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Be Aware, False Teaching Ahead
The Reality of Danger
2 Peter 2:1-3
Bruce A. Hess
Now, if you would, please take out your Bible and turn in it, in the New Testament, to the book of 2 Peter and chapter number 2, 2 Peter, chapter number 2. Today in our study together we are going to come to one of those New Testament chapters that is frequently avoided by people. It is one of those chapters that is rarely taught. It is a chapter that is highly confrontive. It is a chapter that has some rather harsh denunciation of false teachers. 2 Peter, chapter 2 has some of the strongest language in all of Scripture. It’s not the first section you might seek out when you want a devotional time. Why is that? Well, I think, candidly, one of the reasons why is: we don’t really like to talk much about judgment at all.
I want to remind you what is going on in 2 Peter. From chapter 1, in verse 14, we learn that Peter is knows he is going to be leaving this life very soon; he is going to be exiting from this world. So, when you are getting ready to leave and you want to write a letter, you want to write the things that are most strategic, and that is what he is doing in 2 Peter. In fact, one third of the final letter that he writes is a caution against false teaching. It has in it some stern confrontation and it often talks about the certainty of judgment that is to come. So, I think because it is his final communication, it is important that we lean in and hear what he has to say. In some ways 2 Peter is a fighting letter. He is saying: listen, false teaching is a clear and present danger, eternal destinies are at risk and Satan likes to create confusion around the message of salvation.
I think it is important to recognize that never before in human history have we had the potential for greater exposure to spiritual deception and twisted truth than we do today. You know, most generations of the church did not have television and radio and books available to them. We’ve had all of those things for decades, but now you add in the internet and you add in social media, and you add in podcasts and stuff. The potential has never been greater to be exposed to false teaching.
I want us to understand that Peter is energized. He wants to confront any kind of teaching that is contrary to the Word of God, any kind of teaching that would contradict and add to the gospel. What Peter wants to communicate to you and to me is: it is actually possible for followers of Jesus to unwittingly embrace that which is wrong.
Now, we are starting this new series in 2 Peter chapter 2, that we have entitled, ‘Be Aware! False Teaching Ahead.’ The first series that we did from 2 Peter was the one where we said, it was entitled, ‘Be Diligent to Grow!’ Just to remind you of the way 2 Peter is laid out. Chapter 1 deals with the Cultivation of Spiritual Maturity, which is what we’ve already looked at. Chapter number 3, which we will be looking at in the future, deals with Confidence in Jesus’ Return. But, chapter number 2, which we have before us now, is Caution about False Teachers. There is an emphasis in this chapter on denunciation. The theme is that of heresy and the focus is on our adversaries.
The title that I have given to today’s message is, ‘The Reality of Danger.’ What I want to do is, I want to read the first three verses of 2 Peter, chapter 2, and invite you to follow along in your Bibles as I read. Peter writes:
“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. Many will follow their sensuality and because of them the way of truth will be maligned; 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.”
Now, basically today’s plan is to do four things. Number one, we are going to look at an examination of the first three verses of 2 Peter. We are going to, then, look at a present-day illustration of false teaching. Yes, there is false teaching in our day. Then, we are going to look at two key questions. Then, we are going to conclude by some life response, as we spend time in God’s word. Sound like a good plan? Well, let’s get started with it.
First of all, an examination of chapter 2, verses 1-3. As we begin to look at this, you will notice the first word in chapter 2 is the word, ‘but.’ You will remember, in the Greek original there were no chapter divisions. At the end of chapter 1, in verses 20 and 21, he is talking about the reliability of God’s word as it has been given through God’s prophets. But then he begins chapter 2 with the word, ‘but.’ He says, “But, false prophets…” not my prophets, but false prophets also arose among the people. He is talking here about the pattern that happened in Old Testament history. He says, just as there were false prophets among the people in the Old Testament, so there are going to be false teachers among you.
I want you to notice how he talks about how this is going to happen. He says it over-and-over again in these verses. In verse 1 he says, “There will be false teachers.” Don’t think that won’t happen. He says they, “Will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” In verse 2, he says that many in the church “Will follow them,” and the way of truth, “Will be maligned.” It is going to happen. Then, in verse 3, “They will exploit you with false words.”
Now, this is just simply normal satanic strategy to distort the way of salvation. Pastor Mark took us through the book of Galatians over a number of months, and we saw that coming up many, many times. If you go to Acts, chapter 20, verses 29 and 30, the apostle Paul meets with the Ephesian elders and he says to them, I want you to understand as leaders of the church that false teaching is going to originate from outside of the church. He also says that false teaching is going to originate from inside of the church. But either place it might originate from, he says, I want you to be alert to the fact it is going to happen. You need to expect that it will find its way among you as part of the church.
I want you to notice some of the phraseology here. In verse 1 it says that these false teachers “Will secretly introduce, (that is the way the New American Standard reads) these things.” The NET Bible says, “They will infiltrate.” What an interesting picture, isn’t it? This verb only happens one time in the New Testament. It is a verb that can mean the idea of smuggling, of creeping in, of being subtly subversive. Their desire is to substitute human thinking for divine truth; to give us alternatives that sound like divine truth and they often do that by redefining terms. The picture he has given is that teaching will come that is camouflaged in Biblical sounding clothing.
Then, he goes on to say, he says there in verse 1, they will bring “destructive heresies.” Why are they destructive? Because they deal with the issues of life and death, spiritually. It is destructive because it is a distortion of God’s truth. He says in verse 2, “Many will follow.” Many will be sucked into this false truth. They will have success, Peter is saying, in detouring people away from Christ and away from His truth.
Look at verse 2. He says, as a result, “The way of truth will be maligned.” It will be discredited; it will be deformed. Now, this isn’t fun stuff to talk about, but it is stuff we need to talk about.
In verse 3 he says, “They will exploit you with false words,” with deceptive forged terminology. It will be spiritual sounding vocabulary, but they will be using a different dictionary. I learned when I was in seminary a lot about that when it came to criticism of Scripture. For example there arose a group of people who would say, in answer to the question, is the Bible inspired?, they would say, oh yes, but they didn’t mean inspiration the way it was classically understood. They meant, yeah, the Word of God is somewhere in the Bible; you’ve got to go in there and throw out all the bad stuff and eventually you will sort of find that which is inspired. That is not what God intended with that concept of inspiration; but that is why it sounds like the same vocabulary, but they used different dictionary meanings.
Here is what happens to us, I think, in the church, we often think, false teaching, well that happened in a different era. I mean that happened in the Old Testament. That happened, of course, in New Testament times, when the apostles were running around, but it doesn’t really happen where I live today. Or, we think, false teaching, that happens in some other place. But, no, it has always been Satan’s ever-present plan since Genesis, chapter 3, when he said to Eve, Did God really say this? It has always been his plan, to have false teaching active in the world.
So, what we have done is, we’ve just given a little bit of an examination, an overview, of the first three verses of chapter 2. What I want to do is, I want to now talk about a present-day illustration of false teaching. Now, if you’ve been around Wildwood for a while, you know that in past years we’ve taken on false teaching. For example, we tackled the teaching that is out there called ‘prosperity teaching,’ which says that it is God’s absolute will for you to be healthy and wealthy. We looked at that Biblically. We’ve taken time to look at issues like marriage and same-sex issues, and we’ve examined that Biblically.
What I want to talk about now as a present-day illustration of false teaching is what is known as, the Secular Social Justice Worldview. When you see that word, worldview, you might ask, what does that really mean, what is a worldview? Well, a worldview is a lens through which we understand the world around us. Too often, many in the church are novices when it comes to understanding worldviews.
What I want to do in the next few moments is I really want to compare and contrast this false teaching, which I am calling the Secular Social Justice Worldview, or SSJ, for short, and the Divine Biblical Worldview, or D-Bib, for short, for an abbreviation. So, we are going to be looking at these things, I know this sounds like a lot of detail, but it is important that we follow it in order to understand it. So, we are going to look at the Secular Social worldview compared and contrasted with the Divine Biblical worldview.
Here is what I want you to understand about SSJ: unapologetically it is promoted as a replacement for the Divine Biblical worldview. They don’t even stutter about that; it is replacement for the Biblical worldview, the Judeo-Christian worldview.
So, let’s take a closer look at it, okay? We’ll go to school a little bit. When it comes to the culture’s core fundamental problem, what do they both say? Well, secular social justice says that the core fundamental problem is cultural oppression, what they would call white supremacy. They would say that the core fundamental problem is “out there,” it is social, and it is institutional.
What does the Divine Biblical worldview say? It says, well, the core fundamental problem in the culture is human rebellion. It is disobedience and ungodliness. The core fundamental problem is “in here,” it’s in the heart. It is internal and it is personal.
Now, let’s just expand on those differences for a moment. Culture’s core fundamental problem, specifically, what the secular social justice worldview says, the problem is just “whiteness.” It is white heteronormative males oppressing people of color, oppressing women, oppressing the LGBTQ+ community. That is the problem, and that is the problem group. And notice they would say that all are so labeled regardless of individual, personal character. It doesn’t make any difference if someone has individual, personal character, they are all part of the problem.
Then, by way of some comparison, specifically the culture’s core fundamental problem, according to the Divine Biblical worldview, is sin. Every human heart is darkened by sin, and all stand guilty before God. There is another “all” statement. They would say all are violators of God’s righteousness and have no hope of self-rehabilitation. Then, we make a note, we would say, the Biblical view would say, the Biblical worldview is, sin does not inhabit one ethnic group more than another. Sinful hearts, left unconverted, breed ungodly thoughts, desires, words, and deeds.
What is the solution to the problem then? Well, the Secular Social Justice worldview would say the solution is found in the state, it is found in government, what we need is system change. The key idea is, “revolution,” overthrow the oppressors, eliminate all systems and institutions, elevate “victims” (quote, unquote) to leadership and redistribute resources from oppressors to the oppressed.
What is the solution on the Divine Biblical worldview’s side? Well, it says the solution to the problem is found in a Living Savior. It is not system change; it is heart change. The key idea is, “redemption,” not revolution. It is heart transformation and only God can change hearts, and transformation comes through Jesus’ work on the cross, which leads to changed lives and reconciled relationships.
How about the source of truth? Where is truth to be found? Well, in the Secular Social Justice worldview they would say that truth is found in the life experience of those oppressed, truth is subjective. There is a technical term for that, it is called standpoint epistemology. By contrast, the Divine Biblical worldview says that truth is found in divine revelation in the Bible. It is not subjective, it is objective and there is a technical term for that, it is called Biblical epistemology.
How about this—is forgiveness available? Well, the Secular Social Justice worldview says there is none necessary for victims and none available for oppressors. How about the Divine Biblical worldview? It would say yes, forgiveness is available for all who repent and believe as it says in Romans, chapter 1, and verse 16.
Hang in there with me now, we’re just trying to understand all of this. What about the emphasis of the two? Well, the Secular Social Justice worldview has an emphasis on division. It stresses differences in class, race, gender, sexual orientation. Under that worldview, everyone is in two groups, the oppressed or the oppressors. In the Divine Biblical worldview, there is an emphasis on unity. It stresses diligence in maintaining unity as it says in Ephesians 4, verses 1-6, and everyone is in two groups, either in Christ, rescued with a destiny of eternity with the Lord or in Adam, lost with a destiny in judgment.
What is the core tactic of the Secular Social Justice worldview? It is to silence all alternative voices. You may have seen some of this being promoted in our society now. In the Divine Biblical worldview, the core tactic is to be kind and graciously appeal to all, as it says in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 24-26.
The ultimate outcome of these two worldviews? Well, the Secular Social Justice worldview says this, politically righting the wrongs of society will lead to a veritable utopia. Now, I have actually heard, I don’t mean reading about it, I’ve heard people actually say that in our town. The ultimate outcome in the Divine Biblical worldview is, only the return of the Lord Jesus Christ can right the wrongs of society and establish His kingdom of righteousness on earth.
So, just a little bit of a summary of a current illustration of false teaching, a present-day illustration. We’ve taken a little look at those verses, we’ve looked at this present-day illustration, seen the contrast, I now want to ask and answer two key questions. The first key question is this, why am I alarmed by this? Why does this get me going?
Well, I have two answers for that. The first one is, the origins and foundations of the Secular Social Justice worldview. We need to understand where this comes from. As a backdrop to all of this, my family background, my family heritage is being German. You can probably guess that from the last name of Hess. Also, in my family line we have the name Kinsey, which originally was Kintzy when they came over from Germany, K-i-n-t-z-y. Also, in my family line, we have the Zimmermans, so you can tell there is German there. That is my heritage. Many of you know that I am a seventh and eighth generation American and my German ancestors came here a long time ago. There was some real spiritual background in my family line. So, in some ways, I can feel good about my German heritage. On the other hand, some very damaging influences have come out of Germany.
When I was going to seminary in the 1970s, one of the things we had to talk about was what was called ‘higher criticism’ of the Bible. The higher critics are those who sought to undermine the supernatural nature of Scripture. They sought to undermine the reliability of Scripture. What is interesting is this whole school of thought of higher criticism came from, guess where? It came from Germany. We used to say this, isn’t it amazing that a group of dead Germans from the 1800s were having such an influence in the twentieth century?
Here we have (pictures of) many of the fathers of the higher critics from the 1800s. You had Ferdinand Baur; you had David Strauss; you had Julius Welhausen; you had Johann Eichorn; and you had Ludwig Ferbach. So, when it came to the whole system of false teaching about higher criticism, I was in the 1970s and I am dealing with a bunch of dead Germans from the 1800s who had an amazing influence on our culture.
Now, many of you have heard about Marxism and some of us who are younger, I think, don’t truly fully understand what Marxism is all about—of course Marxism was developed by a guy by the name of Karl Marx. There is a picture of him there on the screen. He also was from the 1800s and he developed this philosophy, which we call Marxism, that is totally a Godless philosophy. Marx originally developed what was often termed, “economic Marxism.” Economic Marxism was what was utilized by the Soviet Union when after World War II they took over all these countries. Here is what economic Marxism—hang in there with me now, we’re going somewhere. Economic Marxism basically said this: if you are part of the upper class, they called that the bourgeoisie, if you are part of the upper class, if you were a property owner, if you were highly educated, or you were a business person, you were automatically the problem. You were automatically guilty. If you were part of the working class, what they called the proletariat, you were automatically innocent.
Now, how did that actually work out in real life? Many of you know that I’ve been going to Latvia, which was under the thumb [being completely under another’s control] of the Soviet Union. I’ve been going there for three decades. I’ve talked to a lot of people in Latvia, and you know what happened when the Soviet Union came in under economic Marxism? You know what happened to the upper class? No one was evaluated. What happened to you if you were part of the upper class is, you were either marched out to a field or out to the forest and they put a bullet in your head. Or you were sent to prison camp; or you were sent to Siberia and your business was destroyed. If they didn’t kill you, you were assigned to a menial job. What was their goal? Their goal was to physically eliminate people and thus silence them.
What happened is the Soviet Union began to unravel, and they knew early on this idea of economic Marxism, it wasn’t working very well. There was a group of people back in Germany who began to think: now, why did this really fail? What was wrong? How can we re-work all of that? So, a lot of thought was done at another place called the Frankfort School in Germany, and they developed Cultural Marxism in the 1900s. We have some of these guys (on the screen): Herbert Marcuse; Erich Fromm; Max Horkheimer; Theodor Adorno; and Walter Benjamin. They adjusted Marxism into what they now today call Cultural Marxism.
It is important to understand: now all these guys are dead Germans again, but also these are all secular humanists. By the way, I have read thousands of pages on all of this stuff and Cultural Marxism is the heart of the Secular Social Justice worldview. And, if you are in the wrong group, if you are in the wrong group, Cultural Marxism says that maybe you’re not going to be physically eliminated and silenced, but we are going to socially eliminate you and silence you.
The heart of Marxism—I don’t care what form it takes—listen here carefully, the heart of Marxism is to eliminate God completely from society. That is what Marxism is all about. I would just say now today, it is amazing to me that a group of dead Germans from the 1900s has such an influence in the twenty-first century.
So, the first question is, why am I alarmed? I am alarmed by the origins and foundations of this Secular Social Justice worldview. The second reason why I am alarmed is that the Secular Social Justice worldview is defective and at the core, diminishes and distorts the gospel. That is very, very significant. The sovereign God always has taken the distortion of the gospel very seriously because it can affect people’s eternity.
Remember what it says in Galatians, chapter 1, verse 8 and 9? Paul writes and he says, “Even if we preach or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached, he is to be accursed! (That is very polite language, it basically says they are to be damned) If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he (or she) is to be accursed!” Again, the idea of being damned. God takes this very, very seriously.
I’ll give you an illustration. The Bible points to the cross and the blood of Christ for forgiveness. The Secular Social Justice worldview says, no, you are guilty if you are in the wrong group, parenthesis, being white. You are guilty if you are in the wrong group, regardless of your character and actions. They would say you are responsible for past generations. No forgiveness available at all! Now, that is completely contrary to God’s standards.
We see God’s standard in Ezekiel 18:20. God says, “The son will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the son’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness.” Listen, men and women, if you study out the Secular Social Justice worldview, you will find that there is no Creator there; there is no divine design for male and female and family; there is no Savior there; there is no divine script for sexuality; there is no divine judgment of evil. So, it really creates a fallacy.
I love the way that Owen Strachan put it, he says this, “Jesus died, it seems, and destroyed the power of every sin, except the sins of being “white” or benefiting from “whiteness.” These wrongs only Marxism can address.”
Let me just summarize a little bit of what I think we’ve looked at so far. When you misdiagnose the problem, you can never, ultimately, solve the issue.
So, why are we dealing with this? Well, the first question we addressed is why I’m alarmed, and I’ve given you two reasons. But, secondly, I want to bring up this question, why is the church vulnerable to this? Why would we be vulnerable to the Secular Social Justice worldview? It is because we believe it is wrong to discriminate, we know that the Bible teaches us that we are to treat everyone justly and fairly.
We know what is says in Leviticus 19:15, where God instructs us, as His followers, He says, “You shall do no injustice in judgment: you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” See, we understand those things.
We know what it says in James, chapter 2, and verse 9, it says there, “If you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law,” God’s law. So, naturally, when there is talk of justice, we want to lean into that.
Now we must, again, admit we know that historically there has been injustice inside of the United States of America. We don’t need to delineate all of that. We know that there has been injustice inside of the American church historically. But here is the way we need to handle things: when and where there is a failure to be just, it should be openly acknowledged and repented of by the people who were guilty of doing it.
The reality, men and women, is this: the Secular Social Justice worldview is truly an anti-Biblical worldview, and it is masquerading under the guise of social justice.
Voddie Baucham does a great job of summarizing this and I think this is really where we are at, he says, “This ideology [the SSJ] has used our guilt and shame over America’s past, our love for the brethren, and our good and godly desire for reconciliation and justice (here we go now) as a means through which to introduce destructive heresies.” Yes, that is true. He goes on to say, “We cannot embrace, modify, baptize, or Christianize these ideologies. We must identify, resist, and repudiate them.” How true that is!
We are warned in Colossians 2:8. He says this to the church, he says this to us, he says this to Christian leaders, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy (here we go) which depends on human tradition and the elemental forces of this world, rather than Christ.” In other words, we are not to be captured or become entangled with an ungodly world view.
Now, as we’ve covered a lot of material today, there are a lot of unaddressed questions and a lot of unaddressed issues. We could have a lot of discussion about all of that and I want you to know that we plan to expand our Biblical dialogue on this, which will happen near the turn of the new year, so you can watch for that to happen. But what I want us to do is, having looked at all of this information and looked at this Scripture today, I want us to think about some life response that we can have. What does God want me to do? What does He want you to do? Well, I am going to suggest three things:
First of all, to Be a Berean! In Acts, chapter 17, verse 11, it says that the Bereans would examine the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. In other words, don’t just listen to what’s out there, but evaluate what’s out there. Don’t just automatically assume that something is good, but let’s search the Scriptures to see what it has to say about these things.
The second life response is not only to Be a Berean, but to Be Salt and Light, right? I mean, injustice is real in our world, and we are sinful people, it is going to happen. How am I to respond to it? Well, we are to love others, other people as it says in Romans 13:8-10 and chapter 12, verse 21. We need to love other people. Part of that means we need to exhibit humility. We need to do what God says and that is, we seek to overcome evil with good. Then, secondly, as salt and light, we need to listen to other people, as it says in James 1:19. So, we should listen to people who may be of a different color or of a different ethnic group. At least understand what they are saying. And if a law or a policy needs to change, we need to help seek to change that. We need to speak up if someone is being treated unfairly because of their skin color or their ethnicity.
So, we need to Be a Berean, we need to Be Salt and Light, and then, thirdly, this one is really important to me, we need to Be Gracious and Civil. Do you know how rare this is today? To be gracious and civil? You know I have a Twitter account, which I haven’t really launched a whole lot, and I am really thinking about shutting the whole thing down. The reason why I am thinking about shutting the whole thing down is, oh my goodness, what a dark world the Twitter world is. And the last thing you see in that world is people being gracious and civil.
But God says that how we are to be. Look at this passage from 2 Timothy 2, verses 24, 25, and 26. It is a great reminder. He says, “The Lord’s bond-servant (anyone who is following the Lord Jesus) must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.” How about this one? “With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth (and I like this part) and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
That is what I need to be modeling, that is what all of us need to be modeling.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You for today. We thank You we had this opportunity to see Peter’s heart and his concern about false teaching leaking into the church, distorting the gospel, maligning the gospel, creating confusion about what is really important. May we be men and women who live out 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 24, 25, and 26, that we would live that out for Your honor and for Your glory and we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
The Reality of Danger
2 Peter 2:1-3
1. Peter paints a picture that false teachers will come and should be anticipated by followers of Jesus. What causes that and why do you think Peter was so assured it would happen?
2. How aware of the Secular Social Justice Worldview were you before Sunday’s message?
What, if any, manifestations of the tenets of the SSJ Worldview have you seen/heard? Elaborate.
3. Were you aware that the SSJ Worldview traces directly back to the atheistic secularists at the Frankfurt school in Germany? Should that make a difference? Why or why not?
4. How does Ezekiel 18:20 apply to some of the rhetoric popular in some circles today?
5. In what ways does false teaching discredit and defame the gospel? (vs. 2b)
6. As a follower of Jesus how should Colossians 2:8 be applied in our life? Share ideas.
7. What are some practical ways you can live out our call to be salt and light in our world?
8. Pray 2 Timothy 2:24-26 before the Lord for you and your family.
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