Did you ever use an acrostic to try to remember something for a test? I’ve always found those to be helpful. For instance, in 8th grade science, we learned the scientific classification for living things: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. I still remember it like it was yesterday because of a simple acrostic my teacher taught us—Keep people clean or forget good smells. Anyway, as we begin to look at this verse, we will see that Peter teaches us what class the false teachers of the day should be listed under.
In other words, what are these people who have crept into the church and begun teaching false doctrine? Peter says in verse 12 that they are “animals”. Now the Greek word for animals basically means something that is alive and doesn’t really have any sort of negative connotation. Without taking this into context, someone might say “Well, man is just an animal”. Peter goes on to clarify then what kind of animal these false teachers are by calling them “unreasoning”. The Greek word (alogos-249) comes from “a” which means “without” and “logos” which means “reason” and is the root of a good deal of words in English that will help us understand what Peter is saying here: logarithm, and logic just to name a few. Therefore, Peter is not talking about someone who looks at information, analyzes it, and is able to come to an appropriate conclusion (Romans 12:1-where Paul calls a believer’s sacrificial worship “reasonable (logikos) service”). These animals are not driven by thought or the rational, logical exercise of their mental faculties. It’s like the old joke “Where does an 800 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants.”
In fact, Peter further drives this point home by indicating how these false teachers live. He describes them as “creatures of instinct”. The word translated “instinct” is the Greek word “phusikos” (5446) and it basically means to do something by nature. Like the Buck Owens song, the word describes someone who will just “act naturally:” In scripture, the same word is used in Romans 1:26 and 27 to describe natural function with regards to human intimacy. Now, we can train ourselves to do things by nature. I played saxophone for many years and I did not have to pull out a chart every time I played a piece of music to see how to position my fingers. I had “muscle memory”—I had trained myself or developed an instinct to be able to do something (look at symbols on a piece of paper and translate that into muscle movements and control of my breathing) to produce music. Now, that didn’t happen overnight. When I started in 5th grade, it was not instinct for me to play the saxophone. However, by the time I was in college a few years I could almost play the thing in my sleep. However, these false teachers did not practice this pattern being described but rather they were “born as creatures of instinct”. They didn’t develop the sinful instincts they follow. They are simply following the nature the inherited from their spiritual father—Satan.
So where does this path of sinful disobedience to God lead these false teachers? Peter has said these men were dangerous to the people of God bringing in “destructive heresies” and he reinforces that point here by saying the path they follow leads them to be “captured and killed”. Now, the word translated “killed” doesn’t mean that Bubba walks up with his Remington pump and says “I got you now, varmint”. It really has the idea of decay or rotting. I think the idea is more that they are captured and then they rot in their own filth. The fact that Peter says they would be captured and killed reminds us once again that false teachers are dangerous and cannot be allowed to spread their false doctrine.
We could picture a tiger roaming a stage. Now, you can have a tiger and you can think you’ve tamed it and got it under control. However, all it takes is one time for that bad boy to say “I got you where I want you” and to get hold of you by the neck, drag you off of that stage (just ask Siegfried and Roy) and end up telling his friends something like “It was great. No fur. No claws. Just soft and pink. I would have preferred it with a mango salsa, but you can’t always get what you want, right?” The fact that Peter stresses here and other places is that these false teachers are depraved (following their own sinful lusts) and dangerous (like wild animals) and are to be avoided at all costs.