Since its beginning, the Lord’s covenant community has always had to face the danger of heresy. From those who enticed Israel to worship the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai thousands of years ago to “leaders” who encourage the worship of false, unbiblical gods today, false teachers have been a perennial problem for the church.
Near the end of his life, the apostle Peter found it necessary to warn the church in a second epistle about the dangers of false teaching. In his day, several heretics were preaching against the second coming of Christ in judgment. These teachers claimed that since the affairs of the world have continued in the same way ever since the beginning of creation, things would always be as they are now and that Christ would not return in judgment (3:4). They said that since Jesus had not returned in their day, He would never return (3:9), and thus they could engage in all sorts of immorality (2:1–3, 10b–22).
Had these teachers been true believers, they would not have explicitly denied the authority of the prophets and apostles (1:16–21). Nor would they have implicitly rejected sound teaching through twisting the words of Paul and the other Scriptures in order to fit their own purposes (3:15–16). Instead they would have understood that the seeming delay of Jesus’ return was in fact no delay at all; rather, it was an expression of God’s mercy toward His elect (vv. 8–10).
If these false teachers had truly embraced the Gospel, they would have seen that God’s past judgments in history prove that the day of final judgment at Jesus’ return is sure to come (2:4–10a). If they had been true disciples, they would have understood that this fact, as well as the gift of His divine power, makes it necessary and possible to live godly lives patterned after the holiness of God Himself (1:1–15).
With this final letter to the church, Peter reminds us that we should not be surprised when destructive heresies come our way (2:1–3). Rather, knowing that they are sure to come, we must prepare ourselves for the danger by growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. For if we are not well-grounded in orthodox teaching, we will by no means be stable enough to resist falsehood (3:17–18).
Take some time today to read through 2 Peter and review the apostle’s teaching. Remember that though the false teaching we may have to face today might be different in its specific expression, all false teachers commonly deny biblical authority in some way and often promote aberrational eschatological and ethical views. Ask the Lord to help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and seek out community that will encourage your sanctification and study.