Summary: In our lesson today, Jude compared false teachers to five natural phenomena.
The Letter of Jude deals with the subject of false teaching, which is the greatest danger to the Church of Jesus Christ today.
12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 12-13)
In April I attended the annual Twin Lakes Fellowship meeting in Florence, MS. One of the speakers was Martin Downes, pastor of Christ Church Deeside in North Wales and author of Risking the Truth.
Downes defines heresy as “any teaching that directly contradicts the clear and direct witness of the Scriptures on a point of salvific importance.” In other words, heresy is the kind of doctrinal error that it completely redefines the gospel.
For the past two months I have been preaching through the short but vitally important Letter of Jude. Jude’s entire letter deals with the matter of false teaching and heresy, which I believe is the greatest danger to the Church of Jesus Christ today. False teaching usually comes into the church from within the church. This is in fact the point that Jude made in his letter. He said in Jude 4, “For certain people [i.e., false teachers] have crept in unnoticed” into the church.
It is for this reason that pastors are called to watch over the flock. The Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30). So, pastors are called to tenderhearted watchfulness. I love what John Calvin said in this regard, “A pastor sounds two alarms: one is comfort for the sheep, and the other is for the wolves.”
There are different types of error, just as there are different types of people who embrace error. First, some people are sincerely ignorant. For example, Apollos was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures, and even taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. So, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26).
Second, other people have sincerely misunderstood the truth. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians to correct several areas of misunderstanding.
Third, sometimes a teacher is temporarily inconsistent. That was the case with the Apostle Peter in Antioch. The Apostle Paul confronted Peter about his inconsistency (Galatians 2:11-14).
Fourth, sometimes people are simply deceived. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a stern warning to them not to believe any other false gospel.
And fifth, there are false teachers. These are the people Jude wrote about when he warned that there were false teachers who were creeping into the church (Jude 4). False teachers are really dangerous because they will not submit to correction.
One fascinating aspect of error is that certain errors repeatedly reoccur throughout history. One wonders, “Why do old errors come back? Why do old errors find fresh, living advocates?” And the answer is that heresy is often seen as “better than the truth.”
Downes suggest that there are four reasons why error always comes back. First, Satan still deceives people into believing heresies. He uses human instruments to promote attractive and plausible teaching. And he will continue to do this until Jesus returns.
Second, we have to reckon with evangelical amnesia. We don’t know our church history. There is nothing new under the sun. And so when heresy returns, we don’t recognize it as something that has previously plagued the church.
Third, we neglect sound doctrine. We are prone to error. Error often offers the easier road.
And finally, sometimes people are simply running away from the truth. There may be all kinds of reasons why they do so, but they don’t want to deal with the truth.
Well, let me briefly review the Letter of Jude so far.
Jude began to write this marvelous letter to believers to encourage them with the wonderful truths “about our common salvation” (v. 3a). However, he “found it necessary to write appealing to [the believers] to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3b).