Does this guy ever show up in your church?
He constantly complains about the state of the present-day church, he carps on the worldliness of Christians today, and he is dead-sure that modern preachers just aren’t as dedicated as they used to be. Recognize him?
One of his favorite lines goes like this: “What we need are a few New Testament churches!”
There is an answer to his hunger for a New Testament church. The fact is we have them all over the place.
The New Testament church was beset by inner struggles, doctrinal divisions, leaders on their own personal ego trips, preachers who were in it for the money, and false prophets.
Solomon was right. There is nothing new under the sun.
The troubles afflicting today’s church are not new. They’ve been a constant thorn in the flesh of God’s people from the beginning.
The second chapter of II Peter is not the only New Testament passage dealing with false prophets, but it’s about as explicit as any of them.
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.(II Peter 2:1)
In the old days, the Apostle Peter says, they had false prophets. Jeremiah 23 talks about them at length.
And in these recent days, he says, we have them too.
Here, according to Peter, is their modus operandi:
THEY DENY HIM.
One of the tell-tale signs of almost every false prophet who has strode into a congregation is this: they are wrong concerning the Lord Jesus. And no wonder. If they are to supplant Him in the affections and loyalties of God’s people, they will have to devalue his lordship and undercut His deity.
Do we have a theological problem here in verse 1? Peter says they will “deny the Lord who bought them.” That would indicate they are saved people doing the devil’s work. Whether we should push this to the limit and say these heretics were saved or not is not for me to say. I merely point out the problem.
THEY TWIST HIS.
The word “heresy” has as its root the word “choice.” People choose to believe something other than the truth. And in the case of heresies, these are bad choices that bring about disastrous results.
By their teaching and as a result of their teaching, “the way of truth will be blasphemed,” he says in verse 2.
THEY WANT YOURS.
Why do they do this? What is the motive of almost all false teachers?
Two motivating factors drive false teachers:
–Greed. “By covetousness they exploit you.” (vs. 3) They’re not driven by love for God, love for people, or love for truth. It’s love for money that drives them. Just up the highway from where I live is a preacher who proclaims the health-and-wealth gospel. Presently he is building a multi-million-dollar house right beside the river so all the world can see it. Such preachers, if they were sincere, would do well to take their message to poor countries like Haiti and the Sudan instead of exploiting the gullible in the richest country on the planet.
–Sensualtiy. “They walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness” (vs. 10). At this very moment, the pastor of a megachurch in Georgia is being accused of sexually exploiting young men in his congregation. This preacher who makes millions and hobnobs with celebrities has the audacity to portray himself as “little David” going up against Goliath. He has not said who Goliath is, but one wonders if it’s the four young men who are accusing him. Seems to me he has his metaphors twisted. If their accusations are true, that’s not all he has twisted.
THEY’LL GET THEIRS.
“Their judgement from long ago is not idle; their destruction does not slumber” (vs 3).
They may be false prophets but there is nothing fake about the fate awaiting them. God has them red-lettered in on His appointment calendar. You would not want to be standing anywhere near them when their names are called by God’s angel. This is not going to be pretty.
The problem with false prophets, it seems to me, is that they do not believe in God. They do not fear God, otherwise they would not tamper with His people, mess with His truth, and ugly up His message. They believe in themselves, they believe in big bank accounts. What they do not believe in is accountability and judgment. No matter what they say in their preaching about hell, they don’t believe it. If they did, they’d be shivering in their boots as they tread so close to the edge.
They’ll get their comeuppance.
The Apostle Peter used a series of “If…then” statements to drive home the double-edged point that a) they are going to be judged and b) God will rescue the godly from temptation.
If God judged the angels who sinned, these fake preachers are certainly not going to miss their date at the Judgement Seat.
If God judged the ancient world and yet preserved Noah, He can take care of the bad guys while protecting His own.
If God condemned Sodom and Gomorrah–and did He ever!–then shirkers like these false prophets can’t expect to be overlooked by the wrath of God.
Peter is saying a little basic Bible knowledge ought to put the fear of the Lord into the hearts of the false preachers.
The problem is they don’t believe the Word. They use the Scriptures like a plaything, picking and choosing what they will preach and twisting everything to fit their wicked purposes.
So, not believing the Word, they do not fear the Lord. And that leads to all kinds of excess and abscess.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.(Romans 3:18)
That may be the scariest thing to be said of anyone, but particularly a self-appointed spiritual leader. Such a lack opens the door for a world of trouble for anyone looking to that person for spiritual guidance.
To the leaders of the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul warned:
I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.(Acts 20:29-30)
Let God’s people always be on the lookout for trouble-makers in the church. But do not let us fall prey to the fallacy that the early church was free from such and that the presence of heretical teachers today is some kind of dire sign. They’ve been among us from the beginning.
Our task is to learn to recognize truth when we hear it and falsehood when that is the line being spread from the pulpit. Leaders of God’s churches must be courageous in demanding truth and fighting error. Unless we do, all is lost.