Scripture Text – 2 Peter 2:1-9
We continue with Peters warning to the church to be alert and vigilant. This is a continuation of the first of the three aspects addressing the subject of false teachers in the church.
The False Teachers Described – Continued
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.
Denial (verse 1b). False teachers are better known for what they deny than what they affirm. They deny the inspiration of the Bible, the sinfulness of man, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, salvation by faith alone, and even the reality of eternal judgment. They especially deny the deity of Jesus Christ, for they know that if they can do away with His deity they can destroy the entire body of Christian truth. Christianity is Christ, and if He is not what He claims to be, there is no Christian faith.
It must be made clear that these false teachers are unsaved. They are compared to dogs and pigs, not to sheep (2 Peter 2:22). Jude describes these same people and about them he clearly states, “not having the Spirit.” – Jude 19. If a person does not have the Spirit of God within, he is not a child of God (Romans 8:9). He may pretend to be saved and even become a member or an officer in a fundamental church, but eventually he will deny the Lord.
In what sense were these people “bought” by the Lord? While it is true that Jesus Christ died for the church (Ephesians 5:25), it is also true that He died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). He is the merchant who purchased the whole field (the world) that He might acquire the treasure in it ( see Matthew 13:44-45). When it comes to application, our Lord’s atonement is limited to those who believe. But when it comes to success, His death is sufficient for the whole world. He purchased even those who reject Him and deny Him! This makes their condemnation even greater.
Even good and godly Christians may disagree on fine points of doctrine, but they all agree on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God and God the Son. He is the only Savior. To deny this is to condemn your own soul.
Sensuality (verse 2). “Destructive ways” simply means “promiscuous and immoral conduct.” Jude accused the false teachers of turning “the grace of our God into lewdness.” – Jude 4. Now we understand why they deny the truths of the Christian faith: they want to satisfy their own lusts and do it under the guise of religion. The false prophets in Jeremiah’s day were guilty of the same sins (Jeremiah 23:14, 32).
The fact that “many” follow the evil example of their conduct is proof that people would rather follow the false than the true, the sensual rather than the spiritual. These false teachers are very successful in their ministry! They have glowing statistics to report and crowds gather to hear them! But statistics are not proof of authenticity. The broad way that leads to destruction is crowded (Matthew 7:13–14). Many will claim to be true servants of Christ, but will be rejected on the last day (Matthew 7:21–23). I would imagine the most tragic statement in all eternity will be, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”
What happens to their followers? For one thing, they bring disgrace to the name of Christ. The Christian faith gets a bad name because of their filthy lives. “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” – Titus 1:16. “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” – Romans 2:24. Few things hinder the cause of Christ like the bad reputations of professing Christians who are members of traditionally conservative churches.
Greed (verse 3). False teachers are only interested in making money and serving themselves and their lusts. They exploit ignorant people and use their religion as “a cloak for covetousness.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:5. Our Lord was a poor Man, and so were the Apostles; yet they gave of themselves to minister to others. These false prophets are rich men who cleverly get others to minister to them! Micah described these false prophets in his day: “Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests teach for pay, And her prophets divine for money.” – Micah 3:11 (NASB). Certainly the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7), but his motives for ministry had better go beyond money. It has often been said that immorality, love of money, and pride have been the ruin of many people. These false teachers were AND are guilty of all three!
They use their “plastic words” as well as “great swelling words” (2 Peter 2:18) to fascinate and influence their victims. They flatter sinners and tell them the kind of ego-building words that they want to hear (see again the contrast in 1 Thessalonians 2:5). They will scratch the itching ears of people who reject the truth of the Bible and turn to fables (2 Timothy 4:1–4). Religion can be a tremendous tool for exploiting weak people, and these false teachers use religion just to get what they can. They are not ministers (servants); they are merchandisers as the King James Version describes them!
The true minister of Jesus Christ has nothing to hide: his life and ministry are an open book. He preaches the truth in love and does not twist the Scriptures to support his own selfish ideas. He does not flatter the rich or minister only to make money. Paul described the true minister in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” The word “shame” translated here in the original Greek means the same as “dishonesty.” Contrast that description with what Peter wrote in this chapter, and with what Jude wrote, and you will see the difference. We so need to be alert, discerning and wise and refuse to support ministries that exploit people and deny the Savior, both with our resources and also with our words of warning to the church.
To Be Continued