Doctors say you should never take prescription medication out of its original package. There's a simple reason why: you may get confused as to which pills are which, and that can be dangerous. Just as it is dangerous to have medicine in the wrong jar with the wrong label, it's also dangerous to call false teachers and what they say anything other than that: false.
It's for that very reason Peter spent all of his second epistle placing the correct label on the bad medicine, so to speak, of false teaching. In 2 Peter 2 in particular, the apostle gave believers four directives when it comes to encountering false prophets on the road of life:
1. Be careful as you walk. Speaking about people who had been taken off course, Peter said, "They have forsaken the right way and gone astray" (v. 15). There is warning after warning in the New Testament against going astray (see Acts 20:29-31; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 1:6-7; Ephesians 4:14). So we need to carefully watch where we're putting each foot as we walk (see Ephesians 5:15-16). This simply means learning to discern—to distinguish between truth and error (see 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
2. Be careful who you walk with. You need people in your life who love the Lord and who will inspire you spiritually. Peter spoke over and over again in this chapter of people who don't hold to the truth, who pervert the gospel. "These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest…. They speak great swelling words of emptiness" (v. 17-18). In other words, they may be charismatic and eloquent, but they don't speak anything of substance. We need to find people who agree with God's truth and walk with them instead.
3. Be careful what you walk toward. "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage" (v. 19). The allurement of the false teacher is "Come and be free and do as you please," but what they deliver is bondage. Most of the world is looking for a better way to live; they just want it without the transformation the gospel brings. But outward reformation without inward transformation will lead to spiritual incarceration.
4. Be careful how your walk ends. "For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'A dog returns to his own vomit,' and, 'a sow [a pig], having washed, to her wallowing in the mire'" (vv. 21-22). Why do dogs and pigs do that? It's their nature. In the same way, if a person is not given a new nature in Christ, they'll continue to live according to their unredeemed nature. So think about where your own life is headed. Is your walk ending up in the sheep pen under the care of the Good Shepherd, or like these animals that return to their own filth?
As you make your way through this world, you're going to be constantly confronted with the words and lifestyles of people who purport to be spiritual. Please don't be fooled by anyone's cheap costume—by the wrong label being on the wrong jar. Dig a little deeper. Choose now to be not someone who unquestioningly embraces those who name the name of Christ, but a discerning, growing believer who keeps to the true path of life.