Just as there were false prophets in Old Testament times we should expect false teachers in our day.
When Peter uses the term false prophet not only here but throughout the rest of this chapter, he’s implying that they are more than someone who is teaching out of ignorance, someone who is sincerely mistaken, like Apollos Acts 18.
He’s talking about those who know full well what they are doing and are purposely trying to mislead others and he says if we want to know what a false teacher is like, look at the damage they cause.
He says they have their own destructive heresies. In other words, some people will come into our assemblies with their own secret agendas.
They may have an appearance like any other Christian, they will be polite and sound godly and even come across as if they know the Scriptures but they will have an agenda that we’re not aware of. And if we listen closely to what they say, we will begin to hear their agenda the more time we spend with them.
Not only will you hear it but you will see it. Look at the damage which is being caused. Just try and disagree with their thinking and watch what happens and sadly, churches start arguing over matters of opinion, churches start splitting because people have different goals.
Peter says, be careful, some people will come into our assemblies and try to teach their own doctrine and cause division in the Lord’s church because of that doctrine. When Christians fight each other, everybody loses, Galatians 5:15.
And so, one sign of a false teacher is someone who tries to bring in their own agendas and causes division within the church because they want to push their own doctrinal ideas.
Peter says these false teachers will cause others to deny Jesus, the very person who bought them and we know that this was already a problem for the early church, 2 John 7. Were these false teachers whom Peter had in mind, true Christians at one point in their lives?
I would like to suggest that they were, that’s why Peter uses the phrase ‘bought them’. All Christians were bought by the precious blood of Christ, Acts 20:28. We know that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit because we were bought with a price, 1 Corinthians 6:20.
I believe that these false teachers were once true Christians but over a period of time, they started to deny the very person who bought them with His blood. And they deny Him by twisting God’s word to suit their own agendas and their own beliefs, 2 Peter 2:20.
The real damage they cause is seen in the many people who follow them. They secretly come in with their own agendas and they go out of their way to convince others that what they are teaching is right or they go out of their way to convince others that what everyone else believes is wrong.
But they can’t back up what they believe using the Scriptures without either twisting them or taking the text out of context and so this causes division and they now have their own following.
Peter says many will follow their immoral ways. In other words, instead of following the Lord as they should, they follow what they think is right. Instead of following the Lord who is the only way to salvation, they separate themselves from the only true source of salvation.
That’s what Peter means when he says, ‘the way of truth will be maligned’. Peter says, be careful, don’t follow them or we may end up losing our soul because of their false doctrine.
The good news is that Peter doesn’t leave us in the dark about how false teachers go about doing their work, he says they will work ‘secretly’.
Isn’t it interesting that most crimes are committed during the night? And that’s because there are fewer people around, they have the cover of darkness and they are more likely to get away with the crime. In much the same way, these false teachers can’t stand the light of truth, so they set out to work behind the scenes.
They divide and conquer, they will work on creating good relationships with people within a congregation, invite them for dinner, give certain people a call regularly, etc. And it’s then behind the scenes they will begin to share their own ideas about something.
And when they have enough people to support their ideas, all of a sudden, out of nowhere it becomes a congregational matter. And so something which can be easily explained using the Scriptures is rejected because these false teachers don’t want to hear it.
We must be careful of anyone who organises secret meetings with a select few, we must be careful of anyone who claims one thing but can’t back up what they believe with the Bible.
The sad news is that what these false teachers say often sounds very convincing, doesn’t it? That’s because they are not appealing to the Scriptures, they are appealing to covetousness. Peter says to be careful because these people will take advantage of you, 2 Peter 2:14 / 2 Peter 2:18.
They offer things that the flesh often desires, things like wealth, health, power, and influence and they use misleading words. Peter says they will take advantage of us by using deceptive words, 2 Peter 2:18. He says these false teachers will be smooth talkers, who know exactly what they are doing. And they are and will continue to deceive those who follow them, 2 Timothy 3:13.
Peter says if a person cannot give us book, chapter, and verse, but appeals to something that sounds good, be careful, hence why Peter has been reminding his readers to keep growing in the knowledge of Christ.
The more we know Christ, live Christ and keep our heads in the Bible, the less chance we will have of becoming deceived when these false teachers come along.
Notice that Peter tells us what will eventually happen to these false teachers. He says that they will bring on themselves swift destruction. In other words not only will their doctrines destroy others, but their doctrines will end up destroying them too.
We may think, the destruction of these false teachers isn’t that swift but Peter goes on to reassure us that it hasn’t gone unnoticed. In other words, Peter is saying, when there are false teachers around, don’t worry about them. God is not idle, and God isn’t asleep when it comes to their judgment and destruction.
Peter now goes on to give us a few examples of how God doesn’t let the guilty off with their sin.
Peter asks have you forgotten the angels who tried to overthrow God in heaven? God hasn’t. Peter asks have you forgotten all those who wouldn’t listen to Noah and turn to God? God hasn’t. Peter asks have you forgotten what happened to those who sinned at Sodom and Gomorrah? God hasn’t.
Peter says our God not only knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation but He hasn’t forgotten those who have sinned either. And so, we must be careful because false teachers are everywhere, and although we cannot tell by their appearance, we can tell by their fruit, Matthew 7:15-20 / Galatians 5:22-23.
It is entirely possible to have a good tree and a bad tree that look nearly identical in trunk, limbs, and leaves, yet they differ in the quality of fruit they produce. But if we listen closely to these false teachers, their hypocrisy will eventually be shown to all those who observe them.
So why doesn’t God deal with these false teachers and all the ungodly people of this world today? Peter says, God is not controlled by time like we are, and He doesn’t want anyone to perish but everyone to come to Him in repentance.
In other words, as long as today is called today, we have a chance to reach some soul with the true Gospel of Jesus. Sinners everywhere have still got time to come to God because God is patiently waiting for them to come. He’s waiting but He won’t wait forever and when judgment day comes, it will be too late because Peter says He will come like a thief in the night, 2 Peter 3:10.
Peter reminds us that false teachers would come amongst us and totally destroy the Lord’s church with their words and teachings. He reminds us that they would bring on themselves swift destruction and he also reminded us that their judgement will not be forgotten by God.
And to reinforce the idea that their judgment is certain, Peter gives us three examples of God’s righteous judgment from the past. Notice that Peter tells us that these angels sinned, which means angels must have had some form of divine law to follow.
And notice also that angels were free-will agents, Peter tells us that these angels exercised their God-given free will and chose to disobey God’s sacred law. And so because of disobeying God’s law, Peter tells us they were cast out of heaven and committed to pits of darkness, 1 John 1:5.
And so these disobedient angels are now kept in hell awaiting judgment and it seems fairly obvious to me at least that some angels didn’t like the position they were given by God and tried to seek higher positions by rebelling against God, Jude 6.
When Jesus is describing what His people should be doing, He tells us that those who don’t follow Him will be eternally punished but notice who else is mentioned as being eternally punished, the devil and angels, Matthew 25:41.
If God did not spare the angels who beheld His glory when they sinned, He will certainly punish false teachers who purposely lead His people astray.
Peter reminds us that God used the flood to judge the ungodly, Genesis 6:5-7. Notice that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was continually only evil and at this time the earth was corrupt in God’s eyes and filled with violence, Genesis 6:11-12.
If we know anything about it, we know it was bad enough for God to be grieved in His heart to such an extent that He found it necessary to destroy both man and beast from the face of the earth.
Noah was the first evangelist mentioned in the Bible and his life should teach us some lessons. For example, Noah faced the same circumstances that Christians face today.
Just as most people today do not believe Jesus is coming back at all, let alone soon, the people of Noah’s day did not know when the Flood was going to happen, Matthew 24:36-39.
They would have seen Noah building the ark and surely some people would have asked what on earth he was doing and why he was doing it, Hebrews 11:7.
And so like people today, almost certainly the people of Noah’s day were busy enjoying the pleasures of life and did not believe or care that judgment was coming.
The point that Peter is trying to remind us of is this if God destroyed the whole world because of their ungodliness, will He not destroy these false teachers who deny the Lord who bought them? And be assured, all people will be judged, no-one is going to escape the great Judgment Day which is coming, Hebrews 10:25.
It’s not all bad news because as we know God spared Noah, 1 Peter 3:20. In other words, that very same flood that God used to destroy the world was used to save Noah and his family’s lives. And it’s here as we begin to find comfort for the Christians who find themselves surrounded by the ungodly.
Noah walked with God, even amid a perverse generation Genesis 6:8 / Genesis 7:1. He was a preacher of righteousness, both in deed and word. And so while God was bringing judgment upon the ungodly, He did not lose sight of the godly.
God sees what the ungodly are up to but don’t forget that He also provides deliverance for the godly. In other words, not only will God bring destruction upon the false teachers, but He will also preserve all those who remain faithful to Him.
Peter also reminds us that God turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, Genesis 19:24-28. Why would God use such a terrible judgment on these cities? They were involved in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desires, Jude 7. Their sin was simply blatant, Genesis 18:20.
We remember that Lot had a visit from two angels who wanted to stay in the town square but Lot persuaded them to stay at his house and eat. A bunch of people came to his house and demanded to have sex with his visitors, Genesis 19:4-11.
And when we read that whole account we can understand why their sin was so great, now we can understand why God totally destroyed these cities.
But once again notice, that even though God destroyed the ungodly, He delivered righteous Lot. And this should serve as another reminder of how God does not lose sight of His faithful children when He brings judgment upon the ungodly.
Lot was delivered because he was righteous. In 2 Peter 2:7 Peter describes him as righteous Lot. In 2 Peter 2:8 Peter describes him as a righteous man. In 2 Peter 2:8 Peter describes him as a righteous soul.
If God destroyed these cities because of their sin, He will certainly destroy these false teachers for their sin. So we leave these false teachers for God to deal with, their fate is already awaiting them.
It’s difficult living in this world, surrounded by so much evil and sometimes we can get very discouraged because of what’s happening. Peter says if God can rescue Noah from a corrupt generation, then He can rescue us. Peter says if God can rescue Lot from a perverse generation, then He can rescue us.
So not only is God in the business of rescuing His people, but He always is also in the business of keeping the unrighteous in a secure place until judgment day comes.
So far, Peter has informed us about the damage these false teachers can and do cause, 2 Peter 2:1-3. He has informed us that God sees what they are doing and they will certainly not go unpunished for it, 2 Peter 2:4-9. And here, Peter informs us of just how corrupt these false teachers can be.
Insulting those who are in authority is something that these false teachers are very good at doing. Peter is describing a specific type of person here, a person who was once a true Christian but has now fallen from grace.
Notice how Peter describes these false teachers, he says they indulge in their fleshly desires, he says they are brazen and insolent. And as a result of their inner character, they behave more or less like irrational animals who have absolutely no respect for authority.
Peter talked about submission to our local authorities in his first letter, 1 Peter 2:13-17, but here Peter says these false teachers despise authority. Submission is not in their vocabulary but what is in their vocabulary is the way they speak about the glorious ones.
Who are the ‘glorious ones’ that Peter has in mind here? If we keep the text in its context, it’s clear he’s speaking about angelic beings, Jude 8-9.
In other words, Peter is saying that these false teachers would speak evil of fallen angels which is something that the angels who have greater power would never do. Clothes may disguise a fool, but their words will give them away and all that comes from these false teachers’ lips is corruption.
So not only are they speaking evil against fallen angelic beings, but Peter also says they are speaking evil of things that they haven’t got a clue about.
And so these false teachers have this condemning attitude and despise authority, they speak evil about things they don’t know the whole story about and in doing so they corrupt themselves, Jude 10.
Have you ever wondered how a worm gets inside an apple? We might think the worm burrows in from the outside, But it doesn’t, scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside.
But how does he get in there? An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Sometime later, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple and then eats his way out.
Sin, like the worm, begins in the heart and works out through a person’s thoughts, words, and actions. And these false teachers are not afraid to speak evil of others or even show it in their lives. Peter says these guys revel with great pleasure, they love to carouse.
These false teachers revel in pleasure, it’s the idea of going out and painting the town red as we would say. But this is taking it to the extreme, it’s extreme because they don’t hide it, they think it’s great acting like this even during the day.
Peter says, like stains and blemishes, they carouse in their deceptions while they feast with you. In other words, they take advantage of gathering Christians.
We always need to be careful because these false teachers are very skilled in the art of deception, and so they will come in and take advantage of us. Peter says these guys are full of corruption, their eyes are full of adultery, Matthew 5:28, their eyes and their heart are so corrupt. So these false teachers come into our assemblies teaching one thing but practising another.
Peter says they can’t help themselves, they can’t stop sinning, which again tells us just how corrupt they are. They take advantage of unstable people but notice what Peter says about their hearts here. He says they have trained their hearts for greed, now what does that mean?
These false teachers are also very skilled in the art of deception in order to get what they want. No wonder Peter calls them cursed children, no wonder Peter says to the church, grow Christian but be careful.
I suggested earlier that I believe that these false teachers were once true Christians and one of the reasons I believe this is because of what Peter says here.
He says they have forsaken the right path and gone astray. It is hard to forsake what we never had or to go astray if we were never in the right way in the first place.
Peter says just like the prophet Balaam, they were swayed by the wages of unrighteousness. Interestingly, Peter mentions the wages of unrighteousness in 2 Peter 2:13 in terms of the eternal compensation one receives for their sins.
But here, the wages of unrighteousness refer to the momentary compensation one receives for their sins. In other words, there’s a price for everything in this world.
The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22:22-35, Balaam is a seer and diviner who has been hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel, because Balak fears Israel’s growing strength. And in the story, we find a talking donkey, which God uses to make Balaam see the danger of following Balak’s order.
God turns Balaam’s curses into blessings, and Israel will continue safely on its way, altogether unaware of either its danger or its rescue. Having seen the angel of the Lord with his threatening sword, the donkey tries three times to keep Balaam from going down that path. The tension heightens each time, but Balaam perseveres.
Finally, God opens the animal’s mouth, and it argues with Balaam, but the amazing thing is that it is Balaam who has misunderstood everything.
The point is Balaam was rebuked and restrained by a dumb donkey who spoke. Peter is saying how much more should we pay attention to when it is the voice of an inspired apostle who seeks to rebuke and restrain the madness of false teachers.
Peter says these false teachers will promise much but deliver nothing. He says they are springs without water, they are mists carried by a storm and their eternal fate is awaiting them. In other words, they promise much but they never truly deliver what they promise, Jude 12-13.
Earlier Peter said that these aflame teachers ‘will exploit you with deceptive words’, now he says, ‘they speak high sounding empty words’.
Peter says that these false teachers sound great and impressive and they promise much but sadly they lack any true substance. Why? Because they actually appeal to the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21.
Peter says it’s by using this deceiving method that they seek to charm those who have escaped from those who live in error. And not only do they appeal to the flesh, but they also promise freedom from the flesh.
Peter says they promise freedom but they don’t deliver, especially if it is freedom from the lusts of the flesh. He has just told us that they appeal to the flesh to lure people in but at the same time they are promising freedom from the flesh.
What’s going on here? They are enslaving people through the very thing they promised deliverance from. These false teachers promise freedom, while they are still slaves.
Peter says they are slaves to immorality, trying to promise what they don’t have themselves. And so, these false teachers who promise freedom, are themselves still enslaved by the very things they promise to free us from. No wonder Peter goes on to tell us that they are worse off now than they were before.
Peter says their latter end is worse than their beginning, he says it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness, Luke 12:47-48.
I can’t picture a more sickening scene than a dog that has just been sick all over the kitchen floor going back and eating it, that’s just gross.
Or what sense does it make for a female pig to spend hours cleaning herself just to go back into a pool of mud to get dirty again? In other words, these false teachers have become like the dog returning to his vomit, and the washed sow wallowing again in the mire.
Peter has been encouraging us to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ but we also need to listen to his warning and be careful of these false teachers. Because if we don’t, we too may end up becoming just as lost as them.
Peter warns us about falling away because it’s a very real possibility and he’s not alone in the Bible with that concept, Galatians 1:6-9 / Hebrews 3:12-13.
Peter believes that Christians can fall from grace and he believes Christians can be led away by the error of false teachers. That’s why he dedicates a whole chapter to describe these false teachers who are losing their salvation and trying to take others with them.