Posts Tagged 'False Teachings'

TRUTHS FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING, PART 2

Jesus calling some disciples to follow Him.

Living As Christ’s Disciple, 1 John 2:329

Being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ takes work—mental work. The lazy Christian is one who falls for every new teaching no matter how far from Biblical truth it is. Those of us who been involved in church ministry recognize this to be a big problem. How many of us have wondered, “Why is it easier to believe this or that false teaching but not the truth?” But as prevalent a problem as this may be, it’s not a new one. It’s as old as the church.

The apostle John gives us some guidelines for how to live faithfully as Christ’s disciple. More than guidelines, these are like tests to see if you possess eternal life. Mixed in with these tests, John alludes to the false teachings his readers were flirting with. The tests are moral, social, and doctrinal in nature, which involve the whole person and their behavior, beliefs, and attitudes.

1. Obey Christ’s commands, 1 John 2:311

a. Knowing God, vs. 36

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says,I know him,but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Gods love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

The first test is a simple one, given in verse 3. Two things are made clear: we can know Jesus and we can know that we know Him. The popular heresy of John’s day taught that only a select few special people could know God through special knowledge. But John indicates that we can know God and know that we know.

While the Gnostic false teaching that John was confronting taught about “knowing” God, for the Christian, “knowing” God involves more than an intellectual understanding of spiritual things. For us, knowledge of God is inseparable from the experience of righteous living. In other words, a person may run around all day claiming to know God, but if their lives don’t measure up to God’s teaching about righteousness, they’re either a liar or delusional.

So the first test is the test of conduct. This doesn’t mean that everybody who appears to be living a righteous life is a Christian. Many people live according to Biblical principles simply because those principles lead to a good quality of life. Jesus understood this well:

Not everyone who says to me,Lord, Lord,will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

What John is getting at is that our greatest desire should be set upon the moral teachings of the Gospel and living them as best we can. Keeping the teachings of Scripture—God’s commands—is the same as walking in the light.

b. Loving others, vs. 711

Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (vs. 10, 11)

John had just taught that moral obedience is a test of a relationship with God. Here is another test; the social test—a loving attitude. The Gnostics were a cold, arrogant, exclusive, unloving, and legalistic people. Christians, on the other hand, should be none of those things. No wonder John gave this test to his readers!

The command for believers to “love one another” is both an old and a new command. This command is a very old one, having been given from “the beginning.” We wonder, though, what John meant by that: the beginning of what? The beginning of time? Or since the giving of the Mosaic Law? Or since the founding of the Church?

The first two theories have merit, but it seem likely John has in mind since the beginning of the Church. Jesus taught His followers to love each other, which was really a fresh teaching of the Law of Moses. This command, then, though old, is not obsolete or worn out, just ancient, but absolutely essential for living. The command to love each other should never be forgotten, but should always be fresh and new in the sense that we commit ourselves to it often. It’s too easy for our Christian love to become formal and duty-bound. Blind obedience should never replace spontaneous love. When that happens, the command to “love one another” becomes as worn out as a sock with a hole in the heel. Indeed, obedience must never become a substitute for love, just an evidence of it.

Verses 7 to 11 describe a person in the church who is, hopefully, in the minority! The word “hates” in verses 9 and 11 is written in the present tense, suggesting a continuous way of life. A person cannot, at the same time, live in hate and walk in the light. It’s an impossibility.

When we “love our brother,” two things happen. First, we are “living in the light.” That is, we are living in the sphere of God’s light, which shines on us. We are true believers.

Second, when we “love our brother,” there is “nothing in us to make him stumble.” The sense of that phrase is literally, “there is no stumbling block in us.” When we are walking in His light, we have nothing in our lives to stumble over or anything in us to cause others to stumble.

2. Don’t love the world, 1 John 2:12—17

a. Truth for all ages, vs. 12—15

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (vs. 15)

John has some words of encouragement for his readers. This is the overriding admonition for believers of all ages and maturity. John groups his readers into “children,” “fathers,” and “young men.” Since women are not mentioned we may assume women are perfect (I write that as a husband of one).

“Dear children” (verse 12) is John’s favorite term of endearment for all congregations as a whole. So to all believers, of all ages and standings, this assurance is given: “Your sins have been forgiven.” And what an assurance that is! Everything begins with forgiveness. Once confessed, our sins may be forgiven and we are then able to enter into fellowship with both God and the Body of Christ.

“Fathers” refers to the senior members of the congregation, those who had some authority within the church. These would be mature believers, both in years and faith.

“Young men” who are “strong” adds a new dimension of thought concerning believers. These have “overcome,” suggesting those who have experienced victory in Christ. This ought to be state of all believers, who are ever in conflict with evil, yet always victorious because Christ has overcome death, hell, and the grave. The Psalmist has a good piece of advice for this group:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)

In verse 13 there is kind of play on words not apparent in the English. Back in verse 12, the Greek for “children” is teknia. But here it is paidia, emphasizing not age but a relationship—a subordinate relationship of one who needs to sit under authority and instruction. Here is the position all believers should strive for:

I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. (vs. 13b)

What John is saying is this: his readers have to know God personally because they sat under the teachings and instruction of godly men.

All members of the church, then, from the oldest to the youngest, both in the faith and in chronology of years, must not love the world or live as worldly people. It’s a bit ironic that the apostle of love, who writes all about how we ought love, gives a stern piece of advice NOT to love something: the world. As much as we ought to love the Body of Christ, we ought to NOT love the world outside of that Body.

b. Flesh, eyes, and the pride of life, vs. 16, 17

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

John’s mood seems to swing from that of an old man giving words of assurance to a stern old man giving a serious warning. The tense of these verses is not the perfect but the present imperative: he is giving a command! The command is back in verse 15: Do NOT love the world. What love for the world or worldliness involves is now spelled out for us: (1) the cravings of the sinful men; (2) the lust of his eyes; and (3) the boasting of what he has and does.

Believers should not love the world because the world is temporary and is passing away. What John is saying here quite startling, actually. “Pass away” is the same verb in the same tense (present) as was used back in verse 8 to describe the present downfall of darkness. Here, the “darkness” is “the world,” and again John describes it as even now passing away. The chilling assumption is that when the world passes, those who are a part of it will pass as well.

3. Abide in Christ, 1 John 2:18—29

This is the last of John’s “tests,” the doctrine test—the necessity to believe right. Here John has returned the purpose of his letter—to combat false teaching and false teachers by giving his readers solid teachings.

John indicates in verse 18 that he and his readers were living in, literally, “the last hour.” The early church was very conscious that Christ could return at any moment, and that’s why so many of the New Testament’s admonitions about holiness and purity of life are viewed in that context. The thought being, live right and believe right because Christ could return in the next moment. Getting caught with one’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar is powerful motivation to live God-pleasing lives!

a. Antichrists and the anointing, vs. 18—21

Like John and his friends, we too are living in the “last hour.” It’s a long hour, but the dangers of his day are the dangers of ours. False teachers—antichrists—are all over the place, spewing their bad teachings and leading many ignorant believers astray. In John’s day, the identity of the antichrists he was concerned about is clear: they seemed to be one-time members of the church!

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us (vs. 19)

They masqueraded as believers but revealed their true colors when they left—went out from—the company of true believers, to strike out on their own, preaching their own gospel.

We learn something about two important doctrines of the Church here. First, we get an inkling of what “the perseverance of the saints” involves. Only those who remain absolutely faithful to Christ until the end are truly saved. Endurance saves no one, but it is a characteristic of one who is saved. And second, we see the doctrine of “the true church,” or what the true church looks like. Only those who are true to Christ are members of the Church and only He knows what that is.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. (vs. 20, 21)

What assurance for true believers! We who persevere in the faith have two powerful things going for us: (1) We “have an anointing from the Holy One.” The “Holy One” could refer to either Christ or God, but the anointing definitely refers to the Holy Spirit. The true believer is anointed just like Christ was: by the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we are like Him. The “but” suggests that the false teachers didn’t have this anointing at all. They were running around claiming to be like Christ, yet they were empty. Meanwhile, those who remained true to Him are like Him in the sense that the same anointing fills them as filled Christ. (2) John’s readers “know the truth.” This is an assurance every single believer has because it doesn’t depend on a seminary education:

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (vs. 27)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17) and He becomes our teacher. It’s easy to be intimidated by teachers, and especially false teachers, who use big words and wordy arguments, but it was important to John that his readers understand that they don’t need to feel this way because they have real knowledge of God, taught to them by the Holy Spirit Himself. This same Spirit also helps believers distinguish between true teaching and error.

b. The Christ, vs. 22, 23

Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

The rhetorical question provides another test. One who denies that Jesus is the Christ—the false teachers—is an antichrist. To deny Christ is to deny the Father. Without getting in to an in depth teaching on Gnosticism, the modern application is obvious. Many people claim to “believe in God,” yet have no relationship whatsoever with Jesus Christ or even fail to recognize His divinity. Such people are not part of the Body of Christ.

c. Safeguards against heresy, vs. 24—29

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (vs. 24)

Unlike the false teachers who gave up on the true Gospel, John urges his readers not to. If a believer clings to the true teachings of Scriptures, they may protect themselves from the trap of the false teachers. Paul wrote what about a time when people wouldn’t be following John’s advice:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (1 Timothy 4:3, 4)

It takes work to remain faithful to the teachings of Scripture; false teachings always appeal to the flesh and the sinful nature, even while they pretend to be spiritual.

Verse 27 gives us the reason why John wrote the things he did:

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.

But even he recognized that no matter how much he wrote and taught them about the truth, there was One who could do more than he ever could:

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

It’s important to listen to the right teaching; to believe the right things. John’s readers had heard the right teachings from him plus they had the Holy Spirit’s ongoing ministry within them. So there are two forms of protection against heresy: the truth of the Word God, read and taught, and the Spirit of Truth. A believer who has both of these protections operating in his life in balance will not fall prey to false teachers. But balance is important. One should not focus on the Scripture at the expense of the the Spirit or vice versa. The best safeguard against false teaching is a knowledge of the truth gained through personal study of the Word, exposure to solid Bible teaching, and Spirit-led illumination.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

Jude, Part 5

Saints and Sinners

Jude 14—16


Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

In these three verses, Jude hones in on these apostates and gives clues that will help believers identify them. Never let it be said that the Bible keeps its readers in the dark.

In verses 14 and 15, Jude again quotes fro m an apocryphal book, known as 1 Enoch. While fragments of this ancient text have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the first century of the Christian era it was widely circulated and well known. This is why Jude quoted from it. He gives no hint that he thought what he cited was inspired; so many early believers were familiar with it, he used it as a kind of “sermon illustration.”

1. What Enoch Saw, verse 14—15

This prophecy of Enoch is not found anywhere in the Old Testament. We are told about Enoch in Genesis 5:18—24,

When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

And this is all we know about Enoch. “He walked with God;” apparently he had an amazing spiritual nature, and God simply removed him from the earth and he did not experience death. This godly man, who lived and spoke the word of the Lord before the Flood, like Jude, Paul, and Peter, preached against the false teachers of his day. We see that this problem of false teachers and false teaching is as old as man himself. For some reason, God the Holy Spirit saw fit to exclude Enoch’s writings from the canon of inspired Scripture, but here is one, single prophecy that is included: a prophecy against false teachers and their doom. Dr. Wuest’s translation of verses 14 and 15 goes like this:

And there prophesied also with respect to these, the seventh from Adam, Enoch, saying, “Behold, there comes the Lord with His holy myriads, to execute judgment against all and to convict all those who are destitute of a reverential awe towards God, concerning all their works of impiety which the impiously performed and concerning all the harsh things which impious sinners spoke against Him.

The subject of the sentence, and the subject of Enoch’s sermon, is the Lord. Jude puts the quotation is the perspective of Christ’s return. The “holy Myriads,” we know in light of Revelation, refers to either the angelic host that will accompany Christ or to the saints that will also accompany Him, or both. Jude’s point: When Christ returns in glory and power, He is coming to execute judgment upon all sinners and to convict the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in an ungodly way.

It’s interesting when we compare Enoch with the Church. Enoch was translated, removed from the earth by God. The Body of Christ, the Church, similarly, will be translated, removed from the earth by God. What will be left behind when the Church leaves will be an apostate church and a world populated by unregenerate sinners. That kind of world was judged by God using a flood, in Noah’s day. In the same way, God will judge the world to come when Christ returns. The great hymn-writer John Newton wrote these words:

At His call the dead awaken,
Rise to life from earth and sea;
All the powers of nature, shaken,
By His looks prepare to flee.
Careless sinner.
What will then become of thee?

Enoch not only preached against the wickedness of his day, but he looked far into the future to address all godless people of all generations. In fact, in the Greek, the stress in on those two words, “all” and “godless.” In a sense, this brief word of prophecy, spoken in antiquity, is a summary everything every written about Divine judgment through the pages of Scripture.

Those of us who love the Lord and love His Word grow impatient with what see as a rapid degeneration of the Church. Sometimes it is hard to fathom why the Lord permits so much heresy to preached in His Name. So many people are led astray, down the garden path of heresy. But Jude reminds us, through Enoch, a man ahead of his time, that a day of reckoning is coming. Peter said a similar thing, in 2 Peter 3:8—9,

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. (The Message)

Rest assured, the wicked will get their reward. Once upon a time, the great preacher Jonathan Edwards preached a powerful sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Now, as Leonard Ravenhill observed, the tide has changed; it is now “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners!” But, it won’t always be like this. False teachers are, as we noted before, the walking dead.

2. How to spot a false teacher, verse 16

After quoting Enoch’s prophecy, Jude applies it to the ungodly men, the apostate teachers, of his day. These false teachers, with their flowery words and heady concepts, are really, at their core, disreputable human beings. These false teachers are:

  • Grumblers. The KJV calls them “murmurers.” The Greek word means to “utter complaints,” literally to “whine.” It’s not a loud, outspoken kind of whining, but a quiet and persistent grumbling against God.
  • Faultfinders. That is, they are complainers. The false teachers complain about their lot in life, they are always searching but never finding. They are discontent, unhappy and miserable.
  • They follow their own evil desires. That’s how the NIV translates it, but a more accurate translation might be: “they follow their own passions.” They walk after their own lusts and desires, either good or bad. These apostates do whatever they want without regard for God or God’s will. That’s why they are never satisfied. Nothing can satisfy the needs of the human heart save Christ.
  • They boast about themselves. Literally, “their mouths speak bombastic words.” They’re immodest, arrogant, self-confident, and they use extravagant language to impress impressionable minds.
  • They flatter others for their own advantage. The Greek is very picturesque: “They honor faces for the sake of advantage,” in other words, they surround themselves with the pretty people, the attractive people, the talented people, so that they themselves will benefit from that relationship.

In other words, these apostates exhibit character traits exactly opposite to the Christ-like traits believers are called to demonstrate.

Jude 3

A Warning From History

I want to remind you of something that you really know already: and although the Lord saved all the people from the land of Egypt, yet afterwards he brought to their downfall those who would not trust him. And the very angels who failed in their high duties and abandoned their proper sphere have been deprived by God of both light and liberty until the judgment of the great day. Sodom and Gomorrah and the adjacent cities who, in the same way as these men today, gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion, stand in their punishment as a permanent warning of the fire of judgment. (JBP)

As we read Jude, it’s wise to keep in mind to whom he was writing. The early Christian church was made up, in large part, of Jewish converts. These Jewish converts would know their history well and they would easily make the connection between these lessons from history and the modern false teacher.

In Jeremiah 13, we read this verse that can almost be called a proverb, because it is nugget of truth:

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13:23, NIV)

In general, people don’t change. The very same false teachings that plagued the Church in Jude’s day, are the same ones that the Church struggles with today. The names are different, and the faces are different, but the false teachings are the same, and the devastating results of those false teachings are the same: ruined lives and broken churches.

1. Judgment: God’s promise you can count on

Before Jude continues with his description of the false teachers and their ultimate condemnation, he turns to Jewish history, which he says readers already know, and he gives three examples of divine judgment. Here’s a good reason to know what is written in the Old Testament:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11, NIV)

Specifically, Paul is referring to Moses and the children of Israel, but there is an overriding principle in that verse. Knowledge of the Word of God will help you avoid the same pitfalls that people in the Old Testament fall into. That’s why Jude told his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith” earlier in his letter; because it contains the what they needed to identify and drive away the false teachers. What is true in Jude’s day, is true in our day. That’s why these 24 verses are so relevant.

Peter also relied on examples from history when he was warning against false teachers as well.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:12, NIV)

So, as Peter did, Jude does. Jude will give three examples of the Lord’s judgments on those who knowingly rebelled against the Lord. The judgment of God is sure and certain, but in this dispensation of grace, man is apt to think God is out of the judging business.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal. 6:7, NIV)

And that’s the point of Jude’s argument. The false teachers were sowing disharmony and discord. They were the causing dissension and leading others astray. They were the vilest of sinners: they actually knew the truth yet mocked it by doing the exact opposite.

2. Example #1: Deliverance from Egypt

Israel was God’s chosen nation. He delivered them from bondage in Egypt by great and mighty wonders and miracles. The people experienced God’s grace as nobody else in history ever had. They saw the miracles. They heard and saw His revelation at Mount Sinai. They received His special care while they journeyed through the desert. And yet, despite being the recipients of all this, some of their number disbelieved and rebelled against the Moses and the Lord.

Jude reminds his readers that “the Lord later destroyed those who did not believe.” We note that these people who experienced God’s wrath “did not believe.” In other words, they were part of the company of believers, but they themselves were not believers. How many were there?

In Numbers 1:45-46, we read that there were over 600,000 men over the age of twenty. If we add in an equal number of women, then those who died in the desert on the way to Canaan totaled over 1,200,000 people. If we divide that number by the total number of days of the 38 year journey, we arrive an amazing 90 deaths per day; that’s almost 100 of Israel’s youngest and strongest who died each day under God’s judgment.

That sounds severe, but remember, the Israelites were physically delivered from bondage, not by their faith as a nation, but by God’s covenant love and mercy. By rejecting God’s guidance, they experienced God’s anger. By rebelling against His leadership, they were demonstrating their rebellious nature.

The warning in this example is clear: unbelief and rebellion are not tolerated by God. These people, while not believers, knew what the truth was, but they refused in the stubbornness of their hearts, to submit to God.

3. Example #2: Angles who fell

This is one of the verses that scholars love to debate. These angels left their “proper sphere” or “proper dwelling.” That was their sin.

Many Bible teachers associate Jude’s allusion with Genesis 6:1-4, where we read of angels (sons of God) coming down to earth and, cohabiting with women (daughters of men), producing a half-human, half-demonic race of freaks (giants). The apocryphal book of Enoch, from which Jude quotes later on, speaks of this piece of Jewish folklore in depth. The early church fathers believed this interpretation of Genesis 6. But is that what Jude had in mind? It seems inconceivable that angels, who do not have bodies, could procreate with a human being.

Without regard to exactly what Jude meant, the sin of the angles is very clear: they refused to stay within their divinely appointed sphere. They, like the rebellious Israelites, refused to obey God’s will in favor of their own.

What was their punishment? These sinful angels are kept in (or are reserved for) a place of darkness, in chains, awaiting their final judgment. Some commentators think this is a literal judgment; that there are some fallen angles bound and some lose, running over the earth. Others see Jude writing metaphorically: these angels are bound in a “spiritual darkness” as they await their final judgment. Again, it’s difficult to know with any certainty what Jude is alluding to, however, one thing we can know with absolute certainty is this: these fallen angels are living under condemnation because, in their rebellion, they usurped their desires over God’s will.

4. Example #3: Immoral cities

The third and final example of rebellion is the most vivid. Throughout the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah are given as outstanding examples or symbols of gross immorality and serve as an eternal testament to God’s hatred for this kind of sin. What was the sin? The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were involved in gross homosexuality, that’s what is meant by the term “other flesh” (NIV).

The point of Jude using this example is not the homosexual act, which is vile enough, but rather he points to a much deeper sin. The activity of the Sodomites was a perversion of the normal order of God’s creation.

5. Jude’s purpose

What is Jude’s purpose in giving these examples? He is unfolding the fate of these false teachers in a progressive nature. Note:

  • The unbelieving Israelites were buried in the desert;
  • The unfaithful angles are bound in a hellish darkness;
  • The immoral cities were burned with fire, a type of eternal fire (verse 7).

God’s judgment is past, present, and future. It cannot be escaped. For those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, for those who refuse to seek God’s will and live in obedience to it, and for those who are determined to go their own way, doing their own thing, their fate is already sealed. Such is the fate of the false teachers.


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