July 7, 2024

2 Peter 2:10-22: A Warning against False Teachers (Part 2)

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Series: 2 Peter Topic: Default Scripture: 2 Peter 2:10–22

2 Peter 2:10-22: A Warning against False Teachers (Part 2)

We’ve been working our way passage by passage through the book of 2 Peter, and today the next passage we come to is 2 Peter 2:10-22. It says,

10 …Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 

May God bless the reading of his Word.

Let’s pray: Father, we’re taught that the heavens and earth will pass away but that your words will never pass away. They’re eternally true, eternally relevant, and eternally powerful. So, help us to see the truth of this text and understand its relevance and experience its power. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

I imagine most of us have probably seen pictures of what the repeated use of illegal drugs can do to a person. It’s not uncommon to see two pictures of the same person side-by-side—one that was taken before the person started using drugs and the other that was taken afterwards. And if you’ve ever seen those before-and-after pictures, I don’t have to tell you how shocking it is to observe the difference between those two pictures. 

The first picture usually features a person with gleaming eyes, a full face, clear skin, and an overall look of life and health and vitality. However, the second picture is shockingly different. You can tell it’s the same person, but they now have eyes that seem hollow and lifeless, a gaunt face, sunken cheeks, and skin that’s covered with scabs and blotches. Their appearance makes it pretty clear that they’re just a shell of the person they once were. It’s such a sad sight to see. And of course, the reason these before-and-after pictures are displayed is to warn people about what drugs do to a person and to illustrate the devastating effects they have so that everyone who sees the pictures will want to stay as far away from drugs as possible. 

Similarly, that seems to be what the Apostle Peter’s trying to do in our main passage of Scripture today here in 2 Peter 2:10-22. In these verses, Peter’s painting a portrait of false teachers and describing how downright wretched they’ve become so that his readers won’t be naively drawn in by the false teachers they encounter. 

Because, unlike drug addicts, false teachers are typically pretty impressive at first glance. First of all, they often just look impressive with their expensive clothes and stylish haircuts and million-dollar smiles. They also tend to exude charisma and portray a personality that people find likeable and funny and relatable. They’re also talented storytellers who know how to use moving stories in a masterful way to draw people in and make them laugh and make them cry and motivate people to do all kinds of things. False teachers certainly know how to their communicate ideas in ways that are winsome and engaging and persuasive. Then, on top of everything else, false teachers say the things that people want to hear. Avoiding any mention of sin or hell or the need for repentance, they instead talk about success and prosperity and a better life. So, basically, false teachers look good and sound good and make people feel good. And that’s why they pose such a danger to anyone who’s not established in the truths of the Bible. 

So, in this passage, Peter seeks to unmask false teachers and expose them for who and what they really are. Peter’s goal is to help his readers understand that, even though false teachers might initially look and sound really good, they’re actually thoroughly wretched and rotten to the core and are, in reality, the last people Christians should look to for any kind of spiritual guidance. So, just like people today will sometimes share shocking before-and-after pictures of drug addicts in order to deter people from using drugs, Peter is painting a brutally realistic picture of false teachers and their lamentable spiritual condition in order to deter Christians from being influenced in any way by such individuals. 

So, to state it concisely, the main idea of this passage is that the wretched spiritual condition of false teachers should deter anyone from following them. Again, the wretched spiritual condition of false teachers should deter anyone from following them. And as we work these verses, we’ll encounter seven characteristics of false teachers that reveal their spiritual condition and show us how deplorable they truly are. 

I. Arrogant

First, they’re appallingly arrogant. We see this in the second part of verse 10 and verse 11. Speaking of false teachers, Peter writes, 10 …Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. So, according to Peter, false teachers aren’t afraid to “blaspheme the glorious ones.” In this context, the phrase “glorious ones” refers to demonic entities, who, despite their fallenness and wickedness, still possess transcendent power that’s far beyond anything humans possess. And to “blaspheme” these “glorious ones” means to casually dismiss them and even mock and insult them apparently without any fear at all. 

This is a behavior in which, Peter says, even angels don’t dare to engage. Angels, like demons, are exponentially more powerful than humans are. Yet even angels don’t thoughtlessly rebuke these demons or take them lightly the way these false teachers do. And that’s a sign of just how arrogant and overly confident and utterly full of themselves these false teachers are. 

II. Irrational

In addition, not only are these false teachers arrogant, they’re also—number two—irrational. Peter writes in verse 12 and the first part of verse 13, 12 But these [false teachers], like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing

So, Peter compares false teachers to “irrational animals” and “creatures of instinct.” Take a moment and think about the kind of things that animals often do and the totally undignified instincts they often have. Think about pigs eating slop and rolling in the mud. Think about vultures feeding on the rotting flesh of dead animals. Think about cows regurgitating their food and then eating their regurgitated food again and again. And I know we all love dogs, but I just have to say…think about dogs and the way they roll in dead animals and sometimes even eat their own feces. And I’ll just stop there, because I think we all get the point. Animals act like animals in that they do whatever their instincts tell them to do, regardless of how disgusting it is. 

In a similar way, Peter says, these false teachers often do whatever their basest instincts drive them to do. They’re led not by any kind of moral compass or even rational thinking but rather by the most irrational impulses. It’s for this reason that Peter compares them to “irrational animals” and “creatures of instinct.”

And that’s a good reminder for us that sin is—among other things—dehumanizing. You see, one of the things that’s most essential to human beings is that we’re created in the image of God. That’s the language the Bible uses in Genesis 1:26 and in numerous other places to describe humans. So, a core component of what it means to be human is that we bear God’s image. We’re like God and resemble God in certain ways. But sin mars the image of God that’s imprinted upon us. Sin doesn’t totally erase God’s image, but it does mar God’s image and therefore—in a certain sense—dehumanizes us. It’s obviously not that we cease being human at all but that, in a very real sense, we’re less fully human than we’d otherwise be. Sin robs us of the dignity that God created us to have as human beings made in his image. It dehumanizes us so that we become more like—in Peter’s words—“irrational animals” and “creatures of instinct” rather than retaining the unique dignity that God bestowed upon us in making us image-bearers of him. 

And I’ll just say, with regard to our society today, that all of this might be particularly obvious with certain sins—especially sins of a sexual nature—in which people today, quite honestly, behave more like animals than human beings. But I’d like to emphasize that this is true not just of sexual sins but of all sin—including the sins that you struggle with and that I struggle with. In a certain manner of speaking, all sin has the effect of dehumanizing us and making us less fully human than God created us to be.  

All of this should also lead us to an accurate understanding that what it looks like to truly love other people. Sometimes, people imagine that loving others means condoning their sins. We’re told that pointing out people’s sins is unloving and judgmental and that the loving thing to do for someone is to affirm whatever lifestyle choices they make. Yet the Bible says the exact opposite. It teaches that sin actually causes us unimaginable harm. First of all, as we’ve said, it dehumanizes us. And it also leads to untold misery in our lives and ultimately results in us facing eternal punishment in hell. So, the most loving thing we can do for someone is seeking to lead them out of their sins. If we truly love someone and care about their welfare, we’ll want to keep them from continuing to travel down a path that will one day lead to their destruction. 

III. Given Over to Sin

Then, moving forward in our passage, a third characteristic of false teachers is that they’re given over to sin. Look at the second part of verse 13 through verse 16: 13 …They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

So, according to Peter, these false teachers “count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.” Typically, of course, people like to engage in their sinful passions under the cover of darkness so as to conceal their sins to a certain degree and maintain a certain measure of secrecy. Yet these false teachers are so given over to their sin that they can’t even wait for the night to come but instead shamelessly engage in their sinful “revelry” in broad daylight. 

And Peter mentions several sins in particular. One of them is deception. He describes the false teachers in verse 13 as “reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.” So, even while the false teachers were enjoying the church fellowship meal that the early Christians would have every week, they were inwardly “reveling” in the fact that they were deceiving the majority of the church. The thought that they were fooling others in the church with their pretense of devotion to God was a source of enjoyment for them. They actually took pleasure not just in the self-serving results of their deception but in the very act of deceiving people. 

Peter then says in verse 14 that “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.” The “eyes” of these false teachers are being used here as a metaphor for their desires. So, when Peter says that “They have eyes full of adultery,” he means that they’re so given over to sexual sin that they desire to commit adultery with just about every woman they lay their eyes upon. Peter also says that their sinful desires—presumably for immorality—are “insatiable.” They’re never satisfied. No matter how much these false teachers engage in immorality, they always want more and more and more. Sin can rightly be described as an addiction for them. Just like a drug addict is never satisfied with their last “fix” but is constantly thinking about their next “fix,” the appetite that these false teachers have for sin is likewise never satisfied. By the way, this is an important reminder for every one of us that sin never satisfies but only leaves us wanting more until it eventually destroys us. 

And finally, Peter identifies a third sin of these false teachers a little further down in verse 14. They’re given over not only to the sins of deception and adultery but also to the sin of greed. Peter writes that “They have hearts trained in greed.” The Greek word translated “trained” is γυμνάζω, which is the word from which we get our English word “gymnasium.” And the word indeed carries overtones of the physical training in which an athlete engages in order to prepare for a competition. So, especially with the Olympics coming up in just a few weeks, imagine an Olympic athlete training for numerous years in the particular movements and skills required for their event. Anyone competing at that level has obviously trained so much that those movements and skills are second nature for them. They’re so thoroughly trained in those movements and skills that they can do them almost without even thinking about them. 

Likewise, that’s the extent to which false teachers are dominated by greed. They’re so thoroughly given over to greed and to the religious con-artistry that helps them make money that it’s just second nature for them. They may have even been so consumed by greed for such a long time that they don’t even recognize it as an issue any more. Peter then uses the story of Balaam from Numbers 22-24 to illustrate someone whose supposed “ministry” was driven by greed. 

And again, I believe the portrait Peter’s painting in these verses is one of people who are thoroughly given over to their sins. The concept of God giving people over to their sins is described most clearly in Romans 1, where Paul describes people stubbornly persisting in their rejection of God and their pursuit of sin. So, as Paul states three times in Romans 1, God “gave them over” or “gave them up” to their sinful desires. And that also seems to be what’s happened to the false teachers Peter’s describing in our main passage. They’re so given over to sin that they engage in it shamelessly and without any kind of hesitation or restraint. 

And by the way, don’t imagine that you’re somehow immune from that. You know, you might be tempted to think that you’re able to secretly indulge in certain sins and keep them more or less under control. But that’s just not how it works. Sin will never be satisfied with whatever place you give it in your life. It’s like a cancer that wants to consume you. Of course, it always starts small. It starts with a small moral compromise here and a clever justification for a certain sinful indulgence there. Yet even though that’s where it starts, you can be sure that’s never where it ends. Sin will always demand more become ever more rooted in your heart.  

A theologian named J. C. Ryle writes that, “Every fresh act of sin lessens fear and remorse, hardens our hearts, blunts the edge of our conscience, and increases our evil inclination.” Ryle then observes how sin has a way of picking up momentum in our lives very quickly. He compares it to a boulder rolling down a hill. The longer that boulder continues rolling down the hill, the more speed it picks up. It rolls faster and faster and becomes harder and harder to slow down. And that’s the way it is with our sin. And pretty soon, we’re given over to it—just like the false teachers in 2 Peter 2. 

You can be sure that those false teachers didn’t get to where they are—in their current condition—overnight. It was a process—and in all likelihood, a very slow and gradual process—that brought them to the point of being so given over to their sin. So, don’t dabble in sin or even let your heart be intrigued by sin. Instead, if there’s a certain sin you’re drawn to, definitively renounce the sin, get as far away from it as you possibly can, and get other Christians to hold you accountable in that area of your life. Kill your sin before it kills you. 

IV. Worthless

Then, moving on to verse 17, the fourth characteristic of false teachers is that they’re worthless. Peter says of them, “These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.” Obviously a “waterless spring” isn’t of any value to anyone. It has nothing to offer—and neither do false teachers. They promise all kinds of things but never deliver. 

Peter also uses the metaphor of “mists driven by a storm” to convey this same idea. One commentator writes that “In the eastern Mediterranean region, sea breezes periodically bring in mist and fog that appear to signal rain. But sometimes the atmospheric moisture stays only briefly and produces no significant rainfall. The land is left dry and parched; the inhabitants are left disappointed.” In a similar way, false teachers initially appear to have wonderful spiritual insights and to hold the keys to a life of incredible blessing from God. Yet, in reality, they’re actually worthless in that they have nothing of value to offer. 

V. Predatory

Furthermore, as we move forward into verse 18, we see that false teachers are not only worthless but also predatory. Peter writes, “For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.” We’ve already noted the arrogance of the false teachers, so Peter’s mention of their “loud boasts of folly” should come as no surprise. We’ve also already noted that they’re given over their sensual desires. 

Yet Peter tells us here that they “entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.” In other words, they prey on the weakest and most unstable and most vulnerable people they can find. Peter says that they “entice” such individuals, which is a word that—in the original Greek language—often refers to a fisherman using bait to get a fish’s attention and eventually catch that fish. And false teachers do the same thing with those who are spiritually vulnerable. Just when these people are starting to turn toward God and take steps toward freedom from the clutches of sin, false teachers manage to convince them that sexual sin is actually no big deal and draw them away from obedience to God. 

VI. Enslaved

Peter then describes false teachers in verse 19 as being enslaved. He writes that “They [false teachers] promise [people] freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” So, even though false teachers advertise their teachings as a way to experience freedom, they themselves don’t even have the freedom they claim to offer others. Instead, they’re enslaved to their own sinful desires. Peter explains, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” Jesus also taught this very same thing in John 8:34 when he stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

One of the things that especially those of us who are Americans cherish most deeply is the idea of freedom. That’s why this country was founded, right? Out of a desire to be free. You could almost say that it’s in our blood. “Give me liberty, or give me death,” right? Yet, to whatever extent we’re pursuing freedom by following our sinful desires, we’re actually seeking freedom in that which enslaves us. As we’ve already discussed, sin wants nothing more than to dominate every aspect of our lives and control us and gain mastery over us. And it won’t stop until it does. So, following our sinful desires isn’t freedom—it’s slavery. 

By contrast, true freedom—according to the Bible—involves living the way God tells us to live. It’s not a freedom from restrictions but rather a freedom to embrace the right restrictions. In the words of Tim Keller, “Freedom, then, is not the absence of limitations and constraints but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us.” 

Keller then illustrates what he means. He says, “A fish, because it absorbs oxygen from water rather than air, is only free if it is restricted and limited to water. If we put it out on the grass, its freedom to move and even live is not enhanced, but destroyed. The fish dies if we do not honor the reality of its nature. In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions.” So, a fish isn’t free on land. It’s dead, or soon to be dead. The only way that fish will be free—that is, free to live and move and be happy—is if it limits itself to the water. 

And in the same way, if we want to be free, we have to embrace the right limitations. And those limitations are given to us on a silver platter in the pages of the Bible. The Bible tells us how to live, and in so doing, guides us down the path of true freedom. Yet, according to Peter, false teachers have departed from that path and are therefore enslaved by their own sinful desires. 

VII. Hardened

Then, finally, in verses 20-21, Peter describes how false teachers are hardened. He writes, 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 

So, at one time, it appeared as though the false teachers had “escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Yet their supposed “knowledge” was later shown to be superficial. Although they initially appeared to be Christians, time would reveal that they actually weren’t truly Christians at all. Because, instead of walking in repentance from sin, Peter says that they were again “entangled” in sin not just for a period of time but to the point of being “overcome” by sin. And that reveals that they were never truly Christians at all. 

Not only that, Peter says, “the last state has become worse for them than the first.” The reason for this is that they’ve now tasted just enough of the gospel message of Jesus to be inoculated to it. Just like a vaccine inoculates someone to a disease by introducing a certain form of the bacteria that causes that disease into the person’s body and thereby provokes the person’s immune system to produce antibodies against that disease, these false teaches have been inoculated to the gospel. They at one time embraced the gospel—but only in a superficial way—before eventually rejecting it. As a result, their hearts are no longer tender or receptive but are now steeled and hardened. In all likelihood, they’ll never again be able to give genuine consideration to the gospel. This is why, as Peter says in verse 21, “it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Conclusion

So, according to Peter, false teachers are arrogant, irrational, given over to sin, worthless, predatory, enslaved, and hardened. In essence, they’re thoroughly wretched. Peter then describes their utter wretchedness in a final climactic statement in verse 22. He writes, “What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’” In other words, by returning to the sins they supposedly once left, false teachers are showing their true nature as dogs and pigs. Again, the portrait Peter’s painting here is one of absolute wretchedness. And Peter’s hope is that the wretched spiritual condition of false teachers will deter anyone from following them. 

And let me emphasize that all of this is just as relevant for us today as it was for Peter’s original readers—if not even more relevant. Because it seems that so many people today allow themselves to be drawn in by the charisma of various public speakers and public figures without ever critically examining the person’s character or the content of what they’re actually saying. As a result, many people are particularly susceptible to false teachers and false teaching. So, hopefully we can all take to heart Peter’s warning in this passage and be ever so discerning about the videos we watch on YouTube and the teachers we allow ourselves to be influenced by. Because there’s a lot of good teaching out there…but also a lot of bad teaching. And there are also a lot of bad teachers who teach bad teaching—and the last thing we want to do is get caught up in their deviant teachings or their deviant way of life. 

Instead, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” In other words, find godly leaders who teach the Bible faithfully and “imitate their faith.” That faith, of course, is a faith in the gospel. 

You know, we’ve spent most of our time this morning talking about sin. And I realize this sermon probably doesn’t make anyone’s “Top 10” list of the most encouraging sermons you’ve ever heard—and that’s okay. This isn’t K-LOVE, so we don’t always have to be “positive and encouraging.” Sometimes, it’s just necessary to talk about difficult things. 

Yet there is good news—and that is that God’s provided a way for us to be rescued from our sins and the consequences our sins deserve. He actually sent his own Son Jesus to come to this earth as a man, live a perfectly sinless life, and then die on the cross in order to pay not for any sins he had committed but for our sins. Paul says it like this in 

2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is what’s often called the “great exchange.” Jesus takes our wretched sinfulness and gives us his perfect righteousness. 

Of course, in order to experience this, we have to renounce the sins that are enslaving us and put our trust exclusively in Jesus—crucified on the cross but now raised from the dead—as our Savior. It’s only then that we experience the life and joy and freedom that’s found in a right relationship with God. 

other sermons in this series

Jul 21

2024

2 Peter 3:11-18: Awaiting Our Glorious Future

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: 2 Peter 3:11–18 Series: 2 Peter

Jul 14

2024

2 Peter 3:1-10: The Day of the Lord

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: 2 Peter 3:1–10 Series: 2 Peter