Summary: Because we will always have false teachers among us, we must know how to stand against them.
This post is part of The Last Crusade, a call to arms from John C. Wright where he asked me to be a catechist.
There’s a saying in the military that if you aren’t taking flack, you aren’t over the target. Paul took flack and still does today. Peter took flack. Many in academic places doubt that Peter wrote 2 Peter, but we can trust that the early Church knew what they were doing when they preserved the tradition that Peter wrote this little book.
It is the duty of every Christian alive to be ready with an answer for those who ask about the hope we have within us. Peter wrote to take on false teachers. Jesus was attacked during His ministry. The church was attacked from that first Pentecost onward. False teachers tried to sneak in and lead people astray. Peter wants us to have no part of that. We are always to be on guard against false teachers and their lies. No, I’m not pulling back from that. False teachers are liars. Maybe those who honestly think they are teaching the truth aren’t as bad of liars, but the truth must prevail. And that’s what Peter writes about today.
Saint Peter wrote two books of Scripture for us. While we might think that someone who spent so much time with Jesus would have written a gospel like Matthew and John, we can trust that Peter’s talents lay elsewhere. However, one gospel is associated with him. Mark’s Gospel is the hardest on Peter and no wonder. You are always your own harshest critic. After leaving Paul’s ministry, Mark traveled with Peter and for years heard Peter preaching the life of Jesus. Mark wrote those down in the Gospel.
But Second Peter comes to us years after the Gospel of Mark, and Peter is older maybe slower to anger than the man in the garden who defended his lord with a sword. But he hasn’t lost the old fire we know and love. It just takes him longer to get riled up, but when he does…
Peter gives us a mini-Revelation in chapter 3. The book was written near the end of his life, probably between AD 65 and 68. Peter was killed during the reign of Nero. Unwilling to die like Jesus, Peter requested that the soldiers make his worse. They did so by crucifying him upside down.
Where in his first letter, Peter taught on how to deal with persecution, in this letter he deals with false teachers. In both letters, Peter obeyed Christ’s command to “feed my sheep.” In the first chapter, he stimulates Christian growth. In the second, he combats false teachings. The purpose of this third chapter is to encourage watchfulness among Christians in view of the Lord’s return. Now let us read 2 Peter 3:1-18.
Remember what is coming. 2 Peter 3:1-7
Peter reminds us of two things in this section. First, he reminds us again of the false teachers and how to counteract them. They work against Scripture, and the way to overcome then is to remember that Scripture cannot fail. This is one of the qualities the Bible has by way of being inspired. It cannot fail. If we remember this and what it teaches, we will prevail.
The words to remember are those spoken of by first the Prophets and then the Apostles. Both Old and New Testament come from God moving upon those holy men to write. These words were given to believers not to put a stop to our fun but to guide us in holiness. Just like your mother or father knows things that you don’t, so does God. The rules are there to help not hinder.
Naturally, some of the rules have been laid aside with Christ’s victory. Believers are not bound under the food laws of the Old Testament. God stated this explicitly in the book of Acts. However, many were left alone and some even strengthened. Idolatry is still a sin, even though Jesus never condemns it. He didn’t have to, because the Jews had gotten the message after decades of exile.
But false teachers never stop. They don’t listen when Christians show them how Scripture shows their folly. Some simply cannot fathom being wrong. Others know they are wrong and continue to shout louder. Others simply change to a different topic the next time they come around.
Let us consider briefly one of the first heretics in the Church. A man named Arius who taught “there was a time when the Son was not.” As you examine his teachings, you find that he believed Jesus Christ was a being created by God, but created nonetheless. Being created, Jesus was not divine the same way the Father is. I’m sure you can see the problem here. The only way the church could deal with the problem was to call a council in AD 325 and debate the issue. At the end of the council, Arius and Arianism were roundly condemned. However, the Arians did not stop their teaching. They considered themselves right and went on. In the centuries since, Arianism has reared its ugly head many times. Even today, the Jehovah’s Witnesses hold beliefs like Arius and Church of God, Seventh Day is very similar.
In Peter’s day, the mockers were already asking a question that we deal with today–“why hasn’t Jesus returned?” They say that things keep going just as they did before. Jesus isn’t coming back they said. Peter reminded the flock that the mockers did this so they would not have to stop sinning.
Peter goes on to point out that the mockers have committed the most basic blunder. They have not looked at what else the Bible says. Peter uses a phrase meaning “stupid on purpose.” They willingly ignore that the Bible teaches about another judgment where the earth was flooded with water to destroy all life. They ignore the first so they don’t have to worry about the second. Peter reminds us that the future judgment by fire is going to happen as surely as the past judgment by water happened.
It isn’t enough for them to ignore the first judgment. No, they are willfully ignorant also of how the world began. Hey, if you doubt from the word go, you don’t have to explain why you believe this but not that. Peter had to face many false teachings on how the world began. Most of them at least had the decency not to claim they were Christians. They were outright pagans and proud of it.
You see, it isn’t the teachers outside the church who do the most damage. It’s the ones inside the church. The ones who claim to be Christians. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The most damaging teachers are the ones inside. The controversies that resulted in councils being called all started from inside. Bad teachings on the Trinity have always been a favorite of Satan to use.
Nevertheless, we can rest assured, it’s going to happen. The only question is when. And why it will happen is for God to judge wicked and ungodly men.
Remember why the delay. 2 Peter 3:8-10
God has one and only one reason to delay. He is still bringing the plan of salvation to fruition. There are still people out there who need to be saved and will be saved. You see, God knows and knew from the beginning of the world who would accept the sacrifice of Jesus and who would not. He does not want any to perish, so He delays the judgment for their sake.
This isn’t laziness or putting things off. When the last person chooses Him, only then will the judgment take place. When it happens, the heavens and earth will be demolished, destroyed with fervent heat. They pass away and are burned up.
While we want the New Heavens because there will be no sin, we can only be glad for others’ sake that it hasn’t happened yet. If you don’t want the New Heavens and Earth because of something in your life, that’s a sure sign you need to get rid of it. It’s wrong. It’s a sin. If there is anything that you say, “I wouldn’t want Jesus to see me doing that,” rest assured, it’s a sin.
Remember how to act while waiting. 2 Peter 3:11-18
Since this is going to happen, how should we act? Holiness should be what we seek in ourselves. Godliness. We should be living so that those who want to mock us cannot. We should long for that day and hasten it by living the lives we are called to do. Each action we take for God may be the action needed for everything to click in the mind of an unbeliever and them to convert.
We should hold two emotions regarding the coming judgment.
- We should anxiously await the coming Kingdom, that new heaven and new earth.
- We should be glad that God is still giving people time to repent.
That’s a tough bit to hang in balance. We want to be in that Kingdom, but we all have family and friends who won’t be there with us. That should make it easier for us. But if it doesn’t, just remember that Jesus already did the hard work in salvation. He did the part that we couldn’t do.
“According to His promise, we look forward to a new Heavens and New Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” New. Created fresh to remove all taint of sin. While some teachers maintain Peter means this heaven and earth renewed, the wording of the Bible shows this to be a completely new heaven and earth. The prior heaven and earth are eliminated in great fire. Looking further into the Bible, John gives us details about the New Heaven and New Earth that show it is completely new. He says that when Christ judges from the Great White Throne that the present Heaven and Earth flee from Him. He doesn’t bring them back. He makes something new.
While we must focus on what the Bible says when combating false teaching, we must not go where the Bible does not. Peter doesn’t go into details about the Second Coming; these are all spoken of at different places. What Peter needed to focus on, he did. We don’t need to worry about how the human body will be changed at that time. It is enough to know that we will be changed to glorious beings. Jesus was the first born of many brethren, and we will be like He was after the Resurrection.
While waiting for this glorious day, be patient, knowing that God is working out salvation for someone else. We can say “come quickly, Lord Jesus,” and be working to bring all the people we know into the kingdom. And if you were that someone, wouldn’t you be glad He waited?
Peter spends a lot of time in this little book talking about false teachers. They always have been a thorn in the church and they always will be. Peter says that they distort Paul just like they do other Scripture. Peter recognized Paul’s letters as God’s word revealed to man even though some of them were hard to understand.
Deep in our hearts, we should pity false teachers. They are headed for a very warm afterlife unless they repent and return to God. God is not mocked; He will win.
Peter closes with the best advice we can ever receive on how to stand firm against unprincipled false teachers. There’s only one way to be ready. What is it? Know the truth. Be on your guard, ready for them. They will come at you. In fact, the more you are teaching the truth, the more the false teachers will attack you.
Know the Truth. Study your Scriptures. Study to be approved. Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every day you should wake up and ask, “how can I build the kingdom today?” Start by building yourself daily. Pray. Read. Be ready.
How then are you acting? Are you living each day to build the Kingdom? There’s an implication here in all of Peter’s talking about false teachers. We are to be true teachers. Do we not have the Gospel within us? Do we not know the joy of salvation and Christian living? Embrace it and go. Jesus said that no man lights a candle and hides it under a basket. Instead, you light it up bright and put it on a candlestick so that it gives light to all around.
Are you doing that? Are you combating false teachers and teaching truth at every opportunity? Make it happen. Does your light shine for all the world to see?
If not, this is the time to get it right and light that lamp of yours.