Jesus said of the Pharisees once that they were blind guides and that anyone who follows them would suffer because if a blind man leads another blind man they’re both going to fall into a pit. In order to lead or guide someone to do something or go somewhere, obviously, the person leading has to know the way or the procedure. If someone wanted to learn how to do taxes, they would probably not want to ask me to teach them because I have no idea how to do taxes beyond the basics. There are people today, however, just as there were in the day Jesus lived who will go to someone to hear how to live for God when that person, based on the doctrine they preach, has no clue how to live a righteous, God honoring life. These blind guides will lead them to destruction if they continue to follow them. Peter wrote about these sorts of false teachers in verses 18 and 19 of this chapter.
The false teachers, as Peter has noted, set a trap for people. These false teachers want money, prestige, and honor and they are willing to peddle the word of God or their version of the word of God to get it. Just like a skilled fisherman uses particular bait to lure particular fish, this predator looks for particular prey. Peter says these people are “those who barely escape from the ones who live in error”. Notice, they are not described as saints, redeemed, elect, or in any way that Christians are referred to in this or any epistle. They have “barely escaped” from the world. They are enjoying fellowship with “religious” folk. Perhaps they’ve given up some sinful habit or lifestyle. They are not, however, regenerated in their spirit according to the text. Now, does this mean that a real Christian cannot fall prey to a false teacher? No, I don’t think this text teaches that although it would be the exception, not the rule, for that to happen. Remember, these are people who fall prey to the bait that is on the hook of the false teachers. Perhaps they have cleaned up to some degree. They may look to be morally upright to some people. It may be that they “don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t run with the girls/guys that do”. But they have not responded to the biblical gospel. What, then, is the bait on this hook that these people have fallen for?
The bait is a pledge—Peter says the false teachers are “promising them freedom”. While the health and prosperity gospel did not exist in Peter’s day so that can’t be what he was talking about here, every time I read this verse that is the first thing to pop into my head. Smilin’ Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, and their gang of thugs proclaim that you can have freedom from sickness and lack of money. Now, for someone who didn’t know any better, that sounds like a good deal, right? I mean, everyone wants to avoid being sick and everyone wants to have enough money to do what they want, amen? However, we know that the Bible does not teach that all believers are going to be free from sickness nor does it teach that all believers will have all the material possessions they want. In Peter’s day, though the bait was different, it was just as unbiblical.
These false teachers were constantly proclaiming freedom to these people—freedom to live as they pleased (“fleshly desires”, “sensuality”). As the old song says “Freedom? Oh freedom, well that’s just some people talking”. Brothers and sisters, you and I were never called to freedom—at least that kind of freedom. Read the first verse of this book. Peter calls himself a “servant” which is better translated “slave”. He viewed himself, and rightly so, as a walking, talking rake or shovel. He was, and you and I are, property of the King. We don’t have freedom to live as we want. As Paul writes in Romans 6:22 “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”
In fact, these men, though they pledge to lead these people to freedom, have a huge problem. They can’t lead them to freedom because “they themselves are slaves of corruption”. They can’t lead anyone to freedom because they are blind to it. They don’t know the way to get from where they are to where they claim to be taking these people. Since they are shackled to a lump of rotting filth the only thing they can do is drag people down with them. Those who head their promise of freedom are going to be sorely disappointed when they discover there is no freedom awaiting them but bondage—a bondage that leads to destruction.
Only by becoming slaves of Christ can we find true freedom. Freedom from our sin and the eternal soul damning consequences of it comes with a price—that price is our lives. We must be crucified with Christ if we want to live. When you come to a place in your life where you’re willing to head the gospel call it won’t be the sound of freedom ringing in your ears but rather the sound of spikes being driven into your wrists as you are nailed to your cross. Won’t you pick up your cross today and follow Him who calls you?