Several years ago I was walking down the streets of Kusadasi, Turkey, when I saw a sign that proudly advertised, "Fake Watches." Sure enough, they were the best fake watches I had ever seen. So I bought one. Later on, a friend of mine who knows watches pretty well couldn't even tell it was a fake. But then he said, "If you opened it up and looked inside, you'd be able to tell."
The same goes for looking inside the hearts and minds of false teachers, as the apostle Peter did in 2 Peter 2. From this chapter we discover three principles for dealing with counterfeit teachers:
1. Be aware of their falsehood. Know the things that characterize a false teacher. To start with, they're always around: "There were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you" (v. 1). And as we near the end of days, you can expect it to get worse (see Matthew 24:5, 24).
False teachers also distort the truth—they "secretly bring in destructive heresies" (v. 1) or teachings. They use all the right terms—Jesus, Savior, salvation, inspiration—but not the right meaning of these terms as defined by Scripture. They also deny Christ (see v. 1), meaning they deny who Jesus claimed to be.
False teachers broaden the way to heaven—"Many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (v. 2; see also Matthew 7:13)—and they cover up their motives: "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words" (v. 3). Finally, they "despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries" (v. 10), meaning demonic dignitaries. They act like experts on all things spiritual, even when speaking about things they're ignorant of.
2. Be assured of their fate. Woven throughout 2 Peter 2 is the promise that these false prophets have a severe judgment waiting for them (see vv. 1, 3, 12-13). That's because there's nothing more offensive to God than those who falsify facts about Him.
3. Be aligned with the faithful. In the text, Peter mentioned Noah and Lot as two examples we ought to follow (see vv. 5, 7-8). Neither of them was perfect, but both did what they did because they believed God's promise of judgment and thus escaped that judgment. As verse 9 says, "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment."
Here are two thoughts I want to leave you with: First, be thankful that God loves you enough to warn you about the fake watches of the spiritual world. And second, find examples of faithful people to emulate. Take the time to grow in discernment, and shun those who try to broaden the way to God, instead being encouraged by—and encouraging—those who truly live, believe, and teach the good news.