Why Give False Teachers an Audience?
False teachers are historical constants according to II Peter 2:1-2. Just as Old Covenant believers had to deal with their “false prophets,” New Covenant believers must deal with our “false teachers.” The phrase “false teachers” is only used once in the New Testament and that is in II Peter 2:1. The words “false teachers” are translated from the Greek word pseudodidaskalos (psyoo-dod-id-as’-kal-os). The prefix pseudes (psyoo-dace’) refers to something fake and untrue. Therefore, the “false teacher” is both deceitful and wicked in his objectives even though he may not even know he is a “false teacher.” False teaching leads people into false practices which leads them out of the light and into the darkness of corruption.
“1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (II Peter 2:1-10).
II Peter 2:1-10 is a powerful text defining the operations of the false teacher. I find six statements by Peter warning believers about how false teachers operate. These six statements also detail God’s view of how easily people are led astray by false teachers. Not every teacher is trustworthy. The answer to the warning is serious Bible study and spiritual discernment.
1. The false teacher’s work of deception is often done covertly – “privily” (II Peter 2:1). Your God appointed teacher in your pastor. He cannot control everything you read or hear from the many false teachers broadcasting their deception over the airways. These false teachers cannot be confronted or exposed. In most cases, the pastor does not even know what you are reading, to whom you are listening, or in what way you may have been deceived. Be careful and listen to your pastor’s warnings.
2. The false teacher’s teaching leads to the denial of the Lordship of Jesus (II Peter 2:1). The denial of the Lordship of Christ involves lowering God’s standards of holiness, His directives for separation from worldliness, and from those teaching false doctrine. The false teacher’s message does not ask for discernment, but instead asks for tolerance. Rebuke and reproof should be the proper response to the false teacher. The false teacher holds the one being deceived by appealing for tolerance until he is fully understood. The Lordship of Christ is defined as absolute submission to the authority of the teachings of Jesus Christ in the inspired Words of God. Peter denied the Lordship of Jesus at first when he denied knowing Jesus and being one of His disciples (Matthew 26:69-75). Although Peter wept bitterly upon recognizing his failure, Peter continued to deny the Lordship of Jesus when he return to his previous profession as a fisherman after having committed himself to Jesus to make disciples (John 21:15-19). He denied the Lordship of Jesus again at Galatia when he tolerated the false teaching of the Judaizers (Galatians 2:11-21).
3. The false teacher’s “ways” are “pernicious” and they result in giving Christianity a bad reputation (II Peter 2:2). The word “damnable” and the words “pernicious ways” are both translated from the Greek word apoleia (ap-o'-li-a). The intent is that the false teachings of the false teacher ruin or destroy the lives of people. False teachings give believers permission to involve themselves in practices that God’s Word says will defile them. This is the distortion and perversion of God’s requirement in sanctification for His enabling grace. Paul warns of this is Romans 12:2. When someone is “conformed to this world,” he is made worldly, defiled, and cannot be enabled to be used of God. “Pernicious” is a good translation in II Peter 2:2 because it means a harmful effect coming from a gradual and subtle methodology. The outcome of any degree of corruption of the doctrine of separation provides an equal degree of entrance into these “pernicious ways.”
4. False teacher’s use artificial, man-made doctrines to capture souls to follow their leadership for their own personal gains (II Peter 2:3). One central corruption of doctrine is to emphasize love while sacrificing doctrinal purity for the purpose of false unity. The false teacher is motivated by “covetousness.” “Covetousness” is translated from the Greek word pleonexia (pleh-on-ex-ee'-ah). The word means fraudulent and greedy. In other words, the false teacher’s teaching is intent to promote him and gain him followers. The second descriptor is the word “feigned words.” The word “feigned” is from the Greek word plastos (plas-tos'), which refers to molded or shaped in order to get a determined outcome. The intended outcome of their corrupted methodology is to “make merchandise” of people. The intent is that the false teacher wants to make a profit out of people’s giving for the false teacher’s own personal gain. The false teacher is greedy of “filthy lucre” as well as a desire for fame and power.
5. False teachers will not be spared from God’s judgment and are destined for a special day of reckoning reserved just for them (II Peter 2:4-10). Up to this point, the warnings have been about following false teachers. Now the warning is extended to the false teacher’s themselves. Even in these warning to the false teachers, there is a continued warning to those will to accept their false teaching in that those who accept the false teachings will share in the judgment of the false teachers. Christ commissioned the men He called to preach with feeding His sheep. Clearly His intent was that His under-shepherds would teach believers correct doctrine. These under-shepherds were responsible for maintaining purity of doctrine. They certainly would not allow someone to teach who held to any kind of false doctrine. Therefore, pastors will be held responsible for the preachers they allow to teach from their pulpits.
6. False teachers are not afraid to speak critically and accusingly of “dignities” - the truly sanctified in the Body of Christ (II Peter 2:10). A subtle tactic of false teachers is to ridicule and diminish those with which they disagree. A pastor’s integrity and trustworthiness is very fragile. Most people want to believe the worst about others. Therefore, it is a very easy thing to destroy men in spiritual leadership if those men do not meticulously guard their integrity.
Clearly II Peter 2:1-10 is a text that defines separating false teachers from influencing believers away from “the faith.” False teachers should not be given an opportunity to influence others with their false doctrines. When it comes to Bible teachers we are unfamiliar with, it is important to differentiate between giving someone a hearing and giving someone an audience to which he might speak. A hearing is usually private amongst a few involved in a discussion. Giving someone an audience is to present the speaker to a larger group as an authority with an assumed degree of credibility. When a speaker is given an audience, he is also given some degree of credibility. Recently, in the last decade, some have sought to justify giving false teachers an audience, and thereby minimizing their compromise, by calling such compromise platform fellowship or academic fellowship. Such practices, and those that condone such practices, are trifling with truth.
For centuries, Reformed theologians (clergy) and Roman Catholic theologians (popes and priests) practiced some radical separation to keep their various sectarian and state churches pure. They imprisoned, tortured, and murdered the citizens of their states to force them to comply with their doctrines. The Anabaptists were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered by both the Roman Catholic Theonomists and the Protestant Theonomists. The Anabaptists were willing to suffer and die rather than allow for the corruption of the Gospel and their Ecclesiology. They suffered and died for BOTH the Gospel and a free church Ecclesiology of individual soul liberty and congregational polity.
The Anabaptists never went to war with the Theonomists. They never tried to establish their own state church. Instead, they wrote their doctrinal statements with their own blood and manifested a coalescence of their beliefs with thousands of their own deaths. This is what defines militant separation. They certainly would not have given those seeking to kill them an audience for their false gospel, and their false doctrines of Theonomy and Kingdom Constructionism.
The present day discussions about the practice of separation are really nothing more than a new Ecumenicism, only this new Ecumenicism excludes theological liberals. This is kum-bay-ya philosophy within some undefined mystical entity called Christianity in a broad ecumenical definition of the Church. The failure is both a Gospel issue and an Ecclesiological issue. False beliefs regarding either the Gospel or the Church make a mess of how one practices separation. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are really not the issue. All within this broad spectrum of mystical Churchianity believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They do not agree on what defines a biblical response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and will not even discuss these beliefs because when they do discuss these issues, their pseudo-unity dissolves like salt in water.
II Peter 2:7 tells us that God “delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.” Lot was a saved man. The word “vexed” means he was worn down by social harassment from his chosen peer group. This is what happens when people who know better continue in dialogue with those they know to be disobedient. They may not be fully convinced by the dissenters, but they will be softened toward them. They will become sympathetic towards the dissenters and tolerant of their views. This should not happen. The dialogue should be private and the conversation about doctrine should be unbending and dogmatic. There should be no compromise. The false teacher must be reproved, rebuked, and rejected. Then, the false teacher should be publicly marked as a false teacher with public warnings issued about him (Romans 16:17-18).
God delivered Lot and his two daughters from death in the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, but God did not deliver him from the consequences of his own corruption. In drunken depression from the loss of his wife and property, Lot is seduced by the desperation of both his surviving daughters. Lot fathers to sons from the incest with his daughters. These two sons would become the patriarchs of the nations of Moab and Ammon. These two nations and their descendants would provide continual strife, oppression, and war for the nation of Israel until the second coming of Jesus Christ. We cannot escape the consequences of compromise. Although God forgives, the consequences of compromise flow forward in time effecting thousands and millions.
“6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (II Timothy 1:6-14).
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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.