But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (2 Peter 2:1-2)
The second chapter of 2nd Peter begins with a solemn warning for Christians in every generation. In the first century, the seeds of heresy were already beginning to grow as Satan was busily trying to tear down the work of the gospel and blind people’s eyes to the truth. The apostle Paul speaks of Judaizers in Galatians chapter 1 that taught a false gospel that opposed the teaching of pure grace, and faith alone as the instrumental cause of justification. The apostle John spoke of antichrists that denied the incarnation and the full deity of Jesus Christ. Jude warns about deceivers that sneak into the church bringing heresies that deny the faith that was given through the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This is a very common theme in the New Testament and one that we should be keenly aware of.
We may be tempted to think that false teachers will boldly announce themselves and it will be very apparent they are not teachers of truth. We might think we can easily identify them and thus protect the church from their harm. The language of scripture gives a very much different picture. False teachers are subtle. Peter says they “privily shall bring in damnable heresies.” This means they come secretly and in disguise. Jude says they creep in unawares. The truth is they may be hard to detect. They tell just enough truth mixed with their lies to be believable and if a Christian is not fully armed against them by having a firm foundation to his faith, he can be led down a path to destruction.
While it is true no born again believer can be destroyed in hell, it is just as true that Satan can ruin a Christian’s influence by undermining his ability to clearly articulate the doctrines of the faith. For this reason, we must be diligent students of God’s word. We must not only be able to state the doctrines of the faith, we must know why they are true. I am afraid this is where most Christians fail. They know enough and believe enough to be saved, but their personal growth is severely stunted because they attend churches that are unconcerned about teaching doctrine, and may not even have the correct doctrine anyway. Also, in the Christian’s personal life, there is very little to no study of the word.
This is the issue for the believer in the pew. How much more is a false teacher a destroyer of souls when he is dealing directly with unbelievers? A false gospel will never save anyone and will ultimately lead the person to the fires of hell. There are many people headed there that are very religious and believe their souls are safe. They are deceived and have stopped looking for truth because they believe they already have it.
With the advent of Christ, the first century began the widespread revelation of the gospel of grace. It was also the beginning of an earnest effort to stop the advancement of the gospel and thus the growth of the church. In the ensuing centuries, the opposition has only grown worse. Today there are hundreds of denominations preaching just about any doctrine you care to hear. We cannot afford to be lazy and complacent and permit false teachers to continue without opposition. If you hear me mention a name or oppose a doctrine of a certain church or pastor, please do not think I do so to try and destroy Christian unity. It is my responsibility to identify the false and to teach what is true. If it takes naming names, so be it. This is part of the hedge of protection you receive by being in a church that is very concerned about doctrinal matters. If you pay attention and attend faithfully, God will protect you from destructive heresies. Try every word that is said by your own diligent study. God expects no less and neither do we.
Pastor V. Mark Smith