Recognizing False Teachers

Learning from the past for the benefit of the present and future.

Reading the Word

2 Peter 2:10–22 (ESV)

10 …Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Understanding the Word

2 Peter is written to address false teaching among these believers. Previously, Peter has warned that the false teachers would come and bring destructive heresies with them. These teachers would be motivated by greed. In the end, God would surely judge them for their deceptions.

Now, we get a more detailed picture of these false teachers. They are bold and willfully dismiss any authority, including angelic authority (cf. “glorious ones”). These false teachers are ignorant and indulge in sin while teaching others that to do so is part of the freedom they have through the gospel (cf. 2 Peter 2:19). They lead unsteady people astray.

Applying the Word

The Bible is an ancient book that proclaims ancient truths. When someone comes along with a “new” teaching it is time to be very careful. Chances are, if no one has said it before, it is for good reason.

In fact, not many things are new at all, even the things that are promoted as such. Most of these “new” things that we hear about are simply repackaged heresies from the past. They are things that previous generations of Christians have confronted and rejected. If we just take the time to ask “How have Christians responded to this teaching in the past?” we will avoid many problems. Unfortunately, many of us come from church traditions that think church history is referring to our parents’ generation. We have little or no knowledge of the 2000 years of Church history.

May we be students of the Bible and our Christian history.

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