Here is a message from 2 Corinthians 11:4 that I was privileged to deliver at Apolocon 2018, hosted by Immanuel Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.
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 end of Chapter 15: But You, Dear Friends: Hating the Garment Defiled By the Flesh
Previously: But You, Dear Friends
But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.(Jude 20-23 HCSB)
Now that we have built a protective perimeter around our hearts by shoring up our doctrinal infrastructure, praying in the Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God, and waiting eagerly for the return of Christ (vv. 20-21), Jude instructs us to rescue those under the spell of false teachers.
Specifically, he addresses three groups of people: doubters, deceived, and departed. As John MacArthur writes, “Those who pose the greatest threat to the church also constitute part of its mission field.” We must do more than erect a defensive wall around us. Like those who have put on the full armor of God, we must engage in battle against “the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12).
The first group of people Jude addresses consists of those who doubt. That is, they are not able to discern between true doctrine and false doctrine. These may be the same folks Peter describes as “unstable people” that prove to be easy marks for false teachers (2 Peter 2:14). Likely, the doubters are immature believers who are not well-grounded in the faith, although Jude also could be describing unbelievers who are being drawn to Christ, but who must contend with the obstacles of false doctrine. Jude hints that false teachers also prey on disgruntled church members because the false teachers themselves are “discontented grumblers” (v. 16).
False teachers are clever. Often attractive, articulate, and persuasive, they profess to speak for God – even using Scripture and biblical terms – yet they deny the central beliefs of historical Christianity. How can someone seeking the truth, whether an unbeliever or an immature Christian, tell the difference between true doctrine and false doctrine? This is the front line of battle where Jude has challenged us to be, contending for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all (v. 3).
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 second half of Chapter 14.
Previously: Merely Natural: Scoffers Without the Spirit
But you, dear friends, remember the words foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” These people create divisions and are merely natural, not having the Spirit. (Jude 17-19 HCSB)
Jude writes that false teachers “create divisions” (v. 19). The Greek word apodiorizo refers not only to divisions, but to the motives behind them and the results they produce. The term means “to make a distinction.” It describes these interlopers as ones who present themselves as superior to other leaders in the church. Marvin Vincent, the Presbyterian minister best known for his Word Studies in the New Testament, writes that these false teachers “draw a line through the Church and set off one part from another.”
In this regard, they are like the Pharisees, lovers of money who, while listening to Jesus, are “scoffing at Him” (Luke 16:14). Jesus tells them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight” (v. 15).
The religious leaders demonstrate hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing another. Jesus tells the crowds not to do what the scribes and Pharisees do because “they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people” (Matt. 23:3b-7).
Finally, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day concoct their own twisted view of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus warns His disciples to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” meaning their false teaching (Matt. 16:6, 11-12).
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.
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?
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.