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 first portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
Previously: Where Does Jude Get This Story?
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)
We all have role models. Athletes, actors, and rock stars are among the most popular people we seek to mimic – even when their legendary falls from grace are captured in tabloid headlines and social-media hashtags. Unfortunately, we often take for granted those who exemplify honesty, integrity, and hard work, choosing to conform our behavior to those whose actions – no matter how outrageous – get noticed and rewarded. This is a process Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, refers to as “vicarious reinforcement.”
Maybe that’s why entertainers like Miley Cyrus, athletes like Dennis Rodman, and selfie-stick wielders like Kim Kardashian are so popular. It seems the more shockingly they behave, the more their celebrity grows. History takes a longer view and tends to judge such characters more harshly. After all, there aren’t too many baby boomers named Adolf. And it’s doubtful that moms and dads want their little boys growing up to be like Charlie Sheen.
In a similar vein, Jude reminds his readers of some unsavory role models in Israel’s past, men whose wicked deeds so overshadowed whatever good they accomplished that they are forever held up as examples of how not to live. In warning against false teachers, and in urging believers to earnestly contend for the faith, Jude reminds us of three characters who are not to be emulated. Yet the first-century false teachers unwittingly model their lives after Cain, Balaam, and 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 the first half of Chapter 6: Who Are Those Guys? How to Identify False Teachers.
Previously: The last half of Chapter 5: Why Is Contending for the Faith Necessary?
For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
In the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a relentless posse interrupts the legendary duo’s run of train robberies. Fleeing across rivers, plains, and rocky outcroppings, Butch and Sundance engage in playful, but increasingly annoyed, banter about the skilled men tracking them. At one point, Butch tries to assure Sundance that their escape tactics are working. Sundance is not convinced and keeps looking back over his shoulder.
“Ah, you’re wasting your time,” says Butch. “They can’t track us over rocks.”
“Tell them that,” Sundance replies, nodding toward the horizon.
Butch looks for himself and sees that the trackers indeed are still hot on their trail. “They’re beginning to get on my nerves,” he says. “Who are those guys?”
Who indeed. “Who are those guys?” becomes a running gag line throughout the film.
Butch and Sundance eventually discover their pursuers’ names, as well as the identity of the railroad executive bankrolling the posse. The news forces them to flee to South America, where they revive their nefarious careers before meeting a bloody end.
Like Butch and Sundance, Jude can’t seem to shake the posse on his trail. Rather than pistol-packing bounty hunters, however, these are false teachers doggedly determined to bring down the infant church. Jude avoids calling them by name, choosing instead to describe them as “certain/some men” (HCSB, NIV, KJV), “certain people” (ESV), or “certain persons” (NASB). In a parallel passage, Peter simply refers to them as “false teachers” (2 Peter 2:1).
This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Of all the terms Jude uses to describe false teachers – dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, and wild waves of the sea, 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?
The Greek word apostasia appears only twice in the New Testament. The apostle Paul is accused of apostasy for teaching others to “abandon Moses, by telling them [Jews living among Gentiles] not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs” (Acts 21:21b).
And Paul warns the Thessalonians not to be deceived by those claiming that the Day of the Lord has already come. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way,” he writes. “For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3).
Many other New Testament passages describe people who abandon the faith, never to return, for example: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19-20); “antichrists” (1 John 2:19); and professing Jewish Christians who are beyond repentance because they have returned to the practice of offering animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 6:1-6).
An apostate, then, is someone who has received the knowledge of the truth, but willfully and decisively rejects it.
This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Who, exactly, are the “certain men” about whom Jude writes in verse 4 of his epistle? Jude delivers serious warnings about the religious scoundrels who have infiltrated the church – without naming them.
Perhaps this is because there are far too many to name – an indication of how widespread the movement has become. Or maybe it’s because no single person is so well known as to have a heretical movement named after him; no Arius or Nestorius has yet emerged.
Perhaps it’s because Jude’s readers know full well who is being discussed, as Paul’s readers in Corinth do when he identifies “super apostles” who are, in fact, “false apostles” proclaiming another Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel (see 2 Corinthians 11-12).
Or perhaps Jude neglects to name the false teachers because he is writing, not only to the church in his day, but to believers throughout the church age. It’s even possible he resists the temptation to call them out personally because he is determined not to grant them a taste of the credibility they so ravenously desire.
It’s clear these false teachers are in the church, for Jude says they have “come in by stealth.” This makes them especially dangerous.
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.