Read: II Peter 2
“But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you.” (II Peter 2:1)
Oswald Chambers said, “The Bible treats us as human life does—roughly.” In the entire second chapter of Peter’s second letter, the Apostle really goes after some people—and he treats them roughly. He is going after false teachers—religious figures who pervert the Gospel for personal gain and manipulate God’s people for their own pleasure.
Peter is telling us to be on the lookout for such people. His message is clear: We are not to be duped by these phony spiritual leaders. And by the way, in case you didn’t know it, there are plenty of them even in our day. Just surf through the religious program on your TV set and you will see one before you know it. But they’re not just on TV; they are in denominational headquarters, they teach in seminary classes, they fill pulpits and lead small groups all around the world.
So how do you spot them? It’s not all that hard really, because no matter what era you are in or what position of authority they are in, these phonies fall into predictable patterns. You can spot them because they are always grubbing for money or they are always trolling for sex or they are always maneuvering for power—or all three.
If you spot a religious figure who seems to be preoccupied with money—watch out! I’ve seen plenty of pastors and TV preachers who were pretty good at that. They are slick, so don’t be fooled! Peter says “in their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money.” (verse 3)
Likewise, if you run into a spiritual authority that seems to be a little too loose with the girls (or the guys)—have nothing to do with them. They are bad news, and when they fall, they will take people down with them. Peter says that God will be “especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire and who despise authority” (verse 10). If a spiritual leader is unwilling to be accountable for his sexuality, that is the kind of person Peter is talking about.
And finally, whenever you find a religious figure that is egotistical, prideful, and self-serving—you have found the makings of a false teacher. When you get on the inside of their world and you don’t see humility, sacrifice and grace, you’ve got a leader who is, among other things, driven by power. Peter warns of them in the last part of verse 10, “These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at supernatural beings without so much as trembling.” Verse 13 says, “they scoff at things they don’t understand.” Verse 18 tells us, “They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting.”
Peter is really quite rough on these people: “These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness.” (verse 17) He calls them “a disgrace and a stain among you.” And he says, “they live under God’s curse.” (verses 13-14)
Tough chapter, I know. But as I mentioned at the beginning, the Bible sometimes treats us roughly in order to protect us from evil influences and preserve our salvation. And as it relates to so-called spiritual leaders, it is time we do the same.
A little rough treatment might clear some of them out of the body of Christ and off the airways.
Lord, cleanse your church. Make us holy—the holy Bride of Christ—without any spot, or wrinkle, or blemish. Give us greater discernment and courage to root out the false teachers among us so that we can be the kind of church with whom you are well pleased and in which the world cannot find fault.