July 25: The Difficult Issue of the Heretics
2 Samuel 14:1–15:37; 2 Peter 1:16–21; Psalm 141:1–142:7
Distinguishing between correct and false teaching has plagued nearly every church. We ask questions such as, “Are we venturing too far in that direction?” “Is this just my personal theological issue, or is this actually a big deal?” “Should I be concerned about that, or is it simply a matter of individual choice?” Thankfully, the NT clarifies many of these issues for us.
Throughout Peter’s second letter, he addresses the challenge of warding off false teachers; he aims to defend the gospel and explain why the false teachers’ claims are incorrect. To do so, Peter hinges his argument on his own experience—on what he witnessed. In his case, arguing from personal witness makes sense: Peter actually knew Jesus.
He writes, “For we did not make known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ by following ingeniously concocted myths, but by being eyewitnesses of that one’s majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice such as this was brought to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ ” (2 Pet 1:16–17). For Peter, orthodoxy comes down to the foundation of the claims being made about Jesus and whether Christ is being proclaimed as Lord and as God’s Son.
Peter isn’t willing to put up with false prophecy, testimony, or teaching (see 2 Pet 2). To show how absurd the false teachers’ claims are, Peter proclaims, “every prophecy of scripture does not come about from one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke of God” (2 Pet 1:20–21).
Correct and incorrect teaching can be distinguished based on the source of the words being spoken and whether they align with what was taught by eyewitnesses (like Peter). Although this isn’t a complete guide for distinguishing between what God approves and what He doesn’t, it gives us a good start to ward off basic false teachings and focus on the truth instead. Next time we come to the difficult question of “Is this heresy?” we can ask “What would Peter think?”
What issues is your church struggling with? How can you help investigate them in light of the claims made by NT eyewitnesses like Peter?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived, that the king’s heart was toward Absalom, And Joab sent to Tekoa, and brought thence a subtle woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to mourn, and now put on mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil: but be as a woman that had now long time mourned for the dead. And come to the king, and speak on this manner unto him, (for Joab taught her what she should say.) Then the woman of Tekoa spake unto the king, and fell down on her face on the ground, and did obeisance, and said, Help, O King. Then the king said unto her, What aileth aileth thee? And she answered, I am indeed a widow, and mine husband is dead: And thine handmaid had two sons, and they two strove together in the field, (and thre was none to part them) so the one smote the other, and slew him. And behold the whole family is risen against thine handmaid, and they said, Deliver him that smote his brother, that we may kill him from the soul of his brother whom he slew, that we may destroy the heir also: so they shall quence my sparkle which is left, and shall not leave to mine husband neither name nor posterity upon the earth. And the king said unto the woman, Go to thine house, and I will give a charge for thee. Then the woman of Tekoa said unto the King, My lord, O King, this trespass be on me, and on my father’s house, and the King and his throne be guiltless. And the King said, Bring him to me that speaketh against thee, and he shall touch thee no more. Then said he, I pray thee, let the king remember the Lord thy God, that thou wouldest not suffer many revengers of blood to destroy, lest they slay my son. And he answered, As the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth. Then the woman said, Wherefore then hast thou thought such a thing against the people of God? or why doth the King, as one which is faulty, speak this thing, tht he will not bring again his banished? For we must needs die, and we are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again: neither doeth God spare any person, yet doth he appoint means, not to cast out from him, him that is expelled. Now therefore, that I am come to speak of this thing unto my lord the King, the cause is that the people have made me afraid: therefore thine handmaid said, Now will I speak unto the King: it may be that the king will perform the request of his handmaid. For the king will hear, to deliver his handmaid out of the hand of the man that would destroy me, and also my son from the inheritance of God. Therefore thine handmaid said, The word of my lord the king shall now be comfortable: for my lord the King is even as an Angel of God in hearing of good and bad: therefore the Lord thy God be with thee. Then the king answered, and said unto the woman, Hide not from me, I pray thee, the thing that I shall ask thee. And the woman said, Let my lord the king now speak. And the king said, Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this? Then the woma n answered, and said, As thy soul liveth, my lord the King, I will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, from ought that my lord the king hath spoken: for even thy servant Joab bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thine handmaid. For to the intent that I should change the form of speech, thy servant Joab hath done this thing: but my lord is wise according to the wisdom of an Angel of God, to understand all things that are in the earth. And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing: go then, and bring the young man Abaslom again. And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself and thanked the King. Then Joab said, This day thy servant knoweth, that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord the king, in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his servant. And Joab arose, and sent to Geshur, and brought Absalom Jerusalem. And the King said, Let him turn to his own house, and not see my face. So Absalom turned to his own house, and saw not the king’s face. Now in all Israel there was none to be so much praised for beauty as Abaslom: from the sole of his foot even to the top of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his head, (for at every year’s end he polled it: because it was too heavy for him, therefore he polled it) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. And Abaslom had three sons, and one daughter named Tamar, which was a fair woman to look upon. So Abaslom dwelt the space of two years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king’s face. Therefore Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the King, but he would not come to him: and when he sent again, he would not come. Therefore he said unto his servants, Behold, Joab hath a field by my place, and hath barley therein: go, and set it on fire; and Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom unto his house, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants burnt my field with fire? And Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent for thee, saying, Come thou hither, and I will send thee to the king for to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? It had been better for me to have been there still: now therefore let me see the king’s face: and if there be any trespass in me, let him kill me. Then Joab came to king, and told him: and he called or Absalom, who came to the king, and bowed hiself to the ground on his face before the king, and the king kissed Absalom. After this, Absalom prepared him chariots, and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood hard by the entering in of the gate: and every man that had any matter, and came to the king for judgment, him did Absalom call unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he answered, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. Then Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and righteous, but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made Judge in the land, that every man which hath any matter of controversy, might come to me, that I might do him justice. And when any man came near to him, and did him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel, that came to the King for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. And after forty years, Absalom said unto the King, I pray thee, let me go to Hebron, and render my vow which I have vowed unto the Lord. For thy servant vowed a vow when I remained at Geshur, in Aram, saying, If the Lord shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, I will serve the Lord. And the King said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron. Then Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, When ye hear the sound of the trumpet, ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron. And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called: and they went in their simplicity, knowing nothing. Also Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he offered sacrifices: and the treason was great: for the people increased still with Absalom. Then came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are turned after Absalom. Then David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Up, and let us flee: for we shall not escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he come suddenly and take us, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. And the king’s servants said unto him, gehold, thy servants are ready to do according to all that my lord the king shall appoint. So the king departed and all his household after him, and the king left ten concubines to keep the house. And the king went forth and all the people after him, and tarried in a place far off. And all his servants went about him, and all the Cherethites and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, even six hundred men which were come after him from Gath, went before the king. Then said the King to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore comest thou also with us? Return and abide with the King, for thou art a stranger, depart from thou therefore thy places. Thou camest yesterday, and should I cause thee to wander today and go with us? I will go whither I can: therefore return thou, and carry again thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee. And Ittai answered the King, and said, As the Lord liveth, and as my lord and the king liveth, in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there surely will thy servant be. Then David said to Ittai, Come, and go forward. And Ittai the Gittite went, and all his men, and all the children that were with him. And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people went forward, but the King passed over the book Kidron: and all the people went over towards the way of the wilderness. And lo, Zadok also was there, and all the Levites with him, bearing the Ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the Ark of God: and Abiathar went up until the people were all come out of the city. Then the King said unto Zadok, Carry the Ark of God again into the city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and the Tabernacle thereof. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good in his eyes. The King said again unto Zadok the Priest, Art not thou a Seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you: to wit, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. Behold, I will tarry in the fields of the wilderness, until there come some word from you to be told me. Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the Ark of God again to Jerusalem, and they tarried there. And David went up the mount of olives, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and went barefooted: and all the people that was with him, had ever man his head covered, and as they went up, they wept. Then one told David, saying, Ahithophel is one of them that have conspired with Absalom: and David said, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. Then David came to the top of the mount where he worshipped God: and behold, Hushai the Archite came against him with his coat torn, and having earth uon his head. Unto whom David said, If thou go with me, thou shalt be a burthen unto me. But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O King (as I have been in time past thy father’s servant, so will I now be thy servant) then thou mayest bring me the counsel of Ahithophel to nought. And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the Priests? therefore whatsoever thou shalt har out of the King’s house, thou shalt show to Zadok and Abiathar the Preists. Behold, there are with them their two sons: Ahimaaz Zadok’s son, and Jonathan Abiathar’s son: by them also shall ye send me everything that ye can hear. So Hushai David’s friend went into the city: and Absalom came unto Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 14:1–15:37
- For we followed not deceivable fables, when we opened unto you the power, and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but with our eyes we saw his majesty: For he received of God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice from that excellent Glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom i am well pleased. And this voice we heard when it came from heaven being with him in the holy mount. We have also a most sure word of the Prophets, to the which ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the day star arise in your hearts. So that ye first know this, that no prophecy of the Scipture is of any private interpretation: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:16–21
- O Lord, I call upon thee: haste thee unto me: hear my voice, when I cry unto thee. Let my prayer be directed in thy sight asincense, and the lifting up of mine hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips. Incline not mine heart to evil, that I should commit wicked works with them that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their delicates. Let the righteous smite me: for that is a benefit: and let him reprove me, and it shall be a precious oil that shall not break mine head: for within a while I shall even pray in their miseries. When their judges shall be cast down in stony places, they shall hear my words, for they are sweet. Our bones lie scattered at the grave’s mouth, as he that heweth wood or diggeth in the earth. But mine eyes look unto thee, O Lord God: in thee is my trust: leave not my soul destitute. Keep me from the snare, which they have laid for me, and from the gins of the workers of inquity. Let the wicked fall into his nets together while I escape. I cried unto the Lord with my voice: with my voice I prayed unto the Lord. I poured out my meditation before him, and declared mine affection in his presence. Though my spirit was in perplexity in me, yet thou knewest my path: in the way wherein I walked, have they privily laid a snare for me. I look upon my right hand, and beheld, but there was none that would know me: all refuge failed me, and none cared for my soul. Then cried I unto thee, O Lord, and said, Thou art mine hoer, and my portion in the land of the living. Hearken unto my cry, for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy Name: then shall the righteous come about me, when thou art beneficial unto me. Psalm 141:1–142:7