2Peter 2:1 – 3
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers* the way of truth will be maligned. 3And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
This is a farewell address. In a farewell address at the time, it was common to warn followers of their own moral failure, of opposition from without, or of false teachers within their ranks. It is the latter that the author addresses here. In a farewell, the future tense is used to represent the present. (taken from “The People’s New Testament Commentary” by Craddock & Boring)
Frankly, when I read this as I prepared to write for you today my immediate reaction to this entire chapter was that it was an angry rant against something happening in the church at the time. It sounds almost (maybe not quite) as bad as modern politicians! And so, I sought the commentary – what is going on here? The comments from the commentators were welcome, giving me context for the comments of this author. When he says there will be false prophets among them, in a farewell address, he is saying there are false prophets among them. In other words, just as Paul in Galatians is angry at those who undermine his ministry and teachings by coming after him and telling the people that he was wrong, so this author, as he prepares to leave this world, wants to set straight the situation in churches he founded. And yes, he appears to be angry.
These false prophets work in secret – they are people who make insinuations, negative comments, who undermine the work of ministry. Their opinions and actions are destructive to the church. Churches today still have those who undermine the fabric of the church with secretive whisper campaigns.
This author says such false leaders may even deny Christ himself in their own search for power, and in this are destructive even to themselves. And yet, although the Christian family should be aware of such destructive behavior, these false leaders sell their ministry to the highest bidder, and use their followers as a source of power and gain. In their own greed, for financial gain or for power, and in their deceitful words, they give the church a bad name. Think here of the TV evangelists who were big names, and were followed by many, until it became known that they were false, that they did not follow the ways of Christ that they preached, but were in it for the money. Part of the negative attitude towards Christians in society today results from their false teachings, and subsequent exposure. They have done us a world of harm! Or think of the pastor who leads his church to picket funerals – that is certainly a denial of the spirit of Christ, of love.
The author says that such false teachers are already condemned; their destruction has already begun.