ONE ROTTEN APPLE SPOILS THE WHOLE BARREL
Based on 2 Peter 2
An old saying but ever so true! It is true that one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel – eventually. This is so because of the spread of the rotten apple’s mold spores that invade the other apples – slowly but surely – unless preventive measures are taken by the keeper of the apples.
The apostle Peter addresses the matter of rottenness as it applies to the Christian life in the second chapter of his second epistle.
First, a quick review: Peter wrote both of his letters to Christians in general due to his inevitable departure; but also he wrote because of his determination that those who carried on the ministry after his death might hold fast to the truth of the gospel. He challenged Christians to stand firm.
He strongly believed that the only way for Christians to stand firm would be for them to attain a high level of spiritual maturity that would give them courage to hold fast to the teachings of Jesus that had been passed on to them by eyewitnesses.
Peter preached that Jesus was who He said He was and that he (Peter) was one of many eyewitness of all that Jesus did - the greatest event being Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. They saw Him alive after His crucifixion.
Peter went on to urge believers to stay true to the Word of God; it was their only authoritative source of divine wisdom and guidance. Peter’s insistence had to do with the fact that even before Christianity got off to a good start there were those who were trying to sabotage the movement.
He was concerned about the threat of a “rotten apple” spoiling the early Christian movement; so he issued a stern warning to them to stay alert so that they could identify false teachers and stay true to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 2:1-3 . . .
We do not know exactly who the false teachers were insofar as any organized group was concerned; but we do know that there were those who denied certain basic teachings of Christ – for example, His second coming and the judgment.
Now, think about the seriousness of rejecting those two doctrinal truths. If we fall for the false teaching that Christ is not coming again, as He promised, how can we possibly believe anything He taught? If we fall for the false teaching that there will be no judgment, how could we therefore be held accountable for wrong doing?
If we were to subscribe to the false belief that there is no judgment to come, there would be no constraint at all on human behavior; folks could call themselves Christians but choose to live immoral and unethical lives with no thought of accountability; if that were so (if there was no judgment to come), why should we even bother to live a committed Christian life?
Do you suppose there are false teachers among us today?
Are there folks today who deny that Jesus died for their sins?
With regard to folks who deny Christ, what does Peter say they bring upon themselves?
Do you ever feel that some folks go out of their way to find a preacher or a teacher who tells them it’s okay to adopt the ways of the world?
Have you ever known of a preacher who sought to exploit their parishioners (“make merchandise” of them)?
“Well, Peter, now that you’ve made us aware of the existence of false teachers, what do you suggest we do about it?” Some of us have found ourselves “between a rock and a hard place” because there are times when we do become aware that we are being “used” for someone’s personal gain.
2 Peter 2:12-14 . . .
Peter says that these folks act like animals that were born to be caught and destroyed! Ever heard it said, “Be sure your sins will find you out”?
What did Paul say along this line? “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Peter seems to be saying that: if a man sows deception, he will become a victim of his own deception . . . if a man sows seeds of blasphemy, he will become the object of blasphemy . . . if a man sows the seed of seduction, he will suffer the consequences . . . if a man sows seeds of error among immature believers, the time will come when he will be denounced for the error of his ways.
Would any of you want to suggest ways Christians can avoid being taken in by unscrupulous preachers or teachers - those who take advantage of folks for their own personal gain and for the building of their own personal empire?
When it becomes obvious that a preacher who calls himself a “man of God” has been deceiving people by influencing them to do things that are contrary to Christian teaching, would you agree that he ought to be exposed, or do you think it would be better to sweep the matter under the rug? Or, can you think of some other way it ought to be handled?
2 Peter 2:17-22 . . .
The astounding thing about all of this is that most false teachers in Peter’s day first gave the appearance that they were genuine believers: they had said they believed in Jesus as Lord and they had publicly given testimony to their faith by baptism; but somehow they became wrapped up once again in all the stuff they had repented of and supposedly left behind.
Peter says that, like a dog returns to its own vomit, some believers have gone back to their old ways.
He says that, like a sow that has washed itself but then wallows again in the mud, some believers are once again wallowing in sin.
Well, I suppose none of us in this room wants to be like a dog, and go back to our old ways; we certainly do not want to wallow in the mud of sin again. Yet, there are people who have succumbed to their old lifestyles. There are folks today who will defend to the end certain immoral lifestyles and practices; and they will do so in the name of freedom in Christ!
Yes, in Christ we have been set free from the law, but does that make us free to do as we please . . . to defend sin . . . to sweep wrongdoing under the rug . . . to look the other way when we become aware of immorality?
The first statement made by my professor to the political science class which I took in college was a profound truth that I have always remembered: “Liberty is not license.”
Can we agree that, with reference to what Peter is teaching us, we might apply that professor’s statement to the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, by saying this: Freedom in Christ is not license to live as we please!
Our freedom in Christ frees us from the burden of religious legalism, but it does so for the purpose of pleasing God rather than man.
“I want my life to tell for Jesus . . . that everywhere I go men may His goodness know . . .”
You are free to “let your light so shine” that folks may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.