I remember taking French in high school as a foreign language. While in class, one of my classmates astutely asked the teacher “Are you going to teach us to cuss in French?” I’m sure he expected a giggle from his classmates, which he got. But we were all somewhat surprised by the teacher’s response—she said she wanted us to know those sorts of things. She explained that knowing stuff like that about the French language would you us gauge the character of people we were around if we were ever in a French speaking area. It’s true that you can tell a lot about someone by the kind of language they use and the topics they bring up in a conversation. As we study this verse, we see Peter describe the false teachers who had infiltrated the church by telling us about their communication.
First of all, he tells us about the quality of their communication. Peter writes in verse 12 that these false teachers spend time “reviling”. The word that is translated “reviling” is the root of the English word “blasphemy” (blasphemo-987). The verb is in the present tense and therefore indicates this is a continuous activity of these false teachers. This is the quality of speech that characterizes these men. We all know or have known someone about whom we could say “They can’t say a nice word about anything.” They grumble. They complain. These men, who purported to be leaders in the church and teachers of God’s word, spend their time not leading or teaching but rather speaking evil. This should be a red alert for any Christians to take note of in a person’s life. All Christians, but especially Christian teachers, are called to speak truth for the purpose of building others up in Christ. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:8 “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander (blasphemian-988), and abusive speech from your mouth.” In other words, these men are known, as a pattern and habit of their lives, to speak in a manner directly opposite of the way Paul says we as believers are called to speak. Also, he writes in chapter 4 verse 6 of that book “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Clearly, the quality of speech of these false teachers is in stark contrast to the kind of speech a believer is called to be known for in their lives.
However, it’s not just the quality of their speech that characterizes these false teachers, but also the substance of what they say. In short, they make a lot of noise and presume to speak for God. In the end, though, they “have no knowledge” of what they’re talking about. The word used here can mean not only that they are ignorant and don’t know what they’re talking about, which is most certainly true, it can also mean they refuse to think about something as if they ignore it. I suspect Peter had both views in mind. These false teachers are ignorant of what the scriptures truly teach and they refuse to study the scriptures so they could see what it really says. The pastor of America’s largest church has said something along the lines of “There are a lot of people who know more about the Bible than me and can teach it better”. I believe this gentleman is saying that he disdains to study the Bible—he doesn’t really believe it has a lot to offer people and he thinks his advice on becoming a better you or being a champion in your life (whatever that is supposed to mean) is more useful and edifying than the life giving, powerful, word of God. In like manner, these false teachers that Peter speaks about have a habit of beating their gums together and making sounds come out of their mouths, but in the end they haven’t said a thing. Their words are useless.
As Christians, we should make sure we speak the truth. The Bible is God’s revealed word and should be the substance of our teaching and preaching—not our own ideas or whims. We must study to know the truth. Then we must speak the truth in love with the goal in mind of building others up in the faith and proclaiming the good news Jesus Christ to all men and women.