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. (2 Peter 2:1)
False teaching is a cancer to the church. It must be excised—every malignant cell removed. Otherwise, it will kill the body. What makes false teaching so pernicious is how closely it mimics the truth. Often, in our physical state, cancer cells begin to multiply undetected, until they are well advanced. So, heresy, has a way of invading the spiritual life and spreading without notice until it reaches a deadly level. This is the subject dealt with in 2 Peter 2. The old Apostle is calling for radical surgery of false doctrine and its teachers.
He begins by telling us that this is not a new problem—it is one of the chief ways Satan operates (v.1). We are told that Satan is, “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44); “transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor.11:14); and that he “deceives the whole world” (Rev.12:9). The serpent began his assault on truth in Eden with Eve by first questioning the truth, “Has God indeed said…” (Gen.3:1) and from there moved to denying the truth, “You will not surely die.” (Gen.3:3)
Satan has many minions who spread his lies. The pages of the Old Testament find these tumors of false teaching springing up periodically. One prominent example that Peter references is Balaam (v.15-16). You can read the full story in Numbers 22-25 and 31:8. We are astonished in reading how much truth Balaam’s prophecies contained, yet that only masked the evil intent. The error in belief led to evil in behavior, for a man’s theology is ever linked to his morality. His deceptive influence on the people of God would bring destruction—judgment on the Jews who followed his ways and ultimately Balaam himself would perish. Do not think that the spirit of Balaam has been extinguished, however. There are many who have taken up his methodology today—and Peter tells us it is as deceptive and destructive as ever (v.2). It is heresy (v.1) and blasphemy (v.2). Heresy is distorting God’s truth in a deceiving work and blasphemy is desecrating God’s name in a degrading way.
The motivation and appeal of the false teacher is exposed in v.3. It is “covetousness” which exploits the gullible. Is this not clearly on parade in much of what we see and hear on television today in the prosperity gospel preaching? Whether it be a Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and the like—their number is legion—great masses of people are swayed by the message they proclaim that faith in Christ is a ticket to health and wealth. It certainly has worked for them. Their message sounds so true—and much of it is. It masks the malignancy of heresy, however. When closely examined by a Biblical biopsy it is seen for the destructive deception it is.
Let them enjoy their “Best Life Now,” for there will only be doom hereafter (v.3ff) unless they repent. Two illustrations of judgment are presented—the flood that fell on the world in Gen.6 and the fire that fell on Sodom in Gen.19. God had his righteous remnant that He spared—those who clung to the truth—namely Noah and Lot (v.5-9). In a time when the church world seems swept away by the tide of false teaching, let us be steadfast in standing on the Word!