St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Let The Consumer Beware

Sermon on 2 Peter 1:20-2:3

Text: Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

There is an old phrase that states: “Let the buyer beware.” This sage advice is given to make sure that what you think you are buying is what you are getting. For example, you may go to the car lot to purchase your next vehicle. A less than reputable dealer has done a fine job of making the vehicle look presentable. However, they have hidden some very serious problems. The body may look great, but there are mechanical problems that you will have to address soon after you take that vehicle home. For that reason, you are encouraged to take the vehicle to a third-party mechanic who will give the vehicle a thorough inspection. You would hate to get stuck with a lemon. For that reason, you want to carefully inspect the product before you buy it. This morning, we are encouraged to take a very close look at something else, one that, if we choose poorly, could mean an eternity of separation from God. LET THE CONSUMER BEWARE! 1. There Is Only One, True Product. 2. There Are Many Deadly Imitations.

The apostle Peter wrote this letter to the congregations in modern-day Turkey. Peter wrote this letter, knowing that his time on this earth was coming to an end. So, in his pastoral love, he wrote this letter to encourage his readers and warn them about the many spiritual dangers they would face. In 2 Peter 1:12, “I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” Then, Peter reminds them that what these believers had been taught did not come from a second-hand source. Rather, Peter and the others were eyewitnesses of everything that Jesus had done for the salvation of the world. However, they were not only to believe what they had been taught because it came from eyewitnesses. ‘Don’t believe just because we said so!’ They were to believe what they had been taught because it came from God himself.

We read in 2 Peter 1:21, “Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This is what makes the Bible the most unique book that has ever been written. Every single word that we find written on the pages of the Scriptures came from God. The human writers did not have to come up with their own material nor were they given a general theme that they were to write about, such as a teacher will do when they give their class an essay assignment. The Lord God supplied and controlled the content, using the prophet’s, evangelist’s, and apostle’s own vocabulary, style, and life situation. This is called “Verbal Inspiration,” which means that the Holy Spirit gave each of the writers the very words that they were to use, so that the finished project can be called the very words of God himself.

We thank God for this beautiful reassurance that what we read on the pages of the Bible is his Word. If the Scriptures were in part only the words of human beings, we could not be sure that it is true and dependable. Human beings are sinful who can be mistaken in what they see. They can even stoop to lying. How horrible it would be if we could not fully trust what we read in the Bible. This is especially true when it comes to our salvation. After we feel the pricking of our consciences for the sins that we have committed, what comfort would we have to read in the Bible that Jesus has saved us by his life, death, and resurrection? ‘Maybe,’ we would catch ourselves thinking, ‘this is one of those parts that were written by a human being? What if this is only their opinion about how a person is saved? What if they were wrong?’ Thanks be to God that we do not have to wonder which parts of the Bible are divine and which are human. It is all God’s Word, given by the Holy Spirit through these human writers.

Because of the fact that the Bible is God’s Word, we can be assured of two things. First of all, the Bible has no errors, but is true in all that it says. This is true of every aspect of it, from the creation of the world to the historical facts that are recorded, to the way of salvation. It is all true. Secondly, since the Bible is God’s Word, we can trust all of the promises that we find there, because we know that God will keep every one of them. Because God promised that he would never again destroy the world with a flood, we know that it will never happen. Because God has promised that he will take care of all of our needs, we can count on that to be true. Most importantly of all, because God has promised that those who believe in Jesus as their only hope of salvation have their sins forgiven and will, in his good time, take them to be with him forever in the glories of heaven, we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true. What great comfort we have in knowing that the one place that we find the truth is the Bible, because it is God’s Word.

The reason that Peter makes this point is because he knows what his readers of then and now will be confronted with. In 2 Peter 2:1, we read “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” As Peter looks back over Old Testament history, he notes the many false prophets who had arisen among the Jewish people. We had an example of that in our first lesson for this morning (1 Kings 22:10-28). All of the false prophets were saying whatever the king of Israel wanted to hear, not what the truth was. When Micaiah, the true prophet of God spoke, he was imprisoned. Peter says that, just as there were false prophets, there will be false teachers. Note that Peter doesn’t say that this is a possibility. He says that it will happen. It’s also worth noting that Peter uses two different words in this verse for these people. First of all, he speaks of false prophets, that is to say, they claim to receive direct revelation from God. Now, there will be false teachers. These are people who will take the true revelations that are found in God’s Word and twist them into something false. However, the result will be the same. They would be telling God’s people something God didn’t say. These people were active in the Old Testament. They were active in Peter’s day. These false teachers are active today.

Peter describes these false teachers’ actions: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” (2 Peter 2:1) It would be so much easier if false teachers would identify themselves as such and tell us exactly what they are teaching that is contrary to the truth of God’s Word. Instead, they will couch their false teachings by misusing God’s Word. They will take things out of context. They will put their own interpretations on the clear teachings that are found in God’s Word. False teachers may be personally nice people, polite, and well-dressed. They may have university degrees and even be seminary trained. However, if they leave the sure rock of God’s Word for attractive human speculation, they are as dangerous to your faith as the most venomous snake. It only takes believing a little heresy to completely undermine and eventually lose your faith. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:9: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the intentions of the false teachers were noble (They actually believe this to be true) or selfish (They are teaching this to get something from their hearers), the effect is the same either way. People who drift from the Word also drift from their Savior. The bitter irony is that these false teachers had a Savior in Christ and threw him away. Peter describes it as “Denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” (2 Peter 2:1) There are so many examples of religions in our world today that do this. For example, if the religion teaches that you have to add something to what Christ has done for your salvation, you lose your salvation. If they teach that you have to make the step toward God in order to be saved, you lose your salvation. These aren’t just little religious differences. This is the difference between spending your eternity in heaven or in hell. It’s that serious!

These days it is considered in bad taste to criticize anyone’s beliefs. Truth is thought to be relative. ‘Everyone’s beliefs are as good as everyone else’s.’ People can choose for themselves what is true for them. You can’t criticize a person’s beliefs or denominational position any more than you can criticize someone for preferring a certain restaurant. It’s all a matter of taste. However, what does God say about this? Jesus said in Revelation 3:11, “Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” It really is a matter of life and death.

So, having seen this, what are we to do? May I suggest a couple of things? First of all, this underscores the absolute necessity of being in God’s Word. We have to know what God’s Word says so that we can compare what is being taught with what we find in God’s Word. God forbid that it should ever happen, but, what if false teaching were being proclaimed from the pulpit? Would we be able to recognize it? Don’t believe something just because the pastor or teacher said so. Believe what is being taught because it is in line with God’s Word. This is so important because our faith is what connects us to God. If we lose that, we lose everything. So, that is the first thing I would encourage you to do.

Secondly, I encourage you to pray. Pray that your eyes and ears may always be turned to the truths of God’s Word. Pray that the Lord would keep you aware of the false teachings that are all around us. Pray, also, for your fellow believers that they may remain true to what is found in God’s Word. I would encourage you to pray for the professors at Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, so that they would hold to the truths of God’s Word. This is necessary not only for their souls’ salvation, but also for our church body, that we would faithfully hold to God’s Word. Pray also for our pastors and teachers so that they remain true to God’s Word. There are so many deadly imitations of God’s Word out there. There is only one truth that leads to salvation.

You may have heard the phrase, “Often imitated, never duplicated” when describing a product or service. What are they saying when they use this phrase? There is only one real product and that’s their product. All of the others are poor imitations. That may be all fine and good with material things, which in the long run, really don’t matter. However, when it comes to God’s Word and what is taught there, this phrase is absolutely true. The teachings that are found in God’s Word are often imitated. There are many who claim to teach what God’s Word says. Yet, they are cheap imitations that will ultimately lead to death. Holding to the teachings that come from God’s Word leads to salvation and eternal life. It is the real thing. Amen.