Talionis (the concept of an eye-for-an-eye: Ex. 22.24; Lev. 24.20; Deut. 19.21), those who blaspheme against God “will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.” (2 Peter 2.12f-13a). In short, what they have done against God will be done back to them. Their views and decisions, although regarded as wise and learned among others who think this way, will be the reason they are destroyed in the end.
They Count It Pleasure
“They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.” (2 Peter 2.12b)
Those who reject God’s authority do not do so without purpose. The original sin in the Garden wasn’t done without purpose: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3.6) Rejection of God’s authority is required to live a life in pursuit of sensual pleasures. And as Solomon famously wrote in Proverbs 27.20: “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.”
Once the bonds of God’s authority are loosed from our lives there is no limit to what we will do or where we will go to do it. This passage in 2nd Peter 2 bears that out plainly: “reveling in their deceptions…eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin…hearts trained in greed”. The course of mankind when they ignore the authority of God has only one direction, and that accursed destination has been visited by mankind at least once before: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6.5) Worse still, these people will “entice unsteady souls” (2 Peter 2.14) to follow along in “the same flood of debauchery” (1 Peter 4.4). It was a “flood of debauchery” among all of mankind that brought about the Flood in the days of Noah, and it will be the burning lust of those who reject God’s authority which will be repaid in kind “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9.48).
Abandoning Reason for Madness
“a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.” (2 Peter 2.16b)
Peter concludes this section by calling to mind a famous story from Numbers 22 wherein is found the account of Balaam the prophet. Balaam is instructed to curse Israel by Balak, the king of Moab, and the first time his answer to the king’s representatives is spot-on: “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (Numbers 22.13b). However, the 2nd time these men arrive with the same request Balaam changes his tune, instead suggesting that God will change His mind on the matter: “So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me.” (v.18) Balaam, due to the prospect of gaining great riches, decides that God’s clear command NOT to prophecy against Israel is now up for negotiation.
How similar this process goes for everyone who abandons God’s authority! There is an initial respect and regard for what God has said on a matter, but then the prospect of gain in some form causes us to rethink and abandon our position. Why do so many not accept God’s clear teaching on how He is to be worshipped? We think of “gaining” an emotional response, we think of “gaining” more worshippers, we think of “gaining” a greater connection with God! Why do many refuse to abide by God’s clear teaching on marriage and divorce? We think of “gaining” the ability to have a new relationship (and its benefits), we think of “gaining” freedom from the poor choices we make in our marriages, we think of “gaining” the right to be free from “till death do us part”!
But what have we really gained when we abandon God’s authority? The truth of the matter is that in exchanging God’s authority for our own will we have exchanged reason for madness. To see that God rewards the faithful and punishes the wicked is the only real reason that exists: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl. 12.14) Any logic that deviates from this pattern is cannot be defined as such, and Balaam’s actions in Numbers 22 are proof. Balaam was rebuked miraculously by the very animal he rode upon that day. What a scene: the man created in the image of God was rebuked by the lowly donkey for his lack of reason! The truth was apparent even to the donkey: Balaam was riding to his doom.
“Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” (Numbers 22.31-33)
When men reject the authority of God, they give up everything in pursuit of nothing. They rush headlong into places where even angels refuse to go. They become the very animals they were put in dominion over by God. They are terminally corrupted by pleasures that entice but cannot satisfy. They exchange the good reason of following God’s commands ending in eternal reward for the madness of folly and eventual doom. May we determine that we will seek the will of the LORD, and open the eyes of those around us that they may see the doom toward which they are riding! -Kyle Sanders