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WARNING AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS

2 Peter 2:1-2:22
Key Verse: 2:9

As we thought of, Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter to protect God’s flock from false teachers. For this, first of all he wrote in chapter 1 that those who through faith have received the wonderful grace of Christ Jesus are to participate in the divine nature through the very great and precious promises, making every effort to add to their faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Peter’s great effort to the point of his last breath was to see that God’s flock would be always able to remember these things that they had been taught. He stressed that the coming of the Lord Jesus in power is not a clearly designed story but the truthful testimony based on his direct experience with Jesus and the word of the prophets in the Scripture. It is completely reliable. The second coming of the Lord Jesus in power and glory is to be fully accepted and wholeheartedly believed. For this he encouraged God’s flock to pay attention to the word of God as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in their hearts. Paying attention to the word of God is a spiritual discipline. Now in chapter 2 Apostle Peter entirely talks about false teachers, their work, destiny, characteristics and misery. False teachers are gospel enemies that are rampant in our time also. We need discernment to see them and learn to protect ourselves and God’s flock of sheep and God’s ministry. In this passage about false teachers, we can not only think about them, but also about the Lord who deals with them very clearly, and about Apostle Peter’s fighting spirit out of his love for God and shepherd heart for God’s flock of sheep.

First, the Lord rescues and judges (1-10a). At the end of chapter 1 Peter wrote concerning the word of the prophets more certain and completely reliable, and the prophets who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. They were true prophets. However, disappointedly there were also false prophets. Many texts in the Old Testament warned Israel about the danger of false prophets (Dt 13:1-5; Eze 13:1-23; Mic 3:5-12 et al.). False prophets spoke out of their own minds, imaginations and dreams as though it was the word of the Lord. They even performed signs and wonders to bolster the credibility of their teachings. In truth, they were controlled by the devil. Their motive was to lead people astray from the one true God. They promised peace when God was ready to judge the nation, planting a false sense of security and hindering true repentance. In the same way, false teachers are a serious danger to the Christian church, and many warnings are given about them in the New Testament (Mt 24:4-5,11; Ac 20:29-30; Gal 1:6-9; et al.). So 2:1 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” Peter does not write who false teachers are specifically but what they do and what they are destined to. He says continually, “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” First of all, false teachers work secretly, for they teach something false. Satan works secretly and deceptively, for he does not tell the truth. Their secret teaching does not mean that false teachers are shy; rather they are bold and arrogant described later on. As we studied in Proverbs 1, wisdom calls aloud in the street and in public squares, even at the head of the noisy streets (Pro 1:21-22). The point is that wisdom’s calling is not done in secret. The truth is to be proclaimed. When Jesus came, he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. At the time of trial when the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching, Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world, and I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret” (Jn 18:19-20). And doing secretly is distinguished from doing privately. Jesus also had a private talk with his disciples in an upper room. Our 1:1 Bible study is not a secret study but a private study. The truth must be spoken clearly and openly before God whether between two people or among many.

And false teachers introduce destructive heresies. Peter did not tell the details of the heresies. But one thing he clearly mentioned: they deny the sovereign Lord who bought them. In the New Testament “sovereign Lord” is written 5 times (Lk 2:30; Ac 4:24; Jude 4; Rev 6:10). Sovereign Lord is attributed to God or Christ Jesus. Here, definitely the sovereign Lord who bought them is Jesus. In 2 Peter, Peter always made clear the lordship or divinity of Jesus whenever he referred to Jesus, excepting when he introduced himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ at the beginning of this epistle: in 1:1, “through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ”, in 1:2, “through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”, in 1:8, “in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”, in 1:11, “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 1:14, “I will soon put it aside as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me”, 1:16, “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”, in 2:20, “escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”, 3:2, “the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles”, and in 3:18, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savour Jesus Christ.” Jesus is God and he is the Lord. This is written 9 times and important message in 2 Peter, and in the whole Bible. Anyone who denies this truth is a false teacher. In Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony public prayers were offered in Jesus’ name. It was good to hear. However, I was disturbed that the powerful chorus praising God was sung by Mormons who deny the divinity of Jesus. Most certainly, false teachers deny the sovereign Lord, because they do not want to submit to and obey him, but live freely as they want. We are to learn more and more of the beautiful humanity of Jesus the good shepherd but show our clear stand in regard to the Lordship and deity of Jesus Christ. Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:14-15, “‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We should be ready to testify to Jesus before anyone, saying something like this, “Jesus Christ died for my sins and rose again from the dead. He gave me a new life and a living hope of the kingdom of God. He is my Savour and my Lord. I have submitted my life to him and I obey him.” We thank God for Myriam’s testimony with her 2017 key verse of Romans 14:8, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” May God richly bless her confession of faith, and raise her up a soldier of Christ who is courageous and lives and dies to the Lord, and establish a solder of Christ’s family through her.

And Peter said in verses 2 and 3, “Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.” Sadly, many follow false teachers and their shameful ways and bring the way of truth into disrepute. In our time majority seems to matter in the name of democracy. Wrong that is followed by many becomes right and a shameful thing, if many follow it, becomes a norm. Yet, the way of truth is the way of truth regardless of how many follow it. We are reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” In our country kids all who attend the public are indoctrinated in the distorted theory of evolution, and it leads many young people astray from God. We should really discern the truth of God from the falsity of man-made stories.

Even though many will follow them, Peter was very clear about the destiny of false teachers. He said, “Their condemnation have long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” Peter had said in verse 1, “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” Through spreading destructive heresies, they will make their followers be destroyed. And in verse 1b, “They bring swift destruction on themselves.” And here in verse 3, “their destruction has not been sleeping.” In this way Peter described the sureness of their condemnation and destruction from the beginning of his writing about false teachers.

Now to support about their sure destruction, Peter tells three examples of destruction in light of God’s history: sinned angels, the ungodly people in Noah’s time and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In verse 4, “For it God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment” (Rev 9:14-15). God, who is righteous, showed no obscurity in judging sinned angels. Here is a triple emphasis in judging them, “sent to hell,” “put into gloomy dungeons” and “held for judgment.” And in verse 5, “if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others.” As for the people in Noah’s time, God gave them a chance to repent, though not to sinned angels, and be saved through Noah, a preacher of righteousness, who preached God’s righteousness of salvation through the ark. But when they refused this way of salvation, the flood was inevitable to them. Yet, amid the deluge, God did not fail to protect and preserve Noah and his family members who in holy fear built the ark by faith. And in verses 6 and 7, “if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among hem day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard).” This event is written in Genesis 19. According to Genesis 18, Abraham pleaded with the Lord God for the people of Sodom who were at the impending judgment. God was willing to not destroy them if there were ten righteous people. But there were no ten righteous people. So God could not help condemning Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes. In chapter 19 we see that God was merciful to Lot when he hesitated to come out of the city hurriedly. God finally brought him out of the catastrophe, remembering Abraham (Ge 19:16, 29). But Peter wrote here, “Lot, a righteous man,” and again in parenthesis, “(for that righteous man…in his righteous soul.” This is really striking. He was not a preacher of righteousness like Noah. Because of Noah’s preaching at least all eight of his family members were protected and saved. However, as for Lot, only he is mentioned here. Anyway, it seemed that he had kept his faith, not being assimilated into the corrupt lives of the ungodly in Sodom. He was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men and tormented in his soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard. We are reminded that no one is righteous, but we all are made righteous through faith in Christ Jesus who died for our sins and rose again from the dead, faith lone and his grace alone. The point is that God rescued both Noah and Lot, while he brought judgment to the ancient world in Noah’s time and to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The conclusion of these examples is verse 9: “If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” The Lord rescues and judges. Probably false teachers never taught about God’s judgment. If there is no judgment of God, righteousness cannot stand. In every generation when people are misguided by the teaching that there is no judgment of God, they live at random. Even believers change the grace of our God into a license for immorality (Jude 4). So Peter stressed in verse 10, “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.” In ESV, “and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority”, and in NLT, “He is especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire, and who despise authority.” Again, the Lord is both the Lord of salvation and the Lord of judgment. Lord’s salvation is eternal and the Lord’s judgment is eternal. How can we imagine the Lord’s eternal horrifying judgment in which people suffer unbearably in eternity? Yet, there will be certainly the day of judgment. And not only there is the day of judgment, but his judgment and punishment is from here and now, as it says, “while continuing their punishment.” It is also as Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:8, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth of God by their wickedness” (Ro 1:18). May we unshakably believe that the Lord is both the Lord of salvation and of judgment.

Second, Peter’s fighting spirit (10b-22). In the first part we saw Peter’s fighting spirit, but here we will see it more. In verse 10a, Peter said, “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.” Verse 10a, then, is transitional: It rounds off Peter’s general discussion of God’s judgment with a particular application and it introduces the subject of the next verses: Sensuality and arrogance. Peter takes these up in reverse order, exposing the false teachers’ arrogance first in verses 10b-13a and then their sensuality in verses 13b-16.

He said, in 10b-11. “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.” Here celestial beings seem to be referred to fallen evil angels belonging to the devil, and angles, to holy angles. For Jude 8-9 say, “In the very same way, these dreamers…reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” False teachers do not know how to speak and act in the presence of the Lord, since they deny the sovereign Lord and despise authority. So Peter said in verse 12. “But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” Here “brute” in Greek is “alogos” which is in other translations, “unreasonable” or “irrational.” To the eyes of people false teachers must have appeared smart and intelligent. But to Peter they were like unreasonable animals. And “creatures of instinct” implies “natural” “physical” or “unspiritual.” Again, Peter was clear about their destiny: “like beasts they too will perish.” Like unreasoning animals, destined only to be slaughtered, the false teachers, in their unreasoning arrogance and sinfulness, are destined also for the slaughter—slaughter of God’s judgment. So verse 13a says, “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.”

Now verses 13b-16 show the corrupt sinful lifestyle of the false teachers. In verses 13b and 14a, “Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery they never stop sinning;” In short their lifestyle is hedonistic, extremely pleasure-seeking. The Greek word here for “pleasure,” in “their idea of pleasure) is hedone, and it is the word from which we derive “hedonist,” one who lives for only pleasure. “Blots and blemishes” verses “spotless, blameless” In “with eyes full of adultery”, “adultery” is an adulteress. Their eyes are full of adulterous women. They have eyes for nothing but loose women, eyes never ceasing from sin (REB).

There was a between a famous atheist and a devout Christian. The devout Christian said to him, “To say that something was created out of nothing is most unscientific, more unscientific than to say that God created. Then the atheist said, “But I chose to believe that.” The devoted Christian asked him again, “Then why don’t you choose to believe that God created?” At this the atheist answered, “Because I want to enjoy my sexual desire without guilt feelings.” Peter surely could see the bottom line of the false teachers.

And “they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!” Unstable” is “unsteadfast”, so not firmly established. Like trees with shallow roots, unstable and unsteady people are easily swayed and toppled. False teachers seduce such people. And they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!” In other translations (NASB, ESV, NRSV), “having a heart trained in greed. Accursed children!” And their greed for money was more expressed. “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.” According to 1 Timothy 6:10, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. False teachers are the lovers of pleasures and lovers of money. Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1-4, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money…lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” In our time and culture we see that people are extremely pleasure-seeking and occupied with Mammonism. We should fight against this kind of lifestyle.

Now we see their impact on people more. In verse 17, “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.” Surely God’s calling purpose for them is to be springs with water and mists that will produce rain and thus become very useful. But they become useless. They are impressive on the outside but hollow on the inside. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. Peter spoke about their destiny again and again. Furthermore they are harmful and have terrible influence on others. In verse 18, “For they mouth empty, boastful words and by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” Their teaching is hollow, arrogant and very attractive by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature. They target unstable and young believers. They promise freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity. Their teaching is also deceptive with false promise of freedom. Their concept of freedom is freedom to sin, for they themselves are slaves of depravity, corruption and immorality. At Peter’s time licentiousness had a strong influence on people, changing the grace of our God into a license for immorality. That was a false teaching. Still the teaching is prevalent in our time also. In these days “health and wealth” gospel or called “prosperity” gospel, is so deceptive and tempting. But we have only one gospel, the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the salvation of souls and the way of the cross as the way of life.

Then Peter says in verse 20, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” This is a sad story but reality. Once-believed people become more aggressive toward God and his people than never-believed ones. Finally Peter says in verse 22, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of those the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘a sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” Dogs and pigs were thus often grouped together as despised animals. The way of righteousness is the way of truth and the straight way. We are reminded of Jesus’ words, “I am the way and the truth...” Willfully turning back from the truth, from him, brings terrible consequences. No one could say this, but Apostle Peter said this with apostolic authority by the Holy Spirit. It is like Jesus’ saying concerning Judah, “It would have been better for him not to be born.”

Jesus is the sovereign Lord (4). The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trails and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment (9). We are to be aware of the presence of the Lord (11). Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Lord (20). May we keep his marvelous grace of salvation and serve him as the Lord in obedience to him, absolutely believing his salvation and judgment.

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