Dangers to the Church From Within


Gil Rugh

Copyright © 1978
Indian Hills Community Church
Lincoln, Nebraska

GR944  - Overview of 2 Peter

(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh on Feb. 4, 1996)

We're going to do something a little different as we begin our study of 2 Peter. It's a short book -- only three chapters -- and I first want to walk through the letter with you so you're familiar with the contents, the overall emphasis and the flow that characterizes the letter. Then we will commence our study, looking through the details of the letter in coming weeks. As I give an overview of 2 Peter, then compare it with a couple of related passages, I trust it will give us some kind of broad perspective on the letter.

I was thinking again as I worked through this letter about how the people of Peter's day got their information. If we were living back in those days and were members of one of the churches of Asia Minor where this letter was probably sent, we likely would have gathered together in a much smaller meeting place than this -- probably in someone's home. We would have been told that we had received a letter this week from Peter, and someone would have read the letter to those assembled.

Keep in mind that those people did not have the convenient writing materials that we have. They couldn't go afterwards and get a copy of the tape. Copies of the letter weren't run off by copy machines. The people had to sit and listen while that letter was read. They had to concentrate. Then, after they had gotten up and gone out, they had to remember what was said so they could be encouraged by it. Perhaps they came back at another time to hear it read again. How blessed we are to have a copy in our own hands that we can read and re-read. We can go back to the first letter that Peter wrote and compare it with the second. Then I thought if God held them accountable and responsible -- and He did -- for knowing and living the truth that they heard and were taught, how much more accountable and responsible are we who are so blessed to have our own copy of God's truth.

It doesn't take a great deal of ingenuity to understand that this is the second letter that Peter wrote. 2 Peter 3:1 reads, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you..." Now I appreciate scholars and scholarship, even though I am not a scholar, and I appreciate that scholars have to study and delve into things that common, ordinary people don't. But there are certain aspects of scholarship for which I have less appreciation, such as all the discussion going on as to whether the first letter was 1 Peter or a lost letter.

I think we need to be careful that we don't complicate the simple just to give the impression that we're a little more intelligent than the average person. I take it that Peter is very simply saying that he is writing a second letter, and that the first letter is what we know as 1 Peter. That will help you appreciate why certain things are left out of this letter. 2 Peter has no development of the gospel. 2 Peter does not get into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those are foundational matters, and at the heart of 2 Peter is the issue of false doctrine and false teachers.

In Peter's second letter, he is pre-supposing the first letter. If you wrote a letter to someone, then followed it up with a second letter, you wouldn't sit down and rewrite everything you wrote in the first letter. But you might build upon the first letter. You might refer to your first letter, then pre-suppose it. So don't be discouraged if you read some material that says that 2 Peter is not very doctrinal. Perhaps it isn't, but it goes with l Peter, and together they balance one another. 1 Peter emphasizes the external dangers to the church. 2 Peter emphasizes the danger to the church from within. And the dangers from within are more serious and more hazardous than the dangers from without.

1. Theme of 1 Peter Is Suffering

We've spent some time looking through the details of 1 Peter, and we noted that the theme of 1 Peter is suffering. Peter wrote to Jewish believers in Asia Minor encouraging them to continue to live holy and godly lives in the face of suffering, trials, persecution and opposition. In l Peter 1:6, he tells them that they greatly rejoice in what God has promised them in their salvation "...even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials." He says in verse 7 that they are being tested by fire. These trials, this testing, is coming from the outside. People are slandering them, falsely accusing them and attacking them because of their identification with Christ. 1 Peter 2:19-20 says, "For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God." Look at chapter 3, verse 14: "But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled."

We are not to be upset that we are persecuted, slandered and maliciously attacked when we are living for our God and honoring our Savior. You ought to be ready to give an answer regarding your faith in Jesus Christ, according to verse 16, to "...keep a good conscience..." so when they revile your good behavior they may be put to shame. Verse 17, "For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong." In verse 18, Jesus Christ is the example. Christ also suffered for us. We also see that in chapter 4, verses 12-13: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing..."

They were really suffering because of their identification with Christ. We see in chapter 5, verse 8, that the devil is behind all the suffering and mistreatment. "...Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion...but resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." Here, Peter indicates that Satan is the driving spiritual force behind the suffering they're experiencing. So when they were slandered or falsely accused at their jobs, there was no good-humored explanation for it. Perhaps they were doing a better job then someone else, but they were slandered and falsely accused. Satan was attacking because they belonged to the living God.

So the emphasis in 1 Peter is on suffering. The word suffering is used 15 times in 1 Peter. Attacks are coming from outside the church -- unbelievers attacking believers and attacking the church. The emphasis in 2 Peter is different. The focus is on the danger of attacks -- satanic work -- that come from within the professing church, as we see in 2 Peter 2:1-3: "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies...Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you..." Here, the attacks in the church are coming from within. Believers are in danger from those who profess to belong to Christ, who profess to be teaching truth. But they're really the emissaries of the devil. They are working from within to undermine the work of God, to lead believers astray and to destroy the testimony of the church. This is a far greater danger than attacks from the outside.

This is a very pertinent letter for us as believers today. I sometimes think of the church today as trying to build a wall of defense against the world around it. The church is seeking protection against the decadent society, the social conditions, the culture that is corrupted by sin. Yet we fail to realize that the greatest danger is from within. We often are involved with making alliances with those whom we doctrinally disagree, but we think the pressures from outside are so great that we need to join with them in spite of our differences. What we really do is invite the devil into the camp so his work can be done from the inside.

2. Last Thoughts Of Dying Apostles

Even though it is an often neglected letter, 2 Peter is of above average interest because it contains the last words of Peter. 2 Timothy is considered of particular significance because it's a letter Paul wrote shortly before his martyrdom. Well, 2 Peter is the letter that Peter wrote shortly before he was martyred. Look at chapter 1, verse 14: "...knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent..." He expects at any time to be martyred.

When I have the chance to look over biographies, I like to read the last chapters of all my books first. I always go to the end and read how they died. What were the events surrounding their deaths? What did they have to say in the days leading up to their deaths? What did they write as they knew death was imminent? You understand something of the heartbeat of that person in an open and clear way when he is in that kind of situation. So here we have Peter's burden, placed on his heart by the Spirit of God, as he faced imminent death. Remember, the key word in 1 Peter is suffering. Suffering becomes the key theme. In 2 Peter, the key word is know or knowledge. The words for know or knowledge are used 16 times in these three chapters. The bulk of them are found in chapter 1. In the New American Standard Bible, I believe they are all translated in English by know or knowledge even though they are different Greek words. You can trace them down with a concordance, and we'll draw attention to some of the variances in meaning as we move along.

The flow of the book is very simple. There are three chapters, and they break down according to the division of the letter. If you're using a study Bible, you probably have an outline in it. The one I'm using breaks it down according to the three chapters, and that's the common way of breaking down the book. The chapters seem to be the natural breaks. Our chapter divisions aren't always the natural breaks, but they are in this letter.

3. Theme of 2 Peter Is True Knowledge

The key theme is knowledge -- the true knowledge of God. In chapter 1, it's the true knowledge of God and the maturing of God's people. In chapter 2, it's the true knowledge of God and the danger to God's people because of false teachers. In chapter 3, it's the true knowledge of God and coming judgment -- the impact of that judgment on false teachers and what its impact should be on us as believers. Again, underlying it all is the matter of knowledge -- knowing God and His truth, being shaped by it. Chapter 2 is the pivotal chapter. Chapter 1 lays a foundation for chapter 2. Chapter 3 gives the consciousness or ultimate end of what is discussed in chapter 2. The book, such a very pertinent letter, is about the true knowledge of God in dealing with false doctrine and false teaching.

Let's look at some of the highlights of this letter. The opening two verses give us an introduction or greetings. Then we come into the letter as Peter talks about the true knowledge of God and the maturing of God's people. Note the emphasis on knowledge in the opening verses. Verse 2: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God..." Verse 3: "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us..." At the end of verse 5, we are to add knowledge to moral excellence, and in knowledge, self-control. Verse 8: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge..." Note that repeated emphasis on knowing and knowledge. I understand that the foundation, heart and center of what God is doing is the knowledge of Himself. We come into that knowledge through faith in His Son. In verses 3 and 4, God has called us to be partakers of a divine nature. When that happens, we are born again. We become the children of God through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. We enter into true knowledge of God Himself.

Now this knowledge isn't just facts. You're aware that Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, "Knowledge puffs up; love builds up." Seeking knowledge by trying to collect more information than someone else is not what Peter is concerned about. Rather, true knowledge of the living God transforms our lives and results in increasing growth and development as God's people. So beginning with verse 5, he talks about growth and development, about producing fruit, about showing the character of God in our lives. He talks about diligently building upon the foundation of our faith in verse 5: "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith..." So the faith is foundational and was talked about in verse 1.

4. Build Upon Faith With Seven Virtues

With faith as our foundation, Peter says we build upon it. To the faith, we add seven virtues, or qualities, that are mentioned in verses 5-7. They are moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. If these qualities, or virtues, are yours and are increasing, they guarantee fruitfulness in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We're not talking about a static knowledge, a knowledge that is just a collection of facts. We're talking about knowledge that is taken into your life and shapes all that you are and all that you do.

We sometimes play it off and say, "Well, if I have a choice, I'd rather have love than knowledge." You don't have a choice. You will not have true biblical love without knowledge. You need the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, the truth concerning Him and His person, if there's to be any change in your life,. That knowledge is necessary if there's to be anything of the character of God produced in your life. According to verse 10, these seven qualities are the evidence of God's work of divine election. His calling and choosing you are what give you confidence about your election, which is the work of God in choosing you. So you see how the believer grows.

As Peter talks about the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the knowledge of God, he is preparing for his departure from this earth. It is of utmost importance that his readers understand that true knowledge is anchored in the Scriptures. You enter into the true knowledge of God by having a true understanding of God's revelation of Himself in the Scriptures.

Peter tells them that he is not giving them new information. Here is a man who has received direct information from Jesus Christ, direct revelation from God, and now at the end of his life he is not saying, "Look, I've got all this new material to dump on you that I didn't have a chance to tell you before." You know what he says? "I want to remind you of the old stuff.'' In verse 12, he says, "Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you."

I come back to this verse often. Having been at Indian Hills for so many years, I sometimes come to passages of Scripture and think, "Well, I have nothing new to tell these people. I mean, I've been over this and over this. They've heard it so many times." Then I come back to Peter and say, "Well, that's my job." Praise the Lord; you have been established in the truth. And now I want to remind you about it again. It's a reminder to all of us not to grow tired of the old truths. It's a characteristic of false teachers and unbelievers that they are always in the pursuit of something new. But we as believers ought to find our joy in the same old truth.

Peter says in verse 13 that he is going to do teach the old truths as long as he is in his physical body. And he knows that he is going to depart his physical body soon. So in verse 15 he says, "I want to be diligent in reminding you so that when I am gone, you'll remember. You can call these things to mind." You know, it's like when your children are growing up, and they're in that in-between age. They're old enough to be left alone, but they're not old enough to be totally on their own. You write down their instructions so that when you go out the door, they can read them and remember. That's what Peter says. "I'm leaving this life, I'm going to leave you behind. I want you to remember what I told you." Then he tells them, "I didn't get this through cunningly devised fables. This isn't something we made up. I was there with Jesus Christ. I was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Him."

Interestingly, some people don't believe Peter wrote 2 Peter. In fact, it is the most disputed book in the New Testament regarding the authorship. Some people say, "Well, it wasn't written by Peter. It was written by a disciple of Peter or someone in the second century who knew what Peter thought and wanted to honor Peter by writing in his name." Well, a forgery by any other name is a forgery. A lie by any other name is a lie. Now I realize these scholars don't consider the text a lie. But the Holy Spirit inspires all Scripture, and in verse 1 Simon Peter says he is writing this letter. Then Peter tells us in chapter 1 that he was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ. It really wasn't Peter who wrote this letter? That's a lie, so we're not spending much time on that issue.

5. Inspiration of Scripture Solves Question

However, I've done a lot of reading on the authorship of Peter over the last month, and there is no more evidence that Peter didn't write it than there is that he did. If you believe the inspiration of Scripture, the question is solved. Note what he says in verse 19: "So we have the prophetic word made more sure..." Peter says the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiring God's word is even more settled and more certain than his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. Verse 21 says, "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." One of the greatest statements on the inspiration of Scripture that we have in all the Bible is given here by Peter. The other most important passage will be in Paul's last letter. Do you know why? As these apostles leave this life, they realize it is of utmost importance that God's people be firmly planted and anchored in God's word. They won't be able to check with Peter personally. They won't be able to check with Paul personally. But they will be able to turn to the unchanging truth of God's word. That will be the anchor for their lives. With that, we move into chapter 2.

Chapter 1 is about the knowledge of God and the maturing of God's people - the stability they developed in their lives by being anchored in God's word. That's necessary because in chapter 2 there are going to be false teachers in the church. Just like there were false prophets in Israel, there will be false teachers in the truth. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies in a way that people won't recognize. They don't just stand up and say, "We want you to know this is unbiblical." That's not the way false prophets were in the Old Testament. They used Scripture in their teaching.

These false teachers also will be effective. In verses 2 and 3 we see that "Many will follow their sensuality... in their greed they will exploit you." The you that Peter is writing to according to chapter 1, verse 1, are those who have received the same kind of faith that we have received. You see, these false teachers are preying upon believers. That's why it's so important that believers be filled with the true knowledge of God and be maturing in that knowledge. God will bring judgment to these false teachers for what they are doing, make no mistake. The work of God will survive.

Peter gives three examples of God's judgment -- the angels that sin, the people of Noah's day who were destroyed in the flood, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorra which were destroyed by God. Notice that God preserved righteous Lot in verses 7 and 8. So the summary point is seen in verse 9: "...the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment." He'll preserve the godly and He'll reserve the ungodly. We can be sure of that.

6. They Are Like Animals

Beginning with verse 10, there is as strong a description of the character and conduct of unbelieving teachers as there is anywhere in Scripture. Sometimes people think that I cross the bounds of propriety by saying things that I shouldn't say. Now I don't want to claim that I've never said anything I shouldn't say. If a man bridles his tongue and never says things he shouldn't say, he's a perfect man. And I don't want to make that claim yet. In glory, yes. But if you read this carefully -- and we will study it carefully -- I think you'll find that I've been too soft. And before Peter is done, he will say that these false teachers are like unreasoning animals.

Suppose an individual was using candy to lure children into a car, then molesting and murdering them. What if somebody else spoke harshly and said the molester was a vile person and deserved the most severe punishment. Would you say, "Look, you ought to be more understanding. He's a nice person. He did speak nicely to the children, and he did give them the candy he promised." Absolutely not. You would have no time for that person. What you find at the end of chapter 2 is that eternal destiny is of even greater significance and importance before God than physical matters.

We believe it's proper to be indignant and upset about someone who would commit such an atrocity as molesting and murdering our children Yet some people also think that we should be kind, tolerant and understanding of those who are corrupting and violating the children of God. We find in this passage, beginning with verse 10, that God has absolutely no stomach for them. He says in verse 12 of chapter 2 that they are like unreasoning animals. They're born to be destroyed, just like animals. That's an awful strong thing to say. But we're talking about people who infiltrate and masquerade as angels of light. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. And they are molesting, if you will, the children of God. They're corrupting them, luring them into all kinds of vile activities. God takes it personally. They are like unreasoning animals, and the reason for their birth is destruction.

7. Tolerance Won't Keep Out Untruths

Now a remarkable thing is seen at the end of verse 13: "They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you." What are these false teachers, with their ungodly doctrine and ungodly living, doing in fellowship in the church? We've learned to be kind and understanding. One writer, now with the Lord, wrote about 40 years ago that much of what passes for Christian kindness, tolerance and understanding is nothing more than a denial of the character of God. I wonder what that person would say if he were here today to see what is tolerated and accepted in the church.

Peter continues his description of the false teachers. I won't fill in the details now because we're going to do that in a later time, but look at verse 21: "For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them." He's talking about those who have the word of God, like the false prophets of the Old Testament did. God says it would be better to die totally ignorant of His word than to have His word, to be exposed to the truth of the gospel, but not submit and believe it. They pursue their sinful ways. They're like dogs that throw up, then turn around and eat it. We've all seen that, and it turns your stomach. You might think I'm uncouth for using that as an illustration. You say, "Oh, give me a break." I can't give you a break. That's what God says in verse 22: "It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A dog returns to his own vomit...'" You get the idea that God finds these false teachers disgusting, that they turn His stomach, that they're revolting.

The next analogy is that the false teachers are like pigs that have been washed and then dive back in the mud. We get God's perspective on how He sees what is tolerated within the church. These false teachers come in and sometimes infiltrate their doctrine so suddenly that we don't recognize it. That's why we must have chapter 1. We have to be filled with the knowledge of God, anchored in the word that was inspired by the Spirit, because there will be false teachers among us.

Now we come to chapter 3, which deals with destiny. Peter begins the chapter: "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles." You must remember that you have the message of the prophets and the message of the apostles. There's an urgency about Peter here. He's about to experience martyrdom. He sees the false teachers infiltrating, and it is serious business. He reminds them that mockers will come in the last days.

That brings to mind an article I read in yesterday's paper where the Anglican Church in England has decided there is no hell. I'm sure we're all relieved. But they also have decided that they are a broad enough fellowship to include those small groups of conservatives who believe there is a hell. Contrary to what God says, there are people today who say, "Well, I don't know whether there is a hell or not, but we ought to be focusing on today and how we live." Those are mockers.

We've been talking about judgment and the coming of the Lord for almost two millenniums. And He hasn't come. They think all things continue as they always have. They fail to take notice of the judgment that God has brought in past times. Now He is reserving the world for final judgment -- destruction by fire. Don't get discouraged with the patience of the Lord. He's a gracious God. He's delayed another day so that more people can hear the glorious gospel and, by His grace, respond and be saved. Isn't it gracious that He didn't come yesterday? He has given another day, which we see in verse 9. But the day of the Lord -- complete with full destruction -- will come.

8. Display Holy Conduct

The impact, then, is clear for the false teacher. Judgment is coming for the unbelievers. But that knowledge ought to impact us as believers, according to verse 11: "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness." One reason why the teaching and preaching of a coming hell has lost any force and impact is that we, the people of God, don't seem to be living like we really believe. We have not been driven to holy conduct and godliness. If I really believe in a coming judgment, that will impress me to be living a holy and godly life. If I really believe everything in this world is going to be destroyed by fire, as verse 10 says, then am I attached to anything here? Should I be getting ulcers over how the stock market is performing? Should I be worried about this or that? No, it's all going to be destroyed.

What should concern me? Holy conduct and godliness, according to verse 14: "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless." Then in verse 16 he reminds us of the Scriptures, including those written by the Apostle Paul. Note that those who twist the Scriptures do it to their own destruction. A false teacher reveals his character by his teaching. That doesn't mean you have to agree on every interpretation of every passage. But a person who is twisting the Scripture reveals his character.

You probably can mark verses 17 and 18 as the key verses because they summarize the book. "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..." There you see the two are opposed to one another. You have to be on your guard so that you are not carried away by false doctrine, false teaching and false living that goes with it. But you're to continue to grow in grace and knowledge. The devil wants to lead us astray from the truth so we won't continue to grow even though we're God's people. It's not enough that a baby comes into the world. That baby must be nurtured so it will grow and mature. The enemy of our souls, the enemy of our Savior, is bent upon stunting our growth by luring us away from the truth.

9. Final Words Are Compelling

Let me draw your attention to a couple of points that impressed me as I considered the similarity of 2 Timothy and 2 Peter. Peter and Paul are perhaps the two greatest apostles. At least they are men who are distinguished in Scripture and stand out above the rest. These are their last letters, and they have such a similarity in interest. They remind you of certain things. In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul says to Timothy, "For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift....God hasn't given us a spirit of timidity." Both these men write about how bad it's going to get. But they also write that we shouldn't be discouraged. We should just be forewarned. "Timothy," Paul says, "I want to remind you to be faithful. Use the gift God has given you. Be bold. Don't be ashamed of the gospel. Hold on to sound words. Guard the treasure." Yet the erosion already has taken place. Paul says in verse 15 that all who are in Asia have abandoned him. What a terrible statement.

The way Scripture seems to unfold, Peter died perhaps two years before Paul. Now Paul says that Timothy is aware of the fact that all of Asia has turned away from him. Didn't they listen? Didn't they get the letter? Didn't they pay attention? How can you abandon Paul? When you abandon Paul, you've abandoned the doctrine of Paul. When you abandon the doctrine of Paul, you've abandoned Jesus Christ. They were led astray. How could it happen? They didn't pay attention.

Chapter 2 opens with Paul telling Timothy to be strong. He doesn't say, "It's hopeless, Timothy. It's a losing fight." No. He says, "You be strong. You continue to pass on the teaching, anchored in the truth." Verses 11-13 of chapter 2 remind Timothy of future things. Then in verse 14 he tells Timothy to remind them of these same things. Timothy is not to come up with a new doctrine or some new things that will entertain them and hold their interest.

In verse 15, Timothy is told to remind them of the old apostolic truth: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." Do you see the same emphasis, the same anchor for their lives? It is being able to accurately handle the word of God. Worldly and empty chatter will lead to further ungodliness. Avoid it. Go to many churches these days and that's all you get. Their ungodly talk spreads like gangrene. You know, Paul continues in verse 17, that false doctrine and worthless teaching spreads like gangrene. Paul gives an example. He wasn't afraid to name names. "Hymenaeus and Philetus have gone astray from the truth." Paul is not even dead yet and already false teaching is being disseminated in the churches. "Nevertheless," verse 19 says, "the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His...'" That sounds like what Peter wrote when he said the Lord knows how to preserve the righteous while He reserves the ungodly for judgment.

"Now," Paul continues in verse 20, "in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor." There will be false teachers among you, just as there were false prophets in Israel. This church is a large house as well. Don't think that just because a person takes up a seat in this church that he is genuine. There are some to honor, some to dishonor. And some satanic counterfeits can be very good. That's why we must examine the doctrine very carefully. We have a tendency to go on the basis of our feelings -- how we feel about this, how much we like this. We judge them by what kind of relationship we've had with them. And we begin to follow error. Why? We have not anchored ourselves on the truths of God's word. Personal opinion has superseded God's truth. He says to cleanse yourself from false teachers. You've got to get away from them. You must not have anything to do with them.

10. False Teachers Have Form of Godliness

Continue into chapter 3 of 2 Timothy. "But realize this," Paul says in verse 1, "in the last days difficult times will come." He then talks about what will happen. Verse 5: False teachers will have a form of godliness but deny the power. Verse 7: They're always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. We must always be aware and alert. "But you," Paul told Timothy in verse 10, "followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, perseverance..." The truth was revealed for those who followed the doctrine of the apostles. "But evil men," verses 13 and 14, "and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of..."

Then you have that other greatest statement of the inspiration of Scripture. You find in these two passages -- 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 -- that all Scripture is inspired by God. These two final letters serve as a reminder that you can't hang onto Paul any longer; he's leaving this earth. You can't hold onto Peter any longer; he's gone. But we have the truth, the inspired truth of God. That's the anchor for our soul. You can say, "Oh, you are too concerned about the minutia of Scripture. You get too concerned about doctrine. You people spent to much time bickering over small things." God doesn't say small things. Everything that God says is significant just because God said it. Who am I to say, "Well, God said that, but it's not really important."

Our souls must be anchored in the revealed truth. So Paul says in chapter 4, verses 1-3: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God...preach the word....For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...." Who's he talking about? The pagan Romans never did endure sound doctrine. He's talking about the church -- professing believers. Peter is talking about the same thing. There'll be false teachers, and many will follow their sensuality. They will exploit you. I dare say that we see much of that going on in the church today.

So there is similarity in the last letters of both of these great apostles. They warn us about false doctrine. They remind us of the importance of being anchored in the truth of God and of being thoroughly saturated with the knowledge of God. Let's take a brief look at one more passage in Acts, chapter 20. There's a significance because it is Paul's last words to the Ephesian elders, to this church that he did not expect to see again. He says basically the same thing here. He reminds them that he had a ministry in their midst that was anchored in the word of God. He says in Acts 20:26-27: "...I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God." He doesn't say he was the most likable or the most friendly of the apostles. But he does say he taught them the whole council of God, so he is clean and innocent.

Then he issues this warning in verses 28-30: "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." Then in verse 32 he reminds them of the power of God's word: "Now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

11. The Church Is Being Deceived

That's the same thing Peter said in chapter 1. He said we must be filled with the true knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ and that we must be built up by those seven virtues. Why? Because false teachers and false doctrine are coming. We must be anchored in the truth. What a pertinent message 2 Peter is for us today when knowledge has been pushed aside. We have cultural wars to wage and social issues to combat. There is vileness all around, and we can't be consumed with details of knowledge. We all make the general profession of belief in Christ. We all want to honor Him, then we can join hands together. But if you join hands with the devil, you're in trouble. The church is diluted and deceived because people haven't taken to heart these closing testaments.

I trust our study of 2 Peter, will give us a greater appreciation of our Savior and our God. We must be filled with more knowledge -- not for the purpose of being puffed up, but so we can build toward maturity. We must be more discerning and have God's mind on these things because we might be the church living in the day of the return of Jesus Christ. That will be a day of intense satanic counterfeit, satanic opposition. It is the day when Satan works to lay the foundation and build the structure of his apostate, ecumenical church.

We must be on guard lest under the umbrella of being kind, thoughtful and gracious we be among those who are led astray and follow their ways of sensuality; lest we be exploited; lest we be guilty of denying the character of God. Praise God for truth. Praise God for what Francis Schafer called, "True truth". The word of God is unchanging. It is the same yesterday, today and forever. The truth -- the word of God -- is sure and settled forever and ever. Let's pray together.

Thank You, Lord, for the greatness of Your person. Lord, as we study this book, we realize it's different than any other. We do not study to acquire facts or just to get information. We study so we can come to know You, the living God. We study so we might learn the mind of God that's been revealed by the Spirit of God. Lord, I pray that we might be men and women of the Book; that the glorious truth You've revealed concerning Yourself might be precious to us; that we might never grow weary, or tired, or indifferent as we remind ourselves through the study and reading of Your truth who You are and how wonderful You are. Let us always be mindful of the majesty of Your person and the honor that's been bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. Lord, may our study of 2 Peter make us more aware and more alert. May we have Your perspective on truth. May we be jealous for Your character. May we be discerning out of a love for the purity of the bride of Christ. May we keep in focus the coming destiny - that You are reserving the ungodly for judgment, that by Your grace and faithfulness You are preserving the righteous for that day when we shall enjoy the glory of Your presence. Lord, may we be a church that is faithful because we are individuals who are faithful and bound together with a commitment of love and devotion to You, our God, for one another as Your people. We pray in Christ's name, amen.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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