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Last week it took a donkey speaking with the voice of a man to get the attention of a false prophet. Balaam may have been spared with the help of his donkey, but in the end, judgment came when he was killed fighting against Israel. The hopes of people that listened to the bad teaching of the false teachers that promised water for thirsty souls were left dry, discouraged, and empty. Peter revealed their true, ungodly character and shifted to the affect the teachers had on others by comparing them to springs without water and mists driven away by storms. This morning, Peter continues with the adverse affect these people have on others.
2 Pet. 2:18-19 says, “For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
Listen to how the false teachers talk. They are, “Speaking out arrogant words of vanity.” Remember Peter earlier described them as daring and self willed. He’s expanding on that idea. They’re arrogant – they think very highly of themselves. They’re talking with words that make them sound important. It’s like they enjoy hearing themselves talk. Have you heard the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” It comes from Pro. 17:28 that says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” Not these false teachers. Their arrogant words are, “vanity.” They’re empty. They talk for the sake of talking while saying little of substance.
And here it is again. “They entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality.” The false teachers say there’s no judgment for sensuality so it’s okay to give in to those fleshly desires. Remember the meaning of entice. They’re using bait to get unstable souls to bite. They’re trying to trap people and it’s not by accident. They know the pull of the world and all that it contains, but Christians are supposed to resist the pull of the world. We’re supposed to be different, we’re supposed to be pure, and holy, and righteous. We’re supposed to have moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These are the qualities that are supposed to set us apart from the world. But these false teachers are luring others from the truth, from the straight and narrow path, from the way of truth.
Who are the targets? “Those who barely escape from the ones living in error.” The English translation of the Greek here is somewhat difficult. The word barely should likely have been translated “just” or “recently.” In the N.T., error in this context typically means unsaved. The ones living in error are lost people. In essence the false teachers target recent converts to Christ. They do it in two ways: with their arrogant words and their encouragement to indulge the flesh. They are full of confidence in what they say, but Peter declared it was empty talk. We see this today. People declare the Lord leadeth, yet if they allow you to press them, which many won’t; their strong conviction comes up shallow. If the Lord really is leading you to do something, then have the courage and confidence to say it’s Jesus. Don’t go slinking around, don’t be deceptive, don’t lie. I’m amazed at the people that say these type of things that in the end are just doing what they want to do and don’t want anyone to question, confront, or challenge them. You can see how vitally important discipleship is. Without a firm foundation, the building collapses.
Here comes the hollowness. “Promising them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of corruption.” Have you ever heard the phrase, “Physician, heal yourself?” It means take care of what’s wrong in your own life before telling others how to live and it comes from Luke 4:23. These false teachers were attempting to provide hope to recent converts while they did not know the hope themselves. They are, “slaves of corruption.” This is hypocrisy at its fullest. They promise freedom, but they deliver slavery. “That the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) They deliver the opposite of what Christ promises. Over the course of our Christian walk of faith, we’re to become more and more like Christ. We were slaves of sin and became obedient. We were freed from sin to become slaves of righteousness. They taught no judgment; they denied boundaries, but God’s Word provides us what we need to know. Romans 6 is very clear regarding the Law verses grace and I encourage you to take the time to read and understand this pivotal chapter. Peter’s conclusion is found in v. 18: “For by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” The false teachers were motivated by greed. Greed controlled their agenda, controlled their desires, and controlled their actions.
You can apply this principle to most everything. When boundaries are not established and adhered to, most anything can become sinful. As we’ll see in the next couple of verses, there is a way to victory.