False Teachers Will Come
I taught 2 Peter 2:1-10a tonight at the Transformation House. I was up most of last night working and then gone all of today to Bowling Green on business, so I expected to deliver a short meditation on a happy nuance of the character of God I detected in verse 9. I even joked on the phone with my co-teacher that I didn't expect a whizz-bang lesson given my circumstances unless the Lord intervened. Hanging up, I decided to combat unbelief and turned that simple comment into a prayer. Not surprisingly, we ended up having an hour long Bible study that elicited positive interaction from the men present and greatly encouraged me. Amen!
And that's not even the best part of the story!
The passage in 2 Peter begins a discussion of false teachers, their ill effects, and their poor prospects for the future. Instead of diving right into the passage itself, we first examined Jeremiah 6:9-15 where the Lord forewarns Israel of his coming wrath on account of the nation's abject rebellion and the disregard of the prophets and priests for the ministry of the Word. Not only were the false prophets superficially binding up a broken people, but they weren't even ashamed of their hypocrisy. They declared "Peace, peace," when there was no peace... like a string quartet trying to calm a drowning crowd in the icy North Atlantic.
Beginning in Jeremiah served to strengthen our understanding of the heinousness of false teachers. Not only do they bring destruction on themselves, but in leading a whole people astray they bring down the wrath of God on many. (Isn't it enough for someone to walk alone into destruction? How much more severe it must be to lead a line...) Israel was in a very bad spot, and the Lord did exactly as He promised.
Segue into 2 Peter. I reminded the guys of the previous weeks' teaching... Peter, on the strength of the inspiration of the true prophets, and having witnessed the glory of God in Christ, came to understand that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets. He didn't make up a fairy tale about the magical man who walked on water and did good to all. He accepted the authority of the Word and deduced from his life experience that the only rational conclusion was that Jesus is the Son of God, the savior of sinners. He spent his life reminding those who came to faith that this truth was worth living out and defending till death.
However, believing the gospel and living according to the Bible will not come easy. By and large, the world is set against such behavior. Some would be happy to see us compromise our convictions or abandon our faith, and it tends to be because they want something we have or because our holiness highlights their sensuality. This was easily demonstrable in the lesson by virtue of the fact that most of the men present shared the following experience of a friend of mine who lived with me.
Some years ago, my roommate, Rob Smythe, and I brought in a third man to live with us who had been evicted from his apartment. We were still fairly new at such ministry and didn't recognize the fact that his eviction was due to a drug addiction. We began the process of working with him to plan to save his paycheck and not squander it on new clothes and drugs, but week after week he spent his paycheck before we could put any of our plans into action. One day, I diagnosed his "flirtation" with drugs as an addiction, and he told me in all seriousness that no one had ever told him that before. Until that day, smoking crack was just something he did socially but not something that he depended on. His friends were happy to delude him and squander his wealth on their crack, and all the while he was at least nominally active in another church in the city. You know the saying... "With friends like these..."
Well, that story (of which I've been given permission to share) really resonated with the guys there. Not only was this a clear example of a man's friends eager to bring him down, it was the common experience of many men with addictions who are taken advantage of by their friends and who have done the same in turn. However, it's not just the world and our supposed friends, but even those within the church who would preach, "Peace, peace," or, "Social activity, not addiction," that keep us from believing, loving, and obeying the Bible. Peter writes that he wants to always stir the people up by way of reminder so that even after he's dead and gone, the faithful will stand firm despite the source of the attack on their biblical fidelity.
So... these false teachers. They lead others into sensuality. They take advantage of others' wealth. On account of them and their obvious hypocrisy (to the world, that is), the way of truth is actually blasphemed. In other words, these people are doing evil, leading others to do evil, and leading still others to speak evil of the Lord and His gospel. There's no doubt what they have coming for them, or as Peter writes, their destruction is not asleep.
He then goes through this list of events where the wicked are unreservedly punished. Fallen angels are bound in darkness. The ancient world is wiped out by a flood. Sodom and Gomorrah are burned to smithereens. A few words come to mind. Unequivocal. Absolute. Destruction. And don't you expect Peter to write that the Lord has the same in store for the false teachers his friends will encounter? I know I did. And this is the good part I mentioned way up above.
Peter actually takes a different approach. Yes, he does get to the point that the unrighteous will be kept under punishment until the day of judgment, but he comes in at an unexpected angle. What's funny is that I should be geared to expect it. Here's what I mean...
The horror of the Flood wasn't just about wrath. It was also about Noah, a preacher of righteousness, being saved in a boat thanks to the instruction of God. The flames of Sodom and Gomorrah weren't just about wrath. They were also about righteous Lot being saved from the city where not even ten righteous men could be found. In fact, Peter even points out that the wickedness of those around Lot greatly distressed him. No longer. The wicked men were burned, along with the cities whose names they have forever tarnished.
And so when we get to the end of this passage. The warning about false teachers and the promise that their destruction is not asleep is not just about God preserving His good name. Certainly, the Lord will vindicate His name. But notice in verse 9 what appears first... "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials." That's right, Christian. God cares about you. Just as much as God cares about preserving His good name, God cares about rescuing you from the deadly influence of false teachers. He will judge, but His judgment is not just about Him having His way. His judgment is for your good, to spare you from the trial or temptation of hearing and being enticed by false teaching.
God cares about you, and in your fight to remain faithful, the Lord knows how to rescue you from trials. That thought, that simple meditation arrived at "roundaboutly" was a great encouragement me to me this evening, and I hope it is to you, too. Thanks for sticking with me.