Ladies, are you tired of slogging through Jude’s rather vitriolic description of false teachers? Are you starting to wonder how to apply everything he’s written so that you can contend for the faith as Jude enjoins us to do in verse 3? The three verses we’ll study today offer a final description of false teachers, in order that we can begin to apply everything we’ve learned about false teachers. We’ll round the corner by introducing Jude’s closing paragraph.
Please prepare for this study by reading the entire 25 verses of Jude’s epistle (click this link to make it easier). I’ll quote today’s verses in the context of the closing paragraphs they introduce.
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 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. ~~Jude 17-25 (ESV)
As you can see, in verse 17 Jude pivots his attention from false teachers to his readers, urging that we remember the predictions that the apostles made. Obviously, Jude’s immediate readers had known the apostles personally, as verse 18 suggests. But those of us living in the 21st Century have access to those same predictions through Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Jude quite firmly reminds both groups that, indeed, we have been put on notice.
Precisely for that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised by the false teachers and false teaching that permeates the visible church today. The apostles, speaking through Scripture, have prepared us to expect people (even within our own ranks) to distort God’s Word.
Moving to verse 18, Jude specifically reiterates the apostles’ warnings, as if to solidify them in our minds. Right away, he quotes their assertion that the apostasy would occur in “the last times,” which Biblical scholars take to mean the period between Christ’s First and Second Coming.
Jude further reminds us that the apostles said that the false teachers (in many cases) would be scoffers. 2 Peter 3:4 expands on this idea by explaining that some of them would mock us for believing in the Second Corning. This idea fits Jude’s teaching earlier in this epistle regarding the sensuality of these teachers.
The scoffers mock the Second Corning, according to the apostles Jude quotes, because of their sensuality and worldly lusts. The quotation here doesn’t elaborate on this idea, so Jude interjects his own clarification in verse 19 by making two brief observations.
First he states that apostate teachers cause divisions within the church. We can easily name several present-day evangelical celebrity teachers and speakers/authors who have this effect. They divide the Church by tweaking God’s Word ever so subtlety so that the distortions appeal to our flesh. They then garner the loyalties of their followers, who in turn react violently to Scriptural evidence of their pet teachers’ error.
Second Jude says once more that false teachers are “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” This remark perhaps summarizes everything he’s written in this epistle about apostate teachers. Their worldliness, which Jamieson, Fausset and Brown understand as “animal-souled,” underscores the thought that their rejection of the Holy Spirit reduces them, as he’s written in verse 10, to unreasoning animals.
Next week we’ll finally start looking at ways to deal with the victims of false teachers, remembering that apostate teachers have already incurred judgment (Jude 4-7). As the epistle turns its attention away from false teachers, we will discover practical ways to contend for the faith.