The problem with deception is that it is by its nature difficult to detect. That’s why it can be so easy for false teachers to slip into the church. They don’t come out blaring to the church, “I am a deceiver.”
Rather they look like us. They talk like us. To some degree, they even act like us.
But when you take a closer look, they are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. How do we detect them?
Mostly by what they teach. As we saw yesterday, the false teachers in John’s day were turning God’s grace into a license for immorality. Though they claimed Jesus as Lord, their lives showed that they were in no way submitted to him as Lord. (4)
And that leads into the second way we can detect them: through their attitudes and actions.
For one thing, they reject all authority, including their Lord’s. (8)
For another, they don’t understand spiritual things and as a result, they speak abusively against them. This was true even of their attitude toward Satan. They mocked him despite the fact that he was more powerful than they. Even Michael the archangel refused to do that, even when he was in the right. (8-10).
Meanwhile, the things they do understand, their base instincts, lead them to destruction.
Because of this, Jude condemns them in language vaguely reminiscent of Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees. He calls them murderers (having taken the way of Cain), greedy (following the way of Balaam), and rebellious (as Korah was when he tried to lead an insurrection against Moses). (11).
Perhaps referring back to Korah, he also calls them grumblers and faultfinders, people who follow their own evil desires, boasting about themselves and using flattering words to gain followers. (16)
He then gets picturesque, calling them blemishes at the Lord’s table, shepherds who fed only themselves rather than the sheep, and clouds without rain, promising much but delivering nothing, while being blown about by every wind of teaching they encountered.
He also called them fruitless trees headed for destruction, waves that are uncontrolled and unresting, whipping up only their shame, and as wandering stars that lead anyone who tries to find direction through them astray. (12-13)
Their end? Judgment. (14-15).
And even at that thought, they scoff and continue in their ways, dividing the church and following their own instincts instead of the Spirit of God. (18-19)
The ironic thing of all this? They had once seemed like sheep, looking and sounding like us.
But this is nothing new.
The Israelites who came out of Egypt under Moses were like this. Though they were all “saved” from Egypt, nevertheless, they died in the desert because of their lack of faith. (5)
In the same way, Jude talks about angels who left the place God had assigned to them. (6)
Some believe this has to do with some of the angels following Satan after he rebelled, while others think it has to do with them marrying the daughters of men in the time of Noah. (I find the latter a bit hard to believe).
Either way, the point is the same. They seemed to have a spot secure among God’s chosen, but because of their sin found themselves under judgment.
In the end, these false teachers in Jude’s time simply abandoned themselves to sin as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did. As a result, Jude warns that these teachers will be judged with eternal fire as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were. (7)
And if we follow them, we’ll end up where they’re going.
So Jude exhorts us,
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us to eternal life. (20-21)
In short, if we are to recognize these teachers for what they are and avoid their fate, we need to stay rooted in Christ. To grow in the grace and knowledge of him and stay connected to his Spirit. To stay in his love, knowing that the judgment that awaits them is our hope because Jesus has paid the price for our sins on the cross.
How about you? Are you so rooted in Christ, that you can recognize false teachers when you see them and contend for the faith against them?