False Teachers In The Church
2 Peter 2:1-9
Key verse 2:1
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves.”
Peter knew that the Christians of the time were suffering all kinds of persecution from the secular and religious world. And a new threat was also emerging that threatened to cause them internal suffering— the threat of false teachers. In the first part of the letter, he dedicated a great deal to reminding them of God’s precious promises. He wanted them to be rooted in these promises, so that nothing could shake their foundation and standing as God’s chosen elect. He urged them to grow in the knowledge of Christ. He also felt that they needed to know about false teachers. So he dedicates a whole chapter outlining what’s in the heart of these false teachers. He uses strong language. He is serious. He wants them be cautious and alert. He wanted them to know how to recognize false teachers, and how to detect false teaching.
Verse 1 says. “But there were also false prophets among the people”. Peter asserts that there had always been false prophets among the people of God. Then he says: “just as there will be false teachers among you”. He’s talking about the church, the believers, all of us whose faith rests on the Lord Jesus. There were false prophets in the Old Testament, but today there are false teachers. We really do not need to beware of false prophets here and now— that is not a serious problem. Today anyone who attempts to prophesy, will soon be proven a liar. We know of those who claim that the end of the world is coming on such and such a day at such and such a time. The days come and gone and those prophets and prophetesses slink back to their dens. We do not need to pay attention to false prophets, but let me assure you— you do need to pay attention to false teachers. You need to examine all teachers, including the one who is speaking to you this morning. You will need to check what is said by the word of God. Don’t believe what you hear just because this pastor tells you it is so, but you need always to compare it with the word of God. You trust me. But I am not the authority here. Neither I nor any minister, whether famous or eloquent or charismatic or knowledgeable are the authority. The authority is always the word of God. You should trust that above all else.
And when I say “trust”, I don’t mean to symbolically “trust” the word of God like many Christians claim to do today— but you ought to practically trust the word of God by reading it, studying it, referring to it regularly, and checking what out what it says, so that the truth is made manifest to you. And we’re talking the whole word of God, and not bits and pieces of it, snippets and quotes, fragments you hear or you fixate upon because they sound good and encouraging— we’re talking the whole word of God. How dangerous it is for Christians when they rely on snippets and fragments and verses that are taken out of context. You see, Eve “sort of” knew what the word of God said. She held on to a paraphrased version which eventually became corrupted with a bit of emotion. When Eve didn’t know and hold on to the word of God with absoluteness, she was vulnerable to the devil who deceived her and caused her to compromise her faith, and eventually her relationship with God. Even Satan the great deceiver knows the word of God, and how to take it out of context. When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he attempted to lure Jesus through the word of God. But Jesus knew that the devil had taken it out of context and refuted him with the word of God on which he stood.
The devil took the word of God out of context like many people today take it out of context, and begin spreading false teachings that bring about destruction. Peter was so very serious about this matter. He was old and on the verge of departing this life. How would he warn the children of God about the seriousness of the false teaching spreading about in the churches! He dedicated the whole chapter to warnings. When we examine this chapter, we are amazed how easily people are deceived by all kinds of teachings. People who are not rooted in the word of God will fall for anything. And if you do not believe that, just look at the countless ministries that have taken advantage of people and led them astray by false teaching.
Peter says: “… there will be false teachers among you”. Who are false teachers? Look at verse 1. A false teacher is one who knows the truth but deliberately lie for their own sinister reason or purpose. They secretly and stealthily introduce false teachings into what they know to be the truth— and they do it either to secure a place for themselves among God’s people or they do it for money or recognition or for something else. There are many teachers like this in the world today. They are brilliant, eloquent, knowledgeable, charismatic, sharp and persuasive. When they peach and teach, people listen— mostly because they say what they know people want them to say. Although they know the truth, they pervert it. That is a false teacher. A false teacher knows what he is doing, and he does it deliberately with intent.
Peter gives us in this first verse a good definition for false teachers. “Will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” Destructive heresies! What might be a destructive heresy? How can it be introduced secretly in the middle of the truth to corrupt it? “Denying the Sovereign Lord” give us a clue— they will especially deny Christ’s redeeming work for them. They claim to promote many right doctrines. They will appear in the church as members of the church. They will claim to be Christians, and they will work secretly in the church to undercut what Jesus did on the cross and in his resurrection. They will work secretly to undermine the sovereignty of Christ in your life.
Many false teachers have some true doctrine. There isn’t a cult that we know which does not have some truth in it. That is the one thing that makes them so very dangerous— a lot more dangerous than if they were completely wrong. These teachers generally believe some things are true. But as Jesus tells us, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Read verse 2. “Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” “Many will follow their shameful ways”. The “Shameful way”— is the way of sensuality— immorality— mostly sexual sins that fall outside of what God originally intended for sex to be and to represent. And these false teachers will gather around them many false followers who have no problem following “shameful ways”— whatever ways these may be— be they teachings about freedom in the flesh or in sexual behavior or even as far as to shamefully disgrace— dishonor— discredit— the word of truth in the Bible.
Jesus as said in, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) When people begin to follow one of these false teachers or false teachings, for whatever reason— they are either ignorantly deceived or they are deliberately deceived. “Ignorantly deceived”— because they really don’t know the word of God properly and its easy to take it out of context. Or “deliberately deceived” because its what they always wanted to hear and someone just justified their desire with a word or two form the Bible. Often its no use trying to convince them otherwise. They’ve made up their minds. They have been looking for a way out of one truth or another in the Bible. They will say they are Christians— that they are broadminded and librated Christians— Christians who have torn away form the confines of the old gospel— who have finally justified their shameful ways contrary to the word of truth. Often they say: “We see the Bible differently.”
Look at verse 3 “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”
In the Greek, the words “made up stories” is “plastos” or “false words” or “something that has been molded— as in molded words”. It’s Incredible! “Plastos words” or “plastic words”. Plastic words are a beautiful imitation of truth, but they are not truth. Peter tells us that the false teachers will speak plastic words— made up teachings— they sound outstanding— inspirational— well versed. They speak with eloquence, and knowledge beyond the average man’s capabilities. But they are still nothing but plastic words. They use a few words from the Bible to prove their sincerity, but the bulk of the message is charm and magnetism, wrapped in dynamic speech. Once I counted the number of times one of them used the Bible verse, but there was only a part of a verse— which seemed very exciting— when taken out of context. The name of “Jesus” came up 3 times in passing in the whole sermon, and there were 120 times “I’s” and “me’s” and “mine”. The gospel was not there. Whoever heard it was inspired by grandeur of the sermon, but there seemed to have been no conviction of sin which leads people to repentance and to faith and to life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit was not present in the whole sermon.
We need to be careful of “plastic teachers and preachers” who speak “plastic words” to the people. You need to check on all Bible teachers before you get carried away with their teaching. This goes back to what Peter was saying in chapter 1:10. “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager (or make every effort) to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.” In other words, keep you faith in check, and be assured of the truth you stand on. We ought to always make sure if we are standing in the faith— in the grace of the Lord— rooted in the gospel truth— not carried away by some exciting teaching that appears to be more lively or more interesting or more friendly than the gospel we received when Jesus first came to us and we came to him. False teachings are plastic— they are not the real thing. They look like the real thing, but they are fake— false— made up stories— molded by a disturbing mind.
“In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.” In other words false teachers are doing this— in greed— and mostly for money. I hate it when people try to promote something to me by mail or on the phone. I get this feeling that they want to exploit me. One of the marks of a false teacher is that he is a promoter. He is not interested in giving you the word of God— he is only thinking of how he can exploit you. He has no interest in promoting Jesus Christ. He wants to exploit Jesus for his own personal interest. And he has no shame in doing that at all.
“Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” This is something that so many people have been disturbed about— wondered at. They must be judged because they prey on people’s souls. And their end result is deeply disturbing because theses souls will perish. But when will God bring them to justice? Many Old Testament people asked that question when they saw these wicked people prosper from day to day while God’s people go on suffering. The prophet Habakkuk asked this question to God. He said to God: “… the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4) Habakkuk was impatient to see the wicked brought to justice. And God, in answer, gave him one of the most powerful words in Scripture, “The righteous will live by his faith.” A powerful answer, “You, must continue to live by faith… you must continue to trust God.” As much as it is not for us to judge anyone, nor take vengeance on anyone, so also it is not for us to determine or question the times when justice will be brought about by God.
This was a serious issue in Peter’s time. In this chapter he repeats this teaching time and again regarding the certainty of God’s justice in God’s own time. In Peter’s day there were scoffers who ridiculed the coming judgment of God— just as in our day people take it so lightly and brush it aside as a joke. Peter wrote these Christians and reminded them of the many important promises of God, promises that they should hold on until— as he also tells them— the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Peter was very serious in reminding them to hold on to God’s promises and to live according to the gospel truth. That is our mandate— its what God wants from us— to hold to the truth of the gospel as we continue to trust him.
People scoff at the coming judgment of God, but on the day that they will surely face God— what would they say to him, when the question is: “Why did you depart from the gospel truth”? “I thought I was suffering too much…. I wasn’t getting the results I thought I would get… When things did not go as I expected, I thought the gospel was too strict…. I thought that perhaps I should reconsider the meaning of the gospel… there were many who were reconsidering the way of things, with phenomenal results and mega fruit… more fruitful than me.” What can we say in the face of today’s mega programs, and attempts to make the gospel palatable or more acceptable to a generation of people who relate so differently than I did when I accepted the gospel.” I personally have a conviction of what God has asked of me to do. He has asked me to teach the word of God in all its truth— simply— even if it offends and challenges them. I cannot change the “gospel I received” to accommodate for a revised— improved— and updated gospel. Each of must make a decision as to what truth we stand on, and what truth we are teaching. We must teach this “truth” in love. And not swerve from the way of the cross, because in the way of the cross, we find our salvation and the salvation of all who believe.
Peter’s words here are sharp. Peter assured the Christians to whom he was writing that “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” And in verses 4-9, to prove his point, Peter gives three separate examples of how God dealt with the apostasies of the past. God judged angels when they rebelled, and keeps them chained in dungeons for the day of judgment. It’s hard for us to understand this, but that doesn’t mean that we should take it lightly or ignore it. In Noah’s time, when people corrupted God’s standard of marriage, it was a sexual corruption of sorts. And it did not stop there. The corruption spread throughout the homes, then the communities, then the society and eventually the whole world was corrupted and wicked. People had become like animals, living by their flesh desires until there was no one left to honor God except Noah and his family. God judged the world, but he rescued Noah at the time. Then in Lot’s time, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into sexual immorality of the worst kind. And there was no one left in the entire land who had no fallen into ungodly practices. Lot who lived in those cities seems to have been disgusted with their practices— but he knew God and was rescued from the judgment that came upon them. People may choose not to believe this but it does not change form the fact that God’s judgment came upon the angels, the people of Noah’s time and the cities of plain.
Verse 9 tells us “if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” God’s judgment is real, and it will be coming in God’s due time especially for the false teachers who lead astray from the truth of God. But let me remind you of what he said in 1:10-11 for those whose faith rests on Jesus— on the truth. “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” For us, we need to make every effort to remain grounded in the truth, and it is the promise of God that we would not fall, but be given the kingdom. God bless you.