Calvinism and 2 Peter 2:1?

Question
Did Christ die for all? - 2 Peter 2:1
Answer

A more accurate translation:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves (NASB-95).

(Compare the use of the word "Master" rather than " Lord" in the ASB, Darby, ESV, HCSV, ISV, NET, NLT, WEV, YLT, etc.).

False teachers were already in the visible (see below) Church (2 Pet. 2:13 and note the present tense of the verbs in 2 Pet. 2:17; 3:5). The Greek term hairesis originally referred in a neutral sense to groups or sects and was used by Paul of divisive groups ("factions"; Gal 5:20). However, it soon came to denote the specific teachings of such groups that departed from the truth of the Gospel. Here teachings regarding Christian conduct were probably in view - conduct that placed the teachers under eschatological judgment (2 Pet. 2:3). See WCF 23.4.

The phrase "denying the sovereign Lord who bought them" is often misinterpreted (cf. Jude 1:4). Some like Henry Alford maintain, "No assertion of universal redemption can be plainer than this" (Alford's Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, 5th ed., 4 vols. (1875; Grand Rapids: Guardian, 1976), vol. 4, pt. 2, p. 402). However, seeing these brought upon themselves "swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1) reveals that this cannot be the correct meaning, because if Jesus had given these false teachers eternal life, they would never have fallen away; as those people to whom Jesus has given eternal life "shall never perish" (John 10:28; also see Rom. 8:29-30, 32-35; Eph. 1:3-14).

So, Peter did not say that those for whom Christ died could actually lose their salvation (John 10:28-29; Rom 8:28-39).

What does the phrase "the sovereign Lord who bought them" mean?

(1) - Covenant Association:

These false teachers could have been bought in the sense that their association with the Church provided an escape from the corruption of the world. 2 Peter 2:20 makes this point stating, "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first." (remember Ham, who was a member of the church was also lost [2 Pet 2:5] and Lot's wife in too [2 Peter 2:7-8]).

So, false teachers in the Church, since they are members of the covenant, had been set apart from the world by the blood of the covenant and joined to the many blessings of the covenant people of God (cf. Heb 6:4-9; 10:26-29). However, they did not truly know the Lord. A "profession" of faith, does not necessarily mean "possession" of faith. So, it is possible to be a member of the covenant and not be a true believer. See "Was Ishmael saved?" below. However, these same covenant members have been sanctified, set apart from the world, by Christ through their covenantal relationship (compare the principle with 1 Cor. 7:14). We see a similar explanation when discussing the Lamb's Book of Life:

The elect's name were placed with the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 17:8 cf. Matt 15:34) - long before they were ever born. It should be noted that Christ was chosen for them at the same time (1 Pet 1:20).

The elect's name may NEVER be removed from the Lamb's Book of Life.

However, the Lamb's Book of Life contains more than just the elect's name. It also contains some of the non-elect. It contains some of God's acts of providence, as opposed to those predestined (Eph 1:4-5, 11), which would include some that are non-elect too. Because providence is mutable (changeable), one's standing before God can change from a providential perspective. This allows that some people may receive God's favor for a time even though they are not saved (e.g. Heb 11:20; 12:16). It also allows that some people may be included for a time among the sanctified ranks of the Church, even though they ultimately perish (e.g. 1 Cor 7:14; Heb 10:26-31).

Unbelievers who are in the Lamb's Book of Life in the process of time WILL BE blotted out (Psa 69:28; Rev 3:5).

If we view the whole of chapter of Psalm 69, we observe the differences between the character of the two types of people. The elect are those, who are saved (Psa 69:1), who know somewhat the depths of their own depravity (Psa 69:2-3), who are hated by those who do not know God (Psa 69:4), who desire (a desire given only at rebirth 1 Cor 2:14; Rom 8:6-8, etc.) to be known (that is have a relationship) with God (Psa 69:5), who endure persecution for the sake of that relationship (Psa 69:6-12), who continuously pray for mercy, grace, and deliverance (Psa 69:13-21, 29, 32-33), who hate evil and believe in God's sovereignty to deal with unbelievers, evil, and sin (Psa 69:22-28), who are thankful to God (Psa 69:30), who desire to please God (Psa 69:31), who look for his coming again (Psa 69:34-36).

Anything worthy or good in the elect noted above is given by grace alone by means of God's unchangeable predestination, election, and calling of them to eternal life (cf. Eph. 1:4-5, 11; John 6:44, 65; Rom. 8:28-30, etc.).

(2) - Despotes, Agorazo, and Deuteronomy 32:6:

A related solution is found in two Greek words and their respective contexts: (1) "bought" (agorazo) and (2) "Master" or "Lord" (despotes).

Agorazo (to buy; redeem, acquire, by a ransom or price paid) is used 30 times in the New Testament. It can be used to refer to being bought in the sense of redemption (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 7:23; Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4). However, in the other 25 uses in the NASB it is translated in a secular sense meaning to purchase an item such as a field (Matt. 13:44), a pearl (Matt. 13:46), or food (Luke 9:13), (cf. Matt. 21:12; 25:9; Mark 15:46; Luke 22:36; John 6:5 Rev. 13:17, etc.). The overwhelming number of uses in the New Testament are non-redemptive in scope.

In addition, in conjunction with each redemptive use 'above' (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 7:23; Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4) a descriptor - "price" or "blood" - is used. 2 Peter 2:1 does not use such a descriptor! Dr. Gary Long in Definite Atonement states:

...of its thirty occurrences in the New Testament, agorazo is never used in a salvation context (unless 2 Peter 2:1 is the exception) without the technical term "price" (times - a technical term for the blood of Christ) or its equivalent being stated or made explicit in the context (cf. I Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4).

While this is significant, the use of the term "Master" or "Lord" is as well.

Peter intentionally alludes to Deuteronomy 32:6 when he refers to the false teachers as "denying the Master who bought them." Deuteronomy 32:6 states:

Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?

(note that Peter also alludes to Deut. 32:5 in 2 Pet. 2:13 making this connection even clearer).

The use of "Lord" (Master) as the one who "created," "made," and "established" is significant. As seen from its context, this word emphasizes God (or Christ) as sovereign ruler over the earth and the one who creates and establishes all things. This connection also seems to be consistent with the fact that Peter refers to the one denied as "Lord" (Greek: despotes meaning Lord, or Master), not "kurios" (Greek: Lord) as we might expect if spiritual redemption by the blood of Christ were in view.

Thus, the term is referring to God (Christ) who owns all people in general, but not that he has redeemed all people. At issue then is not election, regeneration, calling, perseverance, etc., but sovereign God who is owner of all. Peter is not addressing the extent of the atonement, but is providing an illustration (cf. Deut. 32:5-6) of a sovereign Master (despotes, not kurios) who had purchased slaves and hence commanded their allegiance. Grudem says it like this:

'Is not he your Father who has bought you?'... Peter is drawing an analogy between the past false prophets who arose among the Jews and those who will be false teachers within the churches to which he writes... From the time of the exodus onward, any Jewish person would have considered himself or herself one who was 'bought' by God in the exodus and therefore a person of God's own possession... So the text means not that Christ had redeemed these false prophets, but simply that they were rebellious Jewish people (or church attenders in the same position as rebellious Jews) who were rightly owned by God because they had been bought out of the land of Egypt (or their forefathers had), but they were ungrateful to him.

Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, will lose no genuine sheep (John 10), but there are also wolves among the sheep (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29). By false teaching and practicing immorality (2 Pet. 2:2, 10, 13-15, 18-19), these false teachers continue to treat with disdain, scorn, and contempt the lordship of Christ and thus belied their own spurious profession of faith (1 John 2:3-6, 19). They are condemned goats, not sheep (Matt 25:31-46). See "What is Reprobation?" below.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).