Grab your bibles and turn with me to 2 Peter 1:19.
2 Peter 1:19-21 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
No prophecy, authoritative teaching, nor representation of God’s word is every produced by the will of man. The only word of God that we have today that is true, and is actually God’s word, is the Holy Bible. It is the divine canon of Scripture that was penned by the human authors of God’s choosing and was made exactly what God wanted it to be by the fact that those men were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Praise God we have His word to study and grow in our understanding of Him. Praise God we don’t have to guess at what is true and what is not. Praise God we can determine false teaching and false prophets by holding up what they say to the word of God. So, when Peter says that we have God’s word given to us from God, we can be confident in this.
2 Peter 2:1 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.
This is a great opening for where Peter is going next in his letter. He is saying there are others who will speak destructive heresies we are to watch out for, identify, avoid, and of which we are to warn our people. He is going to talk about the kind of false teachings and beliefs that spew toxic advise and how people can get caught up in them. He is going to talk about the destruction these teachings will bring upon them. Peter focused so much in chapter 1 on the truth of God, because the best way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real thing.
This is an important thing for us to understand in today’s day and age. We live in an era whereby people are taught to be open to others’ ideas and views, to go so far as to embrace what the culture or authorities of man declare as right and good. But, as citizens of God’s kingdom, adopted children of God’s family, and as slaves of God who is master, we are to be in tune with, and obedient to, one authority that for us is far above all the rest. We are to be submissive to God and not try to add man’s ideas to God’s and blend them into a tolerable cocktail that aims to make everyone happy. God is not in the make-everyone-happy business, God is in the receiving-glory business, because He is God and He is due all that is His.
God is preparing some for destruction and some for victory. God is instructing His children to hold fast to His word and to deny false teaching. Today we hear Peter help us understand God’s work and views on these matters. So, as you study with me, I plead with you to fight back what you have heard logical, smart, crafty men say. Fight back what you have personally believed or preferred to value, and cling to what God says and what God values. So that we may be an exile-people who faithfully and fully live to glorify God through lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John Piper said this, and I agree, “2 Peter 2 is aimed at keeping me from being a heartless pastor. It aims to keep me from playing games in this pulpit. It aims to keep my sermons from dissolving into pep-talks about the power of positive thinking. It aims to make me earnest about my calling and angry about false teaching and grieved over the destruction of the ungodly.”
Please pray for me and pastors like me, and I will pray for you, that we will be aware and not shy but vigilant in identifying, avoiding, and warning of false teachers. There is just too much at stake. Ok with that, let’s really dig into this passage.
Verse 1 has a lot of importance within it, so I want to dig into it, and break it apart, well for us today.
2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people …
A false prophet is defined as a person in Old Testament/Covenant times who claimed to authoritatively speak for God, as a prophet of God, but they spoke falsely; they were not true prophets.
You could say a true prophet of God is a truthteller. Therefore, a false prophet is a liar, or a manipulator of truth, for another agenda or aim other than truly honoring God.
God speaks of the false prophet in Deuteronomy 18:20.
Deuteronomy 18:20 “‘But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’”
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
Next, Peter affirms that there were many false prophets to contend with in the Old Testament, but here he introduces a new kind of manipulator called a false teacher.
2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, [this is a reference to what was] just as there will be false teachers among you, [this is a reference to what is] …
A false teacher is defined as a person who claims to teach the truth of God but teaches it falsely and twists the Scriptures with the aim of self-benefit or to lead others towards another gospel.
What he is doing in this is widening our eyes to the falsehood for which we are to watch out—not just those who are claiming new revelation as the authoritative word of God but anyone who teaches falsely about God’s word or ways. Now, Peter introduces a certain level of false teaching here called “heresy.” Look with me.
2 Peter 2:1 … just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies …
The King James Bible says, “damnable heresies.” No doubt heresy is something to take very seriously.
A heresy is defined as a false belief or false doctrine that goes against Scripture, usually leading to destruction, damnation.
It is good for us to understand the difference between heresy and error.
An error is a false belief or doctrine that goes against scripture not leading to destruction.
So what Peter is referring to here is false teaching that includes heresy. To be clear, heresy is such an error or an offence to God that that causes someone to believe in another god or another gospel. A true Christian cannot afford to form his or her own beliefs apart from God’s holy word. We must have a right, biblical understanding and belief in the core tenants of the Christian faith, or we prove to not be Christians at all.
Why is it important that we identify, avoid, and warn of heresies? Because of the level of their destruction. There is just too much at stake to ignore these warnings Peter is giving here in 2 Peter 2; it is a matter of life and death. You are either promoting life through biblical truth or promoting death through manmade heresy. This is why it is damnable and falsehood that leads people to destruction.
Imagine you and your family are in a concentration camp and you are literally dying. You are desperate for a savior, desperate for a way out, and along comes two voices. One says, "Do this and go this way,” and the other says, “Do this and go this way.”
One is a heretic lying to you about the truth of freedom and sending you on a course to destruction. The other is telling you the truth and pointing you to the way of freedom and new life.
If this life is a concentration camp, then being keen to, and knowing the heretic from, the truthteller is of vital importance—not only for us but for those that God puts in our path.
Peter is saying, “It is really important to know these guys and what they are teaching and to be able to identify it, because their false teaching and heresy leads to swift destruction.” Look with me.
2 Peter 2:1 … 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.
What Peter is saying here is that those who are in the church or claim Christ and claim to be a part of the church, but are teaching falsely and bringing destructive heresies, end up denying the Master.
Now the phrase, “the Master who bought them” is very problematic if you read this, or understand this, wrongly. Peter says multiple times in this letter that these false teachers are destined by God for destruction. So, we know that these are not saved and then somehow got out of God’s saving power to be destroyed. But, some try to imply that these false teachers were part of those that Jesus paid for on the cross with His blood.
This would go against the rest of scripture that makes it clear that Christ’s redemptive work on the cross was only for those God destined to save.
Without boring you with a bunch of the debate over this verse, I will cut right to the chase and say this. Peter is saying that these false teachers, who are in the church and are claiming to be a part of the church like they are bought and in-the-family, too, but in the end prove to deny the Master who bought His kids, bring upon themselves swift destruction. In my opinion, this fits the context of what Peter is saying about these false teachers the best. But there is another popular understanding of this based on how the word “Master” and “bought” are used elsewhere in the Scriptures.
Despotes, the word here for “Master”, is used about thirty times in the whole of Scripture—twenty times in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament and ten times in the New Testament.
The dominant use of the word despotes in both the Old and New Testaments is as one who is “absolute sovereign.” Another way to say this is that God the Father is “sovereign Lord” and owner/ruler of each member of the human race.
It is also important to highlight that the term “bought” (agorazo) in the New Testament is most frequently used in non-redemptive contexts. When it is used receptively, there are specific clarities that are absent in 2 Peter 2:1, mainly the additive of a purchase price.
Both contexts of the letter Peter is writing, in reference to “them” here being the false teachers destined for destruction and the fact that the term “bought” (agorazo) here is being used non-redemptively, means that Peter is not saying these false teachers were once bought by Christ’s blood and then they choose to deny Him. Instead, it is providing an example of a sovereign master (despot) who is sovereign over his slaves and on that basis commands their allegiance, but they have denied him this role in their lives. An example of this is found in Deuteronomy 32:5-6.
Because 2 Peter 2:1 is a verse used to promote error about God’s work in salvation, I want to be extra clear here. “Master” here is not in reference to Jesus, and “bought” is not relating to a redemptive buying. This verse is not prompting the idea that one can be saved and walk away from their faith or be bought by Christ’s blood and then never be saved.
Salvation is enduring to the end for all who are truly saved. Christ’s blood was spilled perfectly and completely for the elect, as God will save all He planned to from the beginning.
Now, these false teachers deny God as “master of all” and reject His authority and, therefore, Peter says they “bring upon themselves swift destruction.”
Peter says their destruction is swift. Why? This is because God is not messing around with false teaching or manipulators of His true and holy word. He will be swift to judge them and cast them away to destruction. This gives us insight into the intensity this is for God—the importance this should be to us, the church.
Peter is saying, “Church, know that these people, their ways, and their lies, are real!” Do you know this? Do you acknowledge this? Do you look for this? Do you warn people you love about this?
2 Peter 2:2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Peter says, “many will follow.” This is a sobering statement. There are people who will come into the church, or come around the church, and lie, deceive, and manipulate with selfish motives, misinformed convictions or simply evil, intending to hurt the bride of Christ. They will twist, manipulate, and lie about God’s revealed truth, and many will follow them!
There are many who claim Christ but are heretics or false teachers. This is why the job of the pastors and elders is to protect the flock.
Acts 20:28-31 (NIV) “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
This includes TV Evangelists, many popular “Christian” books, and much of the things said on “Christian” radio. This is serious and sobering. We must take oh, so seriously these warnings from Peter. Look what he says next in 2 Peter 2:2.
2 Peter 2:2 And many will follow their sensuality …
Peter says, here that one of their great distortions and lies is the promotion of sensuality, or "licentiousness." Basically, it is blatant sexual immorality.
Do you remember what happened at Corinth? In 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 Paul says, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”
This same attitude seems to be the attitude of the false teachers in 2 Peter.
In 2 Peter 2:18 (RSV) it says, "For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped those who live in error."
In these false teachers’ arrogance and immorality go hand-in-hand. Notice verse 10 says they “indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” and they are “bold and self-willed."
They "despise authority" because they cannot stand any controls on their passions. This helps us to understand verse 1 where it says, “they deny the Master who bought them”. They don't want a master. A master means authority and submission, but they despise authority.
Here is the problem. Our flesh wants this stuff; our flesh is weak; our flesh is carnal. The passions of sexual temptations are so potent not only because our flesh is weak but because sexual intimacy is so awesome.
God gave us a great gift when He created sexual intimacy to be enjoyed between a husband and wife. But any kind of sexual intimacy outside of marriage is super destructive.
This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
So, liars, heretics, and false teachers propagate fleshly desires apart from God’s will and word and thereby gather followers to their lies. Is this not the reality of our modern era? Is this not what is the driving force behind the homosexual movement and a worldly government that says, “Forget God’s definition of marriage. We will redefine it our way.”
When the divine truth of God is redefined by man, this is blasphemy. This is why Peter says next in 2 Peter 2:2, “… and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
False teachers are all around us. Some even claim to be of us promoting “sensuality”, "licentiousness”, and “blatant sexual immorality", and thereby, “because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
God help us to know the difference. God help us stand for truth. God help us not give in to slick, logical, emotional propaganda and heresy. Let us stand in, and stand on, truth. God’s truth is the only truth!
2 Peter 2:3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words …
The motivation of false teachers is greed; it is evil, and it is selfishness. These false teachers are not selling an idea that is good for their hearers, but instead they are hocking defective ideas for their own agenda or gain—surly not for God’s glory but only for their good.
Let me ask you, “Do you want to be exploited? Do you like being ‘taken’?” This is the way of slick, emotionally placating, fancy, well spoken, false teachers. They can put on a show, stir your emotions, play to your weak spots and exploit you with lies.
Notice it says, “they will exploit you with false words.” This means they didn't just come in and seduce people with good looks, cool toys, or fancy moves. They taught. They gave reasons why people should abandon their rules about sexuality.
They have convinced our culture that it’s OK for teens to be teens and therefore they will experiment sexually. They have convinced our culture that it's OK for a couple to live together out of wedlock because “look at how financially beneficial it is.” They have convinced us that movies like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are great ways for the girls to go out and have some fun. They have convinced our culture that it's OK for a man to lie with a man or a woman with a woman because “who are we to tell someone who they can love."
Now, some of you are disgusted with all this, feeling like it is new-to-the-scene-sensuality and compromise that our current culture is caught up in.
Know that there is nothing new about the assault on the sanctity of sexual intimacy in marriage. Jesus wasn't gone for more than 30 years before false teachers in the church were announcing open sex as a legitimate Christian lifestyle. Just read the bible and you will see perversion and sin worse than much of what we know today. The point is, it is sin. It is against God’s perfect law and will. Therefore, it is an enemy of all who are truly God’s.
We must fight these cultural norms and fight for God-honoring purity of body and mind. We must not let ourselves or our children get exploited. We must do the hard work to protect, avoid, and warn.
2 Peter 2:3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words …
If this makes you angry, it should. But let me point out that often false teachers are not slick, back-hair, gold-jewelry-wearing lawyer-looking, or car-sales-looking people. They are your sweet uncle, that nice pastor you know, or your beautiful son. You have to be sure you see that this kind of person doesn’t wear a devil’s outfit and smell like rotten eggs. Their deception is top-to-bottom. Their hearts are dead in sin and their motives are not at all for God.
Let me point out that it is very possible for the saved to speak heresy, unknowingly. We must love each other enough to correct false, heretical statements of beliefs. We must repent and long to follow God’s word in every way.
Heresy should still make you angry, though! It is a righteous distain for the truths of God.
But for some of you, you don’t get angry. See, it is easy to get angry at the cheats and the manipulators, until it’s your loved one—those close to you, the teacher you love, the coach you loved, the mentor, author, or speaker you love.
We have to be people who are for God more than anything else. This means you are for God’s word and ways more than the sinful belief or practice of your loved one. You need to not sweep heresy or false teaching under the rug if it is your loved ones. You must love them enough to call them on it and point them to truth.
We must know that God is righteously full of wrath for these. Look at what Peter says next.
2 Peter 2:3 …Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Peter’s words here are straight forward and sobering. If you have been ‘taken’ by one of these, or seen a loved one convinced to go another way by one of these false teachers, know that they will receive their due judgment.
God is not absent or out-of-touch. He is active; He is at work in the condemnation and destruction of these from before you ever were on the scene. God has not been surprised by those who blaspheme Him in this way and lead others astray. He has known them and their due condemnation from day one.
Romans 9:21-23 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory
He is neither idle nor asleep, but His wrath and condemnation will play out on those for whom He intends it. Their destruction is coming. God will righteously and perfectly see it through.
We must see that God takes these things so very seriously and so must we. We are at war, and one of the best ways the enemy can get to us is by the trickery, flattery, and semi-truths of false teaching.
May God give us good, true discernment and a vigor to fight for biblical truth. May God be honored, and may many come to know Him by His lifesaving gospel.