On April 14,1970, The crew of the Apollo 13 experienced a major technical fault in their electrical system. While radioing back to mission headquarters in Houston Texas, Astronaut John Swigert said to Base: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Decades later, in the 1995 film “Apollo 13” the tag line was changed to the now infamous: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Since the Apollo 13 movie has come out, many times in western culture we use the tag line anytime there is a problem of any sort. In Acts 20, towards the end of a very heart felt goodbye to the Elders of the Ephesian church, Paul gives a “Church, we have a problem” kind of statement. The problem is found in Acts 20:29-30 which says:
Acts 20:29-30 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Paul refers to these false prophets as wolves, echoing Jesus, who referred to them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in Matt 7:15. Here, Paul says that they will come in from outside, AND from among those who are considered to be Elders/Pastors! these men who teach perverse things, desire to draw the flock away from God as well! There are many men and women out there who are presenting themselves as pastors, evangelists, teachers, and healers etc. who are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing.
So how do we spot these wolves…if they are so subtle that they are disguising themselves as sheep? Peter wrote his 2nd epistle to believers to elevate the importance and preeminence of God’s Word, as well as to warn them to beware of false teachers. at the end of this epistle, Peter tells us how we can remain steadfast and discerning so that we are not deceived by these grievous wolves. Let’s take a look at 2Peter 15b-18a which says:
2 Peter 3:15-18 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As Peter reminds us, those who are unlearned in God’s Word, will end up twisting scripture…which is only to our own harm, and to harm of others. Therefore Peter reminds us to be on guard so that we are not led away by the error of those who twist scripture, so that we don’t fall from steadfastness. So how does Peter say that we are to not be led astray? Verse 18 tells us that we are to: GROW in the GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! And how do we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ? by spending much time studying Him in God’s Word. Without this we are setting ourselves up for deception.
So how do we spot these hidden wolves? 2 Peter 2 gives us some clear characteristics of false teachers to look for as we grow in discernment. It’s important to remember that most false teachers will not visibly have all of these characteristics, nor will they always be obvious. Here are just 9 out of the many Characteristics listed in 2Peter 2:
1. They teach destructive heresies
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.
2. They follow their feelings, not Truth
2 Peter 2:2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
3. They are Greedy
2 Peter 2:3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4. They Despise Authority
2 Peter 2:10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,
<>Many times, a warning sign of such men is that while on one hand they LOVE to be the one in authority, and lord it over their followers.
5. They indulge their wicked desires
6. They have a flippancy about spiritual things
2 Peter 2:10
7. They follow after money
2 Peter 2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
8. They are arrogant
2 Peter 2:18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error,
9. They emphasize freedom (Christian Liberty)
2 Peter 2:19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.
<>Many times false teachers will emphasize “Christian Liberty” as a license to do whatever. However, Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8-10 make it crystal clear that Christian Liberty is all about what we give up for the sake of the gospel going forth rather than what we are allowed to indulge in.
This list is certainly not exhaustive of the qualities found of these false teachers here in 2Peter 2, much less the rest of scripture. That’s why in the next post we will take a look at a few more characteristics of these wolves. You might be surprised to see how some of those qualities we have discussed or will discuss have subtly made their way into the teachings of some prominent “Christian Pastors, Teachers and Televangelists. You won’t want to miss it! in the meantime, Open up God’s Word and grow in the grace AND knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we wont fall from steadfastness!