Study 6 SOLEMN WORDS ABOUT FALSE TEACHERS
THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 2 Peter 2: 1-22
This important study, based on 2 Peter 2:1-22, has been described as ‘a dark and an appalling chapter’. Some Christians feel that it is wrong to expose error and to warn God’s people of the apostasy around us, and which will increase until the Lord comes. They feel it does great harm to God’s cause and lets down the side to speak about the problems and difficulties within the Church. However, we need to face facts and must be alive to the situation today. There were false teachers in Old Testament times, in the days of the Prophets, and Jesus warned that this would be the situation through this present dispensation (Matthew 7:15; Mark 13:5, 22). The Apostles also warned that the days would get darker and that false teachers would enter the Church, causing havoc – Acts 20:29; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Titus 1:10-11; Jude 4. Let us carefully study the portion before us:
1. The warning that we are to expect false teachers in Christendom
The word ‘Christendom’ refers to the professing Church, constituted of all who profess to be Christians – that is, those who are real Christians and those who are Christians by profession only. The warning is in verses 1-3, where false teaching is described as “destructive heresies”. Any teaching that is contrary to the truth is a destructive heresy. We immediately think of some:
- (1) Romanism, with its false teaching about the Godhead, the Church, the Pope, purgatory, the priesthood, and its emphasis on works rather than faith for salvation.
- (2) Spiritism, which often presents itself to the unwary as ‘Christian’ teaching.
- (3) Seventh Day Adventism, with its erroneous teaching about law-keeping.
- (4) Christadelphianism, with its denials of the revealed gospel of Christ and of the Person of Christ Himself.
- (5) Mormonism, which is so contrary to the Scriptures.
- (6) Christian Science, with is neither scientific nor Christian.
- (7) Unitarianism, which denies the full deity and saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- (8) Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose teaching is quite contrary to the gospel.
We must also mention Liberalism, which teaches a blatant denial of the truth (Jude 3). We cannot fail to realise that there are many holding high positions of responsibility in the Church, and in our colleges, who deny the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and the fundamental truths of the Faith, and who teach their own ideas and fanciful interpretations. They reject divine revelation and substitute human speculation. Let us be aware of these great perils, and by all means let us pray for those who teach false doctrine.
2. The characteristics of false teachers
The false teachers spoken of here are not so much those who are teaching false doctrine out of ignorance, but those who know the truth and deliberately teach error. What are they like? Notice the following description:-
(1)They are cunning, as the word ‘secretly’ means (verse 1). (2) Their chief sin is that they deny the Lord (verse 1). (3) They hinder others (verse 2), and notice the word ‘many’. (4) They are covetous (verse 3). They are religious racketeers. (5) They are proud, self-willed, presumptuous, and sometimes immoral (verses 10 and 18). (6) They love popularity (verse 18), they ‘”entice”. (7) They are in dreadful bondage (verse 19).
3. The fearful judgment that will fall upon false teachers
Peter does not hesitate to speak of the awful condemnation that awaits false teachers – “swift destruction” (verse 1); “has not been sleeping” (verse 3); “the unrighteous” (verse 9); and verses 10-22. But there are three fearful examples of God’s punishment: (1) The angels that sinned and who are now imprisoned in Tartarus, the lowest depths of Hell (compare Genesis 6:2, and see verse 4). (2) The world before the Flood (compare Genesis 6:5-7, and see verse 5). (3) The cities of the plain (compare Genesis 19:24-25, and see verses 6-7).
Please note that these references are to actual historical events – how solemn!
4. The need there is to be on our guard against false teachers
Those who propagate false teaching are constantly trapping the unwary. This is their method of getting to work. Notice again in verse 1 that they “secretly introduce destructive heresies…” They come into a church or an assembly of God’s people and gradually indoctrinate them – study carefully Colossians 2:8, and notice the following safeguards for the Christian, to avoid being led astray: (1) Ground yourself deeply in the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). (2) Be much in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). (3) Don’t play with poison! – if any teaching is suspect, run from it, avoid it, beware of it, keep away from it (2 Timothy 3:5).
5. The promise of escape from false teachers and teaching
There may be a wider application than this in verse 9, but all that the apostle says in the first part of this verse includes the promise of God’s delivering and keeping power. The illustrations are of Noah, who with seven others stood against the almost overwhelming current of their time; and of Lot, who though he made a bad mistake, proved the Lord’s gracious power to deliver. These words in verse 9 tell us:
- (1) The Lord knows…
- (2) The Lord knows how…
- (3) The Lord knows how to rescue…
- (4) The Lord knows how to rescue godly men…
- (5) The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials…