How can we, with all that is being propagated as truth, recognize what is false in a society that promotes tolerance over truth? How can we discern the difference between right and almost right?
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 on themselves. 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. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) - if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:1-9).
In chapter 2, the Apostle Peter is calling on the church to be watchful and discerning of those who claim to be preachers of the truth, but in reality are not. These prophets do more harm than good to those in the church and bring shame to the name of Jesus Christ,,so He lists three ways by which the church can discern these false teachers:
Their character (v. 1)
Their influence (v. 2-3)
Their doom (v. 3-9)
What characterizes false teachers?
1. They secretly introduce destructive heresies.
They willingly, deliberately, knowingly, cleverly bring their own truth alongside the truth of the Scriptures.
Albert Barnes asserts,
Nothing could better express the usual way in which error is introduced. It is “by the side,” or “along with,” other doctrines which are true; that is, while the mind is turned mainly to other subjects, and is off its guard, gently and silently to lay down some principle, which, being admitted, would lead to the error, or from which the error would follow as a natural consequence.
How can we discern the difference between a genuine believer and a fake when they look and sound so much alike? You have to ask yourself, “Where does the message come from? Is the Word of God their highest authority? What obvious truths are they questioning by bringing another so called truth along side of it?”
2. Deny the sovereign Lord who bought them.
Just as false prophets in the Old Testament were bought and delivered from the bondage of Egypt with the other Israelites but were not true believers, so there will be those who claim to be Christian, know the truth about Christ and His offer of salvation. But in reality these are not true believers since they have personally and knowingly rejected the truth of the Gospel for some other “truth.”
3. Bring swift destruction upon themselves
Destruction means causing someone (something) to be completely severed –cut off (entirely) from what could or should have been.
There are many churches that are Christian by name but not by nature. They carry the Christian label but they lack His character and nature and will be shocked when they stand before the Lord.
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matthew 7:21 – 23)
Their influence on others through their lives and teaching
The true prophets sent by God told the story of God’s plan to redeem people’s lives by sending a Savior, Jesus Christ, to remove the sin which would come between us and our Creator, so we might have peace with God and the hope of eternal life. This was in stark contrast with the teaching of the false prophets who did not care for the souls of people but only for themselves.
Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope (Lamentations 2:14).
In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter calls false prophets ignorant and unstable people who distort the Scriptures to their own destruction. The worst part of it is that their reasoning and their preaching were so persuasive that many believed them and followed them to their own peril.
First, the Scriptures warn us that our own human hearts are deceptive. Second, our own presuppositions and biases can cloud the truth and the evidence.
When we do not have a strong foundation in the truth, we not only succumb to the lies our own hearts tell us, we are easily swayed by weak cultural arguments and defective Scriptural interpretations.
All of us have opinions, biases, and personal preferences, we even have our own limited understanding of God. But how do we know whether these are right or true?
Take time to study the Word of God for yourself, being consistently careful to validate the claims that are being made in your search for truth.
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).
You need to let the Word say what it says, not what you want it to say. Let God’s Word speak to you, correct you, convict you to where it changes the way you think, decide, and act.
Intellectual humility entails being committed to the truth even if it is painful and costs you. It means to honestly recognize the limitations of your own mind against the standard of an all-knowing infinitely intelligent and always true God. Very few have this type of honest commitment to truth, especially if it requires honestly assessing our selves.
Being intellectually dishonest means that we tend to pick and choose those teachings that justify the choices we make, complement the lifestyle we desire to rationalize the way we want to live. Being intellectually dishonest when it comes to biblical truths and precepts allows people to justify the way they treat others. Intellectual dishonesty creates a culture of criticism, deceit, and backbiting. We see examples of intellectual dishonesty in the following passages:
These six things the Lord hates; Indeed, seven are repulsive to Him: A proud look [the attitude that makes one overestimate oneself and discount others], a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that creates wicked plans, Feet that run swiftly to evil, A false witness who breathes out lies [even half-truths], And one who spreads discord (rumors) among brothers (Prov 6:16-19 AMP).
Verse 3 says “because their greed - love for money, they will exploit you with fabricated stories - empty promises - fake miracles not because they are interested in your soul or to bring glory to God but for their own financial gain. How many preachers are building their own kingdom, for their own profit, bringing such shame on the message and purpose of the gospel?
This is not what the church is about,
it should be a place where Christ’s life and love is revealed and lifted up, through the music, the teaching and preaching of the Word, through community. It is a place where people are equipped with what they need for life, a place of prayer and service that is done for God’s glory.
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God (2 Corinthians 2:17).
…their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping (2 Peter 2:3).
Peter was saying that if God did not even spare the angels who sinned, but will eventually send them to hell. If He was not sentimental with the whole ancient world and brought a flood on all its ungodly people in the days of Noah, and if He condemned Sodom and Gomorrah for their immoral practices, burning them to ashes, neither will He spare these empty, unstable, heartless, boastful, seductive, deceptive teachers who use the church to propagate their lifestyle and teaching which goes against the truth of who God made us to be and how we were created to live in this world.
Verse 9 says:
…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9).
God has made a promise that He will be faithful to deliver His people from the coming judgment.
The key is to discern His voice. God would never lead you to do anything outside of his word, he would never say anything to you that goes against the truth!
Why is it so important for us as Christians in a local assembly to discern the truth? Because a church is a place where Jesus is revealed to a lost world. The church should be a testimony of Christ’s love and care for His own and for the community around them. But the church will only be as strong as its commitment to the truth.
If a church is to make a dent in our culture and society, to be salt and light, it must be established in the truth as a community of truth. If we are to grow as a church we need to be honest and humble, committed to the truth.