Sermon Manuscript . . .
‘Churchy’ Bad Guys–part 2
Peter’s warnings about false teachers–2 Peter 2:2-3, part 1
One of the most successful rackets in the world today is that of selling “fake art.” Even some of the finest galleries and private collections have been invaded by paintings that are clever counterfeits of the great masters. One of the most dramatic fakes was done by a young Dutch artist named Han van Meegeren, He dreamed of being recognized as one of the best artists in the world. However, even after working very hard, he was barely recognized as an average painter.
Angry and frustrated, he decided to prove to everyone that he was a great artist–so he started replicating some of the most important works of art in history, especially the works of Johannes Vermeer. He soon realized he could actually make more money from painting forgeries than merely painting, so he started selling them to art collectors who believed they were authentic. Little did he know that one of his Vermeer forgeries would end up in the hands of Nazi officer Hermann Göring (one of Hitler’s right-hand men).
When the Dutch government found out that the painting ended up in the highest levels of German government, the Dutch started an investigation to see who dared to sell one of the Netherlands’ beloved art treasures to their enemy. Convinced the culprit was a Nazi collaborator, they decided to put all their efforts into the investigation, which eventually led them right to Van Meegeren.
At first he refused to name the person he had gotten the painting from–but after they arrested him and implied he’d be sentenced to death, he decided to tell them he had actually forged the painting. But they didn’t believe him, until he was given the opportunity to recreate another painting–which then led to his release. Now, since Han van Meegeren had sold a fake painting to a German leader, he now became a national hero–they loved him.
The false teachers of 2 Peter were secretly introducing feel-good error to the churches in Turkey, but their teachings were filled with damnable heresies. Understand, false teacher instruction promises Heaven, but actually leads to Hell. Genuine Christianity is the narrow way. But never forget, the teaching that leads people onto the broad road does not say, “This way to Hell”–no, the broad way, the easy religious path promises it leads to Heaven, but deceptively ends up in Hell.
That is why genuine believers cannot be passive about error. Christ is defined by truth. Salvation is defined by truth. Our Lord is the truth and error is of the devil. Error is a poison to keep out of the reach of children to protect them. Nothing is more wicked than for someone to claim to speak for God concerning the salvation of people, when in reality they speak for Satan, leading to the damnation of people. Deception and error have eternal consequences. Peter makes this clear in verses 1 to 3.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1 to 3).
Peter’s goal is to get you as an individual Christian, and each Bible-obeying church, to be stable and unshakable in your beliefs as you pursue Christ-like behavior. As Peter describes false teachers, he underscores just how serious God is about truth, and also how hostile God is toward those who distort the truth. Make certain you don’t listen to, read, support or remain silent about false teachers. How? By embracing what Peter says about churchy bad guys. Peter will tell us–rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word.
#0 Churchy bad guys–you are their ENEMY Chapter 1 Verse 1a
How many of you would consider yourself the enemy of false teachers? You should–because verse 1 begins with, “But false prophets.” The word but is a contrast–a contrast to what has just been taught in verses 12 to 21. In contrast to the Word of God, to the Lord of the Word and those who follow the Word are the false teachers. You are the opposite of them. You serve God–they serve the devil.
To stand against their immoral character, you must develop Christ-like character. To stand against their errant teaching, you must develop confidence in God’s Word. In contrast to Christ-like character and confidence in the Word–“but false teachers.” The Bible teaches that God designs trials for you to grow you more like Christ. I think you’ll admit you mature more from adversity than prosperity. One of the reasons God allows false teachers is to deepen your character and to strengthen your confidence in God’s Word. It is error that forces you to stand firmer upon and build convictions in the Word of God. What does God say?
Titus 1:10 to 11, “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” The false teacher is your enemy. They may pretend to be true, nice, thoughtful–but they are evil, sinful and deceptive. They are not your friends, certainly not your leaders and not to be your teacher. Verse 1, but they will pretend to be–so be ready. Rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word. Where do churchy bad guys come from?
#1 Churchy bad guys–their evil ENTRANCE Verse 1a
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you” (2 Peter 2:1a). They are here–possibly sitting next to you, pretending to be a believer, teacher, or leader. These pseudo prophets have been among God’s people all along and they will seek to invade every solid, Bible-teaching church. They are like spies, fakes, phonies, and frauds. Why are false teachers so dangerous?
#2 Churchy bad guys–their evil EXHORTATION Verse 1b
“Who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1b). What are these false teachers trying to do? They secretly want to teach error and make it seem like it is truth, in order to harm believers and destroy make-believers. These men are secretive. Peter teaches in verse 1b that bad teachers will secretly introduce destructive heresies. In Jude 4, they “creep in unnoticed.”
The verb to creep in means to slip in without being seen. False teachers parade themselves as pastors, seminary professors, and Christian authors. They present themselves as Bible-believing teachers. They love being popular and they love being edgy. But worst of all, they love their wicked objective–which is what? These men desire to destroy. They may be sincere, but they want to destroy your beliefs. How?
They will secretly introduce destructive heresies. Literally, they will subtly introduce error alongside of truth. These false doctrines are designed to harm the lives of real believers and damn the lives of make-believers. Destructive means damnation. Like drinking a poison, embracing errant teaching for the true believer will harm their moral behavior and their spiritual lives. Embracing errant teaching for the make-believer will damn them to Hell forever. Genuine Christians are people of the truth who follow a Savior who is truth. If we tolerate error, it will lead to disaster and eternal destruction for some. This is why it is so tragic when a church makes a virtue out of the toleration of unscriptural teachings and ideas in the name of love and unity.
Then Peter adds, these false slaves, verse 1c, “even denying the Master who bought them.” The false teachers firmly say no to submission to Christ as Master. Unlike today, every Christian in the Early Church thought of themselves as a slave–I’ve been bought by Christ. And the expectation of every slave in the Roman empire was to obey their Master. Unlike today, Christians back then knew they were slaves of Christ, obedient to their Master. A disobedient slave was the horrible exception. Even crucifixion was reserved for repeat criminals, disgraced soldiers, foreign enemies and disobedient slaves–slaves were expected to obey.
So Peter says, these false teachers claim to be slaves of Christ. They declare themselves as slaves who were purchased by the Master, Christ. But these false teachers do not obey Christ, unlike all genuine, real Christian slaves who obey their Master. No, Peter says these false slaves, verse 1c, “even denying the Master who bought them.” The false teachers live externally Christian, but internally their heart is not in submission to Christ.
Oh they believe and teach a lot of solid truth, but they will never submit to Christ as He has revealed himself in His Word. They will not obey the Bible. Internally, false teachers adamantly refuse to submit their lives to Christ’s sovereign rule. As a result of rejecting Christ as Master, they will face imminent destruction. Verse 1 concludes with, “bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” That’s why it is important to remember that rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word.
The difficulty with the phrase, “even denying the Master who bought them,” is this. Peter’s illustration using the Master/slave imagery is confusing to modern ears, because it makes it sound like Christ died for false teachers, even though they reject Him. So, did Christ die for the sins of everyone (Arminian theology), or did Christ die for the sins of the elect (Calvinistic theology)? What was the extent of the atonement? Who did Christ die for? Did Christ buy the salvation of the false teachers, yet they denied Him–is that what Peter is saying?
Reformed types, sometimes called Calvinists, say Christ died for the elect. Arminian types declare Christ died for the everyone. What’s the answer? Though it’s true that Christ’s death is sufficient for everyone–it’s only applied to the elect. Writer David Clotfelter, with my adds, will help you understand.
From the Calvinist elect point of view, the Arminianism everyone view, presents logical impossibilities. Arminianism tells us Jesus died for multitudes that will never be saved, including millions who never heard of Christ. The ‘Christ died for everyone view, Arminianism, tells us the death of Jesus, where He took the punishment that should have been ours, was ineffective. Think–if Christ died for everyone’s sins, then Christ suffered once for their sins on the cross, but now the lost who reject Christ, will have to suffer for those same sins again in Hell forever.
The Arminian atonement has the initial appearance of being very generous–Christ died for everyone. But the more you look at it, it is actually quite harsh. If you believe Christ died for everyone, does it guarantee the salvation of any person? No. Does it guarantee those for whom Christ died will have the opportunity to hear of Christ and respond to Him? No. Does it in any way remove or lessen the sufferings of the lost? No.
In reality, the Arminian atonement does not atone. It merely clears the way for God to accept those who are able to lift themselves up to Christ by their own bootstraps. The Calvinist, Christ died for the elect, view does not believe any sinner has the power to choose Christ. All people are dead in sin, blinded, deceived and unwilling–therefore they cannot choose Christ. No one has the power to lift themselves up, so the Calvinist views the Arminian atonement as unsuited to the salvation of sinners and insulting to Christ.
Therefore, verse 1, the false teachers’ sins were not paid for in the atonement of Christ–and if you reject Christ’s lordship like the false teachers, you are not merely a second-class Christian. You are an unsaved make-believer. Peter says in verse 1, all those who reject Christ’s sovereign lordship will face swift destruction if they do not repent from such rebellion. Swift means imminent, and destruction refers to eternal damnation in Hell. This horrible fate of Hell, coming either at their own death or at Christ’s return, awaits all false teachers and anyone who follows their unrepentant path.
Because Peter continues to repeat his teaching on coming judgment in this context, he is emphasizing this warning to you. If you deny the Master with your words or with your lifestyle, you are not a Christian–you have lost eternal life, gained eternal misery, and are excluded from the kingdom of God forever. Rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word.
#3 Churchy bad guys–their evil EXAMPLE Verse 2a
“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned” (2 Peter 2:2a). This is a sad verse, because Peter informs us these false teachers have a big following. The first word in verse 2–many will follow their destructive ways. As Peter uses the word many he sounds exactly like His Lord, when Jesus warned his listeners at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13 to 14, “ ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’ “
Many are on the wide road, and few are on the narrow road. The wide road is popular. The wide road teaches independence, a self-invented religion and self-exaltation–which is far more popular than submission to the lordship of Christ. False teachers can be popular and appear successful–at least in the short term. Peter is describing the many in the context of the Church–many from the churches.
False teachers collect followers from the Church, not from the world. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:21 to 23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord… in Your name, and in Your name … and in Your name …?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ” They’re not obedient to the Word of God, they practice disobedience.
Many churchgoers think they’re saved–and many will follow false teachers. How do false teachers gain this big following? Verse 2, “Many will follow their sensuality.” They make people feel good emotionally. Plus, they model and teach a false Christianity which allows, even encourages, unrestrained sexual conduct. Peter says sensuality. They teach you are free under grace. You are free from the law. You are not under condemnation for sin, so feel free to sin as much as you like.
Like Jude 4 teaches, “They turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” They follow their sensuality–the Greek follow means they’ll obey their instruction–or worse, they will accompany the false teacher’s example of lascivious living. The Greek word sensuality is scary. Peter uses the same word to describe the debauched and licentious lifestyle of Sodom and Gomorrah just five verses later in verse 7 of this very chapter. Sensuality describes the sexual excess, perversion, absence of restraint, wantonness, lustfulness, the insatiable desire for pleasure characteristic of our day.
Under your breath, you might be saying, “That’s not me, I am not sensual.” But what about your thoughts, your desires–or dare I ask, what you watch? In his commentary, John Philips says, “A lascivious person is one who has abandoned all restraint and revels in indecent behavior. Sodomy, bestiality, and pornography are the final expressions of such abandonment of all morals. Peter has in mind the shameless conduct of apostate teachers who, having abandoned the truth, soon endorse as normal the most foul and filthy lifestyles imaginable.”
Many people will profess to be Christians, but deny Christ’s lordship over their lives. Refusing to live as obedient slaves of the Lord, they will obey their own lusts. Instead of following the Word, they will follow the world. Instead of submitting to the Savior, they will submit to Satan. Teaching and conduct go together–what the false teachers taught, they also practiced. They taught and lived antinomianism–anti–law. They denied regeneration with its new heart that wants to obey. Unmitigated sensuality is a distinguishing mark of spiritual counterfeits. A teacher may claim to be God’s spokesman, but if his life is characterized by corruption, lust and immorality, it proves he is actually a fraud.
The inevitable result of their false teaching and perverted example is this–the make-believers who follow them in this error bring Christ and the Christian way of life into disrepute. The end of verse 2, “and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” By accepting false doctrine and practicing immorality, these so-called Christians were bringing shame upon the only way of truth. Because of their bad example, living sensually, the truth will be maligned. The truths of the Bible, Christ Himself, the only way of salvation, the Gospel, and the people who follow the truth–the Church will be slandered, blasphemed and defamed.
Denying the lordship of Christ, while claiming to be a believer, destructively infects other people and discredits the Gospel–the way of the truth will be maligned. The world mocks the Gospel of Christ because of make-believers who don’t follow the Lord through His Word. They are viewed as hypocrites. Are you a hypocrite? Yes. So what’s the difference between the “not as hurtful” hypocrite and “the harmful” hypocrite? The not as hurtful do not want to be a hypocrite–they want to live holy, be corrected, seek forgiveness, and want to obey. The harmful hypocrites think they’re okay living contrary to the Scripture.
Because of false teachers infecting the Church, those who follow their exhortation and example will cause (verse 2) “the way of the truth will be maligned.” The people of this world will say, “If that is Christianity, then forget it–they’re just a bunch of phonies.”
Peter has a fondness for the term “way”. Verse 2, “the way of truth”, verse 15, “the straight way”, verse 21, “the way of righteousness”. Way means road, path–speaking of the manner of salvation and the process of sanctification. Christianity is not a momentary decision, it is a way of life, completely directed by the written and living truth of God’s Word.
False teachers desire to not only undermine the Church on the inside with deceptive heresy–they also desire to tarnish the church’s reputation outside, by unmasking immoral false teachers before a watching world. To counter these relentless, satanic attacks, the Church must grow in confidence in the Scripture to be doctrinally pure. And Christians must live out Christ-like character, which will make the transforming power of Christ believable. Rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word. Sadly, that’s not the end of their immoral deceptions. Look next at the . . .
#4 Churchy bad guys–their evil EXPLOITATION Verse 3a
“And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3a). Peter is teaching you the motive of the false teacher is not the love of the truth, but the love of money–they’re greedy. Their desire to acquire more is dominant. Their desire for more is insatiable. What’s their motive? Making money. What’s their method? How do they get money? Verse 3, “They will exploit you with false words.” They exploit, meaning they make merchandise of. Yes, the Greek word exploit is a term borrowed from the marketplace, where a merchant is interested in making a profit. Then in this case, the unwary buyer becomes an object of exploitation.
The greed-driven false teachers cheat people–they manipulate to gain something. They teach false words in order to get ignorant people to give them money. Remember, Jesus owned nothing and remained poor. The apostles were also poor, yet like Christ, gave themselves away to minister to others. But false teachers are rich men who cleverly get others to give them money and merchandise.
Micah had a similar description of the false teachers in his day in Micah 3:11, “Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, her priests instruct for a price and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord saying, ‘Is not the Lord in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us.’ ” This is why other churches pay their pastors so poorly–they’re worried about them serving Christ only for money, “So let’s not give them any!” The Bible balances this abuse with principles like Luke 10:7, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” But the key is this–the pastor’s motives for ministry had better go beyond money.
The big three temptations for pastors, and men in general, are gold, girls, and glory–money, lust and pride. These false teachers were guilty of all three. But they are experts in greed. Peter is describing those horrible people on TV who manipulate millions of dollars out of their audiences.
Verse 3 again, they manipulate you “exploit you” with stories they’ve made up “false words“. The Greek word false is plastos;–sound familiar? It gives us our English word plastic. It has to do with something formed, fabricated, or molded. The false words of the apostates are craftily fashioned or molded to deceive people for the sake of money. They make up false stories which are geared to make you give to them. Then back in Peter’s day, they’d fabricate stories about the Word that unsuspicious believers embraced. As Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “they peddle the word of God for profit.”
False teachers are not ultimately motivated by false doctrine, rebelliousness, or sexual immorality. They actively participate in all those sins. But people can do those sins without being teachers. The primary motivation driving false teachers is an unbridled love of money. They are in the ministry for the money. Like the indulgences sold during the reformation, these false teachers are subtly selling salvation. To line their own pockets, false teachers peddle forgiveness. That’s why rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word. Justice then demands that . . .
#5 Churchy bad guys–their evil END Verse 3b
More about this next week–what is the destiny of false teachers? Christ is in control of every situation and our Lord has assigned them to doom and destruction. Verse 3b, “their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Peter reminds his readers of judgment, where every single one of you will face your Creator and give answer for how you have lived. And false teachers are no exception–they’ll face Christ as their Judge for what they have done to His bride.
This judgment has been on the heels of false teachers for some time. Their eventual downfall is assured. In fact, Peter says it is from long ago–their judgment from long ago is not idle, meaning God has been judging all along and will do so again. Peter is about to tell you in verses 4 to 8 that long ago God already judged fallen angels, the ungodly, at the flood and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. And just like He judged them long ago, God’s judgment will again fall on these guilty false teachers.
Peter uses Greek courtroom vocabulary to convince his readers justice will prevail. These false teachers are not on California’s death row, they’re in God’s justice system–so their condemnation is certain. Peter puts it this way, Gods judgment “is not idle.” Idle is used only here in the New Testament and it means judgment won’t be inactive. God is not dillydallying. It may seem like He’s taking His time, but Peter says God is not waiting–the reality of divine retribution is at hand. God’s sentence against every lying teacher is that they are now actively accumulating wrath until each one perishes in Hell forever. The Greek verb idle is continuous action, proving that God’s delay in judgment is not ongoing–not idle.
Peter adds next, “and their destruction is not asleep.” Asleep means to nod off. The Greek verb sleep is continuous action, proving God’s delay in judgment is not ongoing, not sleeping. The judgment of these wicked men may seem to be slumbering, but the contrary is true. God might stay His hand for a season, but He certainly is not nodding off. Our Lord sees everything, and no one will escape His righteous justice. Although false teachers will not face their eternal judgment until death, their sentence was decreed by God from long ago. Rejecting false teachers and their teachings is loving Christ’s Church and His Word.
A Start learning the difference between the FAKE and the faithful
The faithful are an open book, who preach the truth to exalt Christ, to know Christ so sinners will come to Christ and become like Christ in obedience to Christ’s Word. The fake are secretive, who preach their own ideas in order to live how they want and to cleverly move you emotionally so you’ll love them and give more.
B Check your HEART concerning Christ’s Lordship
Jesus asks you in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” False teachers talk Bible, doctrine, even lordship, but they do not submit in heart–and so do some so-called Christians. Jesus warns in Matthew 15:8, ” ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.’ ” Not here at church–but when you are most unaccountable, most vulnerable, do you desire to be submissive to Christ as Lord? Do you want to follow Christ, submit to His Word in all things in your heart? Or are you one who, Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.”
C Practice living as if every BEHAVIOR mattered
The world is watching you–and how you behave at school, in the store, in your backyard, at the sports park, and at work does matter. Philippians 2:15, “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Like false teachers–are you sensual or sensible? Are you greedy or truly giving? Is your lifestyle a discouragement or a draw for others to follow Christ?
D Continue to grow in Christlike CHARACTER and biblical CONFIDENCE
Peter told us how to stand for truth in an age of lies, but we must pursue developing character and biblical convictions–are you? Let’s pray.