Yesterday we were able to see what the Lord thinks of false teachers: “the Lord knows how to…reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed…” (2 Pet 2:9-11) and bold in their unrighteousness. Peter continues his condemnation of false teachers among the people of the church, describing both their reckless sins before God and the consequences those sins will cause, and compares these false teachers to animals driven only by instinct and not by rational thought.
“But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.” (2 Pet 2:12-14)
A major aspect of faith is purposeful control of one’s thought life (Rom 12:2). To ignore the renewing of our minds in Christ and focus only on humanistic feelings, is counter to biblical faith. These false teachers attempt to lead others away from the truth of the gospel of Jesus. Peter writes to assure his readers that they will not get away with what they’re doing, as they “will receive the wages of unrighteousness”.
One of their characteristics was an indulgence in sexual immorality, and were quite “loud and proud” about it. Paul makes the point in Eph 5:3 that certain kinds of immorality should not be tolerated within the community of the church. It’s difficult to strike a balance between loving sinners, and not accepting sin. However, it’s important for the church to stand for moral conduct. This is a HUGE problem in today’s churches, who want to tickle ears more than shepherd their flock.
Jesus Himself had given Peter the mission to tend the sheep of God (John 21:15-17). At times, a shepherd’s job includes driving away wild predators (1 Sam 17:34-35), which Peter ferociously shows in defending his flock from these attacking wolves. Peter writes that these false teachers have “eyes full of adultery…that cannot cease from sin”.
These deceivers are looking for every opportunity to engage in sexual immorality but are never satisfied, never stopping, and as such are completely damned by God. They are skilled in the art of seduction, which is particularly effective against those in the church who are weak or “unsteady” in their faith and most vulnerable to temptation.
Peter goes on to write that these false teachers have left “the way” of Jesus, and couldn’t have been true followers of Christ. “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Pet 2:15-16)
Balaam used his influence, and his knowledge of Israel and Israel’s God, to counsel Israel’s enemies to use immoral sexual seduction to compromise and weaken God’s people (Num 31:15-16). In saying that Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness”, he’s showing that the false teachers loved the personal gain they received from their wrongdoing. Peter warns the people not to follow these false teachers headed for destruction. Peter’s reference to the talking donkey suggests that the false teachers can’t see what would be obvious to even a barnyard animal: God’s judgment is waiting on their path.
These false teachers promised greater freedom, which they claimed came from unrestrained behavior. Sadly, there are many in congregations today who encourage believers to ignore biblical warnings about sexual sins. They dismiss God’s words as out of date, and inspire others to violate God’s will. “These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (2 Pet 2:17)
Peter uses pictures from nature to describe their true form. Following their path will leave the thirsty unquenched. Like a dried up spring, or a lurking raincloud that provides only a bit of mist, their teaching will lead to disappointment. More than that, it will lead to destruction. These false teachers who lie about Jesus will reach the destination that is reserved for them: the blackest darkness. This is likely a description of hell, a place without even a hint of light.