Fakery/counterfeit goods/scams/con artists, they can be found everywhere in the world: currency, documents, clothing, software, pharmaceuticals, art, etc. Just as it can be found everywhere, we shouldn't be surprised to find it IN THE CHURCH too! The trouble is we can be lulled into a false sense of security & forget that counterfeits can fool multitudes. And we can be one of those fooled too. The things we read, the things we hear on radio, see on TV... How to discern? How to avoid AND warn others?
False prophets are mentioned throughout the Bible: men claimed to speak from God when He hadn't sent them (Deut 18.20). In NT times, these men are described as:
- Deceitful masqueraders (2 Cor 11.13)
- devoted to myths (1 Tim 1.4)
- shipwrecked their faith (1 Tim 1.19)
- hypocritical liars (1 Tim 4.2)
- conceited, quarrelling, corrupted, greedy (1 Tim 6.3-5)
- ungodly, w/gangrenous teaching (2 Tim 2.16-17)
- lovers of themselves, disobedient,worming their way, depraved & more (2 Tim 3.1-9)
- ignorant & unstable (2 Pet 3.16)
- antichrists (1 Jn 2.18)
NB: Peter doesn't name anyone but gives details of the false teaching, not teachers. The teachers come and go, the teaching persists in different forms...
1. Know the Danger:
Firstly, let it be noted that the false teaching Peter is concerned about here involves a particular brand of sexual permissiveness (13b: “carouse”; 14a: “full of adultery”; 18: “lustful desires”), so there was a genuine moral concern as well as a theological one. But elements of what he is describing here are relevant to false teaching in general:
“among you” (1); “secretly” (1) “many will follow” (2) “exploit” (3) “to use selfishly for one's OWN ends”; “with stories they have made up” = as opposed to 1.16: NOT cleverly invented stories but eye-witnesses! “seduce” (14); “entice” (18). We think we'd spot them, but they exploit, seduce & entice... 2 Cor 11: Satan's ministers had invaded the Corinthian church; Jude 19: men described as NOT having “the Spirit”
Who do they go after? v14: “they seduce the unstable”; v18: “they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” - these false teachers here are particularly preying on the weak/the young... Remember they are sly, underhand, secret, seemingly innocuous...
They are often kind, friendly, fun, appealing... THAT's the problem. Remember, they convince MANY.
- Sensuality & Lust – see above!
- Greed (v3)
- Despise authority (v10) – there's a big obvious SIREN!
- Heresy & blasphemy – THE BIG ONE!!! - denying salvation in Christ alone (v1)
One symptom of false teaching is that it denies something fundamental (1b: They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them). To not deny but suggest fundamentals don't matter is just as dangerous... (Hear the audio for 2 examples of this)
Above all, the key to spotting false teaching is this: KNOW THE TRUTH. Anything else that isn't that, is FALSE... (1 Cor 15.1-2: “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.” Stand firm!) To spot fake currency, the experts look for markings of TRUE currency. All else is false.
See? The brilliance of the Gospel, of His Word is that we do not need to know all the signs of false teaching and spend all our time speaking against each individual instance. All we need do is KNOW THE TRUTH and anything else falls away, loses its power, is destroyed... So what are the signs of the TRUTH? = The Gospel: Jesus plus NOTHING.
Trinity = ever-existent, self-supportive >>> We = made male & female, made to worship, selfish, worshipped ourselves and things before Him, ruined it all; can't save ourselves: by grace alone, no works >>> Christ lived perfect & sinless as fully God/fully man & died perfect death in our place, bearing wrath of God and paying penalty for sin >>> rose again in victory >>> He opens our eyes to faith & submission >>> once saved, always saved >>> creation & relationship w/Him fully restored forever >>> by Jesus, through Jesus, in Jesus, for Jesus. That's the Truth. Add or take away, is false.
3. Know Him:
He will judge, not us. This whole chapter reminds us of that fact : 5 “if's” = v4: “if... angels”; v5: “if... Noah”; v6: “if... Sodom/Gomorrah”; v7: “if... Lot”; v9: “if this is so...”
Trust God and stick with the Truth. Do not fear man or people's thinking of you. Why do you come to church? To be tickled? To have an itch scratched? Or to truly grow? 2 Tim 4.3-4!
These men are described as dogs & pigs amongst the sheep (sheep = church).
Pigs = People can begin to get cleaned up but go back to the mud of the world.
Dogs (from Prov 26.11) = They vomit false teaching. Vomit from the pulpit, people eat it, go home, vomit it back up for others to eat. And so on. Sick (literally!). That's the point.
2 Cor 4.2-6 = all about Jesus! Need Holy Spirit to open our/their eyes to Truth.
Question for the week:
Think of examples of when you've realised something you've long believed to be true/doctrinally correct is actually not so. How did you come to the realisation?