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2 Peter 2:1-21



But there were also false prophets among the people just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

(verse 1)

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These strong words of warning lead into a whole chapter that alerts us to the poisoning corruption of false teachers and confirms the judgement that falls upon them. The danger is real and “their destruction has not been sleeping” (2:3).


This reality for the church is played out against the backdrop of genuine Old Testament prophets whose teaching was never rooted in “stories they have made up” (2:3), but rather originated from the Spirit of God himself. As we saw in the last chapter: "prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (1:21). Of such teaching, Peter says, “you will do well to pay attention … as to a light shining in a dark place”(1:19).


But the false teachers provide only emptiness, like “springs without water.” Rather than giving light, “blackest darkness is reserved for them” (2:17).


So how do we avoid such false teaching? How do we identify what is fake? Peter gives some helpful insights.


The first has to do with the teaching’s source. Does it spring from the teacher’s own mind and imagination or does it come from the Spirit of God? The objective measure, of course, is the Word of God itself. All scripture, being God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), finds its source in the Spirit. So we come back to the Word again and again, lining it up, side by side, with what our teachers teach us. If there is a discrepancy, it’s clear who’s at fault.


Of course it must be noted that some scripture is hard to understand. Peter himself will make this point in the very next chapter, referencing the difficulty in understanding some of Paul’s writings (3:15-16). Scripture, therefore, requires wise interpretation. But we’re not on our own. We receive help from the faithful tradition of God’s community down through the years. Although such tradition is never infallible, it is a vital expression of the Body of Christ, which extends through both time and space, equipped in each age by the Spirit’s gifting. When “new” teaching emerges that is out of line with that heritage, we need to be exceedingly careful in judging it by the standard of Scripture. While helpful nuances of insight may arise, the main strands of doctrine will stand firm. False teachers, on the other hand, care little for that standard, “even denying the Sovereign Lord who bought them.”

A second element comes from the lives of the teachers themselves. Peter speaks of “their shameful ways” (2:2), that they revel “in their pleasures” (2:13) and “follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority” (2:10). Further, “with eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning” and have become “experts in greed” (2:14). The implication? Take a good look at these teachers’ lives. If they have “left the straight way” (2:15) and do not embrace the path of holiness, then avoid their teaching. All of this falls in line with Jesus’ own warnings about false prophets, telling us “by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16, 20).


So beware. Be wise. Keep your sights on the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Embrace the wise counsel arising from the heritage of God’s faithful people. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

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Sovereign Lord, please guard your church in this day from running off the rails into false teaching. Keep us anchored in your Word, listening to your Spirit. Let us humbly embrace teaching that honours your authority. Keep our eyes focused on Jesus, submitting to his lordship. In his name. Amen.

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Reflect:

How can you ensure that you remain faithful to truth? How will you continue to guard yourself against false teaching? What steps will you take to keep eyes focused on him?

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