2 Peter 2:1-10 Reformation in Our Day - Text notes- Bob Callihan
Reformation in Our Day
2 Peter 2:1-10
October 29, 2017. rhc
I. Reformation Day:
On October 31 of 500 years ago, Martin Luther, a Catholic monk who had been reading his Bible, publicized his objection to 95 serious offenses of the Catholic Church. He did that by nailing a list of those offenses on the door of a Catholic church building in Wittenburg, Germany. We call that Reformation day. In 2017, it’s this week.
Luther’s major protest was about the Catholic Church’s unbiblical practices, particularly the selling of “indulgences”, the Pope’s official granting, for a price, of freedom from the punishment for sins in the life hereafter. Luther viewed it, as we do now, as false teaching. Like Luther, we take Jesus’ warning seriously (Matthew 7:15): “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
The consequences of false teaching, and warnings about false teaching in the Bible are found from the beginning to end. That’s one of the major themes of the Bible, which is why the Apostle Peter dwelt on it, and why you and I should be thankful that James Dale has been dwelling on it.
2 Peter 2:1-10 1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.
II. Discerning false teachers:
Discernment is not simple, because fabricated stories from the father of lies comes to you in many different forms. Satan’s servants may be revisionists, quacks, self-proclaimed prophets, or mixtures of those, but all are strongly motivated by the same motivation: “For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world” (I John 2:16). We should identify false teachers plainly, as a warning to our children and fellow believers (1 Tim 1:3-6, Rom 16:17-18). And all the while, we must remember that we’re not to judge others regarding secondary, biblical doctrine — doctrine that doesn’t determine our position with Christ.
Peter explains (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”. The heresies of today include those of the Jehovah’s witness, Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox, or Mormon religions. What are we to do about them? Paul tells Titus (Titus 3:10): A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject...” That is, don’t listen to their teaching or allow them to teach in the church. This does not infer that we are to shun them; only that we are to reject them as teachers.
Some types of false teachers:
1. One who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he (or she) really possesses is a quack, a fraud, a charlatan. His interest in the Christian faith goes no further than his bank account. Paul charged Timothy (1 Timothy 6:3-5) to be on guard against him. “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain”. I believe this describes many of the charlatans of today, such as prominent television personalities Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.
2. Some claim God gives them fresh revelation outside of Scripture—new, authoritative words of prediction, teaching, rebuke, or encouragement. But the power of self-styled Prophets is from Satan for the purpose of misleading and disrupting Christ’s church. The Apostle John gave a serious warning about such as those. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NIV). So “test the spirits”; are they from the Holy Spirit or do they have a demonic spirit? In the nineteenth century, it was Joseph Smith claiming to receive The Book of Mormon from the angel Moroni. Today many falsely claim to speak in the name of God through the power of the Spirit. Popular author Sarah Young claims that her book contains the very words of Jesus.
3. Peter warned against those who use their position of leadership to take advantage of people to feed sensual lust, though they may also lust for power. (2 Peter 2:2) Be aware of them: “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed”. “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” (Jude 4). These are common in secular society such as government or business. The news media loves to publicize religious leaders found guilty of sexual sin with men, women, or even children.
4. Some promote false doctrine to disrupt a church, dividing brother from brother and sister from sister, to separate out a following and deter those who won’t follow them. Paul instructed Timothy (I Timothy 6:3-5) 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
5. Paul warned about man-pleasers: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The man-pleasers seeks popularity and praise from the world. In the late 20th century, it was Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. These days it’s Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America, who preaches an empty gospel to a full church. Jeremiah warns about the false teachers who try to lull the faithful into complacency, saying “Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
6. Some false teachers come up with novelty, originality, or speculation for self-gloification. The author of Hebrews warned his church of these “strange teachings,” while Paul told Timothy to protect the church against any “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:3). They set aside important Biblical content to obsess about trivial or novel issues to seek respectability through originality. They may come up with new ideas about the End Times or may claim knowledge of hidden codes in Scripture or claim God is unable to see and know the future. Paul calls such a one a contradictory, irreverent babbler (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
For all of these false teachers that will arise among believers, Paul tells us in Galatians 6:1: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
III. False Teaching in the Secular Arena.
False teaching is not confined to doctrine or secondary spiritual issues; it’s also about secular affairs. Separating the secular from the spiritual is not justifiable. God is God in all and over all. He is Creator of the earth and everything in it. Yet when false teaching occurs regularly in secular society, that is, outside the church, we sometimes fail to recognize aspects of life to which we are to apply biblical principles.
We get false teaching from those who promote scientific, medical, or political theories for the same reasons that we just spoke of: for pride, sensuality and greed (I John 2:16). We cannot say “my job, or my hobbies, have nothing to do with my Christian faith” We are wrong to view secular affairs as unrelated to spiritual affairs. We get exposed to false teaching about a whole range of political issues, including firearms, food, environment, animal rights, human health, human nutrition, medicines, inoculations, and pesticides. Outside the realm of the church, we see promotions of unproven theories and therapies such as wearing of special clothing or ornaments for health purposes. All these are issues that many believers get caught up in, often more than in normal spiritual issues, and they become lost in the fog of opinions.
We’re bombarded with claims of authority from everywhere; from persuasive people who say they have the answers, that they have discovered something new, different, unique, amazing and/or revolutionary. They tell us, openly or subtly, that those who don’t agree with them are wrong, We as believers have a source of information from someone we consider to be the final authority. That is, we have the Bible, and we know how to use Scripture as the Bereans did, according to Paul in Acts 17:11, and check out teachings that pertain to the faith. But many of us don’t know of such a source for secular issues, leaving us at the mercy of false teachers. Why?
Example: Human health
Food and human health is a favorite area for the hucksters, and obesity is one of their favorites. Most people acknowledge that obesity is a common malady in America and elsewhere. The charlatans know that our natural inclination is to place fault or blame on everywhere except ourselves, so they offer solutions for the sake of bank accounts rather than for the sake of the public good. They have become expert in developing logically-sounding yet false claims about food, misguiding many faithful believers.
The Apostle Peter’s exhortation in 2 Peter 2:1-10 applies to many areas of false teachings that the church has received from outside normal Christian instruction. Before believers accept new concepts of any kind, those concepts should be compared with God’s holy word.
God specifically identifies some foods that are particular indicators of His blessings. Deuteronomy 8:6-10 lists some, showing their significance: “6 Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. 7 For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; 8 A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; 9 A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. 10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.”
Here’s an example: If we try to understand something that we've heard about the cause of obesity, and read the results of objective scientific investigations in human nutrition, we’ll find that those results do not conflict with the word of God. However, interpretation of those results may conflict with it. For instance, it is generally accepted among reliable nutritionists that the normal cause of human obesity is because the total calories consumed exceeds calories used. But keeping the right nutritional balance for weight control is not always simple because human obesity is sometimes more complex than is explained by simple caloric balance. So we conclude that eating and/or drinking too much, and/or too often, particularly of nutritionally inappropriate food or drink, that is, failure to apply intelligent self-discipline for food consumption, is a major cause of obesity. Knowing this can help a discerning Christian come to a working understanding of the biblical meaning of gluttony (Deut 21:20; Prov 23:2, 20-21; 28:27).
In I Timothy 4:1-10, the apostle Paul counseled his protege Timothy: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
IV. Why should false teaching about secular things like foods be a concern for the faithful of God’s church? Here are three truths that logically follow Paul’s instructions to Timothy:
1. Faith is not separate from everyday life. God is the author of all truth, so distortion or denial of any of His truth places trust in man over trust in God. Trusting in false teachers shifts our trust away from the one true teacher. “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Thy law is truth. Thou art near, O Lord, And all Thy commandments are truth. The sum of Thy word is truth, And every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psalm 119:142, 151,160); “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me’” (John 14:6).
2. If Satan can convince us that God’s word is inaccurate in a just a few places, he has driven a small wedge into our faith in God. Falsehoods like invalid biases can pave the way for larger wedges like homosexuality or evolutionism. Most believers recognize that issues society considers spiritually unimportant have been used to undermine the Christian foundation of our nation; it is often not as easy for believers to identify seemingly insignificant or spiritually unrelated issues that are used by Satan to undermine he credibility of the Bible. If the camel’s nose is under the tent, its body will soon follow. That’s why we should heed God’s instructions in I John 4:1, to test the teachers: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
3. Nonbelievers live alongside us in the secular world. Nonbelievers can know right from wrong in the secular arena; when they see Christians promote error or deny truth, they turn away from Christians and the Christian faith. Thus Christians can provide an occasion for pagans to blaspheme Christianity. If Satan can convince us to believe and even publicize lies, our witness and testimony as people of God’s truth loses credibility among those who know the real truth about the subject. We should not be a part of that: (2 Samuel 12:14 “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.”).
V. The solution
You probably can’t study all the counterfeits; there are too many, and that may not be a proper priority for you. How is the church to recognize and expose false teaching today? It’s easy to hear someone’s teaching online or at a large conference, but how can we know their lives are true?
The best defense against false teaching is a knowledge of the written word of God. That should be found in a local church community that knows, enjoys, and lives the word of God, and holds its leaders accountable. We should be very grateful that James is taking a slow, thorough approach to teaching from the Bible. The best way to know what is false is not to study falsehood, but to study truth. The one authoritative source in which we can be completely confident is the Bible. In a secular context, an example of that principle is that people who work with paper money are taught to recognize counterfeit money by studying genuine paper money.
Not much can be done to hold distant radio or TV teachers accountable. But our leaders need to be held accountable, and not held in such high regard that we ignore their life. We watch what they say, and not sleepily accept it because they haven’t caused a ruckus. We are to be Bereans about what we are exposed to both inside the church and outside the church. Because we have to acknowledge not just the possibility of false teaching, but the certainty of it. Jesus and his apostles are very clear that false teachers will arise. They promise it. As Jesus says (Mark 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.” (see also Matthew 24:24). Likewise, Paul warns the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29–31) and his understudy Timothy (2 Timothy 4:3–4) that false teaching is sure to crop up (and 1 Timothy 4:1 and 2 Timothy 3:1–6). Shift back to 2 Peter 2:1: “There will be false teachers among you”.
It’s not hopeless. Here’s one way Jesus prepares us in Matthew 7:15–20: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (cf. Luke 6:43–44). Jesus says it twice, in this passage so we won’t miss His point: “You will recognize them by their fruits”.
VI. Conclusion: what does this mean?
1. We must guard against false teaching in not only ecclesiastical (e.g. church) settings, but in the secular world as well.
2. All concepts to which we’re exposed, whether religious or secular, are to be ultimately evaluated by God’s written word.
3. We are to reject as false that which is not consistent with His word.
4. We can’t dispute the reality of personal experience; but its interpretation can be questioned. Because personal experiences and their individual interpetation may not be objectively viewed or analyzed, they should be tested.
5. Testimonials alone are not sufficient evidence for truth; we’re to test, or “prove” concepts with which we’re not familiar. We do that primarily by seeking the results of independent, objective testing, evaluation or diagnosis.
6. We should look to only reputable, objective standards and sources for technical information not found in His word. Objectivity and reliability can be found in the secular world as long as it does not contradict God’s holy word.
Reformation in our day is more involved than we sometimes realize. It may require reforming our biases, and that’s never easy. We can be like Martin Luther; we can raise our voices and put up posters. We can require accountability of leaders and teachers; we are to watch the lives and the doctrine of our leaders. God’s word says biblical watchfulness is our duty, but nothing will prevent our exposure to false teaching. We may think that’s difficult and discouraging, but we can take comfort in knowing that God’s word also tells us that it’s not all up to us. 2 Peter 2:9 can be the encouraging take-home passage of our studies on false teaching — “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.”