Like waterless springs, false teachers offer nothing that ultimately will satisfy the soul.
“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (2 Peter 2:17).
The Wizard of Oz stands as one of the most famous movies ever made. Most of us probably know the story well. Dorothy is stranded far away from her home in the land of Oz and must see the great and powerful wizard so that he might help her return to Kansas. Along the way she meets several companions, has different adventures, and finally comes before the mighty wizard who causes Dorothy and her friends to shrink back in fear and awe.
However, as is well known, all is not as it appears to be. Near the end of the movie, the wizard is revealed to be not quite as powerful as his image might convey. Dorothy’s canine companion, Toto, draws back the curtain and the wizard is revealed as an ordinary man, not any stronger than the rest of us.
All of us know that in real life, appearances can also be deceiving. In today’s passage, Peter reminds us that the false teachers are not who they appear to be. Though they might claim to provide life-giving water, in reality they do nothing to quench our spiritual thirst.
In 2:17, Peter compares false teachers to waterless springs in order to make his point. Fresh-water springs feed rivers and are a welcome sight to thirsty travelers. However, though these teachers may give the appearance of being a spring of water, their words eventually reveal otherwise. John Calvin writes, they are compared to springs “because they excelled in boasting, and displayed some acuteness in their thoughts and elegance in their words; but that yet they were dry and barren within: hence the appearance of a fountain was fallacious.” False teachers offer nothing that will ultimately satisfy the soul.
Peter also compares false teachers to “mists driven by a storm,” a reference to the hazy clouds in Palestine that appear to offer relief to parched land while actually signaling the onset of more dry weather. Again, the point is that false teachers might seem to have something to offer even though they do not. Notably, like clouds obscure the light of the sun, false teachers also obscure the light of God. Yet they will not endure forever. Instead, they will one day be barred from the light of God’s mercy as they dwell in “the gloom of utter darkness” forever.
In John 4:14, Jesus promises us that the water He gives to us will so satisfy us that we will never be thirsty again. Jesus has appointed many in the body of Christ to be preachers and teachers through whom He offers this life-giving water. If someone claims to be a teacher and does not point us to the Jesus of Scripture, we can be sure that he is a waterless spring. Whether or not you are ordained to the teaching ministry, make sure that you are careful to point others to Jesus.
Passages for Further Study
- Ps. 42:1
- Isa. 55:1–5
- Eph. 5:6