2 Peter #6 2 Peter 2:1-3 (MSG) Safeguarding Yourself From False Teaching and Lying Preachers
Even though God gives us the grace and peace we need to live lives that are pleasing to Him, that task is difficult. Escaping the corruptions of the world is no easy task that is made that much more difficult by believers, self-proclaimed Christ followers, who are advocating a different gospel. False teaching is truth with a twist, a twist that leads to spiritual destruction. It is important that we learn how to recognize thoughts and practices inconsistent with being a follower of Jesus and how to avoid them.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (MSG)
But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They'll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They've put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, 2 but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can't tell right from wrong.
They give the way of truth a bad name. 3 They're only out for themselves. They'll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you. They won't, of course, get by with it. They'll come to a bad end, for God has never just stood by and let that kind of thing go on.
“But;” but what? The but what is what was written the preceding 2 verses: “The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it's not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God's Word” (2 Peter 1:20-21 (MSG). Peter is addressing prophecy. When we hear the word prophecy we tend to think in terms of predicting the future. That Jesus will return is considered prophetic in this sense. There is an additional understanding of the word, and then prophecy means to deliver a message of divine truth, guidance, correction, or encouragement to an audience. To prophesize is to illuminate God’s way concerning the spiritual, moral, and social issues of the day. Prophecy can mean foretelling the future and prophecy can mean “forth-telling” God’s truth to the present situation to bring about spiritual transformation, promote righteousness, foster a deeper relationship with God, and help people live devout and holy lives. (ChatGPT, June 27, 2023). What Peter again is reiterating is that the Bible is God inspired, the Holy Spirit urged the author to write or proclaim a prophecy. If it’s in the Bible, it is not stories concocted by devious individuals trying to manipulate others.
Even during the times, the Holy Spirit was prompting the righteous to write words of enlightenment to God’s people, there were others, prompted by their egoism to write to gain control over people. There have always been people who use religion to manipulate people for their purposes. One of the historical criticisms is that religion is always used to control people. Karl Marx wrote that “religion is the opiate of the people.” That’s one reason in socialism and communism religion doesn’t play a part. “L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, is often attributed with a quote that says, "The best way to make a million dollars is to start your own religion" (ChatGPT, June 27, 2023). Have you heard the names: Jim Jones, David Koresh, Peter Popoff, or Gwen Shamblin? They used Christianity to further their personal agendas. There always have been and always will be people who will twist the Scripture to suit their purposes.
The false teacher starts as a believer but their understanding of the faith with its privileges and responsibilities go astray and they introduce ideas that cause division within the body. Their understanding of the scripture is the only correct way. From Peter’s letter, we know that one of the false ideas is that there will be no second coming. Today many bad ideas have become popular within the Church. Called the Prosperity Gospel the teaching is that one’s faith, the evidence of righteous living, and God’s blessings upon you are measured by your financial success. The teaching called Universalism promotes the idea that everyone will be saved because Jesus died for the sins of the world. That means there is no judgment and no accountability for one’s behavior, there is no eternal damnation. Unitarianism denies the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Closely related is Modalism with the belief that there is only one God who changes modes of being to deal with humanity, it’s a logical attempt to refute the doctrine of the Trinity. Deism is the idea that God is uninvolved in human affairs. The history of our church family, the Nazarenes, our first official name was the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, but when Hyper-Charismatic teachings began to capture the imaginations of believers Pentecostal was dropped to separate the movement from believers who emphasize extreme supernatural experience, such as dreams and visions, signs and wonders that elevate personal revelations above Scripture. The controversy surrounding the evidence of one’s baptism in the Holy Spirit lead to destructive divisions that pitted brothers and sisters against each other. Liberation Theology focusing on social and economic justice creates a political ideology that often hides the essential message of the gospel. [List of modern-day heresies was generated by ChatGPT June 28, 2023). These ideas are active among believers today.
Pastor Anna Helgen from Edina Lutheran Community Church located in Edina Minnesota lead the congregation in reciting the “Sparkle Creed” during a service on June 25, 2023.
“I believe in a non-binary god, whose pronouns are plural. I believe in Jesus Christ, their child, who wore a fabulous tunic and had two dads.” “I believe in the rainbow spirit, who shatters our image of one white light and refracts it into a rainbow of gorgeous diversity. I believe love is love, so beloved let us love.”
This could be a hoax but if not it's an example of the Woke Gospel.
Peter tells us that the result of false teaching is behavior that is inconsistent with love for God, love for others, love for self, and love for the earth.
What makes teaching false is the thought’s incompatibility with the totality of scripture. We can call it cherry-picking “sievematic” theology where we look for evidence in the authoritative word of God that supports our idea while disregarding other passages that do not support our notions. There are foundational teachings within Christianity [ e,g: the nature of God, the person, and the work of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of salvation, and the authority of Scripture ] when these non-negotiable doctrines are impinged upon you have a false teaching. Teachings that downplay the gospel’s central message; Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, his atoning sacrifice that makes reconciliation with God a possibility, are false. If a teaching contradicts the traditions of the Church, that’s big “C” church, it is wrong. The Church has a long history of interpretation of the scripture that established essential doctrines and guidelines for living a devout and holy life, when an idea doesn’t align itself with what we call orthodox understanding of the faith, it is suspect.
John Wesley developed a framework for discerning if a teaching is of God or not. The first question to ask is: What does the Scripture reveal? God has given us everything we need in the Bible to live our lives to the full. It is a sure guide to what is keeping with the will of God. The second question is” How does the teaching align with the collective wisdom of the Church? Collective wisdom can be called tradition. Some certain understandings and practices have been deemed tried and true over the centuries. How would these traditions judge the opinion? The third question is: Is the teaching reasonable? This is Wesley’s call for critical thinking and logical reasoning to search out the implications of the teaching. The fourth question is: Does the opinion find support within the communal experience of the Church? The teaching needs to apply to all believers and be able to be lived out. Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are tools of discernment. An unsatisfactory answer to such an inquiry is an indicator that a differing opinion is incorrect.
Beware of opinions and proclamations that cause division within the Church. God’s will is for the unity of His children.Bottom of Form If some doctrine pits brothers and sisters against their brother and sisters it is a sign that something is off. There will always be different opinions, the immature will argue over the color of the carpet, there will be abuse that must be addressed, there will be personality conflicts, different tastes, and preferences, and there will be different ideas as to how to carry out the mission of the church, there are differences in doctrine, how to live out the truth, but when it comes to living the Christian life, if the promoted thought is contrary to living an exemplary life as detailed in the scripture, it is wrong.
The sad thing for the congregation Peter was writing about is that these false teachers were once true believers. They like you acknowledges there were sinners in need of a savior. Like you, they believed that Jesus is the forgiver of sin and the relational reconciler with God. Like you, they committed to be Jesus’ slave and they too, asked God to accept their faith. But they gave in to their egoism and strayed from that personal and intimate knowledge of Jesus, what Peter calls true knowledge. Acting upon their inadequate knowledge they started living out behaviors that were contrary to the way of Jesus. Peter describes this as “biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back!” Being a slave to Christ sets you free to become the person God created you to be, you are allowed to live your life to the full, to know being loved and experience love for others, to have a place in which you find acceptance, a place where you belong, and your new life becomes full of meaning and purpose which makes you a significant person. Slavery to Jesus, adherence to his will, his way, is the only true liberation one can find in this world. But Peter’s false teachers strayed from paths of orthodoxy and ended up lost. “They've put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction.” Can they turn back, can they repent, and be guided back into the fold? Certainly, nothing is impossible for God. Peter fears that they will persist in their folly and lose out on so great a salvation. How wrong it is to treat with disdain One who provides you with eternal life?
Even intelligent people are gullible. If the leader is charismatic enough, if the leader looks good, sounds good, and has the trimmings and trappings of worldly success they easily attract people who want to hear the things that tickle their itching ears.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."
“"Itching ears" or "tickling ears" … conveys the idea that some individuals will seek out teachers or preachers who tell them what they want to hear, catering to their personal preferences, desires, or passions” (ChatGPT, June 28, 2023). So the false preacher gives them what they want as the people put him on a pedestal and finance his or her indulgences and ignore indiscretions, even abusive behavior. Peter writes they are headed for a bad ending.
The good ending is walking the way of truth, that is living the life of a disciple. You’ve bent your knee to Jesus so you do life as He directs. You live out the most important commandment: You love God with all your mind, heart, and will and your neighbor as yourself. Recall the teachings in 1 Peter, we are to live exemplary lives, we are to be model citizens, we are to live moral lives, becoming examples in doing good for others especially loving and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ. These behaviors are the way of truth.
To escape the fate of the false teachers know what you believe and why you believe it. Scripture, the Tradition of the Church, Reason, and Experience, with the Holy Spirit guiding, illuminate the way of truth. Do the things Jesus commands, and it is through your encounters with the living God that your knowledge moves from head to heart, from theory into practice. The validation that you are on the way of truth is found in living an exemplary life and you won’t get caught up with that mixed-up group of misguided believers.