Monday, 21 December 2015 12:01

Gospel Words About False Teachers

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Going on in our short series on II Peter, when we come to chapter 2 we meet with strong words from the apostle Peter in regards to false teachers. In II Peter 2:1&2 we read “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily [secretly and subtly] shall bring in damnable heresies….and many shall follow their pernicious [licentious] ways.” Dear friends, if we know what is good for us and our children, and for the church and city and country, we must listen to this chapter of II Peter. Will you pay close attention with me as we study it now under the theme, “Gospel words about false teachers - their presence, their ways, their punishment.” With our first point about their presence, it is good that we stop a moment to take in this solemn reality. Not only does Peter warn that “there shall be false teachers among you, who privily [slyly] shall bring in damnable heresies” but we find this stated all over in Scripture. It makes sense too, for as long as history lasts we have to contend with Satan, the devil. Though a ‘once for all’ defeated foe ever since Jesus’ triumphant death and resurrection as Saviour of sinners, nevertheless Satan, also called Apollyon [meaning Destroyer], is yet a most relentless enemy of God and of Christ and His Church. Peter knew this deceptive and destructive power of Satan all too well. And he speaks from personal experience when he also says in I Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” A key tool and strategy Satan uses to destroy the church is to bring in false teachers into the church and to lead the church astray through false teaching. This is a matter we are forewarned about often in the Bible. Not only does Peter spend a whole chapter here on the subject in a small ‘three chapter’ book, but consider Jesus’ own warning about this matter. Jesus says in Matthew 7:15ff, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” How often doesn’t Paul address the same issue too? He confronts false teachers in almost all his letters. In Acts 20:28-30 we have those stirring parting words of Paul to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch…..” The apostle John exhorts similarly in I John 4:1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test and discern] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Jude also urges that we must earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Why? Because “there are certain men crept in unawares….ungodly men…turning the grace of God unto lasciviousness [licentiousness], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Jude vs.4] Many more suchlike warning words about false teachers creeping in the church and having their say and sway could be mentioned. But haven’t I given enough to have you and me say before God and each other: “Clearly this is a real threat, isn’t it? We surely always better be on our toes, and be diligent for the truth once for all delivered, and very discerning of the spirits of the age.” How much does your life and mine reflect we are living with this sense of awareness and alertness and carefulness and humility in regards to the danger of false teaching? Isn’t it a fact that in many ways the Christian church of the 21st century is negligent and unmindful and too easy going with the ever present dangerous reality of false teachers? How much are we girding our minds and warming our hearts with God’s word day by day and with the truths and doctrines of Holy Scripture and the one and only gospel of Jesus Christ? Peter, along with Paul, teaches us we can stand and overcome no matter what false teachers may come against us from within the church or outside the church, but never in our own strength! “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” [Ephesians 6:11] Are you consciously, humbly, prayerfully, steadfastly putting on the whole armor of God and His word each day? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall” Paul says in I Corinthians 10:12. That is our first point in connection with II Peter 2. Here are gospel words from the apostle Peter about false teachers. Are we paying close attention to the reality of their presence? Let us not live and act as if we have nothing to be concerned about when the facts are, all through history to the present day, there have been and are many false teachers and preachers bringing in damnable heresies, and having all too many followers led astray by their pernicious ways. We need to be alarmed about this and awakened to this and alert for this danger all the time! Will you take this to heart today? That question can bring us to our second point. For Peter tells not only of the presence of false teachers, but of their ways. The apostle helps us by the Spirit’s leading in learning how to identify false teachers and their pernicious ways. In this second chapter he gives us a whole number of characteristics and descriptions of what so many false teachers are like. By their fruits you shall know them, indeed. So here again let us pay attention to what Peter all says about these false teachers who, time and again, plague and pester and trouble the faithful Christian church and all God’s true people. Let me mention here at least seven descriptions of false teachers. For one, as Peter says in vs. 1, “they deny the Lord that bought them.” We can say a lot about this. But it amounts to false teachers that, in one way or another, minimize and discount and discredit Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the one means of our salvation from start to finish. Whereas Paul and all the apostles would boast in nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, false teachers little consider the cross of Jesus and our salvation through His precious blood. They don’t see Jesus’ Person as Mediator and His once for all sacrifice on Golgotha as something all that important. Certainly not something we have to mention and come back to again and again. Let this be a red flag for us always. When any professing Christian, whether only as a member of the church or as a church leader, isn’t consumed with and all intent on the glorious Person and finished work of Christ as Saviour of sinners, beware of him or her. Be on guard against false teachers promoting a fake Christianity and warped gospel where Jesus and Him crucified isn’t the center and heartbeat of the message time and time again! This point by itself can help us identify many false teachers, literally pseudo Christian teachers in our times today. Second, notice Peter describes the false teachers as being covetous [v.3], speaking smoothly and slyly with the purpose to gain merchandise for themselves. False teachers are looking for gain and fame for themselves in whatever they promote, and they are not after the honor of God above all, and the true and eternal wellbeing of others. They are men-pleasers, saying what people like to hear so as to gain a following for themselves and a healthy bank account as well. As Peter says in vs.14 about false teachers, “an heart they have exercised with covetous practices.” False teachers won’t hesitate to turn from the all-time, old-time truth, nor to compromise it and syncretize with other religions and ways of the world all for selfish and ungodly gain. False teachers are impressed with themselves, and they go all out to build a name and a following and empire for themselves. To help us clearly see this characteristic of false teachers in their covetous ways, Peter reminds us of the Old Testament story of Balaam as told in Numbers 22-24. What a wicked smooth-talking trickster Balaam was. He pretended so much to be a prophet of God, but he was through and through a fraud who, as Peter says in vs.15, “loved the wages of unrighteousness”. Sadly, how many money-seeking, self-seeking, earthly-minded, worldly-conforming church people there who confess to be Christians but live covetous, worldly lives. How we must be on guard against such. God’s true ministers are not out for themselves but for the service of God and His people, spending themselves for the flock rather than fleecing the flock for themselves. Again, this point by itself should so help us see through many false teachers of our day together with their empires, however large or small. A third characteristic of false teachers is that “they walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness” as Peter puts it in vs.10. With false teachers, very often they minimize the call to holiness of life. False teachers negate not only justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone but they pervert the Biblical teaching on sanctification as the Spirit-worked fruit and goal of God’s saving grace in our lives. In vs.13 Peter speaks of false teachers having pleasure in riotous, or you might say, debauchery living in the daytime even, as Peter puts it, “sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you.” False teachers, time and again, try to promote a gospel that will get us to heaven while still being allowed to live in sin and lust and evil here and now. They teach a twisted gospel which promises Jesus as Savior without submitting to Him as Lord also. How wrong and perverted such gospel teaching is but yet how common also in our day. How many churches promote this kind of Christianity? False teachers don’t refer to God’s word for guidance. They go by their own misguided pernicious opinions and by what they know people like to hear. Notice how in vs.14 Peter also mentions about false teachers “having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.” They “live in corruption” Peter says in vs.12, and in vs.19 “they themselves are servants of corruption.” Again, dear friends, watch out for any and all so-called Christians and Christian leaders and teachings which discount the holy law and will of God and discredit and contradict the holy word of God. By the gospel of Jesus Christ, indeed by grace through faith in Him, sinners like us may truly and freely and forever be delivered from the condemnation and judgment under the law. For Christ has fulfilled the law in perfect obedience as Sinbearer and Saviour of His people even as He paid at the same time the full and just punishment for sin that we deserve when He suffered and died on the cross. But Jesus in His saving work didn’t come to destroy the law. It was so that His people might once again begin to live by the law in spirit and truth in true love to God and to our neighbor. Watch out for any tampering and twisting of the free and full gospel message by false teachers either perverting our justification by Christ alone or negating our necessary sanctification through Christ in us by His Spirit and word. When confessing Christians can tolerate any sin or laugh off any inconsistency and contradiction in doctrine and life with that of God’s holy word, we need to be so on guard against them. Such so-called Christians are not to be trusted or heard, and certainly not followed. They bring shame on the church and the true gospel of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Such false leaders are “spots and blemishes” [vs.13] “by reason of whom [the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” vs. 2]. Be wary of any and all teachers or preachers who won’t, time and again, teach from God’s word about our desperate need of the Saviour, and what it means to believe in Him, and how we are called to live to His praise and in His service. When that is considered unimportant and all kinds of seeker sensitive novelties and worldly fads are taught instead, along with a whole lot of loose living allowed and never condemned as sin and sinful, be alarmed! Be awakened! You are dealing with false teachers then, pseudo hypocritical self-serving teachers, servants of Satan and not of God. A fourth characteristic of false teachers is that they prey on the weak, “beguiling unstable souls” as Peter mentions in vs.14. With smooth talk, “feigned words” [vs.3], literally, just lying deceptions, false teachers go after the vulnerable and those in some crisis of life. With a devilish charisma, promising glamorous benefits, they entice and enthrall and ensnare their hearers having them become devoted, not to God and the only gospel of Jesus Christ but to the false leaders themselves and their churches and projects and programs they are promoting. In Zephaniah 3:4 the prophet Zephaniah speaks in God’s name of the false prophets in his day saying about them, among other things, that they were “light and treacherous.” How terrible, in the name of God, to try and gain a following for yourselves, being unethical and immoral in your ways with others to do whatever it takes to have people hear you and serve you. Sadly, how many false teachers in the history of the so-called Christian church to the present day have spoiled so much the witness of the true gospel by their damnable heresies and pernicious lustful ways. Beware of anyone in the church out to take advantage of others in any way at all. It is so un-Christ-like, and most ungodly and wicked, indeed. A fifth characteristic of these false teachers is that they are, to put it bluntly, bumbling blabber mouths, “speaking with great swelling words of vanity” [vs.18] that amount to nothing. They are full of boastful arrogant talk all about themselves and their grand ideas and plans and teachings, which all amount to nothing in the long run. Their words are meaningless and powerless ideas which shine like flashing falling meteorites in the night sky but that bring no change and no real help or light to anyone, not for this life and certainly not for the life to come either. Their eloquent words may promise liberty and who knows what all, but it is all empty delusions in the end. In vs.17 Peter says about the words of the false teachers, “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest [storm]” that don’t end up bringing any rain for the land or water for the thirsty. If our teaching is not grounded and founded on God’s word alone but more just on our own ideas or the world’s passing flimsy opinions about whatever, it is not Christian teaching that is being passed on to us. We need truth, gospel truth with substance. Reliable truth proclaiming the exceeding and unsearchable riches of the one and only Saviour of sinners and the endless blessings found in faith and fellowship with Him and following after Him! False teachers, themselves not knowing the Saviour in spirit and truth will bring you everything but the truth. Always you and I do well to stay clear of such false teachers and to abhor their ungodly, worldly, self-exalting, hopeless, and deceitful teachings. As the apostle says in vs. 9, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” Another characteristic, the sixth now that Peter mentions about false teachers, is how they can be so quick to despise authority figures in society life both in the civil realm and in the church. In vs.10 Peter tells us how the false teachers “despise government.” and “Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” They are offensively arrogant, brazen, and impolite, “who as brute beasts speak evil of the things that they understand not”, [vs.12]. In this context Peter mentions how even the angels in heaven don’t bring railing accusation against others but they leave judgment to the Lord. False teachers, however, presume themselves to be authorities on everything, and, again for their own gain and fame, won’t hesitate to give opinion and condemnation of others, especially against the leaders in the land and the church. They do so to gain the applause of their followers, again for their own glory. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and speaking of Christ, they talk about so much else to somehow inflate themselves and degrade others. Watch out for such boastful vain talkers Peter urgently warns us in Jesus’ name. The last thing, the seventh, to note yet about false teachers is that clearly they are not changed and truly converted transformed people of God. Peter mentions this in the last verses of the chapter. These false prophets are like dogs which have gotten rid of the corruption inside the stomach through vomiting it up but then they can’t leave it alone and go back to it, sniffing and licking up their vomit again. They are like pigs washed on the outside but then still pigs through and through. These false teachers have a form of religion but without knowing the power thereof. So they live, spreading false religion rather than teaching and promoting in word and deed the one and only gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Just going over in brief summary fashion something of the evil, hypocritical, deceitful, self-serving ways of these false teachers, do you see too why Peter is so concerned about their presence and influence? He is concerned to feed his Master’s sheep and to protect them and he rightly exposes and gives most earnest gospel warnings here against these false teachers in his times and in all times. False teachers who deny the Trinity, who discount sin and Christ as only Saviour and Lord, and who twist the word to deceive and serve their own ends, and who care not for the sheep but only themselves, are everything the Saviour is not! And they are enemies to Christ and His church. Are you discerning in the times in which we live, testing the spirits of the age and examining all things in the light of God’s word? Are you being careful and watchful in regards to the many false teachers and prophets in our times too? As one put it: It does our generation little credit that such passion for truth and holiness [as Peter exhibits in our text chapter] strikes an alien note in our minds. In our money-mad, sex-inflamed, materialistic, anti-authoritarian, individualistic, anti-doctrine, celebrity-mesmerized world today, don’t think there won’t be many false prophets out there with their damnable heresies and pernicious ways, and be forewarned. In I Timothy 4:16 Paul urges strongly what is so all important today still, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Another reason to take this most seriously is yet our third main point, the punishment for false teachers. Did you catch this too in our text chapter how over and over Peter makes clear what the certain and eternal punishment is of false teachers who live and die in their evil ways? Going through the chapter, “they bring upon themselves swift destruction.”[vs.1] “Their judgment is coming and their damnation slumbers not” though they and all the world may think there is nothing to worry about” [vs.3]. Verse 9 declares God “reserves the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” “They utterly perish in their own corruption…and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness.” [vs.12&13]. They are “cursed children….to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever” [vs.14&17]. All these false teachers may have known about the Lord and been taught something of the faith but they never really knew the Lord, nor walked by true faith in Jesus Christ. In vs. 21, Peter says “it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandments delivered unto them.” In verses 4-9 the apostle mentions three examples of God’s certain judgment on the wicked and unbelieving, namely, His judgment upon the rebellious angels, Satan and his demons; then the destruction of the wicked with the world-wide flood in Noah’s day; and last, the fiery judgment and punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah for their evil and immoral ways, which fiery judgment says Peter in vs.6 serves as, “an example unto those that after should live ungodly.” It couldn’t be more clear, could it? Let no one fool themselves thinking you can get away with evil before God. Woe to all false preachers and teachers today and false churches and wicked organizations and false religions today which disdain, defy, and discredit the God Triune and His gospel word, and His holy laws, and His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour, as always and only the way, the truth, and the life. While it is yet the day of grace, let us pray that false teachers and hypocrites and all promoting and modelling fake Christianity and false religion come to true conversion and not have to be forever doomed under God’s righteous eternal judgment. Let us examine ourselves constantly that we be in the faith and faithful in all God’s ways in Christian doctrine and life, in thought, word, and deed. Will you so respond to this message, by God’s grace? The theme of the message has been “Gospel words about false teachers: Their presence, their ways, and their punishment”. Peter gives gospel words in this whole chapter for in warning us about the presence of false teachers, he is by the Spirit directing us always to be on guard against false teachers while living here still in this fallen world! In other words, stay the course clinging to God and His word in all your ways, and being very conscientious and careful in that way. Peter mentions Lot as such a poor example regarding this. He was yet saved, yes, but barely so because he mixed too much with the world, much more than was good for him and his family. Let me end with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:4, 5 & 11 where He tells His followers, “Take heed, that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many…..And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Gospel words about false teachers - their presence, their ways, their punishment. O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD! Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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