Today we pick up from where we left off on our expository journey through the Epistle of Jude. Jude represents the first expository assignment I have been tasked with in our church plant in Denmark - Kristuskirken. Though short in length, Jude is a letter jam packed with information on why we should hunt down false teachers that conceal themselves in the church, how we should identify them, and that we as Christians should go to war against them secure in the knowledge of being kept in the safety of God's preserving grace. Much of the credit for this series must go to John MacArthur whose teaching on this Epistle has been my major source.
Jude's Epistle is a letter that calls the church of Jesus Christ to fight a war. And this is not a physical war with the evil world around us. It is a call to fight for the truth of the Gospel against the false teachers or apostates that sneak into the visible church. The church is spoken of in two senses in Scripture which theologians divide into the "invisible church" and the "visible church". The invisible church is the real body of Christ made up of all the true disciples of Jesus Christ. Only God knows who they all are and so we call it invisible. The visible church is the church that we see. We are not talking about false churches and cults. But local groups of people who profess Christ, and gather together to hear the faithful preaching of the Gospel. This visible church that we can see is made up of sheep and goats, wheat and tares, true and false. Because of this we are called to be constantly at war defending the truth and exposing the false.
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'(Matthew 7:13-23)
As a sidenote on this passage – did you know that these are the words that follow the incredibly popular verse: ”Judge not lest ye be judged”. Based on what Jesus said in the verses we read it is obvious that judge not lest ye be judged is not a warning against criticizing false teachers. This is just one example of many where Jesus warns of the apostates. Paul’s dying words to Timothy were:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Peter also gave this warning:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
So Jesus says they’re coming, Paul says they’re coming, Peter says they’re coming and Jude says they’re here!
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1-4)
Verses 3 and 4 are the key verses to Jude. Verse 3 is the call to fight and verse 4 tells us why we need to fight and who we need to fight against. Verse 4 gives us a clue as to why they are so dangerous in the first 8 words – "for certain people have crept in unnoticed" – they are anonymous people who don’t draw attention to themselves and they sneak in without anyone noticing. They don’t just walk through the front door with a big 666 tattoo’d to their forehead. They are the masters of sounding Christian without being Christian. Look how Jude describes them in verse 12:
These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;
They are hidden reefs (they look safe but they’re not).
They are waterless clouds, (they promise great things but don’t deliver).
They are fruitless trees (they can imitate a Christian but have no fruit of the Spirit).
Now when we talk about apostasy, we're not talking about confusing that with mere indifference to the Word or ignorance of the Word, or error. There are people who have never heard the truth. There are people who are ignorant of the truth, indifferent to the truth, have not even exposed themselves to it and there are people who have heard erroneous presentations masquerading as truth. We're not talking about that. When you talk specifically about an apostate, you're talking about someone who has received the light but not the life, the seed but not the fruit, and perhaps the written Word but not the living Word. It is a willful and deliberate rejection of the truth after the truth has been heard.
Jesus described apostasy in the parable of the soils:
And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:3-8)
Now jump forward and read verses 18 to 23:
"Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
Two big things to notice about apostates is that they hate to suffer and they love worldly pleasure which is why Jude describes them as people who "pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ". The parable of the soils appears in all three synoptic Gospels and "dechomaiis" is the Greek word Luke uses to describe the reception of the word by those who fall away. In Mark 4:20, which describes the good soil, the word for receive is "paradechomai".
John Macarthur says that:
The good soil does more than a superficial reception, paradechomaiis an intensified word, a stronger term indicating a deep reception. There's a superficial reception, there's a dechomai. And then there's a paradechomai, a much deeper heart acceptance on the part of the good soil. Those who apostatize may hear the truth, understand the truth, but they never produce fruit because they never have any root. Jude says, they are without fruit, doubly dead and uprooted.
To be continued next Friday . . .
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