God’s Word for You
2 Peter 2:1-3 False teachers will come
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 9, 2022
In chapter two, Peter turns entirely to the subject of false teachers. Throughout the chapter, the reader is invited to pay attention to the many uses of the future tense. Peter warns about what is coming. Later, Jude would take up this chapter and in many cases, simply change Peter’s future to a past tense, as the danger had already arrived.
2 There were false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
After talking about true prophecy, Peter warns about false prophets, for the devil always wants to distort, corrupt, and destroy whatever God has made and accomplished.
The most important of the dangerous teachings is “denying the Master who ransomed them,” which attacks the entire doctrine of justification by faith through grace. For if Christ did not pay for our sins, what value was the price that he paid (his life, his breath, his blood)? “If Christ has not been raised,” Paul writes, “then you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). False teachers have many ways of denying this. The obvious one that even children can see and reject is denying that Jesus ever lived, or denying that he was God, or anything along those lines. The ancient church had to deal with those heresies from time to time. This is why we maintain the historical line in the creeds, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate,” so that we remember that these things actually happened at a certain moment in time, two thousand years ago, among living, breathing human beings who witnessed it all.
A second teaching, more insidious and harder to catch, is when a church that calls itself Christian wants to make Jesus out to be some kind of good start to our salvation, but then they teach that man must do something to complete his work. Whether we call this Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism or something like that, it has infected the whole Roman Catholic Church, although many of the blessed people in those pews don’t catch it, and still trust in Jesus over all. There are even priests who admit that they tell their people to put all of their faith in Jesus alone, especially in their last hours. Those priests are closet Lutherans, or more clearly, closet Christians, who reject what is false and hold on to the truth, holding it out to their flocks, at least in the end.
“Swift destruction” is Peter’s way of talking about Judgment Day. It won’t get dragged out for weeks and months of trials and counter-suits and legal trickery. The devil will go first, and then all of this followers, with no one to defend them and all of their personal sinful acts to accuse them. There is no other verdict than “guilty.” And since they have rejected God’s grace, there is no other sentence than swift condemnation into the everlasting fires and agony of hell.
2 And many will follow their indecency, and because of them the way of truth will be slandered. 3 In their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation was announced long ago, and it has not been idle. Their destruction is not sleeping.
False teachers do nothing but exploit. Their goal is to make money off of the poor, no better than a robber, a “foul thief who fleeces poor passengers.” And yet they are worse than any ordinary robber or thief, because they disguise their greed with words like faith, gospel, heaven, righteousness, and holiness, all for the lining of their pockets. I know of a church of another Christian denomination than ours and in another state, where the pastor made arrangements for all of the church’s money to be sent into a bank, in the pastor’s name, in another state. Then the pastor quit the post, moved to the other state, and has all of the money. To this day, that church is confused and mostly duped by that grifter who did nothing but steal from them. But they don’t want to say anything, because they think that the thief was somehow right. What a merciless, ruthless theft! Only a true servant of Satan could do such a thing, and that’s what that pretend preacher was. A Christian writer in the second century said: “They are merciless to the poor. They are reckless with evil speech. They don’t know the One who made them. They are abortionists, corrupting God’s creatures, turning away the needy… altogether sinful” (Barnabas 20:2).
The most common attack of the unbeliever is the legal strategy known as the Straw Man. They set up a false or misleading scenario of their own invention, like a straw man or a scarecrow, and then easily tear it apart because it has no defense at all. This is often what it is to be exploited with false words, since the poor Christian is too shocked by the seemingly triumphant victory to realize that it was all based on lies in the first place. A colleague and friend of mine teaches his classes: “The one who defines the terms controls the argument.” If an honest believer allows an opponent to begin a conversation with “You Christians say such-and-such, right?,” he is being set up for an attack that will be based on a false premise. Let us talk rather of the grace of God and the victory of Jesus on the cross. Let us refer to the more than five hundred witnesses that saw him after his resurrection, and of the undisputed proclamation of the resurrection even after his ascension into heaven. Who, of all the Jews and Gentiles in the book of Acts, ever says, “I don’t believe anyone could rise from the dead”? Not one. They might try to scoff or mock, but there are no open denials. They only talk about it with wonder (Acts 17:32, 25:18). Paul says, “This is what we preach, and this is what you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:11). The inviolable statements are the cross and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and faith through him. Hold dearly to your faith, not because your faith is strong, but because you and I are weak. It is Jesus Christ who is strong, and he is the one who holds on to us. He deals with us in his patience and his abundant mercy, and he will not let go.
Pastor Timothy Smith