LIBERTY OR BONDAGE
2 Peter 2:18-19 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.
False prophets, false preachers, or false teachers - do they give you liberty or bondage? This seems to be the thought in verse 19 of the lesson text. When a person is won over to be a follower of a false teacher, do they experience freedom or enslavement? This is premise to be examined in this lesson.
The object of false teachers is to attract listeners to follow and support them in number as well as financially. In previous verses of Peter's discourse on this subject we learn that false teachers are driven by their covetous desire for the praise and commendation of others, for personal power, but primarily for financial gain. To succeed, they must gain an audience that is capable, and willing, to fill this desire. To win over an audience, they must be skilled as a public speaker. They must use speaking techniques that have been successful for other great orators, because great orators attract huge audiences and develop followers in great number. Assuredly, they must also have a message that people want to hear, and they must present it in a convincing, oratorical fashion.
To succeed, two things are necessary for a public speaker to find greatness. First, he must present his message with public speaking excellance. Peter describes this type of speech as one having great swelling words of vanity. The manner a message is delivered cannot be simple or average in any way. It must be given in an epic and grand fashion. A timid presentation is not acceptable. The message must be delivered in positive manner but yet filled with pompous, inflated words that paint a picture of great magnitude, superb in its nature, that will both inspire and excite the senses of the hearer. Such describes the speaking method of a "successful" false teacher.
And secondly, the message must contain the things that appeal to a receptive audience - things they want to hear. The teacher must say things that are not repelling, but are attractive and alluring. These are the same things Peter refers to in verse 14 as beguiling things that appeal to those that are not well grounded - those that are considered to be unstable souls. The apostle, Paul, gives us a description hearers that are easily persuaded to accept the teaching of a false teacher. In Ephesians 4:14 he says they are like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
And what messages are more appealing to those that are easily persuaded? Those that they are able to allure through the lusts of the flesh. Spiritual doctrines that allow one to indulge in worldly activities that satisfy carnal desires are probably the messages used most to entice people to accept, and follow, false teachers. This same allurement is made through much wantonness. A message of wantonness is one that allows, and in some instances, supports unchaste, lewd, excessive, and immoral behavior. The hearer is led to believe that restraint and discipline are not required of God. Our behavior, they say, should be governed by the feelings they generate. Thus the saying "If it feels good, do it" is sanctioned by teachers bent on persuading an audience to support and follow their teaching. Such is the message of many false teachers.
In the few previous verses the teaching methods, and the message of the false teacher, have been fully described. Again the question the subject text poses is this: do false teachers offer freedom or bondage? Verse 19 tells us that false teachers promise them liberty. Followers of their doctrine would be free from the restrictions that govern their passions and desires. However, Peter tells us, they themselves are the servants of corruption. False teachers deceive when they fail to tell their listeners the truth about sin and the assured bondage to which it leads them into. The satisfaction of worldly lust, the very thing that people most desire here on earth, is, of itself, bondage. The message of false teachers, and the method they present it, are designed to fill their own covetous desires by deceiving hearers into supporting and following them. To accomplish this, they offer audiences the liberty to sin, which is the most severe form of bondage. Reader, beware of such false teachers.