“False Teachers Among You”      2 Peter 2:1-10                    June 3, 2012

 

SI:  In our study of 2 Peter, have come to chapter 2. 

   Before we read, want to prepare you for this chapter.

 

Chapter 1 is one of the most encouraging chapters in whole New Testament,

   one of the best descriptions of the Christian life.

As a Christian you have been given divine power through Christ,

   for moral and spiritual transformation.

Promises of God are the conduit for applying this divine power to the struggles

   and challenges of your life. 

 

As you make use of this power, you will add to your faith many virtues—

   goodness, knowledge, self-control, kindness, and so on.

And as you add these things, you gain experiential assurance that you have been

   called and elected by Lord—

   so no matter what happens in life, you know who you are and where you stand.

You become a person with increasing effectiveness and clarity of spiritual vision.

   Then Peter reminds believers that God has given the Old and New Testaments—

   to strengthen your faith, and point you to Jesus Christ and his promises. 

 

In chapter 2, Peter’s approach changes completely. 

   He has the very same goal—to make you firm and stable and unshakable in faith.

Chapter one is encouragement to avail yourself of God’s power through truth.

Chapter two is a warning of the eternal destruction that will come to every person

   who rejects truth, believes lies, and therefore fails avail himself of God’s power.

 

One preacher called chapter 1 God’s carrot and chapter 2 God’s stick.

   There are no commands or instructions in this chapter—

   just a terrifying description of what will happen to people who fall prey

   to false teachers in the church and are not transformed morally and spiritually.

 

Going to spend three Sundays on this chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTRO:  Rock climbing is very popular on Lookout Mountain.

   People come from all over to the bluffs on both sides of the mountain.

During the four years I was in college there were occasionally news stories

   about rock climbing accidents—some of them fatal. 

 

One that sticks in my mind was a man who was rappelling down a bluff.

   His rope was too short, and he rappelled right off the end of it—

   fell to his death.

Obviously, as a climber, he got lots of things right.

   His rope didn’t break so he obviously had good equipment.

   He apparently tied his rope right at the top, his knots didn’t come undone.

   He wasn’t clumsy—he didn’t trip over his feet and fall over the edge.

But in this one area—just one—he was wrong and the results were fatal.

   And, you might say, that even though he had all these other things right,

   his one error made them all worthless to him.

 

Is the same sort of thing possible in the spiritual realm?

   In matters of faith could you believe lots of the right things but believe

   falsehood in one crucial area with spiritually fatal results?

Could believing a falsehood be so serious that it makes all the right things

   you believe worthless to you when you die and face God?

 

According to the Apostle Peter—Yes!

   There are such things as “destructive heresies.”

   If you believe them, they can destroy you.

What is heresy?

   Heresy is an attack on any established Christian doctrine

   by someone who calls himself a Christian.

It’s important that you get this straight in your mind.

   Because Peter is dealing with something very specific.

 

Heresy is not an outright denial of the Christian faith.

   When a person says:  I was brought up in the Christian faith, I used to call myself

   a Christian, but now I believe that that the whole thing—Jesus and God and

   heaven and hell and sin and salvation—is just a bunch of bologna. 

That’s not heresy.  That’s called apostasy. 

   Because the person no longer even claims to be a Christian.

   And he’s not just attacking one doctrine, but everything.

 

When a person from another religion attacks Christianity, that’s not heresy.

   When a Muslim says Jesus is not the Son of God, he did not die on cross.

   When a Buddhist says that there is no sin, redemption, or personal God,

   that’s not heresy, that’s just false religion.

 

But heresy is when a person says:  I’m a Christian. 

   I’m a baptized member of the church.  I believe in God.  I believe in Christ. 

   But then that person attacks and undermines essential elements of Christian faith. 

Heresy often focuses on a particular doctrine—like the person of Christ,

   or the nature of God, or the way of salvation, or the authority of Scripture.

   It won’t directly deny all the doctrines of the faith.

 

But, like the sort rappelling rope, it will make them virtually worthless.

   For example, if you believed that Jesus was just a good man—not God incarnate,

   then that would affect your view of salvation, and Scripture, and God himself.

Peter has one main point in this chapter—heresy is a short rope to hell.

   Heresies will kill you if you believe them.

 

And not only you—they have a radioactive half-life.

   Can have negative spiritual repercussions for future generations.

And so it is purely out of love that the apostle wrote this chapter.

   Yes, it is harsh.  Yes, he takes his gloves off.

   As we will see next week, he even calls people nasty names.

But he says these things because he wants to get your attention.

   Don’t treat false teaching lightly.  Be alert.  Be careful. 

 

In chapter one, how does Peter tell you to focus the power of God on your

   struggles and challenges?  Do you remember?

   By believing and applying the great and precious promises of God.

   In other words—through the truth.

This chapter is the flip side—if you believe falsehood, you won’t have

   divine power for moral and spiritual transformation.

 

Let’s look more carefully at the gracious warning.

   I want to look at these first 10 verses under three headings that I think

   will be helpful for understanding this warning.

1.  Heresy and the church

2.  Heresy and your heart

3.  Heresy and hell.

MP#1  Heresy and the church

My parents have a home in North Carolina that is located very close to the

   the conference grounds of a large Protestant denomination.

My brother-in-law and I were once in the bookstore owned by the denominational

   conference center.  The more I browsed, the more bothered I was by some of the

   books that were being sold in this store. 

Craig, my brother-in-law, said, “Hey, Andrew, check this out.”

   He was holding up a book with the title, Coming Out As Sacrament.

 

This book argued that coming out of the closet and openly declaring and embracing

   same sex attraction and lifestyle is a means of grace.  Conduit of God’s blessing. 

And the church should celebrate when a person announces this

   in the same way we celebrate the baptism of covenant child or the Lord’s Supper.

And there were sample services, orders of worship for church bulletin.

 

Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Bell Graham grew up in this denomination.

   Her parents were missionaries to China with this denomination.

   In fact, you walk past her family home on the way to this bookstore.

In past generations this denomination produced some of the greatest theologians

   in America, some of the greatest missionary heroes.

But now, it is a church that has completely accepted and affirmed homosexuality,

   as a way of life blessed by God.  There was a heroic resistance for many years,

   but in the last two years, that final resistance has been completely swept away.

 

Does that surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  It should sadden you and sober you.

   But it shouldn’t surprise you because Peter wrote:

   There were also false prophets among the people,

   just as there will be false teachers among you.

There were false prophets in the Old Testament church.

   Moses warned about them, and Jeremiah and Isaiah deal with them.

   And, Peter says, there will be false teachers in New Testament church.

 

Sometimes Christians have the romantic idea that NT church was doctrinally pure.

   Even before the Apostles had died, they were fighting false teaching and heresy.

Paul had to write against Judaizers in Galatian churches who said salvation

   was by faith in Jesus and in keeping certain Jewish laws.

John had to write two of letters against a false teacher who denied the incarnation.

Jude and Peter both wrote against a false teaching that advocated sexual immorality

   in the name of God’s grace.

In early centuries after apostles, false teachings and heresies sprouted like weeds.

   There were heresies that challenged the authority of Scripture, the way of

   salvation, the incarnation of the Son of God, the Trinity, the work of the Holy

   Spirit, and every other major doctrine.  So many, hard to keep straight:

Marcionism, Montanism, Gnosticism, docetism

 

In 4th century, church came close to being overwhelmed by Arianism.

   Taught that Jesus Christ was a created being, a half-god.

In 5th century, Pelagianism argued that people are born sinless,

   able to respond to God on own, without grace.

 

Even today, three major branches of Christianity troubled with false teaching.

Roman Catholicism, though has many virtues, has embraced a doctrinal error

   virtually identical Judaizers in Galatians of salvation by grace plus works.

Orthodoxy, Eastern Church, also has many virtues, but has embraced ritualistic

   view of salvation that is clearly condemned in book of Hebrews.

Protestantism, though there are many true churches, also many that have embraced

   the worst kind of errors—denial of deity of Christ, denial Christ only way to God,

   official declarations that certain immoral sins are not just not sin, but good.

 

I have a seminary buddy who was called to a church in a mainline denomination.

   I’ve told you about him before.  It’s an old church, more than 100 years old.

He went reluctantly because from what he could tell there were 2 believers in

   the entire congregation.  For fifty years, they was fed a diet from the pulpit

   that denied the essential doctrines of the faith.  Children came up in that church

   who thought they were going to heaven but they knew nothing of the truth.

Friend called me once.  He was going through old papers, found the church’s

   doctrinal position from 80 years ago—it was solid as a rock.

   Almost made him weep to think how those words of life had been undermined

   so steadily by false teaching.  And a once-great church destroyed spiritually.

 

The word of God and church history tells us that heresy could come to PCA

   and Christ Covenant.  We could give our money to this church, spend our efforts,

   and in two or three generations—heresy could be taught from this pulpit.

Instead of words of life—children could be hearing words of death.

   Be alert for your church.  Be doctrinal people.  Know the Word.

   Pray for church, pray for her officers—Jesus Christ alone will preserve.


 

MP#2  Heresy and your heart

Why does Christianity have so many heresies?  Where do they come from?

   There have been thousands of them.

Mostly the same once reoccur over and over in new forms.  Some are just bizarre.

   Where do they come from?

 

Listen to what a wise pastor wrote:

   “Why does Christianity produce so many heresies?  Because it claims that its message is absolutely true—the only true message about God and man—one must believe it to be right with God, but its message is a message that cuts directly across the natural sensibilities, tendencies, and appetites of sinful human beings.  And so there is always a powerful force at work, encouraged at all points by the Devil, to refashion the message to conform to those human desires.”

 

Source of all heresies is the resistance of the sinful heart to the truth claims

   of the Christian faith.  As he points out, the devil encourages this, but the

   the source is the resistance of the heart to truth about Christ.

Look at verse 1.  “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying

   the sovereign Lord who bought them.”

 

What was the source of this heresy that Peter was opposing?

   It was resistance to the sovereign Lordship of Christ—

   his ownership of all people and therefore his authority to demand obedience.

These heretics that Peter was dealing with, as we will see next Sunday,

   wanted religious justification for sexual immorality.

   Their sinful hearts resisted the truth claim that Christ is Lord, even over sex life,

   and that his standard, as revealed in Scripture must be obeyed.

 

Isn’t it amazing how things haven’t changed in that specific detail?

Look, for example, at any number of denominations in America or Europe

   that have first denied that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life—

   and then look at their stance on sexuality.

Not just a refusal to affirm the biblical sex ethic—

   but then an actual embracing and celebrating of sexual sin.

 

Heresy takes many forms—not all lead to immoral living.

   Some lead to very strict living.  Adding rules and laws for salvation.

But for the very same reason.

   Because of a resistance to Christ.  His grace, his Lordship.

Whatever form heresy takes, it all comes from the sinful resistance of the human

   heart to truth about God, Jesus Christ, our sin, and salvation as revealed in Bible.

The sobering message in this is that we struggle with sinful hearts,

   and we by nature resist the truth—so that means we are susceptible to heresy.

   If you don’t think you are susceptible, then you are in a dangerous condition.

 

Do you like to dot your i’s and cross your t’s?   Does that give you

   a sense of spiritual security and superiority over spiritually sloppy people?

   You are susceptible to heresy.

Many legalists embrace heretical views of the person and work of Christ.

   Because the biblical Jesus demolishes legalism.

   He shows it up for what it is—filthy rags.

 

Do you have a tendency toward sloppiness in spiritual things? 

   Do you look for excuses in matters of morals and righteous living?

   You are susceptible to heresy.

There are many heretical beliefs that give justification to anti-nomianism.

   Unbiblical views of sin and judgment, for example.

 

Are you embarrassed of any doctrines of your faith?

More and more Christians and more and more churches are embarrassed

   and uncomfortable by the Biblical teaching that God will damn people to hell

   for sins that everyone commits.

Or that God would send people to hell for rejecting the Gospel.

 

Hell itself has become an embarrassment.  It cuts across our sensibilities.

   It’s so out of step with the pluralism, multi-culturalism of our society.

   I’ll admit that I’m a product of this culture.  I have a sinful embarrassment of hell.

That’s where heresies come from.

   They start by ignoring certain doctrines that embarrass or offend us.

   Then you look for a theological way to get rid of them altogether.

 

The source of destructive heresies is right here—our own hearts.

   This warning should drive you to repentance.

   Repentance of all your questioning of the truth.

Do you question his grace, worthlessness of your efforts?  Repent.

   Do you question the seriousness of sin?  Repent.

   Are you embarrassed of the truth?  Repent.

Repentant heart is one that is not susceptible to heresy.

MP#3  Heresy and hell

What is ultimately at stake in this matter of heresy?

   Most people outside the Christian faith would say this is completely ridiculous.

   How can what you believe have any consequences in afterlife?

 

Unfortunately, many people in the church tend to feel the same way.

   For many, Christianity is just an elaborate system for psychological well-being.

   Its primary purpose is to help them get along better in this life.

If that is true, then it really doesn’t matter if you believe

   You can believe Jesus Christ is eternal God in human flesh.

   You can believe he is a half-god, like Arians of 4th cent, and JW’s today.

   Or you can believe he’s just a good man and example, like liberal Protestants.

The only important question is—Does it work for you?

   If it works for you, helps you cope with life, that’s all that matters.

 

But that’s not what Peter says.

He says very plainly, the stakes are very high when comes to heresy.

   If you believe heresies, follow heretical paths—

   there will be eternal consequences.  You will face God’s judgment.

Here we bump right into the thing I mentioned a moment ago—

   the truth claims of Christian faith. 

Peter says that this is how it is—there will be a judgment.

   God will hold you responsible for what you believed about him.

   Peter gives three proofs of the final judgment.

 

First, says God did not spare angels when they sinned but sent to hell for judgment.

   Must be talking about the rebellion of Satan—who was first a good angel,

   but he rebelled against God, along with 1/3 of other angels, became demons.

   Don’t know much about angels—but know more intelligent and glorious than we.

Peter’s point is—doesn’t matter how intelligent and sophisticated you are,

   if you believe heresy, God will still bring you to judgment.

 

Reminds me of a man who was a colleague of my father. 

He attended a famous Presbyterian seminary in the South that was going through

   a major theological shift—away from orthodox Christianity to universalism.

He told me that the sophisticated, exciting professors and students where ones who

   were the theological liberals.  They were following the latest trends in theology,

   which often involved denying the basic doctrines of the faith.

 

But there were at this seminary some students who still believed that the Bible

   really was the word of God, miracles were true, Jesus did really rise from dead.

He said we called those students the white socks crowd.

   Joke was that they were so unsophisticated, such hicks, would wear white socks

   with their dark suits.  What did they know?  Can’t even dress right.

Peter says if God didn’t spare angels, not going to spare you no matter how

   sophisticated and educated you are in your heresy.

 

Second proof, God did not spare the ancient world, but brought a flood.

   Point is that it doesn’t matter how many people in the church believe the heresy,

   God will still hold you responsible for believing it and will judge you.

He didn’t hold back his judgment even thought virtually the whole world

   was unanimous in their view of morality.

God doesn’t judge by poll but by truth.

 

Third proof, God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

   His destruction of those cities is, in the Bible, just a general picture

   of the certainty and finality and fierceness of his judgment.

Point is simply, don’t think that believing heresies is a minor matter to God.

   His holiness is as offended by heresy as it was by immorality of Sodom.

 

This sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it?  Where’s the grace?  Where’s the love.

   I wish we were back in Chapter 1.

This is full of grace.  It is a gracious warning to Christians to mind doctrine.

   Not only for own sakes, but for sakes of people you love—

   like your children, like fellow church members.

 

And did you notice?  In the middle of these three examples of judgment—

   two reminders that the Lord will preserve everyone who shows trust in him by

   believing the truth. 

Noah—though certainly tempted to tone down his faith—quit warning people

   of coming judgment—was delivered by Lord.  He and his family.

And even Lot—this is always surprising if you remember his story.

   Even Lot was rescued by God, because in the midst of a culture that

   would have mocked God’s moral authority, he believed the truth.

 

Christ will deliver and rescue you if you believe in him as he is offered in Gospel.

He doesn’t rescue perfect people—Noah and Lot are proof of that.

   But he always rescues believers who follow him as the way and the truth.

CONC:

 

If you had been on the brow of Lookout Mountain—

   and somehow knew that man’s rope was too short, what would you have done?

You would have warned him.

 

That would have been the loving thing to do.

These words of Peter were not a power play to keep people under his control.

   These were not hateful words directed at Christians who didn’t agree

   with finer points of Peter’s doctrine—these were words of love.

 

He learned them from the source of all love—Jesus Christ.

 

Remember Jesus said:

   Watch out that you are not deceived.  For many will come in my name claiming,

   “I am he” and “The time is near.”  Do not follow them.

 

You’ve been given something precious—the life-giving words of truth.

   Believe them, guard them, pass them on to the next generation.