2 Peter 2:19
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
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(19) Promise them liberty.—A specimen of the “great swelling words”—loud, high-sounding talk about liberty. The doctrines of Simon Magus, as reported by Irenæus (I., chap. xxiii. 3) and by Hippolytus (Refut. VI., chap. xiv.), show us the kind of liberty that such teachers promised—being “freed from righteousness” to become “the slaves of sin.”

Servants of corruption.—Better, bond-servants, or slaves of corruption. Our translators have often done well in translating the Greek word for “slave” by “servant” (see Note on 2Peter 1:1), but here the full force of the ignominious term should be given. Tyndale, Cranmer, and Geneva have “bond-servants;” Rheims “slaves.” (Comp. “bondage of corruption,” Romans 8:21.)

Brought in bondage.—Or, enslaved. We seem here to have an echo of John 8:34 (see Notes there): “Every one who continues to commit sin is the slave of sin,” words which St. Peter may have heard. Comp. Romans 6:16-20, which the writer may also have had in his mind. There is nothing improbable in St. Peter being well acquainted with the Epistle to the Romans during the last years of his life; the improbability would rather be in supposing that he did not know it.

2:17-22 The word of truth is the water of life, which refreshes the souls that receive it; but deceivers spread and promote error, and are set forth as empty, because there is no truth in them. As clouds hinder the light of the sun, so do these darken counsel by words wherein there is no truth. Seeing that these men increase darkness in this world, it is very just that the mist ofdarkness should be their portion in the next. In the midst of their talk of liberty, these men are the vilest slaves; their own lusts gain a complete victory over them, and they are actually in bondage. When men are entangled, they are easily overcome; therefore Christians should keep close to the word of God, and watch against all who seek to bewilder them. A state of apostacy is worse than a state of ignorance. To bring an evil report upon the good way of God, and a false charge against the way of truth, must expose to the heaviest condemnation. How dreadful is the state here described! Yet though such a case is deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may be made clean, and even the dead may be raised. Is thy backsliding a grief to thee? Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.While they promise them liberty - True religion always promises and produces liberty (see the notes at John 8:36), but the particular liberty which these persons seem to have promised, was freedom from what they regarded as needless restraint, or from strict and narrow views of religion.

They themselves are the servants of corruption - They are the slaves of gross and corrupt passions, themselves utter strangers to freedom, and bound in the chains of servitude. These passions and appetites have obtained the entire mastery over them, and brought them into the severest bondage. This is often the case with those who deride the restraints of serious piety. They are themselves the slaves of appetite, or of the rules of fashionable life, or of the laws of honor, or of vicious indulgences. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves besides." Compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 3:17.

For of whom a man is overcome ... - Or rather "by what (ᾧ hō) anyone is overcome;" that is, "whatever" gets the mastery of him, whether it be avarice, or sensuality, or pride, or any form of error. See the notes at Romans 6:16, where this sentiment is explained.

19. promise … liberty—(Christian)—These promises are instances of their "great swelling words" (2Pe 2:18). The liberty which they propose is such as fears not Satan, nor loathes the flesh. Pauline language, adopted by Peter here, and 1Pe 2:16; see on [2632]1Pe 2:16; (compare 2Pe 3:15; Ro 6:16-22; 8:15, 21; Ga 5:1, 13; compare Joh 8:34).

corruption—(See on [2633]2Pe 2:12); "destroyed … perish … corruption."

of whom—"by whatever … by the same," &c.

While they promise them liberty; liberty for their lusts, and so from the yoke of the Divine law. They abused the name of Christian liberty, and extended it to licentiousness.

They themselves are the servants of corruption; under the power and dominion of sin.

For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage: he alludes to the law of war, according to which, he that is overcome, and taken captive by his enemy, becomes his servant. These false teachers, that talked so much of Christian liberty, yet being overcome by their own lusts, and kept under by them, were the worst of slaves.

While they promise them liberty,.... Not Christian liberty, which lies in a freedom from sin, its dominion, guilt, and condemnation, and in serving God with liberty, cheerfulness, and without fear; but a sinful carnal liberty, a liberty from the law of God, from obedience to it as a rule of walk and conversation, and from the laws of men, from subjection to the civil magistrate, and from servitude to masters, and obedience to parents; a liberty to lay aside and neglect the ordinances of the Gospel at pleasure, and to live in all manner of sin and wickedness; a liberty which is contrary to the nature, will, and work of Christ, to his Spirit, and to the principle of grace in the heart, and to the Gospel, and to the conduct and conversation of real saints. Now this was the snare by which the false teachers beguiled unstable souls; liberty being what is greatly desirable to men, and is suited to their carnal lusts and interests: but a vain promise was this, when

they themselves are the servants of corruption; of sin, which has corrupted all mankind in soul and body; and particularly the lust of uncleanness, which these men walked in, and by which they not only corrupted themselves, but the good manners of others also; and which tended and led them both to ruin and destruction, signified by the pit of corruption: and yet these very preachers, that promised liberty to others, were the servants of sin; they were under the power and government of sin. They were not only born so, and were homeborn slaves to sin, but they sold themselves to work wickedness; voluntarily and with delight, they served divers lusts and pleasures, and were slaves and drudges thereunto; as likewise to Satan, whose lusts they would do, and by whom they were led captive; so that their condition was mean, base, and deplorable, and therefore could never make good their promise, or give that which they had not themselves: and which is confirmed by the following reasoning,

for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage: as this is a certain point in war, that when one man is conquered by another, he is no longer a free man, but the other's prisoner and captive, and is in a state of servitude and bondage; so it is when a man is overcome by sin, which must be understood not of a partial victory or conquest, for a good man may be surprised by sin, and overtaken in a fault, and be overcome and carried captive by it for a time, as was the apostle, see Romans 7:23; and yet not be a servant of corruption, or properly in a state of bondage to it; but this is to be understood of a total and complete victory, when a man is wholly under the dominion of sin, it reigns in his mortal body, and he obeys it in the lusts of it, and yields his members instruments of unrighteousness; such a man is neither a free man himself, nor can he much less promise and give liberty to others.

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
2 Peter 2:19. ἐλευθερίαν αὐτοῖς ἐπαγγελλόμενοι] Explanation of the ὑπέρογκα ματ. φθεγγόμενοι; the high speeches have as their contents the praise of liberty.

ἐπαγγελλόμενοι; they assure, promise, those who submit to their guidance that they will conduct them to true liberty.

αὐτοὶ δοῦλοι ὑπάρχοντες τῆς φθορᾶς] A sharp antithesis to ἐλευθ. ἐπαγγελλ.: “though they themselves are slaves of φθορά.” By φθορά moral corruption is generally understood, but elsewhere in the N. T. the word never has this meaning; it should rather be taken in the same sense as that which it has in 2 Peter 2:12. In Romans 8:21 it denotes the opposite of δόξα, which Hofmann wrongly denies. Schott erroneously takes it to mean “the things of sense;” but these, though they be given up to φθορά, yet cannot be directly defined as φθορά itself.[80] The chief emphasis lies on δοῦλοι. The general statement: ᾧ γάρ τις ἥττηται, τούτῳ καὶ δεδούλωται, serves to show that the term is applied to them not without justification. The verb ἡττᾶσθαι (with the exception of in this passage and in 2 Peter 2:20, to be found only in 2 Corinthians 12:13) is in classical Greek often used as a passive and construed with ὑπό, and, in harmony with its meaning, frequently with the genitive, and sometimes also with the dative. The latter is the case here: “to whom any one succumbs.” The dat. with δεδούλωται expresses the relation of belonging to: to him he is made the slave, i.e. whose slave he is. Schott arbitrarily asserts that ἥττηται with the dat. brings out that the being overcome “is voluntary and desired on principle.”

[80] Hofmann, appealing to 1 Corinthians 15:50, understands φθορά here also as meaning “the corruptible;” but in that passage the context itself proves that the abstract idea is put in place of the concrete, which is not the case here.

2 Peter 2:19. ἐλευθερίαν. Doubtless that Antinomianism is indicated to which the doctrine of Grace has ever been open. Cf. Galatians 5:13. It arises from the ever-recurring confusion of liberty and license. The training of conscience is contemporaneous with the growth of Christian character. The Pauline teaching, which abrogated external legality, was open to abuse, and might easily be dangerous to recent converts from heathenism. φθορᾶς. See Mayor’s note, ed. p. 175. φθορά is that gradual decay of spiritual and moral sense that follows on wilful self-indulgence. ᾧγάρδιδούλωται. cf. Romans 6:16; Romans 8:21, John 8:34.

19. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption] We have here the characteristic feature of the teaching which St Peter condemns. It offered its followers freedom from the restraints which the Council of Jerusalem had imposed alike on participation in idolatrous feasts and on sins of impurity (Acts 15:29). That this was the key-note of their claims we have a distinct indication in St Paul’s teaching on the same subject. His question “Am I not free?” (1 Corinthians 9:1), his condemnation of those who boasted of their “right” (“liberty” in the English version) to eat things sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:9), who proclaimed that all things were “lawful” for them (1 Corinthians 10:23), shew that this was the watchword of the party of license at Corinth, and the language of St Peter, though more coloured with the feeling of a burning indignation at the later development of the system, is, in substance, but the echo of that of his brother Apostle. In his contrast between the boast of liberty and the actual bondage to corruption we may trace a reproduction of our Lord’s teaching in John 8:34, of St Paul’s in Romans 6:16. The word for “they are the servants” (literally, being the servants) implies that this had been all along their settled, continuous state. The very phrase bond-slaves of corruption seems to reproduce Romans 8:21.

of whom a man is overcome …] The Greek leaves it uncertain whether the pronouns refer to a person, or to a more abstract power—wherein a man is overcome, to that he is enslaved. On the whole the latter seems preferable. Here again we have an echo of St Paul’s language in Romans 6:16.

2 Peter 2:19. Ἐλευθερίαν, liberty) so as neither to he afraid of the devil, nor to loathe the flesh.—ᾧ γάρ τις ἥττηται) for he by whom any one has permitted himself to be overcome, and has yielded himself vanquished.—τούτῳ καὶ δεδούλωται, by him also is he held in bondage) 1 Samuel 17:9. Theocr. Idyll. xxii. 71:

Σὸς μὲν ἐγὼ, σὺ δʼ ἐμὸς κεκλήσεαι, εἴκε κρατήσω·

I will be thine, and thou shalt be mine, if I gain the victory.

Verse 19. - While they promise them liberty; literally, promising. The words cohere closely with the preceding clause. Liberty was the subject of their great swelling words of vanity; they talked loudly, made a great boast, about liberty. Perhaps they were wresting to their own destruction (comp. 2 Peter 3:15, 16) the teaching of St. Paul concerning Christian liberty. St. Paul had spoken of the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21); he had again and again asserted the liberty of Christians in things indifferent (see 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 10:23, etc.). But he had insisted on the paramount duty of giving no offence (1 Corinthians 8:13, etc.), and had earnestly cautioned his converts to "use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh." There were false teachers who maintained that the true Gnostic was free from moral restraints, in fact, that liberty meant libertinism, liberty to sin (comp. 1 Peter 2:16). They themselves are the servants of corruption. The construction is still participial, "being" (ὑπάρχοντες) being from the beginning servants of corruption. Those who talked about liberty were themselves all the time the bondservants, the slaves, of corruption. The word rendered "corruption" (φθορά) includes the sense of" destruction," as in verse 12 and 2 Peter 1:4 (comp. Romans 8:21). For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. "Of whom," or "by whatever;" by Satan, the personal tempter, or by sin, the innate tendency; the Greek word will bear either meaning. Some good manuscripts add "also," which strengthens the assertion; "is he also brought in bondage." St. Peter's teaching corresponds exactly with that of St. Paul in Romans 6:16. There is a very close parallel to this clause in the 'Clementine Recognitions' (5:12; quoted by Dr. Salmon, in his 'Historical Introduction to the Books of the New Testament'): "unusquisque illius fit servus cui se ipse subjecerit." 2 Peter 2:19Is overcome (ἥττηται)

Lit., is worsted; from ἥσσων, inferior. Only here, 2 Peter 2:20, and 2 Corinthians 12:13.

Brought into bondage (δεδούλωται)

Enslaved. Compare Romans 6:16.

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