The Spies of the First Century AD

05 Apr
Spies - 2

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It is inferred by Luke that Annas, the high priest, had sent Ananias and Sapphira into the nascent church (cf. Acts 5:1-13) in order to spy out what was done and bring believers under the authority of the high priest. The same is inferred in Galatians 2:12-13, once one realizes that James didn’t send these people to do what they had done (cf. Galatians 2:4). From time to time Paul had to rebuke a wrong spirit of prophecy or a message or letter that was allegedly from him or one of the other apostles (2Thessalonians 2:2), inferring that others were seeking to gain a foothold in the churches he raised up. Moreover, John also shows there were people who had identified themselves with the apostles but broke away, showing ulterior motives existed among those who did so.

Besides Peter and John saying men ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19), the dead bodies of Ananias and Sapphira spoke out against those who thought to do likewise (Acts 5:13). During the persecution of the Hellenist believers, Luke addressed his Gospel to Theophilus, the then reigning high priest (Luke 1:3) showing that, if war broke out between Jerusalem and Rome, Jerusalem would be destroyed with the Temple (cf. Luke 21:20), and as a result the persecution was stopped (Acts 9:31). In Acts 13:10-11 we find a Jew claiming to be a disciple of Jesus perverting the way of the Lord. He was rebuked by Paul and cast into darkness (made temporarily blind – cf. 2Peter 2:4). If we take the timeline (just before the Passover in 44 AD) into consideration, this is when Mark left Paul and company and went to the Jerusalem church. James, the brother of John, was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa just before the Passover 44 AD and imprisoned Peter. This may have been done in response to what Paul had done on Cyprus. So, the  fear of the Lord is no longer a consideration among the Jewish authorities, which had been present in Acts 5:13 and 9:31.

Peter referred to the false teachers as springs or wells without water and clouds carried by a storm (2Peter 2:17). They had forsaken the Lord (2Peter 2:15) the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 17:13; cf. John 7:38) and have shown themselves to be broken cisterns having no water at all (Jeremiah 2:13). Only God, only Jesus—the fountain of living waters is able to satisfy our thirst (cf. Isaiah 58:11; Proverbs 10:11; 13:14; Psalm 36:8-9; John 4:10-14; Revelation 21:6; 22:1, 17).

The false teachers were cast into mental darkness for the age (cf. 2Peter 2:4). In other words, they were unable to see the consequences of their works, until it was too late. Rather than speaking through the power of the Spirit, they spoke through the power of the flesh—similar to finding fault with things like flag burning, gender issues or racial inequality instead of inspiring folks to love one another, which would better address the other concerns, as well. The carnal mind is not subject to God, nor can it be. So, “Through the power of the flesh, they use high-sounding but empty words to stir up the unguarded desires of those who are barely escaping them who live in error” (2Peter 2:18).

The false teachers promised liberty (2Peter 2:19), but liberty without the Lord is an illusion. Men are born to be servants of God, but if not God, then they obsess  over something else, like self (the flesh), other men, country, a way of life, worldview etc. Folks will find their life’s purpose in that which they serves. If one serves God, it is always by choice, because the flesh isn’t drawn to God. Serving God is a deliberate matter, so therein is true liberty. Moreover, God always permits men who have received him as Lord to later reject him, but the flesh controls us to the point of bondage, and we aren’t always at liberty to cease our service to that which has captured our desire.

In 2Peter 2:20-22 Peter describes those who had fallen victim to the false teachers. It is only through the Gospel—the perfect knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah—that anyone is able to escape the defilements of this world (2Peter 2:20). If after one has known Jesus and has escaped this world’s evil ways, he returns back into the world, he is subject to greater bondage. What had once been an object of curiosity would become an object of obsession.[1] In either condition one is without Christ, but the prior condition is less intense and enjoyment of life is more feasible, because he is ignorant. No one is ignorant after he has come to know Christ, therefore, returning to one’s old ways is no longer a work of ignorance but one of disobedience. Disobedience has greater consequences than ignorance (2Peter 2:21). If one returns to his old ways (2Peter 2:22), he returns to his own inner corruption (dog’s vomit), and cannot help but display is uncleanness to the world (wallowing in the mud).


[1] See an earlier study of mine: Demons and the Dry Places.

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Posted by on April 5, 2017 in Epistles of Peter


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