Are the men in 2 Peter 2.1 saved or not? It says that the Lord bought them, but also that they will know swift destruction.
These men are labelled “false teachers” (v 1), and various phrases explain their eternal whereabouts: “swift destruction” (v 1); “judgment” and “damnation” (v 3); “punished” (v 9); “taken and destroyed” and “utterly perish” (v 12); “to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever” (v 17). Put plainly, they are destined for Hell, yet this comes hard on the heels of a statement referring to the sovereign Lord that “bought them” (v 1).
Were they ever saved? Do these verses give ammunition to those who believe what has been called the ‘fall-away doctrine’ (the assertion that believers can subsequently be lost because of a moral lapse, or by imbibing and propagating false teaching)? The ‘fall-away doctrine’ ignores the fact that God’s spiritual blessings are permanent: “eternal salvation”, “eternal redemption” and “eternal life” are all Biblical expressions. They could hardly be described as “eternal” if God imparts them and then withdraws them. Christ’s sheep “shall never perish” (Jn 10.28), and He promised that those who come to Him will “in no wise” be cast out (6.37). It is not just that He never repels repentant sinners, but that there will never be a time when they will be “cast out”; none are lost (6.37-39). To suggest that a believer can be lost is serious error, because it questions the sufficiency of the work of the cross.
Accepting the doctrine of eternal security, how do we then explain that people who are destined for Hell are said to have been “bought”? Well, it does say “bought”; not ‘saved’ or ‘forgiven’, or even ‘redeemed’. Purchase and redemption must be distinguished. The word ‘redeemed’ is exclusive to believers. By contrast, while the word “bought” has particular reference to saints (for example, 1 Cor 6.20; 7.23), it is used more extensively. In one of the kingdom parables, on finding hidden treasure, a man bought a field for the sake of the treasure in it (Mt 13.44). The field (that is, the world at large) has been purchased at the expense of the work of the cross and, in that sense, in common with the whole of humanity, these false teachers were “bought”, but they were never the recipients of the spiritual blessings that redemption brings. In the purchased “field” of the world, only believers share these eternal blessings.
What is meant by the expression “will worship” in Colossians 2.23?
The words “will worship” translate one word, which is composed of two words already used in verse 18, where they are translated “voluntary” and “worshipping”. The word “humility” is also in verses 18 and 23. Clearly, therefore, “voluntary humility and worshipping” (v 18) and “will worship, and humility” (v 23) refer to the same phenomenon; and verses 18 to 23 elucidate what this is.
In these verses, Paul is describing a false worship, practised by some, the source of which is not the will of God, but the ideas of the ‘worshipper’. Moreover, the object of this worship is not the true Head (Christ, v 19), but angels (v 18). This robs Christ of the worship that is rightfully His, and involves the worshipper intruding into areas that should not be entered (v 18).
This ‘worship’ is not only wrong as to its source and its object, but its adherents are also subjected to ordinances (v 20) which deprive them of legitimate things, amounting to neglecting the body (v 23). This is all done with a show of humility – which is “voluntary”, in that it arises from within. It is not the true humility, which is associated with obedience to the will of God. Indeed, it is the very opposite - one who promotes this ascetic lifestyle is “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (v 18), and pursuing it is of no value in countering fleshly desires (v 23): on the contrary, it panders to them.
In these verses, Paul is warning his readers to avoid this fake worship and false humility. It is not genuine worship, but “will worship” – that is, worship that originates in the human will; a self-made and self-imposed worship. It is “after the commandments and doctrines of men” (v 22), rather than being based on the will of God, on which all true worship and practice is grounded.
The lesson for us today is clear: we must shun anything that originates from the will of man. Such can only lead us to revere the wrong things, and to carry out unscriptural practices, which engender pride, and totally fail to produce a godly manner of life. Our worship must be founded upon God’s will, as revealed to us in His Word. Anything else is “will worship”.