People Of Promise: Falsehood (2 Peter 2)

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Apples are a staple fruit and corn a staple vegetable. When you can pick your own apples off a tree, or corn from a stalk rather than purchase from store, somehow, they taste even better! Yet have you ever gone apple picking and bit into one, and found a worm? Gross right?!? How does a worm wiggle its way into a hard and solid skinned apple or silk stalk of corn? The background is that a moth lays its eggs in the blossom before it ever becomes an apple/corn. One female moth can lay approximately 500 eggs, and each egg is half the size of a pinhead! As the apple/corn grows around the larva, the eggs are hatched, and baby worms/caterpillars have all the nutrients they seek. A worm eats its way from the inside out, not the outside in.

The same is accomplished in the apple of God’s eye (cf Ps 17:8) – His children as sons and daughters inside the church. Harmful views and unhealthy doctrine come from phony prophets and deceptive teachers that have wormed their way inside the church. Today we will consider how to spot a false gospel and what to do about it.

As we speak about false teaching, there is a principle that if you are FOR something, then you must also be AGAINST something else.

  • FOR truth AGAINST lies.
  • FOR life AGAINST murder.
  • FOR Jesus AGAINST Satan.
  • FOR righteousness AGAINST evil.
  • FOR goodness AGAINST Dallas Cowboys / NY Yankees

Harmful views and unhealthy doctrine come from phony prophets and deceptive teachers that have wormed their way inside the church. #2Peter2

EXAMINE                2 Peter 2:1-22

Here we see Peter’s pastoral heart to shepherd the flock of God (1Pt 5). So far in this letter he has counseled Christians to grow spiritually (intake), and now he will challenge Christians how to guard against heresy. While Peter’s message was a prescription to a specific circumstance, our message today is more preventative health instruction.

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

During early portion of pandemic organizations had policies regarding whom could be around who. The NFL had lockdowns for their players staying in a hotel. One player attempted to sneak his girlfriend into his hotel room dressed up as a football player. The player was kicked out of the hotel and off the football team. Dressing up as a NFL player does not make you a athlete or part of the team. That scenario is like what was happening in Peter’s day. Peter notes that phony prophets and deceptive teachers are dressed up like authentic Christians, worming their way into God’s church.

  • Secretly: They come disguised with half-truth.
  • Destructive: Cause conflict, division, harm… esp. among immature.

Peter says false teaching arose from among the people and within the church to bring in destructive heresies (v.1). He also says they are feasting together with believers (v.13). We must understand the slippery slope of teaching that errs into heresy. In this passage Peter provides a template for spotting false teaching with at least six different tests:

  1. Test of Christology. V.1 Denying the Master who bought them. So, rejecting Christ as deity or exclusivity of gospel.
    1. Do you believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God, Creator of the world? (John 1; Colossians 1:15).
    2. Do you believe Jesus is God in human form?
    3. Do you believe Jesus is distinct in person from the Father and the Holy Spirit?
    4. Do you believe Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of sin, bring access to God, and entry into heaven; in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone? Thus, all other religions are interesting to learn but invalid for eternal life (Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12)
  2. Test of sin’s consequences. V.1-2 bringing upon self swift destruction and following sensuality. V. 10 Indulging in lust of defiling passion… 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. So, dismissing consequences and doubting eternal destiny. This path leads to pursue temporal pleasure with immediate gratification. We must be careful to base our opinions and views upon God’s standard than human sensuality. God’s leash can be long but eventually the end is regret and ruin.

    We need little imagination to discern this application today with individuals, teachers, and churches waving flags, boasting parades, and making a mockery of God’s truth and design. Sin is irrational as it spirals against God’s standard without stop.
  3. Test of consistency. V.2 blaspheming the way of truth… False teaching is blasphemy (mocking or maiming the name of God) or heresy (opposite of orthodoxy). The NT firmly warns Christians and churches to correct heresy immediately, and if uncorrected then to disfellowship (1 Cor 11:19; Titus 3:10). There is a difference between wrong doctrine and wicked theology; the former is open and still learning, whereas the latter is stubbornly closed-minded for their own purpose. Not everyone who is wrong is wicked, but everyone who is wicked should definitely be labeled wrong.
    • *A word about “theological triage” is helpful at this point.[1]
      1. First tier doctrines are imperative to the gospel. These views are certainty about the deity of Christ, exclusivity of salvation, the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture.
      2. Secondary doctrines are important for the church’s spiritual health and practice, and thus frequently cause Christians to separate as the level of a local church, denomination, and/or ministry. These views are the interpretive clarity on soteriology order (Reformed vs Free will), the ordinances (baptism modes & communion meaning & frequency), gender roles in church leadership, and ecclesiology (church govt.), along with views on the nature of spiritual gifts.
      3. A third order of doctrines are important but indeterminate on church practice, which should not justify separation or division among Christians. These are views on the age of the earth, timing of Christ’s return and millennial reign; home-priv-public school.

  4. Test of unselfishness. V.3 Greed and exploitation; v.14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  As mentioned, Peter recognizes phony prophets and deceptive teachers giving wicked theology for selfish gain. They entice others [entice: a metaphor from fishing or snaring, capturing to consume].[2] Further, they prey on unsteady and untrained individuals. cf 3:17 “be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability.” They look for “yes people,” with maturity to serve and show generosity, but the immaturity and naivety to blindly follow prideful and manipulative leaders.

  5. Test of accountability. V. 10 Despising authority… 15 They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  
    Peter observes false prophets who despise authority.

    Like the OT prophet Balaam, he attempted to subvert God’s authority by prophesying a curse against Israel. Yet, God used a stubborn donkey to pause Balaam’s travels to hear God’s message.
    If Balaam rejected God’s authority, it would have cost his life.
    False prophets are like water fountains dried up and unable to benefit others. Christian believers or preachers do not have the authority to promote their personal preferences over biblical truth. People who follow default standards of culture over designed values of Scripture are setting themselves for danger. As Christians, our only source of identity or authority is God’s word.

Further, before one has or is placed in a position of authority over others, they should first understand and establish they can operate under authority. This is why many opportunities to serve in a church start with church membership. If you cannot submit to a church family, how can we expect you to function on a platform or operate in leadership if you have not demonstrated a starting level of mutual accountability?

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; 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; 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 (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,

Peter illustrates the certainty of God’s judgment with the examples of global flooding when unrighteousness filled the earth but preserved Noah & family (Gen 6:5-8); also fiery wrath upon Sodom & Gomorrah but rescue of Lot (Gen 19).

Notice the pattern of those who are left behind God’s judgment are the saved not wicked sinners, because the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, (v.9).

  • Col 1:13 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”
  • 1 Thess 1:10 “we wait for God’s Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:18 “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.”

    6) Test of gospel discipleship. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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.”

In this sense, Peter is saying that another sign of false teachers is those who promote God without Jesus Christ, a grace without holiness, faith without works in the Spirit, and a gospel without discipleship. Those who allegedly affirm Christ as Savior and Lord and then later turn their backs on God are in a worse state; like a dog returns to its own vomit, or a clean pig returning to the mud. They think they have freedom from hell, but they are slaves of chronic and cyclical corruption. Eternal freedom is not paved with ease and cheap grace, a mindset that we accept Jesus in our heart and sin however we want. Instead, the Good Shepherd leads us through the valley of the shadow of death – death to self, death to sin, death to earthly comforts, and death to worldly pleasures.

But in Christ, death to self is transformed into hope; death to sin results in forgiveness and being made whole; death to earthly comfort or worldly pleasure cultivates confidence in the LORD, who is a sun and shield and does not withhold good from those who live with integrity” (Ps 84:11).

Peter gets all of this from Jesus, who said,

  • “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Mt 7:15-16)
  • “You blind guides, straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel… You are like whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful but within are full of dead bones and all uncleanness, so you outwardly appear righteous but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Mt 23:24,27-28)
  • “Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” (Mt 24:11-14)

Another sign of false teachers is those who promote God without Jesus Christ, a grace without holiness, faith without works in the Spirit, and a gospel without discipleship. #2Peter2

The phrase “but false prophets” implies a black-and-white contrast between the words of true prophets and false prophets. [3]

TRUE PROPHETSFALSE PROPHETS
Words are faithful firsthand accounts (1:16).  Words are cleverly devised myths (1:16; 2:1).  
Words must be paid attention (1:19).  Words must be rejected (2:3).  
Words are light to shine in darkness (1:19).  Words are darkness to be driven out (2:17).  
Words are inspired by the Holy Spirit (1:21).  Words are inspired by humans or wicked spirits (2:18-19).  
Charles Swindoll, 2 Peter

APPLY/THINK – – – PREPARE FOR BAPTISM

These 6 tests: Christology, consequences of sin, consistency, unselfishness, accountability, and gospel discipleship help us to discern truth from error. Likewise, here are a few closing exhortations for us as followers of Jesus and a faithful church community.

  • Know the text. The greatest weapon against counterfeit doctrine is to know true biblical theology and the text of God’s word. One practical help is to start with the biblical author’s intent and meaning before jumping to present application. Also, the question “what does it mean to you” present the Bible as subjective, as if the Bible had multiple meanings. Instead, there is one accurate meaning and we must interpret accurately before making application in varied circumstances.

    Additionally, not every best seller in the bookstore or popular preacher is above critique.
    • Proverbs 14:15: “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”
    • Acts 17:11: “The Bereans received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” 
    • 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  

  • A practical application is to read the teaching text (Bible Group, sermons) in advance that week.

  • Discuss teaching text(s) around family dinner & small groups.
  • Know the teachers.
    • Learn from their teaching and offer agreement where possible; ask questions during uncertainty or disagreement. Don’t assume you know more than teacher as they likely have significant study (Jam3:1; 2Tim 2:15).
    • Learn from their life through conversations with them outside of church
      • Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”
        • Don’t become a clone but imitate their faith.
      • 1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and your doctrine. Persist in this, and by so doing you will save yourself and your hearers.”
      • Spurgeon lecture to preachers: “Our characters must be more persuasive than our speech… I would not alone warn you of sins of commission, but of omission… Our act[ions] should be such as to bear recording, for recorded they will be, under the more immediate eye of God, and as in the blaze of the great all-revealing day”[4]
  • Ponder Christ’s precious purchase.
    • Jesus is our Master who bought us with the price of His precious blood.
    • God safeguarded Noah and his family from drowning in the destruction by flood.  
    • God spared Lot from the flames of consuming fire in God’s judgment.
    • God forgave and renewed Peter’s hope after multiple mistakes and several failures.
    • God’s lavish grace invites us out of the shadows, away from the secrets, and into God’s lamplight that leads us day by day with fresh starts and new beginnings.  

God’s lavish grace invites us out of the shadows, away from the secrets, and into God’s lamplight that leads us day by day with fresh starts and new beginnings. #PeopleOfPromise

2 Peter 2:1-22

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 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; 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; 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 (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, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts (ὑπέρογκα) of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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.”


[1] See Al Mohler “A Call For Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” or Gavin Ortlund, Finding The Right Hills TO Die On.  

[2] Richard J. Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1983), 266.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 & 2 Peter, vol. 13, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentar (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2014), 316.

[4] C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, “The Minister’s Self-Watch,” p.18

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