As we noted last Monday, the Holy Spirit inspired Jude to give ordinary believers the responsibility of contending for the sound teaching that comprises the Christian faith. Today let’s talk about the reason that we must engage in such contention. To do so, allow me to take you back to the text.
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For 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. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)
Verse 4 very bluntly states that false teachers had infiltrated the church. Their presence naturally mandated that the people of God stand against their deception by holding fast to the truth.
But who were these false teachers (and who are they today)? Jude doesn’t name names in this particular epistle, but instead lists identifying characteristics of such teachers. Does that mean we shouldn’t name names in our century? I reject that inference, largely because Jude apparently addresses Christians in general rather than writing to a specific person or congregation. Certainly Paul and John had no reticence about naming people who caused problems (see, for example, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and 3 John 9-10). It seems reasonable that, because Jude’s target audience wasn’t localized, that he would outline ways that they could spot false teachers.
Interestingly, Jude’s letter says many things about false teachers that we find in 2 Peter 2. Throughout this study, I’ll use 2 Peter 2 as a commentary on Jude, believing that we best interpret Scripture by Scripture and that Peter strengthens Jude’s argument. Therefore, I want to show you 2 Peter 2:1-3 so that we can better delineate the marks of a false teacher that Jude 4 gives us.
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. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 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. ~~1 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV)
Both Jude and Peter begin by telling us that false teachers arise from within the Christian community. According to Jude, they have “crept in unnoticed.” In other words, ladies, they appear to be genuine believers who love the Lord and teach the Bible. We don’t notice them as false teachers because we have babysat their children, been in their Tuesday evening small groups and had them pray with us when our loved one died. They’ve been in the church for years.
Jude doesn’t directly mention that these people are false teachers, but Peter doesn’t hesitate to say so, adding that they “secretly bring in destructive heresies.” Jude implies the same idea by imploring us in verse 3 to contend for the faith. We contend for it because someone assaults it.
These false teachers, both Jude and Peter agree, are “designated for condemnation” because they are false converts. Several commentaries I read worked hard and long to soften the idea that God world actually predestine somebody to condemnation, but John Gill defended the possibility by writing:
[R]eprobation is of the same date with election; if the one is from eternity, the other must be so too, since there cannot be one without the other: if some were chosen before the foundation of the world, others must be left or passed by as early; and if some were appointed unto salvation from the beginning, others must be foreordained to condemnation from the beginning also.
But whether or not the condemnation is individually predestined, Peter agrees with Jude that these teachers will be condemned. Later verses elaborate on the nature of this condemnation, but right now Jude simply provides two reasons for this condemnation. False teachers “pervert the grace of God into sensuality” and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
These two reasons, which we will explore next week, also help us recognize who false teachers are. I’m sorry to make you wait until then to finish studying Jude 4, but I don’t want to gloss over critical points, especially when they apply so vitally to our present-day need for discernment.
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