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 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.