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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
 www.frcsr.com/fellowship/melville/
 
Title:False teachers keep you from the way of righteousness
Text:2 Peter 2:10b-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2019-03-17
Added:2019-03-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

ESV

2014 Book of Praise

Hymn 54:1,2,3,8

Psalm 65:3

Psalm 31:1,2

Hymn 51:1,3,4

Psalm 31:3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Has Peter gone too far in his strong words about false teachers?  Has he crossed the line when he writes about them with such vehemence?  Have a look again at 2 Peter 2:12-14.

12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!

You can hear Peter’s disgust at these false teachers.    “Irrational animals.  Blots and blemishes.  Insatiable for sin.  Hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children.” 

But has Peter gone too far here?  Has he crossed the line when he writes about false teachers with such vehemence? 

  It should not surprise you if you find 2 Peter 2 to be rather shocking to read.  When he wrote this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter meant these words to be shocking, he meant to make you sit up and take notice.  But in doing so, Peter has not gone too far, he did not cross the line by giving offence through what he had to write.  To the contrary, Peter had good reason to write what he did.

  In the first place, we should remember that that the apostle Peter cared deeply for the church of God, that is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Peter knew how much the church cost to our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who died, who shed His blood for His people, and that was the church that these false teachers had set out to destroy.

  The second thing to remember is that these false teachers were not out to destroy nameless people, but people whom Peter both knew and loved.  Peter was a pastor to the people to whom he wrote.  He was their shepherd, commanded to keep watch over their souls.  Before the Lord was crucified, when He foretold that Peter would deny Him three times, the Lord said to Peter in Luke 22:31-32,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

And after Simon Peter did deny the Lord, when the Lord Jesus restored Peter, he said to him,

“Feed My lambs”

and,

“Tend My sheep”

and,

“Feed My sheep”

and,

“Follow Me”.  (John 21:15-19)

So Peter the Pastor, Peter the Preacher and Peter the servant and apostle of Jesus Christ cared for the souls the Lord had entrusted to him.  And for that reason, he had a godly hatred against the false shepherds who would poison Christ’s sheep.  And we need to feel the same way.   We need to feel the same way because these false teachers will, if they had the chance, turn us and God’s people away from the way of righteousness and from the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ.  And so I preach God’s Word to you under the following theme:

False teachers keep you from the way of righteousness.

  1. What’s the matter?
  2. What’s at stake?

1. What’s the matter?

When Peter described what false teachers were like in 2 Peter chapter 2, he was describing specific people who were acting in a specific way.  As such, therefore, we should not think that every false teacher would be identical to those whom Peter described in this chapter: to the contrary, there are all sorts of false teachers out there.  Nevertheless, there are similarities between them and in that sense, they can be described.

  When describing all false teachers, we can begin where Peter did in 2 Peter 1:16 and note that they follow “cleverly devised myths” rather than the true Word of God.  Further, as 2 Peter 3:16 says, they twist the plain meaning of the Scriptures to their own destruction.  And therefore, as 2 Peter 2:1 points out, they deny the Master who bought them.  That’s what false teachers do, and as these false teachers descend further and further into destructive heresies, they will increasingly display the gross behavior that Second Peter describes.  And so understanding that, let us look more closely at how Peter describes these false teachers, starting at the second half of 2 Peter 2:10.

  The first thing we read there is that these false teachers are bold and willful.  Vs10b and 11,

“Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.”

False teachers are bold and willful.  They are presumptuous, daring, brazen and audacious.  They defy God and they defy the truth of the Word of God.  Being self-willed they don’t submit to what God has to say.  Rather, as Peter already said in verse 1, they denied the Master who had bought them, refusing to honor, obey and submit to Him. 

  We can understand the basic point that Peter is making, that is, that these false teachers were bold and arrogant.  But understanding what Peter means by his reference to them “blaspheming the glorious ones” is not so clear.  Other Bible translations translate “glorious ones” as “celestial beings” (NIV), supernatural beings (NLT) or even dignitaries (NKJV).  But who these “glorious ones” are is not clear.  Some people, linking this verse to Jude verse 8-10, think that these “glorious ones” that the false teachers were blaspheming were the devil and the demons.  The meaning of this verse, then, is that these false teachers are so puffed up that they dismiss devils and demons as play things.  Other explanations are that these “glorious ones” are human kings and magistrates (John Calvin takes this approach) or else church leaders such as Peter himself or angels sent to give the Word of God.  Weighing everything up, it has to be concluded that this is one of those Bible verses which is hard to understand and that we just don’t really have enough information to be absolutely sure of who Peter is referring to when he writes about “glorious ones”.  At the same time, however, the intent of Peter’s words are clear, and it is as though he is so incensed that he cannot get his words out fast enough, so great is his incredulous amazement and disgust at the presumptuous ways of these people.

From there Peter goes on in 2 Peter 2:12 to describe these false teachers as “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed” since they blaspheme “about matters of which they are ignorant.”  They are irrational animals, like those who don’t think, who don’t use their minds, who are blindly blundering their way to destruction.  And just as these animals would one day be slaughtered, so these teachers would perish on the Day of Judgment, receiving, verse 13 says, “the wage for their wrongdoing.”

  Verse 13 goes on to describe the practice of these false teachers where it speaks of them

“suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.”

Whereas most people in Peter’s day practiced their debauchery at night, these false teachers and those who followed them were so wretched that they did not hide their sin but took pride in their wicked behavior.  Verse 14,

“They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!”

It is striking that in verse 13 Peter says that these people are “blots and blemishes . . . while they feast with you.”  1 Peter 1:19 describes the Lord Jesus as a lamb “without blemish and without spot”  and 2 Peter 3:14 calls Christians

“to be found by Him without spot or blemish.”

So false teachers are placed in contrast with both Christ and those who follow Christ.  They are spots and blemishes, unfit to be in the presence of the Lord at His Table.

2 Peter 2:18,19 goes on to say,

“For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

By twisting the Word of God and even rejecting it, denying its authority and placing themselves above it, these false teachers gave themselves over to destruction.  And those who followed them went with them.  Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, the false teachers were “enticing unstable souls”, were luring them to their destruction.

And that’s the matter with false teachers.  Verse 15 says,

“Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.”

They have forsaken the right way, the way of the gospel, the way of life in Jesus Christ, and they’ve gone astray, down the road that leads to death.  They’ve followed the way of Balaam, that false prophet from Moab of whom you can read in Numbers 22-24, a false prophet whose madness was restrained when the LORD caused a donkey to speak to him.  This Balaam had been hired by the king of Moab to curse God’s people, to separate them from the LORD but the LORD prevented him.  But Balaam did not learn from this.  Still greedy for gain, he thought of another way to pull the people of Israel away from the LORD.  And his way to do that was to invite the men of Israel to worship the gods of Moab and engage in sexual sin with the Moabite women.  And in this way Balaam the false prophet succeeded in pulling many people away from God.  And false teachers, Peter warns, are like that.  They won’t give up in trying to pull you away from God and the gospel of grace.  If one thing doesn’t work, they’ll try another.  And the reason for that is because they are not serving the Lord God but they are working against Him.

And the more these false teachers go down this path and the more people follow them, the further they drift from the right way, the way of the gospel.  And Peter is upset, he is angry at these wolves, these false teachers, these insolent men and perhaps women who are dragging not just themselves but also those who follow them away from God’s presence and into hell.  In 2 Peter 2:2 Peter had warned that

“many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

And that’s what was happening.  And that is why Peter is so vehement in his opposition to these false teachers.  Not only had these false teachers set themselves on the road to hell, but they were trying to drag others along with them.  That’s what the matter was.  That’s how bad it is.  False teachers keep you from the way of righteousness.

2.  What’s at stake?

But are false teachers really that bad?  Do we really have false teachers in this world who are doing all the things that the apostle Peter is describing in 2 Peter 2?  And is it all that important that we keep ourselves, our children, and all those who are vulnerable from such teachers away?

  I trust that we can all agree that there are false teachers to be found.  I trust that we can also agree that with the increasing number of books available, televangelists on TV, and all sorts of podcasts and online websites, that it is not hard to be exposed to false teaching.  If you are looking for a new teaching or a new way of interpreting the Bible, you don’t have to look far.  This can be a problem for us, particularly when we are vulnerable for one reason or another.  It is also a problem for new believers, many of them in areas of the world where there are few biblical, gospel-preaching churches. 

  But what about for us?  What about those of us who have been a Christian for many years, perhaps for our whole lives?  If a false teacher doesn’t look exactly like what Peter describes, “having eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin, enticing unsteady souls and a heart trained in greed” (verse 14), does it matter if we follow him or her for the good things they say?  What’s really at stake?

Let’s consider at 2 Peter 2 in the light of false teaching that we can see in various churches today.  There is all sorts of false teaching that we could consider this morning, but one form of false teaching that various Reformed churches have fallen prey to is what we speak of as a new hermeneutic, a new way of reading and interpreting the Bible.  But what is this “new hermeneutic”, and what does it all mean?

  When we speak about hermeneutics, what we are referring to is the way that we read and interpret the Bible.  Over the last number of years, there has been a push in some circles to re-read and re-interpret the Bible in a way that makes sense to our modern-day culture.  The world has changed, it is said, and in light of our changing world, what was considered to be the “clear meaning of Scripture” is no longer so clear, and therefore the Bible needs to be reexamined and reinterpreted for a new day and a new age.  The place where such people have often begun is with respect to the role of men and women in the church.  Now the Bible has some clear things to say about this matter, starting Creation, where it is clear that men and women are both created in God’s image, equal in standing but different with respect to their tasks.  (We call this complementarianism, where men and women complement each other in their differences.). The roles of men and women in the church are further explained in Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 11,1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Timothy 5 and so forth.  But not everyone is satisfied with what the Bible has to say about this, and so some people have found new ways to read their Bibles.  The clear meaning of Scripture is no longer seen as clear and so, it is felt, it needs to be re-examined and re-interpreted for a new day and a new age.  And their starting point in this is all often the world in which they live.  In other words, the world is determining the agenda of their churches!  The world is changing, they say, and so our interpretation of the Scriptures must change with it.  And that’s what we refer to when we speak of a “new hermeneutic”.

  But for those who follow this new hermeneutic, this new way of interpreting the Bible, it does not stop with the roles of men and women.  Instead, the Bible begins to be read in all sorts of new and different ways.  And so new ideas are formed about worship, new ideas are formed about marriage and divorce, and new ideas are even formed about living together outside of marriage.  And from there, new ideas arise when it comes to speaking about homosexuality and even homosexual practice.  And it does not even stop there.  In fact, for some of those who follow this new hermeneutic, they have changed their reading of the Bible to the point that no longer believe what the Bible teaches concerning Christ dying on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.

  And that’s where false teaching will ultimately lead us:  to deny the way of righteousness, and even to deny the Master who has bought us.  And that’s why false teaching is so dangerous.  And that’s why we have to reject it and oppose it.  Have nothing to do with false teachers, for they will keep you from the way of righteousness.

In summary therefore: what is wrong with false teachers and why do we have to reject them?

  • First of all, false teachers twist and distort the Word of God.  2 Peter 1:16 says,

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

            But false teachers do this, with 2 Peter 2:1 saying that they secretly bring in destructive heresies.  Further, 2 Peter 1:19 says

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

In other Words, God’s Word is confirmed as true – and it is true until Christ, the Morning Star, returns.  And therefore you do well to listen to that Word of God.  But false teachers, 2 Peter 3:16 says, twist the Scriptures, trying to make the Scriptures say what they – and the spirit of the age – want to believe.

  • And when the Word of God is no longer rightly handled, this also affects how people live.  Adultery, sexual sin, falling back into the pollution of the world is what happens.  They will be full of words, 2 Peter 2:18 says, but they will be “loud boasts of folly.”
  • And from, as we’ll be seeing next week from 2 Peter 3, from there one’s eyes are taken off from the Lord Jesus Christ and the return of the Lord Jesus with the accompanying Judgment day is ignored, then forgotten, then scoffed about.  The reality of hell is dismissed as something inconvenient.  And eventually the church is left with no message for a world outside of Christ, but they become like “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm” (verse 17), like clouds that seem to promise rain but end up giving nothing.

And from there the gospel itself is lost.  The way of righteousness, the way of truth, the way of life, is lost.  That’s where things end up when a person or a church exalts themselves above the abiding and unchanging Word of God.  And that’s what is at stake:  your salvation in Jesus Christ.

But in contrast to these waterless springs and clouds that bring no rain, the Lord Jesus said in John 4:14,

“whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

And in John 8:31,32 He said,

 “If you abide in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will you free.”

And so that’s what you must do.  For your very salvation stay away from false teachers and hold on to what is true.  Stay away from those who would twist the Scriptures to suit their own ideas or who will keep the Bible closed while speaking their own ideas.  Always test what you hear with the Word of God.  And never ever exchange the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone for a message that is not the gospel at all.

Are false teachers really as bad as the apostle Peter makes out?  Yes they are.  But the good news is that we have the true Word, the Gospel, given to us.  We have been given Jesus, the One who is the way, the truth and the life.  And whereas false teachers keep you from the way of righteousness, our Lord Jesus Christ is the way of righteousness.  Therefore, turn to him, believe in him, and follow him.  Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and he will keep you in the redemption He has obtained for you.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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