Ok, so last time we started to tackle the Book of Jude. In this overview we attempted to dissect some basic things about apostasy and apostates. We answered these questions:
1. What is an apostate? An apostate is someone who appears to sincerely repent and walk with the Lord. In the end, you see a denial of what they once professed, and a turning away from the truth. That’s apostasy.
2. Should we be surprised to see them? Just from a few selections of Scripture — Matthew 7:15-23, Matthew 24:9-28, Acts 20:29-30, 1 Timothy 4:1 — we can clearly see that a sovereign God has foreknown and predicted exactly what would happen.
3. What’s the big deal? The most dangerous attacks on the church today come not from the outside, but, as in Galatians 1:6-10, from the inside, from those who once claimed Christ, but now have defected from the faith. They may even affirm the authority of Scripture with their lips, but yet in practice and in teaching, they deny it.
Let’s begin this time with…
4. What do they look like?
Jude 8 —
“These people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme.”
Wow. That’s a very brief and yet complete synopsis of what we will see in all of Scripture about these people.
a. “Relying on their dreams” - These people have no qualms about adding to or even contradicting the Scriptures with what they consider to be new revelation as revealed in dreams, visions, prophecies, and other sorts of spiritual experiences.
b. “Defiling the flesh” - This is most evident in reference to so-called Christian leaders and speakers who bring shame to the Church and Christ by soiling His Name with scandal and revelations of their lustful exploits.
c. “Reject authority” - By rejecting the Word of God they reject the authority given to the Church to judge, correct, rebuke, exhort, reproof, etc. Through this denunciation, they ultimately reject God Himself. Rejection of God’s Word takes many shapes. Some reject it outright. Some reject it by not referencing it. Some reject it by not taking the time to see what the entirety of Scripture has to say, but rather cherry picking.
d. “Blaspheme” - Isn’t it incredible that Paul had to tell the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 12:3 that anyone who says Christ is accursed is not of God? You would think that would be ... obvious? Yet in today’s church I’ve heard many not only question Christ’s deity in their heresy, but claim that on the cross Christ became, not just the sin-bearer, but sinful in his own person.
Now Jude proceeds to give us very rich word pictures starting in verse 12.
"These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear…"
Just as we have times of fellowship or potluck where everyone brings something and we share a table, the early church did as well. Jude is saying that these false teachers were being allowed to set at the love feasts and take part in the conversation without being confronted about their heresy.
(Also see 1 Timothy 1:18-20)
He likens this to hidden reefs which everyone would have understood as something deadly. Even the most sturdy ship can be taken down by these underlying obstructions.
"Shepherds feeding themselves..."
Their view of ministry is that of becoming fat off of the fold they are shepherding. They not only fleece the sheep, but bring destruction rather than protection, care, and nourishment.
(Also see 1 Timothy 6:5)
"Waterless clouds, swept along by winds..."
Being used to dry Texas summers, we are well acquainted with the hopefulness that comes with the sight of dark clouds. These people living in an agricultural society, they would have felt it much more acutely. The sight of rainclouds were literally what their life depended on.
(Also see Ephesians 4:11-14)
Apostates however, look good, look promising, look like they will provide sustaining rain, and may even rumble with a little thunder, but they only block the light and their ‘gospel’ does nothing to alleviate drought.
"Fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted..."
Notice that they are ‘twice dead.’ They are dead in root and dead in fruit. They may look like a healthy tree with bright leaves, may bud out, may lend to a certain expectation of good things happening, but true fruit is the proof of a ministry. And true fruit is eternal, not temporal.
(Also see Matthew 7:15-20)
"Wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame..."
If you have ever been to the ocean after a storm, then you immediately understand this. These people in spirit are not calm, placid souls. No, they are in a tumult, not satisfied with the things of God, dredging up sludge from the bottom of their own hearts and cast up the stinking refuse on the shore for all to see.
(Also see 2 Peter 2:21-22)
"Wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever..."
Stars are to be fixed and steady. They were used for navigation, so if it is a ‘wandering star’ that would indicate a shooting star. They are noticeable, and everyone points and says ‘ahhhhhh’, but they are a fleeting thing. A bright flash that only is showing forth the light of its own destruction.
(Also see Matthew 7:21-23)
So what do false teachers look like? They rely on their own dreams and visions even against the authority of Scripture. They live lives that are not morally pure. They reject the authority of the Word of God over their lives. They speak things about God that are not true. They are hidden among the church, like a reef waiting for an inexperienced boat to come by. They make themselves rich off the people they are supposed to be shepherding. They don't preach things that are actually useful for the purpose of living lives that please God. They look good but never bear good fruit. They are as peaceless as the waves of the sea, always moving on to the next thing. They promise to give good direction for those who desire to live lives that please God, but are unable to deliver on their promises.
Knowing the answer to the question “what do they look like” is vital to survival in this day of so many differing beliefs and contradicting viewpoints that all claim to be Christianity. Truth by definition is exclusive and we must be able to recognize and smell out error in all its forms.
Until next time keep your guard up and remember that lies are plural, but truth is singular.