Leroy Coote - 13/6/2021
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There are many dangers to God’s people in the world, both when 2 Peter was written and now. These include the influence of the world, the unholy behaviour of God’s people – the church – in the world. Another of these is the susceptibility of the church – God’s people – to false teachers and the number that drift away because of false teaching. In this chapter from 2 Peter, Peter has a good look at concept of false teachers in a number of aspects. Those aspects are:
· The method of false teachers from verses 1-3.
· God’s protection from false teachers from verses 4-10a.
· The character of false teachers from verses 10b - 16.
· The emptiness of false teachers from verses 17-22.
These aspects form my four points for today’s sermon and by the end of today’s sermon, I hope and pray that there will be enough reason for you not to follow false teaching but to also cement and strengthen your faith in Christ.
So let us start by looking at the method of false teachers which we find in verses 1-3 of 2 Peter 2. The false teachers place themselves among the people, which means that they will be in the world that Peter is writing his letter to. But more concerning for the readers of Peter’s letter in the church is the next line of verse 1 which says that there will be false teachers among you. This would have scared the people of the church that Peter is writing to because they wouldn’t have thought that the existence of false teachers was possible given the strength and foundation of Peter’s teaching. However, these false teachers were very sneaky because they introduced destructive heresies which even denied the Sovereign Lord. This is horrific and often it is based on human expectation which is always lower than God’s expectations. Lowering God’s expectations means denying the Sovereign Lord – which is not a good thing. Why? Because he bought them. He bought them with his life which, as we all know, he did on the cross for us by taking the punishment for sin – which we actually deserve. By denying the Sovereign Lord, we put God in second place which is where God is not to be if we are genuine believers in Christ. The result of that is that those who deny the Sovereign Lord will bring swift destruction on themselves. But despite the fact that they will bring swift destruction on themselves, there will be those who follow them in verse 2.
The conduct of false teachers is described by Peter as depraved. Depraved is a strong word and is used here with very good reason. The very good reason is because false teachers are evil and evil is anything that goes against God’s teaching and the effect of these evil false teachers is that they will bring the way of truth into disrepute. But deeper than that, their depraved conduct is driven by a depraved motive. That depraved motive is greed as mentioned in verse 3 because it is their greed that motivates these false teachers to tell fabricated stories – in other words – deliver fake news as to why they are worth following over Jesus. However, Peter reminds us that these teachers have had their condemnation hanging over them and that their destruction has not been sleeping. This means that God will judge them unfavourably when his Son returns to earth and we will look at that next week. In essence, those with impure motives will be judged, but prior to their judgement they will have potentially caused damage to the church because they would have swayed people away from the truth of the gospel. This places great importance on why we need to have a solid and firm biblical base anchored to the teaching of the Bible in our church and why it is encouraged that all people are a part of a bible study group so that they can get good biblical teaching which most of our groups get. This will also help us to discern whether someone is a false teacher or not because their motive will not be as pure.
Even though there are these sneaky false teachers around, God has shown through history that he has protected his people from them. We find this in my second point which is called God’s protection from false teachers which we find in verses 4 to the first part of 10. Through this section, what we find are examples of how God dealt with false teachers in the Old Testament and also how he protected those who were his – especially given that those who are unrepentant should know better. Who are those who should know better? The Angels. Now, I am not referring to the rock band of the 80s and 90s, but to the angels in the Bible. They should know better because angels are messengers of God. This is important to recognise because they should be delivering God’s message and not going against God. Hence the reason that they have been sent to hell and held there until the day of judgement when their separation from God will be confirmed. However, God also proclaimed his judgment on the ancient world as the people in Noah’s time were being awfully disobedient to God to the point that God had to act against them in Genesis 6 with the flood. However, God protected his own at that point being Noah and his family as well as two of each living creature – one male and one female. This is the point of the flood narrative as its shows that God will deal with disobedience to him aka false teaching in practice but also protect those who are his from his wrath. False teachers will receive his wrath and that also includes false practices that purport as church which includes tradition over the gospel which I have sadly seen in churches but never partaken in.
Peter also tells us that God dealt with the debauched cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by making an example of them. On the contrary, God rescued Lot from the depravity of the lawless deeds he heard and saw. Peter’s point behind these three wonderful examples of God’s mercy on these people was to show his readers that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials as mentioned in verse 9. Peter’s reasoning for this was to show his readers that God has a history of rescuing his people from false teachers over history. Not only that, but he also tells his readers at the end of verse 9 and the beginning of verse 10 that the Lord knows how to hold the unrighteous for punishment until the day of judgement and how he will deal with those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh. This means his message to the church is to stay with God and live lives that reflect thankfulness for what He has done for them in saving them which Peter spelt out in Chapter 1. God’s promise in this section is clear is that he will protect you if you stay with him and his teaching from the Bible as well as exercise his grace in our daily lives. In other words, God’s message to the people is this – stay with the truth, stay with Me and stay under my merciful authority because the other way brings condemnation from God.
Why should the readers of 2 Peter do that? It is because the character of the false teacher is not consistent with God’s which is my third point of four. We find Peter discussing this from the second half of verse 10 to verse 16. This flows from the fact that false teachers despise authority as mentioned in the first part of verse 10. And they do this because they are bold and arrogant as stated in the middle of verse 10 and the boldness and arrogance are displayed through the fact that they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings. This is a reference to the things of heaven. In a way, these false teachers think they are God. But despite the arrogance of the false teachers, they will still experience the judgment of God from God’s angels. In bringing God’s judgment upon these false teachers, the angels refrained from bringing abuse on them which shows that they did the job God called them to do of pronouncing judgement which is further emphasised by the fact that the angels do not retaliate to the abuse that the false teachers deliver. This shows that the character of the false teachers is against God’s. But their undesirable character is further exposed in verse 12 when we are told that they speak profanely about matters they do not understand without a care in the world. This is emphasised in Peter’s description of them in verse 12 which reads, “They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed …”.
The inference behind this is that they sprout whatever they feel like without fear or favour let alone care for all that they have done. These false teachers have no care for the damage that they cause people in leading them away from God which is in contrast to the wonderfully sound teaching of 2 Peter 1. However, in the end, we can be assured that God will deal with them because the end of verse 12 tells us that “like animals they too will perish.” They will also be paid back for the harm that they have done and are prepared to parade their sin to the world especially in protests around the world such as those who are for euthanasia which is effectively playing God. But the thing that stands out here in verse 14 is that they seduce the unstable. This is a dangerous characteristic in that these false teachers are able to identify the unstable. This brings out something that is important about our faith in that it needs to be stable. In this context, stable means to be properly grounded in the Christian faith and well anchored in your relationship with God so that you cannot be swayed at all by any form of false teaching that prevails in the world today and there is plenty which I am hoping none of you have fallen for. In light of this, it means that our faith continues to grow and does not stay stagnant. So therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, please stay with teachers whose character is consistent with God’s.
Why? Because there is depth in God’s character as opposed to the emptiness of false teachers which is my fourth and final point as shown in verses 17-22. In this section, Peter goes to great lengths to show the emptiness of these false teachers. In verse 17 he tells us that they are springs without water. In other words, they spout nothing. They deserve the blackest darkness more than likely because they have taken away some of Peter’s beloved flock. They also mouth empty boastful words that appeal to the lustful desires of the flesh. They prey on those who are escaping other things as well. They also promise freedom even though they are slaves of depravity which effectively means that they are slaves to sin and not slaves to God who gives us true freedom. In fact, they become slaves to whatever mastered them. And what is even worse in Peter’s eyes is the fact that some of these false teachers did at some point know Jesus as Lord and Saviour and have drifted back into the corruption of the world. Peter suggests for these people that they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. The real question is this though: Did they genuinely turn to Christ in the first place? And finally Peter is so disgusted by false teachers, we see these wonderful proverbs in verse 22 which say, “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” Again we are shown how much Peter despises false teachers. In the end, what we see about these false teachers is that their method involves dragging people away from the Lord even to the point of denying the Sovereign Lord. However, God shows us that if we stay with him, he protects us from these false teachers which he has shown through the examples we had from the Old Testament in verses 4-10. God will also deal with these false teacher on judgment day. The false teachers have character that is not consistent with God’s and their words are empty. You may ask why Peter has given these false teachers a right, royal serve. The answer to that question will be with us next week when Peter gives us the ultimate reason as to why we should stay on the side of God and that my friends, is a very good reason to join us preferably in person or if physically unable, please join us online.