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Last week Peter told us that false teachers and false prophets were already among us. They’ve introduced heresy into the church and they even deny that Jesus is the Christ! The best way to combat false teaching is to be a student of God’s Word. This morning Peter elaborates on what these false teachers do.
2 Pet. 2:2-3 warns us, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Now that is truly disturbing. Don’t underestimate the impact false teachers can have on a congregation, a Sunday School class, small group, or other teaching type venue. Don’t think, well they’re just one person. The wrong person in a key position can cause damage that is very difficult to repair. This can also occur in one on one relationships. Peter says, “Many will follow.” He’s talking about Christ followers. Not just a few people will be deceived, but many. False teachers are like an infection. Unless treated, their heresy will spread. You need an antibiotic to cure an infection. False teaching needs the antibiotic of Scripture. You don’t go around pointing out the falsities: that takes too much time. You simply speak the truth in love.
What are the people following? They follow after the sensuality of the false teachers. Sensuality means behavior completely lacking moral restraint. The false teachers embrace licentiousness – a license to sin. If it feels good do it, after all, everyone else is. Most people are glad to follow someone like that. So what happens as a result? Here’s the progression. A false teacher teaches something contrary to God’s Word. A Christian falls for the false teaching because they’re too trusting, too naive too gullible, too spiritually immature, or too ignorant to spot the error or too lazy to find out the truth. Acts 17:11 speaks about the Bereans that were more noble than the Thessalonians because they searched the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught lined up with God’s Word. You can’t know everything that’s in the Bible, but if you are an active student of God’s Word, you’ll know the character of God, you’ll have the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, and you will, at the very least, be able to conclude if something just doesn’t sound right.
That’s bad enough, but Peter says, “Because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned.” The way of the truth Peter refers to is the Gospel.
- In Ps. 18:21 David said, “For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.”
- Is. 35:8, “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.”
Scripture is filled with verses that expect holy living. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jo. 14:6) How can a life not be transformed by the power of the Gospel? It can’t and that’s why the world points out inconsistencies and contradictions in Christians. “The way of the truth is maligned.” Maligned and blaspheme come from the same word. Unbelievers see our behavior and conclude, “What’s the point of following Christ if we all act alike?”
What motivates these false teachers? It’s just one thing. It’s not a desire to selflessly shepherd the flock. It’s not a desire to see others live authentically for Christ. It’s not the desire for people to discover truth for themselves and then live a life that reflects the glory of God. In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko declared that, “Greed is good.” That’s the same motivation these false teachers have. When we think of greed, we tie it to money, but it’s also a desire for power, or food. The Scriptures are filled with warnings regarding teaching and money.
- Rom. 16:18, “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”
- Paul told Titus these rebellious men, “Must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” (Titus 1:11)
- Paul told the church at Corinth, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 2:17)
- The love of money is the root of all evil according to 1 Tim. 6:10.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” Their greed drives them to, “Exploit you with false words.” They’re snake oil salesmen. They make stuff up that sounds good, sounds spiritual, but is not consistent with God’s Word. They are present in the religious sphere today. Like David, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel among others, we ask, “How long will the wicked prosper?” Peter is clear, “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Don’t assume that since you don’t see judgment, God somehow approves of false teachers. A day is coming in which they will be judged. At the very least, they will be taken care of on judgment day. All their made up stories will be exposed, but it’s still best to be a student of God’s Word right now so you don’t fall victim to their slick words.
Don’t be fooled by people that will tell you what you want to hear.