Advent 2020: Jude 17-25

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Saturday, 19 December 2020 Jude 17-25


The Text

Jude 17-25

17. But you, beloved, must remember the words which have been spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Messiah.

18. Because they kept saying to you that at the end of time there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. 

19. These people who are creating divisions are materialists only, having no spirit. 

20. But you, beloved, build up yourselves in the holiest of faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. 

21. You must keep yourselves in the love of God while waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Messiah [to take you] into eternal life.

22. And you must have mercy on some of these who are doubting. 

23. You must save those people, snatching them from the fire, showing mercy, yet still hating the flesh as a stained shirt. 

24. And the one who is able to keep guard over you, to stand surefooted in his presence, in gladness, without blemish.

25. To God our only savior through our Lord Jesus Messiah – glory, majesty, might, and authority before all time and throughout eternity. Amen.   


Commentary

They told us it would be this way.

That is basically what Jude tells us here. The apostles predicted it. There would be ‘scoffers’. And what is the primary activity of scoffers? Scoffing, of course. Scoffers come scoffing. Scoffing is a word we don’t use a whole lot today. It means to mock or to scorn. Better words might be to ridicule or to bully. Scoffers bully you into submission by using words and social exclusion to make you conform.

Jude says these scoffers, who mock us and deride us, are materialists that do not think about the spiritual implications of life. For them it is only what they can get, what they hold, what and who they can exploit, and who they can manipulate. Scoffers do not live on the spiritual plane.

Textually, verses 22 and 23 cause problems for me. Most English renderings see these lines as being about different groups — doubters to whom we must show mercy, the lost whom we must save, and those on fire whom we must snatch. It could be read that way, but the more I cogitated on it and prayed through it, I think Jude is talking about the same thing to the same group of people — the doubters who are lost and must be snatched out of the fire. This teaches us the work of discipleship and of ministry is to answer the questions of the doubters with gentleness, seek out those who have turned astray, and actively remove dangerous situations. It is a lot like raising children.

The benediction here is beautiful and is a tradition for some at funerals. It is easy to see why.


Questions For Application

  1. Mocking is not always bad. Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal. How can you tell when mocking is okay and when it is a symptom of unbelief?
  2. Divisions are bad in the church. Those people who force or create these divisions are materialists who rejecting the spiritual reality of unity and fellowship. Why do you think the church allows itself to be divided the way it does?
  3. Who snatched you from the fire? Whom have you snatched?
  4. If you are able, rewrite the benediction (24-25) in your own words using modern language.

Advent 2020: 2 Peter 2:17-22

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Friday, 18 December 2020 2 Peter 2:17-22


The Text

17. They are waterless springs, mists driven out by a windstorm, people for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved.

18. For they talk of empty boasts, enticing people who just barely escaped error with their lives with even more fleshly desire and debauchery.

19. They promised them freedom, but they themselves became slaves to corruption, for anyone who has been defeated has been enslaved.

20. For if, having fled the pollutions of the world by knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Messiah, they then become entangled, defeated again, then they have become at the last worse off than they were at the first. 

21. It would have been better had they not known the way of righteousness than know it and then turn away from the holy commandments passed on to them.

22. The truth of the proverb has happened to them: “A dog returns to his own vomit” and “a washed pig will roll in the mud.”       


Commentary

Again we are given a short reading.

Two different but related things seem to be happening here. The first is condemnation for the false teachers and heretics who have slipped into the church and have continued to ‘entice’ others along the same path. It is a path that leads to slavery, even though ‘freedom’ is what has been promised.

Sound familiar? The cry of modernity is ‘freedom’ and ‘acceptance’, which is supposed to make people happy and lovely and joyful. Do people seem happier to you? Do people seem freer to you? Do people seem more accepted to you? No, because, it is all a lie. Sexual freedom is to be enslaved by the flesh whims. Material freedom is to be enslaved by greed. Of course, realize, neither Peter nor I am talking about political freedom or even religious freedom. We are speaking about the ethical restraints that are in place for a reason.

The second thing going on here is a little more shocking to me. It poses serious challenges to people who argue that people who are ‘saved’ are forever in that secure position. Peter does not agree. He says these people who entice others, they come after those who have just barely gotten out of it, to bring them back again into error. Peter says they are worse off than they were then they started. If we apply that to faith we find he may be saying that someone who is living a destructive life — finds the Lord and reforms — but then experiences recidivism and returns to their sinful ways — they are worse than they were before they were saved.

That might be exactly what he is saying.

The metaphors in verse 22 are hard to stomach, literally. The dog and his vomit is a sentiment from the book of Proverbs and the business about the pig is a popular idiom used in Greek literature and rabbinical writings. The use of dogs and pigs, something our Lord did often, is designed to make the audience groan, for these are two odious animals to the Hebrews and represent so much, and may even refer to gentiles who never were truly transformed.


Questions For Application

  1. The choice of windstorm might not be happenstance. Peter was at Pentecost. How can the Holy Spirit’s wind blow away false teaching?
  2. Our Bible does not think highly of boasting. What are you guilty of boasting about the most? How can you work on that?
  3. Verse 22 is rather disgusting. How does it make you feel?

Advent 2020: 2 Peter 2:10(b)-16

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Thursday, 17 December 2020 2 Peter 2:10(b)-16


The Text

10(b). Insolent, arrogant people who do not tremble when blaspheming glory. 

11. Whereas angels, being of greater power and strength, do not bring blasphemous judgment from the Lord,

12. by contrast, these people in their ignorance blaspheme, so that in their state of deterioration they will rot. They are as illogical animals, born in the wild and captured into decadence. 

13. Pain is payment for unrighteousness. They take pleasure in regarding the day as for indulgence. They are blots and blemishes celebrating their deception. All the while feasting with you.

14. They have eyes filled with adultery, are incessantly sinning, enticing unstable souls that have been trained in greediness. They are a curse on children.

15. Forsaking the straight path, they were misled. The followed after the path of Balaam of Bosor, who loved unrighteous wages.

16. But he had his own rebuke of wrongdoing by a dumb beast of burden who spoke as a man and so prevented the prophet’s poor judgment.


Commentary

This may be the shortest reading of the Advent cycle, with only six and a half verses. But man, are they loaded with all kinds of hot language. I translated this section in short, punchy jabs because Peter is all kinds of angry and the lines are tight. “arrogant people who do not tremble”, “captured into decadence”, “pain is payment”, “they are blots and blemishes”, “souls that have been trained in greediness” and so forth are linguistically delicious. Peter is doing his best Hemingway.

He begins with a contrast. Angels, though in many ways more knowledgable and stronger than humans, do not speak against spiritual forces at play but these false teachers do. This verse very much informs my predisposition to not speaking about angels and demons too much, and certainly not engaging in the kind of freewheeling gibberish I hear in many prayer lives about binding and rebuking and standing against. Peter seems to be affirming the sovereignty of God over all spiritual power, even evil. If I may be so bold, Peter is telling us to hold our tongue about things we do not understand.

Peter calls them dumb animals at the beginning, but then he says they are worse than dumb animals, because even Balaam’s donkey knew more than these people.

I chose the word ‘decadence’ in verse 12 because I think there is a word-picture link with decaying dead animals and the word decadence. Decadence feels right, but it is really putting one foot in he grave.

I rendered the ending of verse 14 as ‘they are a curse on children’ where as I think most English translations go with “they are accursed chidlren” or something like that. The more I looked at it and studied, though, I think my view is best.


Questions For Application

  1. Peter says blaspheme comes from arrogance and ignorance. How do these twin vices manifest themselves in your life?
  2. Not all pain is a mark of individual sin. However, it is true we often bring pain on ourselves with poor choices and poor judgment. As painful as it might be, can you name a current source of pain that is the direct result of your sinful choices or of not listening to the wisdom of others?
  3. Do you know the story of Balaam? If not, why not take the time to read up on this fascinating example who is referenced several times in the Bible?

Advent 2020: 2 Peter 2:1-10(a)

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020 2 Peter 1:1-10(a)


The Text

Chapter Two

1. It happened that false prophets were among the people just as false teachers are among you. Some of them introduced destructive heresies, even denying the master who brought them, bringing instead destruction on themselves. 

2. Many will follow them into debauchery, which is how the way of the truth will be blasphemed. 

3. They will exploit you with greedy desire and phony words. Their ancient judgment is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep. 

4. For if God did not spare sinning angles, but bound them to gloom, sent them to Tartarus, and gave them over to be kept for judgment,

5. and since he spared not the ancient world, but protected the preacher of righteousness, Noah, and his eight, then brought on the deluge upon the godless world

6. and ruined to ash the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He judged them to set an example of what is to be for the godless.

7. He rescued righteous Lot, worn down by the undisciplined debauchery of their behavior.

8. The righteous person living among them, seeing and hearing their lawless work, kept being tortured in his righteous soul.

9. The Lord knew how to rescue the godly from temptation and how to keep those being punished until Judgment Day.

10. Especially those following the flesh, following polluted desires, despising the Lordship. 


Commentary

The text changes abruptly at the end of verse 10. The lectionary follows this change by breaking up the reading mid-verse. It is a curious choice, but this is a good time to remember there were no verse divisions or chapter breaks when Peter wrote it. So, really, nothing to see here with that issue.

What is to be seen is the breathtaking argument Peter makes. We have to remember his target is false teachers. These false teaches have snuck into the church and spread heresies. Peter says God knows exactly how to deal with these people. We know how God deals with them, because of what he has done in the past. What has he done in the past? Peter is happy to explain it to you.

First, he punished the angels who went astray. This probably is a reference to Genesis 6 and is certainly a reference to the inferred but not definitive moment when angels rebelled against God and were smote down with the evil one. Peter says God sent these angels to gloom and destruction, a place called Tartarus. I gave the transliteration here, because it is significant. Tartarus is a synonym for hell, but it carries with it a different feeling than Hades or Sheol. Whereas Hades is kind of a shadowy murky place where people live and exist but without the hope of life on earth, Tartarus is a dungeon prepared for the Titans after the Olympians defeated them and banished them. Peter is linking the angels fall to the Titan’s fall, which is not something to glance over. It is an amazing bit of comparative religion that could inform us of how the early Christians understood the pagan world around them. To contextualize it in the modern sense, perhaps UFO’s, ghosts, and the legends of Zeus, Thor, and Thunderbird have more in common with demons and the devil than most of us think.

God knows how to handle rebellious spiritual beings, so he very well knows how to handle false teachers in your church.

But wait, there is more. He also knows how to punish them, because he did so in the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. The deluge is literally a cataclysm, that is the word Peter uses. The ruined ashes of Sodom and Gomorrah show us he knows what to do with a city and a people who have rejected right and aligned with evil and exploitation.

So let’s review Peter’s argument: God knows how to put rebellious beings in dungeons, he knows how to drown wicked people, and he knows how to burn unrighteous heathens to a crisp, therefore the false teachers in your church will be no match for him.

Textually, verses 4, 5, and 6 are not a sentence in English, but it makes perfect sense in Greek. I left it the way it is because you get more of a feeling for it this way. At least, that is what I think.

I have to tell you, as a pastor who has fought continually one false teaching after another including but not limited to prosperity gospel, faith healers, political allegiance, and sexual debauchery this kind of affirmation of hard punishment brings a tear of joy to my eye. Burn, baby, burn.

We can’t leave this text, though, without thinking about Lot. I have serious problems with Peter’s understanding. He refers to Lot as ‘righteous’ and as someone who was ‘tortured’ in his soul. I’m not buying it. I’m not saying Peter is wrong, I am saying he gives Lot far too much credit. the Genesis account shows us a greedy compromised man who is willing to throw his daughters to a pack of sexually depraved wolves. If Lot was so tortured, he would have moved. But he didn’t, because he pitched his tent in that direction. He chose Sodom. He chose Gomorrah. He chose them because it is what he wanted.

I am not saying Peter is wrong, but Peter is wrong.


Questions For Application

  1. A heresy is not something you just disagree with, but something that is doctrinally incorrect, like saying Jesus is not the son of God or he was not born of a virgin. What heresies do you think the church is particularly vulnerable to right now? Which ones are you a little too dangerously fascinated with?
  2. How does debauchery (sensuality, sexual sin) lead to blasphemy?
  3. What do you think a gloomy dungeon would be like?
  4. Peter is speaking here about judgment. Do you think about judgment on God’s enemies very often? Is it possible to oversell forgiveness and love and neglect the doctrinal necessity of judgment?
  5. We are very much like Lot, living in a an age of apostasy and debauchery. The question for us is, are we tortured or do we like it? Do not answer that question too quickly.