HOW BAD ARE THEY?–Part 2
False teachers are outwardly impressive, but inwardly evil–part 2
2 Peter 2:12-14
What’s real and what’s fake? What is reality and what is deception? The Matrix proved reality is a computer program created by artificial intelligence that you are plugged into in order to generate power for the AI who has taken over the planet. Inception proves that reality is just multiple layers of dreaming, requiring a spinning top to determine if you are awake or still dreaming. A box of scalloped potatoes claims to be reality, but it is mostly chemicals. A cat seems like a pet, but in reality it’s a subtle servant of Satan.
What is real and what is fake? What is genuine and what is phony? When it comes to spiritual reality, Jesus Christ and the Word of God, there are those who live and teach in a real world and there are those who live and teach in a world of phoniness, fakeness, and deception. How do you tell them apart? What must you watch out for?
First Watch out for the Trojan HORSE
After failing to breach the walls of Troy, the Greeks offered the city of Troy an amazing gift, a large Trojan horse, supposedly in honor of their admitted defeat. But it was accepting the Trojan horse which led to their destruction. The horse was filled with sneaky Greeks who opened the gates of Troy and let the entire Greek army in, killing the citizens of Troy and destroying their once great city.
Many false teachers today are Trojan horses. They teach some topic or doctrine with evangelical, conservative excellence—but once you accept them into your thinking, with this wonderful teaching comes a poison which will destroy you, like NT Wright. He wrote a landmark book called “The Resurrection of the Son of God”–an outstanding defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But getting the resurrection right seems to have opened the gate to the receptivity of many people, and acceptance of Wright’s subsequent books, where he discusses the cross, justification, and penal substitutionary atonement. Yet on these topics, he teaches heresy.
Wright continually attacks the classic biblical doctrine that the righteousness of Christ is imputed, or reckoned, to the sinner’s account. He denies that salvation is based upon the righteousness of Christ alone, being imputed to guilty sinners–and that is the only way all true believers obtain our righteous standing before God. Wright, and all false teachers like him, get you to invite him in as a Bible teacher through great teaching on the resurrection, but then utterly destroy the faith of the make-believer and confuse the elect true believer with his errant view of justification.
Listen, the cornerstone of justification is the reckoning of righteousness to the believer’s account. This is the truth that sets Christian doctrine apart from every form of false religion. We call it “imputed righteousness”–apart from imputed righteousness, salvation is utterly impossible. NT Wright is very wrong. Watch out for the Trojan horse–sneaking in errant doctrine after you have been wowed with a little true doctrine.
Second Watch out for the AVOIDANCE of clarity
The avoidance of clarity is seen in many young men who are unwilling to study or they arrogantly try to lift themselves above truth by not claiming any position at all. You ask them, “What do you believe about the sign gifts?” “Oh, I haven’t decided, I see some truth in both positions.” Why? So they can play with both sides, when in reality they are unwilling to wrestle, unwilling to offend, and unwilling to study, and unwilling to stand for truth. They seek to please men over pleasing God.
And you must be made aware that the false teacher also only survives in ministry on the basis of lack of clarity. They hem and haw over issues in order to avoid declaring their true position, which undermines genuine salvation in Christ and denies the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. They avoid clarity in order to avoid being declared a heretic. And because genuine Christians want to be loving, we tend to give these people the benefit of the doubt when they speak in a foggy and unclear manner.
NT Wright communicates a different gospel in a way that is obscure enough not to be pinned down outside of orthodoxy. He is the master of answering questions by burying it in another question and obscuring it in a story so you don’t know what he really believes. There are even men who have benefited the true church, who behave in the same manner–like Tim Keller in New York. They are obscure and unwilling to declare their true beliefs over many fundamental doctrines, even though lovingly questioned and prodded to share their beliefs by men like John Piper, Al Mohler and John MacArthur.
There are some men who remain veiled, obscure. There are others with solid backgrounds, like Francis Chan, who’ve played so loose and fast with doctrine for so long, they are now crumbling into fundamental error. My brothers and sisters, a good rule of thumb when choosing your feeding grounds for Christian teaching is to remember this–sound biblical teachers are always clear about the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. Make certain you choose blogs, books, sermons that communicate doctrine accurately and clearly.
My friends, never forget Jesus is the way and the what? The truth! There is not only one way to be saved, but there is only one way to understand salvation and only one way to personally and intimately know the Triune God–and that is through a correct understanding of God’s Word. If you’re a genuine believer you love the truth, because the Spirit of truth indwells you. And you understand, you only know the truth when you allow the Bible to speak for itself.
No preacher ever has the right to make the Bible say what they want. God’s assignment to the true preacher is to work like a dog so the church hears what the original meaning of every verse is. Preachers exegete the Bible, meaning they draw out the original meaning of the Bible–what did the original author mean to say to the original audience 2,000 years ago in another language and another part of the world. Only then, after determining the authorial intent, can they then apply the truth to today.
Preachers are not allowed to isogete–which means to read in what they want the Bible to say. True preaching is not meant to excite you, but to expose you. True preaching is not meant to make you feel good, but cause to you to fear God. Preaching is to teach you God’s truth as God revealed it, in its original context. Preaching is not an emotional moment, even though the truth may cause emotion. Preaching is not to be an experience, even though the Word will transform your life. And preaching is to honor both Old and New Testaments, all the doctrines of the Bible. True teaching is to be definitive and clear about what the Bible says, not obscure or avoid what the Bible literally, normally, means.
With that, you must learn how to discern the difference between the false and true–what is real and what is fake. I often do not mention the names of false teachers for one simple reason–because I want you to be able to determine who is fake and who is faithful, not depend on me. So when I’m dead and the current crop of false teachers are gone, you’ll be able, by God’s Word, to determine who is genuine and who is goofy, who is biblical and who is bogus. I don’t want you dependent on Chris–I want you dependent on Christ. I don’t want you relying on my words, but God’s Word. In no way am I afraid to expose error or those who teach it. I just want you to be the most discerning congregation on the planet.
Open your Bibles back to 2 Peter chapter 2 and we will pick up where we left off. The goal of today is to sharpen your discernment so you can determine who is true and who is false, convict your heart if you imitate the thinking or lifestyle of the false, cause you to grow in your love for our Savior who is Truth and loves the truth, motivate you to share the Gospel with those who do not believe an accurate Gospel, and warn of you of the deception of the false–so you can help others who are confused. Are you ready? Let’s pray.
Do you remember 2 Peter? In chapter one, in preparation for dealing with false teachers, Peter taught you there is no such thing as an incomplete believer, but you have everything you need to grow in Christ, like character, which is crucial for you to resist the false teaching that surrounds you on blogs, websites, radio, books and more. In the second half of chapter one, Peter taught you to grow confident in God’s Word–trust only the apostles’ teaching over any other teaching. You want what they taught.
Then in chapter two, Peter warned of the doctrine of the false teachers, the coming doom of the false teachers and now the deeds of the false teachers. We have studied their subtle but errant doctrine. We also studied their coming judgment–just like God judged the angels, the pre-flood population of the world and the homosexuals of Sodom and Gomorrah, Christ Jesus promises to certainly judge those false teachers who are infiltrating and infecting the local churches in Asia Minor.
Just like those days, the Christian world today regularly serves up lies disguised as the truth for consumption. Many Christians, lacking biblical discernment, gobble up these errant morsels, then find themselves getting spiritually sick from what they ate. Peter says you need to be discerning before you order from the menu, friends.
I commend all of you who are zealous to not eat any food that’s physically bad. But friends, you must be even more discerning when it comes to spiritual food. There is a big difference between eating healthy food and eating poison, and between eating that which will be good for your soul or that which will condemn your soul. Eating bad food might complicate your life, but eating bad spiritual food can affect your eternity as well as your ministry, relationships, outreach, joy, and love.
Verses 10 to 22 expose the lifestyles of the phony, along with the eternal consequences that accompany their direction and doctrine. What are the beliefs and behaviors, personality and practices, character and conduct of the false? Verses 10 to 22 describe seven reasons their judgment is just, seven qualities to never imitate, seven practices proving how bad they are. Last time, a long time ago, we looked at point #1.
#1 Their PRIMARIES Verse 10a
As Peter wraps up the certainty of their judgment, he focuses on the two major characteristics of false teachers—1) they function by feelings, and 2) they reject all authority. Verse 10, “and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” You will know them by their primary sins–they indulge in whatever they desire and they hate it when anyone tells them what to do. Some will be subtle and remain vague. Others will be defiant and overt. But regardless, you can tell who they are by their feelings-driven teaching and anti-authority lifestyle.
#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.” False teachers are daring–meaning brazen, audacious and defiant-presumptuousness. And Peter adds self-willed, exposing an obstinate determination to go their own way.
False teachers are so arrogant they will do what the holy angels will not do. The mighty, awesome, holy angels–even the chief holy angel will not rebuke the devil or the demons. But these false teachers will. With their overinflated view of themselves, in unashamed pride they will continue to command, rebuke, and speak as if they have authority over the devil and his demons. They do not tremble, have no fear, no respect–but arrogantly do what perfect angels do not. They are proud. So identify them by their #1 PRIMARY sins of living by the flesh via emotion and desires and despising all authority, by their #2 arrogant PRIDE. Now today, you’ll know the false teacher by . . .
#3 Their PREDISPOSITION
Read aloud verses 12 to 14 with me, as Peter describes the bents and dispositions of the phony. Verse 12, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children.”
False teachers are not merely fallen people who are lost in their sins. They are not merely defiant sinners who are corrupt in nature. They’re not only headed for eternal torment later, but they are dangerous now. They are people who pretent to be Christians and pretend to instruct others in the Word. They present themselves as those who will help your walk with God, but what they do is harm your walk with God–not help, but harm. They are predisposed to oppose the work of God, malign the person of Christ and distort the true Gospel. Understand their predisposition.
First Their PENCHANT Verses 12 to 13a
Verse 12, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong.”
In verse 11, the false teachers show they have no humility over the power of demons or authority of holy angels. Here in verse 12, false teachers act like wild animals. In verse 11, they are arrogant, they charge into the supernatural realm, cursing away at people, angels and situations. They don’t understand, saying things like, “We bind you, put a hedge around you, we give you no authority here, we command you in the name of Christ.”
And now in verse 12, false teachers live like unreasoning animals–meaning unpredictable and dangerous. Animals live by instinct, people by emotion, but Christians function by truth. But false teachers have (verse 12) “no knowledge” of truth–so they function contrary to truth. They do the opposite of what the Word of God says–they do what feels right, but in reality their actions are opposed to God and contrary to the Bible.
False teachers behave like a calm and beautiful lab that bites when you try to pet him. Peter says in verse 12, false teachers function solely by instinct. Instinct means their responses to stimuli are preprogrammed, having been built into their genetic makeup. They do what their lust desires–what their body says to do. And that makes them dangerous to Christians and the Church.
Look carefully at three words in verse 12–killed, destruction and destroyed. They’re all the same word in Greek–a word which means to ruin, to corrupt and spoil. It’s usually translated corruption or destruction. But three times in this one verse, verse 12, Peter uses the same word. “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed [corrupted], reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction [corruption] of those creatures also be destroyed [corrupted].” Peter is clear–false teachers bring corruption to their own lives and corruption to everyone they teach and touch. They cause genuine spiritual life to decay and phony spiritual life to be damned.
The penchant of these spiritual pretenders is to dishonestly present themselves as true teachers, as if they know the Word, but they actually exhibit animal-like ignorance. You talk to your dog and they wag their tail as if they understand, but they don’t. They don’t know what you’re saying–they have no knowledge to discern your words. They bark at the burglar but also bark at the mailman, because they have no discernment. The false teachers do not know the truth, the God of the truth. They bark at everything.
False teachers may appear to know the Word, but don’t know the God of the Word. Peter says, “Reviling where they have no knowledge.” They don’t know what they’re talking about. Like unthinking cows or sheep, false teachers themselves make no positive contribution to society, except for dying and providing food. They don’t realize as they unknowingly teach others, they are instructing them to march into the eternal slaughterhouse. And as they do, they’re unaware they themselves are marching into the very same Hell.
Hence, the end of verse 12 tells us they will “also be destroyed”–they will not escape God’s future wrath. Peter has been reminding his readers in 2 Peter 2:1 to 10–just like the angels, the pre-flood creation and the Sodomites were judged, these false teachers will be judged too. Their actions will not go unpunished. They will certainly die, and here they will also be eternally tormented in Hell and separated from Jesus Christ forever.
Look at verse 13, “suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong.” Suffering wrong is not the best translation, since it might make you think it is wrong for God to judge them. The Greek word suffering means to be damaged, to be harmed, or to be injured. A better translation is “they will be damaged for doing wrong.” Peter is telling you they will reap what they sow.
Those who dedicate themselves to false doctrine, exhibiting a presumptuous animal-like approach to spiritual things, will certainly and eternally be punished for those sins. The Lake of Fire is where false teachers will forever endure the fury of God’s wrath, suffering wrong, being damaged, for playing loose and fast with Gods Word.
Second Their PARTYING Verse 13b
Why is Peter so pointed about the death and ultimate judgment of the false teachers? Look at their behavior. Verse 13b, “They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling [indulging] in their deceptions, as they carouse [feasting] with you.” Why should they be judged–is that fair?
Peter validates their eternal judgment by describing the graphic details of their lifestyle. These false teachers are even more immorally gross and defiantly deceptive than the unsaved pagan. Even the pagan world generally practice their perversion under the veil of darkness. But these pseudo-Christians, with their “God’s grace is a free ticket to sin” teaching were outwardly open about their sin without shame. They start their partying long before dark. As a general rule, your regular, every day, unsaved sinner tends to practice their debauchery at nighttime.
John MacArthur writes, “According to historians, pagan Roman society tolerated dissipation and revelry as long as it was discreetly confined to the cover of darkness. But it frowned on and disapproved of debauchery during the daytime when it could be viewed by everyone. Because of its public nature, such behavior was considered inappropriate, even by Roman unbelievers. Nonetheless, the false teachers of Peter’s day were so consumed with lust and greed they considered it a pleasure to revel in the daytime, not wanting to wait until nightfall.”
Peter is describing the corrupt lifestyle that frequently accompanies apostasy. Men like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker long ago demonstrated that people who abandon the knowledge of God and Word of God often become immoral, because apostasy will strip a person of all sense of impropriety and shame. Look at the end of verse 13. Peter says their passion for perversion makes these spiritual charlatans appear like stains and blemishes–describing filthy spots, defects, scabs, and all things diseased. They ruin whatever they touch.
Understand the tension these men live under and the choices they make. The apostate has two choices–he must change his way of life or adjust God’s Word–and he is not about to change his immoral lifestyle. So wherever he goes, he secretly defiles the truth in order to make it easier to continue in sin. That’s why it’s possible to belong to a church and become defiled by the teaching and the example of false teachers. You can’t remain in a church where heresy is embraced.
So Peter reminds his readers in verse 13, these false teachers are like infectious sores as they revel in their deceptions and openly enjoy the fruit of sin–they infect others like a disease. They infect others with warped thinking and a wicked lifestyle. Sounds bad–no, it’s worse. Get this. They were attending church and infecting people as they prepared for communion. The false teachers brought their lewdness into the church, purposefully choosing to carouse with the saints.
The word translated carouse means to eat together, or entertain together, as at a public meal. This reference is probably describing the church’s live feast, which accompanied communion in the Early Church. It was a full meal, like a potluck, where Christians who were better off could share with those who were poor. Apostates used the love feast as a time to display their wealth, while they sought to impress the ignorant who lacked discernment. They were faking their faith in Christ, and pretended to have a rightful place at the communion table, all the while polluting and poisoning true believers and destroying the make-believers.
The New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11 warns every genuine believer to make certain your heart is right before the Lord before participating in communion (you could die). Peter warns you here that false teachers will seek to deceive you, verse 13, “reveling in their deceptions.” Deceptions means to cheat or to give a wrong impression. Using false fellowship, religious jargon, praise for Christ, with slightly irreverent, party-like personalities, they will fake you out–only wanting you to embrace them and give credibility to their errant teaching.
They won’t look evil–they will look happy. They won’t act wicked, they will act fun. So God commands you to grow discerning and in 2 John, to turn away from them. To do that, you must understand . . .
Third Their PLEASURES Verse 14
Verse 14, “Having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained [exercised] in greed, accursed children.” Most false teachers have lost moral control–they are so consumed with lust, they can’t look at any woman without seeing her as a potential adulteress or fornication partner. Peter is describing their private life—what they are in secret, what they dream about. They don’t speak it, or always show it–but they live it out.
Matthew 5:28, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Their eyes are full of adultery. The problem is not that they notice beautiful women. The problem is they lust after every woman they see. They can’t stop lusting–they’re incessant with sin. They can’t stop violating God’s Word and Law and living contrary to God’s character. They’re so given over to lust, they can’t look at a woman without fantasizing about her.
Many false teachers are so driven by lust, Peter adds in verse 14, “never resting from their sins, enticing unstable souls.” This metaphor comes from fishing. They entice is to catch with bait–they are fishing. False teachers do not catch those strong in the Word, but prey on or entice the weak–mainly those close to faith. False teachers target the unstable–which literally means unable to stop, like young kids who can’t stop themselves. They are not set fast or not firmly fixed. They’re not cemented in God’s Word.
Ephesians 4:14 calls you to “no longer be children in doctrine.” Yes, be dependent upon your heavenly Father like a child, but do not be a child in truth. Sound doctrine is the only LASIK for your soul–you will only recognize error and identify false teachers when you wear the glasses of God’s Word. The Bible is the anchor which saves your life in the storm. These false leaders are fishing for unstable women in counseling sessions–then use every manipulative tool in their arsenal to pursue their lusts.
Peter further identifies these fake teachers in verse 14 with a heart trained in covetous practices—“a heart trained in greed.” That word trained is what a coach does to prepare his athletes. Sadly, false teachers have been coached by the evil one into how to manipulate others to give. These false teachers are so well-schooled in greed and lust, they make it sound like all they do is for Jesus Christ, but all they do is for themselves.
They’re greedy and trained on how to get others to make them rich. Plus they’re also trained in how to sway unstable women to satisfy their lusts. They are experts in greed and they are experts in seduction–trained by the coach of evil. Like the fly fisherman aims his disguised hook at certain pools and eddies in a river, these servants of Satan aim their greed and seductions at the unstable. They’re evil. They trick, they manipulate, they lure, they deceive. They target the unsuspecting and undiscerning. Like carnivores in the wild, these hidden predators hunt down the weak, sick and young, and the make-believer.
So Peter shouts at the end of verse 14, they are “accursed children”–a Hebraism for the curse of sin being the dominant drive in their lives, objectively affirming that they are damned to Hell for their blatant wickedness. Verse 14 makes it clear the apostates attend church gatherings for two reasons—1) to satisfy their own lusts, and 2) to capture converts to fund their cause.
The false teacher has a predisposition–their penchant is to act like wild animals. They’re unashamed of public sin and their secret pleasures of lust and greed are hidden. Peter does not want you to be like them in any way, but the main goal here is for every Christian and every church at all times to be able to identify them.
A Grow settled over what is RIGHT and what is WRONG
Christian love does not mean you tolerate every doctrine nor every so-called “lifestyle”. The Bible is clear–some actions and truths are right and others are wrong. No Christian whose on-going beliefs and on-going behaviors are contrary to the Word of God should be permitted to share in the Lord’s Supper, nor have a ministry in any church. That defiling influence will not be seen immediately, but like leaven, it will ultimately saturate the church and cause serious problems.
B Do not ignore SIN in your life
What kind of bait do apostates use to catch people? Later in this chapter, it says they offer church goers liberty. This is probably a perversion of the grace of God, like Jude 4, “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.” They will argue, “Since you are saved by grace, you have the freedom to sin. The more you sin, the more of God’s grace you will experience!”
Paul answers this false argument in Romans 6 with, “May that never be!” Friends, we must treasure the grace of God, but we must also take sin seriously. My prayer as you hear of the wickedness of the false teachers, you would run from your own sin.
C There is no FREEDOM outside of Christ
There can be no freedom or fulfillment apart from submission to Jesus Christ. The purpose of life is not to find freedom, but to find your Master. Just as a gifted musician finds freedom and fulfillment putting himself under a great conductor, or an athlete finds freedom placing himself under a great coach–all true Christians find freedom and fulfillment under the authority and leadership of our Lord, friend, and Savior Christ Jesus. Have you submitted your entire life to Him and His Word? All genuine Christians do. Let’s pray.