The scandalous virtue of intolerance

One of the worst things one can be accused of in our society is Intolerance.  We are constantly told to be tolerant and open-minded in all things.  If something works for you, that’s great, but something different may work for me.  Everything is considered right in its own way.  To be intolerant of anything is being narrow-minded and bigoted.

Many people, therefore, think that 2 Peter 2 should not be in the Bible.  The chapter is too intolerant, too judgmental and too condemnatory.  However, the chapter is there for good reason.

Doom

Pastor Lethebo Rabalago of the Mount Zion General Assembly, in the Limpopo Province, in South Africa, was in the news recently for spraying Doom (a pesticide) at his congregants. This he claimed, would heal a variety of illnesses, including HIV/Aids and cancer, by driving out the demons of these diseases.  Rabalago said, “We are glorifying God. With God anything is possible.”   He said that anything can be used by God to heal people, and argued that using Doom was much like using holy water to bless or heal. 

This pastor is an obvious false teacher doing things in the name of Christianity that dishonours Christ and hurts people.  He is fleecing the flock of God.  False teachers, however, are not always that easy to recognize.   Often times, they use Christian words and Bible verses taken out of context to back up their teaching.  Often times, they are in churches and denominations where you wouldn’t expect them to be.

The truth is that the church in every age fights a battle on 2 fronts – against 2 enemies. There is the enemy without and the enemy within.  The enemy without is the anti-Christian world that opposes Christ and persecutes Christians.  The enemy within is the false teachers that subtly introduce harmful doctrines into the church.   The enemy within can be more dangerous.   It’s like a cancer that grows inside a body: weakening, hurting and harming – and it needs to be identified and removed.

2 Peter 2 is a great help.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you… (2 Peter 2:1)

In Old Testament times, there were literally, “pseudo” prophets.  The prefix pseudo-  is used to mark something that superficially appears to be one thing, but is actually another.  For example, a pseudonym is a fictitious name used by an author to conceal his or her true identity.   These pseudo prophets pretended to be prophets, but really weren’t.   God spoke to the true prophets and the prophets related God’s message to God’s people.  The fake prophets claimed to have a message from God, but they didn’t. 

Quasi-teachers

Just as there were pseudo and counterfeit prophets in Old Testament times, so there will be pseudo and counterfeit teachers in the church.  They will look like genuine teachers and preachers, but they are imposters.

Notice that Peter wrote, “just as there will be among you”. False teachers are inevitable and expected.  They are in our churches and on TV – and we must be aware.

Peter wrote, “many will follow their sensuality”.  False teachers will be popular and have big churches because they tell people what they want to hear.  But their lifestyles will be characterized by lust and greed (v2-3) and their teaching is heretical (v1) and exploitive (v3).  They despise the authority (v10) of the Apostles and their writings. 

Consequently, they have a low view of the Bible and advocate listening to the “new voice of the Spirit” – which sounds really spiritual.  Their websites may say they have a “high regard” for the Bible, but they do not see the Bible as their highest authority and are quick to dismiss it when it contradicts their own opinions.  However fine-sounding their teaching may be, it’s destructive and harmful as it draws people away from the genuine truth about Jesus.

Their ministries, although seemingly impressive and popular, are devoid of power.

Peter wrote that the false teachers are, “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm”. (v17)

Waterless springs

Springs without water were a most tragic disappointment to 1st century Middle Eastern travelers.  They travelled with their camels and donkeys and looked forward to refreshing springs on their long journeys.  It was distressing to arrive at a spring that had no water.

People come for the living, life-giving water of God’s word, but the false teachers have none.  They’re teaching something, but it’s not God’s word, rather it’s (v18) “speaking loud boasts of folly” and, as a result, devoid of power.

Mists driven by a storm

Mists driven by a storm promise rain, but never deliver.  False teachers promise freedom (v19), but can’t deliver because they are slaves to their own sin.

Christianity is supernatural and has supernatural power.  When the truth about Jesus is explained, God works by his Word and Spirit to save and change people; there’s no natural or earthly explanation. 

The false teachers may draw crowds, have smoke machines, may have impressive websites and TV contracts, but, at the end of the day, people do not change, are not saved, nor do they become more Christ-like, because their ministry is devoid of God’s power because it lacks God’s Word.  No supernatural power because there is no Bible.

Give that man a Bible

In the ordination service of REACH SA, the Bishop says to prospective ministers:

“Recognizing that your office is of such importance and such difficulty, you must use every endeavour to show yourself obedient and faithful to the Lord…Know also that you can in no way lead men and women to salvation other than on the authority of the Holy Scriptures.  Therefore, you must read and study them thoroughly and continually, shaping your life and the lives for whom you are responsible to their teaching, that all may be godly examples for the people to follow.”

The bishop then presents a Bible to each candidate.

Not only are the ministries of false teachers devoid of power, but they are dangerous and destructive (v1).

The future of false teachers is the definite judgement of God (v4-10).  Judgement may be delayed, but it’s approaching.

The intolerance of tolerance

The catchword for our age is “tolerance”.  But sometimes we must be intolerant.  I’m intolerant of Jake (our 1 year old) playing with sharp knives.  Society is intolerant of rapists and murderers. 

 

Sometimes being intolerant is the most loving thing to be, because we know the dangers involved. While I firmly believe in Freedom of Religion so that anyone can believe what they want to believe; we should nevertheless be intolerant of people who teach a false knowledge of Jesus.

Some things are simply wrong.