Faith under fire!
Today Biblical faith is under fire and under siege by servants of Satan posing as servants of Christ. The history of the Church clearly reveals that there have always been false apostles, prophets and teachers around that by stealth have infiltrated the Body of Messiah. However, today this infiltration is in epidemic proportions especially through Television and the Internet. Never before, in the history of the professing Christian Church has there been so much spiritual seduction and deception around as there is today. In His Olivet Discourse in Matthew chapter 24 the Lord Jesus warned His disciples about spiritual deception at least four times. Likewise, the apostles also warned about the spiritual deception that would assault the Body of Messiah in the last days.
The seductive nature of spiritual deception is not to tell outright lies but to lay truth and error side by side. Peter in his second letter describes these spiritual seducers. “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3) To “secretly introduce destructive heresies” is to by stealth lay truth and error side by side. It’s like a beautiful gourmet sandwich filled with nutritious ingredients but laced with small doses of arsenic, the slow acting poison that ultimately brings about death. As it has been said; “There is always cheese in the rat trap!”
False teachers and prophets will even take a Biblical truth and distort and twist it to fit in with their doctrines. In these last days the doctrines will be those of demons. Paul writes; “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” (1 Timothy 4:1-2) These false prophets and teachers have had their conscience seared and can no longer respond to the touch of the Holy Spirit or feel his prompting because they have stepped out of their secure position in Christ to pursue dishonest gain, power, money, prestige and the approval of men. These, mammon loving, covetous, practitioners of the occult ply their trade through the media today. Biblical truth is being thrown to the ground and trampled on by these shysters and deceivers who think they have a superior revelation than the Bible and are always talking about money. The only time they use the Bible is to bolster their own doctrines. If ever there was a time “to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” it is in these days of increasing spiritual deception in which we are now living. Jude’s letter is more applicable today than ever before as we see the Day of the LORD rapidly approaching.
In this first Study in Jude we will now look at Chapter 1:1-4
(Jude 1:1-4) “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
(Vs.1) “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,”
Jude was the half-brother of the Lord Jesus and the brother of James (Matthew 13:55). He was a “bond-servant (slave)” A bond-servant was one who willingly and without reservation bound himself to the service of another for life. It was a life- long commitment. We see this in the Old Testament. God Himself said; “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment… But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.” (Exodus 21:2, 5-6) Jude was a bond-slave of the Lord Jesus Christ and under His command. It was the slavery of love and devotion and not one of compulsion.
A true shepherd was a servant and an example to his flock and not an overlord. As Peter wrote; “As a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and a partaker of the glory to be revealed, I appeal to the elders among you: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is among you, watching over them not out of compulsion, but because it is God’s will; not out of greed, but out of eagerness; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. “ (1 Peter 5:1-3) A true shepherd leads by example. His first duty is to care for the flock that God has given into his care. His primary work is to give himself to prayer and to the ministry of the word of God. Part of that care is to instruct, to uplift, to encourage but also to rebuke and to warn against sin and false doctrine and to protect the sheep.
“To those who are the called,”
Every true born again believer in Jesus has been called by God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit calls someone He gives them the capacity to respond to that call but that does not mean that they will. Every believer is called by God to be conformed to the image of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ and this is how we know a person has been called in that they are growing to be more like the Lord Jesus in their daily living. This is God’s predestined call and plan for every believer (Romans 8:29). When God calls us to follow the Lord Jesus He empowers us to respond but does not do the responding for us. We still have the responsibility to make that choice. As it has been said all things are foreknown to God but the choice is still given.
This principle is the same in ministry for the Lord Jesus. For example when God calls a man to the ministry he needs to respond, however, there are those who call themselves when God has not called them. It has been said “if you cannot stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.” Unless a man is called to the work of the ministry he had better not do it. When a man goes into the ministry it won’t be very long before he comes up against virtually insurmountable problems of one sort or another. The work of the ministry is not a career but a calling. If a man is not called but chooses to go into the ministry because he has a theological degree or because he is a good speaker and motivator he will very quickly give up when the going really gets tough.
Many in the ministry today are in it for their career, their pension, their prominence and success because they cannot make it in the commercial world. They see the church as a way to become someone of recognition. It is easy to bask in the euphoria of mega church star status but something else to be at work among the dregs of humanity or among those who are harassed with the real problems of life. Many are hirelings today and in many cases when the wolves (false teachers) are circling the sheep pen they do not protect the sheep.
“…beloved in God the Father,”
John the Apostle wrote; “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:1-2) Love is protective and those whom God loves He protects, not necessarily from persecution, trial’s and tests of many kinds but from false teachers and doctrinal error and from those who secretly enter the sheep pen to maul the sheep. Jude was aware that there were many false teachers and prophets even in the assemblies in his time and wanted the believers under threat from these false brethren, to know that they were loved and protected by God and that He always had their best interests at heart. These false teachers promoted immorality, greed, covetousness, theological error, destructive pride and divisiveness, heretics who perverted the message of grace. For them nothing was forbidden. They turned the grace of God into an excuse for flagrant immorality (Vs4).
“…and kept for Jesus Christ:”
Wherever there is false teaching inevitably there will be loose living. People will act according to what they believe. Jude realised that false teaching and loose morals would cause believers to backslide. Every believer potentially can backslide if they are not kept by and for the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “kept” also means “sanctified” or “set apart” to God for His exclusive use. Jude was not only a bond-slave but also all believers are bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one is exempt from backsliding or falling away from the faith.
In the last days we are told that many will fall away from the faith and betray one another (Matthew 24:10). These are not just church attenders but those who were saved but through wilful and habitual sin, doctrinal error, love of money and spiritual pride or deception step out of their strong position in Christ. This is possible as we will see in Jude. If we want to stay saved then no one will be able to pluck us out of the Fathers hand, we have the word of the Lord Jesus on that; “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
It is vitally important that we hear and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit. The final test of one of Jesus’ sheep is not knowledge of doctrine or church attendance but whether they hear and obey the voice of the Shepherd. Having said this there was some who at one time were saved but were now “twice dead.” If we continue to walk in the Spirit by faith, then we will be “kept” or “preserved” by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is much like a woman preserving fruit in a jar and sealing it up to keep it from decaying so the idea is the same. We are preserved and sealed by the Holy Spirit until the Lord opens the lid at the rapture and resurrection of the saints. If we really belong to the Lord Jesus then we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).
(Vs.2) “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”
God’s grace (unmerited and undeserved favour) always leads to salvation. As Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Mercy, peace and love are the fruits of God’s grace in our lives as believers. God shows us mercy when we repent and gives us peace because of the work of the cross. Peace is imparted to us and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the same Holy Spirit (Romans 5:1, 5). God grace is not cheap but lavish when He bestows it upon a repentant sinner. As believers we are to know that God’s grace, mercy, peace and love is multiplied and given to us in abundance. God is more willing to forgive us than we are willing to repent but repent we must!
(Vs. 3) “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
Our salvation is common in that if we are really saved then there are certain basic and fundamental Biblical truths we will all hold in common. We will believe in the Spirit-breathed inspiration of the Bible, in the virgin birth, in the deity of Jesus and in the person of the Holy Spirit. We will believe in the Tri-Unity within the Godhead, in repentance and justification by faith alone, in believer’s baptism and believe in holiness of character and life. We will believe in the new birth and in the complete efficacy of the blood of Jesus to atone for and to cleanse us from all sin. We will believe in the rapture and resurrection of the saints and in the Second Coming of Christ. Any derivation from these commonly held truths is false doctrine.
There is no new doctrine today but only a deeper understanding of what is already in the Bible. We have apostolic doctrine in the Bible which is a completed Canon of scripture. Peter wrote about this when he said; “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Today we are to earnestly contend for the faith held dear by the saints of old more than ever before because of the widespread heresy and false teaching and teachers abounding in the professing Christian Church. To “contend” for the faith is “to fight” for the faith or “to argue” for the faith to be “an advocate” for God. It is the root word for “agony” in other words we are to “agonise” for the faith. We are to “stand up” for the truth and oppose false doctrine when appropriate to do so. We are to teach “what is in accord with sound doctrine.” This contending also implies living a lifestyle that exhibits what we preach to others. How many ministers these days are really contending for the faith?
Today it is “seeker friendly” laid back dialogue or a “take it or leave it” kind of message as we see perpetrated in Alpha and Purpose Driven programmes. When Peter preached at one time he cried out; “Save yourselves from this crooked and perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40) There was nothing “seeker friendly” about that! Or when he preached; “Repent, then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ, who has been appointed for you.” (Acts 3:19-20) There will be no seasons of refreshing from the LORD until there is first repentance.
Paul understood that contending for the faith was a fight to the finish but a good fight that will always win the day! He wrote; “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-7) Now let’s continue…
(Vs.4) “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Peter also wrote about these false teachers who by stealth infiltrated the assemblies to “secretly introduce destructive heresies” implying that these false teachers would lay truth and error side by side just like there is cheese in the rattrap. It tastes good and looks good but it is part of the trap that will kill you dead spiritually (2 Peter 2:1-3). We are told in scripture that Satan himself masquerades as a messenger of light and that his servants do the same thing. As Paul wrote; “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their actions.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Paul also said that these men would eventually be found out by those with spiritual discernment. He wrote; “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also…But evil men and impostors (enchanters) will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:8-9, 13) Jannes and Jambres were Pharaoh’s magicians that opposed Moses and Aaron and duplicated the supernatural power of God by occult power but in the end God’s power prevailed and their evil deeds were exposed before Pharaoh. In the last days as the coming of the Lord Jesus gets closer counterfeit signs miracles and wonders will multiply in and infest the Church. However they will be exposed by those who are moving in the genuine gifts of the Spirit especially in the gift of discernment of spirits.
These false teachers we are also told were, “marked out for condemnation long ago” by God who in His foreknowledge saw them coming into the Church. These false deceivers were fleshly minded men who thought it nothing to indulge the sinful nature in all kinds of revelry and debauchery. Some of them knew about grace but saw in this a licence to sin and get away with it. Others denied the deity of the Lord Jesus just like there are today who profess to believe in Jesus but deny His divinity and the Triune nature of God. Where there is wrong doctrine inevitably there will be immorality or licentiousness in some way or the indulgence of the flesh and the fallen nature because there will be no restraint on the indulgence of the flesh. It is only the Holy Spirit that can restrain evil in the world and in the life of an individual.
If the Holy Spirit is absent from the life then it is only a matter of time before the sin nature asserts itself. If we are saved then we have a choice not to sin when tempted to do so because we have the Holy Spirit living and empowering us on the inside of us. If we are not saved then we will automatically sin and indulge the fleshly appetites because we do not have the Holy Spirit to restrain the sinful nature. We can deny the Lord Jesus by what we say and believe but also by the way we live. These false teachers were servants of Satan, wolves in sheep’s clothing, “an accursed breed.”