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?
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.
News flash: Ireland is now accepting Trump refugees from the U.S.
From our Washington bureau: Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS while secretary of state.
And in sports: The Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
Fake news is everywhere. (Okay, that last story might be true.) And one of the biggest breaking stories of 2016 was the widespread impact of verifiably false news hosted on bogus websites and amplified through social media.
“Yellow journalism” has long been with us — the use of sensationalism and exaggeration to increase a news outlet’s share of the market.
What’s new about today’s fake news is that anyone — not just journalists — can create and disseminate it. Thanks to the Internet and social media, nearly anyone with a smart phone and an imagination can say anything and make it look like reputable journalism.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has announced plans to minimize the fake news running on his social media platform, while some media outlets are redoubling their efforts to more carefully vet stories, even at the expense of being first with the news.
Even so, consumers of today’s news content should view everything with discernment.
Leaders of the word-faith movement, also known as the prosperity gospel, say they place a high value on scripture. Unfortunately, their unique interpretation of God’s word leads to unbiblical conclusions about God’s design for the Christian life.
A case in point: 3 John 2, which reads: “Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
As prosperity preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen would have you believe, this verse expresses the divine view that every child of God should enjoy financial blessing and perfect health. But is that what the passage really means?
Hardly. In the first place, the Greek word translated “prosper” means “to go well,” not to become rich. Secondly, John uses a common greeting to address his friend, Gaius, similar to salutations we place in modern-day letters.
As Gordon Fee writes in The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, “This combination of wishing for ‘things to go well’ and for the recipient’s ‘good health’ was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity. To extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians is totally foreign to the text.”
Caught up in the Protestant revivalism of his day, Smith inquired as to which of the Christian denominations he should join. None of them, he was told, because they were all wrong. “The Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight,” Smith later recalled.
Smith was urged to take heart. God would use him to reinstate the true church, which had fallen into complete apostasy after the death of the apostles.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints professes to be the restored true church. Its leaders claim that Joseph Smith faithfully rediscovered proper church organization – that is, the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods – and the true gospel, which was lost due to “designing priests” that removed its “plain and precious” truths.
In short, the LDS Church declares itself the one true church, while all other forms of Christianity remain apostate.
Thank you, Missouri Baptists, for enthusiastically supporting the MBC’s new apologetics ministry. Over the last year, I have been privileged to speak or lead workshops in many churches across the state to help Christians “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3).
Topics have ranged from “How do I know the Bible is true?” to “What do false prophets have in common?”
As many of you know, apologetics simply is “a reasonable defense of the Christian faith.” For followers of Jesus there has never been a more important time to know what we believe, why we believe, and how to share our faith with an increasingly skeptical world.
The apostle Peter urges us to “set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).