How should a church address teachers who present false ideas?
In previous verse, Peter spoke of prophets who pointed to Jesus. But there are false prophets as well. The early church was rather fluid and early on grew without much human “control” or regional hierarchy. This had advantages, certainly, but it was thus also susceptible to all kinds of heresy and false teachers. Peter warns his audience of their influence and behavior, their judgment, and their final end.
2 Peter 2:1-3 – The work of these false teachers was worrisome in many ways: they worked secretly not openly; they introduced heresies that destroyed faith; they denied Jesus as Master; they followed their own passions; the reputation of the church and it’s message would be stained; and they would exploit the congregation. Peter confirms that although their judgment and final end may appear prolonged, it is neither “idle” nor “asleep”.
Do Christian congregations today need to fear such false teachers? How will we know when we are seeing them? How do we test them to know of their faithfulness to Christ and His word?
Tares and Wheat Judgment
2 Peter 2:4-10 – Peter’s examples of the judgment of the wicked show that God recognizes the faithful among them. At the flood, the wicked are “taken” and righteous are saved in the midst of the raging waters. At the fiery destruction of sensual and depraved Sodom and Gomorrah, God saved Lot. Peter’s choosing of these two examples suggests something about the false teachers: the flood came because of violence and corruption, and Sodom was destroyed because of unacceptable sexuality (see Jude 1:7) and injustice (Ezekiel 16:46-49).
Does Peter’s example of salvation from these wicked environments also give hope that God can save us in the midst of trails or temptations?
Characteristics of False Teachers
2 Peter 2:11-19 – Few words are minced in the description of these false teachers; they would be denounced as “hate-speech” in some circles today, no doubt. But Peter isn’t concerned about political correctness, but about the purity of God’s congregation.
What labels does Peter use for these false teachers, and how do these descriptions help his hearers recognize the dangers these teachers represent?
Origins and Condition of False Teachers
2 Peter 2:20-22 – Sadly, these false teachers once knew and experienced a true knowledge of Christ. But they returned to the “defilements of the world” and now are in worse place. And sadly enough for the spiritual condition of the congregation, they are still part of the body. If the congregation is to be a “safe place” for everyone there, some should be recognized as harmers of the flock.
How does this passage compare with Hebrews 6:1-8? Are Peter and Hebrews dealing with the same problems?
What are the dangers of returning to the old way of life after tasting the good word of God?
Today’s western culture is all about acceptance and tolerance. But tolerating falsehood in the church would destroy the work of Christ in His body. Peter doesn’t give any recommendations on how to deal with false teachers directly, but other letters in the N.T. help us there. Apparently, Peter was more concerned with how his audience was able to identify and live with the presence of such teachers. He assures his hearers that there would also be a final judgment and God was able to save those who were truly his.