3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
(Jude vv. 3-4 NIV)
Yesterday we began our journey through the letter of Jude. In his introduction, Jude reminded us that we were called, are loved, and will continue to be kept for the day when Jesus returns to take his own to heaven. Jude also lavished blessings on his readers, offering them God’s mercy, peace, and love in abundance.
In today’s passage, Jude presents the purpose for his letter – to identify and deal with false teachers that have crept into the local church. Peter’s second letter had warned that there might be those who would bring false teaching into the church; in Jude’s letter, the false teachers had arrived and were infiltrating the church.
In yesterday’s introduction, we see what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. In today’s text, Jude states his purpose for writing and issues a call to action to deal with the false teachers.
Jude begins today’s passage by stating that while he really wanted to write to his dear friends about their common salvation in Christ, he was led by the Lord to write about staying true to their faith in Christ and to God’s Word that was entrusted to God’s people.
The phrase “once for all” is very important in Jude’s statement. These false teachers were coming in and saying that they had a new word from God, new truths and teachings that were the “next thing” that superceded what Jesus taught. Jude is saying that what they were taught by Jesus and the apostles is the truth, and there is no “new truth” as the false teachers claim.
In verse 4, Jude states that certain individuals have slipped into the church and started introducing false teachings as truth. These false teachers didn’t come in the front door loudly proclaiming what they believed. Instead, they came in the side door, earned peoples’ trust, and then got themselves into teaching positions where they could introduce their false teachings. These false teachers are like wedding crashers who get dressed up and pass themselves off as friends of the bride or groom in order to fulfill their own selfish desires.
Jude tells us that these false teachers are not merely individuals that are mistaken in their beliefs; rather, these people are not followers of Christ at all. They are pretending to be followers of Christ, but are ungodly, “who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
And what is their end? What are the consequences laid out for these false teachers? Jude says that their condemnation was written out long ago. In other words, God was not surprised by these false teachers. Long before they existed, God had known and had warned about their existence and had publicly warned about their coming, and had already laid out the heavy consequences of their sin.
So how do we identify false teachers? What are some of their characteristics? Jude gives us two clear markers – they pervert the grace of God, and they deny Jesus as Savior and Lord.
The second marker is easier to measure than the first. We can simply ask, “Who is Jesus Christ?”, then listen carefully to their reply. Do they confess Jesus as their Savior and Lord, or do they use “nice” words like “he was a great teacher” or “he was a nice man”, but deny Jesus’ claim to be God?
The first marker takes time and observation. Again, a question helps in the understanding of a person’s motives. Why does someone do what they do? Are they teaching for God’s glory and basing their teachings on God’s Word? Or are they teaching for their own selfish interests, for what they can get from their hearers, and are they using God’s Word out of context to support their own agenda?
May we immerse ourselves in God’s Word to know truth from falsehood, and may we seek discernment from the Lord through prayer in order to know those who teach God’s Word and those who do not, and have the boldness to confront in love those who do not.