2 Peter 2:1-22 ~ "Dangers to our Faith"
Passage: 2 Peter 2: 1 - 22
On Thursday night, the Global News reported that Mayor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver, was appealing to those who planned to bring Franklin Graham to Vancouver to withdraw that invitation. “Franklin Graham’s values are not those of our city (or society)”
He was speaking even greater truth than he knew, for Franklin Graham’s values are not those of Vancouver or Mayor Robertson or any of the secular society who believe that their liberal inclusive view of the world is the true reality.
The world will never be favourable to the gospel of Jesus Christ nor to the Word of God. The Bible makes this abundantly clear in Romans 8:7 “the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
We cannot help but be aware in our day of the animosity that exists toward God and His Word and His people.
The first letter of the apostle Peter warned about the coming persecutions and the sufferings which Christians would go through. 11Peter 4: 12 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy”.
But in his second letter Peter has a different theme and a different warning. In this he warns about something that is even more insidious than outward persecution. The new danger he warns about is not from outside the church but this time it is false teachers and deceivers inside the church.
Tonight I want to speak to you about Dangers to our Faith which come from inside the professing Christian Church.
In the last 2 verses of chapter 1, Peter was talking about the writing of scripture and says that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The word of God was given by holy men of God, true prophets who spoke and wrote the very words that God gave to them,
But those who spoke God’s true words were not the only ones who sought to influence the people of God. Listen to verses 1 - 3:
2 Peter 2: 1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”
In direct contrast to those holy men whom God used to give us the Bible, he directs our attention to the false teachers who would speak as they are moved by a different spirit.
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them , and bring on themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1
So, right away, we have a statement of a major danger to our faith and I want you to note that this was right at the beginning, within the first century church. What was true then has been true throughout the years since and it is true today.
There were false prophets in Israel; there will be false teachers within the church. Two more things stand out in this verse: they bring in these destructive teachings secretly, and ultimately they will be seen to deny the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And this is fully in harmony with what is said elsewhere in scripture: Did not Jesus warn us “Beware of false prophets in sheep’s clothing...” Matthew 7:15 - 23
Again did He not warn us in the parable of the tares that “the Kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed but his enemy came and sowed tares or imitation wheat.” Matthew. 13: 24ff.
To the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul warned “... after my departure, grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves, shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:29
To the Corinthian church he wrote, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, and no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:13 - 15
We could multiply similar verses, but you get the picture.
In the early church, false teachers were already a problem, and yet they also served a worthwhile purpose, because virtually every New Testament letter to the churches or to individuals was written to warn the churches about the dangers of the Gnostics, the Judaizers and other false teachers. So in many ways we have our Bible as a direct outcome of the presence of false teachers in the church.
But, were those warnings only for those days or can we expect false teachers in the church today, 2000 years later? Surely we can expect to find even more deceptive teachers today than at that time.
- The Nature of these False Teachers:
Now if false teachers would only hang a sign around their neck with a big black “beware” on it, we would be able to spot them and avoid them easily. But since they are ultimately under the control of Satan who transforms himself into an angel of light, it is obvious that the church may have to be very alert to spot them.
- You have already seen that they bring in their teaching secretly
They say that even the cults do not have 90 % error and 10 % truth. Instead they will embrace a large proportion of truth, with a small amount of error mixed in. The truth allows them to proclaim that they are preaching from the Bible and that their teaching is reliable. I find though that we should be wary of Bible teachers who claim that their teaching is the only reliable teaching and that the existing churches are all apostate or in error. Along with this I would caution you to beware of the teacher who claims to have discovered some new truth that has been hidden from the church for all these centuries, and has been revealed to this person through diligent study or through direct revelation or by some other means.
It doesn’t take long to think of some of these does it? Joseph Smith of the Mormons; C. T. Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science; Herbert W. Armstrong of the Worldwide Church of God;
- These teachers will probably be very popular. v. 2
It is always amazing to me to see how easily people will swallow error and how difficult it is to catch their attention with the truth. But teachers of error will usually prove to be very attractive, personable, intelligent, authoritative people. They speak well. Usually they also write well, and their teaching is disseminated in articles and books which become very popular very quickly.
- 2 “Many will follow their pernicious ways because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
- These teachers will be covetous, greedy
- 3 “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words;” This does not mean just covetous for money, their first desire is for a following, for a multitude of people who will hang on their words and proclaim them the true teacher. Without doubt they covet power and influence. And along with it they will probably also covet money and wealth. All we have to do is look to many of the televangelists, many of whom have now been discredited, but many still exist and others are rising to take the place of those who have fallen.
- These teachers are also spoken of as despising authority v. 10 - unwilling to be accountable to anyone, so therefore it will be noticed that they often start their own organizations, and appoint their own Boards who are favourable to their teaching.
Look at verse 10 “especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,”
Again, they are described as “having eyes full of adulteries, who cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls.” v. 14 and having “hearts trained in covetous practices and are accursed children. 15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
As I said when you consider these characteristics, you would think that they would be easy to spot, but not so. It appears that people are naturally attracted to these types of personalities -those who are flamboyant, sure of themselves, and yet appear so sincere, so compassionate, so concerned for the well being of all those people who need their teaching and who send them money. Oh, yes, and they have such wonderful organizations which are taking the Word of God to all those poor people in other countries who so desperately need their help.
They are attractive not just to non Christians - in fact it is not non Christians they really target. Just think of the multitude of dear faithful believers who were taken in and faithfully sent money to the televangelists in exchange for books, and prayers for healing, and prayer cloths and dozens of other gimmicks designed to separate the gullible saints from their money.
Dear ones, even today I caution you to beware of the people you see on the T.V. who seem to have these great ministries. There are some truly fine preachers of the Word of God on T.V. but not all are what they seem. Many of them for instance promise you prosperity and claim that the Bible is just full of promises to those who give their money to support these great causes. Beware, dear ones.
- These teachers are ultimately found to be empty shells with nothing to say, but nevertheless, extremely dangerous.
17 “These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling word of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption;... for if, after they have escaped the pollutions of this world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” v. 18 - 22
- The Exposure and Punishment of these False Teachers
Be not deceived: God is not mocked, and yet for purposes known only to Himself He allows these false teachers to operate often for a long time before they are finally exposed. But in the end God will punish all such,
See the examples found in this passage:
- Three Old Testament Examples
- The angels who sinned; 2. the ancient world before the flood; 3. the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
4 “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
5 and did not spare the ancient world,... bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
These verses make it very clear that God’s judgement has been expressed in the past against activities that violate God’s will. We are living in a day when even the idea of God and His righteousness has been rejected. Secular humanism, having rejected any Biblical standard, has to make up its own standard, based on the shifting sands of human opinion, and then they insist that we want a tolerant society, and inclusive society. Then, in the process they shift the blame and declare Christians and the Christian church to be intolerant if we dare to criticize the politically correct standards of worldliness. The world then creeps into the church, and leads so called Christian denominations to embrace these same standards.
I came out of such a denomination over 50 years ago, but I have watched many of those same standards creeping into the evangelical churches as well. I have said that many evangelicals are following down the same track as the United Church 50 or 60 years later. It is not totally surprising that those who want to hold to the Word of God and its righteousness will find ourselves at odds with some with whom we don’t want to be at odds.
Notice also the evidence of God’s protection of some righteous people in the midst of this destruction: but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness,...7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) (Personally, I have always marvelled that Lot is included as righteous, but it encourages me to know that God knows the true heart and judges according to His own knowledge.)
Noah and Lot as examples of the truth that “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgement.
Throughout this chapter you get the picture of the destruction hanging over the heads of these false teachers all the while they are seeming to make great gains, and exercising great influence.
And so it is today. God has not changed. For purposes known to Him He allows Satan to send forth his agents of deception with their large organizations, their slick television shows, and their attractive books, their videos and their web sites, their special appearances attracting thousands. Many of them may have started out as seemingly genuine believers with great gifts before they got drawn aside by money and power.
This is exactly what is said about the Lord Jesus. He is sifting the wheat from the chaff; he is sifting the true believers from the false believers.
As John t6he Baptist said of Jesus, Matthew 3:11 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
He is also delivering true believers who have been caught up in false teaching but are led to understand and embrace the truth. Such a one is Pastor Terry Roth who was a pastor in Herbert W. Armstrong’s World Wide Church of God. When that organization came apart at the seams, Terry tells me he was helped to search out the truth and was delivered from that error. For years, Terry has been a faithful servant of God who has served as interim pastor of First Baptist Church and has served in many churches in this area.
Be assured, God has not gone to sleep. God is aware of every false teacher in whatever place they may be, and God will hold them accountable for their words and action. Many of them end up being exposed and discredited at last in this world, but every one of them will face God in the Judgement in the next world. Of the Pharisees, who loved the applause of men, who loved to be seen praying in the street corners, and love to be seen fasting and in other self proclaiming things, Jesus said, “They have their reward.” Yes, right here on this earth in the applause of men they have all the reward they will receive. In the Judgement they must face a holy God and face His wrath.
- A Final Caution:
All of this may still seem as though the false teachers are somehow “out there” and unlikely to have any influence within the churches that we know, but surely it should be obvious that this is not necessarily so. Our pastor made this very clear in his message from Matthew 24:9-14 ~ "The Growing Weight of Apostasy".
A Pastor has a God given responsibility to guard his people and to warn them of hidden dangers and I am thankful for a pastor who takes that responsibility seriously.
It is not new. It was already taking place in the first century church and the warning was given about what to expect in the future.
Galatians 1: 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed
1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
2 Timothy 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
So Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
So Mayor Robertson says that Franklin Graham’s values are not the values of Vancouver, and many religious leaders including some evangelicals signed a letter to that regard.
We may not agree with Franklin in every point either, but we take our stand not on the words of any man but on the Word of God.