If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve seen the commercials for get rich quick schemes using the internet. They show what look like average people who smile as they tell the camera how they made 16 bazzillion dollars last year working 45 minutes a week all from the comfort of their own home. They talk about how nice it is to no longer have to answer to a boss. Many people entertain fantasies of shrugging off the shackles of the workaday work week and finally being able to give their boss a piece of their mind because now they can be their own boss. Unfortunately, this desire doesn’t relegate itself to the workplace but we see in schools, in society, and in our own homes how the human heart rebels against any authority. This sinful attitude is pervasive in all of humanity and, as Peter writes in verse 10 of chapter 2, is a key factor that motivates the sinful false teachers in the church.
Continuing his description of their depraved character, Peter says these false teachers “despise authority”. The word translated “despise” is the Greek word “kataphroneo” (2706) and it means to think contemptuously or to think lowly of something. In other words, in addition to following their fleshly, sinful desires they also see themselves in a sense as being “above the law”. Now, something I’m trying to teach my child is that everyone, no matter who they are, that lives on this earth ultimately answers to someone. The President answers to the people and is checked/balanced in his authority by the legislative and judicial branches of government. A CEO of a company answers to the stockholders and the board of directors. Even within the Godhead, God the Son submitted Himself to God the Father and suffered the agony of Calvary’s cross as He bore the payment for sin. We cannot escape the fact that we are under authority. The only One who is not under authority is God. Therefore, the have an attitude of defiance toward authority is to sin. God instituted government (Romans 13) and other authorities as part of his creative order. However, these false teachers will not submit themselves to any authority.
For instance, in their living they demonstrate they will not submit themselves to the authority of God. As Peter writes in this verse, they follow their own sinful desires in their search for pleasure. While we are not saved by what we do but solely by faith in Christ, we should walk worth of our calling in Christ (Ephesians 4:1). A truly converted person will demonstrate that conversion by bearing spiritual fruit (Matthew 3:8) including a willingness to submit to God in holy living. An absence of holiness in the life of a professing Christian may not prove conclusively that they are not saved but it certainly raises the question of the authenticity of their conversion. If someone does not repent of their sin when they are encouraged to do so, if they defy the authority of God in their lives it may well be that they are not children of God in the first place.
Further, in their teaching they refuse to submit to the authority of God’s word. Rather, they try to deceive people with “cleverly devised tales” (1:16) and “destructive heresies” (2:1) rather than the truth in the word of God. In fact, we see in the ministries of some hucksters today proclamations of new truths that contradict what is found in the Bible (i.e. that Jesus was punished in hell for our sins) to claims that the miracles of Jesus are just fables and that He was not born of a virgin. Bible exposition is hard work but if someone is willing to do the work they can understand God’s word by following a well worn path that has been walked by many men and women over the centuries. These false teachers either ignore the word of God or twist it till it cries “Uncle” to try to make it say what they want it to say. Then if all else fails, they claim that the text is speaking to another time and another culture. The think lowly of the Bible and what it reveals and even now just as they did in Peter’s day suggest that truth must be found somewhere else. They do this because they don’t want to submit to the authority of God’s word.
A rejection of authority is a sure sign of something wrong in a person’s life. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent tempted Eve to question the authority God’s word. Cain was tempted to question God’s authority over life when he killed his brother. Not only should we be mindful of such sinful attitudes in ourselves but we should also be wary if we see these attitudes in other Christians, particularly ones who purport to be teachers.