The Random House Dictionary defines deception as “the act of deceiving; the state of being deceived.” It further defines deceive as “to mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude.” It is an evil and vile thing to deceive someone. So what are we to do with those who would deceive us? How can we know we are being deceived? The Apostle Paul warned the Roman Church:
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:17-19)
The Greek verb transliterated “note” is skopeo and it means “to watch out for, to notice of, look to.” Paul is literally telling us to be on the watch for false, deceiving teachers. And those are the ones who cause division and offense by teaching a doctrine contrary to that which we’ve learned. Teaching there is no literal hell and that everyone eventually goes to heaven is clearly contrary to the Bible’s teaching.
This morning’s passage from 2 Peter 2 warns against these deceivers:
“For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’” (2 Peter 2:18-22)
So what is the allure of these false teachers? Warren Wiersbe writes they offer a false freedom that is based on false promises, offered by false Christians, involving a false experience.
False teachers offer a promise of freedom that is never fulfilled, bringing easily swayed Christians into bondage. Peter gives the example in verse 17, which we saw yesterday, of an empty well or clouds that come and go without leaving rain. So how is it immature Christians are so easily swayed? These false teachers are good at what they do; they are great speakers and because we have a dual nature after we are saved, they can speak directly to that old, sinful nature through our flesh.
Worse than offering false promises is that these teachers are false Christians. That is what Peter is declaring in verse 19 because “they themselves are slaves of corruption.” If you are imprisoned by sin you cannot free someone else from their sin. These false teacher had a false conversion; they were never truly redeemed. They had a conversion experience but never were truly saved.
And because these false teachers experience a false salvation they offer a false experience. The pronoun “they” in today’s passage refers only to the false teachers and not the Christians. How do we know that these false teachers were not truly saved? In Jude 19 we read, “These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.” Beloved, if you don’t have the Holy Spirit you are not saved. The first thing that happens at conversion is the Holy Spirit indwells our lives.
It seems as though Peter is using some pretty graphic pictures to describe these false teachers but he is teaching his listeners a spiritual lesson that they could easily understand. As gross a picture of a dog returning to his vomit is, we’ve all probably seen that and Peter is merely confirming the teaching of Proverbs 26:11. And if you wash a pig to take it to the county fair, and even if you win first prize, that pig will return to its mud and once again be a dirty pig. It’s in its nature to wallow in the mire!
A false teacher has Biblical knowledge but not Biblical wisdom. The former is knowing the facts; the latter is applying it to life. False teachers know how to get saved and can preach a mighty sermon on it; that does not mean they have necessarily experienced it. I can become an expert in a field of study and teach it quite well without ever having worked in the field. In fact, I’ve just described 90% of university professors!
These false teachers may look clean on the outside, having “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” but because they’ve rejected the true gospel and never experienced Biblical salvation, it would have been better for them in the end to have never learned of the gospel.
I will tell you this week I have come full circle on my opinion of the salvation surety of Rob Bell and Joel Osteen. And from what I’ve seen in Scripture, I am more convinced that these men have not truly been saved. Do I know that for sure? No, but from what they teach, by their fruit, I have much reason to be concerned for them. And that only strengthens the urging of the Holy Spirit within me to pray for them.
As for us, how do we protect ourselves from such false teaching? I’ll defer to the mighty Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe once again:
The best defense against false teachers is true living. A church filled with growing Christians, vibrant in their faith, is not likely to fall prey to apostates with their counterfeit Christianity. But this Christian living must be based on the authoritative Word of God. False teachers find it easy to seduce people who do not know their Bible but who are desirous of “experiences” with the Lord. It is a dangerous thing to build on subjective experience alone and ignore objective revelation.
So there you have it. It is based on faith.
What if I told you I’ve discovered the secret to faith? Would you be interested? Then be sure to check in next week and please invite your family and friends to join us.
Have a blessed weekend and please remember to go to church on Sunday.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers