I was reading through 2 Corinthians and came across the following verse….
I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
2 Corinthians 12:21
The writer of 2 Corinthians is the apostle Paul. He was planning on visiting the church in Corinth and, as this verse stated, he was fearful of arriving there to find church members continuing in their sin, specifically in “impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality”. The Corinthian church had a problem with these sins as seen in 1 Corinthians, where we find out that someone had slept with his father’s wife.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
1 Corinthians 5:1-2
Paul was genuinely and understandably concerned for them. He knew they lived in a perverse culture and were easily swayed by the false teaching of people who claimed spiritual authority but were actually teaching a completely false gospel. They thought themselves wise, when in fact they were immature and lacking discernment in their spiritual understanding.
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough
2 Corinthians 11:4
We, too, should be concerned like Paul was. The things he feared to find in the church at Corinth are running rampant in our society. Impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality are not only accepted as normal, but are championed as fulfilling lifestyles by the media and educational institutions. I’m not going to take the time to focus on specific examples of these things, as I think most people reading this post could come up with multiple examples themselves, but I want to take the time to focus specifically on the subject of sensuality in the Christian church (even though all three of those above subjects are related). Let’s look at 2 Peter 2.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
2 Peter 2:1-3
Peter started out this letter by urging Christians to grow in the faith, and not only for an allotted period of time, but that we would be continuously growing because if we aren’t, we’re pretty much blind. He goes on to say that continuous growth is a confirmation of our salvation. Peter assures that this faith that he urges Christians to grow in is not some kind of “cleverly devised myth”, because he saw Jesus with his own eyes and witnessed God confirming Jesus’ deity. He then broadens his claim that the Bible, that the Christian faith is based on, is inerrant by saying that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” And that’s where we pick up with a warning against the sensuality of false teachers at the beginning of chapter 2.
Peter is very clear here. He states that there will be false teachers who claim to be Christians that will bring ridiculous heresies with them, even denying Jesus who has bought Christians. Denial of Jesus can take many forms. Peter himself lied and denied knowing Jesus three times, but his denial was short lived and he repented. The denial of these false teachers is deliberate, calculated, and continual. Peter is so sure of this that he says that they “will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing” (vs. 12-13) and that “for them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (vs. 17). Their denial of Jesus is not a mistake, and it is most definitely not from Spirit’s guidance like the Bible’s writers who were “carried along by the Holy Spirit”.
Also note that Peter doesn’t call them false leaders. He says they will “secretly bring in destructive heresies”. They don’t start their deception by standing up in front of a good church and saying things like “Jesus isn’t God”. No, they carefully work to “entice” individuals, and attempt to sway the minds of the church through “unsteady” Christians who aren’t spiritually growing.
So what all does this false teaching entail? Peter is also clear on that. He follows up the first 3 verses with several “if” statements, leading up to “then” statements in verses 4-10, that together make clear the kind of denial these false teachers promoted. Here are the “if” statements (shortened),
- If God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell
- If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness
- If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, and rescued Lot
And here’s the “then” statements. Keep the above “if” statements in mind.
- then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials
- and the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
We can’t be sure what the rebellion of the angels was, but we can see from the context of the chapter that it was likely related to “the lust of defiling passion and despising authority”. These false teachers were promoting perversions of God’s design for humanity just like some of the worst examples of rebellion recorded in the Bible.
Peter doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say they “blaspheme the glorious ones” (vs. 10), and compares them to animals following instinct (vs. 12). He says they are “full of adultery”, looking to “entice unsteady souls”, and have “hearts trained in greed” (vs. 14). How is this possible? How can false teachers like this be listened to by Christians? How are they not rejected instantly?
For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
2 Peter 2:18-19
Here we see their secret: “they entice by sensual passions of the flesh”. They appeal not to the truth, but to senses. They use feelings to make their messages appealing, and promise beneficial outcomes that are fleshly. Despite these promises of freedom, they are enslaved to their passions. They are not free in Christ. They’re still dead to their sins.
These false teachers are around us today as well. They mask their sensuality with empty messages loosely based in Christianity and call themselves Christians, when in fact they’re dragging the people they influence with them towards destruction. They make heretical, false claims regarding Christian truths and back them up by appealing to sensuality. Young Christians fall prey to these people and their teaching, not understanding God’s word or being grounded in their faith. They don’t understand the divine purpose of their bodies, emotions, or feelings, or the extent that their own desires have been corrupted by sin.
So what can we learn from this? I’d encourage you to carefully examine yourself regarding sensuality. Are you easily moved by people who appeal to your senses and emotions? I’m not only talking about things like feeling bad for people in need, we should most definitely be sacrificial and willing to help the poor and less fortunate. We must be sensitive and genuine in everything we do in our worship and relationships, and God has given us emotions and desires to be used or fulfilled in their proper places. But false teachers try to take advantage of our emotions, feelings, and sexual desires because they themselves are “overcome” by their sensuality and do not even think of submitting those emotions, feelings or desires to God’s design. Instead, they subject God’s word to their sensuality by denying, ignoring, or writing off the parts they disagree with, and actively work to bring people into the “same flood of debauchery” that they themselves are corrupted in.
With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
1 Peter 4:4
Studying the Bible is the only way we will have meaningful growth in our knowledge and understanding of God and how he wants us to direct our desires, emotions and feelings to glorify Him alone, whether it’s through eradicating them (like immoral desires), limiting them to marriage (legitimate sexual desires), or redirecting them to be fulfilled by God alone (feelings of insecurity, fear, etc). You can read books and study guides and autobiographies and watch informative videos, but none of those are directly from God like the Bible is. Other resources can supplement, but cannot replace God’s word. Study so that the Holy Spirit can help you grow, and you will not be moved or affected by false teachers trying to ensnare Christians through sensuality.