II PETER 17
YOUR SECOND-HAND FAITH IS THE HAPPY
HUNTING GROUND FOR FALSE TEACHERS
The division of chapters and verses was not made by the original writers but by later editors who added them to aid in Bible study. However, there are certain obvious divisions where the original author changed direction in expanding or adding to what he had already said.
Peter does that here as we move into chapter 2. In chapter 1 he graphically described the true Christian personality, but then, as if he realized that there was always a danger that these things would be twisted and misinterpreted by teachers whose motives were quite other than building a strong Christian character, Peter begins to warn his readers against false teachers. All of the history of religion is dotted with the presence of false teachers.
The reason false teachers are dangerous is that, unfortunately, most people do not have a faith based on what they have discovered by studying God’s Word and prayerfully seeking the truth. Most get their faith second-hand, inheriting it from their family or picking it up from the testimony of friends and associates. Once they have settled on a certain basis of faith, they never bother to investigate the validity of it, or question any of its assertions, practices or rituals. Whether these things are true or not never crosses their mind, for they have trusted the source and to question the soundness of the doctrine would be disloyal to the people from whom they learned it. Therefore, they are fertile ground for false teachers who are masters at telling people what they want to hear and thus enhancing their own popularity. In such an environment, truth is never a factor and has no force. Thus, the honest student finds wide-spread error taught in all the halls of Christendom.
Your only defense against the devil and his erroneous teaching is to not depend for your faith on what others teach, but be an honest student and, as Paul described the Bereans, “search the scriptures daily to see whether these things were true”. If people did that it would uproot the foundations of many religious organizations that call themselves churches.
After giving the essentials of the Christian personality, Peter, looking back at history, realized the insidiousness of false teachers, and the havoc they would cause by twisting the interpretation of these great principles into things which would appeal to the lusts of the earthman. So Peter follows his magnificent description of the personality that was an imitation of God, with a harsh description of the kind of teachers who would corrupt it. And then he warns, in the harshest terms, of how severe will be the punishment that God will heap upon them.
In our next essay we will study the motivations that drive false teachers as Peter graphically exposes them. Before that, however, I want to consider for a moment a scripture that should make every Christian sit up and take notice, and realize that he had better not take his faith for granted but work to strengthen it every day. This passage always rings deep in my inner heart and gets my rapt attention. “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where will the sinner and the ungodly appear?” Peter first says this in I Peter 4:18, and he is quoting from the Proverbs. (This is not an exact quotation but it is the sum of what he is saying here at the beginning of the 2nd chapter.)