Thursday, November 8, 2018
The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Peter. Day 21, God's Judgment Of False Teachers, Part One
As soon as the gospel began to be preached, false teachers began to creep in and pervert the truth. Peter speaks of the condemnation these deceivers are bringing on themselves. It's going to take us two or three days to study Chapter 2 as Peter talks about the wrath of God that's going to fall on anyone who leads souls away from the truth that could save them.
I can't think of any worse sin than persuading another human being to reject the Lord and to follow false teachings. It's bad enough to want to live in wickedness ourselves, but when we lead another person away from the truth we are sinning against their eternal soul. I don't know exactly what form of eternal punishment will be brought to bear against such persons, but I believe it will be especially harsh. Peter wants to leave the church with a warning to be on guard against anyone who tries to bring in a false doctrine. He and most of the other apostles will soon lose their lives for the faith. He is concerned that it will be easier for false teachers to gain control of the people once the eyewitnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ have passed out of the world.
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you." (2 Peter 2:1a) We spoke yesterday about the differences between true prophets and false prophets in Old Testament times. Lying wasn't invented in Peter's day in the first century B.C. Lying has existed ever since Satan rebelled against God. Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. (John 8:44) Satan lied to Eve in the garden and she fell for it, and ever since that day lies have abounded on the earth. So it's not surprising that there are still false prophets in New Testament times. Satan tried desperately to turn human beings away from their Creator in ancient times so he could prevent the Messiah from coming to save the human race; imagine how much more he wants to turn human beings away from the Lord Jesus Christ now that He has already come and given His life to save mankind.
"They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them---bringing swift destruction on themselves." (2 Peter 2:1b) Christ paid the price to buy freedom for us all; we can either accept Him and be made whole by the blood He shed for us or we can reject Him and be guilty of His blood. The false teachers are pretending to be believers, yet their doctrine and the condition of their hearts deny the Lord. He paid for them, but they haven't really accepted Him. Instead they are using His name for their own worldly gain. They are talking the talk just enough to convince people who aren't well-versed in the Scriptures that they are genuine teachers of the gospel. This is why we have to study the word of God on a regular basis, so we can compare what the Lord says with what our teachers are telling us.
"Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." (2 Peter 2:2-3) A modern day example of exploitative false teaching is the "prosperity gospel". There are some well known evangelists of mega churches who have made themselves wealthy by persuading their listeners to send everything they can to their ministry, promising that the Lord will reward them a thousand fold for their sacrificial giving. There's nothing wrong with being the pastor of a mega church if you are preaching the truth. Churches naturally continue to grow when Christ is being honored in spirit and in truth. But some morally corrupt pastors have become obscenely wealthy by fleecing people out of their life savings. These teachers are preaching a false doctrine, for the Lord never promised us wealth in exchange for giving to anyone's ministry. Does He expect us to tithe? Does He expect us to give extra offerings to genuine churches and genuine missionaries according to our individual financial abilities? Yes He does, but in exchange for that He doesn't promise to help us win the Mega Millions lottery. He does promise to bless us for tithing (Malachi 3:10) and He promises to reward our faith in Christ by supplying our needs (Philippians 4:19).
It may seem to us sometimes that God is not swift enough to judge liars and swindlers, but Peter assures us that God is not dozing off or turning a blind eye to the sins of false prophets. Peter will expand on this theory in Chapter 3, reminding us that God is not slack in keeping His promises, but that He is giving sinners time to repent of their deeds. (2 Peter 3:9) False teachers will never be able to accuse the Lord of not giving them opportunities to accept the truth and repent. In tomorrow's study Peter will compare the coming judgment of false teachers to the judgment of the world in Noah's day and the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham's day. Noah preached a message of repentance for 120 years while he built the ark. No one repented and judgment came on everyone but Noah and his family. The Lord gave the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah many years to repent, even allowing Abraham's nephew Lot to live among them as a "righteous man" (2 Peter 1:7-8) as a godly example to them. But no one repented and judgment came on everyone but Lot and his two daughters. I think our current false teachers have not yet faced harsh judgment in this life, or have not yet been taken out of this life, because the Lord is giving them time to repent. Some of them may repent and some of them may not, but when they stand before the judgment seat of Almighty God they will have to admit that whatever penalty He brings against them is justified.