DAY ONE: PETER WARNS OF DANGEROUS IMPOSTERS.
Peter wrote his second epistle with a specific purpose – to remind his readers of three important facts. His letter was written to encourage, warn and give hope. In studying chapter 1 last week, we discovered the first fact he wanted them to remember. He wanted them to know their salvation was sure. This was the encouraging portion of his letter. Now in chapter 2, he issues his warning. Peter’s letter takes a dramatic change in tone as he addresses the second fact he wants the recipients to know-deniers are dangerous. The second chapter of Peter’s second letter is devoted entirely to warning his readers of the danger of these evil men. As we study chapter 2 this week, we will gain helpful insights about these deniers or false teachers.
READ: 2 Peter 1:19-21 and 2:1-3
The first thing we learn is that these men are dangerous because they are disguised. Peter finished chapter 1 telling about God’s Old Testament prophets who spoke and wrote under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. Peter ramps up the intensity as he warns his readers about the presence of another type of spokesman, the false teacher. The fact is there have always been and always will be false teachers. Satan always has his counterfeits. These false teachers will use words that sound like they are speaking truth but they are not. They will appear to be Christ followers but they are not, and Peter knew this from first-hand experience.
READ: Acts 8:9-25
Peter had an encounter with a man named Simon the Sorcerer. Simon had practiced sorcery and had managed to garner a large following. When his followers heard the preaching of Philip and were converted, Simon also made his confession of faith. He even went as far as to be baptized. His words and actions made it seem, outwardly at least, that he believed and was saved.
However, Peter’s harsh words to Simon give every indication that this was not the case. The words Peter uses in his rebuke to Simon are strong words to say to a true believer. Simon’s response to these severe words of warning show he was more concerned with avoiding judgment than repenting and making his heart right before a holy God. Simon heard the gospel, saw the miracles, gave a profession of faith in Christ, was baptized, and yet was never truly born again. He was one of Satan’s clever counterfeits. He was a false disciple disguised as a true believer.
It is interesting to note that Peter was probably correct about Simon’s false conversion. According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary1, tradition alleges that Simon was foundational in starting and spreading Gnostic heresies. It also may not have been Peter’s last encounter with this false believer. It is thought that Simon traveled to Rome working against the spread of Christianity and when there, he challenged Peter to a miracle contest which he, of course, lost.
Peter warns that false teachers may be difficult to recognize. He writes, “They are among us” and they are dangerous because they are disguised. They will look like insiders, not outsiders. They will talk like us, act like us, and serve with us. They are clever and deceptive; they can be part of our peer group, sit in the pews with us and may even be preaching from our pulpits and yet not be truly transformed. We can recognize false teachers when they speak obvious lies and live an ungodly lifestyle. But when they look, talk and act just like us, it is then they are most dangerous. We must remember that light not only dispels darkness, it can attract bugs as well!
The tragic fact about many of these false teachers is that they are successful. They attract huge followings and can even lead large congregations. They can fill churches and stadiums. Many people do listen and will follow them to their own peril. These men are dangerously disguised!
If a hunter wants to be successful, he moves into the intended territory, camouflaging himself so as not to be detected in order to capture his intended prey. So it is with the false teachers. We need to be aware of their presence and their tactics so we are not fooled and caught by their very clever traps. Peter knew their tricks and he wants his readers to be aware as well.
- Read Matthew 13:24-29 How does Peter’s warning agree with Jesus’ teaching in this parable?
- Read Matthew 7:15-23; Acts 20:29-31; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 and Jude 4 What do these verses say about false teachers?
- Where do you see false teaching/teachers today? How prepared and alert are you to recognize false teachers in your midst?
DAY TWO: PETER WARNS OF DANGEROUS DOCTRINES.
After alerting his readers to the reality and presence of false teachers, Peter warns his readers of the dangerous doctrine they preach.
READ: 2 Peter 2:1-3
Once these evil men infiltrate our ranks by pretending to be one of us, they “secretly introduce” their false teaching. The literal meaning of this phrase is – to bring in alongside. To openly refute truth would expose them for who they really are. They are much too clever and deceptive to be so obvious. Instead, they simply lay the false alongside the true causing the unsuspecting to question and doubt the truth of God’s word. Peter explains they will exploit you with “stories they have made up” which literally means, fabricated words. The Greek word is plastois which is where we get our word plastic. Their doctrine is artificial not genuine, a cheap copy, not the valuable original. They speak deceptive words, words that can be twisted in order to mislead and confuse. Warren Wiersbe states that these “false teachers use our vocabulary but not our dictionary! 2”
READ: Genesis 3:1-4
False teachers use the same tactics that Satan used with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan is a liar and he misquoted God in order to deceive Eve. He questioned God’s word, “Did God really say,….” – then denied God’s word, “You will not surely die.” – and finally brought in his own lie, “You will be like God.” False teachers follow the same pattern. They try to get people to question God, doubt God and finally to disbelieve God’s Word and instead believe the lies they are preaching.
And that is the next thing Peter covers in his letter – the lies they are preaching. He not only warns his readers of the methods of these false teachers, he also warns of their message. He warns of “destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” False teaching will invariably deny who Jesus is. It is characteristic of every false religion. They can talk about God but they always miss the mark when it comes to Jesus. Christianity is about Christ and if we get him wrong, then nothing else is right. When Peter uses the phrase “who bought them,” he is actually emphasizing how they miss the mark when it comes to understanding who Jesus is. Jesus’ blood bought them but never saved them. Jesus blood “bought them” because it is sufficient to save all, but it is efficient only for those who believe. The false teachers had the blood available but refused its life-giving power. They admit Jesus died but reject the sacrifice, never applying it to their sin.
We can quibble over the non-essentials of our faith, but if it is salvation critical, it is non-negotiable. The inspiration and inerrancy of scripture, the holiness and sovereignty of God, the sinful depravity of man, the deity of Christ, the sufficiency of Christs’ atoning sacrifice, the wrath and judgment of God and the eternal destination of all mankind either to heaven for believers or hell for unbelievers are just a few of the truths false teachers will seek to deny and distort. We need to be very careful. Some of these heresies are very subtle. Their twisted truth can dangerously lure in the untaught and unsuspecting. We need to be prayerful and biblical about what we believe. We need to ask questions and compare what they say to what the Bible says. These men and the doctrine they represent are dangerous, actually fatal.
To spot counterfeit money, people in law enforcement study real, genuine paper currency. As people of God, we need to be doing the same. To spot false teaching, we need to be studying the real, written word of God. We need daily exposure to truth so we can easily recognize the twisted lies of the enemy.
- Read Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 119:9-16; Acts 17:10-11; l Timothy 4:15; 2 Timothy 3:15 What do all these scriptures have in common? What is your daily scripture reading/study plan? Do you have one?
- Read John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8 How do false teachers mimic Satan’s character?
- Read Matthew 4:1-11 How did Jesus handle Satan’s attacks? How should we?
DAY THREE: PETER REVEALS COMING DESTRUCTION.
We have learned that deniers are dangerous because they are disguised, they are operating among us, and they preach a doctrine of lies. Next, Peter tells us they are dangerous because they are doomed to destruction.
READ: 2 Peter 2:1-9
Peter assures his readers that these false teachers will not get away with their deceptive and rebellious ways. He almost overemphasizes this point as he uses words like destruction, condemnation, judgment and punishment ten times in this short chapter. The false teacher’s destruction is assured; they are condemned men. The judgment of God does not sleep and it is never late. History gives ample verification of this truth.
Peter lists biblical examples of God’s judgment, condemnation and destruction on those who choose to follow this path of rebellion. Verses 4-9 constitute one long continuous sentence, one of the longest in the Bible, and it clearly illustrates that God’s justice will prevail. Peter is so certain of their destruction; he gives us three clear examples.
The first example is of fallen Angels. It is unclear if Peter is referring to Lucifer’s fall and the one-third of the angels he took with him (Isaiah 14:12-15; Revelation 12:4), or to the sin of the angels in Gen 6:1-4*. Either way, they were condemned to “gloomy dungeons,” literally tartarus, which is a Greek word for Hell. The second example is that of Noah and the complete and utter destruction of the world by a flood. And lastly, he cites the fiery judgment that fell on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their ungodly living.
Peter, in selecting these examples, assures us the condemnation and destruction of these men is real and it is coming. If God judged rebelling angels, sending them to the depths of Hell, he will certainly do the same to these rebellious, sinful men. If God suddenly destroyed all mankind because of their refusal to heed Noah’s warning, he can and will suddenly destroy false teachers, even though it seems to be a long time in coming. And if God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, obliterating the cities to ashes, we can be sure God’s wrathful judgment on the false teachers will be final and complete.
However, amidst the gloom of destruction, there is the light of rescue. Noah and seven family members were rescued from the flood and Lot and two of his daughters were rescued from the fire. God is willing and able to rescue the righteous from destruction. In both these instances, God rescued the righteous just before his wrath fell on the wicked. God eternally saves all those who receive his righteousness by grace through faith. This truth should give every true believer comfort. God will eternally protect his own while every wicked false teacher and those who follow them are destined to destruction. They will one day face God’s final judgment, entering an eternity without God.
- Read Psalm 1:6; Proverbs 11:21; Galatians 1:6-9; and 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 What do these verses say about evil men?
- Read Revelation 20:11-15 and Revelation 21:1-4 How do are these two eternal destinies differ? How are they the same?
- Which one is reserved for you? Why? *There is not agreement among scholars on Genesis 6:1-4, whether it is speaking of fallen angels or sinful men. There are convincing arguments for both views.
DAY FOUR: PETER REVEALS IMPOSTER’S DEPRAVITY.
Throughout this second chapter in 2 Peter, we have learned that false teachers are dangerous. In this next section, Peter describes the corrupt character of these false teachers as we learn that they are dangerous because they are depraved, chronic sinners.
READ: 2 Peter 2:10-16
Having just written about God’s rescue of the righteous, Peter makes it abundantly clear that these false teachers are not deserving of God’s rescue because they were not saved and were clearly not living righteously! The apostles and true teachers of God’s word emphasized purity and clean living before a holy God. However, these false teachers by the way they lived promoted a self- indulgent, sin-filled lifestyle. Peter gives overwhelming proof to the depravity of these men as he graphically lists their habitual sins. We will focus on three that stand out – pride, pleasure and greed.
These false teachers were full of pride. Peter describes them as bold, arrogant and unafraid to despise authority. All authority is established by God, so in their refusal to submit to authority, they are refusing to submit to God. The word authority comes from the Greek word lord so in essence they were refusing to submit to the Lordship of Christ. In their pride, Peter tells us they even went as far as to slander and blaspheme celestial beings. This seems to be a reference to Jude 8-9 where Michael the Archangel refused to dispute with Satan over Moses’ body but instead allowed the Lord to deal with him. Even the great Michael hesitated to rebuke Satan directly. However, the pride of these false teachers knew no bounds because they were neither unafraid nor hesitant to speak accusations against more powerful spirit beings. It is a dangerous thing to trifle with Satan and power that is beyond our understanding, yet that is exactly what these men did.
The pride of these men leads them into sinful practices for the sake of their own pleasure. They don’t accept any type of authority except their own so they do as they please. Whatever makes them feel good is their mantra. They seek to please the flesh and to satisfy all of their lustful desires. Whether it is through gluttonous feasts or sexual immorality, Peter says there is no end to their sinful, pleasure seeking ways.
Finally, they are experts in greed, seeking only personal profit. Peter mentioned the greed of these men in verse 3 of chapter two. These false teachers were covetous and their intent was to exploit people for money. They are well skilled in how to motivate people to give financially. False prophets attempt to use religion to pad their own pockets and sadly, they are often successful. However, access to God and the blessing of God is never for sale!
Once again Peter turns to the Old Testament (Numbers 22-25), to give us the example of Balaam, a prophet who was motivated by money. He was hired by a pagan king to curse the Israelites. He knew it was wrong to cooperate with King Balak, but his desire for monetary gain won out. As Balaam traveled, God used a burden caring beast, a donkey, to rebuke this man for his greedy, sinful ways.
Peter has shown that their capacity and thirst for sin knows no bounds. Unfortunately, many people are lured into their trap and are hurt by their godless behavior. As they pass themselves off as Christians yet live such a depraved lifestyle, they cause immense damage to the true witness of the church. Peter wants his readers to understand the depth of their depravity and debased nature.
- Read Matthew 23:13-15, 25-28 How were the Pharisees in Jesus’ day similar to these false teachers?
- Read Numbers 32:23; Proverbs 29:16; Galatians 6:7-8 What do these verses say about sin and its consequences?
DAY FIVE: PETER EXPOSES SUBTLE DECEPTION
As we come to the end of our week, Peter gives us the final reason false teachers are dangerous. These men are dangerous because they are deceivers.
READ: 2 Peter 2:17-22
In these last few sentences of chapter 2, Peter writes a scathing indictment of these unbelieving, deceiving false teachers. They are deceptive because they promise what they cannot deliver. Peter describes them as “springs without water and mists driven by a storm.” In arid climates, water is a precious commodity. A spring normally has a continuous flow of water and a storm promises the coming of refreshing rain. In both cases one would expect the benefit and blessing of cool water. Peter states that these false teachers, however, are unable to deliver what is promised or expected. The springs are dry and the storm is nothing but a mist, so in each case they deliver nothing but disappointment. They do not have what they pretend to have and cannot deliver what is promised.
The false teachers also deceive by promising freedom while they themselves are still in bondage. One commentary described it like a “300 lb. man selling diet books,”3 they promise results but they are themselves hopelessly overweight. They promise freedom but they can’t deliver because of their slavery to depravity. No one can promise freedom when enslaved and in bondage to sin.
Not only do they promise what they cannot deliver but they are not who they pretend to be. As we have already learned, they masquerade as true believers but they were never true converts. Verses 20 and 21 can be confusing. These verses do not teach that these men were once saved and then lost their salvation because that is spiritually impossible. Scripture teaches and supports the eternal security of all those who have truly placed their faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. The thrust of these verses is they knew the way to salvation but have rejected it and now are worse off. It would have been better for them not to have known the way in the first place. Not only did they reject it themselves but encouraged others to do the same. They are truly deceptive, unsaved sinners.
Peter sums up these false teachers in verse 22 by describing them as dogs and pigs. They are not sheep for they were never truly saved. Pigs and dogs were considered to be the lowest and most detestable of creatures by the Jews. Peter chose these animals to describe these men who knew the truth but chose to turn away and reject it. Dogs can look clean on the outside but when they return to consume their own vomit, their filthiness is exposed. Pigs can be scrubbed to look clean on the outside but they cannot stay out of the mud for it is their nature to return. These men seem to be outwardly clean but consistently reveal a pattern of unclean living. False teachers are not what they appear to be and they inevitably return to what they have been all along.
We live in a world of fakes and clever imitations. We have fake diamonds, fake fur, fake fingernails, fake leather, fake hair and hair color just to name a few. These fakes are innocuous and not at all dangerous. Fake believers, however, pose a legitimate and serious threat to many. False teachers and what they teach are dangerous to the church and the body of Christ. We need to be vigilant, defending the truth of the gospel against this real and present danger.
- Read John 4:1-13; 6:35, 57-58; 10:10 How does Jesus truly fulfill what he promised?
- Read John 8:34-36; Romans 6:16-23 What does the Bible say about slavery and freedom? What enslaves you?
- Read John 6:38-40; 10:27-30 What does the Bible say about our eternal security? How secure are you?
Peter has written about the reality and danger of false teachers. The proliferation of these men and their erroneous doctrine has not abated over time. We must continue to heed the warning Peter gives to believers in this second chapter and be on the lookout for any teacher or teaching that does not stay true to God’s Word. May we be ever vigilant watching for these evil men, understanding the devious and destructive tactics they employ. These deniers may be cleverly disguised, teach dangerous doctrines, be morally depraved and cunningly deceptive but they are definitely doomed to destruction. It doesn’t matter how popular or intellectual they may be, or how logical and wise their teaching may seem, if it is not in keeping with truth it is wrong and deadly. Believer, Beware!
1. Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary, SP Publications 1983, p. 372
2. Wiersbe, Warren W., The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT; David C. Cook Publications 2007, p. 938
3. Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary, SP Publications, 1983, p.873
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