By Andrew E. Courtis
Have you ever encountered a counterfeit? Imagine someone works hard and then gets paid. There is a sense of satisfaction of receiving what they have earned from all their effort. Then the person goes to bank the money and then is told that they can’t receive the money because it is a counterfeit. This person would feel cheated and wronged! To be at the receiving end of being promised something and then to be cheated is a horrible thing.
In this chapter we will learn about the certainty of false teachers, the character of false teaches and the conduct of false teachers. Now all of this sounds very negative, and in once sense it is. But on the other hand it is important for us to see how this is also very positive. It is positive because if we learn to use discernment, we will not be robed of the benefits of walking in the truth. If we are to grow we need to remember the Scriptures, but we need to also recognise the swindlers.
In this message, we will have insight into a crime scene. We will consider the invasion, the impact, and the indictment. In the next message, we will provide a clear profile of who these invaders are and what they do.
1. THE FALSE TEACHER’S INVASION (2:1)
It is not always easy to identify a false teacher. It is not the practice of a false teacher to wear a sign around their neck that announces they are false teachers. They don’t tell you at the beginning of their sermons or books by declaring up front that they are about to teach error. It is not on their resumes. They don’t work that way. Instead, they sneak in by using phrases and words that sound Biblical and sometimes they are Biblical. False teachers are subtle and sneaky.
They are much like the invasion of crooks into a home leaving damage as they leave. The invasion of false teachers into the church is done by stealth. It is very often unnoticed. Peter writes, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies”. Their destructive teaching is based on things they have made up. The final authority for their teaching is not the Word of God, but rather it is their own selfish desires. The phrase, “even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” reveals their utter disregard for the Lord.
Peter begins by reminding his readers that the presence of counterfeit Christian leaders was a reality in the times of old and is a reality today. We are to be aware of this and be discerning so that we do not fall prey to the error of their way.
2. THE FALSE TEACHER’S IMPACT (2:2-3a)
Sadly, their message is so well packaged and appealing, “many will follow their sensuality” (2:2a). The result of those who flock to these teachers is a disgrace on the faith. They give a bad reputation to Biblical Christianity. Peter writes, “and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed”. We need to remind ourselves that when we embrace unbiblical ideas or live in a manner that is contrary to the Word of God, such conduct brings a disgrace on the faith. This is a serious action. Many times we can use poor choices of words or even act in an arrogant way. We must be careful as this can malign the message of truth. Peter adds, “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2:3a). Their impact is not only seen in how they can damage the church’s reputation, but also by extracting from the people. They are motived by “greed” and this fuels the content of their teaching and also the character of their behaviour. Peter describes this exploitation as coming by means of their “false words”. This means they are presenting a cheap imitation of truth. Again, this is why we must remember the Scriptures.
3. THE FALSE TEACHER’S INDICTMENT (2:3b-10a)
No the charges that have been raised are very serious. It is no small things to infect the church with unbiblical teaching and behaviour. It is no small thing to be responsible for maligning the truth or exploiting people. The Lord takes this very seriously. How seriously? In the final verses of this passage we will learn about the false teacher’s indictment. Peter writes, “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2:3b). In other words, they are not going to get away with this because it has been God’s intention to judge them for their wicked misconduct.
In the remaining verses, Peter recounts three account of Divine judgment. All three are form the book of Genesis and prove the point that God does not tolerate sin and judges it. The point of this section is to help us understand that what God did in the past He will do in the future.
The Fallen Angels
The first illustration is as follows, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment (2:4). Not all are in agreement as to what this is specifically referring to. I take this to be a reference to a depraved demonic invasion recorded in Genesis 6:1-4. These demons went beyond the normal acts of wickedness by demons, and crossed the line (cf. Jude 6-7). So much so that God “cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment”. This reveals God’s attitude and action toward those who disregard Him.
The second illustration is the well-known event of the worldwide flood. Peter writes, “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2:5). This was a huge judgment in extent. With the exception of eight people, God poured out His wrath on all mankind sparing none. The level of moral depravity had reached its limits and God responded with judgment.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The third illustration is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In-fact, these are the two main cities that stood as representative of other in the area that God brought to ruin. These cities displayed their depravity by ignoring the ways of God and pursued perverted sexuality. Peter writes,
“6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)” (2:6-8).
What is the point of all this? Just as God knew how to carry out judgment on those who went against His ways, and at the same time rescue those who are His, He will do the same with us. Peter writes by way of conclusion,
9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”
God will act, and bring to ruin those who promote error and ignore His ways. For this reason, God’s people ought to recognise the seriousness of false teaching. If we are going to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, we must remember the Scriptures (1:1-21), but we must also recognise the swindlers.