One rule of sound, biblical interpretation is that we must base our interpretation and application of a scriptural text on the intent of the original author. Every book in the Bible was written to a specific audience with specific needs, and so we must try to determine the original circumstances surrounding a particular book’s composition in order to determine the original intent of its author.
Even though we are not the original recipients of the Bible, Scripture remains the infallible guide for the church. As a part of God’s people across the ages, we know that needs analogous to those of the earliest Christians will be ours as well. Our study of 2 Peter has made this clear. Peter had to remind his original audience of the need to live holy lives (1:1–15), because in his day, many in the visible church denied that biblical morality is binding upon believers. In our day, many make similar claims. Likewise, just as the false teachers of Peter’s day denied the inspiration of Scripture (vv. 16–21) so too is inspiration attacked today. False teachers who are motivated by greed and ungodly sensuality continue to bring destructive heresies into the visible church just as they did in Peter’s day (2:1–16).
False teachers remain “waterless springs” who give us words that do not satisfy our spiritual thirst (v. 17). Today’s passage gives us some of the content of these words spoken by the false teachers of Peter’s day, which content we must still be on the look out for today lest we be deceived. We read in verses 18–19 that the message of these teachers included promises of freedom. These promises likely included freedom from moral restraint and freedom from accountability to God, since these teachers encouraged licentious behavior and denied final judgment (2:14; 3:4). However, far from resulting in true freedom, these teachings actually made the false teachers slaves of their own corruption.
Alarmingly, these teachers targeted those who were “barely escaping” from error (v. 18). False teaching has a greater potential to influence those new to the faith, and so we must do what we can to protect new converts, otherwise they might fall back into old patterns of sin.
While we know that all true converts will never fall finally away, we still must do all we can to help those professing faith not to fall away, for that is one way God keeps His people faithful (Ezek. 3:16–21; James 5:19–20). The discipleship of new converts is important because they are especially susceptible to falsehood. Regrettably, the church in our day conducts evangelism without discipleship. Ask your elders how you can help further the work of discipleship in your church.