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Last week Peter told us that false teachers were animals, unreasoning animals that acted upon instinct rather than reason. They took pleasure in leading people astray and engaged in activities with people from the church that are contrary to the expectations for authentic followers of Jesus. This morning, Peter continues telling us just how bad these false teachers are.
2 Peter 2:14-15 says, “Having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. Peter continues to provide reasons that judgment is reasonable for these false teachers that support his conclusion in v. 12 that they will be destroyed. These false teachers have, “Eyes full of adultery.” It was Job that declared, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1) The false teachers didn’t do that, they looked at every woman as a potential participant in adultery. No one passed them by without a thorough once over. Their eyes, “Never cease from sin.” Have you ever heard a guy say, “I’m married, not dead.” Or, “Even though I’m on a diet, I can still look at the menu.” Jesus raised the standard of behavior from actual adultery to say, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28) It was David’s eyes that got him in trouble. Men are particularly susceptible to this, but the false teachers weren’t trying to not look. These guys were on the hunt. 1 Jo. 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” This is not how God wants us to behave. They, “Entice unstable souls.” This is really disturbing. Entice is a hunting term where the hunter uses bait to catch their prey. It wasn’t a fish or bear that was enticed, it was, “unstable souls” These were people that were not firmly grounded in the truth. They were easy targets for the false teachers whose goal was to lead people astray. Remember that Peter said in 2:2-3, “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.” They were bent on sensuality. They enticed people to live a life of sensuality without any thoughts of the judgment or consequences that were sure to follow. Think about it. You’re not grounded in the fundamental truth of God or His Word. Someone comes along and says, if it feels good, do it, nothing will happen! Remember they enticed, or lured unstable souls away from truth.
The false teachers have, “A heart trained in greed.” Trained comes from the same word where we get our word gymnasium. These people practiced at being greedy, they worked at it. They wanted the power, the prestige, the money, the lure of being on top. Their practice is now a full-fledged way of life. They are, “accursed children.” Literally, they are under God’s curse. The theme of judgment is brought to the forefront again because these false teachers deny judgment is coming. Peter wants his readers to understand the reality of godliness and refute the false teachers that were prevalent in the church.
Peter shifts again. The false teachers are, “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.” Forsaking means turn your back on, abandon, leave, or renounce. This implies they once had a real faith. 1 Jo. 2:19 tells us, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us.” Peter and John are talking about the same way. It is the right way, the straightway, the only way. These false teachers knew the right way and chose to depart from it. They chose to intentionally lead others astray too. What way did they choose? There are only two ways. One is the correct way and one is not. One is the right way and the other is, “The way of Balaam.” Balaam was an Old Testament prophet. He was not a true prophet, but a prophet for hire. Num. 22-23 tells the story of Balak hiring him to curse Israel. When you read the story, Balaam comes off pretty godly when he, “Replied to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God.” (Num. 22:18) But the real Balaam is revealed by John in Rev. 2:14, “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.” Num. 31:8 tells us that Balaam was killed fighting against Israel. The false teachers followed after Balaam. Balaam was not a man of the Spirit, but a man of the flesh just like the false teachers. He, “Loved the wages of unrighteousness.” He was motivated by his greed, just like the false teachers and that’s why Peter draws a parallel. They didn’t lead people to righteousness, but seduced, lured, and enticed people to follow a path that leads to death.
These false teachers that are so dangerous and so ungodly are motivated simply by greed. They are hucksters, snake oil salesman. Tit. 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” They must be confronted, rebuked, and corrected.