“But false prophets also arose among the people,
just as there will be false teachers among you…
and many will follow…” (2 Peter 2.1,2a).
Recently, I was watching a video of two men who had boarded a small boat down in the gulf and were heading out to get closer to a series of five waterspouts that had dropped down on the ocean. Waterspouts, if you don’t know, are simply tornadoes that occur over water. The swirling power of the tornado and the large body of water combine to create an entrancing sight. They can be just as dangerous as any tornado, except that they are not typically near human populations. In this particular instance, the men arrived out to the general vicinity with the waterspouts all spinning around them. After admiring the amazing power of these destructive winds, they decided (I don’t know why) that it would be fun to try to drive their small boat into the middle of what appeared to be “one of the tamer ones”. Their decision made, they literally threw caution to the wind and proceeded to test their courage. When they made it through, the driver of the boat, who was not so animated at this point said, “I’ll never do that again.” I wondered after watching the mistake if anyone had ever warned him that driving into any tornado, whether it’s on the water or over land is not too smart. Daredevils often never live to tell of their foolishness.
We might not think the topic that Peter addresses in his second letter should concern us either. Here, Peter addresses the danger of the coming false teachers about to invade that early church. In our day, we seem as unconcerned about this danger as the man looking to drive his boat into the middle of the whirlwind. What is that statement? Oh yeah, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Peter’s condemnation of these false teachers should be a clear signal to every person who seeks to follow some of our most popular Bible teachers into the whirlwind. We are no less vulnerable today from their effects. Surrounding ourselves with these teachers in the books we seem to love to read and in the media we often consume, we obviously still need Peter’s wisdom. In the first three verses alone, he gives us eight characteristics generally true about these kinds of people.
- They are devious in character (they will secretly bring in destructive heresies …).
- They leave Christ out of their message (“denying the Master who bought them”).
- Their theology is faulty (“bring in destructive heresies”).
- They invite God’s judgment (“bringing upon themselves swift destruction”).
- They are amazingly popular (“many will follow”).
- Their impact on lives is disastrous to Christianity (“because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed”).
- They are motivated by money (“in their greed they will exploit you”).
- They are not what they claim (“with false words”).
The desire to listen to these popular teachers is only growing. Our naivete is not so amazing, however. For decades we have invited and embraced distorted teaching and teachers into our homes and churches. What is the result? A divided society that is often chaotic, with little to no moral compass. Our lack of awareness stems from a lack of biblical knowledge. How can we learn from Peter’s warning? Watch for these all-too-common traits in the teachers you listen to. Investigate their lifestyle. Listen to what they are really saying, or not saying. And mark those who teach and live contrary to the clear words of Scripture. We must seek to build and model our lives on God’s Word. It is his wisdom that will keep us from following those who continue to twist and distort the Christian message and invite so many to destruction. Let’s do our best to steer clear.