Sermon Manuscript . . .
How Bad Are They?–part 1
False teachers are outwardly impressive, but inwardly evil–part 1
2 Peter 2:10-22
In the United States, we stamp the words, “In God We Trust,” on our coins. In Britain, they stamp on their coins the words, “Fidii Defensor,” Defender of the Faith. A picture of the reigning monarch accompanies the motto. In recognition of the early efforts of Henry VIII to contend with the Reformers, the reigning pope originally bestowed this title, “Defender of the Faith,” on him. Once Henry broke with the papacy, the words took on a new meaning–not that Henry VIII cared for the faith in a godly way.
But after Queen Mary’s fearful persecution of the Protestants, her successor, Queen Elizabeth I became, in very truth, the Defender of the Faith–the Protestant faith. And the words have had that very meaning for centuries–until recently. Charles, Prince of Wales, the heir apparent to the English throne, took a more compromising stand. He announced he did not care much for the notion of being Defender of the Faith. He suggested, in deference to Muslims, Hindus, New Agers and more–that it would be better if, when he is crowned, the title were changed to “Defender of Faith.”
But not so for the Apostle Peter–the words Fidii Defensor could have been emblazoned on his banner. There was no compromise with Peter–he proved through his life and in his writings. First Peter 1:22 and 23, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. 23for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Then in chapter 2 verse 2, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” And 2 Peter 1:19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure.” Peter is a Fidii Defensor–and today, you must become a Defender of the Faith. You are surrounded by false religions–like Catholics, who believe salvation is secured by faith plus good works . . . like Jews, who think Jesus is merely a teacher, not God in the flesh . . . like Islam, which teaches man will earn his own salvation and pays for his own sins, instead of Christ alone providing salvation and paying for our sins by dying as our substitute. Or like Hindus who think God is some abstract, eternal being without any attributes, instead of a triune God who revealed Himself in the Scriptures.
Memorize Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” There is no other way of salvation except through Christ alone revealed in His Word. You are surrounded by false ideas–you are your own person, you decide your own destiny, your decisions don’t affect anyone else, all that matters is what you do, nobody is right, all rules are bad, doing good earns you God’s favor, and debt is no big deal.
Memorize Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Live your faith by God’s Word, not your ideas or anyone else’s. You are surrounded by false Christianity. Too many believe, “If I pray a prayer once, I’m secure in salvation, though there’s no fruit.” Others think believing the right doctrine makes you saved. Students often think, since they come from a Christian home, they’re born again. Some believe if they had a camp experience with Jesus, they can live anyway they like. A few believe you are a Christian because you go to a Christian church. Some believe if you feel guilty about your sin, think Christ is Savior, you’re saved.
Listen friends, you must be born again–transformed. Memorize John 3:3, “Jesus…said,…’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” First Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” True Christianity is historical fact and a supernatural transformation by God’s Spirit.
What makes being a defender of the faith so challenging is not only the false religions, false ideas and false Christianity–but what makes it so difficult is those charismatic, engaging, popular, fun teachers who propagate the error. To be the Fidii Defensor, you must war against those who teach heresy as if it were true. You battle the deceivers who have large followings, but who undermine the truth of God’s Word.
This fight isn’t merely for elders or Bible teachers–this battle is for all of us and it will not be easy, because many false teachers are difficult to identify. Think about it. Even though false teachers have no spiritual substance to offer, they claim great wisdom. They’re engaging rhetoric fools followers into believing they possess deep theological scholarship, profound spiritual insight, and even direct revelations from God. Their teaching dazzles their victims (Jude 13 describes them as a shooting star), but they say nothing that is truly divine–and like a meteor, they fade into blackness.
Like in Peter’s day, contemporary false teachers use empty speech to entice listeners with fleshly desires–Peter calls it sensuality. They don’t care about bringing truth to people’s ears–instead they target people’s lusts. They offer feelings-oriented messages which fuel sensual instincts and easy-believism. The most dangerous false teachers possess a personal charm and charismatic appeal people find very attractive.
I had an opportunity years ago to witness it personally. I witnessed an amazingly powerful, accurate Bible preacher and a popular, trendy (later to find out) errant-gospel false teacher, both teaching at the same conference. I watched the 3,000 men at this conference respond to God’s Word from the solid preacher. And then I was blown away by how the false teacher, with humor, communicative skill, edgy comments and a powerful voice entertained, lured and ensnared the crowd of men–so by the end of the conference they were begging for the soon-to-be-known as a false teacher to return, while completely ignoring the incredible Bible preacher.
What makes matters worse is, those who follow false teachers are those who want to improve themselves, which they do by their own efforts. Because of broken relationships, felt needs, and spiritual struggles, they desperately desire relief from guilt, anxiety, and stress. They are often disappointed by an authority figure and dissatisfied by the lifestyle of those they’re supposed to follow–parents, teachers, pastors and the like. And they seek a better way to live or seek to discover some form of religious experience. They are often in the church, but not in Christ. Ultimately, their dissatisfaction, loneliness, and self-betterment attempts make them highly vulnerable to the seductive exploitations of false teachers.
How bad are they? False teachers oppose God’s character with their bad morality, oppose God’s truth with their errant teaching, oppose God’s mission with their false priorities and oppose God’s heart with their evil desires. The remainder of chapter 2, verses 10 to 22 is a sober warning to all believers. Just because you are in a Bible-teaching church does not guarantee you will not be exposed to those who teach error on some level in this life–on podcasts, on websites, at conferences, churches, popular books, articles, and we hope not often in our midst.
The Christian world now regularly offers lies disguised as the truth, presented for consumption. Many Christians, lacking biblical discernment, unable to tell the difference, gobble up juicy, errant morsels–then later find themselves getting spiritually sick from what they ate. Making the prescription against error, to know the truth well enough ahead of time, so you can distinguish between the real and the phony. Verses 10 to 22 expose the personalities, practices and presuppositions of the false teachers in the first century, along with the eternal consequences that accompany their lifestyle directions and doctrinal beliefs.
These verses answer the question, “How bad are they?” and how to identify them. The truths were given in the 1st century to churches in modern day Turkey–but they’re just as sound for today. This passage will teach many crucial principles, like . . .
Biblical heresy is always destructive
Most heresies focus on the person and work of Christ
Immoral sexual activity is not consistent with Christian morality
Heretics are often motivated by money and self. God’s future judgment will come, and it will be final
The violation of the character of God requires a response of judgment
The judgment of God does not dilute the availability of the grace of God
The Bible affirms the reality of eternal punishment in Hell and degrees of punishment
The Bible does not teach annihilation, but eternal waking torment in Hell, and . . .
Christian freedom is not an unbridled license to do whatever you want to do
In chapter two, Peter describes the doctrine of the heretics in verses 1 to 3, then the doom of the heretics in verses 4 to 10a, and now the deeds of the heretics in verses 10b to 22. After teaching God will ultimately judge the false teachers using past examples in verses 4 to 8 last week, Peter affirmed two key principles in verses 9 to 10a, “Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.”
God knows how to save those who belong to Him–therefore you have nothing to fear. In the New Testament–and as it is used here, the word temptation is not merely used to describe testing. But here, it’s the idea of an attack with intent to destroy. True believers will be protected by the Lord from those who desire to destroy us. So Peter calls all believers to trust in the infinite wisdom and power of their divine protector. Verses 9 to 10, God will rescue you and God will punish the false teachers at the same time.
And why will God punish them? Verses 10b to 22 teaches us just how bad they are. Peter ended the last paragraph in verse 10a with two main, identifiable, negative qualities. Then continues to the end of the chapter in verses 10b to 22 with the Beliefs and Behaviors, Personality and Practices, Character and Conduct of the false teachers–exposing their true nature.
Read aloud with me verses 10 to 11, “and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” This paragraph will go on to describe seven major areas to look for–seven reasons why their judgment is just, seven qualities which show just how bad they are. We’ll look at two today.
#1 Their PRIMARIES Verse 10a
As Peter wraps up the certainty of their judgment, he focuses on the two major characteristics of false teachers–they function by 1) feelings and flesh, and 2) they reject Christ as LORD, and His Word as the final authority over all of life. Listen for the two primary sins of false teachers in verse 10, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. You will know them by their primary sins, their two primary characteristics–they indulge in whatever they desire, and they hate it when anyone tells them what to do.
Like the wicked contemporaries of Noah and Lot of verses 5 to 8, false teachers are slaves to sin. Peter uses very strong words. Their lives are characterized as indulging the flesh in its corrupt desires. Indulge is the Greek word describing a person who is going after something or drawing something to themselves. These false teachers are literally going after their own strong desires–they are pursuing whatever they want and intentionally going after it. They live their lives as if their desires are always the right thing to do.
Let me remind you, each of you have had desires to hit someone, but you didn’t. You had desires to take something, but you didn’t. You have wanted to say something, but you stopped yourself–and you were glad you didn’t function by your feelings, right? The false teacher does not live by, “Deny yourself,” but “Indulge yourself–if it feels good, do it.” And Peter says they indulge their corrupt desires.
Desires describes their strong emotions–their lusts, cravings, appetites and wants. They’re not craving the Lord, they pursue their own lusts. And instead of tempering themselves, they seek to get away with everything they can. That’s the Greek word corrupt, describing pollution or defilement. Neutrally, corrupt means to paint in color–but in a negative context like this, it means to stain.
I am certain you are much neater than I. But I don’t think two months goes by where Jean is showing me another shirt or another pair of pants where I have, once again, stained them so badly, they cannot be worn in public. The stain is so noticeable, it’s like wearing a sign that says, “I’m a slob,” or “I don’t care.” It’s a ruination–an ugly stain. The false teachers pursue behavior which is an evil distraction to Christ and His Word. They stain themselves continually by living by their lusts–by following their feelings. They live to satisfy their evil cravings and doing whatever they want.
And the choices which would destroy your marriage, harm your children, trash your reputation and ruin your witness–those choices which would permanently stain your life are the very actions the false teachers pursue with abandon. The Greek corrupt is what forms the English word unpleasant or unwholesome. They do what they want, even if God says its unwholesome or the Bible says it is sick–or even if others consider it gross. They actively pursue their sensual fantasies.
You might be saying, “Chris —this doesn’t happen. No one acts this way!” Really? In 1986, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart began an on-screen attack against fellow televangelists Marvin Gorman and Jim Bakker. He uncovered Gorman’s affair with a member of Gorman’s congregation, and also helped expose Jim Bakker’s infidelity (which was intentionally arranged by another minister while Bakker was on an out-of-state trip).
These exposures received widespread media coverage. Gorman retaliated by hiring a private investigator to uncover Swaggart’s own adulterous indiscretions with a prostitute. Swaggart was subsequently forced to step down from his pulpit for a year and made a tearful, televised apology in February 1988 to his congregation, saying, “I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.”
Then three years later, after he was back ministering, Swaggart was caught again by California police in 1991 with another prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, who was riding with him in his car when he was stopped for driving on the wrong side of the road. When asked why she was with Swaggart, she said quote, “He asked me for sex. I mean, that’s why he stopped me. That’s what I do. I’m a prostitute.”
Peter says in verse 10, “especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires.” False teachers were participating in this kind of behavior in and around the churches Peter is writing to in this letter. And they’re still manifesting this kind of corruption. Be a Defender of the Faith–be Fidii Defensor. Never justify this kind of behavior.
Peter describes another main negative quality of the false teacher is this in verse 10a, “and despise authority.” Mankind’s depraved nature never wants want to submit to any kind of authority. The mantra for our day is do your own thing, leave me alone, stop judging me, that’s good for you but not for me. False teachers despise authority. The Greek authority comes from the word Lord. The false teachers will even identify with Christ outwardly as Savior, but they would not inwardly nor practically live under His rule, or His Word, His ways or His will. False teachers might emotionally love Jesus, respect Him, even honor the idea of Christ as God–but they refuse to live by His commands, refuse to follow His Word, and refuse to reject all man-made wisdom while only following Christ as Lord.
Listen–when false teachers and Satan who motivates them are dominant, God’s Word is minimized, Christ’s lordship is ignored, government stops protecting its citizens, husbands stop leading the church and leading their homes, children stop obeying their parents, the younger stop learning from the older. All authority is destroyed. False teachers despise authority. Despise means to look down on with contempt–and the tense tells us they do it continually, all the time, in every way.
Do you delight in authority or despise authority? Is Christ first and over all priorities? Do you follow Christ in your marriage, obey the Scripture in your parenting, follow God’s commands with your finances, seek Christ’s wisdom in all your relationships, listen to the wisdom of older godly leaders, honor the expectations of your employer, pay your taxes, obey the traffic laws, embrace the plain teaching of Scripture and seek to honor all those God has placed over you? Or do you undermine authority?
The false teachers see themselves as in charge, personal freedom, I do what I want, I lead my own life, I answer to no one, I am the captain of my own soul, I am in charge of my own fate, I take care of number one, I live for me first–pride. These apostates will stop at nothing to promote and protect themselves. Their attitude is the complete opposite of our Lord, who willingly emptied Himself to be born a man, live as a servant who was willing to die for the sins of others.
Genuine Christians see themselves as freed to finally become obedient to the Lord and to obey all His appointed authority. Peter highlights the two primary vices of the false teacher in verse 10, “and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” Are you Fidii Defensor? But added to those vices, Peter adds . . .
#2 Their PRIDE Verses 10b to 11
Read verses 10b to 11, “Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” Arrogance identifies the general attitude of these false teachers, so Peter immediately and forcefully exposes their pride. False teachers are daring, describing their brazen, audacious and defiant presumptuousness. Peter adds self-willed to expose their obstinate determination to go their own way. Their pride is clearly seen in their willful defiance.
They respect no one and nothing restrains them. The one who is “daring or bold” rides roughshod over the rights, opinions, and interests of others, whether they be human or divine. One who is stubborn, self-willed or arrogant goes further–they can’t be reasoned with. No amount of conversation or reasoned dialog will stop them from doing or teaching what they want. They assume they’re right and everyone else is wrong–ever met that guy?
While outwardly, they appear to serve God and minister to the people, inwardly they feed their own egos and feather their own nests. Like Proverbs 21:24 ESV, “Scoffer is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” So here in verse 10, in their arrogance, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities (glorious ones). “They do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties.” When normal people face an angel, they’re afraid–they’re in awe, they even err by offering them worship because they’re such mighty beings. But Peter says false teachers are never in awe, nor respectful, nor afraid of –“they do not tremble.”
In fact, false teachers are so arrogant they will even blaspheme/revile angels. Verse 10 continues with, “when they revile angelic majesties.” Peter is probably speaking of wicked angels/demons here–but listen, even wicked angels have a level of existence in the supernatural world that has a dignity and a transcendent quality that is beyond humanity and worthy of our respectful fear. A certain honor belongs to those who transcend time, and those who belong to this race of beings who once stood in the presence of the living God and served His will.
As a result, there must be no flippancy regarding Satan and his angels. Yet the false teachers revile angels–literally, they blaspheme them. Even the blasphemy of fallen, evil angels by false teachers demonstrates their arrogance and antagonism towards any authority, whether good or bad. There is a boldness that is heroic, but there is also a boldness that is Satanic. These teachers were so fleshly, proud and self-willed, they displayed an evil boldness.
You and I must never forget–not only is God the ultimate supreme authority. But if you are truly submissive to God as the authority, you will also submit to all the authority which God Himself set up, established and designed. Romans 13:1b, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” False teachers do not submit to authority, and they demonstrate their lack of submission by ordering, commanding, casting, and blaspheming demons to do what they determine. These apostates revile even the angels–and they do not tremble when they do it!
They are so secure in their pride, that they even dare God to judge them. Peter says in verse 11, this is the ultimate pride–why? Verse 11, “whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” In verse 11, since there is no modifier, it seems best to see these as the holy angels, who are greater in might and power than either fallen men or demons. Peter says those who are greater in power and greater in might than human beings–these holy angels do not bring a reviling/blasphemous accusation against demons. Holy angels will not rebuke their fallen brothers, the demons.
Holy angels are unlike false teachers, who are defiant towards higher powers. No, the holy angels so revere their Lord, they will not speak insults against any authority. The angels of Heaven so reverence their Lord, it never occurs to them to allow slanderous, insulting language to pass their lips, even though it would be well-deserved. Jude 8 and 9 takes it a step further. “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. 9But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!‘ ”
Even from their exalted position, holy angels do not disrespect their fallen counterparts like the false teachers do. In fact, even the archangel Michael, recognizing the great presence and power of Satan, refused to speak evil of him, but called on the Lord Himself to do so. Peter is blowing us away with the incredible arrogance of the false teachers. The mighty, awesome holy angels, even the chief holy angel, will not rebuke, blaspheme, revile, or criticize the devil or the demons. But these false teachers, with their overinflated view of themselves, in unashamed pride, continue to command, rebuke, belittle, and speak as if they have authority over the devil and demons.
Like Michael, believers should not confront Satan or his minions. The authority we have is God’s Word and the life-transforming message of the Gospel. Yet false teachers, by stark contrast, are so self-confident, brazen, and reckless they do what even Michael did not dare to do—directly reviling angelic majesties, as if they had authority over them. No believer should ever be so bold as to command demons–that is pride. No Christian should ever be so foolish as to speak disrespectfully of, or to, celestial beings. Be a Defender of the Faith–become Fidii Defensor. Stand for the truth.
TAKE this HOME
A Take SIN seriously
Man calls it an accident–God calls it an abomination. Man calls it a blunder–God calls it blindness. Man calls it a defect–God calls it a disease. Man calls it a chance–God calls it a choice. Man calls it an error–God calls it an enmity. Man calls it a fascination–God calls it a fatality. Man calls it an infirmity–God calls it an iniquity. Man calls it a luxury–God calls it leprosy. Man calls it a liberty–God calls it lawlessness. Man calls it a trifle–God calls it tragedy. Man calls it a mistake–God calls it madness. Man calls it a weakness–God calls it willfulness.
Take sin seriously. Proverbs 6:16 to 19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
The Lord hates sin–you should hate it too. Your hatred of sin should cause you to run to Christ in faith for salvation. Or your hatred of sin should move you to depend on the Spirit to kill it in sanctification. Sin required Christ’s death–so genuine Christians hate sin.
B Be motivated by the CONSEQUENCES of sin
Proverbs 22:8a, “He who sows iniquity will reap vanity.” Hosea 8:7, “For they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind.” Job 4:8, “Those who sow trouble harvest it.” Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
Sexual sin has unique and very serious consequences. First Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” Like popping a balloon, spiritual leaders who commit adultery will never be restored to their previous level of service, and those who continue in this sin, will suffer serious consequences–they are in rebellion to God.
If you’re battling with porn, if you are compromising your purity, if you are fornicating or committing adultery or close to compromise–repent, confess it and get help from your community group leaders. Do not delay. Examine your heart looking for lust, pride, greed, for selfishness–and . . .
C Evaluate your SUBMISSION to authority
Christians are not rebels. Sure, you and I must disobey only if our authorities demand that we disobey God’s Word–truly, Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.” But Christians obey authority, where false teachers do not. This applies to government, employers, teachers, husbands, parents, elders, police and more.
Listen my brothers and sisters–listen. The only way you please God is to be filled with the Spirit. And when you are filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:21 says submission is a direct result of being filled–“and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” It is a fearful thing to live in rebellion to authority. It’s a sin not to honor authority. Lack of submission to authority puts you out of God’s will, since God is the only one who appointed that authority. Submit, obey, honor.
D Turn to Christ in salvation and DEPEND on the Spirit in sanctification
There is no way you can deal with sin on your own. You will never be right with God until you turn to Christ in dependent faith and turn from your sin in humble repentance. Only Christ can forgive you, cleanse you, wash you of your sin and make you new. The apostles in Acts 20:21, “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And you will never defeat sin as a believer in your own strength–you don’t have the ability to overcome sin or live like Christ without the Spirit of God empowering you. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Next week we will study their predispositions, their pains, their partying, and their pleasures. Plus, their passion, their penalty, their persuasion and finally their prison. Let’s pray.