(To download the powerpoint file for this sermon, Click here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 10, 2010
Defense Against False Teachers
2 Peter 2 & Selected
In our study of the book of 2 Peter we have been seeing what the Apostle has to say to us who share the “same precious faith.” Among the major issues in the book is Peter’s strong warning about false teachers that will come. We have already examined 2 Peter 2 to see what danger these false teachers pose and have given a description of them. (See: Description of False Teachers) This morning I want to expand a little on our text in 2 Peter and look at some related texts so that we may be able to defend ourselves against these false teachers.
Recognize the Reality of the Danger
Of course, the first line of defense against a danger is to recognize that the danger exists. The various medicines and other consumable products that now have safety caps and tamper proof lids were never seen as something that needed to be protected until several deranged people started to put poisons into them. Only after several people had died as a result was the danger recognized and a defense was produced to keep us safe from the activities of such degenerate people.
In the same way, our first line of defense against false teachers is to recognize they danger that the pose. Tragically, most people, including professing Christians, do not recognize the danger. As I said a couple of weeks ago, there is a great lack of discernment in our society and in the church in distinguishing right from wrong. This is due to both Biblical ignorance and the post-modern culture. Biblical ignorance means the truth is not known. Post modern culture has created the mindset that there is no absolute truth, so even a knowledge of what God has revealed in the Scriptures does not sway them to godly thinking and actions. Peter has stated clearly in chapter 2 some of the dangers that these false teachers pose.
*They will lead you into sensuality (v 2a & 13)
*They will lead you into maligning the truth (v 2b)
*The will exploit you (v 3)
*They will entice unstable souls (v 14)
*They will lead you into bondage (v 15) & and that bondage will at least lead to a loss of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, but it could be much worse and lead you into Hell itself.
The seriousness of the danger of false teachers is seen in the strong words our Lord used against the Scribes and Pharisees. They proclaimed themselves to both teachers and keepers of the law, but they were neither. They were instead false teachers leading people astray. In Matthew 15:14 Jesus said of them, “they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces a series of “woes” against them beginning with, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” Those are strong words because of the seriousness of the danger they posed to anyone that would follow them.
Do you recognize the danger of false teachers in our own time? It is not about their intelligence, appearance, ability to speak or how nice they are. Those qualities have always fit huckster salesmen and they often fit false teachers. The major difference between the huckster salesman and the false teacher is that the former can only take your money while the later endangers your soul. The issue is whether they are declaring the truth and striving to live by it themselves.
Recognize the Characteristics of the False Teacher
The second line of defense against a danger is the ability to identify the danger. Awareness that a danger potentially exists is of little value if you cannot also identify the source of danger and the danger itself. To do that you must be able to recognize the characteristics that reveal the danger. To go back to the illustration of the tamper proof caps, their presence on the bottle demonstrates a recognition that a potential danger exists, but it is up to the individual using the product to know and check the characteristics of the safety cap to ensure it has not been tampered. A hole in a safety cap is a characteristic of a product that is dangerous. Let me bring this to a more human level. Every law enforcement officer is well aware that there are dangerous people out there. The awareness of the possibility of dealing with a dangerous person should make him more cautious, but that caution is of little value if he cannot also discern the characteristics of a dangerous person and identify them. That is why law enforcement officers are trained to recognize both dangerous situations and the source of the danger. A gun, knife or other weapons are obvious characteristics of someone who could be dangerous, but knowing the description of someone wanted for a crime and paying attention to erratic behavior are also key characteristics that identify a suspect.
Peter has given us quite a detailed description of what the false teacher would be like so that we can quickly identify them. Peter is not saying that every false teacher will have every characteristic, nor is he saying that if a person has one of these characteristics that they are necessarily a false prophet, but these traits should warn you that this person may very well be a false teacher. In other words, if it looks like a pig, sounds like a pig, smells like a pig and acts like a pig, then it may well be in fact be a pig!
How does Peter describe false teachers?
*Heretical – usually introduce their false teaching secretly, but it is very destructive (v. 1)
*Sensual – they promote sensuality – (v 2a)
*Blasphemers who replace the word of God with their own thoughts and causing others to also malign the truth (v 2b)
*Greedy (v 3a)
*Exploiters – taking advantage of their followers (v 3b)
*Under God’s judgment (vs 4-6, 9)
*Daring (v 10)
*Self-willed (v 10)
*Creatures of instinct (v 12)
*Stains and Blemishes (v 13)
*Accursed Children (v 14)
*Springs without water / Mists driven by the wind (v 17)
*Arrogant (v 18)
*Slaves of corruption (v 19)
There are some additional characteristics that identify the false teacher from the true one.
Turn to Deuteronomy18:20-22 “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods. That prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
A prophet is required by God to be 100% accurate in their prophesy. If there is any error, they reveal themselves to be false prophets. If a false teacher in his or her arrogance gives some kind of prophecy and they err in any way, they are a false prophet. There are plenty of people around today that claim God has told them certain things. It is part of the means by which they manipulate people, because the average person in the pew is not getting such revelations from God. The fact is that they have not either because the errors in their supposed revelations from God prove them to be what Moses warned about here. They are false prophets and false teachers. They have spoken presumptuously and you shall not be afraid of them. A good batting average in their predictions is not enough. This passage makes it clear that there must be 100% accuracy in the prophecy or it did not come from God. In the time of Moses, such false prophets were to be stoned.
Turn back to Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and see an additional requirement. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God ad fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”
In this passage we find that even if their prophecy did come to pass the way they said, if it entices others to follow after some other God, or if they try to get you to do something contrary to the LORD God’s commandments, then they are false prophets and false teachers. It is important to note that many false prophets will use the name of Jesus and may even call Him Lord, but an analysis of what they say about Him demonstrates that their Jesus is not the one described in the New Testament, but one of their own creation.
There is one more thing I want to quickly point out from Deuteronomy 13. Notice that verse 3 gives the reason that God tolerates and allows such false prophets to exist. “You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
God uses the false prophet, the false teacher to test us. Do we really love the LORD God or do we just say that we do? God uses them to bring about a testing of our faith. God is not willing to allow us to rest either in a false faith or in a shallow faith. He will test us to prove our faith and force us to maturity. Both James 1 and Romans 5 make this point that the testing of our faith produces maturity in us. James 1:2-4 describes it this way. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Our faith will also be tested by the common trials of life. Things do not always go the easy way for us. We get sick. Accidents happen. People let us down. Economies fail. Wars occur. Crime occurs. False teachers come. All these things can be used to test our faith, but as we are diligent to follow God in them they will produce endurance and maturity, or as Paul describes it in Romans 5:3-5, perseverance, proven character and hope based in the unshakable love of God.
So added to the characteristics of a false teacher described by Peter are these which Moses warned about. Their prophecies are less than 100% or they entice you to follow a false God or do something contrary to God’s commandments.
I want to now look at Matthew 7:15-20 and see Jesus’ warning about false teachers and how to recognize them.
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn [bushes,] nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (See: Beware of False Prophets!)
What is the fruit that identifies the difference between a true teacher and a false one? What determines whether the fruit is good or bad? How well they obey the teachings of Jesus. Jesus continues in verse 21-23, “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. “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.'”
Make careful note the basis for Jesus’ judgment of these teachers. It was not their self identification with Jesus. It was not their prophesy in Jesus name. It was not their casting out of demons in Jesus name. It was not their performing of miracles in Jesus name. It would appear that they actually did all these things. Jesus judges them on the basis of their obedience to His commands and He denies them and casts them out because they practice lawlessness. They did what they wanted instead of what Jesus commands. That is exactly how those with the characteristics listed by Peter will behave. Heresy, sensuality, greed, exploitation of others, daring, arrogance and self-will all result in disobedience to Christ in favor of fulfilling personal desires which is why they are described as creatures of instinct. It is also why Peter describes them as accursed children and slaves of corruption under God’s judgment. This in turn is why their impact on others is described as stains and blemishes, springs without water and mists driven by the wind.
I have always considered the greatest tragedy in this passage is that these false teachers are so self-deceived that they sincerely think they actually are serving Jesus. That is why they are so shocked that Jesus is not allowing them into heaven. In the particular case of those Jesus is using in this illustration, they even correctly identify Jesus as Lord, which is far better than many false teachers who do not even get that right. They are busy doing wonderful things in the name of the Lord, or at least so they think. (See: The Deception of the Self-Righteous) But in all this they missed the most important mark of what it means to be a true Christian. It is only the one that does the will of the Father that will enter heaven. It is only those that have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation from sin by His substitutionary atonement on the cross of Calvary and follow Him that will be with Him in eternity.
Let me quickly add here that the aspect of following Jesus in obedience to His commands is not any kind of work righteousness that attains you salvation. Obedience to Jesus Christ is the simple and natural outworking of actual belief in who Jesus is, what He has done and His promises for the future. Jesus stated it directly in John 14:23, “if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”
Protection Against False Teachers
How then do we protect ourselves from false teachers? I think the answer is clearly seen in the conclusion Jesus gives to His warning about false teachers. (See: What is Your Foundation Built Upon?) Look at Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and [yet] it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”
There are two similar houses built on different foundations facing similar storms but responding with different outcomes.
Both houses outwardly appear to be similar. Nothing suggests any difference in the outward appearance of them. The immediate context would suggest they were very similar since the false teachers, the wolves of verses 15-20, are not distinguished by their outward appearance. The self-deceived of verses 21-23 are outwardly doing all the things that the truly righteous would do. Most of the distinctions Jesus makes between the self-righteous scribes and pharisees are inward matters of the heart, not outward things that would be noticed at first glance.
Another similarity between both of these houses is that they both will have to endure storms. Jesus says here of both houses, “the rain descended, and the floods (rivers) came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house” (vs 25,27). Sometimes storms come with warning sometimes suddenly without warning, but storms will come. There is no stopping them. When the storm does come, it will test what is hidden from view.
What is hidden from view? The foundations. The difference between these two houses was the material upon which the foundations for the houses was built. One was rock and could withstand the wind, rain and flood. The other was sand which washed away with the rain and flood leaving the house without foundation so that it could be blown over by the wind.
When I worked for the Los Angeles County Agricultural Department many years ago I had a weekly circuit that would take me along the Pacific Coast and the many houses built along the beach. There were quite a few times that I noticed a house that had been there the week before had succumbed to a storm and was simply gone. The footings and pilings and were supposed to go down to rock, but too often it was really only sand that supported them, and once the sand washed out, the foundations gave way and the house plummeted into the raging surf and was carried out to sea. Amazing enough, a few months later there would be somebody else building a house in the same place.
Jesus begins verse 24 with, “therefore,” which tells us that this illustration is the conclusion of what He has been saying throughout the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus says here is not popular even among evangelicals now days, but He says it, therefore it is true. Verse 24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man. . . .” Verse 26, “everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man. . . .”
The difference between the wise man and the foolish man is what they do in response to what Jesus says in this sermon. The result of the wise man’s response is a strong house that withstands the storms of life. This is the response of entering the straight gate, walking the narrow path and finding life. The result of the foolish man’s response is a house that falls with a great fall. It is the response of entering the broad gate, walking the wide way and concludes in destruction. The rock the wise man builds upon is true righteousness found in Jesus Christ alone. The sand the foolish man builds upon is self-righteousness.
I already pointed out from James 1 that storms are a normal part of life. Trials are nothing unusual. The difference will be in the response to those trials. They will either produce maturity as James 1 and Romans 5 tell us of the wise who trust Jesus and walk with Him, or they will cause damage as seen in the foolish that seek their own way. James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” People can claim anything you want and delude themselves, but that does not make it true. That is what false teachers and their followers do. For many of them, even the claim to believe in Jesus Christ is a lie of self delusion for they will not follow through with actually heeding what Jesus says. They are like the foolish man who built his house on the wrong foundation of sand, and it will collapse. It is tragic that various perversions of the gospel have become prevalent within American Christianity. Non-Christians recognize the hypocrisy and turn away. The deluded continue on their way along the broad way failing to recognize it is leading to Hell (Matthew 7:13).
Others may be Christians, but they are led so far astray by false teachers that they remain ignorant and immature. They will also suffer for their foolishness. They will be those described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:15 who will suffer loss, but will be saved, but as through fire.
How do you protect yourself from false teachers and self-delusion? An awareness that the danger is real is a good starting point. It is also important to learn to recognize the characteristics of false teachers so that you can avoid them. But the greatest protection we will have is being diligent to be like the wise man who has built his house on the rock of Jesus Christ. Strive to be someone that truly loves Him and demonstrates that by obedience to His commands. That of course means you need to know the Scriptures so that you know what He commands. It also means that you need to be involved with other true believers where all the “one another” commands can be put into practice which fulfills the commandment in the Great Commission to teach them to observe all His commandments (Matthew 28:20). Those who pursue righteousness will not be enticed by worldliness even when it is cloaked in a false spirituality.
Let me give you a short illustration of how all of this works using one of the common teachings of modern false teachers. In John 16:23,24 Jesus states, “And in that day you will ask Me no question. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” Based upon this verse and similar ones there are many today that teach that you can “name it and claim it in Jesus name.” The teaching is that you should name whatever you desire and ask it in Jesus name and God will have to give it to you so that “your joy may be full.”
This twisting of Scripture presents a test of faith. The first test concerns what God actually says about prayer and its purpose. Will you be diligent enough to search out what it really means to pray in Jesus name and for what to pray?
The second test involves the temptation inherent in the idea of being able to name it and claim it. What God has actually said becomes secondary to the enticement of gaining health, wealth and prosperity through this kind of prayer. It is this enticement that enables false teachers to gain such large followings. They begin by subtly testing your faith by presenting lies mixed with truth, and then before you can really figure out the doctrinal issues they bring temptation into play. The enticement to selfish desire distracts and overwhelms the quest for truth.
Common themes for these false teachers is that you can have that new house or car or whatever else because “you are a child of the King.” You can be cured of your health problem(s) because by Jesus’ stripes you are healed. You can get rid of your problems or worries because you can claim it in Jesus’ name. With a twisting of Biblical doctrine and enticing you with your own desires, prayer becomes an incantation of magical words that ensure you get what you want.
Contrast that with really loving the LORD God with all your heart, soul and mind so that He and His glory is primary in everything . (1 Corinthians 10:31). Contrast the quest for fulfilment of personal desires to learning to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13). Contrast praying in Jesus name as submission to His person and will instead of invoking magical incantations.
Consider how God preserved Noah in the midst of false people who were destroyed for their wickedness because “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). First, we find that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8), and because of that the Lord told Noah what was going to happen and what Noah was supposed to do in response. Put yourself in Noah’s place. You have not seen it rain before and God says he is going to bring a flood. You don’t live near any large body of water but God says to build a huge boat. You have a limited amount of knowledge about all the animals that are in the world but God says that he will bring a pair of each of them to you and you are to put them in this big boat and care for them when the flood comes that will destroy the world. This job is so big that it takes perhaps 120 years to prepare everything (Genesis 6:3?). Imagine the ridicule Noah would have received during that time from his ungodly neighbors. “There’s old crazy Noah, building a big boat out here in the middle of nowhere.” “Noah the nut, never plays, just keeps working on that big boat.” “Strange investment there Noah, who would ever want to buy a weird house like that?” “Noah went mad years ago – thinks that God is going to wipe everything out in a huge flood – where would God get that kind of water?”
It is reasonable to think that Noah got tired at times and was tempted to quit or wonder if his labor would be in vain, yet Noah remained faithful. He believed God and continued steadfast and did not yield to any temptation to quit that may have come. This was the way that God said that He would provide for the salvation of Noah and his family from the coming destruction, and Noah believed God and obeyed His commands.
Conclusions – Two Step Defense Against False Teachers
Our defense against false teachers and their doctrine is actually simple. First, know the truth by knowing the word of God (Scripture). That will also enable you to recognize their heresy and false manner of living by the contrast. Second, be obedient to its clear principles and precepts even if the world thinks your crazy or you would prefer something else. Submission to the will of God will protect you from the enticements of Satan, the pressure of the world and the temptations of the desires of your own flesh, eyes and pride, all of which are used by false teachers to lead you astray.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Write down all the verses mentioned. 2) Count how many times false teachers are mentioned. 3) Talk with your parents about how you can defend yourself against them.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why is the first line of defense to recognize that danger exists? What danger do false teachers pose to those who follow them? What are some of the things Jesus said that tell us of the serious danger of false teachers? Why are huckster salesmen and scam artists less dangerous than false teachers? The second line of defense against false teachers is the ability to identify the danger and its source. What are the characteristics of false teachers according to Peter? List them out and describe. What are the two criteria in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 to distinguish between a true and false prophet? What was to be done to a false prophet at that time? Are there such false prophets in our own time? Examples? What are the criteria in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 to distinguish between a true and false prophet? What was to happen to that false prophet and why? Why does the Lord allow such false prophets and teachers to come? What does James 1 tell us should be the result of the testing of our faith? What does Romans 5 tells about the reason we can rejoice even in severe trials? Jesus warns about false teachers in Matthew 7:15-20. How are they like wolves? How will you be able to recognize them? Jesus warns about self-deceived false teachers in Matthew 7:21-23. What did they think they were doing? Why will Jesus cast them away? What is the most important characteristic of a true Christian and how does it demonstrate itself in practical life? What are the similarities and differences between the house the wise man built and the house the foolish man built in Matthew 7:24-27? Why does the wise man’s house stand and the foolish man’s house collapse? What is the rock that the wise man builds upon? What is the sand the foolish man builds upon? How do false teachers twist Jesus’ instruction on prayer in John 16:23-24? How does their false teaching test true faith and entice to temptations of selfish desire? What is the purpose of the believers’ life? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? How did God preserve Noah? What were the people on earth like at that time? What was Noah’s part in his preservation from the flood? What are the two simple steps that will be both a defense against false teachers and the means to living a godly life?
Sermon Notes – 1/10/2010
Defense Against False Teachers – 2 Peter 2 & Selected
Recognize the Reality of the Danger
The first line of defense against a danger is to recognize that the danger ____________.
Ignorance & post-modern thought have resulted in a lack of discernment of ____& error, right & wrong
False teachers lead people into sensuality, maligning the _______, exploitation, enticements & bondage
Matthew ________ – blind guides; Matthew 23 – ___________
Recognize the Characteristics of the False Teacher
The second line of defense against a danger is the ability to ___________the danger and its source
Peter describes false teachers as _____________, sensual, blasphemous, greedy, exploiters, under God’s judgement, daring, self-willed, creatures of instinct, __________& blemishes, springs without water, mists driven by the wind, arrogant and slaves of corruption
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 ________________________________________________________________
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 __________________________________________________________________
God ______________ false teachers as a test for your love for the LORD God – Deuteronomy 13:3
___________ warning about false teachers – Matthew 7:15-23
False teachers can be identified by their ___________
Jesus judges and casts away false teachers because they practice ____________- they do not obey Him
The great tragedy is that these false teachers were _____________ and thought they were serving Jesus
Obedience to Jesus Christ is the natural result of believing Him and ____________ Him (John 14:23)
Protection Against False Teachers – Matthew 7:24-27
Outward appearances are similar for both ______, as well as wolves, the self-deceived and the righteous
Both houses must endure similar _____________
The only difference between the houses are the ____________________ upon which they were built
The difference between the wise man and the foolish man their ____________to the teachings of Jesus
The unsaved deluded continue on along the broad way leading to ___________ (Matthew 7:13).
The saved, but ignorant and immature, will ________________ for their foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:15)
A good starting point for protection against false teachers is an _______________that the danger is real
Learn to ___________________ the characteristics of false teachers to avoid them and their influence
The greatest protection is to be diligent like the wise man and strive to know and _____Jesus’ teachings
Be involved with other believers so that the “______________” verses can be fulfilled – cf Matthew 28:20
_______16:23-24. The twisting of this scripture presents a ____of faith concerning prayer & its purpose
False teaching on this passage can also entice with the temptations of __________ desires
Praying in Jesus name is submission to His person and _________, not a magical incantation
God preserved ________ in the midst of the most evil people ever – Genesis 6:5
Noah found ________ in the eyes of the Lord and was warned and instructed about the coming flood
Noah remained faithful and __________ the Lord despite temptations and pressure to quit.
Conclusions – Two Step Defense against False Teachers
1) Know the ____________ by knowing the word of God
2) Be ________to the Bible’s clear principles & precepts regardless of temptations or ungodly pressures
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