Saturday, August 8, 2009

Misusing verse for their own purposes

The verse below has been used by those who claim “Christ died for all men—believers as well as those who reject him forever” by insisting that the verse indicates Christ died to buy (bought) everlasting life even for false prophets and teachers. Is that really what it means? Not so said Herman Hoeksema as he answered the question before going onto his reward.

Denying The Lord That Bought Them Question — From a reader in Jenison, Michigan I received the following question:"I have a problem understanding II Peter 2:1 in the light of sovereign election.

The text is: 'But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.' "It would seem that those who 'even deny the Lord that bought them . . .' cannot have been bought in the first place, since they are false teachers or hypocrites. Please explain."

Reply — My questioner is basically correct when he views his problem in the light of sovereign election. More specifically, of course, the question comes down to this: does this passage teach a falling away of the saints, that is, a falling away of those whom Christ bought by His atoning death? But basically it is a question of sovereign election: for Christ died for those given unto Him by sovereign election. Hence, ultimately the question becomes: can God's election be rendered ineffectual?

And my questioner recognizes that the latter is impossible, in the light of Scripture. Hence, how must this passage be explained? There are two possible explanations. 1) We may follow the rendering of the King James Version, and then, as my questioner suggests, the explanation lies in the fact that these false teachers are hypocrites. That is, they are outwardly and according to their profession members of the church. They are of those who profess with the mouth that the Lord bought them, that is, atoned for them. But in process of time they become manifest as false teachers, who then deny the very Lord Whom they once professed to be the Lord Who bought them. They never had been bought by the Lord: for as Canons V, 8 puts it, "the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ cannot be rendered ineffectual." But they once professed to be Christians, to have been bought by the Lord; and later they deny by their heresies that very Lord. If we adopt this explanation, then the text says nothing as to the specific nature of their heresy, except that it is a denial of the Lord.

2) It is also possible to read the text as follows: ". . . even denying the-having-bought-them-Lord." Or: " . . . even denying that the Lord bought them." In that case, the text purposes to specify the extent of the damnable heresies of these false teachers. They even deny that the Lord bought them, deny the atonement. Then these false teachers are pictured as teaching a salvation by works, rather than by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Personally, I am inclined toward this interpretation for various reasons. But whatever explanation is adopted, it must certainly be emphasized that this passage does not teach a falling away of the saints, that is, of the elect.

--(the late, great) Herman Hoeksema, Protestant Reformed Christian Church