Study of Peter: False Prophets

Questions for 2 Peter Chapter 2:

1. Why are false prophets and teachers dangerous? Do we have false teachers in our present age? Who are they?

2. In chapter 1 of 2 Peter, the author has given to us the qualities of the virtuous Christian. What qualities and actions can be ascribed to false teachers?

3. What will happen to false teachers?

Answers to Questions:

Answer to Question 1:

Chapter 2 of Peter's second letter is about false prophets. Peter understands that those who preach untrue doctrines are dangerous to the themselves, to those to whom they preach, to the church as a whole and even to society at large. Peter says that false teachers "will deny the Master who redeemed them, and so will bring upon themselves sudden destruction." Of course, he refers to the destruction of their character and of their souls.

False doctrines have a way of poisoning the individual who endeavors to make that doctrine a practice. In his letter, Peter may have been referring to a specific heresy followed by the "Antinomians". Antinomians believed that since Jesus died for our sins, it is our right to sin as we will, for all our sins are forgiven. This led to a fairly riotous time where the Antinomians lived.

As can be imagined this heresy caused many problems for those who practiced it. Sexual diseases, heavy debt, constant conflict with family and neighbors seemed to result from the prescribed immoral behavior. So, heresy can be a problem on a practical as well as a spiritual level. It can easily be imagined how this heresy affected the church as an organization, with some seeing sinning as not only permissible but required, while others rightly saw sinning as evil. It tore the church apart and, in many communities gave Christianity a bad name.

As society depends on the beliefs and actions of the individuals in its make-up, heresies could spread its problems to the society at large.

Do we have false teachers in our present age? There are false teachers in every age of man. Most church organizations are not riddled with damaging heresies, but on occasion untrue doctrines attempt to make their way into the dogma and practices of the church.

Answer to Question 2:

In his book, "The Letters of James and Peter", William Barclay lists the qualities of a false teacher. For him the prime characteristic of a false prophet is that he tells people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, much like a politician who studies the polls before he decides on how to vote on an issue. Next, a false prophet is more interested in personal gain than in saving souls or helping society. Third, he is attracted to evil rather than good. Most importantly, he is a person who leads others away from good and toward evil by his example and his preaching.

Peter himself says of false teachers, "They are bold and arrogant, and show no respect for the glorious beings above; instead they insult them." He goes on, "These men act by instinct." He goes on to describe a fairly hedonistic pattern of behavior including, "doing anything to satisfy their bodily appetites...Their hearts are trained to be greedy...They want to look at nothing but immoral women; They lead weak people into a trap...They make proud and stupid statements."

While continuing to describe these false teachers, he makes a profound statement, "They (the false teachers) promise them (the people) freedom while they themselves are slaves of destructive habits--for a person is a slave of anything that has conquered him." This is why true freedom lies in self-control. For when we give in to sin, that is when we begin to give up our freedom and our soul. This is the crux of the matter. False teaching is so evil because it encourages an entire society to lose itself in a self-destructive surrender to base desires. And as both Peter and William Barclay point out, it is teaching this that most obviously identifies the false teacher.

Answer to Question 3:

Peter fairly blasts forth fire and brimstone in revealing the fate of false teachers. In verse 4, he reminds his readers what God did with evil beings in the past, even angels who had sinned were "cast into hell, and kept chained in darkness." God brought flood upon the world in the time of Noah. "He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying them with fire."

In other words, God doesn't look kindly on evil and much less on false teachers who corrupt others and not just themselves.

Study 2Peter Chapter 3

Letters of Peter Home
Overview
1st Letter
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
2nd Letter
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3

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