2 Peter 2:1, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction”
Our Text – 2 Peter 2:1-9
Theme – Believers need to be on the alert for the appearance of false teachers among them.
At the close of 2 Peter, Chapter 1, the apostle Peter stated that the Old Testament prophets were men who spoke because they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Peter begins Chapter 2 with the reminder that false prophets had lived in ancient Israel as well. History was repeating itself. Just as there are teachers of truth in the church, so there will be false teachers also. The startling truth is that false teachers would appear from among Peter’s readers!
Our text today deals with the horrible danger of being spiritually deceived. We live in an age that is well supplied with impersonators and con-artists. Webster defines the word deceive as to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid, to practice deceit or to give a false impression. Have you ever been deceived by a smooth talking person? People don’t like to be fooled but it happens way to often in today’s world. They fall for crooked schemes that cost them money, endanger their health, and waste their valuable time. It happens to elderly people when they trust the friendly and persuasive person who comes to their door selling a too-good-to-be-true product. It happens when a person tells a person they have won a sweepstakes but needs their bank account number so their winnings can be deposited.
Such deceptions also occur in our churches throughout the world. It happens when people move away from God’s principles of truth and integrity. Satan, who is called an angel of light, is the master of deceitfulness, and will use false teachers including pastors who have distorted the truth of God’s precious Word. We are deceived by their use of biblical terminology, by their deceitful presentations that make guarantees far beyond what God has clearly promised in His Word. My friend, this isn’t a new concept because the apostle Paul warned us about this kind of deception in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”.
To protect ourselves from false teaching we are cautioned in God’s Word about people in this world who come up with deceptive schemes. The writer of Proverbs told us not to believe everything we hear when we buy or sell something (Proverbs 20:12). He told us to seek knowledge, understanding, and good counsel in everything we do, and because we cannot begin to see as the Lord sees, we should pray for His wisdom in the decisions we must make. God sees through the lies of deception in a way that we never could and He will steer us clear of good-sounding values, which are corrupt.
PRESENCE OF FALSE TEACHERS – (2 Peter 2:1)
2 Peter 2:1a, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you”
- Their appearance (2:1a)
While Israel had a noble succession of true prophets, the nation was also plagued often by false prophets, who don’t identify themselves with any type of sign around there neck. Peter writes that just as there were lying prophets among the people of Israel, there would be false teachers among God’s people of his day and the same in today’s present age.
The apostle Paul puts it this way in Acts 20:29-30, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them”. Jesus warns us, that soon after a person becomes born again and one of His sheep, religious wolves will begin to attack. Matthew 7:15 puts it this way, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”.
False teachers are false because they mislead God’s people with their lies. They claim to be God’s spokesmen while they speak false things that seem plausible to some. Teachers of God’s truth held a very high place in the early church, and such is also the case today and rightly so.
2 Peter 2:1b, “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them”
- Their denial (2:1b)
False teachers are smugglers of wrong doctrines. They secretly and deceptively introduce heretical teachings. The apostle Paul gives similar warning about the infiltration of false teachers into the fellowship of believers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Galatians 2:4). Their doctrines are destructive, which is the meaning of “damnable”. These teachings lead their adherents to the judgment of eternal condemnation Hebrews 10:39).
The doctrines of false teachers are their own heretical opinions. Heretical doctrines are not just opinions over which believers may differ. More than that, heretical doctrines are opinions that are clearly contrary to Biblical teachings. Such opinions may destroy the confidence that some have in the true faith. After their confidence is shaken, then they become easy prey for religious error. At the heart of their heretical teaching is the denial of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. They deny the Lord by what they believe and by the way they live.
Christ’s death delivers us from the eternal ruin of our sin (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). By His death Christ bought us to become His property as our Redeemer and Master. The false teachers’ denial amounts to a repudiation of the fundamental doctrine that Christ died for their sins. In so doing they deliberately refuse to accept the truth revealed in the Scriptures about the person and work of Jesus Christ. They are misguided, but more that they refuse God’s truth in preference to their own views on salvation. They profess to be something they are not. They carry their Bibles and use orthodox terms, but with unorthodox meanings. Their views are reinterpretations, which amount to misinterpretations of sound doctrine.
2 Peter 2:1c, “and bring upon themselves swift destruction”
- Their destruction (2:1c)
The outcome of their denial is sudden destruction, which will come upon them abruptly. The idea of the word “destruction” is not annihilation, but everlasting ruin. This ultimate destiny of false teachers (Revelation 21:8) indicates that they were never born again. A saved person can never lose his/her salvation and will follow Christ (John 10:28, 29). The apostle Peter proves his point by exposing their creed and their conduct in the remainder of this letter. They deliberately defy the rule of Christ by seeing how far they can go. These certainly aren’t Christ’s disciples.
False teaching always focuses on demoting Jesus, refusing to recognize the full revelation of his Being as it is set forth in the Scriptures. Every cult attacks the Person and the work of Jesus Christ. They claim that he was nothing but a very good man, a model man, perhaps, although he lacked the insights into life and reality that are ours through modern knowledge. Thus, they put him down and demote him. Or, going to the opposite extreme, they regard Jesus as a supernatural being, one among several Divine Masters who come periodically into human affairs to teach us wonderful truths that we would never know otherwise, and which, if followed, will release within us great divine powers.
This is the teaching of the New Age movement that we are being exposed to today. However, these cults never view Jesus as God himself and willing to die in our place. Any form of religious error, then, will have these three manifestations: they are supported by human tradition; they establish themselves as the only respectable doctrine to believe; and yet they come from the minds of satanic beings who cleverly, but invisibly, reduce people to childish behavior and childish attitudes, all to the end of setting aside the glory and true character of Jesus Christ.
DECEPTION OF GOD’S PEOPLE – (2 Peter 2:2, 3)
2 Peter 2:2, “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of”
- Successful following (2:2)
The false teachers become popular with many followers, who embrace their profane opinions. Their doctrines of denial are infectious. John writes that the world listens to them (1 John 4:5). Their converts adopt the false teacher’s shameful manner of life. Peter describes this lifestyle as “Pernicious,” which means unbridled lust. This is why Peter condemns the false teachers so vehemently. They follow morally unrestrained conducts of behavior in the name of Christianity.
Teachers and disciples will bring their sexual immorality into the church (2 Peter 2:2). Their doctrine and corresponding lifestyle are not on the side of God’s truth, but against it. This will cause many who observe their lifestyles to blaspheme the way of truth. The “way of truth” is sound doctrine and its corresponding godly lifestyle (2 Peter 1:3, 4). Such blasphemy will have a disastrous effect on the church. The way of error, not the way of truth, is to blame for the immoral conduct of these people. The warning that ungodly conduct brings reproach on God’s name is clearly illustrated here. (Romans 2:23, 24; Titus 2:5).
2 Peter 2:3, “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not”
- Merchandising people (2:3)
Peter reveals the false teachers’ inner motive of greed. The ministry for them is a lucrative profession. They increase their income through building up a large following. Paul warns us about such men of corrupt minds who consider godliness to be a means for financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5).
False teachers commercialize religion by exploiting people with “feigned words,” meaning “phony arguments”. Peter’s stringent denouncement expressed God’s condemnation over the way in which the truth and godly living are flouted. Both the false teachers and their followers need to take heed to what God is saying.
The heretics’ popularity and gain will come to a predetermined end. Their judgment was announced long ago (Isaiah 13:9-13; Psalm 1:5, 6). These are doomed men on the edge of punishment, for the execution pronounced in the distant past has not been overlooked, neither is it sleeping. God has allowed the delay while He exercises His mercy.
EXAMPLES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT – (2 Peter 2:4-9)
To underscore the certainty of the execution of God’s judgment, Peter uses three examples of divine judgment from the book of Genesis. He demonstrates that God has judged in the past and therefore can be expected to judge in the future. The judgment of heretics in the church is certain. They await the execution of God’s judgment like men who are on death row.
2 Peter 2:4, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment”
THE FALLEN ANGELS (2:4)
First, is the case of the fallen angels? What a lesson there is here! Angels are the most glorious and mighty beings under God. But all their power and dignity was of no use when they sinned and God was unsparing in his sentence. They were cast out of his presence and have been reserved in darkness, until the great day of judgment when they will be deliver to the “lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). The false teachers should learn from this that if they “despise authority” (v. 10) and reject the lordship of Christ (v. 1), they will hear the sentence of Jesus which he foretold in Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
2 Peter 2:5, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly”
THE OLD WORLD (2:5)
The second example is the judgment of the Flood, which is a favorite theme of Peter (1 Peter 3:20, “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water”; 2 Peter 3:5, 6). The universal Flood of Noah’s day is an illustration of God’s direct intervention in punishing sin.
Prior to the Flood, man had no time for God and the earth was filled with violence; every thought in every heart was “evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, 11). Yet, Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8). Fully devoted to God, Noah obeyed Him and built the ark. The Lord, in His grace, spared Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives (Genesis 6:10, 18). Thus, God showed grace in the midst of judgment. If the false teachers didn’t learn the lesson from the fallen angels, they should have learned it from the flood. In judgment, God swept away the ungodly in the day of Noah.
And today even though the rebellious and the wicked people may think they are safe, they should learn that “from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction is not sleeping” (v. 3). It will come upon them with horrifying swiftness.
2 Peter 2:6-8, “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)
SODOM AND GOMORRAH (2:6-8)
The third example of God’s unsparing judgment is His destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These two cities were located on the southern shore of the Dead Sea, an area rich in sulfur, salt, and bitumen. However, the citizens of those cities were ungodly. Sodom and Gomorrah were cesspools of sexual perversion (Genesis 18:20). God made an example of the cities, reducing them to ashes, thus underscoring the truth that His judgment will eventually arrive on the ungodly. The total destruction of these cities by God brings home to all succeeding generations that ungodliness will end only in destruction.
In the midst of His judgment upon the cities of the plain, God delivered Lot (2 Peter 2:7). That Lot was a righteous man may come as a surprise after reading the Genesis account. He appears as a man who had strayed a long way from God. While he was a hospitable man, he was also weak, was a drunkard, and was morally depraved. He was so deeply embedded in Sodom that he had to be dragged out (Genesis 19:16, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them”).
However, Peter tells us that Lot was a righteous man who was distressed terribly by the extreme behavior of the wicked citizens of Sodom. But his rescue was due entirely to God’s grace as it was to Noah and his family. God also shows His grace to us because of Who He is, and not because of who we are. Lot’s soul was distressed daily. The conduct of his neighbors was torture to his inner being, which is an evidence of his righteousness. Yet, he continued to live in Sodom until the Lord removed him forcibly. Like Lot, we as believers in Christ should be distressed by what we see and hear. Lot lived in a world like ours, facing pressures to conform and to compromise. However, unlike Lot, we must be concerned that our moral responsiveness stays sharp so we don’t begin to tolerate worldly values and lifestyles, which are most contrary to God’s Word.
God knows how to deliver the godly out of trials. He also reserves the ungodly for punishment at the future day of judgment. A story was written some time ago about a doctor who made it his chief concern in matters of religion to degrade the character and dignity of Jesus Christ. He viewed the Savior with so much contempt that he always spoke of Him in a demeaning way by calling Him the carpenter’s son. As time went on the physician became terminally ill and during the weeks before his death, he became very distressed. He remarked to the person who was attending to his care, I’m a dying man, and what affects me the most of all is that I must be judged by the carpenter’s son!
This story illustrates that judgment awaits all who have rejected God’s gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, even in his last conscious moments (like the thief on the cross), if the doctor had trusted Christ as Savior, he could have found peace and received eternal life.
2 Peter 2:9-10, The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority”
Peter tells us in verses 9 and 10, that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished. God has done this in the past and will do it in the future. However, we must be reminded daily that the church is not immune to false teachers, especially in the day in which we are living. Thus, as believers in Christ, we must make every effort to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and firmly grounded in the Word of God, lest we lose our stability, and be carried away in error by these false teachers.
We are warned in God’s Word not to love the world nor the things of the world (1 John 2:15). We are also exhorted not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2). We are also told that the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Yet, are we really watchful? The question which must to be answered by each born-again believer in Christ is, “What are the currents that causes one to drift away from the truth? The following examples are not inclusive of all the many problems faced by the believer today, in drifting away from God’s truth:
The current of GROWING WEARY.
The current of time in which we GROW WEARY of doing good, a concerned expressed in Galatians 6:9, “and let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not”. As time passes by, we can gradually lose some of the passion of our devotion to serve Christ. We may begin to rest on our accomplishments, and cease pressing forward. However, Philippians 3:13-14 tell us, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The current of FAMILIARITY.
As we become familiar with the truth, it may seem dull to us and we may lose its sense of newness or even take it for granted. Like the church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:4), we may lose our first love
The current of SOCIETY.
The tides of modern opinion can easily deceive, influence, and induce us to drift away from the truth found in God’s Word. Every day we are bombarded by forces that could and will destroy us, if we allow them to. Some are internal, such as our pride and selfish desires. Many are external forces, such as secular humanism, false religions, ungodly media influences, acquaintances who don’t support our faith and the stresses of everyday life.
Because of these, it is difficult to maintain a true course if one is not firmly grounded in the Word that directs life, and they can and will move a believer away from the simplicity and wisdom of our Lord (Romans 12:2). Living a God-honoring life in an evil world is not primarily a matter of the right outer location but of the right inner separation. We are living in a world that is hostile to our spiritual survival. The essence of the Lord Jesus’ prayer for His followers in John 17 was this: “Keep them in the world, but keep the world out of them.”
The current of the FLESH.
Our warfare is not only without, but also within. 1 Peter 2:11, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Our flesh is constantly waging war against our souls, and against the Spirit who desires that, we follow Him. Galatians 5:16-17, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
The current of DAILY CONCERNS.
The continuous pressure of our daily cares, pressures, and responsibilities can and will distract us for the purpose for which we have been called. Jesus warned against this on several occasions. Luke 8:14, “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” Luke 21:34, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with suffering, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”
Lastly, FALSE CHURCH TRADITIONS.
I believe this is one of the biggest dangers of all, and one that is able to even make void the power of God’s precious Word in a person’s life. I’m talking about the traditions of men; their practices and doctrines that today’s church is FILLED with.
We know that Satan is doing all in his power to keep the unsaved from being delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). He is the one who energizes the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), blinds the minds of the unsaved lest the light of the Gospel reach them (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4), and holds the unconscious world in his arms (1 John 5:19). It is also revealed that Satan in his warfare will counterfeit the things of God, which undertaking will likewise be in accord with his purpose to be “like the most High.” He will promote extensive religious systems (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
In this context it should be observed that Satan can promote forms of religion which are based on selected Bible texts, which elevate Christ as the leader, and which incorporate every phase of the Christian faith except one very important one; “the doctrine of salvation by grace alone on the ground of the precious blood of Christ.” Such satanic delusions are now in the world and multitudes are being deceived by them. Such false systems are always to be tested by the attitude they take toward the saving grace of God through the precious blood of Christ (Revelations 12:11).
In Revelation, Jesus declared, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13). And He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM: (John 8:58). He (Jesus Christ) is everything we could possibly need. Thus, we are complete in Him and more importantly we also need to realize and be reminded daily of:
If we understand what has been given to us we will be grateful to God for the rest of our lives. No matter what life throws at us we will not complain but only give thanks that we didn’t get what we deserved. We will be grateful that we have God’s strength, power, and provision in our lives. We will spend the rest of our lives saying, “Why me?”
If we understand the true message of the gospel there is no room for conceit. There is no room for feelings of superiority. What do you have that you have not been given? What basis for arrogance do you have? You are not a believer because of your goodness, your deeds, or even your decisions. You are a believer because God made you alive when you were dead. 1 Peter 5:5, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility”
We no longer need to fear in our living. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Of course that answer to that question is: “all kinds of people”. But the real message is, “If God is on your side, who can take eternal life from you?” To that we answer “No one”. If the Son has set you free . . . you are free indeed. We no longer need to live hesitantly. We can live with the boldness that comes from being a child of the King;
When we understand what God has done for us, the natural and appropriate desire is to honor Him in return. We want to live our lives to please Him. We know we cannot “pay Him back”. But we can honor Him with our lives. We can seek to do what He asks and go where He leads. This is the response of a true believer. We serve, not because we want to gain eternal life, but we serve because we love Him;
We need to surrender fully. What about you? Are you trying to run faster, jump higher, and push the right buttons? Are you willing to stop running and start trusting the one who has promised to transform you? Are you willing to accept the free and undeserved riches of His grace? Has He awakened you today? If so, respond in faith. In the quiet of your heart say, “Lord Jesus, I don’t know why you would love me like you do but I’m glad you do. Today I am willing to follow you.”
Do you remember the day you first believed? Do you remember where you were headed and how Christ changed you completely? Have you begun to drift? Are you beginning to try to earn your salvation again? If so, go back to the Scriptures. Read them again. Remember anew and Rest in His Love, Grace and Mercy. Like the first-century Gnostics and the unbelievers of today who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior but trust their lives to fate, spirits, or the stars. Hundreds of years ago, Moses asked God who He was and received an unusual answer. God said, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever” (Exodus 3:14-15).
A sentence needs only two things to be complete; a subject and a verb. So when God says His name is “I AM,” and it conveys the concept that He is complete in Himself. He is subject and verb. Jesus put flesh on God’s bare-boned answer to Moses’ question, “Who are You?” Jesus left heaven to show us what it means to bear His Father’s name. He told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He also said, “I am the bread of life” John 6:48), “the light of the world” (John 8:12), “the good shepherd” (John 10:11), and “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
Always remember it is easy to stand with a crowd; however, it takes courage to stand alone.