Thursday, April 16, 2009

II Peter 2:1 Warning Against False Teachers

Every since Satan deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden, there have been counterfeit teachers who claimed to speak for God but did not. That should come as no surprise since Satan was a liar from the beginning and men naturally love lies more than truth. However, as children of God we are called to not only love the truth but live that truth. In order to do that, we must be on guard for false teachers and their doctrine.

As Peter states in verse 1 of chapter 2 in this epistle, we are reminded of the past example of false prophets. Peter begins here to strike a contrast between true prophets (he and the other apostles) and true prophesy (scripture) and the “false prophets [who] arose among the people”. At the end of chapter one, Peter recounts his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration and says that scripture is a more reliable source of revelation than even his own first-hand account of that spectacular event. Now, he contrasts that truth by reminding the readers that there were also false prophets amongst the Israelites (“the people”). For instance, in Jeremiah 28, Haniniah claimed to be speaking for God when he prophesied that God would free the Israelites from the Babylonians. That kind of preaching sounded good to ears itching to be tickled. Peter reminds them of this fact that there had been false prophets, in my opinion, to add weight to his warning that “there will be false prophets among you”. This is not a hypothetical sort of statement. It logically follows that if it did happen before you can trust that same sort of thing will happen here. He discusses their motivations later in the chapter, but here he simply warns that the false teachers will come and they will come from within the rank and file of those within the congregation.

Furthermore, notice with me how Peter describes their method. He says they will come in and “secretly introduce” their false doctrine. The phrase “secretly introduce” translates a single Greek word “pareisago” (3919) which means “to bring in alongside stealthily”. The idea that of an enemy soldier sneaking into camp in order to infiltrate it. The noun form of the word in used in Galatians 2:4 to talk about false brethren sneaking in to spy out the liberty the true believers had in Christ. These false teachers didn’t want to throw out what had been taught but they wanted to bring their false doctrine in and introduce it along with the true doctrine so as to deceive people. Many cults, for instance, will claim doctrines that are considered true by Christians. For instance, Mormons teach that Christ died on the cross and rose three days later. Jehovah’s Witnesses would affirm this fact as well. However, neither of those groups would be considered “Christian” in anything other than a loose meaning of the word. In the same way, other false teachers will affirm biblical truth while they sneak in false doctrine.

Also, Peter tells us about the materials of these false teachers. In contrast to the life changing spiritual nourishment in the word of God, these false teachers bring in “destructive heresies”. In the culture of the day, students in schools for philosophy would align themselves with a particular teacher. If within that school, someone had a different opinion they might try to draw followers to their side. Those who chose to go with the different teacher were called “hariesis” (139) from which we get the English word heretic”. In short, these people made a fixed choice to reject one teaching and embrace another doctrine. In some instances, that is no problem. There are even some doctrines in Christianity which good, honorable men and women have studied and reached different conclusions about in churches. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree. However, the particular kind of heresies Peter is describing are “destructive”. For instance, I know of a Baptist church where the pastor invited the author of The Shack to come speak at his church. Now, you won’t get half-way though the book and you will have read a truckload of soul-damning heresies wrapped in a cloak of “fiction”. To have permitted someone who denies that Christ was punished for sin to preach the gospel in your church is, well, unbelievable. This sort of doctrine is what Peter is referring to as “destructive”. Choosing to reject the truth and believe these false teachers is to put yourself on the path to utter, total destruction with no hope of recovery.

Finally, Peter reveals to us that these false teachers, in their madness, go so far as “even denying the Master that bought them”. Now, we know that if you deny something you claim to not know it or reject it. So these men, knowing that there is a God since creation testifies to that fact (Romans 1), reject Him. The verb is in the present tense in the Greek which means that their denial of God is ongoing. It’s not a case like Peter who denied the Lord 3 times and repented. These men refuse to acknowledge God as the sovereign Lord of the universe who “bought them”. By bought, I do not think Peter intended to mean these men were once saved and now were not or that Christ paid for their sins. Rather, since everything in existence belongs to God in the sense that He created it, these false teachers also are owned by God. In spite of that fact, however, they reject Him and will suffer the punishment for their sins in Hell.

We must be on guard for false teachers in the church. The truth in scripture is the truth that sanctifies and saves the souls of men and women. It is paramount that we stand opposed to any teacher who teaches doctrine contrary to the precious word of God.

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