2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
There is a plethora of false teachers within the gatherings of the church, at least here in America, and people are flocking to them by the thousands, and perhaps by the millions, because they believe that what they are telling them is the truth. Or, at least they are willing to believe that it is the truth, because it tickles their itching ears, and it appeals to the lusts of their flesh.
So, how do we recognize these false teachers who are among us? One way is by the things that they teach. So, we have to compare what they teach to the scriptures (as a whole, and in context). And, I stress context, because probably most false teachings stem from scriptures taken out of context which are then made to say whatever the teacher wants them to say and whatever the teacher wants you to believe that they say.
But, it isn’t just the immediate context that we have to look at, but we have to look at the New Testament, as a whole, and we have to see if what they are teaching matches and agrees with the whole of the New Testament, but in particular the New Covenant teachings, which can be found in Jesus’ teachings and in those of his New Testament apostles.
And, we have to look and see if what they are teaching agrees with the divine character and will of God, too. For, many false teachings don’t agree with the divine character and will of God, but are actually opposed to his character and will. And, the one that is the most offensive, I believe, and is the greatest threat to the salvation of human lives, is what I call the cheap grace gospel. For, it comes from the flesh of man, not from the heart of God.
These false teachers teach God’s grace absent from repentance, absent from obedience to Christ, and absent from submission to Christ as Lord of our lives. For, their cheap grace gospel is based in the flesh of man, and not in the Spirit of God. It is based in sensuality and not in the holiness of God. And, it appeals to the lusts of the flesh, for it gives free license to continue in sinful practices while it promises its followers heaven as their eternal home.
Reveling in Deceptions
2 Peter 2:13-16 ESV
“They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”
We can also recognize these false teachers by their lifestyles. For many of them are given over to self-indulgence, self-pleasure, and self-gratification, to do what is immoral and depraved. They are addicted to sin and to sinful pleasures, and to doing what their flesh desires. And, thus they are leading others to also give themselves over to the lusts of the flesh, to do what ought not to be done.
And, they do this by teaching them the cheap grace gospel, for they convince people that they can be saved from their sins and have heaven guaranteed them, but that it doesn’t matter how they live.
Max Lucado, a famous preacher and author, once gave a sermon on “insurance,” where he compared God’s grace to the car insurance he bought so that he could keep on driving recklessly. So, the message that he gave was that we could accept God’s grace into our lives, and then we could keep on in our sinful practices now without guilt or fear of punishment, because Jesus paid it all (1). But, that is a misrepresentation of God’s grace to us.
For, Jesus didn’t die just to take our punishment for sin so that we could be free from punishment, but he died to free us from our slavery to sin so that we could live for him and to his righteousness, in his power (1 Pet. 2:24).
And, the scriptures teach that if we go on in our sinful practices, that we don’t have heaven secured us, as Max suggests we do, but we are guaranteed hell as our eternal destiny, instead (See: Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:16-21; Gal. 6:7-8; Rom. 2:6-8; Eph. 5:3-6).
So, God’s grace to us is not insurance so that we can keep living recklessly and yet have the hope of heaven when we die. God’s grace to us, which is bringing to us salvation, instructs us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts (worldly passions and desires) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14; Eph. 4:17-24).
Loud Boasts of Folly
2 Peter 2:17-22 ESV
“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’”
The freedom that they promise others is freedom from the punishment of sin and the freedom to now sin without guilt or fear of punishment, and with the promise of heaven as their eternal destiny, no matter how they live their lives.
Now I want to make clear here that God does not demand absolute sinless perfection or else we lose our salvation. But, he does set the standard for us for us to receive his salvation and eternal life with God. And, the standard that he set is that we have to walk (in practice, in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God, and not according to the flesh, if we want to have eternal life with God (note scripture references above).
Some of these false teachers teach outright that faith in Jesus Christ requires no repentance (no forsaking of sin), no obedience to Christ, and no submission to his Lordship. Others either imply this or they leave it kind of open ended and up for interpretation.
For, when they teach that a mere profession of faith in Jesus Christ, or some one-time decision to believe in Christ, is enough to secure us heaven, no matter how we live our lives from that point forward, then they are opening the door wide to many “believers” of Jesus to live however they want, believing that how they live will not impact their eternal security.
And, they are not only leading many prospective believers in Jesus to a false faith with a false hope of eternity with God, but they are leading many people astray who had once made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and who perhaps had walked in holiness for a while. And, they are leading them to follow after the sensual passions of their flesh, while giving them a false hope that God no longer sees their sins, and that he smiles on them.
But, what this passage of scripture and others like them (many of which have been noted here) teach is in contrast to what these false teachers are teaching the people. These scriptures are making it real clear that if we live in accord (in agreement) with the lusts of our flesh, and if this is what we practice, then no matter what we profess with our lips, heaven is not guaranteed us, but eternal punishment in hell awaits us instead.
But, many people want to listen to and believe the Max Lucado message which says that we can accept God’s grace into our lives as “insurance,” because Jesus paid it all for us on the cross so that we can continue in even willful sinful practices without guilt and without punishment. And, this is because it appeals to their flesh, and it makes them feel good about themselves and their relationships with God, even while they say “NO!” to God and “YES!” to their flesh habitually.
So, we need to understand that this is a lie straight from hell that we can continue living in sin after we have professed faith in Jesus Christ, and that heaven is still guaranteed us no matter what, because Jesus paid it all.
Yes, Jesus did pay it all for us, and yes, we don’t have to be perfect, but those who make sin their practice will NOT inherit eternal life with God. It is what scripture teaches. So, we need to believe this, we need to live like we believe it, and then we need to be telling others the truth, too. For, many people are going straight to hell believing that heaven is their eternal destiny, because they believed a lie instead of the truth.
By Ann Aschauer
So shine on through the darkness;
Be the salt and light for all your world.
Live for Jesus, ’til you see Him,
And your faith has its reward;
Shine on through the darkness;
Let His love shine through you all your days.
Go and win your generation for the Lord.
c 1990 Ann Aschauer