In part one of this study on the Epistle of Jude1 we learned that Jude was writing to a church that was being terribly assailed by false teachers, whose words were deceiving many of the saints. Others, though not deceived, were unsure as to how to respond to this attack. In the opening verses, they are pointedly reminded to simply continue to contend for the faith, and to leave retribution in the hands of God Almighty.
As the epistle continues, we learn something of the true nature of such teachers. And truly, these characteristics are shared by all those who would willingly teach doctrine which is contrary to the Word of God.
But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
False teachers invariably consider themselves to be specially enlightened. Sadly, the “enlightenment” which they claim, and which they offer, is in reality, blindness. Due to their own carnality, they are unable to see the beauty and simplicity of Christ and therefore they ridicule it. In its place, they offer teaching based upon feelings, experiences, and herd instincts. And such doctrine can lead only to corruption.
Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Cain, Balaam, and Core (Korah) are individuals whose deeds are recorded in the Old Testament. (For a more complete understanding, the reader is encouraged to study these records.2) All three are noted for their flagrant disobedience to God’s command. Cain was interested in the work of his own hands; Balaam was interested in material gain; Korah was interested in public acclaim. All three of these qualities abound in teachers like those Jude is describing.
These are spots [hidden reefs] in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
These individuals are experts at taking but have nothing to offer in return. Though they may appear to have a concern for God’s Word and God’s people, this outward demeanor conceals a dreadful danger to all who approach them.
Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
From the beginning, God has had a wonderful, gracious plan for mankind. That plan is revealed in His Word. Satan, our enemy, therefore devotes great effort to seeing that God’s Word remains hidden. Failing that, he will do his utmost to make God’s good news appear to be confusing, foolish, or incomplete. In its place, he offers doctrines which appear to be logical and true. Such doctrines may even resemble the Word of God, often claiming to impart some crowning truth which God forgot to mention. All these doctrines share a common purpose—to detract from the Word of the only true God.
To promote these doctrines, Satan needs teachers, and thus proponents of error have always abounded, especially in places where truth has taken root. Many Christians are surprised by this fact, though they should not be—virtually every book in the Word of God warns against these deceivers. God wants us to be aware of those who teach error so that we may avoid them and warn others about them. He also wants us to be aware of their eventual fate.
Jude 14, 15
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
The one repeated word in verse 15 aptly sums up these men, their deeds, and their teachings! A further description follows:
Jude 16 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)
These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
Once again, the existence and operation of such individuals should not surprise us. The apostles of our Lord, who were the original teachers of doctrine in the early church also, with the doctrine, imparted a warning:
But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
We have already read of God’s assurance that He will deal with these individuals, thoroughly and conclusively. What, then, are we as Christians to do when our churches are assailed by these individuals and their words? The next verses give us an answer:
Jude 20, 21
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost [holy spirit],
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Note the word “but,” indicating a contrast. When surrounded by error, we certainly do not join in. But further, we do not react. We make our choices not in response to circumstances, but in response to God. And this is what He would have us do:
- Build ourselves up on our most holy faith. Faith is built by devoting time to God’s Word—reading it, sharing it, and holding it fast.
- Pray in the holy spirit. In other words, praying by means of speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:15).
- Continue to walk in the love of God.
- Remember our hope, and look for the day of Christ’s return.
In considering this list, some might say, “Wait a minute—those are things that all Christians should be doing all of the time.” And that is exactly the point. As we saw in the opening verses of the epistle, God called us here to contend for the faith, not to contend against obstructions, distractions, or apparent threats. The obstructions, distractions, and threats only exist because faithful saints have invaded this dark world and persist in contending for the faith!
So our path is clear. But what are we to do regarding fellow-believers who are no longer contending for the faith, who have been affected by wrong doctrine?
Jude 22, 23
And of some have compassion, making a difference:
And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Scholars and commentators differ greatly regarding the proper translation of these verses. To compound the difficulty, not all of the Greek texts are in agreement. Considering the texts and the findings of scholars as well as the evidence of similar commands found elsewhere in the New Testament, I believe that our responsibility to other believers who have been affected by deception should be as follows:3
- Reprove those who, having accepted false teaching, are causing division. (Of course, all true reproof is done via the clear testimony of God’s Word.)
- Do not despise those who are being deceived: some of them may be rescued and restored. If possible, we are to show mercy by pulling them out of the fire. At the same time, in the fear of the Lord, we recognize the enormity of the error with which they were flirting and, though we love the individual, we despise the error.
What of our actions towards those who are doing the deceiving? Throughout the New Testament, the answer is the same: avoid them. God will deal with them in due time.
The Epistle of Jude presents the bare facts regarding a situation which many of us might be called on to endure in our lifetimes. These facts can seem threatening, or even intimidating. I am so thankful that this sobering epistle closes with a timeless comfort:
Jude 24, 25 (New American Standard Version)
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,
to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
1 Part one is entitled “Kept by Jesus Christ,” and can be found in our Past Articles (archives) section.
2 The record of Cain is found in Genesis 4, the record of Balaam in Numbers 22–24, and the record of Korah in Numbers 16, though all three are mentioned at other places in God’s Word.
3 The reader is encouraged to study these verses, and related verses, independently. Your conclusions may not necessarily echo my own.