2 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV) 1 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.
On verses 1-3: False teaching has been around as long as the garden of Eden when the serpent Satan duped Adam and Eve into believing something that was contradictory to what God said (Genesis 3:4). Just as there were false prophets among the real prophets in the Old Testament (v1a), just as there were false teachers among the early church (v1b), so there are false teachers today. How do you know if you have encountered a false teacher? Here we see some defining traits of false teachers:
(1) “they will secretly introduce destructive heresies” (v1a). “Secretly” is a key word here. False teachers will certainly not come up to you and say, “Hi, I’m a false prophet.” Often the false teacher himself does not believe that what he is teaching is false. Often the falsehood will be hidden from the teacher and not just from the teacher’s closest followers. False teaching may initially come across as attractive and can make a great first impression, but it is only when you look deep beneath the surface and compare the details of that teaching to what the Bible says that you begin to see the falsehood. Like a snake, false teaching can quietly slither into our lives and bring destruction if we are not careful. It is tragic to learn of families, marriages, lives and communities that have been destroyed by false teaching.
(2) “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (v1b). The most dangerous kind of false teaching is the type that speaks falsely about Jesus. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses falsely teach that Jesus is not God, despite all the Bible teaches about the divinity of Jesus. Mormons teach that a man called Joseph Smith in the early 1800’s found some golden plates on which was written an unknown language but that Joseph Smith was able to translate them and understood them to contain additional revelations about what Jesus did on earth. The result was the Book of Mormon, which claims that its teaching about Jesus has equal or greater weight compared to what the Bible teaches about Jesus.
(3) “Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (v2). The effect of false teaching is that its followers are misled into living lives that are far from what God intended for them. Another effect of false teaching is that the truth falls “into disrepute” (v2). That is, in the eyes of the unchurched and the lost, the truth gets lumped together with all the false teaching that is out there. Unchurched people thus become disillusioned by all the different takes that seem to be available.
(4) “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up” (v3). False teaching is built on made up stories. In contrast, Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Have you or someone you know ever suffered because of false teaching? Even just this past week, I have had numerous conversations with people who have been affected to varying degrees by false teaching. We need to be vigilant and careful not to be duped by false teaching.
2 Peter 2:4-9 (NIV) 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons 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.
On verses 4-9: God is not indifferent to false teachers. He will hold false teachers accountable for the destruction they have caused. God is also not indifferent to those who suffer because of false teaching. As verse 9 says, “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials” and has a heart to do so.
Lord Jesus, You came to rescue us from the bondage of false teaching. May I always be careful and vigilant to not allow the snake of false teaching to slither into my life and home and bring destruction. May I know Your Word and Your Spirit better and better so that I can identify and take a stand against false teaching. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!