False Teachers
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Second Peter (new series)

False Teachers

2nd Peter 2

Lesson Audio

 

    Peter is rather blunt in describing the problem:

    2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV

    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. (2) Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (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.

     

    There will be…

    The surprise to most Christians here is that false teachers will be among us. Since most Christians think that theology is for theologians, and it really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere, why the fuss? Christ states this as well.[1] We will have false teachers (and, by implication, preachers.)

    How can this happen? Peter tells us here that they will smuggle in their false doctrine. In short, they will look like real teachers of the Scripture, but in their ego driven minds they have their own doctrine, which they see as superior to the faith as taught.

    How do they get away with it? Peter tells us that many will follow them. In America, this is almost too easy to get away with. Being firmly of the vox populi, vox Dei train of thought, we assume that a preacher who has great success numerically must automatically be blessed by God. After all, if God wasn’t with him, how could we have all those baptisms? One must ask: do butts in seats really equal souls in heaven? Is it OK to tell people what they want to hear and build a crowd that way? Paul tells us this:

    2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (4) They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

     

    More than that, what these men will teach are called “destructive heresies.” Such men tend to destroy the church. Curiously, this is often accompanied by a plea from them for unity in the church – heresies first and foremost divide the church. To prevent them from being recognized as such you must persuade the sheep to be good sheep and follow blindly along. That’s why Peter tells us that the first real defense of the church is the Christian’s knowledge of Christ – if you know him, you will follow him, and not some heretic.

     

    How to tell

    So then, how do we know who the heretic is? There is more on this later, but I’d point out three characteristics Peter gives us:

  1. Greed. It may not be the primary motive (for some it is), but it’s usually there. The faith teaches us to love the things of Christ; the heresy, the things of this world.
  2. They bring the way of truth into disrepute. People look at them from the outside of the church and wonder how we could be so blind. Unfortunately, this also prevents those outside from seeing the truth about Christ.
  3. They will even deny the Lord. Almost all heresies revolve around a distortion of the nature of Christ or his work. (Examples to follow.)
  4.  

    Destructive heresies

    So what possible difference could this make? Let me give you three examples:

     

    1. Arianism. Arianism is the belief that God and Christ are, at root, two different essences.  That somehow Jesus is the result of God playing around with Mary, resulting in a child who is godlike – but definitely inferior to, and distinct from, God.  You can see how, if you pick and choose among Scriptures, this view could come about.  But you probably can’t see why it would make a difference.  But it does. If Christ is not really God, why appeal to him in prayer? So you should only talk to God – who cannot really sympathize with us. How could he? He’s not human! So we’re left with following the rules and appeasing the frowning God. Want an example? Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    2. Eutychianism – the opposite heresy. Jesus is God but not really human. So all that business on the Cross was play-acting, and thus not effective at atonement. We don’t really have the salvation promised, just some nice teaching. Now what are you going to do?

    3. Pelagianism and its offshoot, semi-Pelagianism. Pelagius taught that original sin doesn’t exist. Therefore, atonement for the whole human race is ineffective; man (via his free will) cooperates with God to achieve salvation. Semi-Pelagianism affirms original sin, but retains the idea that salvation is the joint venture of man and God. The usual result is that Christianity dissolves into a series of self-help sermons; after all, man doesn’t need salvation (he can get that by seeking God himself) but does need improvement of his sinful nature.[2]

     

     

    God Rescues the Righteous

    2 Peter 2:4-9 NIV For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[1] putting them into gloomy dungeons[2] to be held for judgment; (5) 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; (6) 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; (7) and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (8) (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-- (9) 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.[3]

     

    The nature of the righteous

    This section of Scripture contains some disturbing implications about the righteous:

  5. It implies that when such heresy invades the church, the righteous are few. If you’ve ever had the feeling that it’s impossible to persuade everyone else that things are going horribly wrong, you might just be right.
  6. It implies that the wicked are powerful in those circumstances. You are not hunting out the occasional heretic; you are fighting against the odds.
  7. It implies that the righteous are tormented by what they see. One of the frustrations of the righteous in these circumstances is that the evil around you is very clear and agonizing; others just can’t see what the fuss is about.
  8.  

    The punishment of the wicked

    It might seem that God is doing nothing about it. Indeed, that’s one of the sources of doubt for the righteous – why isn’t God dealing with these people? But notice the examples given:

  9. The wicked may be the spiritually powerful of their day, but God eventually will deal with them.
  10. Even if whole cities (or cultures) go this way, God will deal with them. As Lot’s story makes clear, God wants to be merciful, but at some point his patience ends.
  11. Even, as with Noah, it involves the whole world. (Even so, Lord Jesus, come.)
  12.  

    There is hope

    How is this?

  13. First, God rescues the righteous. Throughout the Bible runs the theme of the remnant. Ultimately, those who persevere in righteousness will be kept by God.
  14. God condemns the wicked; they will not escape. It’s just that he may still be patient with them, hoping for their repentance. He was patient with you, wasn’t he?
  15. Some scholars will bring forth the doctrine of “indefectibility” – the idea that the Holy Spirit will not allow the church to remain in error. It’s just that the correction may be catastrophic in nature.

     

     

    Recognizing the False Teacher

    I told you we weren’t done with this.

    2 Peter 2:10-22 NIV This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature[4] and despise authority.

    Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; (11) yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. (12) But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. (13) They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.[5] (14) With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed--an accursed brood! (15) They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. (16) But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey--a beast without speech--who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. (17) These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. (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. (19) They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (20) If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (21) It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (22) Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"[6]and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

     

    So just how do I recognize these false teachers?

     

    Character

    May I point out three elements of character you should look for?

  16. Daring – these are the people who tell you that if the church is to survive, she must be willing to strike out in bold new directions. Watch this: the survival of the church depends not on its faithfulness, nor on the strength of God, but our willingness to accept these “new” doctrines.
  17. Arrogance – these are people who are curtly dismissive of the opposite view. It often happens that those who oppose them are experienced Christians – meaning, old. Their views are dismissed out of hand; after all, they’re just old fogies. (It’s not old vs. young; it’s the arrogance to look out for.)
  18. Slaves of depravity – something has a grip on their lives – something other than Jesus Christ. Often enough their secret sin is their common accusation of others.
  19.  

    Actions

    There are many possible actions which might identify such; Peter gives us these three:

  20. Carousing in broad daylight. In the plain sight of the world they party hearty. There is eventually no sense of shame; it’s not drunkenness, it’s being a regular guy to show the world that Christians are not hypocrites.
  21. Adultery. Sexual Puritanism is denounced – and “love” becomes the new standard of the church.
  22. Greed. Someone is always looking to profit from his service to the church.
  23.  

    How bad is it?

    I have left until the last the warning to the teachers who are like this.

  24. As Peter tells you, you’d be better off if you’d never heard of Christ. To know the truth and then turn your back on it – what will you expect of God?
  25. He explicitly tells you that you will be paid back – “harm for harm.”
  26. AND after that, the gloomy darkness of the dungeons of hell.
  27. People, the Lord is serious about this.

     

     

    Summary

    May I leave you with a brief summary of what you need to know?

  28. You will have false teachers, like it or not.
  29. You can recognize them (by their fruits you will know them).
  30. God may not let you triumph over them, but he will provide for your rescue.
  31. If you are one of these false teachers, you have been warned.

  32. [1] Matthew 7:15-20

    [2] I am, of course, utterly simplifying things in all three of these instances. Those with theological training will understand the difficulty of explaining both the correct nature of these heresies and the difficulty in getting the average, untrained Christian to understand them, let alone know why it makes a difference.

     

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