Tagged: false teachers

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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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 Way of Cain

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.
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Who Are Those Guys? How to Identify 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 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?

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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).
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