2 Peter 2 is an amazing chapter, for it gives us the defining marks of a false teacher and false prophet. The entire chapter is devoted to doing just this. Much of the Christian world is ignorant of these characteristics, because much of the Christian world is overrun by these false teachers. When the marks of a false teacher are added up, their identity is not hard to find out. Though most of these false teachers are not saved according to many verses in this chapter, some of these could be brothers in serious error, so we have to be careful to see the difference. Nonetheless, the errors are significant enough for Paul to hand brothers over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh so their souls could be saved.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2:1
The first thing we should notice is that these “false teachers” are “among you.” They are often in our fellowship, whether in person or by teaching materials. They are most probably among us right now and we don’t realize it.
The second thing we should pay attention to is that these false teachers “privily” come in or bring in their teachings. They do it secretly, inconspicuously or unnoticed. The book of Jude says they “crept in unawares.” They also bring in “damnable heresies” or material that is close to being heretical. They privily deny the Lord, but not openly, and deny him in various ways. They can deny by denigrating the Lord’s character by their teachings when we don’t even realize they’re doing it. They can deny the Lord that bought them by teaching limited atonement for example. They deny Jesus by not talking about him.
The third thing we should realize is that these people are under “swift destruction” from the Lord. The Lord thinks it’s so serious what they’re doing that he will bring swift destruction on them.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (verse 2)
Notice that these false teachers have a following, usually a big following because “many” follow their ways. Any teacher that has multitudes following him should be immediately questioned no matter how godly or popular they are, even in Christian circles and especially in “Christian” circles. The word says that “which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” The majority is wrong many times when it comes to spiritual truth. What we should not overlook here is that the verse above says it is “by reason” that many follow them that the way of truth is evil spoken of. Scripture teaches something here we may overlook that is quite instructive. Just the mere fact that they have a huge following is “the reason” for much of their false teaching. Their followers end up dictating what these teachers teach, because you must please the customer and give them what they want. The way is broad that leads to destruction and MANY there be that go in thereat. The way is narrow that leads to life Jesus said.
Now notice that one of their chief characteristics is that they are “pernicious”-their ways are wicked and many times spiritually deadly.
Another chief characteristic is that they speak evil of the truth and they do so by wresting the scriptures, applying them to wrong interpretations, by bringing God down to man’s level and whittling away at the gospel. The power of the gospel is downplayed, for example, and they focus on themselves and their teachings as the solution as we shall soon see.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. (verse 3)
Here we see the revealing nature of these teachers-they are caught up in covetousness, the love of money, power, influence, things of the world. They love titles, love to be called “Rabbi” or Dr. or Reverend or any other title of man. They are usually rich because of making money off of God’s people. They have their private jets, their million dollar homes, their hundred thousand dollar cars-all made off the saints. They are not just selling books-they are becoming rich at the expense of God’s people in a multitude of ways, charging hundreds of thousands of dollars just to speak to the saints, making millions and millions and “peddling” the word of God as Paul said in Corinthians.
Secondly, they use “feigned words.” They use “vain words” as Paul said. They appeal to pride, to arrogance, to sounding like other worldly motivational speakers who talk nothing but positive tripe. They are not plain speakers as Paul commanded that we should be. They use the world’s language and speak like the world like John said: “therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John 4:5).They pretend to believe things and they contradict themselves, or “lie in hypocrisy” as scriptures says. Feigned words would include “smooth things” as Romans says, things that the masses want to hear. They are hypocrites in much of their lives and their words are “feigned.” They say one thing and do another. They lie, they mix truth with lies. They speak to itching ears and tell their customers what they want to hear. They elevate their teachings alongside God’s words, not directly, but when they say such things as their teachings came directly from the Lord, word for word, and that we must have their teachings to get deliverance, out of bondage, etc.
Next. they “make merchandise” of Christians. They use feigned or lying words to buy and sell you their products. They make merchandise of you by using you for their gain. They sell you everything in the name of the Lord and get rich doing so. They beg for your money and support and charge outlandish fees for even speaking to you in churches. None of the apostles did these things. They think that “gain is godliness” as Timothy quoted and Timothy said from such to “withdraw thyself” if that is what they are teaching. They think that their riches are proof of God blessing them. They are usually in league with all the “word of faith” teachers who teach that God’s wants us to prosper financially and be rich. Their friends are a tell tale sign of who they are. Ask yourself who they fellowship with, who they quote, who they emulate and esteem. You will learn quite a bit of who they are by whom they like.
God said these people’s judgment is coming quickly. God takes this seriously, this covetousness and money making schemes to sell Christians out.
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. (verse 10)
Other defining characteristics of false teachers-they “walk after the flesh.” They are consumed with fleshly stories, fleshly analogies, fleshly teachings, fleshly jokes. They are consumed with improving the flesh, touting every self improvement thing they can think of when God never tells us to improve our flesh, but to kill it.
They are “presumptuous.” They make presumptions on God’s words constantly. They assume it means things that it has no connection to their teaching, only in their twisted logic. They take things out of context and take advantage of those who don’t know the context of scripture. They presume that what they say is right because they are immune from serious error because they are God’s people.
They are ‘self willed” as scripture says above. They do what they want, when they want, and how they want. They are not interested in being corrected and can’t handle rebuke from a godly person very well or at all. Scripture says a wise man receives rebuke and loves you for it while a fool hates you for it.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; (verse 12)
They have many “things they understand not.” They are characterized by an overall lack of understanding of even the first principles of the word of God and have need of milk and not meat. Many of them don’t understand even the simplest references in the word and have a dismal understanding of basic doctrines. They rarely quote scripture, but they will quote their material. They don’t compare scripture with scripture. They compare scripture with their teachings and find what matches. That is how they deceive.
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; (verse 13)
They “count it pleasure to riot in the day time.” Most of these rich famous peddlers do not have daytime jobs other than counting the money they receive from saints. They jet around, go on constant vacations-they don’t work with their hands or minds but have everyone do everything for them.
They are marked with “deceivings.” They are deceived in numerous areas and deceive others constantly with bits of truth intermingled with lies. They love “feasts” and love to charge you for them, whether it’s a cruise toIsraelor a prayer breakfast-they want your money.
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: (verse 14)
They have “eyes full of adultery.” Most of these big time religious hucksters have committed adultery with their spouses. The list is huge.
They “beguile unstable souls” They like to prey on “unstable souls,” those men of God or lost people who are not knowledgeable and can not call them out on doctrine.
Again, Peter tells us about their covetousness, but this time he tells us they “exercise” their hearts, not with weights or running, but with “covetous practices.” They are focused solely on getting more, building bigger barns, expanding their “ministry, and so forth. They want their name first and foremost on everything they do. Not the name of Jesus, but their name. They are just like thetowerofBabelwhen they say “let us make US a name.” They are cursed children according to scripture.
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; (verse 15)
They “follow the way of Balaam” It would do well for you to revisit the story of Balaam the false prophet of Israel who Peter says “loved the wages” of what he was supposedly helping Israel do. One of Balaam’s main heresies was taking what God said and changing it to fit his agenda or just leaving out of a part of what God said and not respecting the word of God to fully teach the whole counsel of God.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. (verse 18)
Here we see that their speaking abilities are outstanding in the world’s eyes. They are “great” speakers according to God’s words. Again, they appeal to vain things, things that the world likes. They are smooth talkers, knowing how to woo an audience, make them laugh, cry and want more. They are entertainers, not teachers of God’s words.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (verse 19)
They “promise them liberty.” They are always “promising” things to you. Scripture doesn’t say we should promise people. But they do and they guarantee results. They are lying to us. They are always speaking about how you can get free if you use their program, read their book, do what they tell you. But they themselves are the servants of corruption. They are hypocrites, in bondage to the very things they speak against.