There is such a contrast between the two letters of Peter. The first letter was written to Christians beginning to go through persecution. It was a letter of encouragement, of hope. Despite what they were going through they needed to remember Jesus who endured suffering as well.
The second letter, written a couple of years later, was encouragement of a different type. This time, the encouragement was to remain true to God’s word and not to be led astray by false teachers.
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV).
Sadly, there have always been those who have not given God’s people his message of truth. This happened throughout the history of Israel as prophets would claim to be from God but, in reality, were simply saying what the people (or the king) wanted to hear.
These people were still around in the days of the first Christians. They are referred to here as “false teachers.” The Greek word that is used is pseudodidaskaloi. We have brought the first part of that word into English: “pseudo.” The definition of this word is “not genuine, sham” (Oxford Dictionary of English). These teachers were fakes. And Christians were warned not to listen to them.
This is still a problem among God’s people. There are those who, for whatever reason, do not teach the word of God accurately. Usually, they begin to “secretly introduce destructive heresies.” What is a “heresy”? Again, looking at the word in Greek, haireseis, is informative. The first meaning is “act of taking, capture.” These false teachers were capturing the hearts of the Christians through what they were teaching. And what they were teaching was “destructive.”
The second definition of “heresy” is “choosing, choice.” These false teachers were dividing the Christians by having them choose what they would believe. Peter wrote that they were even going to the point of “denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” – they would even deny Jesus! Perhaps it wasn’t a blatant denial of him but their teaching would undermine his Lordship in the lives of the Christians.
God was aware of what they were teaching as he was aware of false teaching throughout the history of his people. And he would deal with it! If he did not spare angels who sinned, or the world of Noah’s day, or what was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah, he will deal with false teachers whenever and wherever they appear (2 Peter 2:4-10).
Just as God was aware of what Lot was going through, “a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:7-8), he is aware of what we go through. And he will “rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).
The society we live in more and more resembles what Peter wrote about here. We can be encouraged by Peter’s words, that God is aware of what is going on. We need to hold true to his word.
Readings for next week:
9 April – 1 Peter 2
10 April – 1 Peter 3
11 April – 1 Peter 4-5
12 April – 2 Peter 1
13 April – 2 Peter 2-3