How should we respond to and apply passages in Scripture that clearly refer to false teachers? Especially those false teachers who, like the ones in 2 Peter 2:1-22, once knew the truth, yet chose to forsake it (2 Peter 2:21)? Certainly, the obvious applications come to mind: stay away from these kinds of false teachers; be aware of and steer clear of their teaching; preach these passages firmly and courageously in order to warn our people of the danger of false teaching and false teachers. Yet, I think there is more here for us as Christians. The question is: how do regenerate and eternally secure Christians respond personally to a passage about false teachers? I would suggest it is by allowing these passages to serve as warnings.
In 2 Peter 2:1-22, the apostle denounces the ungodly character and ungodly actions of these false teachers: they deny Christ, they follow sensuality and exploit others; they are greedy, blasphemous and creatures of instinct; they are blots and blemishes and waterless springs; they are proud, boastful and slaves of corruption. A genuine Christian, on the other hand, will hate this kind of sin; not only—not even primarily—in a false teacher, but any remnant of it he finds in himself. Thus, we can quarry the following questions from a passage like this: where do I see the tendency in my heart to follow sensuality and exploit others? Where in my life do I tend toward greed? Am I guilty of blasphemy? Where is there pride in my life? Where am boastful?
Scripture makes it clear that it is impossible for a genuine Christian to fall into a state like the one described in 2 Peter 2:1-22. But by what means does God keep a regenerate Christian from falling into a state like the one described in 2 Peter 2:1-22? It is by giving him a heart that despises the thought of ending up like those depicted in this passage. A Christian is both confident he can never fall away, and he takes care that he never does. When we come to passages like 2 Peter 2:1-22, therefore, we are benefited when we use them, not only as a prompt to be discerning about false teachers, but also as warnings to stay far away from the sin that characterizes them.