2 Peter 2:5‑9
How Shall Christians Respond to Wickedness?
If he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgement, while continuing their punishment.
C hristians are experts at recognising the battles we must fight against wickedness.
We are connoisseurs of conflict.
Call your friends around you when you are in the battle, and they’ll tell you more about the battle than about how to win in the conflict.
Call on some humanistic mind to assist you in the midst of the trenches, and that humanistic mind will tell you how bad the situation really is.
The most perfect piece of battleground information in the world is the morning newspaper.
The Edmonton Sun or the Calgary Herald is twenty-five millimetres thick of nothing but battle.
You can hardly get it inside your house.
You try to read it and it is page after page of battle after battle, sniper after sniper … wrong information …erroneous information … exaggerated information … human information telling you all about the battle.
Wickedness does abound, but should we focus on the wickedness, we may soon discover that we are drawn inexorably into the fray in a way guaranteed to lead to spiritual defeat.
I dare not pretend that no problems exist in our world, nor do I wish to lull you into false security.
I do want to challenge you to think in a spiritual fashion, so that you can respond in a winning way to the wickedness of the day.
This worthy goal of formulating a godly response to wickedness will be advanced through study of the first passage dealing with judgement which Peter presents in his second letter.
*Two Examples of Righteousness in the Day of Wickedness* — In the course of his warning of divine judgement, Peter points to a glorious example of grace in each of two great judgements executed upon the inhabitants of this earth.
One of those examples might be portrayed as a failure in the contemporary mindset; the other could be viewed as a great success.
In the Christian view, however, the failure succeeds and the success fails.
Make no mistake!
Each of the individuals presented as examples of righteousness is saved and each is an example of how the godly respond to the presence of wickedness.
The first example which Peter provides of how the godly respond to wickedness is Noah.
In the text Noah is presented as a preacher of righteousness, and we would draw from that statement that he preached his convictions.
In other words, he was himself righteous.
It would be beneficial to thoroughly review God’s statements concerning Noah.
These statements are first given in the historical account found in Genesis.
Although we are introduced to Noah in the final verses of chapter five, the divine assessment of Noah begins in Genesis Six.
The Word of God states that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and that he walked with God [*Genesis 6:9*].
Whatever else we know about Noah, these three statements overlook his life.
Noah was a righteous man.
The other two statements concerning his character flow from this initial assessment.
Obviously, righteousness describes an individual’s relationship to the Lord.
Regardless of how the world may view us, God’s assessment is that we are either righteous or unrighteous.
We either stand without condemnation before God, or we are under condemnation.
This standing is not the result of any action we can perform ourselves, it is divinely conferred.
Permit me to step aside from the text momentarily to clearly present the issue.
Righteousness, a right standing in the sight of God, is not the result of human effort.
Individuals can never do enough good deeds to merit God’s commendation.
No one can perform righteous acts in sufficient quantity to be worthy of God’s salvation.
Since God is infinite in goodness and holiness, the standard to merit His righteousness is perfection.
No individual is perfectly holy, perfectly good, perfectly right in his life.
Thus, God, and God alone, is able to fulfil the perfect standard which secures righteousness.
If an individual is declared righteous, it is because another has fulfilled the divine demands and the righteousness secured by another is credited to the account of the sinner.
Only One Man ever perfectly fulfilled the divine demands.
Only One Man ever secured the commendation of Heaven itself.
Of course, that One who fulfilled every divine demand and obtained the commendation of Heaven is Jesus, the Son of God.
He perfectly fulfilled God’s demands to secure the divine commendation, and now everyone who is willing to receive Him as Master of life receives His infinite blessing of perfect righteousness accredited to their own lives.
Though we Christians are urged to live righteous lives before the watching world, we quickly acknowledge that our righteousness is the result of the grace of Jesus our Lord.
We boldly claim His righteousness as the sole means of satisfying the divine demands.
We affirm Him as the Only Righteous God and Saviour.
The Apostle has said: /Now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.
He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus/ [*Romans 3:21-26*].
Noah was a righteous man; he had standing with God because He believed God.
He accepted God’s assessment of His life and cast Himself on God’s mercy.
Though he was attested to be a righteous man before the Living God, his fellow man recognised him as righteous because he was blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.
Righteousness unseen is righteousness which is unprofitable to a dying world.
I do wish to explore His practical righteousness in detail in just a few moments, but now I turn my attention to the second example of righteousness which Peter has given us.
Lot likewise is recognised as a righteous man.
I would not recognise Lot as a righteous man except that Peter in this portion of the Word declares him to be righteous.
Twice Peter refers to Lot as a /righteous man/, and he makes reference to his righteous soul.
Any fair-minded individual would have to conclude that the Bible presents Lot as a righteous man, and that therefore God considered him to be righteous.
Likewise, any knowledgeable individual would be disturbed by this designation.
Lot definitely demonstrated a spirit which was self-serving and self-centred.
You no doubt recall the account of conflict between Lot and Abram given in *Genesis thirteen*.
Lot was Abram’s nephew.
When God commanded Abram to leave his country, his people and his father’s household to go to the land he would be shown [cf.
*Genesis 12:1*], that great man did not make an immediate break with his family.
The divine text states, So Abram left as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him [*Genesis 12:4*].
Coming into the land God had promised, there was conflict between the herdsmen of uncle and nephew.
Abram confronted the problem, suggesting that it was time to separate.
That great man of God magnanimously extended Lot the opportunity to choose where he would go, Abram taking the opposite direction.
Listen to the divine recitation.
/Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the Garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar… So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east/ [*Genesis 13:10,11*].
The wording of the *Eleventh Verse* is significant: /So Lot chose for himself/…
There is always a cost to promoting self above others.
Lot’s family reflected his character.
Men, regardless of the latest social theory, your family will reflect you.
A mother has great influence in the home, but men exert unprecedented power over what their children will become.
Because “self” predominated in his life, Lot eventually arrived in Sodom where he was either promoted to or assumed the position of a civic official.
The hidden, though very real, cost was that his wife was captured by the social status and soon neglected her domestic responsibilities, his children were more strongly infected with the spirit of Sodom than with the Spirit of godliness, and Lot himself apparently managed to bury any overt sense of displeasure against the actions of the sodomites.
The cost to Lot was that he lost his wife, his honour and his children.
*An Exploration of the Examples Provided* — Let’s explore the two examples Peter provides somewhat more carefully.
First, consider again the example of Noah.
To understand why Noah was commended as a righteous man it will help to understand the world in which he lived.
Just how wicked was the world in which Noah found himself?
What was that antediluvian world like?
What conditions did Noah encounter in the world that merited God’s commendation?
To answer these questions, I invite you turn to the *Sixth Chapter of Genesis*.
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
/The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.
They were the heroes of old, men of renown/.
/The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”
But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD/.
/This is the account of Noah/.
/Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.