There is an old saying—“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Now, I’m not sure who came up with that or how they came up with that (i.e. Did someone actually try it? What did the pig have to say about it? I can just see it now, “Yeah ol’ Bessie ain’t got but one ear because Ma got a wild hair up and…”) but as silly as it sounds it’s really pretty profound. The fact is, things are what they are. Someone can put on their Sunday best and company manners for a time but if you’re around them long enough you’ll get to see them as they really are. If someone genuinely has a godly character, it will show. If someone is not truly godly in their heart eventually that will show as well. Perhaps that is why in Hebrews 13:7 we’re told to consider how our leaders live. If they are truly serving God, we will see it in their lives. In like manner, the false teachers that Peter has taught about in this chapter can’t help but show their true colors. They are depraved to the core of the being and it shows.
In fact, Peter makes just that point at the end of verse 19 where he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes “by what a man is over come, by this he is enslaved”. In other words, because these false teachers have been overcome by sinful desires and passions they are not actually in control of themselves. Rather, the engine is driving the car so to speak. These false teachers plunge headlong into sinful pleasures that eat them up from the inside out. They have literally sold themselves out as property to these base passions and can only lead others to do the same.
However, their depravity has been progressive. I mean, just like every superhero has an origin so every supervillan does as well. These guys didn’t start out as false teachers. And, as Peter notes in verse 1 of this chapter, they didn’t come from outside the church. How did they get to this point? What led them here?
Peter says of these false teachers they, at some point, “got religion” as some people say. Verse 20 records that they “escaped the defilements of the world”. They cleaned up their act perhaps or they just came to church and became good old John Pew church members. At some point in the past, they disconnected themselves from the world’s sinful system. Now, you and I have all seen this person in churches. They make a profession of faith, join the choir, stop cussing, and put money in the offering plate. Now, those things are good things to do and someone may do them as a result of a genuine conversion. However, the presence of those activities does not prove that a person has truly trust Christ as their Savior. They may have simply “escaped the defilements of the world” without truly repenting of their sins and trusting Christ as Savior. It could be an act they’re putting on. It could be an attempt to clean up their life for one reason or another. However, true spiritual transformation is not a change in activities or demeanor, but is a change from spiritual death to spiritual life. These people, as we shall see, have not experienced such a transformation.
Peter goes on to tell us how they made their escape from the rotting filth of this sinful world. They escaped “by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. They heard the gospel. Someone told them about Jesus and they responded to the message. However, just knowing about Jesus and responding to a message does not give evidence of saving faith. There are a lot of people who know a lot of things about Jesus and the Bible who are going to go straight to hell when they die. Brian McLauren is a false teacher who knows more about Hebrew, Greek, archeology, theology, and other related disciplines than I ever will. However, that doesn’t mean that he is saved. Knowledge doesn’t save. Faith saves. Simply knowing enough to want to escape the world’s corruption and hang around good church folks doesn’t prove that the Holy Spirit resides in your heart.
So, these false teachers have fooled themselves into thinking they’re saved. We’ve seen where they came from. In the next post on this epistle, we’ll see where they’re going. And I’ll go ahead and warn you—it ain’t a pretty picture.