False Teachers In The Church [Part II]
2 Peter 2:10-22
Key verse 17
“These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.”
In the first part, Peter talks about the seriousness of false teaching and teachers in the church; and their imminent judgment which is coming. He shows us who they are. The second part, he uncovers for us what’s really on their hearts— their motive in promoting false teachings. We can see right through them if we listen to Peter’s warning.
In verse 10-16 Peter described them perfectly. More than anything else, it seems that Peter lists their vice as immorality. In other words, they are immoral to the core of their being. He says: “They follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature.” (10) These words require some explanation for those who don’t see the error of this. It was because of the corrupt desirers of the sinful nature that the human race earned the wrath of God, and have come under God’s judgment. Peter explains in the first part of this chapter about Noah’s time, what happened when men gave in to the desires of their sinful nature. He also explains in the first part of this chapter what happened to the men and women of Sodom when they gave in to the corrupt desires of the sinful nature. God’s judgment came on them at a time when they least expected it. Our nature was not corrupt when God created us. Everything about us was good and healthy. Adam and Eve enjoyed the glorious health of both body, mind and spirit. But when sin came into the word, that beautiful human nature that was in perfect harmony with God became corrupted. What that means is that we lost the holiness we enjoyed with God, and fell into the cravings of our physical nature. Outwardly we were men and women who appeared normal, but on the inside the balance of conscience and goodness was lost to sin. We began to follow what our bodies craved. And we justified it as natural— human— normal desires that are part of who we are. We did things that we knew in our hearts and souls were unnatural and unholy and no good, but we justified it as being human. But humans were never intended to be the unholy creatures with unholy desires that swept the whole earth. God judged the time of Noah, and then judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as a warning. But God did not leave us helpless with our corrupt human sinful nature. Any sincere child of God knows this.
Any child of God knows well why Jesus had to come to this world, and sacrifice his life. Any child of God knows that Jesus gave his life on the cross to deliver us form the corrupt desires of our sinful nature. He paid the price none of us can pay to atone for our the corrupt sinful nature. He died to deliver us from the corruption of the sinful nature. Any child of God knows that the sinful nature has cut us off from God long enough and has made it impossible for us to do what God would have us do in our lives, and be what God wants us to be in our lives. Any child of God knows that his or her corrupt sinful nature needs to be crucified in order to give rise to the holy nature God has in store for those who believe. Any child of God knows that now that they had been delivered from the corrupt sinful nature, they want nothing to do with the sinful nature. He or she knows that daily and sometimes hourly he or she must battle to suppress the cravings of the sinful nature— denying the corrupt sinful nature— bringing it to the foot of the cross where it can be kept in check. Any child of God— any Christian— any sincere believer in the Lord Jesus knows this— that the corrupt sinful nature must die daily in order to give way to the Holy Spirit who helps us to live by God’s words and honor God in our lives. No child of God wants to give in to or honor his or her corrupt sinful nature.
But Peter says that these false teachers: “… follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature.” (10) that in itself is the give away that they are not to be trusted, for they honor the corrupt desires of the sinful nature rather that Christ who bought them. (1) Verse 10 goes on to say other things about them as well. They “despise authority” especially the authority of Christ over all the church. Christ who died on the cross to rescue humanity from the corrupt desires of the sinful nature— Christ who rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God— is the ultimate authority over all human life, especially in the lives of those who have been purchased by his blood. He is the Master of our lives. His words are our guide in the darkness of this world, where Satan has set his kingdom. When we die to the corrupt desires of our sinful nature, Christ’s words, his promises must guide our path in life. We have no other guide in a world full of lies. But these people despise the authority of Christ, and of his words. They interpret them in their own way. In verse 10 Peter tells us that they are bold and arrogant, resisting authority, maintaining their own view over and above what is written in the word of God.
In verse 13 Peter tells us “Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight.” (13) In other words what they do in board daylight others dare only do at night in dark places. He says: “Reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.” (13) In other words they show up among the children of God as if they belong to the church. Peter also says: “With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning”. (14) In other words their minds are always occupied with sexual thoughts and their eyes always look with lust on men and women. Another verse that seems to hone in on these false teachers “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.” (15) This tells us a lot about them. All these verses tells us that Christ is not their master, but the corrupt desires of their sinful nature. These verses reflect the immorality lurking in false teacher’s heart and which drives them all the more to maintain their false teaching. Whatever these people may look like on the outside— however masterful and eloquent their speech may be— however religious they may appear to be— Peter tells us what’s on their hearts and minds— and its filthy. It is true that when people are arrogant and bold enough to engage the sinful nature, and justify it somehow by claiming that they too are Christian, their flesh takes over their thoughts and heart and leads them to engage and to promote sin. They may mouth off Bible verses, but at heart, Peter says they are “like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” In other words, Peter tells us that they are like the animal who follows their animal instincts. Animas are innocent because they have no conscience. So it makes these people lower than animals.
Peter’s words are harsh because he is serious about letting true Christians know how dangerous these people are. What they do is terrible. Here is what they do to others, and who usually falls to their traps. In verse 14 Peter says “they seduce the unstable”. In other words, they prey on the unstable people among the flock of God— they prey on those who have not yet taken a full stand on the gospel— and on those who are not sure of what they really believe or not believe— and on those who don’t know the grace of God to them, what the Lord had done for them— and on those whose faith is weak. There are many who allow themselves to remain weak in the faith, who are more comfortable on the sidelines of Christian faith rather than take a stand on Christ, and commit to his cause. These are the most vulnerable to be enticed to be led astray. Peter says in verse 18: “For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” (18) This is why these false teachers are so terribly dangerous. They speak well as if absolutely confident in what they are saying, as if the person who is listening is missing some knowledge of the truth— which they have to give them. And when the faith is weak, and the sinful nature is strong, then seducing them to falsehood or to false teaching is not so hard any more. Most people would like to hear that they can follow Christ and engage in any form of sex if it is hurting nobody. Most people like to hear that they can follow the loving Christ, and enjoy the desires of their human nature since God himself gave them those desires. It is not hard to understand why those who are not grounded in the gospel can be easily taken away from the truth faith, and given a false faith to stand on.
Peter says that in that way they entice those who are barely becoming Christians. And the enticing or temptation is brilliant. How do they entice them? Verse 19 tells us: “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity— for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” Even as far back as we can go, God told Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7) We were never meant to be mastered by sin, ever. Neither were we meant to be mastered by anything in this world, especially not by our desires. But false teachers promise these unstable and weak people freedom. How can they offer freedom when they themselves are slaves to their lusts? How can they convince them of freedom that does not exist? Freedom is at the heart of the human desires. And it is the false freedom that is at the heart of us. Not the true freedom. Jesus spoke of what is true freedom in the gospels. But false teachers appeal to another kind of freedom. In our sinful nature, we all want to be free— free to do what we want— free to live by our own standard and free to give in to all the natural desires that flood our hearts. We would love it if God would just offer us salvation, and then just leave us alone to enjoy our lives. So these people promise the weak and unstable freedom. How can they entice them? They entice those who are struggling to overcome their sinful nature and tendencies— they entice those who are listening to the gospel message, but listening to their own flesh cravings. They offer them — not freedom that Christ promises us — freedom from sin— but they offer them freedom from the pains of struggle. “You no longer have to struggle to overcome your desires, they are normal desires that are very much part of who you are as a human being.” It’s like saying to someone who is struggling with anger and violence— “just give in to your desires, it’s the natural thing to do, your human after all.”
So these people offer to liberate them from the ongoing struggle against the flesh and to just give in to it. That is not freedom at all, it is slavery because we can truly be free only when Christ sets us free. This brings us back to understanding verse 1 when Peter says “even denying the sovereign lord who brought them.” Christ is our sovereign Lord. When we acknowledge that Jesus bought us with his blood, we become his. We follow his gospel. We deny ourselves anything and everything that is not in agreement with the truth he laid down for us in the gospel. That is freedom— real freedom— and nothing else. The freedom the Christ gives us is the freedom from sin— the freedom these people offer us is the freedom to sin. There is a difference. But we cannot go wrong as long as we know that Christ is our sovereign.
In verse 3 Peter says: “In their greed these teachers will exploit you”. in verse 14 he says “they are experts in greed.” So their motive in false teaching is greed. All greed is unholy and ungodly, whether it is greed for fame or fortune, or recognition or for money. But for the most part false teachers will be known for their greed for money. They will mouth off bible verses, and with remarkable eloquence and with great charisma, they will appeal to the people to finance their causes. They live in luxury, they despise poverty and the simplicity of the Lord’s life. John the Baptist was a fiery charismatic teacher. He was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. His life can be summarized simply. He pointed the way to the Christ. He lived in simplicity and not in luxury. He did not ride a luxury camel –XXO. He did not live in a crystal palace. But he maintained a simple humble life. And Jesus did exactly the same after him. Jesus is the standard for all things in this world, even the standard for our lives, for measuring anything or anyone against. But false teachers are greedy for things, and they are smart enough to justify their greed. Some even use the Bible to justify themselves.
In verses 17 Peter tells us something very important. “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” What does this mean? It simply means that these false teachers offer thrills, delights, spiritual enchantment and pleasure, they offer insight and understanding, and exciting new freedoms for the body and soul, whatever thrills the “spiritually unstable and weak”— but in reality they are empty and barren. In the desert the mirage— the hope of salvation— offers new strength and determination and excitement for those who are dying of thirst, but once the traveler reaches the spot, there is nothing there by more sand and dryness. Most people end up dying of thirst and hunger when following these false teachers. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman, he told her: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) Jesus also said: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) This is what Jesus said, that he alone can satisfy the deepest hunger and quench the deepest thirst of our soul. Peter warns that whoever listens to these false teachers will not be satisfied. What satisfies the heart and soul of people is Jesus alone and his words. This we cannot emphasize enough. Come to Jesus and receive him personally and you will not be disappointed.
In verses 20-22 Peter warns the church of the danger of being enticed to follow false teachings. His words in these verses do not mean that a true Christian and child of God can lose their calling and salvation. It merely means that just being a member of the church, and knowing what the gospel teaches, does not guarantee that one is safe form the judgment of God. People take God’s judgment so very lightly, like those who think that there is never going to be a judgment day when God will bring us to account. People listen to the gospel message. But if they do not accept the gospel message and submit themselves to the Lord who calls them to repent and believe, they end up living a lie and returning to the vomit of the world they came from. We must be serious about receiving the gospel and being rooted and grounded in it. Let the word of God guide your life until you are sure and secure in your calling and election— its what Peter is telling us here— its what God wants for us. “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make you calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.” (10)