Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (1)
We all need discernment. In his second letter, Peter tells his readers that he knows his time is nearly over: I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon … And I will make every effort so that after my departure, you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2) It’s Peter’s final Bible letter, the last thing many will hear from him. He’s not going to waste time with trivial things and chapter 2 shows why we need discernment:
… false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, … bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (3)
There were false prophets in the Old Testament, at the time Peter wrote this and there will be even more false prophets in the ‘latter days’. Next Peter describes what the false teachers will bring and how they will bring it. They will bring destructive heresies (v.1); destructive ways (v.2 NKJV); and deceptive words (v.3 NKJV). These false teachers will bring bad theology, have bad behaviour and have a bad or unbiblical message. Notice Peter uses the word ‘destructive’ or ‘destruction’ three times in those three verses. It’s the Greek word meaning destruction or waste, thus causing un-usefulness or death. And Peter tells us how false teachers will bring it: they will bring it in secretly (v.1); deceitfully (v.3); enticingly (v.14) and alluringly (v.18) Their bad message will sound so enticing in hopes of drawing listeners in. It will sound so good that it even sounds like they are offering us freedom. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (4)
A lot of things sound great, sound enticing and alluring, sound like they are offering freedom, but actually they offer a road leading to destruction. The only thing that can truly make us free is abiding in God’s word: no one else and nothing else. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (5)
Notice 2 Peter 2:1 says that destructive heresies come in secretly; the only way they can come in secretly is if we are not paying attention. Therefore we must be aware – be able to discern – so that we are not led astray. To discern means to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong, between truth and error or, as Spurgeon put it, ‘telling the difference between right and almost right’. There are lots of things that sound almost right in this world, but we need discernment to tell what is right and what is wrong; what is right and what is almost right.
So, how do we discern?
Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (6)
Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (7)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that b testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (8)
It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (9)
And we read in Acts 17:10-11 about the Bereans who were praised because they tested everything they heard from Paul against the Scriptures. Our goal needs to be the same as Paul’s: I want to know Christ10 (i.e. I want an intimate relationship with Christ). We know life is not a playground; it’s a battleground. We need to be able to discern right from wrong, truth from error and right from almost right.
References: (1) Heb. 5:14 (2) 2 Pet. 1:13-15 (3) 2 Pet.2:1 (4) 2 Pet. 2:19 (5) John 8:31-32 (6) 1 Thes. 5:21-22 (7) 1 John 4:1 (8) Rom. 12:2 (9) Phil 1:9-10 (10) Phil.3:10 NIV
Jonathan Beimers, Brantford, Canada
Bible quotations from ESV unless stated otherwise.