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The Difficult Issue of the Heretics

The Difficult Issue of the Heretics
2 Peter 1:16–21
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

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