Master Deniers

There are some who would pause at the idea of people being able to deny the Master who bought them. What does that mean?
Take a look:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2Pet 2:1)
We usually think this verse is talking about being purchased with the blood of Jesus. However I think that’s a bit hasty:
  1. This passage doesn’t say anything about blood.
  2. Nor does it mention Jesus Christ – it says “Master”.
  3. The above point is relevant because the Greek word used here for “Master” is actually used only of the Father, not of the Christ.
  4. Other than Zechariah’s prayer about the nation of Israel, this is the only verse in the New Testament with language about the Master (Father) buying anyone. That alone should pique our curiosity.
Let’s remember that “redeem” does mean “to purchase or buy back”. There’s a transaction taking place. ThingA is being given in exchange for ThingB. What does it mean for the Master to buy a person?

Some Suggestions

I’ve heard a few explanations for that verse, some of which I don’t find terribly compelling – but worth noting:
  • Arminians use this verse to say that Scriptures, plainly read, teach that we can use our salvation. Naturally, I reject this. Salvation cannot be lost.
  • Others would say that the false teachers are not denying that the Lord bought the false teachers, but rather, the false teachers are denying that the Lord purchased the believers. In English, it’s not clear who the pronoun “them” refers to. But this explanation sounds a little odd to me since Peter uses “you” in the previous part of the same sentence. Why would he change pronouns from “you” to “them” in the same sentence? So I’m not good with that explanation.
  • Within conservative circles, this verse is used to affirm the idea that Christ did the necessary work and now offers salvation to all. All that now remains is for the sinner to confess, believe and accept that free gift. I’m really not comfortable with this view because the verb is “bought”. That’s much stronger than “offer salvation”. Remember – the debt is owed to God, and Jesus is the one purchasing our salvation. If Jesus *paid* the Father and *bought* salvation ..that person is saved, period, whether he knows it or not. The same is true of any other financial transaction: if your rich uncle *bought* a house for you, you own it whether you know it or accept it. You may still consider yourself homeless, but you would be misinformed. So that explanation doesn’t sound quite right to me.
  • Perhaps the best explanation I’ve seen actually requires a bit more footwork. As noted earlier, this verse doesn’t mention Christ, and the word used for “Master/Lord” is always associated with the Father, not the Son. So that leads us to a rather odd (but very interesting!) question: does God purchase anyone in a sense that is distinct from the way Christ purchases people with His blood. Oddly enough, the answer is ‘yes’! And it’s a very interesting one.

Purchased of God

The first time we see God purchasing anyone is in Exod 15, where He saves the Israelites by killing the Egyptians in the Red Sea.
You will lead the people You have *redeemed* with Your faithful love; You will guide them to Your holy dwelling with Your strength. When the peoples hear, they will shudder; anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified; trembling will seize the leaders of Moab; the inhabitants of Canaan will panic; and terror and dread will fall on them. They will be as still as a stone because of Your powerful arm until Your people pass by, LORD, until the people whom You *purchased* pass by. (Exo 15:13-16)
The idea of this being a “purchase” is reinforced in Ps 74:2, and Isaiah 43:1-4 actually does say that He paid for Israel with the blood of men, giving the Egyptians, Cushite and Sabeans as a ransom for them!
More importantly, from Exod 15 onward, almost every single time the word “redeemed” is used in conjunction with salvation, it is a direct reference to this verse in Exodus, describing how God “redeemed” His people from slavery in Egypt. Here are a few: Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18; 2 Sam 7:23; 1 chron 17:21; Ps 77:15; Ps 78:42; Ps 106:10; Is 51:10; Is 63:9; Jer 31:11; Micah 6:4 Your concordance will help you find more.
Are there other uses for the word “redeemed”? Yes:
  • There are about 11 references in Isaiah and one in Zech where God “redeemed” His people out of Babylon. ..but that’s the same motif as being redeemed out of Egypt, is it not?
  • There are a few references in Psalms where David and others were spared in a battle.
  • One reference to Abraham being redeemed out of Ur, the land of idolatry (again – strong similarities to the motif of Egypt and Babylon)
And that’s all!
So on the whole, the entire OT almost always uses the word “redeemed” to focus on God the Father bringing His people out of bondage in Egypt/Babylon.
Which leads us to a final question: is this “redemption” equivalent to eternal salvation – ie, the redemption we have in Jesus Christ, paid by His blood (as opposed to the blood of the Egyptians)?
The answer, of course, is a resounding “NO!”
No sooner were the Israelites out of Egypt that they started grumbling and complaining against their Maker, denying that He redeemed them (ie, golden calf), and pining for the delicacies of Egypt. God repeatedly says that they rebelled against Him and Hebrews says they did *not* enter the rest (meaning they are in hell, not heaven).
It would appear that God’s “purchase” / “redemption” of Israel is to set them aside out of the world of idolatry as a special people for His covenant. It does not mean they are saved from hell.
And if we’re to be consistent, the NT use of this word should suggest the same idea: God the Father (not Christ the Son) setting aside people for a special relationship. It does not mean they are saved from hell.
So when we see someone being “redeemed by the blood of Jesus” (Eph 1:7) or “redeemed in Christ our Lord” (Rom 8:39, 1 Pet 1:18-19), it’s talking about a permanent salvation from sin and hell. This is the kind of salvation that can never be lost, as Paul explains in Rom 8:39.
Therefore, it is my conclusion that Peter is referring to God “buying” people in the sense of a special relationship (not a salvific relationship), and exposing them to the truth of His word. It does not mean they are saved. It is this “purchase” that the false teachers are denying. (and I think the rest of 2 Peter 2 bears this out).
For more, check out the article “Two Boughts

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