Ten Things That Are True About God Today By Jonathan Lewis I recently wrote about…
An Internal Attack (2 Peter 2:1-2)
By Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s open our Bibles to 2 Peter 2. As you know, we’re continuing to work our way through the Book of 2 Peter. Next week if you show up and nobody is here, you are going to think you missed the Rapture. Next week is spring break, and it harmonizes with the Chafer Conference that Earl was just praying for a minute ago.
The Chafer Conference is located at nearby West Houston Bible Church. If you can’t make it, they’re very good with their life streaming and archiving. I’m supposed to speak on Tuesday morning. All the speakers will be dealing with the subject of worship.
Peter writes this book to warn his audience of false teachers that are coming. The first thing he’s told his audience to do is to pursue maturity because the false teachers (2 Peter 2:14) prey on the unstable. So, the best antidote for resisting false teaching is to become a mature, growing Christian. If you’re not unstable anymore, then it’s difficult for the false teachers to pick you off.
The whole emphasis on chapter 1 was a call to growth. We spent a lot of time working our way through chapter 1, and we finished chapter 1 the last time I was with you. I want to thank Jim for teaching last week; I trust you all enjoyed Jim’s ministry. Do you guys give Jim a thumbs up? They’re all up; look at that! Of course, it should be a thumbs up for the Lord, right?
Chapter 1 is grow. Chapter 2 is the characteristics of false teachers. It’s in chapter 2 that you get really one of the strongest articulations of what a false teacher is like—probably in the whole Bible.
We’re moving now into chapter 2 which deals with the characteristics of false teachers. What are false teachers like? What are their attributes? How do they operate? What are their methods? All of it is there in chapter 2.
Here is an outline of chapter 2. It has at least six parts to it.
- Their predicted arrival
- Their devices
- Their doom
- Their depravity
- Their emptiness
- Their regression
Don’t panic; we’re not going to do all of that tonight. But the first thing you see there in verse 1 is the fact that Peter predicts their coming. Notice what Peter says there in 2 Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
The first thing we see here about false teachers is that Peter says, “They’re coming. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.” Look at verse 1. He says that just as there were false teachers among the people, there will be false teachers among you.
There is no doubt that there were false teachers among the Jews in the Old Testament. Peter is writing to a Jewish audience, and he’s reminding them of the false teachers that were rampant all over the land of Israel in Old Testament times.
For example, just prior to the Babylonian captivity in the Book of Jeremiah, there were a bunch of people running around claiming to have had a word from the Lord and saying, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace. They were saying, “Don’t worry about all these prophecies about gloom and doom and the captivity. It’s not going to happen.”
Jeremiah 23:16 says of these false teachers, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the Lord.’ ”
Around the same period of time Ezekiel is dealing with false teachers as well who were saying the same thing. They were saying, “We’re just here in captivity for a few days, and we’re going to go right back to Jerusalem.” And Ezekiel is trying to explain that, “That’s not true. We’re going to be here for 70 years.” In that context Ezekiel 13:3 says, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.’ ”
Verse 6 says, “ ‘They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, “The Lord declares,” when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. 7 Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, “The Lord declares,” but it is not I who have spoken?’ ”
So there were—all of the way through the Old Testament—tons of false teachers. Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 13 are examples you could cite of such false teachers. And Peter says, “Just as there were false teachers amongst the nation of Israel in Old Testament times, there will be false teachers among you.”
Peter doesn’t say, “There might be false teachers among you.” He doesn’t say, “There is an 85% chance there will be false teachers among you.” Like the weather report: 85% chance of rain. You know, “Maybe they’re going to come.” He basically says, “Categorically they’re going to come.” It’s a promise from God.
The false teachers will be in the church just as there were false teachers amongst the nation of Israel. And what exactly are these false teachers going to do? Keep looking at verse 1 which says, “who will secretly [you should probably underline the word “secretly”] introduce destructive heresies…”
So, the false teachers we’re told here, as Peter predicts their arrival, are going to operate in a clandestine manner. They’re not going to come in with neon signs flashing saying, “False teacher here!” They’re going to look like you. They’re going to carry their Bibles just like you carry them. They’re going to use all the Christianese vocabulary that you use. But they’re going to be slightly off on things that they’re saying.
Of course, the Book of Jude is an explanation of how Peter’s prophecies came to pass within five to six years. Jude, our Lord’s half-brother, says, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Paul the apostle, when he summoned the elders at the church at Ephesus and began to speak to them towards the end of his third missionary journey, taught the same truth about how false teachers would come in a secret, clandestine way. Paul says in Acts 20, beginning in verse 29, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you.” Might come in among you? No. He says that they WILL come in among you. “…not sparing the flock….”
Keep in mind that he is speaking to the elders. He is speaking to church leaders. So, just because someone has the title of an “elder” does not mean that they are somehow impervious to deception and somehow impervious to spreading false doctrine. Earl was talking earlier about the elder nomination process. That really becomes a big deal in a church like ours, because it’s very easy for people to slip through the cracks and use that position to teach things that are not in the Bible.
In fact, I can think of some examples where that’s happened in different churches. And it’s a tragic thing. We’re always shocked when it happens, but Paul himself said, “from among your own selves…” When he says, “from among your own selves,” whom is he speaking to? He is speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. And I think that probably put the fear of God into them more than anything else Paul said. Because he is pointing at them and saying, “Even some you. Even some of you in this leadership role—this leadership circle.”
“…savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things…” They do it because they’re trying to fulfill some kind of human agenda. In this case, “to draw away the disciples after them.”
Paul says, “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Sounds like Paul is serious about this topic. He’s talking about it night and day. People get upset because I preach sometimes beyond 12:30. What if Paul was your pastor? Night and day.
Then he says, “I’ve been talking to you about this for three years.” That’s a long sermon series—3 years. That’s almost as long as our Revelation series right there.
Then he says, “I did it to the point of emotion—to the point where I was crying about it.” There is a mindset that once you get into the pulpit, you should never divulge any type of human emotion or human weakness. Paul obviously didn’t believe that, because he felt so strongly about it that he emoted about it to the point of tears night and day for three years.
And what is he warning them about? He is saying, “Some of you are going to rise up from within and become false teachers.” This is exactly what Peter is talking about when he says, “…there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly [that’s why I’m showing you these other passages] introduce destructive heresies…”
When I first got to Dallas Seminary, one of my heroes in the faith was John Walvoord. John Walvoord passed away while I was there. I didn’t really have much of a chance to sit under him personally. But he would speak in chapel. By the time I got there his health was in such decline that they would only let him speak for around eight minutes. That’s all he could do in terms of energy.
They used to wheel him out there in a wheelchair and put him on the stage. He was always one of the speakers in chapel early on in the semester. He would speak usually in early August or mid-August, right in that time period. I was always sitting right there in the front row because I wanted to hear everything he said since he was a hero of mine.
I always wanted to know what he was going to talk about, because when someone gets to the end of their life, they really start to spill their guts. And the things that are most important to them start to come out. I thought he was going to talk about the things that he was known for—Bible prophecy, premillennialism, the pre-Trib Rapture, all that stuff.
That’s what I thought he was going to talk about. But he did not talk about any that during the eight minutes he had. He was talking about false teachers all of the time. Every time he talked, it was a warning about false teachers and how seminaries become corrupted, how they go liberal, and how he spent a lot of his life as the president of Dallas Seminary wondering, “Why is it that every single school we found in Christianity somehow goes south?”
Sydney and I were talking about that a little earlier. And it bothered him that, “Whether it’s Harvard, Yale, Princeton, they all go liberal. Why is that?” He had basically given himself to a study of the history of schools and why they move away from their roots. And he says the pattern is always the same.
What happens is that you get a faculty member in there who starts to say things that don’t sound exactly right. Paul here talks about “speaking perverse things.” They may not be 100% perverse, but they start to sound a cord that is discordant or non-harmonious. And instead of confronting that faculty member, everybody just kind of ignores it or makes excuses for him.
And that false doctrine affects another faculty member…affects another faculty member…affects another faculty member. Sydney says this happens over and over and over and over again at every single school he’s ever studied as to why they become liberal over the course of time. He says it’s related to a weak president who does not see his role as implementing doctrinal oversight. The president becomes a fundraiser or something like that, but they don’t really have any real policing power over the faculty. And he says is usually the second to the third generation where this happens.
So, a faculty member comes in…sounds odd; at the same time you have a weak president who does not confront that faculty member. Sydney says that this is how it happens over and over and over again—how schools become liberal. This fits with what Peter is warning about here, how false teachers will rise up from within. They’re not going to come in with neon signs and lights saying, “False teaching here!” They’re going to secretly introduce destructive heresies.
This was before Dallas Seminary got its accreditation. And I think accreditation has hurt a lot of schools, because it takes the power away from the president to get rid of people you need to get rid of. Essentially, he would during those years make faculty members write papers to him if he thought they were teaching something that was a little off.
Even my professor Elliott Johnson told me a story of how he was teaching the Rapture in Matthew 24—which is really not the historic position of Dallas Seminary. It is not our position here at Sugar Land Bible Church. We believe in the Rapture. We don’t think it’s in Matthew 24.
But Elliott Johnson started teaching this, and Walvoord made him write a paper and submit that paper to him, explaining his view. Then, finally, Walvoord agreed to let him teach this. I mean, that is an issue. It’s probably not the biggest issue out there—as long as he gave room to the other positions.
But John Walvoord took his position as president of that school very seriously. And that’s what really kept that place on the straight and narrow for a long time. We need to be basically that vigilant—not becoming Pharisees about it. But we need to be that vigilant here at Sugar Land Bible Church concerning who is teaching and what are they teaching. You know, when people want to teach here different things, we have them submit a curriculum to us (as the elders) where we can look it over.
Then, you have to be vigilant as God’s people because you’re nominating elders. Don’t nominate someone whose doctrine is sketchy in any way, shape, or form—or Sugar Land Bible Church will just go the way of all the other churches and all the other schools. It will just move in a very liberal direction over time.
It’s all related to these false teachers rising up from within, which is what Jude warns about. It’s what Paul, to the elders at Ephesus, is warning about. And that’s what Peter is warning about—how they are going to secretly, once they come, introduce destructive heresies.
Now, notice also the word “destructive.” One of the things to understand about false teaching is that it is destructive. Here we are talking about the coronavirus; everybody knows about the coronavirus. All the news wants to talk about is the coronavirus.
We’re getting all this information—public service type things—about, “Wash your hands, and lather them up. Leave the soap on there for 20 seconds because that’s when the germs are killed. Don’t just throw some soap on there and put it under the water, because you need 20 seconds…” You guys hearing all the stuff that I’m hearing? “Wash your hands,” in other words, is what they’re saying.
So, we all get the coronavirus. We all get what destructive viruses are like. The problem is that we don’t really see false doctrine as that big a deal. But Peter uses the word “destructive.” Just as the coronavirus is destructive to a physical body, false doctrine coming into the church is destructive to a spiritual body.
In 2 Timothy 2:17 false doctrine is analogized to gangrene. It’s called gangrene, which is a real physical issue. Some of the Bible translations there call it “cancer.” Now, we all understand cancer because we even have victims of cancer in our own flock. We have, right in this area, some of the biggest and most well-known cancer treatment facilities probably in the whole world. So everybody understands what cancer is.
Everybody understands that cancer is destructive to one’s body. And that’s what false teaching is analogized to in 2 Timothy 2:17. It’s analogized to gangrene, and sometimes that word “gangrene” is translated as “cancer.” It says, “and their talk will spread like gangrene.” So, false doctrine is destructive to one’s spiritual life just as gangrene or cancer is destructive to one’s physical life.
In 2 Timothy chapter 2:18 it says, of false teaching, “men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” The word “upset” there is “overturned.” The faith of some has been overturned because of false doctrine.
In fact, that word “overturned” is the exact same word in Greek used in John 2:15 of Jesus going into the temple. Remember, He found the money changers in the Temple. Remember the story? He took their tables and He overturned them. That’s the same word used here in 2 Timothy 2:18 concerning how false doctrine literally overturns the faith of some people.
I’m not necessarily saying they lose their salvation, but it will completely dismantle someone’s maturity in Christ, growth in Christ. It will convince them of a lot of things that God has never said to them or about them. So, we need to pay attention to what Peter is saying here (going back to 2 Peter 2) about the destructive nature of false doctrine.
2 Timothy—I think it might also be 1 Timothy—uses the expression “shipwreck” describing false doctrine. I was just channel surfing. I was watching the movie Titanic. What a movie that is! You talk about a shipwreck. Talk about the loss of life, property, relationships, and the total destruction that caused. That’s what false doctrine is analogized to: it’s a shipwreck. It’s like the Titanic going down.
I think we read these things and skirt over them. But Peter is using the word “destructive” for a reason. So, he’s predicting that these false teachers are coming. “Just as there were false teachers among you in Old Testament times, they will be among you again. They’re coming in secretly (or clandestinely), and they’re going to introduce destructive concepts.
Peter moves away from their predicted arrival, and now he begins to talk about their devices. How exactly are they going to operate? What are they going to do? There are five things here to talk about. Continuing on with verse 1, “…even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
So, in terms of the devices of the false teachers, the first thing that characterizes them is just that: false teaching. That’s why they’re called “false teachers.” To the point where they will even deny the Master Who bought them. They will even deny what we celebrated in communion this last Sunday: the bodily atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus received in His physical body the wrath of a holy God that belongs on us. Even that basic teaching in Christianity they…will…deny.
This is related to Gnosticism. The false teachers that Peter is speaking of are the Gnostics that were coming. The Gnostics, basically, taught dualism. They taught that the spiritual world is good, and the physical world is bad. Now, did God ever say that? No. Because when God created everything physical, what did He say in Genesis 1:31? He didn’t just say, “It’s good,” but “It’s very good.”
So if you believe that the physical world is bad, then what started to get injured in your doctrine is the doctrine of the First Coming of Christ. Because if the physical world is bad, then God could not have come in a body. And what developed as a result of this is this belief called Docetism, which comes from the Greek verb DOKEO, which means “to seem or to appear.”
The Gnostics that Peter is warning about came on the scene and they said, “You know, Jesus really didn’t have a body. It just looked like it or seemed like it.” And when you understand this it helps to make sense of a lot of the things that you find in the New Testament. Like 1 John 4:2-3, which says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
Why would John say that “the spirit of the antichrist” are those who deny Jesus as coming in the flesh? Because 1 John is dealing with the Gnosticism that’s on the horizon. The Gnostics taught dualism: the spiritual world is good; the physical world is bad. So, if the physical world is bad, Jesus really didn’t have a body; it just seemed like it. Docetism, DOKEO.
That’s why, when you go through John’s writings, there is so much in there about how “we touched Jesus.” How Thomas touched His wounds, and “we felt Him.” Why does John keep rehearsing all this information? It’s in contradistinction to the Gnostics who were denying that Jesus actually came in a body.
So, since the Gnostics were coming, Peter is saying, “Once they show up, they’re not only going to deny that Jesus came in a body, but they’re going to basically deny that He was your atonement. That His body absorbed the wrath of a holy God the Father in our place, sometimes called the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Not only that, but they’re going to deny He’s coming back in a body. Because if the physical world is bad, not only did He not come in a body the first time, but He’s not even coming back in a body. And that’s why you find statements as follows. Just flip over a chapter to 2 Peter 3:4. “and saying [describing the doctrine of these coming false teachers], ‘Where is the promise of His [that’s Jesus] coming?’ ” What doctrine are they attacking there? They’re attacking the Second Coming of Christ. Just like the Gnostics are going to come (2 Peter 2:1), and they’re going to attack the First Coming of Christ.
So, we believe that Jesus came into this world in a body. He was not just a spiritual being; He was in a physical body. And had that not happened, He could not have absorbed the wrath of a holy God in our place in His body.
Not only did He come in a body 2000 years ago, but He’s coming back in a…body! In fact, Zechariah 14:4 says, “His feet…” Now, aren’t feet part of a body? Can I get an “Amen” there? “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives…” And the Mount of Olives, we’re told in that prophecy (Zechariah 14:4) is going to split from east to west.
So, that’s the Christian teaching: He came in the body, and He’s coming back in a body. And it’s interesting that the Gnostics denied that right out of the gate. Peter is warning about these coming Gnostics who are going to deny that. And the reason they denied those two things is because of their presupposition (or their pre-understanding) of Gnostic dualism—that the spiritual world is good, and the physical world is bad.
If that’s what you believe, it’s going to tamper with all kinds of doctrines in your Christian walk, not the least of which is the bodily atonement of Jesus’ First Coming and the bodily return of Jesus Christ to this earth—Second Coming.
Peter continues on here in verse 1 and says that in the process—watch this now—they are going to bring “swift destruction upon themselves.” So, these false teachers are not just going to be destroyed—but they’re going to be destroyed fast! They’re going to be destroyed swiftly.
In fact, last Sunday as we were in Revelation 22, we were talking about those passages which say Jesus’ coming is near. It’s that hand. It’s quickly. And the word translated “quickly” is TACHOS. A lot of people thought I was talking about lunch at the Mexican phone company, Taco Bell. I got that joke from somebody else, so don’t blame me for that one.
But TACHOS is where we get the word tachometer, which means “speed.” And I was trying to explain last Sunday that that word is used as an adverb in Revelation 22. An adverb modifies a verb. So, when it talks about Jesus coming back “quickly,” it’s saying that when He comes back it’s going to be rapid-fire. It’s going to be so fast.
It’s going to be so fast that there’s not going to be time to repent, in other words. That’s why the Bible says, “now is ‘The day of salvation’...” Because once you move into the Second Advent, at the end of the Tribulation period, it’s analogized to lightning. It’s going to happen so fast—it’s going to happen so quickly—that there’s not going to be time for repentance. So, any repentance you want to do, you need to do that on this side of that event.
That’s that word TACHOS that communicated that. The same word here is used to describe the destruction of these false teachers. Not only are they going to be destroyed, but once God moves His hand of destruction upon them it’s going to happen very, very quickly.
Peter’s point is, “Yes, these false teachers are going to introduce gangrene—they’re going to introduce cancer—into the body of Christ,” which is just as harmful to one’s spiritual being as gangrene or cancer is to one’s physical well-being. But Peter says, “Don’t worry about it. They’re not getting away with anything. Their destruction is going to happen very, very fast—quickly.” This is an adverb.
It’s like when you’re at the gas station putting gas in your car. You put in your credit card and it says, “Remove the credit card quickly.” It’s speaking of the speed at which you’re to pull that credit card out. That, in essence, is what the coming of Christ is like. And that, in essence, is what the destruction of these false teachers is like. Once it comes, it’s going to be very, very swift.
Sometimes we watch so-called Christian television, and we see all these charlatans ripping people off, telling people lies. And we get upset about it. But we forget that once God moves His hand of destruction on these people, it’s going to be very, very fast and sudden. And when you understand that, you start to understand that false teachers are actually people you need to pity and pray for because they don’t have any idea what’s coming.
God keeps a record of false teaching and teachers specifically. Jesus was gracious and compassionate to everybody, including tax gatherers and prostitutes. But when Jesus spoke really harsh words, typically He spoke them against the false teachers of His day (which would be the Pharisees and the Sadducees).
And if you want to know what God thinks about false teaching—people who are misleading people through wrong doctrine—read Matthew 23 sometime. I have a red letter edition of the Bible, and not only is the whole thing in red, but I think it’s in red because Jesus was really mad.
And He sure looks mad to me! I mean, this is the sweet Jesus Who says, “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ ” That is not what He is saying in Matthew 23! I mean, it’s just one harsh vindictive after another, and it’s aimed at false teachers.
This is why James 3:1 says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” Let me tell you something about teaching. Teaching is a wonderful thing. Tremendous privilege comes with being a teacher; you have the ability to influence the thinking of people (that’s what teaching is). Not only can you move them in the correct direction, but with the ability comes the capacity to move them where? In the false direction. So, a teacher who is a blessing one Sunday—moving people in their thinking in the correct direction—can end up using that same gifting to move people in the wrong direction the next Sunday.
So, that’s why the teacher is always held to a higher accountability. That’s why James 3:1 says what it says. And that’s why, when judgment comes, the judgment is going to come very fast on these false teachers. I’ll have more of a chance to get into this in the subsequent weeks in this chapter, but I believe that these false teachers that are described here are unbelievers.
There are two audiences. Peter’s original audience is to saved people. We talked about that in our first one or two lessons together. But the false teachers coming in—who he is predicting are coming—are actually unbelievers. I have a chart towards the end of this chapter that tries to defend that. It says, for example, in verse 17, “black darkness has been reserved” for them. “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness…” There are just a lot of statements that are made that really don’t fit someone who is regenerated. So, I think he’s dealing with unsaved people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. A believer can teach false doctrine. Peter knew all about it because in Matthew 16 (about three decades earlier) Jesus said, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter coughed up the correct answer. And then, in the next breath, he tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross. And Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” So, clearly, a Christian unintentionally or through wrong motives can teach false things.
But having said all that, I don’t think that’s who Peter is dealing with here; I think he’s talking about tares amongst the wheat. Unbelievers come into God’s believing flock who look like believers, gain ascendancy in the church, and they begin to introduce destructive heresies. More on that later.
But notice something very, very interesting here. This escapes a lot of commentators. It says that these false teachers will deny “the Master Who bought them.” So, if my thesis is correct and these false teachers are unbelievers, why does it say that they will deny the Master Who bought them? The answer to that question is what we call universal atonement: Jesus’ death is for the whole world. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…”
1 John 2:2 talks about how the death of Christ, John says, is not for us but is for the whole world. So, the death of Christ is even for the false teachers. Now, they don’t become saved until they trust in Christ, but the death of Christ is for them as well. What we teach here is not limited atonement (Jesus only died for the believers); we believe He died for the whole world. The whole world is savable. They’re savable, but they don’t become saved until they trust in the work of the Savior. But every human being is savable.
There are a lot of passages that you can use that authoritatively teach unlimited atonement, not the least of which is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world...” 1 John 2:2, He died for the whole world. But you’ll also see it right here in verse 1 where it talks about these false teachers who are coming, denying the Master—notice what it says—Who bought them. In other words, Christ’s death was for them also.
Now, of course, they are not saved until they trust in Christ, but they are savable. And if I’m right on this (that these false teachers are unbelievers), then that becomes a very strong passage for unlimited atonement. And you say, “Who cares about limited atonement…unlimited atonement? Why do you keep boring us with all this theology? This is all a bunch of pie-in-the-sky stuff. You spend too much time reading books.”
Here is the reality. If you believe in limited atonement… Do you know what I mean by “limited atonement”? It’s basically what you have in Calvinism—five point Calvinism. It’s what the late R. C. Sproul taught. You can go to R. C. Sproul’s website and you could see his treatment on it. He says, “Every consistent Calvinist…” I know there are a lot of people out there who will adjust their theology and say, “I’m really a four point Calvinist—and not a five point Calvinist.”
But R. C. Sproul says that if you’re consistent with Calvinism, you’ll end up with limited atonement. Meaning that Jesus only died for the Christian. He only died for the believer. That’s called limited atonement. He did not die for the world. He only died for the elect. We don’t teach that here. We think Jesus died for everybody! And the reason this becomes a big deal is it controls how you share the gospel with the lost.
Now, look at this quote here from Jay Adams in his book Competent to Counsel, page 70. I might add this: I have a very high opinion of Jay Adams. Jay Adams, in that book, brought into the body of Christ basically what Whitcomb and Morris did with creationism. Whitcomb and Morris said, “We’re going to defend origins from the Bible by itself. And let’s interpret the findings of the scientific world in harmony with the Bible.”
Around that same period of time, Jay Adams wrote a book called Competent to Counsel, dealing with counseling ministry. And he’s trying to tell people that you, as an elder or as a pastor, are competent to counsel people from the Bible! It’s a belief called “the sufficiency of the Scripture.” And a lot of places don’t follow this. They basically say, “Well, if you’re having emotional problems or psychological problems, then you don’t really want a pastor—using his Bible—to talk to you. You need to go off to someone who’s got the PhD and knows the “secret knowledge.” Meaning personality theory and Carl Jung and Freud and Skinner.
By the way, Carl Jung had a spirit guide. Did you know that? Carl Jung’s spirit guide was named Philemon. Carl Jung was talking to demons; that’s where modern-day psychology—a lot of it— comes from. And there’s a school of thought that basically says the Bible alone is not sufficient to counsel people. You’ve got to sit under somebody that has all of this knowledge of all of these other extra-biblical disciplines.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you have some kind of physical problem (like a broken arm), I don’t think the Bible is going to help you with that. But where the Bible claims authority over something—like the realm of the soul… That’s what psychology is; it comes from the Greek word, PSUCHÉ, meaning soul. The study of the soul. The ailments of the soul. Assuming it’s not some kind of physical issue.
My cousin, for example, was suicidal as a young man because of chemical issues and things like that. That’s more of a physical issue—not a soul issue. But when it comes to the issues of the soul—anxiety, bitterness, low self-image, what psychologists call dysfunctional family relationships—let me tell you something, you’re not going to get a better counseling than this Book right here. This Book will address every one of those issues—if you let it.
Just like it addresses the issue of origins. If you’re more interested in what Darwin thought than the Bible, then that approach will not appeal to you. But Morris and Whitcomb came alongside and talked about the sufficiency of the Scripture in the area of origins.
And that’s what Jay Adams did. That’s what his book Competent to Counsel means; if you become proficient in the Bible, you are competent to counsel people. And he’s trying to bring back the sufficiency of the Scripture in the area counseling. So, all of that to say, I have a very high opinion of Jay Adams. But here’s the thing to understand about Jay Adams. Jay Adams was a five point Calvinist.
And it comes out in his book Competent to Counsel. He says on page 70, “But counselors, as Christians, are obligated to present the claims of Christ. They must present the good news that Christ Jesus died on the cross in the place of His own [not the world—”His own”], that He bore the guilt and suffered the penalty for their sins. He died that all whom the Father had given to Him might come unto Him and have life everlasting. [However] As a reformed Christian [five point Calvinist], the writer [Jay Adams] believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, FOR THEY CANNOT SAY THAT. No man knows except Christ Himself who are His elect for whom He died.” [emphasis mine]
Now, this is not hearsay. This is not mishearing a lecture. This is something he says in his book (page 70); you can look it up for yourself. Obviously, the capitalization, bolding, and underling there is something I added, but the words are there. And that’s the reason why this unlimited atonement idea is a big deal, because it shapes your confidence in how you present the gospel to the lost.
If you’re wrapped up in five point Calvinism and limited atonement, it’s going to short-circuit your evangelism. Because you don’t think you can authoritatively go up to any unbeliever and tell them that Christ died for them! Jay Adams didn’t think that. Even though Jay Adams made great progress in the area of the biblical sufficiency in the area counseling, he says, “You don’t tell people that Christ died for them.” Let me tell you something folks: I tell everybody where I get the opportunity that Christ died for them.
I tell them that if they were the only person on planet Earth, Jesus still would have died on the cross for them. And you say, “Andy, how come you’re so confident about that?” Because I have embraced unlimited atonement—and not limited atonement. So, all of that to say, that’s why I bring up these theological concepts. Not to bore you with a bunch of stuff, but I want you to leave here with confidence as the Holy Spirit gives you opportunity to go up to anybody you see and tell them that Jesus died on the cross for them! You should say that without any reservation.
Those who are wrapped up in five point Calvinism and limited atonement are allowing false doctrine to even affect how they evangelize. That’s why it’s actually a big deal when Peter talks about false teachers here in verse 1 and says that they will deny the Lord who bought them. The Lord’s death was for them also—even though they’re denying it as unbelievers.
So, the first device of these false teachers is that they are going to bring in false teaching, even denying the Lord Who bought them. The second device of these false teachers is that they are going to move people aggressively into the area of licentiousness. And that is in verse 2.
Look at verse 2, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” Notice the word “sensuality.” What does that mean? It means these false teachers are going to develop a doctrine which says, “Live for the sin nature.” Another way of saying it is “licentiousness.”
“Licentiousness” is “sin up a storm—it doesn’t matter.” It’s the opposite of legalism, which tries to control the sin nature through man-made means. Legalism is on one end of the spectrum; licentiousness is on the other end of the spectrum.
Why are these false teachers going to promote licentiousness? Because they’re Gnostics. The physical world is bad; the spiritual world is good. So, “It’s really not me gossiping—it’s just this 2 x 2 slab of mucous membrane in between my gums that’s gossiping.” And of course it would gossip because it’s part of matter—and the physical world is bad. See that? So, the Gnostics were using dualism to deny personal responsibility.
Now, here is the reality of the situation. When you sin as a Christian—and when I sin as a Christian—nobody had a gun to your head forcing you to do it. You can’t blame it on your body. You can’t blame it on the devil. You can’t do a Flip Wilson, “The devil made me do it.” Yes, Satan tempts us. But at some point, I made a choice. See that?
What Peter is saying here is these false teachers are going to move everybody into licentiousness. And—by the way—they’re going to pack out stadiums. I mean, they might even get a church so big they’ve got to get a former athletic stadium to hold all the people! I shouldn’t have said that, should I?
Verse 2 says, “Many will follow their sensuality…” When Dr. Toussaint was teaching us through 2 Peter, he said, “If you have a ministry of licentiousness, you’ll never lack disciples, because everybody wants to hear, ‘It’s okay to sin.’ ”
In fact, I was sitting in a church where a psychologist got into the pulpit and told everybody that if you harbor unforgiveness in your heart, that’s okay. Why is that? “Because it took God 4000 years to get over what Adam did. Because there’s about 4000 years from Adam to Jesus, so God had to work through the healing process—and the bitterness process—for 4000 years.”
Honest to God, this is what this psychologist taught everybody. I don’t even mind giving you his name. His name is Dr. David Stoop. And you could monitor the reaction of the people in the congregation. As God as my witness, people left there gleeful, because the man behind the pulpit told them that if you want to hold onto your bitterness (which we all have because we’ve all been hurt), then that’s okay! And that feels good—doesn’t it?—to do that. It does put you in long-term bondage, but it feels good to be bitter.
He was obviously giving people advice from a psychological grid. Because there’s not a shred of evidence in the Bible that a Christian has any right to hold onto bitterness. In fact, what the Bible says is, “do not let the sun go down on your anger…” We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. It’s a choice!
There’s nothing here about “Hang onto your bitterness and work through it, because it took God 4000 years to get over it.” I mean, that is just a ludicrous and ridiculous thing to say in any public ministry—and that’s what he said. And people left gleeful because he told them what their flesh already wanted to do. See that?
That’s why, when these false teachers move in this sensuality, they are never going to lack disciples. Many are going to follow.
By the way—and this is good for us to understand around election time—the majority is not always right. Did y’all know that? We’re Americans. We think if there’s some kind of opinion poll or vote or something, then the majority of the people have spoken so the majority is right.
Let me tell you something: if you study this biblically and historically, usually it’s the majority that has it wrong. Jesus said, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction,” didn’t He? “ ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.’ ”
When they brought back a report in Numbers 13, most of the spies went into fear and said, “We can’t beat the giants.” Only two guys said, “We can take the giants,” Joshua and Caleb. If I remember the numbers right, it was ten versus two, and yet those two guys had it right and the majority had it wrong.
So, just because someone has many followers, is able to fill up stadiums with people, don’t assume that they’re right. Because Peter specifically says, “Many will follow their shameful ways… (AMP).”
I’ll conclude with this. It says in verse 2, “Many will follow their shameful ways, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned (AMP).” See that? This becomes the problem of Christians moving into sin, because it gives the enemies of God an opportunity to blaspheme. Because these false teachers are going to get ascendancy in the church and move into licentiousness, the way of truth is going to be maligned.
Now, remember when David sinned? Remember when he was confronted by Nathan the prophet? Remember what Nathan the prophet said? “…by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme…” The enemies of God already hate God, and all they’re really looking for is one mess up from a Christian—particularly a high-profile Christian—and it’s going to be on radio, TV, late night comedy—David Letterman (if he’s even on the air anymore).
I remember the heyday. Y’all remember the televangelist scandals of the 1980s where all of the financial and sexual scandals of all of these major ministries were brought to the surface? Remember how gleeful the enemies of God were about that—all of the secular news people. I mean, they were just salivating they were so excited to malign Christianity, “Look at what all of Christianity’s followers have done!”
There is a parallel passage in Romans 2:24 where Paul says to the disobedient Jews, “For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you…’ ” So, this is what Peter is predicting. As these false teachers move folks into licentiousness, that’s what’s going to be done to Christianity.
We covered two verses tonight. We’re just getting warmed up.