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"These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves; 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 forever."
Detrimental Effects of False Teachers on the Church
In the light of this morning’s message we should be well placed to understand Jude’s concerns about false teachers and the church.
The gospel is the gospel of God and it concerns his son the Lord Jesus Christ.
When men truly meet with this God the only acceptable response is to fall humbly before him recognising his awesome greatness and our own powerlessness and frailty. The last thing anyone should want to do upon encountering this God would be to alter his word or add to his word and far less would they want to deliberately set his word to one side in the belief that they somehow know better.
But that is just what the false teacher does and how serious a matter it is!
We’ve already seen some of the characteristics tendencies of false teachers in the church:
Lowering of morality; increase in sexual immorality. This comes about when sin is downplayed. The false teacher sees himself as belonging to a class of the spiritual elite for whom the traditional understanding of sin is regarded as unimportant. Erroneous views lead such teachers to let rip as the wonderful truth of God’s free grace is perverted in such a way as to encourage sinful behaviour rather than to free the recipient of grace from the pollution and corruption of sin.
While perhaps not openly rejecting the Lordship of Christ these false teachers by their lifestyle demonstrates a practical and effective denial of his Lordship in their lives. His words and his teachings are reinterpreted and made to say what he never intended to be said. What matters to these false teachers is not to carefully understand and apply the faith of the gospel once and for all given to the church but to advance their own lustful and fleshly visions and dreams. And how easily their "new" outlook is made to justify their private and sinful leanings.
These teachers are also not known for the restraint of their language but arrogantly and foolishly slander and blaspheme what they really do not understand at all.
We’ve also already seen that the false teacher is not limited to one particular kind but different false teachers can be driven but one of a number of different motives:
Some are loveless and faithless – no evidence of ever having been genuinely influenced by the gospel of God’s grace in any meaningful way
Some are driven but that base desire to feather their own nests and have done what they have done in a simple desire to maximise their own personal gain
Some have drifted from the truth and rejected the regularly instituted and ordained authority of church leaders as they have aspired to honour and positions of prestige and status for themselves
But Jude has yet more to say about the influence of false teachers in a church. He continued with six devastating descriptions:
Blemishes at your love feasts – some translations have "reefs" of "hidden reefs" in the place of blemishes. They are dangerous and can cause a ship to be wrecked.
Of course the church is often described as the bride of Christ
cf. 2Pet.2:3 "They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their deceptions, while they feast with you."
Cf. 1Cor.11:17-22 "But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse... When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not."
Feeding/looking after themselves cf. Ezek 34 and the bad shepherds described there.
Cf. Prov.25:14 "Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give."
(Example of Jean de Florette.)
These false teacher clouds are driven along by the winds of the world blowing with every latest fad and fancy – always promising a lot but never delivering what is promised.
Cf. 2Pet.2:17 "These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm."
Like a mirage in the desert they deceive the thirsty traveller and rob him of hope.
Fruitless trees in late autumn.
Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit and it is right to expect to find fruit on a good and healthy tree and what better time find it than in late autumn when the main crop is usually harvested? But these men are all appearance – leaves and flowers perhaps but nothing of substance that will satisfy.
It is hardly surprising that these false teachers do in fact bear no fruit for they have ceased to abide in Christ and it is only by abiding in him that true spiritual fruit will be born.
The tree that bears no fruit is already dead and lifeless – and what do you do with such a tree? You dig it up and remove it from the ground it occupies – you uproot it – and such a fruitless uprooted tree is doubly dead.
Sometimes when you go down to the seaside if the weather is calm and has been for some time the water looks clear as it laps on the shore. But let the winds get up and the waves stir and soon the water is anything but clear – it’s quickly full of sand. And after a storm at sea and the flotsam and jetsam that has been stirred up from the sea bed is cast onto the beach as the rubbish of the deep. Only the flotsam and jetsam of the false teacher is the rotting debris of their shameful lives!
Isaiah had understood this years earlier when he wrote:
Is.57:20 "But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt."
Probably a reference to the planets in the skies rather than to a shooting star or an asteroid. You can’t plot your course by such heavenly bodies as these – they don’t provide the fixed points necessary for that. Instead of keeping to a fixed sphere where they would be useful and helpful the teacher who abandons the truth and teaches instead his own errors and untruths becomes untrustworthy and utterly unreliable as a guide.
The one thing sure about such, according to Jude, is their own destination – they are bound not for high honour but for a dismal future of utter darkness!
Why is Jude so stern you might want to ask?
Didn’t Jude know what Jesus had said:
Lk.6:37 "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;"
Of course he knew that. And he wasn’t eager and keen to judge – he’d far rather speak of the glorious gospel as he’s already told us but he knew too that Jesus also said:
Jn.7:24 "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."
In the first case Jesus was speaking about our attitude to our personal enemies and we must exercise charity towards them but that was not the case here. The false teachers had infiltrated the church and had taken a public stance – the situation cried out for just judgment or the church was lost.
Of course if you don’t really believe the truth of the gospel then you won’t really be that bothered by false teachers. One person’s opinion is as good as another’s you will think to yourself. But Jude knew better than that. Doctrine and ideas are important and we must get them right or else we won’t rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ, we won’t repent of our sin and we won’t be saved.
Thank God that he warns of us the dangers. May we stay alert and heed what God tells us.