Home » Various Sermons » False Teachers among the People: 2 Peter 2.1-3

False Teachers among the People: 2 Peter 2.1-3

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” – 2 Peter 2.1-3, ESV

In the beginning part of his letter, Peter called his readers to a godly life and to keep firm in the knowledge of Jesus’ Second coming, and in this second chapter he begins to explain why, for the false teacher had said there was no reason to live lives for God and the Second coming is iffy at best.[1] Peter’s words in this next portion of Scripture speak of the fallacy of the false teacher’s position, but more importantly the fallacy of their continuing to teach wrongly.  Peter warns them of the coming Judgment which unless they repent they cannot escape.  Basically, the false teachers are one shaky ground and unless they turn to God, their fate is sealed.

I would like note briefly that it is Chapter two which is often said to have borrowed heavily from Jude, but it should be noted that if Peter had used Jude, that it’s by no means a mere copy, he has as Leahy puts “adopted, adapted, added, and omitted,” and in essence, made its own account.[2] And besides if Peter drew from Jude (or Jude from Peter) there is nothing wrong with that, it would just show Peter knowing a good source to use for his current problem.

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” – 2 Peter 2.1

Throughout these beginning verses (that is 2.1-3) Peter seems to be speaking in the future tense, and yet at the same time he describes that the false teachers are already here, and it seems that what Peter is doing is alluding to the words spoken of by Jesus of these coming teachers as Matthew 24.11 states, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” Or as Mark recorded it (13.22-23), “False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.”

Simply put these teachers’ aren’t anything unexpected, thus God’s power, his rule is still here, even in the darkest of times we may be know that God is still Lord over all.  Moreover Paul does something similar in his epistles to Timothy (1 Timothy 4.1 and 2 Timothy 3.1 to be exact) both speak of future opponents, whose teachings are already affecting the church.[3]

The False teachers are likened by Peter as in the same manner as those false prophets which Jeremiah and Ezekiel had found that they must deal with.  That those are false prophets of Israel, is linked by the term, “among the people,” the people most likely being Israel as Peter will go on in his Epistle with more Old Testament illustrations.[4]

Jeremiah 5.12 “They have spoken falsely of the Lord and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine.” 6.14-15 “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.  Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord.” Ezekiel 13.10 “Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash,”).[5]

The problem of the false prophets arose early on in the Christian church, and Peter found he must deal with these teachers.[6] As already noted however the arrival of the false teachers is not something which should have been unexpected, since Jesus had predicted this.[7] It also seems that Peter wanted to remind his readers that just because one claimed to be a Prophet of God, did not mean that they were from God or that they spoke the words of God.[8] When we as the Church seek the things of the world, instead of the things of God the easier it becomes for false teachers to rise among us.[9]

It should be noted that what the false teachers did was done “secretly,” instead of outright denying the truth; they would teach that which appeared in line with scripture, though they would bring their own twist here and there.[10] It would have done them no good to speak of their heresy in outright form; instead the false teachers are a rather clever lot, appearing as one you should expect the right words from.[11] This part of the verse mirrors Jude 4 rather well, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

These teachers brought in what Peter called, “destructive heresies,” they taught falsehoods instead of the truth.[12] In particular Peter notes their Rejection of God, which will likely lead to punishment, something which is also expressed by the Psalmist.[13] “He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” … Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?” (10.11, 13), or (73.11) “And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

Moreover the destructiveness of their false teachings brings about more harm than this world can do, for it leads to also eternal destruction, as it leads away from God and toward Hell.[14] Their rejection is all the poignant as Peter describes them as rejecting Jesus as slave would reject his master, they’ve rejected Christ as lord over all.[15] The rejection can be seen by their ill conduct, the various sins which Peter lists in this chapter.[16]

But it should not be forgotten that promises that their sins will be punished and here he seems to be indicating the future Day of Judgment.[17] In this, one may be reminded of Jesus’ word in Matthew 10.33, “but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  If the false teacher would not repent they would find themselves in quite the predicament.

As in the times of Israel there arose those who contradicted the word of God, as this happened in the early church who too deal with the very same problem.  And, as there are those who still do the same thing; Peter words are thus still quite relevant.  It is easier for one to bring false teaching into the church than we would expect.  Since, so often the false teacher will say the things we want to hear, instead of that which we should hear.  One can merely flipped through the TV, especially on Sunday and see Preachers who speak of God as one who blesses and prospers you, forgetting all about the God whom we are told to Fear, because he is holy, and we are not.  And because there is a Judgment.

“And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” – 2 Peter 2.2

The second verse of the chapter begins with “Many will follow,” and it brings to heary the sad truth that more would wish to follow that easy broad way than the harder and narrower way.[18] As Jesus once said (Matthew 7.13-14), “”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  That they will succeed is again alluded in Matthew 24.4-5[19], “And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”

The false teachers, for their part, make it all the more easier for one to want to go on that broader path.[20] Peter wasn’t deluded enough to think, that only a few would be influenced by their persuasive message, but that many would follow.[21]

It would seem that to the false teachers, knowledge was what mattered, and thus how one lived wasn’t as important.[22] Their sensuality, or “shameful ways,” refers quite likely to sexual sin, and thus the attraction becomes all the more easy to see, for by following the false teacher one could do whatever and pleasure themselves however they wanted to.[23] Therefore, besides bringing in poor doctrine, the false teachers who Peter was warning about also brought with them in immoral practices.[24] Peter refers to their sensuality in plural form and this helps to point out that their sin MacArthur says, “came in many forms and extremes.”[25] In essence they “abandoned all restraint,” and have instead chosen to go their own way.[26]

Peter speaks of the “way of truth,” and this seems to indicate the “right doctrine” and the way in which the Gospel is to be presented.”[27] Their practices and their teachings thus begin to pollute, the “way of Truth,” in essence the world sees their sins, and then sees nothing different from Christianity and the world.[28] The way of truth has been “blasphemed,” or also “slandered,” or “defamed.”[29]

That is, as noted already, these false teachers would appear to be Christians, yet their conduct or their teaching would contradict this matter, and thus either people would see that their religion is no different from themselves, or those who were taught have been taught a false truth.[30] Instead of seeking to be like the false teachers we are to seek to be Holy as God is and to try hard not to tarnish the name.  As Paul once said, (Philippians 2.15)  “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,.”  And as Jesus once commented, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5.16)

Many will always try to follow that way that seems easier and less stressful, yet though they know it not, that way is false.  For while the way to God is the narrow and hard it leads to a life that more fulfilling and more rewarding, at least if not in life then at death.  The reason though that many people see a desire to what Christians have is how they live and act, this same reason is why many people do not want the Christian faith.  For they end up seeing those who claim to be part of the “way of truth,” but act like the word.  How we act and do things affect how people look at the way in which people look at Jesus.  With false teachers already messing with how people view our faith, how we act becomes all the more important.

“And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” – 2 Peter 2.3

“False words, or deceitful words, the false teachers have brought into the church false doctrines (i.e. that Peter and the apostle had taught the “clearly devised myths”), yet Peter accuses these teachers that they are the ones making things up.[31] These teachers desire more and more and thus their false words are motivated by their greed.[32] Their greed, exploits the readers, and with it is a connection of commercialism.[33] The false teachers in the end have only one goal, that being in which way that they might be able to fully profit out you.[34] The Greed which they have is the sort of “covetous desire” to have more and more and that which can’t be quenched easily.[35]

The teachers Paul dealt with in Timothy and Titus had greed as their motivator as well.[36] (1 Timothy 6.5), “and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (Titus 1.11), “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”

However, their sins are not unknown and destruction waits.  Yes, the destruction that awaits them appears to be on delay (as they seem to have argued), but Peter assures his readers that it is not asleep.[37] By saying their destruction is “not asleep”, or literally that it’s not “nodding off in sleep,” Peter is warning his readers and the false teachers that God is awake and sees their sins.[38] It is all too often that those who wish to impugn God’s name will say that he is sleep or not paying attention, but as Peter points out this far from the truth.[39] As the psalmist once said, (121.4), “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” And (74.22) “Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!”

Therefore, again it should be noted that Peter is likely referring to their future judgment. [40] (This is also partially seen by the Greek word used for destruction which is often used when referring to the future judgment).[41] Moreover, in the following set of verses Peter will elaborate, via the Old Testament how his readers can be sure that the wicked will be punished, while righteous saved.[42] Though they may be profiting now and see no danger up ahead, their punishment will come.

Greed so often fuels so many of the sins which we commit.  Desire leads down a dangerous path indeed.  It is easier than we think to fall into the sin of the false teachers, that desire to have more and more.  Moreover, Peter gives a stern warning those who would pretend to be of the faith, but teach wrongly.  Judgment is coming.  However in warning, Peter gives a chance for them to repent, a chance for them to recognize their error and turn from their ways.  He really leaves the ball in their court to do as they please.  However, sadly many choose the wrong way.

Conclusion:

That those who are teachers are wrong doctrines having a risen up should not be something unexpected to us, we should be ready for them.  Ready to meet the challenge they bring with them and show the world what the “Way of Truth,” really looks like.  As Peter has warned in his epistle, these teacher will do much that harm the way the Church looks, but that shouldn’t stop us from seeking to be Christ like in all that we do, and thus showing the world how it is we really should act.  Destruction is promised to those who don’t repent, however God in his mercy does allow them to repent.


[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, the New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 325.

[2] Thomas W. Leahy, “the Second Epistle of Peter,” in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1968), [NT] 496.

[3] Schreiner, 332.

[4] John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Peter & Jude (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2005), 69.

[5] Jerome H. Neyrey, “2 Peter,” in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1990), 1020.

[6] H.A. Ironside, Hebrews, James, Peter (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1982), 80.

[7] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James, Peter, John, and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949), 235.

[8] Schreiner, 326.

[9] MacArthur, 70.

[10] Barnes, 236.

[11] MacArthur, 71.

[12] John Phillips, Exploring the Epistles of Peter: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 259.

[13] Neyrey, 1020.

[14] MacArthur, 71.

[15] Ibid., 73

[16] Patrick A. Tiller, “The Second Letter of Peter,” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fourth Edition, eds. Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 2134.

[17] Barnes, 238.

[18] MacArthur, 76.

[19] Leahy, 496.

[20] MacArthur, 76.

[21] Schreiner, 332.

[22] David H. Wheaton, “2 Peter,” in New Bible Commentary, ed. G. J. Wenham et al., 21st century ed. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1392.

[23] Schreiner, 332.

[24] Leahy, 496.

[25] MacArthur, 77.

[26] Phillips, 260.

[27] MacArthur, 77.

[28] Phillips, 261.

[29] MacArthur, 78.

[30] Barnes, 239.

[31] Neyrey, 1020.

[32] Phillips, 261.

[33] Wheaton, 1392.

[34] Barnes, 239.

[35] MacArthur, 78.

[36] Neyrey, 1020.

[37] R. H. Strachan, “The Second Epistle General of Peter,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1983), 134.

[38] Phillips, 262.

[39] Neyrey, 1020.

[40] Barnes, 239.

[41] Schreiner, 333.

[42] Hartin, 802.

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