2 Peter Part 7
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
A Warning against False Teachers
2 Peter Ch. 2 / Deut. 13:1-15
As we have noted several times since beginning this study, Peter’s letter follows a simple 3-part outline.
Chap. 1 – Nails down the FOUNDATIONS of the Christian life, and how it can be lived out irrespective of our circumstances.
No matter what country we might live in; our economic or social status; our personal challenges in terms of family, health or even what sins we might wrestle with; our life experiences being either difficult or relatively easy; what governmental system we live under or what age or generation we might live in.
These are constants. Foundational realities of who we are in Christ, where God is taking us and how He has provided for us in it all.
Chapter 3 – Keeping the literal, physical return of Jesus to end the age and usher in the fullness of His Kingdom at the forefront or our hope. The promised FUTURE of the saint is paramount.
To not get seduced by the age we live in, nor overly discouraged by the circumstances we might find ourselves in – because it is all temporary and the promise of Jesus’ return and all it entails is absolutely sure. No matter how long He might tarry.
Chap. 2 focuses on the chief danger we will encounter in the intervening age – and that, he posits as the problem of FALSE TEACHERS.
Building off the end of ch. 1 where he was pointing us to the reliability and usefulness of God’s Word and how the prophets of old were moved by the Holy Spirit to give us those documents – he now mentions that even back then, there were false prophets.
Christ having now come, we do not have OT prophets the way Israel had back then, but instead, we have teachers of God’s Word, and their counterpart in our age – FALSE TEACHERS.
As we’ll see, these false teachers of our day follow the same patterns as the false prophets of old.
The Holy Spirit does not address this through Peter alone. When Paul is addressing the Ephesian elders for the last time in Acts 20:28–31 he says: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,”
Now I am going to attempt something very dangerous this morning – and that is to tackle this entire 2nd chapter in one sitting – trying to keep with how Peter would have expected to have it read and taken in by his 1st audience. I don’t want to lose the big ideas in the details.
So if I talk fast and you listen well – I think we can profitably drink in the cup that’s put before us in this 2nd chapter without discomfort.
In his unique way, Peter unpacks 5 key ideas:
- The TACTICS False Teachers use
- The MARKS of False Teachers
- The DANGERS False Teachers pose
- The END False Teachers will come to
- The FAITHFULNESS of God to genuine Believers
1 – As I said already – building off the previous chapter and pointing his readers back to their Bibles Peter needs to warn them and us that: “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you”
By “false teachers”, just as with false prophets, Peter could mean these will claim to BE prophets or teachers from God when they are not, or that they teach false things – or both. The instruction he gives here will deal with both.
I. The TACTICS of False Teachers (4)
TACTIC 1: VS. 1 – Secretly bringing in destructive heresies,
The idea isn’t as much they do this surreptitiously, as more along the lines of simply adding to what has already been established.
Mormonism for example brings in a whole new load of ideas and tries to weld them to extant Biblical truth.
The Watchtower Society does the same.
In both cases, they will appeal to the Bible, but then say “oh, but you can’t know what you REALLY need unless you subscribe to our additives”: The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, or the teaching of the WatchTower Society.
The Bible isn’t sufficient – you need our added insight, wisdom and revelations.
The Word of Faith movement today does very much the same. You need their revelations on how the universe works – for the Word of God is not sufficient.
They bring in new elements to the established truth which ultimately undermines it.
Deut. 18:20–22 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
Jeremiah 23:25–32 has severe words of warning that reinforce this section powerfully.
TACTIC 2: VS. 13 – They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast WITH you.
False Teachers piggy back off authentic Christianity to steal credibility. They seek to feast WITH the authentic.
TACTIC 3: VS. 14 – they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.
The focus of their teaching is how you can have all you want here and now and how Jesus is the means to it. The embodiment of 1 Timothy 6:3–10 “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
TACTIC 4: VS. 19 – They promise them freedom,
They deny holiness of life is necessary – since sin is already paid for.
Or – You are free to pursue your dreams, and get God to go along, without regard for HIS plans and purposes. He is there to serve you, not you created to serve Him.
II. The MARKS of False Teachers (5)
MARK 1: VS. 1 – even denying the Master who bought them,
Deut. 13:1-15 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing YOU, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. MARK 2: VSS 3 & 14-16 – 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
“They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”
[VIDEO] I want to speak carefully, but clearly here – teachers like Kenneth Copeland, Frederick K. C. Price, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Mike Murdock, Joyce Meyer, Paula White and others of that ilk are not only trained in greed – they specialize in it, promote it and lead the children of God astray in legions by means of it. They signally bear this corrosive and defiling mark. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. Their entire ministries are built upon this principle of greed.
MARK 3: VSS. 10 & 14 – and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion – 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.
In other words – they deny the bounds of Biblical sexuality. Both in simple promiscuity, and in homosexuality. Many are the leaders today who are now rejecting God’s standard of sexuality and marriage.
MARK 4: VSS. 10-12 & 18 – “and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant,
18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly,
I would point to the same names as mentioned above in this very same regard – who arrogantly preach and teach week after week and brag about their power, accomplishments and spirituality.
Despising – treating lightly: Christ’s authority; the angelic hierarchy (which Jude references in his letter); and Church authority. Any and all authority but themselves. Total autonomy.
MARK 5: VS. 13b – They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.
They take great pleasure in hosting and calling for banquets and parties and celebrations. They flaunt their so-called prosperity.
Didache – “Teaching of The Apostles circa 120-180 C.E. Chapter 11
Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day. But, if necessary, let him remain a second day. But, if he stays for three, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle departs, let him take only enough bread to last until he reaches shelter; but, if he asks for money, he is a false prophet… But not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet, but only if he follows the conduct of the Lord. Accordingly, from their conduct the false prophet and the true prophet will be known. No prophet who in the spirit orders a meal to be prepared eats of it; but, if he does, he is a false prophet…And, whoever says in spirit: ‘Give me money,’ or anything like it, do not listen to him.”
Francis X. Glimm, “The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Francis X. Glimm, Joseph M.-F. Marique, and Gerald G. Walsh, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 180–181.
“Mayor…Their teaching was flattery; their ambitions were financial; their lives were dissolute; their conscience was dulled, and their aim was deception” Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 117.
III. The DANGERS of False Teachers (6)
DANGER 1: VS. 2 – “And many will follow their sensuality,”
Teaching people God is here to cater to their desires and lusts and earthly pleasures.
DANGER 2: VS. 2 – “and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” Following Christ as THE TRUTH in holiness is brought into disrepute because Christians just want Jesus to get more of the World!
DANGER 3: VS. 3 – “And in their greed they will EXPLOIT you with false words.” The greed in their ministries will invent countless ways to bleed your finances off into their own.
DANGER 4: VS. 17 – “These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.” They can contribute nothing of true blessing to the soul . They claim to be fountains, but are in fact waterless – devoid of the Holy Spirit.
DANGER 5: VS. 18b – “They entice unsteady souls.” Their craftiness SEEMS so spiritual – but it moves people away from what we read in the 1st chapter, to ancillary and arcane matters.
IV. The END of False Teachers
END 1: VS. 1e – bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
END 2: VS. 3b – Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
END 3: VSS. 12-13 – will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.
END 4: VS. 17b – For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.
END 5: VS. 19c – For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
END 6: VSS. 20-22 – For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
Herein is such a powerful warning.
Their 1st state was merely lost – after judgment -they are eternally and irreversibly condemned.
There are those aplenty who profess to know and love and serve Jesus Christ – who for a while seem to follow Him and His Church, but who in the end prove to be anything BUT His.
Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The last sentence is so revealing isn’t it?. Note the Proverb’s pronouncement – these were “washed” in some sense, but they were never changed!
They remained “dogs” – an OT euphemism for the unredeemed – those outside of God’s covenant, no matter what they professed.
They remained “sows” all along, no matter how cleaned up they appeared to be for a time.
There was no new birth.
They never became the New Creations in Christ of 1 Cor. 5 and Galatians Galatians 6:15 “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
V. The FAITHFULNESS of God to genuine Believers (3)
EXAMPLE 1: VS. 4 – For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
Faithfulness to judge evildoers.
EXAMPLE 2: VS. 5 – if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Faithfulness to judge AND preserve
EXAMPLE 3: VSS. 6-9 – if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
Faithfulness to judge and preserve EVEN the most damaged
“Note that God delivers a man ‘out of’ (ek) not ‘away from’ (apo) trials. Christianity is no insurance policy against the trials of life. God allows them to befall the Christian; he meets us in them and delivers us out of them.” Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 125.
The bottom line is – false teachers WILL come into the Church;
they ARE identifiable;
they CAN do much damage;
we ARE to be on the lookout for them;
God WILL judge them;
and in spite of their efforts Christ’s own WILL be delivered.
The true child of God need be aware of the danger, while also being secure in the love of Christ. So Jesus would warn us: Matthew 24:24 “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
But how He has provided to preserve His own even in the face of such great deception.