False teachers were going to be a reality for the New Testament church.
The second half of chapter 1 was a reminder that Peter and the apostles had been eyewitnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They watched as the prophecies of old were clarified. These things and many more made them authorities in matters of the church. Mankind all too quickly forgets its own history and Peter hoped to prevent some of this by the giving warnings and reminders.
“1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3–ESV)
False prophets and false teachers
The first reminder that Peter gave here was that of the false prophets. Those men came telling the people what they wanted to hear, and those false messages were welcomed. That phenomenon led to confusion and error, and to address it the people were to inspect the words of the prophets discounting the prophet them when any of the prophecies failed.
In that context Peter went on to tell of false teachers. False prophets arose and false teachers would arise. The same destructive intention that was injected among God’s people in the more ancient times would arise in Peter’s time. Men and women would come among the churches teaching error. They would introduce a variety of different belief systems, religious activities and even concepts about Jesus.
Satan works to draw mankind away from truth. He did it with the prophets in Israel and would do it with teachers in the New Testament church. His approach was carefully crafted deceptions to move men and women from positions of truth and faith into alternate but similar sounding beliefs.
What is heresy in Peter’s context? It was any belief that was out of alignment with what had been revealed by God in the history of Israel and Christ’s fulfillment of prophecy.
Is heresy all that important anyway? After all, do beliefs really matter? People act as if they do. Consider the ongoing race for the 2016 presidential election. Networks, newspapers, blogs and people at work will debate and argue why a certain candidate is unfit to be the president. They do this because what a leader believes directs what that leader chooses. What a leader chooses change the lives of others. Consider the conversations over lunch or among people in their workplaces. What peers and family and bosses believe makes a difference in pay, tasks, and the activities. If this is so with political beliefs and personal beliefs why would it be any different with spiritual beliefs?
In our world we see recorded in the Old Testament God’s tremendous engagement with a people group who have become known the world over as Israel. They have a remarkable history even in the recent times. We also see the arrival of Jesus, the man from heaven, to fulfill prophecy and we have eyewitnesses of his life, death and resurrection. Those things are argued against by many, there are well rounded and believable answers to the denials that some bring regarding the man Jesus.
It is reasonable to believe in the things taught us in scripture. It leads to choices that have an impact in the lives of others. Peter was all too aware that secretly introduced teachings would be brought that were not in alignment with what God had revealed. When one gets out of alignment with truth destruction comes. In some cases it comes quickly and in others slowly, but misalignment always has a destructive result.
A problem that I face as an ophthalmologist is with patients who do not take the eye drops they need to take. Some drops are to prevent inflammation and some to prevent blindness. They develop complaints (sometimes permanent ones) that could have been averted had they taken their meds. One of my residents a few years ago suggested that compliance would be improved if we could make eye drops that produced a pleasurable sensation when they took them. Why would that help? If a person enjoys something they will be more likely remember it and to do it.
One of the blessings that God gave humanity is sensual satisfaction. Food can be for more than just for sustenance. Of course calories are needed to live on, but the taking in of the calories is a pleasant thing. Making babies could be merely for the perpetuation of the species, but it is a lot more than that. Mankind’s curse is one of excess. If we like something we want to do it again and again. Those impulses must be reigned in and religions the world over try to place checks and balances on the drives that we humans have. The Judeo-Christian religious continuum is no different.
Most of the time we do not like to be told, “no.” False teachers come along saying that there is no contradiction between excess and religion. Because many want to hear this many will follow this. Peter said that many would follow the sensuality advertised by the false teachers. The immorality of those who follow these promiscuous teachers brings the whole of truth into some measure of disrepute.
Truth should not be blasphemed at any point. Peter wants the churches to be on the alert for lessons that would seem exciting, but which give no good thing.
Where there is smoke there is fire. False teachings are the smoke and exploitation is the fire. The false teachers have moved away from truth and benevolence and serve themselves. It may seem otherwise, but the things they teach are not good for those who listen. One does not have to look too far in our culture to see those who would woo with faith to line their own pockets.
No free lunch for the false teachers
Those who do evil are not immune from the effects of it. Evil is deceptive and evil will subvert those who practice it. Jesus saved from sins which also means we are saved from the effects of sin. To practice evil is to reap evil rewards. Sensuality, greed, and exploitation may give the appearance of good, but it is temporary. The false teachers Peter was warning about cause real harm to those who follow them. Destruction of their empires and their evil ways will surely come. It may seem to take a long time to arrive, but it surely will. Satan who is the father of lies is malevolent to all even those people who willingly or unwillingly are devoted to his initiatives. Satan knows that those who live and teach deception will be destroyed and he takes pleasure in that. We must make sure we do not get trapped by our evil desires. When we see those who are trapping others we should pray for them and not despair for God is still there and God is still in control. Destruction will come to those who harm others.
Key points from this section:
- Be on the lookout for false teachers
- Falsehood is deceptive
- Falsehood is harmful
- Deception yields an unpleasant harvest
- Greed’s rewards are temporary and its punishment can be eternal
- Jesus saved from sin AND the effects of sin