The lies of false teachers

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The lies of false teachers

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2011 · 5 June 2011

We have been talking about false teachers and we have been discussing how bold and reckless they are, they don’t even tremble when they revile angelic majesties (v. 10). Peter says that they act like animals without reason who are born creatures of instinct to serve man best when dead (v. 12).

Wow, very strong language! And then in the middle of verse 13 we examine their practices. Now we move from their attitude to their actions. Peter says they count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. That is they engage in public wickedness in daylight.

Now that brings us to the third point and where we left off last time two weeks ago. We learned that it was that their sensuality drives them in verse 2, and it was their greed in verse 3 the reason they want to exploit you. Their focus is on personal gain.

Now Peter makes this picture very vivid in verses 15 and 16, "Forsaking the right way they have gone astray having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. But he received a rebuke for his own transgression for a dumb donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet."

Now this is a remarkable account of the Old Testament. "They have forsaken the right way." The "right way," that little phrase, is an Old Testament metaphor which refers to obedience to God's Word.

You find it also in Acts 13:10 where it says, "And you who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord, or the right ways of the Lord?"

And please note here that forsaking the right way is an act of deliberate intent. It describes a direct act of rebellion against the Word of God. They have the Bible but they reject it. They have access to what is right, but they will not listen.

Now in going astray they have followed the pattern of the prototype false prophet, a man by the name of Balaam. Jude makes reference to him as well. He says in verse 11 of his epistle, "They have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam." False teachers can be characterized by what it is they are after, what payment they want.

There is no time to go all the way through Numbers 22, 23, and 24, but let me just tell you the story and look at some passages toward the end. Balaam was a prophet and he had been given by God the ability to speak for God.

The Moabites wanted victory over Israel. And so they came to Balaam who must have had a reputation as being a prophet who could be bought. That's not unusual; we also have many such prophets today who will speak whatever the highest bidder wants to hear.

And so King Balak of Moab sent a messenger to Balaam and said, "We will pay you a great sum of money if you will pronounce a curse on Israel." And by the way, Balak kept increasing the stakes because Balaam said, "I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, to do less or more."

So far reading Numbers 22 he sounds like a loyal man. But behind the scenes the reason he keeps saying that is so that Balak will come back with more money. Even though he kept refusing what was offered and said, "I can only speak what God tells me to speak," and even though in the end he blessed Israel, it is evident that he wanted money and God had to stop him from cursing Israel.

Peter says about Balaam, looking into the past and right into Balaam's heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he says in 2 Peter 2:15, "Balaam, the son of Beor, loved the wages of unrighteousness." He loved to get paid for doing evil. He preferred money to obeying God. He preferred pay to faithfulness.

In Deuteronomy 23: 4-5 it says, "Because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you, nevertheless the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you."

So what did God do? 2 Peter 2:16 says, "but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet." Now there was no outward transgression yet because he hadn't prophesied anything, but God saw the wretchedness of his greedy heart. And what did God use to rebuke him? A dumb donkey, speaking with a voice of a man who restrained the madness of this prophet.

So as he was riding on his donkey, the Lord had to stop him. The word "restrain" means to hinder him. And "madness" simply means literally to be out and beside your own mind. We would say, "He was beside himself." He was so money mad and greedy that the Greek word ‘paraphroneo’ was used, which means to be out of your head.

Let's see the end of the story beginning in Numbers 22:21, "So Balaam arose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. 22And God was angry because he was going." Why? Because the Lord knew his heart, and by the way He knows your heart too just as much.

"22bAnd the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him.” All of a sudden the angel of the Lord stands in the road. “22bNow he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him." Now look at this, "23When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field.”

“But Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyard with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall so he struck her again.”

“26And the angel of the Lord went further and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she laid down under Balaam. So Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick." This donkey is doing what is reasonably instinctive in reacting to a flaming angel with a sword in hand.

Finally the donkey just collapses, and Balaam who is oblivious to all spiritual sense because of his madness was so angry he now begins to hammer the donkey with his stick. "28And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey and she said to Balaam, `What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?'"

Now that's a shocking moment in the life of Balaam. This is not a new donkey, this is an old donkey, we assume, whose carried him many him many times and never had a comment on anything. Balaam is so caught up in it that he responds, "29Then Balaam said to the donkey, `Because you made a mockery of me. If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.'”

“30And the donkey said to Balaam, `Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?' And he said no." You've been a good donkey. You've never done this before. The donkey is saying, don't you think there might be a reason why I veered into the field and the wall and why I finally collapsed?

How is it possible for a donkey to speak? Well, you remember in John 12:28-30 that there was the noise of thunder that the people heard but Jesus heard the voice of God? And you remember in Acts 9:3-7 that Paul heard the Lord Jesus speak to him in a way that others didn't hear. What the people with Balaam heard was probably some noise of donkey braying, but God made the normal braying of a donkey sound like a clear human voice to this mad prophet.

So what happened? Balaam finally prophesied a blessing on Israel. Guess what? He didn't get any money from Balak. He wanted money. God had restrained him and made him prophesy a blessing. But he needed some way to make money.

So when he couldn't curse Israel, he tried to make Israel fall. And what he did was use his powers and his influence to get the men of Israel to be seduced by the women of Moab so that those seductions could pull them into idolatry and intermarriage, advocating orgies of prostitution that would lead to the destruction of the Jewish race as it would be blended and lost in paganism.

Let us look back to Numbers 31: 9-16, "And the sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered. 10And they burned all their cities where they lived and all their camps with fire and 11they took all the spoil and all the prey, both of man and of beast, and 12they brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the congregation of the sons of Israel to the camp at the plains of Moab which are by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”

13And Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp and 14Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15And Moses said to them, `Have you spared all the women? 16Behold, these cause the sons of Israel through the counsel of Balaam to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord."

So what did they do? They had gone out to destroy all of these sons of Israel and Moabite women that had entered into this pagan worship and then they bring back more Moabite women to repeat the same thing.

And Numbers 31:17-19 say, "17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, kill every woman who has known man intimately, 18but all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. 19And you camp outside the camp seven days whoever has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves, you and your captives, on the third day and on the seventh."

Don't you bring back any women who are going to seduce you again, only take those women who have not done that, the rest you need to kill. Here was a holy war against apostasy that had been generated by Balaam. It was a threat to the holiness of God, to those that are sanctified for His purposes and to the existence of His people.

So how do false teachers follow the path of Balaam? First, there is the way they identify themselves, they say: “We're prophets of God, we're Christians, we're pastors, we're preachers and we're teachers”, they are very subtle in their deception.

Secondly, they acknowledge error rather than the right doctrine. They practice evil dressed up in religious robes and teach others contrary to the Christian faith. Thirdly, they are in it for the money and they are in it for the sexual gratification they can get. That's their pattern. And fourthly, they encourage others to follow in the same way.

And then Peter continues to describe the character of their teaching. And here we find the deceptive nature of it made very clear. In 2 Peter 2:17, he characterizes their teaching in this way, "These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm for whom the black darkness has been reserved."

Those of you who have traveled in the land east of Israel where the focus of the world is now, know that it is a very arid and very hot place. In fact, throughout the history of war in Israel, the conquerors and enemies of Israel have usually come from the north because even enemies to the east can't cross the desert of the Middle East.

There are two very precious things in any desert, one: springs and two: rain. Without water people cannot survive. And when in the midst of thirst a man pursues the place where a spring is supposed to be, but it's a spring without water, it is a major disappointment. And that is the intent of Peter's words. They promise water but their teaching doesn't have any water to give.

And then are mists driven by a storm. And when people see mist it promises hope, maybe rain will follow. And in that part of the world there were no pipelines to deliver water from other places. But the mist was there only a little while but the storm blew it away, leaving the land still dry and hot.

Peter gives us a picture of false teachers who come and make promises of bringing water to this parched land; that is they're going to bring refreshment for the thirsty soul. But these promises are false, because they have nothing to offer. They have no water themselves.

And there are many churches, where many people have souls that are thirsty looking for truth but what they find is not water but dirt and sand because the spring has no water and the fog of emotion provides no refreshing truth.

And it says that they are judged, "For whom the black darkness has been reserved." Peter here continues to inject statements of eternal damnation because he is so angry at these false teachers. And in verse 18, he continues, "For speaking out arrogant words of vanity."

False teachers are usually good orators. They deceive with high-sounding words that masquerade as being scholarly, which make you think they have deep spiritual insight or profound revelation from God. They are false preachers who make up their theology as they speak.

Here is their fallen philosophy: Let your main motive be to seek your own popularity and success. Preach where you're not going to offend anyone and because of that your church will always be full. Aim at pleasing the people for money and sexual favors, rather than correcting behavior for holiness. Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind.

Preach salvation by grace but ignore the lost condition of the sinner. Give them the impression that they have no reason to fear. Do not rebuke their worldly tendencies. Avoid all disagreeable allusions to judgment and final retribution. Treat old and uncomfortable doctrines as obsolete and out of place.

Preach the love of God and ignore the holiness of His love. And so exhibit religion as to encourage the selfish pursuit of it. Make the impression upon sinners that their own safety and happiness is the supreme motive of being religious. And say nothing to any of your hearers to demean him or her, but only what is flattering.

Well, do you know some big churches that do just that? God condemns the way they preach. We have to listen carefully to be able to discern it. Empty words that do not convict and contain nothing that converts have no truth that changes lives. Let us pray that God will open their hearts one at a time to know the truth, Amen?


© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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