By Dr. Robert E. Picirilli
Peter has assured us that false teachers are always a danger (2:1-3). Now he launches into an impassioned description of these false teachers. In doing so he utilizes ceremonial language that flows without break through verse 17. Let us look at the various points of this description.
First, they “walk after the flesh” (v. 10a). They follow where flesh leads—to a lust for things that pollute.
Second, they are characterized by arrogant blasphemy (vv. 10b, 11). “Despise” in verse 10 is from the Greek word kataphroneo: “think down.” Here it means to “look down upon.” The word “Government” here is better translated “lordship” and almost certainly refers to Christ’s. In other words, they hold in contempt the Lordship of Christ. They are audacious, self-willed, and unafraid when blaspheming “dignities” and “glories” (Greek: doxai). (This probably refers to the glorious things of Christ.)
Verse 11 adds a perspective uncommon in Scripture. Peter here says that the strong and mighty angels of God would not be as arrogant these people. They would not dare to bring a blasphemous judgment against themselves!!
Third, they are walking into ignorant destruction (vv. 12, 13a). Peter compares them to dumb beasts born to be captured and destroyed. Like such beasts these false teachers ignorantly plunge headlong toward destruction. In the Greek there is play on words: “in their corruption they shall also be corrupted.” Verse 13a adds: “thus receiving the wages of unrighteousness.” The spiritual fraud they practice produces appropriate pay!
Fourth, they revel in corruption (vv. 13b, 14a). The words here are debatable. Some take the adultery as physical. That is, it refers to fleshly false teachers who “riot” (debauch themselves) by day, always seeking unstable believers to seduce sexually. They do this even while participating in the church’s fellowship meal. Others understand this to mean spiritual adultery. They believe it refers to fleshly motivated false teachers who constantly seek unstable church members to seduce with spiritual error and unfaithfulness to the truth.
Either way, the main points are the same. They are well practiced (exercised) in their foul craft. In outward fellowship, they secretly delight in falsehood. They are blemishes that defile the purity of the church’s life. Immature Christians beware!
Fifth, they are cursed because of their self-seeking ways (vv.14b-17). The last two words of verse 14 lead into the next thought. False teachers share with Balaam the curse of one who forsakes the truth for unrighteous gain. Balaam wanted to curse Israel for pay. Though his “madness” was temporarily hindered by the miraculous speech of a dumb donkey, he went on to acquire questionable wages.
The chosen path and end result for false teachers is always the same. They always err from the right way and they always earn the same unpleasant reward.
Verse 17 makes two important points.
1. The result of heeding false prophets is always disappointing. Listening to them is like thirstily seeking a spring only to find it dry. Peter also compares them to black clouds that produce darkness and destruction rather than refreshing rain.
2. The result of being a false teacher is condemnation to hell. For themselves, the effect of their teaching has reserved them space in eternal darkness.
What do we learn from this? A lot. We learn that false teachers are inevitable. We learn that they all inevitably resist the Lordship and glory of Christ Himself. We learn that their presence in the church’s fellowship is a pollution that should not be tolerated. We learn that the flesh’s natural desire for indulgence and gain is one of their basic appeals. We learn that the end of such ways is the surest path to eternal death. Most of all, we learn that spiritual immaturity leaves one an easier prey for those who deal in such deadly deceit.