Ever since God has been expressing His truth to human beings, Satan has tried to undermine Divine authority by twisting truth into lies (Genesis 3:1-5). The Old Testament prophets were appointed because the official truth-tellers (the kings) had been caught up in the lies, believed them and allowed them space to infiltrate what Israel believed. Additionally, there were other false prophets who seduced the heart of God's people. In the same way, Peter says, false prophets were lurking in the churches. Appearing to be followers of Jesus, they were really enemy agents. They may not have thought of themselves like that, and they would probably have come across as sincere teachers.
But their motives were not from God (Jude 12-13). Their false teaching was focussed on the person and work of Christ. They ignored His deity and the all-sufficiency of His sacrifice. Of course, whenever error is given house-room and not immediately rejected, it ruins believers' discernment and spoils their consciences - so that people start to believe the lies. Peter accurately predicted that such teaching would eventually destroy churches and bring the gospel into disrepute. Unfortunately, these peddlers of untruth are still around. They are often popular, gathering admiring crowds who congratulate 'wise insights' (1 Timothy 4:3). Even firm believers may be fooled.
So how can the church be defended against such doctrinal perversion? Firstly we must not be gullible: be on guard, aware that wherever the Lord is working in truth, error will lurk in somebody who speaks persuasively; awaiting a chance of a hearing. Secondly, we need to guard the truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. And the best way to protect the doctrine, is to preach it! Thirdly, do not be fooled into wrong belief just because thousands of other people think it is right: check it carefully against the apostles' teaching - they have been appointed by God to define the truth of the gospel. Then, whenever you find anything else taught, be bold and brave to identify the error and warn others against accepting and believing it.
© Dr Paul Adams