Summary: A brief message about the reality and danger of false teachers
BEING PREPARED. If you knew that somebody was going to break into your house and steal your stuff how would you respond? Imagine, if you will, while at Walmart that somebody that you do not know, standing behind you in line, looks over your shoulder and sees a piece of identification with your address on it while you are paying for your purchase. Having seen your address they say to you “5270 Taylorsville Rd. in Finchville, huh? I think I will break in there sometime and take whatever is of value to me.” I do not think that there is a single one of us who would take that type of threat lightly rather we would do all we could to ensure that the plans of those who seek our harm would be thwarted. IF WE KNOW THAT THERE IS A CERTAIN DANGER OR EVEN THREAT OF DANGER COMING UPON US WE WILL DO ALL THAT WE CAN TO PREPARE FOR SUCH IN HOPES OF AVOIDING IT.
1 JOHN 4:1—With that being said, our passage this morning is all about warning us about false teachers in the Church. I have titled this sermon “Test the Spirits” and this title flows from 1 JOHN 4:1 which sets us up for 2 PETER 3. Peter, having reminded the church that the message that they received from him and his coworkers in the Lord was not some message that they had contrived with their own cunning but came from their eye witness experience of Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection (2 PETER 1:16-21), moves now to encourage the Church to BEWARE OF and BE AWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS AND PREACHERS that has, have and will rise up in Jesus’ Church seeking to deceive believers for the purpose of destruction. The idea behind this message is that with the warning that we will see is that we will be prepared to defend ourselves against false teachers as we “test the spirits” of any who come among us to teach/preach God’s Word.
Beware and Be Aware of False Teachers
False teachers will never come into the Church and your life wearing a nametag that says, “Hello! I’m a false teacher!” As verse 13b reveals they celebrate their deception among God’s people. Because false teachers will not so clearly reveal themselves we must have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” as such that we can point them out and pick them out so that we can show them the way out of the Church and our lives.
1. THEY TEACH DESTRUCTIVE HERESIES (2:1). Heresies, erroneous teaching especially at the expense of revealed truth, that deny the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the work of Christ, etc., salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. These are destructive in the sense that they destroy the very foundation of the Gospel message upon which the Church has been founded. The designation “destructive” also speaks to the disastrous eternal consequences, both for them and their followers, that these teaching such and submitting to such will have.
2. DENYING JESUS (2:1). While these false teachers claim to be followers of Christ they deny Him in their teaching and preaching. Notice the language used here. These are people who make claims to salvation but clearly are not of those who have been genuinely saved for though they claim Jesus as Savior, they deny Him as Master (Lord). These are those who, while affirming the fact that Jesus died for sins and offers forgiveness, they deny His Lordship over those whom He saves. Furthermore, these also teach and preach more of a self-help approach to life rather than a need for Jesus. Their teaching is consumed with “me” and “self” and “my potential, worth, goodness, ability to try harder, etc.” rather than our need for Jesus and His power and work in and through us.
3. INDULGING IN THE LUST OF DEFILING PASSIONS and TEACH OTHERS TO DO THE SAME (2:9b). Because they deny the Lordship of Christ they deny His teaching in regards to the conduct of His people. Therefore, they not only practice all sorts of “defiling lusts” but teach others to do the same. They affirm that which God denies and denies that which God affirms all in accordance with their sinful inward desires and lusts.
a. SINFULLY UNASHAMED (2:13b). Because of their rejection of the Lordship of Christ they are unashamed in their intentional sinfulness and because of
the determination of their unregenerate hearts they have lost the ability to blush at their own sin.
4. DESPISE AUTHORITY (2:10a). Their unwillingness to submit to the Lordship of Christ manifests itself in their unwillingness to submit to the authorities Jesus has appointed unto them. This can be understood as a despising of earthly authorities (governmental authorities) and those who have been called to a position of authority in the Church (pastors, elders, overseers, etc.).