The Truth about False Teachers

The Truth about False Teachers

“The Truth about False Teachers”

(2 Peter 2:1-3)

Series: You’d Better Know the Truth (2 Peter)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

  • Take your Bibles and join me in 2 Peter, chapter 2 (page 817; YouVersion).


We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through this short letter of just three chapters and today we begin chapter 2.  The main reason for which Peter wrote this letter is to equip the church to beware of false teachers and false teachings.  We see that theme especially in chapter 2 and we’re going to study this morning, the first three verses of chapter 2.


  • Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  

2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 

3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.


  • Pray.




Most of you are familiar with the story from Greek mythology about how the Greeks overtook the Troys after a long and frustrating 10-year siege upon the city.  The Greeks constructed a huge, wooden horse that they left near the gate of the city and then pretended to give-up on overtaking the city and pretended to sail away from Troy.  The Trojans, believing the war was all over, opened the city gate and pulled this wooden horse into the city and received it as a victory trophy of the spoils of war.


What they did not know, of course, was that a select group of Greek fighting men had hidden themselves inside the wooden horse and so when the city of Troy went to sleep that evening, those Greek soldiers slipped out of the wooden horse, unlocked the city gate, and let in the entire Greek army who had sailed back to shore under the cover of darkness.  And the Greeks, now fully inside the city gates, overtook the Trojans and destroyed the city of Troy.  Cool story, right?


While the enemy was outside the gate, the city was fine.  For 10 years the Trojans were largely unconcerned about the enemy as the enemy was outside the gate.  But when the enemy got on the inside, the result was swift destruction.


That’s what Peter’s talking about this morning.  The enemy Peter describes he identifies  in verse 1 as, “False teachers…who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.”  And really, the subterfuge of these false teachers is even more sinister than the Greeks entering the city of troy in one night; these false teachers were “among” the Christians for perhaps as long as a number of years.  They looked and acted just like everyone else and were largely unnoticed until they began teaching things at odds with the God’s Word and the Gospel.


You will remember where Jesus warned of this in Matthew 7.  He said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16).”  You will recognize they are false teachers by what they do and say.


So that’s where Peter is today.  We’re going to study, “The Truth about False Teachers.”  Three main considerations about false teachers.  Number one, let’s:


I. Consider their Activity [1]


1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.


Peter begins in verse 1 with, “But there were also false prophets among the people.”  You will recall from our study last time that Peter had written about how God spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament.  The prophets did not speak for themselves, but for God.  But Peter reminds us now in verse 1 that, “there were also false prophets among the people.”  And there were.  These prophets did not speak for God.  God did not speak through them.  They spoke for themselves.


So Peter does not want his readers to draw the erroneous conclusion that just because these false teacher claimed to speak for God that they actually did.  That, by the way, is an important reminder for the church today.  Just because someone says, “God told Me,” does not mean that He actually did.  We should be careful using that terminology.  It is far better to say, “God says in His Word,” thus and such.  If you say, “God told me” you had better be absolutely certain it was God Who was speaking to you, and He ordinarily speaks to us through His Word.


Peter adds in verse 1 that just as there were false prophets among the people, so “there will be false teachers among you.”  They are those who, “secretly bring in destructive heresies.”  A heresy is that which goes against biblical truth.  For example, Jesus teaches in John 14:6 that He is the only way we may be saved.  He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.”  So a heresy would be to teach that Jesus is just “one of many ways to be saved.”  That’s a heresy because it clearly goes against biblical truth.


We wonder what are the “destructive heresies” these false teachers were teaching in Peter’s day.  We gather some clues in the following verses as we’ll see in a moment.  But note that Peter adds in verse 1 that these teachers, “even deny the Lord who bought them.”  Denying of the Lord who bought them would include denying much of our Lord’s teachings.  We know from the following chapter that this would include a denial of our Lord’s teachings about His second coming (2 Peter 3:4-7), but is most likely that when Peter speaks of the these teachers as those who “deny the Lord who bought them” that it is largely Peter’s way of saying that these false teachers failed to live under Christ’s Lordship.


Their behavior, their activity, indicated that they were not true followers of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”


Similarly, Jesus says later in Matthew 10:33, “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”


When Peter says these false teachers denied, “the Lord who bought them,” he is using the language of appearance.  In other words, it would appear these teachers were true Christians.  They had lived among the believers.  They had said they were followers of Christ.  They gave every appearance of being genuine Christians.  But while they appeared to be a redeemed people, their denial of Christ revealed that they were never truly saved. They “denied the Lord who bought them.”  True believers do not deny the Lord.  False Christians do.


Again, Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Like the seed sown on rocky ground or thorny ground, seed that initially bears fruit but then dries up and dies when hard times come (Matthew 13:20–22), these false teachers bear no fruit that lasts, indicating they were never truly saved to begin with.


So they belonged to the church, but they did not belong to God.  Is that possible today?  Is it possible in our church family here?  Yes.  The true believer continues to follow Christ and continues to bear the fruit of the Spirit as the years go by.  Are you truly saved?


And there are other implications here from this verse.  Peter would say doctrine matters.    Every once in awhile some thoughtless Christian says, “Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus!”  Well, who is Jesus?  Your answer to that question will be a doctrinal answer.


Right teaching leads to right thinking which leads to right living.


On the other hand false teaching leads to unrighteous living.  So we go now to our second point.  Having considered the activity of the false teachers, secondly:


  1. Consider their Immorality [2-3a]


Verse 2 says, “Many will follow their destructive ways.”  That word “destructive” should probably be translated differently because the word is different in the older Greek manuscripts.  It’s a word (aÓselgei÷aiß) that is variously translated, “shameful ways,” or “sensuality,” or “shameful immorality.”


The false teachers are an immoral people.  And we note here a couple of things about their immoral lifestyle.  Two characteristics, first:


1) They’re after Pleasure (2)


Again, the word that is translated “destructive” in verse 2, their “destructive ways” is better translated as “sensual” and typically refers to a sexually lustful lifestyle, a life of carnal pleasure.  It’s the same word translated later in verse 7 as “filthy conduct” and later in verse 18 as, “lewdness.”


The false teachers seemed to be teaching a kind of libertinism, a false teaching that said, in essence, just do whatever you wish with your body.  It really doesn’t matter.  God won’t judge you for it.


Now does that sell?  It sure does.  Peter writes at the beginning of verse 2 that “many will follow their destructive ways.”


And because of them, Peter concludes in verse 2, “the way of truth will be blasphemed.”  The Phillips paraphrase has, “They bring discredit upon the way of truth.”  So People watch the way these unbelievers are living and they say, “Wow, that must be some kind of crazy religion!  You claim to follow Jesus and you live like that?!  That is the “Gospel” I’ve been hearing so much about?  That’s what the Gospel looks like?  Very interesting!


False teachers are an immoral people.  Two characteristics: they’re after pleasure and, secondly:


  1. They’re after your Pocketbook (3a) 


Verse 3, “by covetousness (or, by greed) they will exploit you with deceptive words.”  In other words, they’re after your pocketbook.  They’re after your wallet.  They’re after your money.


Do you know any so-called teachers of the Gospel like this?  Do you know any persons who by covetousness or greed seem to be interested in exploiting people?


Peter goes on to say how they do this.  Verse 3, “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words.”  The phrase in the original is, “plastoi√ß lo/goiß,” you can hear an English word derived from plastoi√ß, the word “plastic.”  The Greek connotation refers to something forged, fabricated, shaped, or molded into a desirable form by the one doing the forging.  In this sense then, these false teachers exploit others by using “deceptive” or “false” words, fabricated words, “plastic words,” if you like, words forged, shaped, or molded into the particular form desired by the speaker to lure an unsuspecting hearer.


The New Living Translation has, “In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money.”  Later in verse 14, Peter says of these false teachers that they, “entice unstable souls (and) they have a heart trained in covetous practices,” trained in greed.


Now again, without mentioning any names, can you think of any false teachers today who seem to be all about pleasure and all about your pocketbook?  Can you think of any so-called preacher or teacher telling you to “sow a seed of faith,” that is, “open your pocketbook and send in your money to his or her ministry,” while they put that money into bank accounts that fund lifestyles of pleasure?


Have you ever watched TBN?  Someone said TBN stands for “Twisting the Bible Nightly.”  To be fair there are some good teachers on TBN, but there are also some bad teachers.


We need not mention specific names of these false teachers.  Jesus says, “By their fruit you will know them.”  What do they say, how do they live?  Only right teaching leads to right thinking which leads to right living.


Consider their activity.  Consider their immorality.  Thirdly and finally:


III. Consider their Destiny [3b]


What is the end of false teachers?  Do they get away with this behavior?  Look at the last part of verse 3: “for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”


The word “destruction” has been used now three times in these verses, the first time being at the end of verse 1, where Peter says these false teachers will, “bring on themselves swift destruction.”


It will be swift and sure.  Perhaps to many the judgment seemed far off, but Peter says it will come and when it comes it will be swift and complete.  God will judge all false teachers on the Day of Judgment and every unsaved person will spend eternity in hell.


Their activity, their immorality, their destiny.




So what does it mean for our church that false teachers may be in our very midst?  I’m like most of you in saying, “I can’t think of anyone in our fellowship as pernicious and evil as these false teachers!”


But, let’s consider this legitimate implication: Is it possible that a well-meaning Christian, is it possible that a true believer, may teach false doctrine without realizing it?


And is it possible that those listening may not even know they are learning a “destructive heresy?”

That’s a thoughtful question: How would you recognize a “destructive heresy?”  Do you know the truth well enough to recognize error?


When Paul and Silas went to Berea they entered the city and went into the synagogue and began to teach.  They taught day after day.  And Luke describes the people of Berea as pretty sharp folks.  He said of them that they, “received the word eagerly and then searched the Scriptures every day to see whether what they were hearing was, in fact, the truth (Acts 17:10-11).”


So, loved ones, if they checked out to see whether the Apostle Paul was preaching truth in his day, how much more should you check out what you are hearing and watching in our day?


  • Let’s stand for prayer.

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