Wells Without Water
The Disastrous Effects of False Teachers
even as there shall be false teachers among you,
who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.... (2 Peter 2:1a)
[The following article is excerpted and adapted from Matthew Henry's Commentary on 2 Peter 2]
In all ages of the church, and under all dispensations, when God sends true prophets, the devil sends some to seduce and deceive, false prophets in the Old Testament, and false Christs, false apostles, and seducing teachers, in the New.
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)
The Apostle (Simon Peter) proceeds to a further description of seducing teachers, whom he sets forth as wells, or fountains, without water. Observe,
- Ministers should be as wells or fountains, where the people may find instruction, direction, and comfort; but
- False teachers have nothing of this to impart to those who consult them: the Word of Truth is the water of life, which refreshes the souls that receive it; but these deceivers are set upon spreading and promoting error, and therefore are set forth as empty, because there is no Truth in them. In vain then are all our expectations of being fed and filled with knowledge and understanding by those who are themselves ignorant and empty.
They espouse and spread those opinions that will procure most applause and advantage to themselves; and as clouds obstruct the light of the sun, and darken the air, so do these darken counsel by words without knowledge and wherein there is no Truth; and, seeing these men are for promoting darkness in this world, it is very just that the mist of darkness should be their portion in the next. Utter darkness was prepared for the devil, the great deceiver, and his angels, those instruments that he uses to turn men from the Truth, and therefore for them it is reserved, and that for ever; the fire of hell is everlasting, and the smoke of the bottomless pit rises up for ever and ever.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (2 Peter 2:18-19)
And it is just with God to deal thus with them, because
- They allure those they deal with, and draw them into a net, or catch them as men do fish; and,
- It is with great swelling words of vanity, lofty expressions, which have a great sound, but little sense.
- They work upon the corrupt affections and carnal fleshly lusts of men, proposing what is grateful to them. And,
- They seduce persons who in reality avoided and kept at a distance from those who spread and those who embraced hurtful and destructive errors.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)
- By application and industry men attain a skillfulness and dexterity in promoting error. They are as artful and as successful as the fisher, who makes angling his daily employment. The business of these men is to draw disciples after them, and in their methods and management there are some things worth observing, how they suit their bait to those they desire to catch.
- Erroneous teachers have a peculiar advantage to win men over to them, because they have sensual pleasure to take them with; whereas the ministers of Christ put men upon self-denial, and the mortifying of those lusts that others gratify and please: wonder not therefore that Truth prevails no more, or that errors spread so much.
- Persons who have for a while adhered to the Truth, and kept clear of errors, may by the subtlety and industry of seducers be so far deceived as to fall into those errors they had for a while clean escaped. "Be therefore always upon your guard, maintain a godly jealousy of yourselves, search the scriptures, pray for the Spirit to instruct and establish you in the Truth, walk humbly with God, and watch against every thing that may provoke him to give you up to a reprobate mind, that you may not be taken with the fair and specious pretences of these false teachers, who promise liberty to all who will hearken to them, not true Christian liberty for the service of God, but a licentiousness in sin, to follow the devices and desires of their own hearts."
This consideration should prevent our being led away by these seducers; and to this he adds another (v. 20): it is not only a shame and disgrace to be seduced by those who are themselves the slaves of sin, and led captive by the devil at his pleasure, but it is a real detriment to those who have clean escaped from those who live in error, for hereby their latter end is made worse than their beginning.
Here we see,
- It is an advantage to escape the pollutions of the world, to be kept from gross and scandalous sins, though men are not thoroughly converted and savingly changed; for hereby we are kept from grieving those who are truly serious and emboldening those who are openly profane; whereas, if we run with others to the same excess of riot and abandon ourselves to the sins of the age, we afflict and dishearten those who endeavour to walk as becomes the Gospel, and strengthen the hands of those who are already engaged in open rebellion against the Most High, as well as alienate ourselves more from God, and harden our hearts against him.
- Some men are, for a time, kept from the pollutions of the world, by the knowledge of Christ, who are not savingly renewed in the spirit of their mind. A religious education has restrained many whom the grace of God has not renewed: if we receive the light of the Truth, and have a notional knowledge of Christ in our heads, it may be of some present service to us; but we must receive the love of the Truth, and hide God's Word in our heart, or it will not sanctify and save us.
- Those who have, for a time, escaped the pollutions of the world, are at first ensnared and entangled by false teachers, who first perplex men with some plausible and specious objections against the truths of the Gospel; and the more ignorant and unstable are hereby made to stagger, and brought to question the truth of doctrines they have received, because they cannot solve all the difficulties, nor answer all the objections, that are urged by these seducers.
- When men are once entangled, they are easily overcome; therefore should Christians keep close to the Word of God, and watch against those who seek to perplex and bewilder them, and that because, if men who have once escaped are again entangled, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:21-22)
The Apostle, in the last two verses of the chapter, sets himself to prove that a state of apostasy is worse than a state of ignorance; for it is a condemning of the way of righteousness, after they have had some knowledge of it, and expressed some liking to it; it carries in it a declaring that they have found some iniquity in the way of righteousness and some falsehood in the Word of Truth.
Now to bring up such an evil report upon the good way of God, and such a false charge against the way of Truth, must necessarily expose to the heaviest condemnation; the misery of such deserters of Christ and His Gospel is more unavoidable and more intolerable than that of other offenders; for,
- God is more highly provoked by those who by their conduct despise the Gospel, as well as disobey the law, and who reproach and pour contempt upon God and His grace.
- The devil more narrowly watches and more closely confines those whom he has recovered, after they had once gone off from him and professed to be the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 12:45); they are kept under a stronger guard, and no wonder it should be so when they have licked up their own vomit again, returning to the same errors and impieties that they had once cast off and seemed to detest and loathe, and wallowing in that filthiness from which they appeared once to be really cleansed.
Read Matthew Henry's Commentary on 2 Peter 2: http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/2Pe/2Pe_002.cfm
Images are of the Dust Bowl during The Great Depression archived at Google Images.