Scripture Text – 2 Peter 2:1-9
One of the most successful rackets in the world today is the selling of “fake art.” Even some of the finest galleries and private collections have been invaded by paintings that are clever counterfeits of the great masters. Publishers have also had their share of hoaxes, purchasing “genuine” manuscripts that weren’t so genuine after all.
But counterfeits and “fakes” are nothing new. Satan is the “great imitator” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15), and he has been hard at work ever since he deceived Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1–7; 2 Corinthians 11:1–4). He has false Christians (Matthew 13:38; John 8:44), a false gospel (Galatians 1:6–9), and even a false righteousness (Romans 9:30–10:4). One day, he will present to the world a false Christ (2 Thessalonians 2).
The nation of Israel was constantly being led astray by false prophets. Elijah had to contend with the prophets of Baal, but they promoted a pagan religion. It was the Jewish false prophets who did the most damage, for they claimed to speak for Jehovah God. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel exposed this counterfeit ministry, but the people followed the pseudo-prophets just the same. Why? Because the religion of the false prophets was easy, comfortable, and popular. The fact that the false prophets preached a false peace did not worry the people (Jeremiah 6:14). That was the message they wanted to hear!
The Apostles and prophets laid the foundation for the church and then passed from the scene going the way of all mortal men (Ephesians 2:20). This is why Peter wrote about false TEACHERS rather than false prophets, because there were then, and still are today, those who identify themselves as teachers in the church. In the age we live today, whether Peter foresaw it or not, experience has shown that it is highly unlikely that most modern-day church members would listen to someone who identifies as a “prophet,” but they would listen to a teacher of the Word. Satan always uses the approach that will succeed best.
In order to warn us to be alert and vigilant, Peter presented three aspects addressing the subject of false teachers in the church.
The False Teachers Described
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. – 2 Peter 2:1-3.
This is not a very pretty picture! When you read the Epistle of Jude, you will find him using similar language, and very pointed language it is. Peter knew that the truth of God’s Word and the false doctrines of the heretics simply could not coexist. There could be no compromise on his part, any more than a surgeon could compromise with a cancerous tumor in a patient’s body.
Deception (verse 1a). The theme of deception runs throughout the entire chapter. To begin with, these teachers’ message is false; Peter called what they taught “destructive heresies.” The word “heresy” originally meant very simply “to make a choice,” but then soon after the church took roots it came to mean “a sect, a party.” Promoting a party spirit in a church is one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20). Whenever a church member says to another member, “Are you on my side or the pastor’s side?” he is promoting a party spirit and causing division. A false teacher forces you to make a choice between his doctrines and the doctrines of the true Christian faith, but oftentimes he does it very subtly.
Not only was their message false, but their methods were false. Instead of openly declaring what they believed, they came into the church under false colors and gave the impression that they were true to the Christian faith. “They secretly bring in alongside” is the literal translation. They do not throw out the truth immediately; they simply lay their false teachings alongside the truth and give the impression that they believe the fundamentals of the faith. Before long, they remove the true doctrine and leave their false doctrine in its place.
In 2 Peter 2:3, Peter pointed out that the false teachers used “deceptive words.” The Greek word is plastos, from which we get our English word plastic. Plastic words! Words that can be twisted to mean anything you want them to mean! The false teachers use our vocabulary, but they do not use our dictionary. They talk about “salvation,” and “inspiration,” and the great words of the Christian faith, but THEY do not mean what we mean. Immature and untaught believers hear these preachers or read their books and think that these men are sound in the faith because of the words they use and the verses they quote, but they are not. If you do not search the Scriptures and study them with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you can be trapped by these deceivers.
Satan is a liar and his ministers are liars. They use the Bible, not to enlighten, but to deceive by twisting and manipulating its words. They follow the same pattern Satan followed when he deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1–6). First, he questioned God’s Word—“Has God indeed said?” Then he denied God’s Word—“You will not surely die.” Finally, he substituted his own lie—“You will be like God.”
Keep in mind that these apostate teachers are not innocently ignorant of the Word, as was Apollos (Acts 18:24–28). They DO know the truth but they deliberately reject it. I heard a story about a liberal pastor who was asked to read a paper at a ministerial conference on “Paul’s views of justification.” He read a paper that superbly presented the truth of the Gospel and justification by faith.
“I didn’t know you believed that,” a friend said to him after the meeting.
“I don’t believe it,” the liberal pastor replied. “They didn’t ask me for MY views of justification. They asked for Paul’s!”
To Be Continued