Jude: Contending Against False Teachers

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

—Jude 5-16—

Last week, I began a series here based on a small group study I wrote a year ago examining the epistle of Jude, by first examining “our common salvation” of which he was so eager to write. It is critical for us to understand “the faith once for all delivered” for which we must contend—because knowing what is right is critical for us to distinguish what is wrong.

As Jude continues down this road, so do we, looking at what he (and the rest of Scripture) tell us about those who have “crept in unnoticed.”

Perverting the Grace of God

Jude verse 4 tells us that, “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

This is a pretty serious charge, isn’t it? To say that some among us—leading, teaching, writing books, blogging, making videos—that some of these are not servants of Christ at all. They’re servants of Satan seeking to destroy God’s Church? Without question it is, but it’s one to which all believers must pay careful attention.

I would suggest that today the ability to be deceived by false teaching is greater than in any other generation. Podcasts, vodcasts, books, blogs… There’s so much out there, some good, some great and some that is extremely sketchy. And quite honestly, it can be difficult to discern who is on the level and who might not be. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that we don’t try.

The Old and New Testaments are not silent on this issue. Virtually every book of the New Testament has a severe warning against false teachers. Matthew 7:15-20; Mark 13:22; 2 Cor. 11:1-15; Phil 3:2-3; Col. 2:18-19; 1 Tim 1:2-20, 4:1-3, 6:2-5; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 2 John 7-11; Rev 2: 14-16, 20… These are just a few of the New Testament examples of warnings against false teaching.

Perhaps one of the most severe is the Apostle Paul’s warning to the elders of the Ephesian church:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

Acts 20:28-31 (emphasis mine)

In other words, Paul tells them, “Pay attention! Men are coming who will distort the truth and lead people astray—and you might be one of them!”

He even applies this warning to himself in Galatians 1:6-9,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The Old Testament warnings are equally severe. Significant portions of Jeremiah address false prophets and priests who lead the people of Israel astray (see Jeremiah 14:13-22, 23:9-40, 28:1-29:32) as does chapter 13 of the book of Ezekiel. These false prophets are called “liars,” their messages “worthless divinations” and “vain hopes” that are the “deceit of their own minds.” And God makes it clear: “I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them.”

Designated for Condemnation

Beginning in verse 5, Jude begins to describe in unbelievably clear terms the authority of Christ and the judgement that awaits those who seek to lead God’s people astray. Perhaps most powerful in verse 5 is that Jude emphatically states it was Jesus who freed the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. “Jesus is God,” says Jude, who grew up with Jesus as his half-brother. “And Jesus will judge the living and the dead.”

Jesus destroyed those who did not believe in the desert (v. 5). Jesus brought judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah for their gross sexual immorality (v. 7). Jesus chains the devil and his angels in anticipation of the judgement to come (v. 6). It is Jesus who rules over hell and will judge (v. 6-7).

The Scriptures are clear: Judgement belongs to God alone—and Jude makes it equally clear that Jesus is the one who will judge.

This should give us pause for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

Those who are warned about are blasphemers.

They rely on their own dreams, on a “private word from God” that they put on par with the authority of Scripture, despite the fact that it might contradict Scripture. They “defile the flesh,” falling into sexual immorality. They reject authority, refusing to obey godly counsel or even Scripture. They “blaspheme the glorious ones,” possibly a reference to flippant talk against fallen angels when even the archangel Michael wouldn’t rebuke Satan, instead saying “the Lord rebuke you!” (v. 9).

They are controlled by their base instincts and desires. They are rebels motivated by greed and self-aggrandizement. They exemplify depravity.

They have no fear of the Lord.

They are blasphemers.

And Jesus will “execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (v. 15). These things will not go unchecked. God will not allow His name to be maligned, nor His people to be destroyed.

Be Steadfast

The challenge is false teachers don’t usually make themselves obvious; it’s not some dude who looks like Dick Dastardly with a sinister moustache waiting in the wings to snatch you. These are “Christians” who reject the truth; they are pastors of the serpent. They say nice words and say nice things that make us feel good but deny Scripture, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly. They sow doubt under the guise of a conversation. Like the serpent in the garden speaking to Eve, they ask, “Did God really say…?”

Looking at the OT examples in particular, these are men and women who would speak as though God had given them revelation. Their intent always is always to turn us away from the God that is to the god of their imagining.

The point of knowing what to look for is not to go heretic-hunting. It’s to be discerning. To help us identify godly teachers and authors. To understand when God is being honored, and when He is being blasphemed. To encourage others to do the same. But it’s not to go on a smear campaign or to watch-blog or declare someone a heretic if they’ve misspoken. That happens far too often and is something that we must avoid.

In the end, judgement belongs to the Lord. He will render all judgement. So we must be cautious in how we approach countering false doctrine and teachers that we do not ourselves blaspheme God. We are called to contend for the faith, not abandoning it for what sounds pretty but is altogether unhelpful. We are called to persevere in the face of false teaching with a holy fear of the Lord.

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Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.