by Mike Ratliff
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 Peter 2:1 ESV)
In light of the upcoming Christianity21 conference being put on by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones in Minneapolis, MN in October, as well as Rob Bell’s continual slide down the slippery slope of apostasy by his embrace of “another gospel,” I would like to take a look at what God’s Word tell us about these sorts of pseudo-Christian “leaders” as well as their eternal destiny. God’s Word tells us that throughout the period between our Lord’s first and and second coming, the Church will be plagued by apostasies being propagated by false teachers and false preachers who have received their “doctrines” from seducing spirits. Also, through this entire period, the Church will have to endure the attacks during very dangerous eras that never end. They simply remain and combine with later apostasies to form ever greater threats to its health. God is allowing these things in order to test His children, to try them in the fire in order to perfect them and prepare them for eternity with Him. However, that does not mean that those to whom He has given over to their false doctrines, which are direct attacks on His pure and true doctrines, He is also preparing judgment especially for them.
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. (Jude 1:3 ESV)
The Christian is never given the command in Sacred Scripture to let others contend for the faith. In v3 the phrase “to contend for” is one Greek word, επαγωνιζεσθαι. It simply means “to contend earnestly.” For what are Christians exhorted to earnestly contend? It is “the faith” (πιστει). This is not simply faith in something abstract like “change,” but this faith is linked back to “our (ημων) common (κοινης) salvation (σωτηριας)” and was “once for all” (απαξ) delivered (παραδοθειση) to the saints (αγιοις). Our common salvation was delivered to us who are truly in Christ “once for all” or απαξ. This means that all truly in Christ are there because of a single work of our Lord that will never be repeated because it is utterly sufficient. Also, all genuine believers share in common the blessings of God’s saving grace as well as His persevering grace. In light of this, Jude is appealing to all Christians who read this epistle to earnestly contend for the faith because it is under a great threat. What is this threat?
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 1:4 ESV)
4 παρεισεδυησαν γαρ τινες ανθρωποι οι παλαι προγεγραμμενοι εις τουτο το κριμα ασεβεις την του θεου ημων χαριτα μετατιθεντες εις ασελγειαν και τον μονον δεσποτην και κυριον ημων ιησουν χριστον αρνουμενοι (Jude 1:4 WHNU)
This verse describes those who have infiltrated the Church. They do not belong in it, but they have worked their way in as false teachers pretending to be true. They may pass muster with those who have little or no discernment because on the surface they look genuine. However, as soon as they are safely ensconced, their true colors are revealed by what they teach. They are intentionally attempting to lead God’s people astray (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29; Galatians 2:4, 5; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1, 20; 1 John 2:18-23). These men and women, are apostates and Satan’s counterfeits posing as true teachers in the Church (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 John 7-11). According to Jude in v4 these people are ungodly (ασεβεις) , they perverted (μετατιθεντες) God’s grace (χαριτα) into sensuality (ασελγειαν), and are denying (αρνουμενοι) Christ. An ασεβεις person is godless, without fear and reverence for God. These godless pretenders take God’s grace and pervert it into sensuality or licentiousness. In other words, they tell those they teach that God’s grace is for the spirit not the body and since they are in Christ they can live as they please, it does not matter what sins they commit for they are still in Christ. This lie is a perversion of the good news that all in Christ are reconciled to the Father because they are justified by faith alone. However, this also means that they are new creations who can no longer abide to be dominated by their flesh and live in sin. However, the last charge is the most heinous. They deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. This means that their doctrines, their teachings, deny the sovereignty of Christ over their lives as well as turning their backs on Christ as their saviour and Lord by their wicked behavior. Apostate teachers in the visible Church always pervert what Scripture declares is true about our Lord Jesus Christ.
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. (Jude 1:5-7 ESV)
In these three verses, Jude reminds us that our Lord is both a Saviour and a Judge. There are all sorts of teachings going around that Jesus is nothing but Love and and could never judge anyone. Well, those who teach that sort of nonsense do not know their Bibles very well. He continues these examples of God’s judgment against apostates in vv8-16. I would like to skip down to vv17-23.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:17-23 ESV)
In this passage we have reference back to the writings of Peter from 2 Peter 3:3. These scoffers following their own ungodly passions are the apostates who are right now teaching heresy and lies to their people in order to lead them away from God’s truth. Jude tells us that they are worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. Even though these people teach that they have attained the highest spiritual life, they are actually devoid of the Holy Spirit so they are actually spiritually dead. Syncretism and Mysticism are being touted by these people as legitimate forms of our faith. What are we to do in light of these things? We are to build ourselves up in our faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus that leads to eternal life. That is a very good description of the spirit-filled life. Prayer is key. We need to walk through each day praying continually, surrendering to our Lord’s control of everything. Then we are to be content and patient in our waiting for our Lord’s return. From this close intimate walk with the Lord, we will naturally show mercy to others and, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, counsel those who doubt and sharing our faith with those who will listen to us as we share the hope we have in us. We should also work to mortify the flesh and the sins it loves.
My brethren, we as Christians are living in a spiritually dark and dangerous time. The most apostate professing Christians seem to have the center of attention because the world loves them. However, genuine Christianity is despised even by other professing Christians. We are under a lot of pressure to compromise and get with the program, but those who truly belong to the Lord will never do this. I urge all reading this to contend earnestly for the faith no matter what others may think about it.
Soli Deo Gloria!