In chapter 2, Peter goes to great lengths to point out the danger of false prophets who have infiltrated believing communities of faith. What was true then is also true now. In fact, in verse 1 Peter said, “there will always be false teachers among you.” So in pondering this chapter I want to do 3 things: 1) Point out some of the characteristics of false teachers, 2) Mention some of the prevalent false teachings that have infiltrated the church of the 21st century, and 3) Share a few thoughts on how to recognize the red flags that often indicate false teaching.
Characteristics of False Teachers
- “Secretly bring in destructive heresies”(v. 1) – False teaching is subtly slipped into orthodox teaching so that it sounds like it is true even though it is not.
- “Follow their sensuality” (v.2, 14) – It is not uncommon for sinful sexual lifestyles to come to light in the lives of false teachers. Not only does this call their teaching into question but as Peter says the way of truth is blasphemed along the way.
- “In their greed they will exploit you with false words” (v. 3, 14, 15) – This seems to be a common theme among false teachers. They have learned how to use their silver tongues to accumulate silver for themselves. Often lots of it.
- “They do not tremble as they blaspheme…” (v. 10) – You generally do not see a posture of humility present in false teachers. They are not intent on bringing glory to God as much as they are in bringing glory to themselves.
- “They entice unsteady souls.” (v. 14) – False teachers take advantage of people. They tickle itching ears, make people feel good about themselves, and then use them for their selfish purposes – often by coercing them to send money.
- “They are waterless springs” (v.17) – They offer refreshment but for people’s souls but instead deliver emptiness and deadly teaching.
- “They promise freedom but they themselves are slaves of corruption” (v. 19) – False teachers make promises that they can’t keep because they themselves are enslaved to sin.
Prevalent False Teachings of Our Day
Universalism – Hell is not real and even if it was God is too good to send anyone there. All people go to heaven no matter what you believe.
Legalism – It was around in Jesus’ day and it is still around today. It essentially says that if you do certain things and don’t do certain things then you can be right with God. For example, real Christians don’t have tatoos. Real Christians don’t drink alcohol. Real Christians don’t smoke. Real Christians don’t dance. Real Christians only read the King James Bible.
Prosperity Gospel – The prosperity gospel tries to use God to get a believer what he wants – health and wealth and prosperity. It claims that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty.
“Just follow your heart” – We hear this a lot these days – the only problem is that the heart is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) and will lead you places that you do not want to be.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – Probably the false teaching most prevalent among our younger people these days. The five core beliefs of MTD are as follows: 1) A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. 2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. 3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. 4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. 5) Good people go to heaven when they die.
Recognizing False Teaching
1) Get SO familiar with the Truth that when you hear NOT TRUTH you easily recognize it. This means becoming a student of the Word of God. As has been said, to spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine.
2) Ask discerning questions – What does the teacher say about Jesus? Does he preach the gospel? Does he minimize Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross? Does he talk about repentance? Does he focus on the love of God and rarely if ever make mention of the wrath of God and Hell?
3) Does the teacher’s character and lifestyle demonstrate humility and servanthood? Is there a constant asking for money? Does his lifestyle indicate a hunger for money or a hunger for God?
Again, as Peter reminds us, there will always be false teachers among us. But that doesn’t mean we have to be susceptible. Learn to discern!
May this brick help you to know the difference between false teaching and the soul nourishing Word of God.