These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. — 2 Peter 2:17
For as long as I remember, our farm’s well had a windmill on it. It is a typical rural American sight: a tall framework composed of four long, angle-iron posts with cross bracing of the same material in huge X shapes. A wheel of curved blades that caught the wind topped this tower, swiveling to face the breeze by means of a “tail” in the back. Before the days of electricity in rural areas, water was pumped from wells by wind-generated motion.
Where we lived, water from our single well was usually plentiful enough to supply the four homes on the property, as well as the sheds and cattle. However, every now and then, during a long dry spell, Dad would caution us not to waste water because the well was showing signs of running dry. Thankfully, these occasions were rare and short-lived! It is so easy to be spoiled by an abundance of water for cooking, bathing, and washing.
The day came when our well actually did go dry. No more water could be pumped from it. Even though it was a few hundred feet deep, it was no longer deep enough to reach the receding water table. The well became useless, and a deeper well had to be dug.
In our focus verse, false teachers were compared to wells without water. Peter also likened them to spots and blemishes, and to directionless clouds. All of these are useless. Christians are warned not to be deceived by those who lead people astray doctrinally; these false teachers are worse than useless, because they actually can cause grave spiritual damage.
If we keep our eyes on Jesus and our hand in His, He will help us to guard against false teaching and to support and uphold the truth found in God’s Word. Let’s be watching and praying that God will keep us spiritually alert!
In this passage, the Apostle Peter continued his warning to the church. Here he focused on the insidious attack that would come upon the church from false teachers. Like a good shepherd, the Apostle not only warned the church, but gave specific characteristics and attributes of false teachers. Since the attack would be subtle, the identifiers laid out by the Apostle would help the church to recognize any who had become instruments of Satan against them.
The first characteristic of a false teacher is pride. Pride is the chief sin of the heart, and the Apostle warned that false teachers would exhibit this. They would display their lust for power by despising those in authority and speaking evil of dignitaries and of things that they do not even really understand. He contrasted them with the angels of God who would not bring accusations of these evildoers before God. God alone is in a position to judge. While the false teachers would presume that these are minor infractions, the Apostle said such actions are serious and damnable sins that bring sure destruction to those who practice them.
False teachers also display the characteristics of a morally-depraved person and engage in open sins like immorality, greed, wickedness, seduction, and sheer degeneracy. The Apostle used Balaam as an example. He was the prophet who received instructions from God, expressed his desire to follow them, but ultimately went ahead and did the opposite of God’s instructions because of the enticement of promised gifts.
Peter used this to illustrate that it is possible for a person to state the Word of God, pretend to be genuine by speaking “swelling words of vanity,” and then act in complete contradiction to God’s instructions. Thus, it is not simply the position or the words spoken that identifies one who truly follows the Lord, but whether or not that one is staying completely true to the Word of God.
This passage does not indicate that one must exhibit all the characteristics outlined to be identified as a false teacher. Peter listed these things to caution believers to be aware of the stealth of this danger. He pointed out that Christians can escape the threat by growing in faith and depending completely on the Word of God, so they can easily discern and confront the danger posed to their souls by false teachers.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. Call to awareness of error
C. The description of false teachers (2:10-22)
1. Lustful and lawless (2:10-11)
2. Ignorant (2:12)
3. Immoral (2:13-14)
4. Greedy (2:15-16)
5. Unsaved (2:17)
6. Enslaved and enslavers (2:18-19)
7. Merely professors (2:20-22)
The warning the Apostle Peter gave to the scattered Early Church is relevant today. We must cherish God’s Word and the truth of the Gospel.