Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
In his first letter, Peter writes about true, genuine believers; in his second letter, he writes about false, counterfeit believers. In putting these two Epistles together, Smith identifies “the difference between authentic and counterfeit believers.” Here are the seven differences.
1. Different Source—Where does the message come from?
So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity. He makes up his own message.
2. Different Message—What is the substance of the message?
For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central. . . . For the false teacher, Jesus is at the margins.
3. Different Position—In what position will the message leave you?
The true believer is escaping corruption, while the counterfeit believer is mastered by it.
4. Different Character—What kind of people does the message produce?
The true believer pursues goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brother kindness, and love (1:5). The counterfeit Christian is marked by arrogance and slander (2:10).
5. Different Appeal—Why should you listen to the message?
So the true teacher asks, "What has God said in his Word?" The false teacher asks, "What do people want to hear? What will appeal to their flesh?"
6. Different Fruit—What result does the message have in people's lives?
The true believer is effective and productive in his or her knowledge of Jesus Christ (1:8). The counterfeit is "like a spring without water" (2:17).
7. Different End—Where does the message ultimately lead you?
The true believer will receive "a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:11). The false believer will experience "swift destruction" (2:1). "Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping" (2:3).
Smith concludes Christians must not be ignorant of false teachers, and applies this warning in two ways.
First, Peter's plain statement reminds us that the church needs to be protected.
Second, skeptics will always be able to point to hypocrisy and inconsistency in the church.
As I read this, I ask a few additional questions of application.