False Teaching and Co-Opting the Faith

I’m working through 2 Peter in my preaching ministry right now (the blog lags quite a bit behind my preaching schedule), and I’ve just hit 2 Peter 2, which focuses on false teachers. Peter calls out these ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι (pseudodidaskaloi) primarily for their behavior rather than for what we might call “doctrinal error.” They rejected Christ’s ethics, His way of life.

Why would someone join themselves to the Way if they had no intention of leading a morally upright life? That’s what the Way is: a way of life, not just a body of doctrine. Joining up with the Way while intending to be a libertine makes about as much sense as enlisting in the military with no intention of being deployed. Why not be a libertine in your own place and on your own time?

2 Peter and Jude supply the same answer: false teachers stand to gain something from their enterprise. They get influence, money, pleasures from reveling with their followers–in a word, they get power. They have co-opted the Way. No longer is it about living after the pattern of Christ; now it is about false teachers getting what they want while surrounded by a crowd of supporters.

False teachers still appropriate the Way. The sea change in American culture over the past couple of decades started a similar sea change in American church culture. This is our first sign, by the way, that the churches have allowed themselves to be co-opted, for why else would a change outside the church trigger a congruent change within the church?

So now those of us who didn’t go along with the American culture are looking around at all of these people in our churches who have gotten on the LGBTQ+ bandwagon, and we’re wondering, “If all of these people don’t want to get on board with the Way’s sexual ethics, why are they here?” The answer is the same now as it was then: heretics stand to gain influence, prestige, and other forms of power by co-opting the Faith.

We could talk about what to do about these newly-minted false teachers, but today I want us to consider whether we have logs in our own eyes. Remember, if the churches changed with the culture, then they had already been co-opted by the culture. We’re just now noticing because we’ve become the odd men out. We hold time-honored beliefs that happen, by fault of our birth, not to be honored in our own time. The question before us is, “How many of our beliefs and practices are there because they are the Way, and how many of them are there just because they are ‘time-honored’?” If we want to remain faithful to Christ and to His Way, then we have to find where we have allowed foreign schools of thinking (i.e., heresies) to co-opt our faith, and we have to eliminate them.

“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.”


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