Countering False Teaching

  • Steve Hatter
Old castle

The more I am in God’s Word these days, either through my seminary classes, or because I am leading a fellowship group focused on sound doctrine, the more I see just how significant the threat of false teaching is to achieving a healthy Christ-pleasing church. The New Testament Epistles are replete with warnings about false teachers and the heretical doctrines they brought.

In my career as a military officer, I learned to think like the enemy in order to make plans to counter their adversarial strategies and tactics. So, it makes sense to me to think about false teaching from an enemy-of-Christ point of view. From this perspective it is easy to see that false teaching is rarely a simple matter of ignorance of the truth. Rather, errant doctrines are more often borne of sinister intent. They are rooted in diabolical plans to purposefully bring counter truth to discourage those who belong to Christ and to divide their beautiful fellowship. Therefore, we 21st century believers need to pay close attention to our life and doctrine, ever submitting to God’s inerrant Word of Truth found in Scripture. This is how we protect one another and also how we grow in grace.

Second Peter was written to Christians as an exhortation to grow in Christ in the face of false teachers and their errant teaching. I’d like to show you the process, the necessity, and the inspiration of Christian growth as explained by Peter. Next, I’ll highlight Peter’s warnings about false teachers and scoffers—something we are seeing more and more of in our present times.

Christian Growth (1:5–21)

Growing in Christ was a central message in Second Peter. Peter instructed his readers to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (1:5–7). The progressive nature of this exhortation begged both introspection and intentionality.

Peter argued for the necessity of such intentionality: “For whoever lacks these qualities is so near-sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he is cleansed from his former sins” (1:9). Growth, Peter asserted, was how the believer diligently made their “calling and election sure” (1:10). Furthermore, the inspiration to achieve growth made available to the Christian is found in the revelation of Jesus Christ and the prophesy from the Scriptures: “And we have had something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention” (1:19).

False Teachers

Building on his exhortation to grow, Peter turned to the concern of false teachers who could discourage growth (2:1–22): “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,” “because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2:1–3). Peter gave assurance such blasphemers would face judgment: God “did not spare angels when they sinned,” nor the pre-flood “ancient world” (2:4–7), and in contrast, Peter asserted God would protect His faithful: “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2:9).

Peter was careful to describe the false teachers such that believers could identify them. They would be “bold and willful” blasphemers; they would seem “like irrational animals,” “having “eyes full of adultery” and “hearts trained to greed” (2:10a–22). More pejorative descriptions followed as Peter described demonic motivations and behaviors of false teachers.


Peter also warned of scoffers (3:1–18a): “scoffers will come in the last days,” “they will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” (3:3, 4). Scoffers would seek to leverage discouragement as believers long suffered in temporal circumstances. Peter again offered assurances: “but do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day” (3:8). The Lord’s tarrying was explained in terms of His grace and patience: “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (3:9).

In an attitude of trust and obedience, the faithful were to seek holiness and godliness (3:11–13), to be at peace  (3:14–16), and to commit to steadfastness and growth (3:17–18a). Peter, writing to believers to encourage growth despite suffering, was successful with a sufficient word of truth.

All of this directly applies to the body of Christ today as we ponder how we’ll live in the coming new year. We need to be in fellowship with one another. We need to be under the Word through expository preaching. We need to be pursuing God by intentionally reading and mediating on His Word. I am so grateful to be a part of Anchorage Grace Church, which I trust you will agree is pressing into the New Year championing each of these vital aspects of the Christian life! I look forward to walking with all of you in 2021!