Beware of Counterfeits 2 Peter 2a
2 Peter 2:1-9
Stephen Caswell © 2004
The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it. How do they learn to identify fake bills? Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. Rather, they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply by feeling it. This is the approach Peter takes in his second epistle.
Peter does the same thing. Firstly, he describes what real Christians are like. When Peter wrote this letter he was concerned that false teachers had moved into the Church. But very wisely, Peter described what real Christians are like before he described the counterfeits. America alone has more than 350 sects and cults, and most of them claim to base their doctrines on the Word of God. Tonight we will see some important things about false teachers. The Description Of False Teachers, The Destruction Of False Teachers, The Deliverance Of The Righteous.
Firstly The Description Of False Teachers
The word false teacher ψευδοδιδάσκαλος is a combination of two Greek words, pseudo meaning lie and didaskalos meaning teacher. These men are lying teachers. They deceive people for a number of reasons. When I was at Bible College my lecturer from Old Testament Survey warned us about three temptations that Satan uses with more success than anything else. They are Gold, Girls, and Glory. These are the same motives that inspire them.
2 Peter 2:1: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.
Firstly, false teachers deceive people for fame. They like people to follow them. They do it for their own glory. They want to have a position of authority over others. How do they get their lies into Bible believing Churches? By placing their heresy alongside the truth. They don't deny the truth to start with. After a while they remove the truth and leave their heresy to remain. This is why Peter emphasized the importance of God's Word before he dealt with heresy. The Word of God came from God and focuses on the Son of God. The word is inspired by the Spirit and must be interpreted by Him also. But the false teachers deny the Son of God and spread teaching from Satan. Is it important what we believe? Yes, only the truth sets us free.
In 2 Peter 2:3 we see the false teachers use deceptive words. The Greek word is πλαστός, from which we get our word plastic. It refers to something being mentally constructed without a basis in fact, fabricated, false. Plastic words! Words that can be twisted to mean anything you want them to mean! The false teachers use our vocabulary, but they don’t use our dictionary. The Catholic Church has a completely different meaning for repentance and receiving Christ.
In an examination at a Christian school, the teacher asked the following question: What is false doctrine. Up went a little boy’s hand, and there came this answer: It’s when the doctor gives the wrong stuff to people who are sick. Although the little boy had obviously confused doctrine with doctorin’, he arrived at the correct definition.
2 Peter 2:3a By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words;
Secondly, false teachers deceive people to make a fortune. Would ministers do that? Satan's ministers do. The word exploit ἐμπορεύομαι means to trade, to buy and sell. False Teachers make a lot of money from peddling their lies. Benny Hinn makes 93 million dollars a year. He continually makes appeals for people to support his work. He promises that God will bless them if they do. Why does he need so much money? What does he do with it all? Paul warned Timothy that the love of money is the root of all evil. Timothy must flee these things and pursue righteousness.
The true minister of Jesus Christ has nothing to hide: his life and ministry are an open book. He preaches the truth in love and does not twist the Scriptures to support his own selfish ideas. He doesn’t flatter the rich to make money. The true minister is described in 2 Corinthians 4:2: But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. Contrast that description with Peter’s in this chapter, and with what Jude wrote, and you will see the difference. Don't support ministries that plead for money.
2 Peter 2:1: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
False teachers are better known for what they deny than what they affirm. They deny the inspiration of the Bible, man’s sinfulness, Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, salvation by faith alone, and even the reality of eternal judgment. They especially deny the deity of Jesus Christ, for if they succeed in this they can destroy the entire body of Christian truth. Christianity is Christ, and if He is not what He claims to be, there is no Christian faith. They don’t preach Jesus Christ the Son of God and His work on the cross, they deny it. Bishop Spong is an Anglican minister who regularly speaks world wide. He denies the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Kenneth Hagan, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn constantly teach heresy mixed with a grain of truth.
1 John 4:1-3: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist which you have heard that he was coming, and is now already in the world.
It must be made clear that these false teachers are unsaved. They are compared to dogs and pigs, not to sheep. Jesus calls them wolves in sheep's clothing. Jude describes these same people, and in Jude 19 he clearly states, having not the Spirit. If a person does not have the Spirit of God within, he is not a child of God. He may pretend to be saved and even preach to others, but eventually he will deny the Lord.
2 Peter 2:2: And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
1. They're Sensual
These false teachers are snared by girls. They indulge in sexual immorality. These teachers claim to be God's servants but in reality they belong to Satan. Their lives are filled with impurity and immorality. Jude accused the false teachers of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Now we understand why they deny the truths of the Christian faith: they want to satisfy their own lusts and do it under the guise of religion. Jim Jones was certainly a man who lived this way. At the same time he preached and taught the Bible he lived immorally.
2. Their Followers Are Sensual
The word follow ἐξακολουθέω means to tread in one's footsteps. False teachers will always have a following. The fact that many follow the evil example of their conduct is proof that people would rather follow the false than the true, the sensual rather than the spiritual. These false teachers are very successful in their ministry! They have glowing statistics to report and crowds gather to hear them! But statistics are not proof of authenticity. Many who claim to be servants of Christ will be rejected on the last day. The broad way leads to destruction.
The Jonestown Massacre
In Nov. 1978, US Rep. Leo J. Ryan of California visited the People’s in Guyana. His group went to investigate reports that some of the people there were being held against their will. The congressman and his party were ambushed and killed. Few days later, at Jonestown, Guyana, soldiers were horrified to find hundreds of bodies of cult members who had been shot or committed suicide by drinking cyanide-based Kool Aid. Rev. Jones, 47, lay near the altar with a bullet wound in his head. The death count was 780.
A brief report of what happened during those final moments: As Jones talked over the loudspeaker on the beauty of death and the certainty that everyone would meet again, several hundred cult members gathered around the pavillion. They were surrounded by armed guards, and a vat of Kool Aid mixed with cyanide was brought out. Most cult members drank it willingly — others were forced to. They started with the babies. At least 80 infants and children were fed the deadly potion, and then the adults took it. Everything was calm for a few minutes, and then, as the cyanide-induced convulsions began, it got all out of order. Children were screaming and there was mass confusion. Shortly afterward, everyone was dead.
3. They Shame The Gospel
What is the result of these immoral people? For one thing, they bring disgrace upon the name of Christ. People say, If that’s what religion stands for count me out! The Christian faith gets a bad name because of their filthy lives. Titus 1:16: says: They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Few things hinder the cause of Christ like the bad reputations of professing Christians who are members of orthodox churches. Do you remember the shame that came upon the Christian Church when Jim Baker and Jim Swaghert were exposed for adultery? Sensual false teachers hinder the Gospel of Christ.
Peter warns Christians that false teachers will come amongst them. Believers must be on their guard. Firstly, they deceive for fame and fortune. They like to have authority and followers obeying them. They deceive people to make money. Secondly, false teachers deny Jesus Christ's deity and His atonement. By doing this they nullify Christianity in one foul swoop. Thirdly, the false teachers fall for girls. Their lives are full of sexual sin and so are the lives of many who follow them. All of this brings shame upon the name of Christ. Let us beware of them? Don’t support them in any way!
Secondly The Destruction Of False Teachers
The word destruction is used four times in these first three verses. Firstly, false teachers spread destructive heresy. Secondly, false teachers lead people into destructive lifestyles. Thirdly, God sends swift destruction upon them and their followers. These apostates will reap what they sow.
a. God's Judgment Is Certain
2 Peter 2:3b: for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Peter saw no hope for these apostates; their doom was sealed. His attitude was different from that of tolerant religious people today who say, Well, they may not agree with us, but there are many roads to heaven. Peter made it clear that these false teachers had forsaken the right way, which simply means they were going the wrong way! 2 Peter 2:15
Verse 1 tells us that this destruction is swift. This means that God will judge such wickedness promptly. Verse 3 says that their judgment is not stationary or idle. Finally there destruction isn't sleeping. God hasn't forgotten their deeds. He will certainly pour out His wrath upon these false teachers. Many scoff at God's justice. Peter speaks about this in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Counterfeits & Judgment
Suppose you are given a counterfeit bill in change at the store. Thinking it is genuine, you use it to pay for some gas. The station owner uses it to pay one of his employees, who use it to buy groceries. From there it goes to the bank where the teller says, I’m sorry, but this bill is counterfeit. The bill may have been used to do a lot of good while it was in circulation, but when it arrived at the bank, it was exposed for what it really was and put out of circulation. A Counterfeit Minister may do many good works, but still be rejected on judgment day. Matthew 7:22-23: Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!
b. God's Judgment Was Sent
In this section, Peter proved that judgment finally does come, no matter how secure the sinner might feel. He used three examples to verify this truth.
1. The Angels Who Sinned 2 Peter 2:4: For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
If God judged the angels, who in many respects are higher than men, then certainly He will judge rebellious men. These angels were probably the angels who sinned in Genesis 6: They left their appointed position and married women. Jude 6 gives further details. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; God didn't spare these angels from judgment. At this moment they're in a prison called Tarturus.
2. The Ancient World 2 Peter 2:5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
Genesis 6:3 indicates that God waited 120 years before He sent the Flood. All during that time, Noah ministered as a herald of God’s righteousness. But nobody believed Noah’s message! If you want to read a description of the world before the Flood, read Romans 1:18-32. Gentile civilization had become so corrupt that it was necessary for God to wipe the earth clean. He saved only eight people, Noah and his family, because they had faith in Him. No doubt there were plenty of experts who laughed at Noah and assured the people that a rainstorm was out of the question. Had anybody ever seen one? But God's judgment fell just the same. God didn't spare the ancient world from destruction through the flood.
3. The Cities Of Sodom And Gomorrah 2 Peter 2:6: and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
This is recorded in Genesis 18–19. God’s opinion of these people is found in Genesis 13:13: But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. Peter said they were ungodly. God made an example of them to warn others not to behave corruptly.
Jude 7 says: As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
In what sense were their filthy deeds unlawful? They were contrary to nature. The flagrant sin of Sodom was unnatural sex, sodomy, or homosexual behavior, a sin that is condemned in Scripture. Today society is becoming more tolerant of this. God didn't spare the people of Sodom and Gomorrah from his fiery judgment. Having cited these 3 examples of judgment, Peter then applied the lesson to the subject at hand, the false teachers. God has reserved the unjust for special punishment on the Day of Judgment. The false teachers may seem successful, but in the end, they will be condemned. Their judgment is being prepared now, and what is prepared will be reserved and applied on the last day. God will not spare them from His wrath!
Judgment Day Came
Sometimes the cup of iniquity is full and the people are ripe for judgment. In such a case it may happen as it did in the flourishing and extraordinarily beautiful city of Messina, Italy. In the early morning of December 28, 1908, an earthquake struck, and 84,000 human beings died. Only a few hours before that devastating earthquake, which laid Messina and the surrounding districts in ruins, the unspeakably wicked and irreligious condition of some of the inhabitants was expressed in a series of violent resolutions that were passed against all objections. The journal Il Telefono, printed in Messina, actually published in its Christmas issue an abominable parody, Daring the Almighty to make himself known by sending an earthquake! 3 days later the earthquake came!
Will God allow these false teachers get away with such wickedness? Not in your life! God has passed sentence on them already. Not only have they acted corruptly and brought shame upon the Gospel. They have led others astray too. God's judgment is on the way. The Lord has judged wickedness in the past and will do so again. The angels, ancient world and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were all judged for their wickedness. Because God is holy, He must judge sin.
Thirdly The Deliverance Of The Righteous
a. Noah, A Righteous Minister
2 Peter 2:5: and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness,
This man of faith experienced a twofold deliverance. Firstly, God delivered him from the pollution's of the world around him. For 120 years, Noah faithfully proclaimed the Word of God to people who would not believe it. He and his family were surrounded by moral and spiritual darkness, yet they kept their lights shining. God didn't protect Noah's family by isolating them from the world, but instead He enabled them to remain pure in a corrupt society. Through Jesus Christ, we too have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:4.
Secondly, God also delivered Noah and his family from the judgment of the world. The flood waters that brought condemnation to the world only lifted Noah and his household up above the judgment. They were secure in the ark of safety. Certainly Peter was assuring his readers that, when the great day of judgment does come, they will be kept safe. Those who have trusted Christ will never face judgment, because He bore their judgment on the cross.
b. Lot, A Righteous Man
2 Peter 2:7-8: and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) —
It is difficult for us to understand Lot. Peter made it clear that Lot was saved, just Lot. That he was a righteous man, and yet we wonder what he was doing in such a wicked place as Sodom. Lot chose to live in Sodom and could have easily avoided the filthy influence of the place. However, many people today really have no choice and must live surrounded by the pollution's of the world. Yet the Lord saved this carnal believer from destruction with the wicked.
c. Believers, Righteous People
2 Peter 2:9: then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
Our present age is not only like the days of Noah, it’s also like the days of Lot. Immorality abounds, especially the kind of sin which Sodom was famous for. It appears that God is sleeping, unconcerned about the way rebellious sinners have polluted His world. This isn’t true. The Lord has reserved them for judgment. The word reserve τηρέω means to keep, guard, hold or watch over. One day soon the fire will fall; then it will be too late.
Many believers have abandoned the place of separation and are compromising with the world. The professing church has a weak testimony in the world. Most sinners don’t really believe that judgment is coming. God’s people, as weak as they are, will be delivered from judgment by the grace and mercy of God. The word deliver ῥύομαι means to save, rescue, preserve. God could not judge Sodom until Lot and his family were out of the city. Likewise, we believe that God won't send wrath upon the world until He takes His people home to heaven. 1 Thessalonians 5:9: For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
True believers needn't fear judgment. The Lord will deliver us from this wicked world before He judges it. Let us be careful to live like Noah who remained pure amongst a wicked generation. Let us be careful not to live like Lot who was saved by the skin of his teeth. He lost his witness, most of his family and all his possessions because he didn't remain separated. Not only did he live in Sodom, Sodom lived in him. Jesus warns believers to remember Lot’s wife!