Bible Reading: 2 Peter 2:10-16, NKJV
In our society today, false beliefs and teachings are often accepted without ever being tested. People believe that social media memes and TV talking heads are the source of truth. They latch on to rumors, myths and hearsay like it’s the final word.
Sadly, heresy (non-biblical or anti-biblical teaching) is even creeping up in our churches.
While we’re seeing this a lot in our modern world, it is not a new phenomenon. Even in the first century, false teachers were making their way into churches, and people were buying the lies they were selling.
Nearing the end of his life (likely in prison and soon to be executed by the Romans), the apostle Peter had become very concerned about the heresy that was creeping into the churches in Asia Minor. False teaching had actively led followers of Christ away and was causing dissension.
It troubled Peter so much that he wrote a letter to these churches (his second letter to them, actually), in which he called out the heretical leaders that were causing so much trouble.
In doing so, he gave us several characteristics of false teachers. Nearly 2,000 years later, 2 Peter 2:10-16 still serves as a warning and guide in the church today.
First, pride is a sign of false teaching. Make no mistake about it. Pride is a serious and dangerous malignancy. The Scripture says that a false teacher is “presumptuous” and “self-willed.” In other words, they view their own authority as taking precedence over the Bible’s authority.
Perhaps they view the Bible as “inspired” by God, but feel like it needs to be updated to their modern understanding of societal norms. In doing so, their pride causes them to pervert the Holy Scripture in a way that was never intended.
Second, a false teacher is willfully ignorant. Whenever I see false teaching, I wonder how supposedly “Christian” teachers could say something that is so totally at odds with the Bible. However, Peter tells us in verse 12 that false teachers “speak evil of the things they do not understand.” They are willfully ignorant of Scripture on one hand, while claiming the moral authority of the Bible on the other.
In reality, they are much like Paul described in Romans 1:25. They “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
Third, lust is a sign of a false teacher. The passage describes false teachers by saying they:
- “walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority,”
- “count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime,” and have
- “eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls.”
Lust is a result of loving ourselves and pleasure more than God. The false teachers that Peter described were so brazen that they didn’t even wait until the cover of night but were openly pursuing depravity during the day. Further, they used sexual pleasure as a way of appealing to their flock with their heretical messages.
Finally, false teachers are covetous and are driven by greed. The passage says, “They have a heart trained in covetous practices.” In other words, they desired other people’s property and worked to exploit those around them.
As an example, Peter referenced the Old Testament prophet Balaam, who preferred wealth and popularity over obedience and righteousness. His covetous ways produced teachings of immorality and sin instead of truth and purity.
My friends, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must always view everything through the lens of truth itself: the Bible. I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, digging deep in Scripture, meditating on it and committing it to memory. The more you understand and internalize the Bible, the easier it will be for you to discern truth from lie and solid doctrine from false teaching.
Though heresy has been around for millennia, it’s as important as ever before to be on guard against it in today’s culture.
Read more devotions from Will Graham. Get Wednesday in the Word in your inbox each week.
Scripture Reference: 2 Peter 2:10-16
10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,
11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
Depravity of False Teachers
12 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,
13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,
14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.