The second chapter of Peter’s second letter is one of the most upsetting and distressing passages in the whole new testament, for those who prefer to believe that all people are basically “good,” and that everyone who claims to be a Christian can be trusted and accepted “at face value.” What Peter writes here is a continuation of the thought in 1:19-21, that the Holy Spirit has revealed the Father’s will to us so that we can be sure and confident in all that we believe and practice as Christians: And since we do have His word “made more sure” (ASV; the NKJ says “confirmed”), there’s NO excuse for us to misunderstand, misapply, or disobey His instructions!
YET, despite the fact that we have God’s will fully revealed to us so that we can understand exactly what He desires, Peter here warns us that there shall be teachers of “false” things among Christians just as there were prophets of “false” beliefs among the ancient Jews, according to verse 1. Some Christians are simply unwilling to believe that there could be “nice,” “kind,” “sincere” religious people – especially in the church –who are working against the souls of innocent believers by teaching things that contradict what the new testament actually says.
By comparing those who teach false things in the church to the ancient false prophets in Israel, Peter illustrates for us just what “false” teaching is – doctrines, ideas, attitudes, or practices that defy or contradict what God has said. The presence of false teacher and false doctrines IS a “fact of life” for Christians (whether we “like” it or not) because the presence and influence of Satan in our world is a fact of life. Peter very forcefully stresses that this problem does NOT come from “outside” the church, but from within, showing that even Christians can be led astray into advocating things that defy God. Notice that he also says that the things they teach and advocate – “destructive heresies” – are divisive and destructive, and they introduce these things “secretly” (craftily, deceptively). It’s NOT a “happy” thought to realize that we must be on guard even in the church, just as we are in the world, but that’s exactly what Peter is emphasizing here, and the fact that he says such false teachings lead to denying the Lord and the destruction of those who embrace them only reinforces the importance of being careful about accepting everything we hear! The “lesson” we learn from the example of the Berean Jews in Acts 17:11 certainly applies here, and should be taken to heart!
By inspiration, Peter minces no words in vv. 2-3 as he describes the dishonesty of those he calls false teachers: In vs. 3 they are motivated by covetous greed, they have no compunctions about lying to take advantage of fellow-Christians, and their ultimate goal is to “profit” from (perhaps by controlling) those they are abusing. In Acts 5:1-10, Ananias and Sapphira had died because of a similar sort of dishonesty. According to 2 Peter 2:2, the result of brethren being “captured” by such false teachers is that “the way of truth” – the gospel, and thus, the church – will be blasphemed by others who see the hypocrisy they create.
The rest of 2 Peter 2 consists of a series of examples that show how God has never “excused” or “overlooked” the evil deeds of those who pervert His word and abuse His saints. The further description, in vv. 10-15, of the character and motives of the false teachers about whom Peter is warning us should cause us to be very cautious when someone in the church begins to challenge or argue with what is commonly believed: It IS possible that what “everybody” believes/ does can be wrong (cf. Exodus 23:2), but as Peter shows us here, we should also look very carefully at the “agenda” of those who try to set themselves up as either critics OR “leaders” in trying to steer the church in a “new” direction!