Fight Valiantly! Strong and Stable
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 29 Mar 2019
The apostle Peter urges us to remain strong and stable in the face of false teaching in the church, in today’s instalment of our Lent series on contending for the gospel. Watch the video podcast of this Lent post on our YouTube channel.
In his second epistle, the apostle Peter warns us again very clearly that false teaching is an inevitable part of church life which should not make us panic. He says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Peter’s main message is that the Lord himself knows how to deal with such people: “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2 Peter 2:9-10). It must be frustrating to deal with this sort of person, so the injunction is not to panic and lash out at them, but to trust that the Lord knows how to deal with such people.
Our goal, in such a context, is to be ready for the day of judgement ourselves. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these [the new heavens and a new earth], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14). Some people will twist the scriptures, but “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18).
So false teaching is prophesied, and this very prediction equips and enables us to remain firm and stable and not be carried away into it ourselves. As Dick Lucas and Chris Green describe the false teachers (in their commentary on 2 Peter), “Like grisly Pied Pipers, they head for hell with a crowd of disciples at their heels.” They also add that:
“Peter can see the damage that results from believing and teaching an error. We find it hard to understand how people who seem so amiable can be so harmful, but that can only be because we have not made the effort to be well-taught Christians who are willing to call false teaching false teaching. That puts us in supreme danger, for we are prime targets for those who wish to ‘seduce the unstable’ (2:14). We should make increasing our knowledge of Christian doctrine a high priority, so that when it is challenged, denied or quietly replaced, we can confidently and accurately affirm the truth.”
Questions for Reflection
1. What does it mean for people who “indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” to deny Jesus as our Master?
2. How does the biblical prediction that there will be false teaching in the church help us to face it today?
3. Why do we find it difficult to believe that “people who seem so amiable can be so harmful”?
Catch up with the whole series here.
Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society and the editor of Gospel Flourishing in a Time of Confusion, the latest book from Church Society.
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