Sometimes difficult things need to be said - in a spirit of love and grace, but without wavering on the truth.
I’m reminded of what Jesus said to Peter in John 21 - “feed my sheep”
Peter’s position as a fellow Elder/Shepherd in 1 Peter 5 - ‘Shepherd the flock of God among you’
He was given a tremendous responsibility to feed Jesus’ lambs.
Teach them sound doctrine, teach the whole counsel of God, instruct them in the way of righteousness.
Confront sin, even if it’s difficult.
There are some very difficult things to hear in the Scriptures - but we must submit to the Lord, commit to hearing from Him in His Word, and be ready to receive the whole counsel of God.
Before we begin looking at 2 Peter 2 this morning, I want to let you know the great sense of heaviness that is present in this chapter and the next.
There are many many statements condemning the character, practice, and doctrine of false teachers who were leading astray the sheep of Christ.
Primarily in chapter 2, with a few in ch. 3, there are 54 negative statements about the false teachers who are deceiving and distorting the truth of Christ.
I’m not yet sure how I’m going to work through the middle of chapter 2 - pray that I would be led by the Spirit of God to communicate the truth accurately, but also with the right attitude.
We must not adopt a prideful attitude or tone as we move into the rest of this chapter - and yet at the same time this subject requires firm words, conviction of the truth, and a steadfast reliance on the Spirit of God to guide and control as we come face to face with false teachers.
Some possible objections or challenges to Peter’s statements:
Why is Peter being so harsh?
Couldn’t he find a softer way of addressing these things?
Why does it matter so much to Peter?
Is it really that bad?
Maybe these other teachers just believe something a bit different?
There’s no need to condemn them so strongly and call them out like this.
Peter shouldn’t be so harsh -
Why on earth would Peter have such stinging remarks for these people who believe something different than what he does?
Isn’t that a bit narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful?
It’s instructive for us to be reminded of where Peter first learned how to be so dedicated to the truth and calling out false teachers.
Turn to Matthew 23:13-36 - 8 woes, pronouncements of judgment and condemnation against the Scribes and Pharisees who mislead the people of God with their false teachings
John the Baptizer - Matthew 3:7-12.
God strongly condemns those who misrepresent Him [PPT]
Review constraints on Prophets:
Deuteronomy 13 - must be in alignment with God’s revealed Word
Deuteronomy 18 - must only be words that God has instructed the prophet to speak
The punishment for violating either of these is execution
God strongly condemns those who misrepresent Him.
The Prophets were bound to the written and revealed Word of God, and only as they were submitted to the Word did they have authority.
Those who speak for God are held to an exacting standard
God carefully preserves the truth and clarity of His Word [PPT]
And in the New Testament those who are teachers are held to a greater judgment in regards to their teaching (James 3:1)
Just as God was serious about His Word, Name, Character, and Israel through the Prophets, God is serious about His Word, Name, Character, and the Church through the Apostles.
Warning - False Teachers Ahead!
Peter earlier addressed a challenge to his teaching on the power and coming of Christ - “you are following cleverly devised tales”
Peter’s answer is that he, James, and John were eye-witnesses of Christ’s glory, they have apostolic authority, and they have the prophetic word more reliable than all of that.
Peter is not able to say whatever he desires, but rather he is under the same constraints as the Old Testament prophets - aligned with God’s revealed written inspired Word, and not speaking their own explanation/interpretation of things, but speaking as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Now Peter is going to give a warning concerning:
the presence and character of these false teachers
exposing their practices and beliefs,
and then pronouncing the certainty of judgment that is coming upon them.
We must keep in mind Peter’s purpose statements for writing this letter -
2 Peter 1:12-15 - Remind you; stir you up by way of reminder; that you be able to recall these things to mind after his departure;
2 Peter 3:1-2 - Stir you up by way of reminder; remember the words of the holy prophets and the commandment of Jesus spoken by the Apostles.
Peter insists that his audience, and anyone else who would read his letter, be committed to growing in the truth (ch. 1) in order to identify false teachings (ch.
2) and look forward to the coming of Christ as He promised (ch.
Format - asking Peter/the text a question about the False Teachers, and then looking at the answer.
Six statements concerning the False Teachers
Where are the False Teachers?
There were false prophets among the people of Israel - the covenant community.
These are the people who had the very oracles of God, the very written Word of God - and yet these false prophets had the boldness and hardened heart to rise up and deceive the people of God.
Peter says that - in the same way - as it happened to Israel - false teachers will also rise up among the community of faith.
These are men and women within the churches, assemblies, homes, markets, villages who would rise up and be known for their deception.
The image of ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing” [PPT] is striking - this word picture encapsulates the deception, deceit, cunning, trickery, and boldness of the false teachers.
Jesus in Matthew 7:15 describes the false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing - and you will know them by their fruits - by their speech, words, teachings.
The False Teachers are among the Believers
This warning of Peter’s ought to be jarring and sobering
To realize that within the community of faith there can be those who would so distort the truth and mislead the saints -
and potentially mislead unbelievers even further into their unbelief
Just as Israel - the covenant people of God - were not exempt from the distortion and deception of false prophets, so too the Church - the body of Christ - is not exempt from the distortion and deception of false teachers.
Identity of False Teachers
6 different characteristics of false teachers
Though this part is going to be heavy and perhaps sobering to go through, it is necessary that we be aware of those who would seek to do damage to the flock of God.
1. “What is the tactic of false teachers?”
“introduce/bring in/bring in alongside destructive heresies”
bring alongside - this implies that the false teachers know the truth well enough that they can disguise their additional beliefs
these ideas/teachings are brought alongside and presented as compatible with the truth
but knowing full-well that they are not
Rather than being compatible teachings, these are ‘destructive heresies’
the verb form destroy has the idea of ruin, waste, annihilation
as an adjective, it describes the false teachings as those that cause ruin or bring about ruin,
‘heresies’ here is the word for a distinct set of beliefs held by a group/faction/party.
Putting all these terms together, we have beliefs that are alongside orthodox/correct teaching, but which are marked by ruin, loss, destruction
Teachings that are not in alignment with the truth but are cunningly/craftily devised or introduced to deceive
A teaching or belief that is not supported plainly by the Scriptures, but rather has to be imported/supported/carried alongside the plain reading of the text in order to get in the door should be immediately suspect
The perpetual virginity of Mary
The immaculate conception of Mary
Jesus is the firstborn in creation - first created one
The Prosperity Gospel - that God is intent on blessing you materially/physically if you will simply exercise some faith and send in your money to the wolves in sheep’s clothing
2. How do false teachers respond to Christ?
“denying the Master who bought them”
This is the same word that is used to describe what Peter did the night Jesus was betrayed
‘refuse, disdain, repudiate, disown, disregard, renounce’
This could be one of the destructive heresies/beliefs of the false teachers
1 John 4:3 “3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
This could also mean that by their lifestyle and practice they disown/deny the name of Christ
They deny ‘the Master who bought them’
This is redemptive terminology - related to the atoning work of Christ
No question who is being denied - but to what extent is Christ being denied?
Are these Believers who have turned their back on Christ?