Ungodliness Among the Godly

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. – Jude 1:14-16 ESV

To strengthen his attack against the false teachers, Jude has utilized imagery from nature and borrowed from Jewish intertestamental texts, specifically the book of 1 Enoch. He has already used this book once when describing a scene in which the angel, Michael, disputed with Satan over the body of Moses. This story is recorded in the book of 1 Enoch, but most likely a part of Jewish oral tradition. The book of 1 Enoch was part of what has come to be known as pseudepigraphal writings, all composed somewhere between 200-300 B.C. Also known as the intertestamental period, this was a time marked by seeming silence from God. He had sent no more prophets to the people of Israel or Judah.

The people of Judah had returned from exile in Babylon and were living in the land of promise once again, but they had no king and were relatively powerless and defenseless. During that time, a number of these writings appeared, bearing the names of Old Testament saints, such as Enoch, Abraham, Ezra, and Solomon. Their designation as pseudepigraphal is based on the fact that they profess to be written by Old Testament characters, but were written centuries after these individuals lived. In Greek, pseudepigraphos means “false inscription.” None of these books were considered legitimate by the early church fathers, and so, they were not included in the canon of Scripture. But they were most popular within the 1st-Century Jewish community. So, Jude’s use of these texts should not be taken as his endorsement of their authenticity. He is simply using contemporary and familiar resources to drive home his point.

In today’s text, Jude seems to quote directly from the book of 1 Enoch.

And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all flesh
Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. – 1 Enoch 1:9

We know little about Enoch, other than what we are told in the book of Genesis. He appears in the genealogy of Adam, recorded by Moses. And as Jude indicates, Enoch was the seventh name listed in that genealogy.

When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. – Genesis 5:18-24 ESV

Because of this Genesis text,  the Jews in Jude’s audience would have held Enoch in high esteem. Two times in this Genesis account it refers to Enoch as having walked with God. He was a godly man. And the passage in 1 Enoch that from which Jude quotes, portrays Enoch as having been a prophet of God. He spoke on behalf of God. And the whole reason Jude used that quote was because it spoke of God’s coming judgment against the ungodly.

Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way. – Jude 1:14-15 ESV

Notice the three times in which the word “ungodly” is used. That is Jude’s whole point. The false prophets he is warning the believers about are to be seen as what they are: Ungodly individuals who are committing acts of ungodliness. This does not necessarily mean they are unsaved or devoid of a relationship with Christ. Even the godly are capable of acting in ungodly ways. Those who are in Christ can find themselves doing un-Christlike things.

The real issue seems to be how these false teachers were treating God. The 1 Enoch passage refers to “the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” The primary problem with these individuals was their treatment of God Almighty. Jude calls them “grumblers, malcontents,…and loud-mouthed boasters.” They were ungrateful and prone to complain. And, as Jude pointed out earlier, they had a strong dislike of authority. They were driven by their need for control and their desire to meet their own selfish and self-centered agendas. Jude accuses them of “following their own sinful desires,” which simply means they were following the promptings of their own sin natures rather than the Spirit of God.

The apostle Paul warned about the inner conflict that is a very real part of every believer’s life on this earth.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other… – Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

These false teachers were evidently losing the battle. And, according to Jude, their lives were giving evidence of the very things Paul said would mark the life of anyone who fails to yield to the Spirit of God.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. – Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

Living according to our sin nature produces a whole host of unhealthy fruit. And the false teachers who were infecting the congregations to whom Jude was writing. The works of the flesh, as Paul called them, have a way of spreading. They’re infectious. As Paul told the Galatian believers:

This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!
 – Galatians 5:9 NLT

It has to be irradicated and removed. It cannot be tolerated or ignored. When these kinds of individuals show up in a local congregation, claiming to be one of the flock and giving evidence of their faith in Christ, it may be difficult to spot them. But in time, the fruit of the lives will become apparent. Their true character will ultimately be revealed, and the condition of their heart will be exposed. When that happens, action must be taken. And, as Jude will reveal, the best defense is a strong offense. He will encourage the believers to rely on prayer and the constant pursuit of spiritual maturity to resist the influence of these grumblers, malcontents, and loud-mouthed boasters.

Spiritual maturity is the best weapon in our war against spiritual apostasy. An ever-increasing faith in Christ is the most effective antidote to godlessness in the camp. In the book of Numbers, we have recorded the story of the Israelites complaining against Moses and God. They were unhappy with their lot in life and were grumbling about their lack of food and water. So, as punishment for their ingratitude and lack of reverence, God sent a plague of poisonous snakes among them. When the people saw that God had sent His judgment on them, they confessed their sin to Moses and begged him to intervene on their behalf. So God told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8 ESV). And when anyone who had been bitten looked on the bronze serpent, they received immediate healing. But their gazing at the serpent on the pole took faith. They had no guarantee that anything would happen, except for the word of God.

The best way to deal with sin in the camp is to look at Christ on the cross. We must focus our gaze on the sole solution to all sin, the Savior who was sacrificed on behalf of sinful mankind and offered Himself as the payment for mankind’s sin debt to God. There will always be false teachers among us. But a spiritual strong congregation who has a healthy love for God and a confident dependence upon the saving work of Jesus Christ will prove to be an unwelcome and unfruitful place for falsehood to gain a foothold.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Called, Loved, Kept

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:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

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. 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 1:1-4 ESV

This very short book bears the name of its author, Jude. In the Greek language in which this letter was originally written, the name is actually, Judas. Over the centuries, most English translations changed to name to Jude in order to eliminate any risk of confusing the author with the disciple who betrayed Jesus. The traditional view on the author’s identity is that he was Judas, the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus. The gospel of Matthew introduces us to these two characters. When Jesus had returned to His hometown of Nazareth, His neighbors had remarked, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55 ESV).

Judas would have been his Greek name. But in Hebrew, he would have been called Judah, which means “praise.” Jude was a Jewish Christian, but, like his brother James, would have been considered a Hellenized of Greek-speaking Jew from the region of Galilee. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, his family had a difficult time reconciling His claims to be the Son of God. John records in his gospel account that “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5 ESV). We know that Jude and James both came to faith in Christ at some point because they are listed as being in the crowd that had gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came.

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. – Acts 1:14 ESV

The author even introduces himself as the brother of James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. These men would have been highly influential in the early days of the spread of Christianity. Their relationship with Jesus would have given them strong credibility among the people. And the greeting of this letter clearly reveals that Jude was writing to “those who are called” – a reference to believers in Jesus Christ. This was a common designation when referring to Christians, in part because of the words of Jesus Himself.

“For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me…” – John 6:44 NLT

Jesus clearly taught that salvation was a work of God. Without His direct involvement, no man would come to faith in Christ. Jesus went on to say, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me” (John 6:65 NLT). And Jesus claimed that He came to earth in order to do the will of His Father, and He clearly articulated what that will involved: “…this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me” (John 6:37 NLT).

Years later, Jesus prayed in the garden, just hours before His death. And He talked to His heavenly Father about those He had called and given to Jesus to His followers.

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” – John 17:6 NLT

My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory.” – John 17:9-10 NLT

The apostle Paul also spoke of this calling by God.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. – Romans 8:29-30 NLT

Paul told the Corinthians believers: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV), and he reminded the believers in Rome that God’s “call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:29 NLT).

But not only were those to whom Jude wrote called by God, they were “beloved” by God. They were literally wrapped in or surrounded by the love of God. And they were preserved in that love by Jesus Christ. Again, back to the garden on the night Jesus was betrayed, He prayed to the Father, “During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost…” (John 17:12 NLT). And Jesus continues to guard and protect His own, through the indwelling presence of the Spirit. Not a single one whom called has called will ever have to fear the loss of God’s love, because he is kept in that love because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. And Paul comforted the believers in Rome with these words:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NLT

Now that Jude has established his identity and reminded his audience of who they were in Christ, he lets them know what he desires for them.

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. – Jude 1:2 ESV

These three things are non-negotiables for the believer in Christ. We cannot survive, let along thrive, without them. Because of our sin natures, we will continue to wrestle with the desire to disobey God. We will need His mercy all along the way. Our growth in Christlikeness will require His undeserved kindness and good will. We will fail, but His love never will.

And life in this fallen world will leave us feeling overwhelmed and out of control. We will struggle with a sense of confusion as we attempt to live our lives in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us. But Jude assures his readers that God can and will give them His peace – a miraculous calm in the midst of the storms of life.

And none of us can fully enjoy the Christian life without a growing understanding of just how much God loves us. That increasing awareness of being loved by God will translate into a selfless, sacrificial love for others. We will love because we have been loved. And it seems that Jude’s desire for these three indispensible, God-produced virtues, was based on his knowledge of the particular circumstances his audience  faced.

There was a growing problem taking place within their local congregations and Jude wastes no time in addressing it.

…some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. – Jude 1:4 NLT

Jude had intended to write a much more comforting and encouraging letter dealing with their common unity in the faith. But he had become aware of a dangerous heresy invading their congregations and he felt compelled to deal with it. In the rest of his letter, Jude will call his fellow believers “to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” (Jude 1:3 NLT). There was a false teaching being spread within their local faith communities that threatened the very foundation of the gospel message. It was raising questions regarding the grace of God and the manner in which Christians were to live out their faith in everyday life. And, as far as Jude was concerned, it was not to be tolerated.

And Jude isn’t in an accommodating or compromising mood. He isn’t out to have a discussion on the particular views of these people. In fact, he boldly declares that these so-called Christians “have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4 NLT). Not exactly politically-correct language. But Jude knew the danger of this kind of teaching. It sounded appealing, but it would have a deadly impact on the gospel message and the spiritual health of the church. So, Jude will level a stinging indictment against its proponents and charge the believers to whom he is writing to stand firm and remove this cancer from their midst.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

False Teachers = False Hope.

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” – 2 Peter 2:17-22 ESV

Peter is not yet done castigating the false teachers who were wreaking havoc in the local churches to whom he was writing. You can tell by the tone of his words that he is angry and unwilling to tolerate the damage these individuals are doing. Like Jude, he uses imagery from nature to describe just how valueless they are. He calls the waterless springs. It sounds like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. What is a spring that has no water? Is it still a spring? These people promise refreshment with their false teaching, but never deliver on their word. Like a dried up spring, they are incapable of doing so. Peter refers to them as mists driven by a storm. Once again, they seem to offer much-needed refreshment, but are completely susceptible to “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

Jude used similar descriptions for false teachers, calling them “waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (Jude 1:12-13 ESV). They are highly promising, extremely appealing, and pleasant sounding, but they bring no value to the table. Which is why both Peter and Jude say their judgment is going to be severe. They are misleading the people of God and they will one day pay for what they have done. Peter says, “For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (2 Peter 2:7 ESV). Jude says virtually the same thing: “for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 1:13 ESV). Jesus had similarly harsh words for the Pharisees in His day. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15 ESV). False teaching is not to be taken lightly. And yet, in our day it is rampant. There are countless individuals speaking and writing today whose words do not conform with the teaching of Jesus and His apostles. They claim to be speaking on behalf of God and presenting the truth of God. But their words are false. They are teaching destructive heresies. They are contradicting the words of Jesus and the Word of God. And yet there are many who gladly listen to their words and buy into what they are teaching. Warren Wiersbe describes them well.

“The average person does not know how to listen to and analyze the kind of propaganda that pours out of the mouths and printing presses of the apostates. Many people cannot tell the difference between a religious huckster and a sincere servant of Jesus Christ.” – Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary

The problem with false teachers is that they use just enough truth to give their message credibility, but they mix in their own opinions and dilute it with erroneous assumptions and assertions. They mention the gospel, but it ends up being a different gospel. They speak of Jesus, but He ends up as little more than a caricature or loose characterization of the Jesus we know from the gospels. They deny the reality of hell. They downplay the judgment of God. They refuse to talk about sin, and in doing so, they accommodate and encourage immorality. They emphasize the here and now over the hereafter. They promote the good life over the life of righteousness. Their words comfort but never convict. They downplay the role of suffering in the life of the believer and accentuate the blessings of God in the form of earthly possessions and personal pleasure.

These people are slaves to their false doctrine. Their denial of judgment and refusal to acknowledge the reality of hell do not make either one of them go away. These people have to remain committed to their false teaching and end up being enslaved to a futile way of life that never delivers what the claim in promises.

In the last three verses of this chapter, Peter makes a very strong statement regarding these individuals. He claims that they had heard the truth of the gospel. “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 2:20a ESV).  This does not necessarily mean they placed their faith in the truth of the gospel and became followers of Christ. They had heard the good news regarding Jesus and His offer of salvation. In that sense, they had heard the means by which they might escape the defilements of the world. But they had not believed. They had become enamored with the gospel, but not changed by it. In fact, it would seem that they developed their own version of the gospel and began to teach their own rendition of the truth and, as a result they found themselves  “again entangled in them [the defilements of the world] and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20b ESV).

They had heard the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, but they had rejected it. And they were worse off than they had been before. Now they were guilty of misleading people by claiming to speak on behalf of God. They were willfully and deliberately twisting the truth of God for personal gain. Peter says, “it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:21 ESV). They were without excuse. And Peter uses a couple of proverbs familiar to his audience to describe the fate of these false teachers. “‘A dog returns to its vomit.’ And another says, ‘A washed pig returns to the mud’” (2 Peter 2:22 ESV). They had been offered the hope of eternal life and the promise of forgiveness of sin. They had been told about the only means of being made right with God and yet, they had rejected it and returned to their old way of life.

C. S. Lewis describes the fate of these false teachers well:

It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is mean by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. ― C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

We will always be able to find teachers who will tickle our ears and tell us what we want to hear. We will always be tempted to find our satisfaction in this life. But false teachers offer false hope. They teach half-truths that are easily embraced by half-hearted individuals. Gullibility in the life of the believer is dangerous. We don’t ever have to fear losing our salvation, but we do need to recognize that the abundant life promised by Jesus can be squandered and the joy He came to bring can be lost – if we allow the lies of false teachers to replace the truth of the gospel.

The Truth About False Teachers.

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

False prophets had been a constant problem for the people of Israel. It seems that every time a God raised up a prophet and gave him a divinely inspired message for the people, a false prophet would appear on the scene, contradicting his message and misleading the people. These false prophets claimed to be agents of God, but had not been chosen by Him or given a message from Him. They were self-appointed freelancers. But God had stern warnings concerning these false prophets.

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. – Deuteronomy 18:20 ESV

Sounds a bit intense doesn’t it? But it reveals just how seriously God took the role of the prophet. They spoke for Him. They were His mouth pieces, speaking His words to His people. They were only to speak what they had heard from Him and nothing else.

During the last days of the kingdom of Judah, just after they had been defeated by the Babylonians and had begun their 70-year exile, a conflict arose between Jeremiah, the prophet of God who had warned the people that their defeat and deportation was eminent. They had been disobedient to God and He had warned them that He would use the Babylonians to punish them. Zedekiah had been placed over Judah as a kind of puppet king by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Jeremiah, the prophet of God, was still in Judah, warning the king and the people to submit to their fate, because it had been God-ordained. But another prophet named Hananiah began to proclaim a different message. He gave the king and the people a message he claimed to have received from God:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord‘s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. – Jeremiah 28:2-4 ESV

Hanahiah’s message, while preferable to the one Jeremiah had been proclaiming, was false. It was not from God. It was what the people wanted to hear, but it was not what God had intended them to receive. It was a lie disguised as truth. And Hanahiah would learn that speaking lies on behalf of God was a dangerous game to play.

And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. – Jeremiah 28:15-16 ESV

So what does all this have to do with Peter and the recipients of his letter? Everything. Just as false prophets had been a problem for the people of God during Israel’s past, false teachers would show up in the body of Christ, claiming to speak for God. Peter warns that they “will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). Jude, in his letter, uses similar wording. “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 ESV). Notice that Jude refers to sensuality. Peter does so as well. “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:2 ESV). The Greek word Peter uses is ἀπώλεια (apōleia), which means “damnable or destructive” (“G684 – apōleia (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). Not only was the teaching of these individuals false, but it was dangerous. It was based on greed and the desire for personal gain. They would use their false words to exploit and mislead the people of God. Their messages, while designed to be popular and appealing, were not of God. They were telling the people what they wanted to hear, but in doing so they were blaspheming the way of truth.

Peter claims that what they were doing, they did so “secretly.” It literally means “to introduce or bring in secretly or craftily” (“G3919 – pareisagō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). They were introducing their teaching subtly and surreptitiously alongside the teachings of Peter and the other apostles. This made it difficult to ascertain what was truth and what was falsehood. And much of what they were teaching seems to have contradicted the need for a change in the behavior of the people. Peter even accuses them of denying the Lordship of Christ Himself. Jesus dies so that those who believe in Him might be saved, but also be sanctified. His redemption includes our ongoing restoration into the image man once had before the fall. Jesus and the apostles all taught a death to self and a submission to the will of God. They called God’s people to live righteously and not sinfully. Peter has already told his readers that God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). But it seems these false teachers were proclaiming a different gospel that allowed for a life of sensuality and self-gratification. Which is why Peter will describe them as “blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Peter 2:13-14 ESV).

False teachers have always been a problem in the church. Paul had warned Timothy: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3 NLT). Telling people what they want to hear may make a teacher or preacher popular and pack the pews, but it will not lead to true life change. Denying the truth of God in order to provide people with false hope is dangerous and destructive. The gospel is good news, but that does mean it will always sound good in our ears. It can be demanding and always requires death to self. Its truth lies not in its plausibility or popularity, but in its ability to transform hopelessly lost sinners into saints.

Advice For Living.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:7-16 ESV

Consistency. Constancy. Steadfastness. A determination to stay the course, unwavering and undeterred from the goal. That is the key characteristic the author of Hebrews encourages us to look for in the lives of those we follow, whose lifestyle and faith we emulate. Living the Christian life is difficult, and God never intended for us to do it alone. He has placed others within the context of our lives to act as role models and companions along our faith journey. Within the body of Christ there will always be leaders, men and women who act as guides along the way, providing us with invaluable insights into the Word of God and the way of faith. But the author warns us to “consider the outcome of their way of life.” Was theirs a life well-lived? Did they finish strong? Was their character consistent with their teaching? Did they practice what they preached? Or were they all over the map spiritually? Was their faith consistent and their walk steady? Or were they “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14 ESV)? Our spiritual leaders should model consistency and steadfastness for us. They are to be like Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. That does not mean our spiritual mentors, pastors, and teachers should have perfectly consistent lives, but it is an encouragement to seek out those who have lived long enough to have proven their confession has had time to show up in their character. Their creed has been translated into conduct. What they say they believe has had time to manifest itself in what they have become.

The author warns his readers, “So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them” (Hebrews 13:9 NLT). Man’s obsession with novelty is nothing new. We love new ideas, new fashions, new trends and even new teaching. We are naturally drawn to anything that sounds innovative or provides never-before-seen insights into living the Christian life. The early church, just like the church today, was constantly being bombarded with new and improved teaching about everything from who Jesus really was to how to grow in godliness. That’s why the author mentioned devotion to foods. There was evidently a teaching influencing the local church that encouraged abstinence from certain foods as a requirement for true spirituality. Paul had had to deal with this very same thing. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Colossians 2:16 ESV). He warned Timothy:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:1-3 ESV

There will always be those who claim to have new insights into God’s Word. They will boast of having received new revelations from God and teach a new and improved version of the truth of God. But we must always judge their claims by their character. We must learn to compare their teaching with that of Christ and His apostles. Anyone who brings in “new” teaching that in any way adds to or distracts from the grace of God or the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is to be avoided at all costs. That is the point the author is trying to make with his somewhat cryptic statement: “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:10-11 ESV). His Hebrew readers would have easily understood his point. Under the old covenant, the priests were allowed to eat part of the sacrifice that was made. It was how God provided for them. But any animal whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat within the Holy of Holies was not allowed to be eaten, but was burned outside the camp. His point was that Jesus was sacrificed “outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12 ESV). Only those who live according to the new covenant in His blood are allowed to benefit from His body and blood. Those who want to live under the old covenant of law and legalism are not partakers in the new covenant.

Our faith is to be in Christ and Him alone. Anyone who adds to that formula is to be avoided, not matter how novel, new and exciting their teaching may sound. We are to remain consistently faithful to the teachings of Jesus and those of His apostles. We are to live with our eyes on the future, “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14 ESV). The gospel is more than 2,000 years old. It needs no improvement. It requires no new insights or innovative teachings to explain it. Through our relationship with Christ, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his nameand let us “not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV). New isn’t always improved.

The Incarnation.

It has been interesting to see some of the responses to my recent posts concerning the book of First John. Much of what John was dealing with in his letter head to do with heresies entering the early Church. As Christianity spread, so did the variety and numbers of different interpretations of the gospel. The book of First John is a pastoral letter addressed to believers and designed to both warn and encourage them. His intention was to provide them with assurance concerning their beliefs in Christ. Throughout the letter John used the phrase, “by this we know.” He wanted them to know, without a shadow of doubt, that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. But He was much more than just a human savior, an earthly deliverer who would provide them with victory over their earthly enemies. He came to be their Savior from sin and their means for enjoying a right relationship with God. For generations, the Jews had believed that the Mosaic Law was the key to achieving a right relationship with God. Human effort had been the accepted means by which men could find favor with God. The sacrificial system, given by God, was used by men to have their sins cleansed and forgiven. The very fact that the sacrificial system existed was proof that men were incapable of keeping God’s commands. Paul writes, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21 ESV). The law revealed man’s sin, but could do nothing to remove it. The law simply exposed man’s inability to meet God’s holy standards. Which is why God provided a Savior.

But it is at that point that so many continue to stumble today. I have received comments from some who refuse to accept the deity of Christ. They argue that Jesus was nothing more than a man, created by God. This is not a new view. John battled the same errant belief in his day. One of the comments I received stated, “‘And the Word was made flesh’ talks about the Word or the Speaking which became a reality, namely a man of flesh and blood, who after his resurrection proved to his disciples that he was not a Spirit (though God is Spirit) and told them so.” It is subtle, but what he is saying is that Jesus was nothing more than a man into whom the Word or Spirit of God entered. He was flesh and blood. But the disturbing point about this teaching is that it rejects the deity of Christ. For John, the deity of Christ was a non-negotiable ingredient to the gospel. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…” (1 John 1:1 ESV). He was not speaking of some disembodied Spirit or force, but of Jesus Christ Himself. He was from the beginning. He was the eternal life. As John states in his gospel, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2-3 ESV).

There are those today who still reject the deity of Christ. They refuse to accept Him as God. This was the same problem Jesus ran into during His earthly ministry. On one occasion, as Jesus was walking through the temple in Jerusalem, the Jews demand to know if He is the Messiah. Jesus makes a simple, but direct comment: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 ESV). And the immediate response of the Jews was to pick up stones and kill Him. Why? They provided the answer. “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:33 ESV). The Jews clearly understood Jesus’ claim to be God. He was not just claiming to be a man who had the Spirit of God within Him. He and God the Father were one. It is Jesus’ deity, miraculously blended with His humanity, that made Him a fitting sacrifice for the sins of man. To believe anything else is to believe another gospel. If we believe that we can simply emulate the life of Christ and share in the divine Spirit as He did, we miss the point of His life, death, and resurrection. The belief that God became flesh is essential to the gospel. Yet, as in John’s day, there are those who refuse to accept it.  Again, one of the recent comments I received put it this way: “Having come down in the form of a god, does not mean Jesus came down as the God of gods.” In other words, Jesus was NOT God, but a little god. And according to this teaching, we can become a little god by following His example. But this is NOT the gospel. And the apostle Paul had strong words for those who would attempt to explain away the true essence of the gospel message. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV).