Be Alert and Immersed

May 14, 2023 | Jess Rainer

Passage: 2 Peter 1:20-2:10

Today: Peter sounds the alarm the against false teaching.  He rings the bell loud.  Quote: “If chapter 1 is the carrot, chapter 2 is the crack of the whip over our heads. There are no commands, no admonitions, no imperatives in chapter 2; just pure, terrifying description of what will happen to those who fall prey to the false teachers in the church.” – John Piper.  Does this sound like fun?!  We are going to see just how passionate Peter is when it comes to God’s Word being distorted.  The passion and tone are in true Peter form. It’s this chapter in 2 Peter that actually makes it one of the most least-preached books in the New Testament.  Peter’s passion should cause us to stop and listen.  To stop and ask the question, “Why is Peter so concerned about false teachers?”  To stop and ask the question, “Am I concerned about false teachers?”  Let me ask you a question: How do you know what I say from up here is true?   What would do if I stood up here and said, “I believe if everyone gives $5,000 today, then you will be blessed with your own personal unicorn?” My hope is that everyone would be really concerned. And I’m thankful no one is pulling out their credit card right now…We have to be alert against false teaching.  And while this one feels like it could be a large weight to carry, it’s really not because the way we are alert is by immersed. Here’s what I mean (and what I want you to walk away with today): Be alert against false teaching by being immersed in God’s teaching.  As you turn to 2 Peter in your Bibles, let me remind you about our current Sermon Series: Grow in Grace.  What has been the main point so far in this letter from Peter?  Our faith must be precious enough that we cling to it above everything else.  That clinging – and the growth that happens when we cling – is evidence of our salvation.  And that includes making God’s Word central to our lives.  Read 2 Peter 1:20 – 2:3. 

Last week, we saw how we can trust the Bible because it is infallible and inerrant.  Those are two fancy words for saying the Bible can’t be wrong and it’s without error.  Before Peter moves on to people who try to use the Bible for their own personal gain, we see one more way we can trust the Bible: It’s inspired.  I’ll explain what that means in a second, but here’s is how this passage starts: God’s Word speaks.

1) God’s Word speaks. (vs. 1:20-21)  Peter starts off verse 20 by saying “Above all…"  Above all of what?  Last week, we saw the command to stand firm on God’s Word.  We saw that we must constantly fill our minds with God’s truth.  We can do that because we can trust God’s Word.  And it’s by God’s Word that we see.  Above all of those reasons, Peter tells us that scripture – the Bible – is God speaking.  Take a look at verses 20 and 21:  20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.  Peter writes and says that Old Testament (and now the New Testament) were not words from a human.  Now, if you are paying close attention, you will have noticed that just a few minutes ago, I told you that we are going to see Peter’s passion in these verses.  But here, Peter is writing that the Bible is not any human initiative.  So, what gives? God used human authors – human writers – to bring about His words. When God used humans to bring His words into humanity, God didn’t take away their brains. They didn’t become robots. God used their personalities – their perspective – their Sitz Im Leben (German term) – their situation in life. God used all of those pieces as part of His way in bringing forth His Word. When you read the Bible, you are reading God’s Word, but you are reading it through the historical setting and personality of Peter – or Paul – or David. That’s why whenever I say, “Peter says (blank),” I’m not saying these are Peter’s own thoughts and ideas, but rather these are the words that God spoke through Peter.  That also helps you when you are reading the Bible to know the author and know the setting because God used those. 

The next question that comes after that is “How did God used humans in a way that it wasn’t their own thoughts or initiatives?” That question is answered in verse 21: 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.  The writers of the Bible opened their lives, the Holy Spirit filled them, and then God spoke through them. I’ve heard it said before like this: “They raised the sails of their lives and the Holy Spirit carried them.”[1]  Illustration: I hold on to a tent in the middle of a storm in Port St Joe.  I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the power of the wind.  There was a point that I realized if I held on, I was going with the tent. Thankfully for me, a man came running out with a knife and started cutting the thing to shreds.  In this letter, Peter is holding and letting the Holy Spirit use him.  Here’s what this means:  The Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible is God speaking.  God’s Word speaks.  It is alive and living and breathing.  God’s Word isn’t just a good beach read or just a book to study in the library.  It’s those and so much more.  The Bible is not simply a book to be studied, but a word to be encountered. The Bible is not something God did. The Bible is something God does.  Peter is making that case so clear. We are about to find out why he making the case.  There are some people who want to use God’s Word for personal gain.  The false teachers were on the rise and Peter is sounding the alarm.  Here’s what we see next: You must know God’s Word.


2) You must know God’s Word. (vs. 2:1-3)  In just 3 verses, look at how Peter describes the people who distort God’s Word:  1But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.  In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.  When you read these verses, what does it tell you about false teachers:

1) They are evil - “Evil teaching and shameful immorality” and greed

2) They are smart - “Cleverly teach” “Make up clever lies”

3) They are convincing - “Many will follow” - Not a couple. Not a few. Many.  These teachers will have a charisma and personality that draws people in.

If we are to be on guard against false teachers, and we stopped at those three descriptors, it doesn’t seem overwhelming to be able to start picking out who is a false teacher.  Just look for the evil, cunning guy over there and call it today.  But what did Peter say in verse 1?  Let’s read it again:  1But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you.  Did you catch that?  There will be false teachers among you.  Illustration: The Gnome Bunny:  Several years ago, I shared a story about a lady who gave me a Christmas Gnome in a local restaurant.  I’ll have to share it again soon because the story appears to have a lot of legs.  Well, over the years, I have received many a gnome, largely as anonymous gifts.  Figurines, coffee mugs, t-shirts, socks, signs, you name it.  Much like this one (show first gnome).  Go take a look in my office. I have a whole shelf of gnomes. Recently, I walked into my office, it may have been Easter, and I received a gnome gift that was, I don’t know how to put this, different.  Show second gnome.  This just isn’t natural.  Not that gnomes are natural to begin with, but this doesn’t fit the gnome bill. What do you even call this thing? A Gnome Bunny? A Gnonny? A Gnunny? If you walk into my office, and you see all the gnomes, this one will stick out quite clearly. I think most Christians think of false teachers like the Gnunny. But in all reality, Peter is saying they are among you.

Now before you start looking around trying to figure out if there is false teacher among us, like the disciples trying to figure out who was going to betray Jesus, we’re all okay here at The Church at Spring Hill.  We have an elder team that is committed to the inerrancy of scripture.  And just so you all know, the elders receive my full sermon manuscript before I preach for their review every week.  We are committed to teaching God’s Word and only God’s Word. But here’s what these verses mean for you:  The only way you can know what false teaching is, is if you know God’s Word. If you didn’t know what a gnome or a bunny were, you would have no idea that a Gnunny isn’t supposed to happen. That means you must be immersed in God’s Word. Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take the elders word for it. Take God’s Word for it. And it’s really not that hard. Just spend time reading your Bible.  The longer you listen to God, the easier it is to know what is not God’s Word.  The best way to guard against false teachers is by immersing in God’s truth.  Are you filling your mind with God’s Word everyday?  Do you remember how long it takes to forget 50% of the information you consume? 1 hour!  Here’s the reality: someone doesn’t wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to start distorting God’s Word today. I think false teacher will look great on the resume.”  It’s a slow drift.  If I were to ever stray from the inerrancy of God’s Word (which I’m not), it wouldn’t happen overnight. It would be a slow drip that you might miss. And the only way you can catch it is if you are immersed in God’s Word. If we know the Bible is God’s Word to us and we know that false teachers are out there, then we must fight for God’s truth.

3) Fight for God’s truth. (vs. 2:4-10)  From verse 4 to the end of the chapter, Peter gets fired up.  Verses 4 through 10, Peter shows how God punished unrighteousness in the past.  He gives three examples:  1) The angels who rebelled; 2) The flood; 3) Sodom and Gomorrah.  In each of those examples, we also see God working to save the righteous. Why does Peter point to the past judgments of God? Peter is making the point that God punished in the past and God will punish in the future. From verses 11 to 22, Peter does not hold back. Look at what he says in these verses: 12 These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. 17 These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. Tell us how you really feel, Peter…Well, he does…19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 22 They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”

Why does Peter become so passionate? Does he really need to use all of this imagery? Think of it this way: If you knew there was someone that was influencing your child with a philosophy that would end up bringing them harm, what would you do? You’d tell that bozo to get lost. Parents, we are so protective of our kids. Just go watch a rec league soccer or basketball game! That’s the kind of passion and care that Peter is showing here. He knows how much damage can be done with false teachers. As a pastor, I get Peter’s passion. I desperately want you all to hunger and thirst for God’s truth. I said it last week, I’m saying it this week, and I’ll say it again next week – crave truth – God’s truth. Immerse yourself in His Word. What does mean for us?  Fight for God’s truth. We can do this in two ways:

1) Fight for God’s truth in the community

  • Quote: “And this, I think, is one of the great challenges that we’re now going to face in the twenty-first century. If we’re going to hold true for what the Bible says, if we’re going to stand for righteousness and for truth, then we are increasingly going to be on the receiving end of that kind of response: “You people are bigoted, you people are this, you people are that.” …do you want people to like you in the immediacy and essentially despise you in eternity? Or would you rather have them despise you now for your straightforwardness and rejoice with you in eternity?” In other words: Do you have the courage to be a biblical Christian?” – Alistair Begg 
  • Don’t be afraid to lovingly speak God’s truth in the community

2) Fight for God’s truth in your life

  • The best way to read chapter 2 is not as a warning toward others, but as a warning toward yourself
  • It’s easy to read this and start thinking of who might be a false teacher
  • No, read these verses and ask yourself, am I in danger of falling prey?
  • Let me give you one more quote:
    • Quote: The promises of the Bible are real promises, but the warnings of the Bible are real warnings.” – Alistair Begg
    • Let’s believe that. Let’s live like that.
  • Some of you may need to ask yourself if you’ve ever truly taken hold of God’s truth in your life


Let’s close with two questions we can all ask ourselves:

  • Are you alert and are you immersed?
    • Think about everything we’ve learned so far in 2 Peter
      • Our faith must be the most precious thing in this life.
      • We must cling to that faith with everything we have.
      • As we cling, we grow in our faith.
      • The way we grow in our faith is by making God’s Word the only truth in our lives.
    • And now, we’ve learned today, there are people that want to take all of that away from us for their own personal gain.
      • That means we have to ask ourselves two questions:
        • 1) Are you awake to those who want to draw you away?
        • 2) Are you immersing yourself in God’s Word so you know the truth?
      • Let’s be a church that is immersed in God’s Word.
        • Let’s be a church that Satan knows we are so grounded in God’s truth that he doesn’t want to mess with us.
        • Let’s be alert.
        • Let’s be immersed.
      • Let’s pray.

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Series Information

The body of Christ, the church, must be diligent in recognizing false teachers and doctrine while trusting the Scriptures and recognizing true ministers of the Word. By learning to recognize false teachers, Christians will also be able to identify those who teach truth and by living into that truth they can grow in the grace of God and Christian virtue.

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