Tagged: commentary on Jude

The Doom of False Teachers

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features Chapter 12: Wild Waves and Wandering Stars: The Doom of False Teachers.

Previously: Can Apostates Be Christians?

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These are the ones who are like dangerous reefs at your love feasts. They feast with you, nurturing only themselves without fear. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn – fruitless, twice dead, pulled out by the roots; wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever! (Jude 12-13 HCSB)

Driving west on a county road in central Missouri, I watched in fascination as a meteor streaked brilliantly against the predawn blackness of a moonless sky. Meteors, or shooting stars, are fairly common. They are fragments of rock or iron from outer space that enter the earth’s atmosphere. They range in size from less than a gram to more than 60 tons, and if they survive their fiery journey across our skies and thus become meteorites, they can strike the earth with enough force to leave huge craters, destroy property, and injure people.

The most destructive meteorite strike of the 20thcentury occurred in a remote area of Siberia in 1908. The so-called Tunguska Event leveled more than 80 million trees and covered almost 850 miles. Astoundingly, no one was injured.

More recently, the Chelyabinsk meteor that entered earth’s atmosphere over Russia in 2013 was brighter than the sun, exploding about 18 miles above the earth and producing a hot cloud of dust and gas, with an atmospheric impact so intense that it resulted in a large shock wave, damaging 7,200 buildings and injuring 1,500 people.

The meteor I witnessed that dark morning was nothing like the Siberian event or the Chelyabinsk fireball, but it was the brightest shooting star I had ever seen. It seemed to hang in the sky for a long time before dimming and then vanishing on the horizon. It seemed so big, so bright, and so close that I expected it to strike the earth, create a fireball on impact, and shake the ground. But nothing happened. I explored for signs of an impact but saw none. I even checked the news; surely someone else had seen this brilliant meteor paint the sky. Nothing. No news reports. No trending social media. Silence. And blackness.

The apostates of Jude’s day are like meteors. They seemingly come out of nowhere. Stealthily, they slip into the church. And when they gain a foothold as teachers, they blaze above the Christian landscape – bright, striking, dazzling, eclipsing local church leaders who labor in obscurity for the kingdom. And then, after attracting so much attention, they are gone. The blackness from which they came returns to them – or rather, they return to it. A flash in the predawn sky of the first century is traded for an eternity in outer darkness.
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Can Apostates Be Christians?

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features Chapter 11: Crossing the Line: Can Apostates Be Christians?

Previously: Is the Rebel Spirit Alive Today?

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Of all the terms Jude uses to describe false teachers – ungodly, dreamers, dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, wild waves of the sea, wandering stars, and discontented grumblers, to name a few – he stops short of calling them apostates. Yet that is what they are. Hey Jude, what gives?

A closer look at the New Testament’s sparing use of this term may prove helpful, particularly as we broach the thorny subject of apostates’ standing with God. Are apostates backslidden Christians? Shameless pretenders? Or people who once knew Christ but now have willfully rejected Him, thus losing their salvation?

Originally, the Greek word apostasia meant rebellion against government. The Apocryphal book of 1 Esdras describes the Jews as “rebels” against King Artaxerxes (1 Esdras 2:23). Later, the term “apostate” is applied to “one who rebels against God.”

As Eugene E. Carpenter and Philip W. Comfort note, “Apostasy, therefore, is serious business. People who commit apostasy abandon their faith and repudiate their former beliefs. It is not heresy (denial of part of the faith), or the transfer of allegiance from one religious body to another within the same faith. Apostasy is a complete and final rejection of God.”

John MacArthur defines apostasy as “the sin of rejecting the gospel for which there is no forgiveness.” He further describes it as “an intentional falling away or withdrawal, a defection.” Apostates, he writes, “are people who move toward Christ, right up to the edge of saving belief,” but then “their interest in the things of God begins to wane, and the pressures and attractions of the world distract them further still, until they have no interest at all. They may turn to another religion or to no religion at all. Apostasy is determined by what you leave, not where you go after you leave. After a person leaves God, it makes little difference where he then goes.”

An apostate, then, is someone who has received the knowledge of the truth, but willfully and decisively rejects it.
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Is The Rebel Spirit Alive Today?

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

Previously: The Rebellion of Korah

Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)

Is the rebel spirit alive today?

False teachers in the 21stcentury have much in common with Cain, Balaam, and Korah. They redefine God’s work of salvation, peddle prophecy for profits, and exalt themselves above the authorities Christ has ordained for His church. While many examples could be cited, let’s consider proponents of today’s Word of Faith movement – a vast and varied brand of apostate Christianity that shamelessly follows in the footsteps of ancient Israel’s unholy triumvirate.

The central teaching of the Word of Faith movement – also known as the prosperity gospel and the health and wealth gospel – is that God wills our prosperity and health; therefore, to be a Christian in poverty or sickness is to be outside the will of God.

Take note of the following Word of Faith teachings and see if you can trace them to the way of Cain (self-centered religion), the error of Balaam (a gospel of greed), or the rebellion of Korah (mutiny against divinely appointed authorities):

Human beings are little gods. Human nature consists of body, soul, and spirit, but the spirit is the real person made in God’s image; therefore, human beings are exact duplicates of God, or little gods. Our problem is that we allow our bodies and souls to control our lives rather than our own divine spirits.

God is like us. He is a God that possesses faith. He created the world by faith and accomplishes His will by believing things in His heart and speaking words of faith, thereby bringing things into existence. We may do the same.

Jesus came to restore our godhood. When Adam fell, he forfeited his status as the god of this world by obeying Satan, who in turn gained legal dominion over this world and passed Satan’s nature of death, along with sickness and poverty, down to the rest of humanity. Jesus came to create a new race of humans who, like Jesus, would be God incarnate.
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The Rebellion of Korah

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features a portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

Previously: The Error of Balaam

 

Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)

What is Korah’s rebellion?

Korah is a Levite from the Kohathite clan, which enjoys a favored position among the three clans of Levi in the assignment of priestly responsibilities (Num. 3:27-32; 4:1-20). But Korah wants more. So, he incites 250 prominent Israelites to rebel against Moses and Aaron. Together, they challenge God’s appointed leaders, accusing Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the Lord’s assembly.

Moses tells Korah and his followers to appear before the Lord the next morning, along with Aaron. Each is to take his firepan, place incense in it, and present his firepan before the Lord, who will choose the true leaders of Israel. When the sun rises, Korah assembles the whole community at the entrance of the tabernacle. The Lord instructs Moses and Aaron to tell the people to get away from the dwellings of Korah, along with the tents of two other rebels, Dathan and Abiram.

Immediately after Moses’ warning, the Lord intervenes in dramatic fashion: “Just as he finished speaking all these words, the ground beneath them split open. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, all Korah’s people, and all their possessions. They went down alive into Sheol with all that belonged to them. The earth closed over them, and they vanished from the assembly…. Fire also came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were presenting the incense” (Num. 16:31-33, 35).

If that isn’t enough, the next day the entire Israelite community complains that Moses has killed the Lord’s people. Immediately, the Shekinah glory appears, covering the tabernacle. God sends a plague that takes the lives of 14,700 – a number that would have been greater had Moses and Aaron not intervened on the people’s behalf.

Korah’s rebellion is not so much against God’s anointed leaders as it is against God Himself. By rejecting Moses and Aaron, and by embracing arrogant substitutes who foolishly portray themselves as eminently qualified, the people become eyewitnesses of God’s judgment and then suffer the consequences of their hard-hearted rebellion.
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The Error of Balaam

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features a portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah

Previously: The Way of Cain

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Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)

What is the error of Balaam?

We find the story of Balaam in Numbers 22-24, with additional information in chapter 31. It’s a classic tale of a prophet for hire, someone greatly gifted by God who allows greed to drive him to “madness” (2 Peter 2:16). The Greek word translated “madness” is paraphronia, which literally means “beside one’s own mind.” In other words, Balaam’s fleshly cravings are such that they overcome his ability to think and act rationally.

Interestingly, some commentators believe Balaam is portrayed as a good character in Numbers 22-24, before coming under criticism elsewhere in the Old Testament. But there are hints of his greedy motivations from the start.

Balak, king of Moab, hires Balaam to curse the people of Israel as they wander in the wilderness. Balak sees the Israelites as a military threat and seeks help from inside the Israelite camp to defeat them. Initially, it appears that Balaam is a faithful prophet, but his stall tactics “imply that he hoped to negotiate a higher payment from Balak before performing his prophetic service.” In the end, he accepts Balak’s riches because he loves the wages of unrighteousness (cf. Prov. 11:18).

The Lord knows Balaam wants to curse Israel in exchange for treasure, so God rebukes him through his donkey, who miraculously speaks to the prophet. Balaam is empowered only to bless Israel. But he’s not finished.
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