1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (ESV)
2 Peter 2:1-3
They Are among Us, So Take Heed
One of the great things about arcing is that it forces us to slow down in the thought process, and it disciplines us to ask questions that might easily go unasked – but once asked can produce not only insight into truth, but a full sense of the weightiness of that truth.
2nd Peter 2:1 is an excellent example of this. We are told, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” At first this looks like a simple comparison–-comparing two things that have one obvious major commonality (the false teachers and prophets are, well, false). But upon looking closer we will find that the two things being compared are actually so similar that they can be considered to be the same thing. The false teachers are not like false prophets just because what they teach is false; they are like them primarily because they arise from within the congregation of the godly. They are like them because they lack divine authority, and because they deny the one to whom they owe allegiance. They are like them in that they ignore God’s warning of impending judgment, teaching others to follow them in peacetime sensual indulgence. They are like them in that they will most certainly be condemned (along with their followers) by God.
When you look carefully at false teachers from the aspect of being the heirs of the false prophets, the real danger they pose becomes evident. False prophets led Israel into idolatry, prostitution, injustice, murder, and oppression – and brought the full weight and condemnation of God on the people of Israel.
False teachers put people in danger of eternal condemnation. Even more than that, though, is the damage false teachers do to the reputation of God. Just as false prophets led to the name of God being blasphemed among the nations (Is. 52:5), so do false teachers lead to the nations condemning the gospel. False teachers paint a picture of discipleship that glorifies sensual indulgence (in all of its many forms) in this life, and therefore leads to a church that outdoes the world in its worship of the creature over the creation. God is belittled and trivialized – and therefore blasphemed.
It would be easy to move from here to a condemnation of the various false teachers we are subjected to in our own time, such as the seemingly ubiquitous peddlers of prosperity, those who would compromise Biblical authority on issues of human sexuality, or liberals who deny the full authority of scripture. But a more fruitful exercise would probably be to examine how our own hearts are drawn to the sensuality that produces false teachers and their followers. False teachers did not just barge their way into faithful congregations from the outside – Peter warns us, just as Paul warns the Ephesian elders, that false teachers will come from within these otherwise faithful and healthy churches. That is why we must take heed for ourselves. Do we take seriously the coming judgment of God? Do our teaching and lives reflect a hope for an eternity with God as our ultimate lasting treasure? Are we continually paying attention to the scripture, and letting that shape how we think and feel and live? Are we open to the loving admonishment of fellow believers? Or is our understanding of the scripture shaped by our hearts’ unredeemed desires and the prevailing attitude of the culture?
The warning against false teachers is not merely a call to contend for orthodoxy against those who have obviously left it – it is a call for us to “be all the more diligent to make [our] calling and election sure”, to take hold of the “precious and very great promises” of the Gospel and pursue God with passionate vehemence.
(This was originally posted on the Biblearc blog by Andrew Bywaters on September 10, 2015.)