The below sermon on the 2 Peter 2:12-22 reminds us to beware of false teachers. These free inductive notes are intended as supplement to your own study, not a replacement. Feel free to copy, print, or share them. These notes can be helpful for individual study of the Word or for small group Bible studies. We hope your understanding of God’s Word is deeper from them.
2 Peter 2:12-22
2 Peter 2:12-22 – Depravity, Deception, and Destruction of False Teachers – Spiritual Terrorism
37% of all teachers in the church are false teachers… Have you ever sat listening to a sermon or perhaps read a Christian book and felt really doubtful about the claims made? Do you just automatically believe what you hear? I really hope you don’t just believe made up stuff like the stat I just told you just because someone wearing a tie told it to you.
Today we continue our study in 2 Peter and we continue the theme of false teachers. We will learn about the depravity of false teachers, the deception of false teachers, and the destruction of false teachers.
12-16 – The depravity of false teachers
Warning against false teachers is one of the most common themes in the New Testament epistles. Satan actively works to oppose God. It therefore follows that where God is working, Satan is also often found opposing Him and trying to mislead His saints. In his first letter, Peter establishes many foundational truths about the Christian life. He does not mention false teachers at all.
But something happened after his first letter. False teachers began to infiltrate the church. Satan saw God doing a great work in building up His church and he came in to twist, mislead, deceive, and attack the sheep. Thus much of 2 Peter is written a warning to the churches about these false teachers. These are spiritual terrorists.
They lie about the Word of God. They teach the devil’s lies in place of God’s truth. They mislead souls whom God has created. And they do it with a smile on their face. Jus as Satan appears as an angel of light, these are servants of wickedness who appear as workers of righteousness.
While many warnings in other epistles focus on the incorrect teaching of the false teachers, Peter does not focus on their teaching. He makes a few general comments, calling their teaching “heresies” in 2:1 and “blasphemy” in 2:10. I was very curious. What were they teaching? But you know what, Peter doesn’t say.
Peter approaches this in a different way. He warns the churches about the lifestyle of those false teachers. Yes, we can often recognize false teaching by the teaching itself. But Peter tells us we should also recognize the false teacher by his lifestyle. So what is the false teacher like? We can draw out three main qualities of the false teacher from the descriptions in these verses:
The False Teacher is Prideful –
Verse 12 says he “blasphemes about matters of which they are ignorant.”
Verse 13 says “they count it as pleasure to revel in the daytime.”
Verse 13 also says, “they revel in their deceptions.”
Verse 18 says they speak “loud boasts of folly.”
Here we see two aspects of his pride. Firstly, a false teacher claims to be very smart. He tries to appear to be very wise. He talks about stuff he doesn’t know anything about. And he boasts loudly. Whatever knowledge he has or thinks he has, puffs him up.
This pride reminds me of many cult leaders. These leaders demand unquestioning obedience to themselves. If anyone asks them about their teaching or wants more biblical proof about a claim they make, they tend to get very angry. HOW DARE YOU DOUBT ME! Instead of graciously turning to the Scripture, they will boast about their credentials, “I have been to seminary” or “I have been teaching for years” or “I know more about this than you do.”
Waco cult illustration – When I was eight, about an hour drive away from my house, a false teacher who renamed himself David Koresh was declared himself the leader of a sex-crazed cult. Has anyone heard of David Koresh? He said it was his duty to establish a House of David and he told the women of the cult that God had commanded him to procreate with them. They listened. Seventy six cult members listened to him all the way to their deaths in a conflict with the government. The false teacher is prideful and controlling. He cares only for himself.
We are commanded to be quick to listen and slow to speak. These false teachers are quick to speak and slow to listen. They love to hear themselves talk. They love to share their opinions. They will seldom say “I don’t know” when asked a difficult question. Why? They are prideful. They think they know everything.
The second area we see their pride is in the way they sin with no shame and no repentance. Instead of repenting when confronted with their sin, they revel in it.
When sharing the gospel, I have often been asked the following question, “If God forgives all our sin, then doesn’t that mean a person can keep sinning again and again and God will forgive Him?” Such kind of thinking is called licentiousness or “license to sin.” God does forgive, but He also expects us to be genuinely repentant.
These false teachers also claim license to sin. They are proud of the so called “freedom” they have found. Later we will see in verse 19 that they proudly offer this same freedom to sin to others. It is pride to think one can keep sinning and without any consequences.
The False Teacher is Lustful –
Verse 14 says “They have eyes full of adultery.”
Verse 18 says they entice “others by sinful passions of the flesh.”
Unfortunately the scandals involving these types of false teachers are many.
In the late 1980s Jimmy Bakker was a well known televangelist in the US. He covered up an alleged rape of his secretary with hush money and was later convicted of fraud and imprisoned as a felon.
Jimmy Swaggert is another example – He was a famous televangelist. The Assemblies of God denounced and defrocked him amid scandals that he was visiting prostitutes.
Since I am from the US, I have heard of these and many other similar stories. I believe that many of you have heard similar accounts in your home countries. It is shameful for the church.
We must not allow such wicked people to have a platform where they can mislead others and bring dishonor to God’s name.
What Peter is saying here is very clear. Do not merely look at a teacher’s words, or his clothes, or his smile, pay attention to his lifestyle!
These false teachers use their power and their influence to manipulate and seduce. They use their position to take advantage of those who are naive and unsuspecting.
#1 Application: I am talking primarily to the ladies now because men tend to be the ones doing this (though not always.) Beware of male leaders who somehow use their influence to draw close to you and push you to things you are uncomfortable with. If you feel uncomfortable, there is probably a reason. If a male leader says or texts something inappropriate then firstly stay away from him and secondly report it to someone. You don’t need to keep a secret or try to protect that person’s reputation.
Greedy – In verse 14 Peter tells us another identifying mark of false teachers, greed. He says they “have a heart trained in greed.” Then he gives the example of Balaam.
Balaam was a prophet. You can read his story in Numbers 22. The Moabites wanted to hire Balaam to say a curse against God’s people. Balaam didn’t want to. He knew that God had not cursed them and he was afraid to incur God’s wrath. And yet Balaam did not tell them to go away. He wanted the money. He kept hoping that God would somehow change His mind and he could get paid. His number one priority was not serving God above everything else. His number one priority was money.
1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves.
A popular South African pastor who is called Shepherd Bushuri has not one, not two, but three private jets. And these are in addition to his fleet of luxury cars.
In a church I attended before it was discovered that the pastor embezzled money meant for the church into his own private account.
Brothers and sisters, this should not be. God does give nice things. In James 1:17 it says that “every perfect gift is from above.” Paul said that Christian workers could make their living by working for God. But that is a far different thing than becoming rich and living a life of wanton luxury, all coming from the money given by those one supposed to serve.
Peter warns us about these false teachers. They are looking to get rich from the gospel.
What attitude should we have?
1 Timothy 6:6 – But godliness with contentment is great gain.
The gain of sharing the gospel and teaching others the Bible is NOT the money you can get, but it is the privilege and blessing of serving Jesus Christ.
Application: Many of you are here in Guangzhou for only a short time. You will go back to your home countries. Please do not just immediately join the first church you see. Pay attention to the lifestyle of the leaders of the church. If the leaders of the church are living a lifestyle way higher than everyone around them, beware. Go to a church where the Bible is faithfully taught. Pay careful attention to the lifestyle of the pastors.
17-19 – The deception of false teachers
They promise what they cannot give
In verse 17 Peter says that false teachers are “springs without waters” and “mists driven by a storm.” For people living in that time water was a precious commodity. They couldn’t just turn on the tap and have water available in their home. They couldn’t just turn on the sprinklers and have water immediately available for their crops. They had to find water or wait for it to rain. Springs and wells were very valuable. Imagine a person going to get water from a spring, but there is no water there. This could be devastating. Imagine a farmer waiting for rain. He sees clouds coming and he starts hoping for rain, but then realizes it is only mist and fog, which contain no water for his crops.
Peter says false teachers are like this. Today we might say they are like a mirage in the desert. They make a promise, “Get water here,” but they can’t fulfill it. It is in stark contrast to Jesus who said, “I am the living water, He who drinks from Me will never thirst.” False teachers claim to have such water, but they don’t.
In verse 18 we see that the they mouth “empty, boastful” words. And in verse 19 they promise freedom. It has always been Satan’s way to make big promises and small deliveries. Eat this fruit and you will be like God! When Adam and Eve ate it they found out what a lie it was. They were far less like God than ever before and hid themselves from Him.
False teachers are the same. They will attempt to deceive and mislead you. A false teacher will not stand up in the pulpit and say “I am a servant of Satan. Come serve him with me.” How effective would that be? No, like Satan they attempt to appear as an angel of light. In modern cartoons, you will often see a person with an angel on one shoulder encouraging the person to do good and a demon on the other shoulder spurring the person to do evil. That is not how it really works. False teachers deceive. They make promises that sound good. They mix just enough truth in with the lie to make it sound convincing.
We need to be wary of the deceptions of Satan and his false teachers.
- God has set us free from the law so you can do whatever you want.
- The Bible as written is not relevant in the world today so we need to change it up.
- Genesis is only a story. We can change it to compromise with evolution.
- Spanking your children is old-fashioned and will stunt their development.
- You don’t feel like you love each other anymore, just get a divorce.
- God wants to bless every believer with financial prosperity.
- As long as you don’t hurt anyone else, anything goes.
The list goes on and on.
1 John 4:1 says – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 Peter 1:19-21 we learned that Scripture is God’s sure Word. It is reliable. Sometimes you will hear a strange idea from a brother or sister, perhaps in study or in church. Sometimes you will read a Christian book and wonder, “Is that really true?” Some of these things are very convincing. What should you do? You should have a habit of asking a very simple question,” Where does the Bible say that?” False teachers will not like this question. Perhaps they will get offended or angry. You must have the habit of checking what you hear by the sure truth in God’s Word. Read it and study it for yourselves just like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
Illustration: Counterfeit money
12, 13, 14, 17, 20 – The destruction of false teachers
- Destroyed in their destruction (12)
- Suffering wrong as the wage of their wrongdoing (13)
- Accursed children (14)
- For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved (17)
- The last state has become worse for them than the first (20)
Peter is clear. False teachers will face destruction. They will be judged by God for the words they said and God will hold them accountable for every sheep they have led astray. Verse 12 says that they will be destroyed in their destruction. In other words they leave destruction all around them. They destroy others’ lives. They mislead the sheep and attempt to lead people away from God and in to hell. In the midst of this, God will destroy them.
For many, that destruction does begin in this life. Many false teacher’s have been exposed as frauds and scandals have brought them down from their places of leadership. But even if they escape in this world, they will not escape in the next.
I read an article that referred to seven types of false teachers:
- The Heretic – He teaches things that blatantly contradict the gospel.
- The Charlatan – He is in it for the money.
- The Prophet – He says God has revealed something new to him. But his prophecies don’t come to pass.
- The Abuser – He takes advantage of his position by taking advantage of others sexually.
- The Divider – He happily divides the church.
- The Tickler – He says only what people want him to say, things that are pleasant to the ears.
- The Speculator – He delights in foolish controversies and trivial speculations.
All of these false teachers will face destruction. For us there are two simple applications:
- Be careful what you say. Words are important. To be safe, stick closely to the words in the Scriptures.
- Do not become enamored with the smiles, the money, the pleasure, or the promises made by false teachers. They may drive in their Ferrari for a time, but even their Ferrari is not fast enough for them to run away from God’s sure hand of judgment.
19-22 – I have decided to follow Jesus. There is no turning back.
These verses tell us more about the destruction of the false teachers.
- They have become a “slave to whatever has mastered him.” (19)
- They have once again become entangled and overcome by the world (20)
- It would have been better for them not to have ever known the truth of the gospel than to know it and then turn their backs on it. (21)
- They are like a dog which returns to its vomit. (22)
Peter is speaking of the false teachers that have already turned their backs on Christ. But every believer should take warning from these verses. And its in these verses which we can find our key applications for today’s passage.
Don’t allow anything to master you –
Brothers and sisters, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. He has the power to break the bonds of sin and addiction which Satan and the world want to restrain you with. Each one of us is tempted in different ways. We have different strengths and weaknesses. You must be aware of your own weakness and know that sin wants to come in and control you.
Genesis 4:7 – Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.
What is the sin which is tempting you? Perhaps it is a love for money, a drive to make as much as you can and build up your bank account with as many zeros as possible. Do not become a slave of your work. When your work trips and projects and OT take you away from God and family pray for strength and say, “no.”
Perhaps it is laziness. Perhaps you love sleep and really struggle to get up and get out of bed and do the work God has for you. Get accountability and commit yourself to getting up at a certain time each day.
Perhaps it is an addiction to alcahol or pornography. Get accountability. Do not stay in those situations. God’s grace is sufficient to help you throw off the chains which are binding you.
Perhaps it is a love of watching television. Maybe you watch many different TV series and you are allowing it to control you and your time. God’s grace is sufficient, but you must have the will to change.
Satan wants you to make you a slave of these things. All of those who want to be a salve, raise their hands…. If you don’t want to be a slave, then take your sins to the Lord and pray for freedom. Take the steps necessary and claim God’s grace and live victorious lives for the Lord.
- Do not become entangled again in worldly things – This concept is repeated in even more vivid terminology in verse 22 – A dog returns to its vomit and a sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.
How do you feel when you think about a dog returning to its vomit? I don’t really need to explain this or have a picture up on the PPT. Peter already accomplishes his goal, which is to repulse us. You are supposed to read this and think, Eww, disgusting!”
It is disgusting. If you had a pet dog that did that, you would say, “stupid dog.” Peter is saying that it is disgusting and stupid for a person who has turned to the Lord to go back again to his former worldly way of life.
Ephesians 4:22 – put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires
If you have placed your faith in Jesus, God has set you free. Whatever you chased after before you were a believer, you should not chase after anymore.
- Did you chase after popularity and praise from people? Do not become entangled again.
- Did you chase after worldly achievements, promotions and awards? Do not become entangled again.
- Did you chase after money and riches? Do not become entangled again.
How many of you have been asked lately how you are doing by a friend? And how many of you have answered, “I am busy!” Life in 2018 is busy. Almost everyone says, “I am so busy!” My question for you today is “what are you busy with?” Are you busy with worldly things or are you busy with God’s kingdom? What is our theme in GICF this year? Living in the Kingdom. We should make ourselves busy doing the things of God, not making ourselves so busy in the world that we have no time for God.
A friend of mine recently said, “Life is fair. Everyone has 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The problem is not having time. We have time. The problem is how we choose to spend it.”
Do not turn your backs on sacred commands –
In verse 21 it basically says it is better to be ignorant than to know the truth and disobey. One of the things God considers when He judges us is how much we know. It doesn’t mean that a person who doesn’t the Bible at all is not guilty at all. Through his own conscience he knows what is right and wrong and still does not do it. It does mean that if a person has been clearly taught the Word and then willfully chooses to disobey it, that person will be judged more strictly.
What does that mean for you? It is better for you to not come to church at all than to come and listen and not obey. Coming to church should be means to an end. It is not the end. Repeat.
Coming to church is not the goal. Knowing God, worshiping God, glorifying God, obeying God. These are the goals. Many of you have probably read the news recently about the Sentinelese tribe in the Andaman islands and the man, John Chau, who tried to reach them. These people have never heard the gospel. They are living in the darkness.
Today we are all blessed. We know the truth. We know God’s commands. Now let’s go and do them. While the worship team comes up and I begin to pray, consider how God wants you to obey what you have learned today. I would encourage you to write down a specific application of what you believe God is leading you to do this week.