This chapter of the Bible does not seem full of encouragement, but it is intended to encourage Christians to stay 'on track'. By explaining how God will judge the false teachers who corrupt the church, Peter was saying the same as Jesus who said that preventing people from receiving the truth was a very serious matter (Mark 9:42). Peter is now passionate about protecting the church from false teachers, and has used this chapter to describe the anatomy of evil imposters in great detail. As he sums up his case, he exposes them as people who have nothing to offer. They are empty people with empty words, expressing empty promises.
Unsurprisingly they are most successful with empty hearers; that is, those who know they are empty of truth and of the power to live holy lives: such folk will soak up whatever appears to give them power and wisdom. These may be new believers, disillusioned believers, frustrated believers, backsliding believers as well as those who long for the power of God to liberate them. All these are likely to be impressed by the power-dynamics of the big meeting, the intense emotional experience some preachers can induce, and the testimonies of people they have satisfied. But without the straightness of Gospel truth and Bible doctrine, the needy will be seduced but unsatisfied, enticed but unenlightened and back in the slavery they wanted to escape.
The truth is that all false religionists are slaves themselves, that is why they cannot liberate others; they only compound their oppression. They use words without meaning; like dry springs, they cannot bring life. They appeal to people's lusts instead of exalting God's holiness; they confuse the vulnerable sinner and disappoint the seeker. And there are plenty of enthusiastic religionists like that, and many who follow them. But their fate is black indeed, and God will have no hesitation in administering judgement to the unrepentant. But what of Peter, who Jesus called, "Satan"; and of Paul who was a persecutor? They repented and received mercy to cover their sin and grace to start a new life. So there is hope for even the most belligerent false teacher ... as long as they repent and receive Christ (see www.crosscheck.org.uk).
© Dr Paul Adams