The Sins of the False Teachers

31 Mar
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There seems to be some misunderstanding about Peter’s second epistle, as it pertains to the false teachers, whom he describes in his second chapter. Most commentaries I’ve read believe they were licentious men who taught believers to commit open adultery and the like. However, I don’t believe this is true, either contextually (why would a believer be tempted to do such a thing, believing he honored God), or when one compares Peter with Paul. If the destructive heresies were to be brought into the believing community privately (2Peter 2:1), I don’t see how this could be done by men who were openly sexually immoral. Their immorality had to have been spiritual, and the fact that they were secretly coming against the Bride of Christ was spiritual adultery (cf. Romans 3:5-8). If the accusation against the apostles and Messianic believers was that they claimed doing evil brought good, it stands to reason that the false teachers didn’t believe it was appropriate to openly live in wicked manner. Therefore, they wouldn’t seek to tempt believers to commit open adultery. Something else is in view rather than open sexual immorality.

In 2Peter 2:13 Peter mentions the reward of unrighteousness. The phrase is the same in the Greek as found in 2Peter 2:15. It has to do with bribery (Numbers 22:16-17), and no doubt a portion of the wealth that could be derived from the brethren in Asia Minor whom the false teachers could convince to follow them (cf. 2Peter 2:2-3) would become theirs. These were men who were either sent by a single authority in Jerusalem, or they have reason to show loyalty to that authority instead of to Christ. Peter claims they love to live luxuriously throughout the day. The Greek word translated riot in the KJV (truphe – G5172) is used only at 2Peter 2:13 and Luke 7:25. In the Septuagint it is often translated as delicately or luxury. What Peter has in mind is the false teachers didn’t do any labor with their hands for a living.

They spread their deceptions privately from house to house, living off the generous hospitality of the believers, especially those believers who were open to their deceptions (1Timothy 5:13), something which Jesus said should not be done (cf. Luke 10:7). Besides Luke 10:7 and 1Timothy 5:13, there are only two other places in the New Testament where the phrase from house to house occurs, Acts 2:46 and Acts 20:20. In Acts 2:46 Luke mentions that believers broke bread “from house to house,” but this doesn’t refer to anyone going from house to house, but that from house to house everyone ate their meals with joy and singleness of heart. In Acts 20:20 Paul admits teaching the Gospel not only publicly but also privately, from house to house. However, by this he didn’t mean that he lived in luxuriously at the expense of the hospitality of others, which is the sense of both Luke 10:7 and 1Timothy 5:13. Rather, Paul recalls to the minds of this same audience that they already know he worked with his own hands, not only for his specific needs but also for that of those who labored with him in the Gospel, and still he had an excess, which he shared with the poor among them (Acts 20:34-35).

The specific targets of the false teachers were those who had not been fully established as disciples of Jesus (2Peter 2:13-14). The victims were those who weren’t stable in the doctrine of Christ, but lived their lives just beyond the habits of those who lived in error (2Peter 2:18). By “eyes full of adultery” (2Peter 2:14) Peter means that the false teachers had targeted those belonging to Christ. They didn’t labor for proselytes to Judaism out of the fields of paganism. Rather, they sought to steal those whom the apostles and evangelists had already harvested for the Lord. So, the people, whom the false teachers presumed themselves upon, already believed in the God of the Jews and already loved the Jewish people. Their task was simply to deceive these, who were unaware of their devious ways, and fleece them of their valuables.

The false teachers had trained themselves in the skill of acquiring dishonest gain from unstable souls. These were the religious con-artists of the first century AD. Jesus spoke of the Pharisees and scribes, saying they had canvassed the world for a single proselyte and made him twice the son of hell (death) that they were (Matthew 23:15). The proselytes of whom Jesus spoke were probably the false teachers whom Peter mentions and not the expected proselytes the false teachers, themselves, hoped to acquire. The false teachers of Peter 2 are those who are twice more the child of hell as their teachers in Matthew 23:15.

Finally, Peter refers to them as “cursed” children (2Peter 2:14). What he means has to do with what Jesus claimed when he referred to false teachers (Luke 6:41-45). They are like briars and thorns that are rejected, because they cannot bear good fruit (Hebrews 6:8). Therefore, those, whose preaching only produces what is cursed by God (James 3:10; cf. Genesis 3:17-18), cannot be used by God for the spiritual benefit his children.

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Epistles of Peter


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