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The Nature of False Leaders

The Nature of False Leaders

Words of Faith 3-16-2020

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Peter 2

    [17] These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. [18] For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. [19] They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. [20] If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. [21] It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. [22] Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."


     Peter took very seriously this matter of false teachers who had more than just a dark side.  He concluded this powerful chapter by exposing the heart and nature of the false teachers who were leading people astray in the first-century church.  His words were vivid and carefully chosen.  This was not just a difference of opinion or a "different stream" of thought. These dark leaders were "springs without water.”  They did not have the "spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14) or the "streams of living water" that Jesus described in a believer (John 7:37-38).

       The false teachers gave nothing because they have nothing to give. They were "mists driven by a storm," both unstable and transient.  The "blackest darkness reserved for them" may refer to hell because the Greek used here especially refers to "the darkness of the nether regions.”  These dark teachers would make grandiose claims of vanity that were empty.  By their sensual propaganda, they would ensnare people who were just escaping from those who live in error.  They targeted new converts to Christianity from paganism.

       The dark teachers promised "freedom" from any law or restraint of the flesh.  This was the same error Paul ran into in Corinth where teachers proclaimed that "Everything is permissible" (1 Cor 6:12). Peter was clear that the very ones speaking of freedom were, in fact, "slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him."  Jesus said: "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  So, though the false teachers talk about religion and freedom, they do not know the Son.  Jesus said, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

       Peter saw this as a return to old paganism after having "escaped the corruptions of the world" through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  But was Peter saying that these were Christians who lost their salvation?  This is unlikely because he used no terminology that was common in affirming that a person was Christian in reality-- "sons of God," "children," "born again," "regenerate," or "redeemed.”  Sadly, the New Testament made a distinction between those who were "in the churches," and those who are regenerate.  1 John 2:19, for example, speaks of those who "went out from us, but they did not really belong to us... but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

       Peter wrapped up his strong indictment of the false teachers by citing two graphic proverbs. "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."  The first was biblical (Prov 26:11) and the second was simply a folk proverb that people would have been familiar with.  But both make the image graphically. 

       Peter wasn't talking about pet dogs here. Dogs were either wild scavengers or animals used for war. Both dogs and pigs were considered vile by the Jews.  The heart of these proverbs is to point out that the false teachers are unclean and return to the pagan corruption because this is fundamentally their nature.  The nature of the "unclean" animals does not change such that the "dog returns to its vomit" or the sow that "is washed" will once again wallow in the mud.  The person who has a religious "profession" or outward change without being born anew from the inside will soon revert to his true nature.

        Peter's warnings are timely.  We live in an era self-proclaimed leaders and prophets making overblown claims and offering lustful enticements.  There are false gospels preached that entice people based upon greed and selfishness.  We hear the mouthing of words that promise freedom by those who are, in fact, slaves of depravity. It is our task to recognize the difference and walk closely with Christ. 


        Father God, give me the gift of careful discernment.  Help me to see the differences clearly.  Protect my heart and very life.  Protect the Body of Christ. In Jesus' Name.


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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