APOSTASY IN THE CHURCH
JUDE'S short epistle contains a striking contrast between false teachers and true in the Church, "Certain men crept in unawares" - "But ye beloved" - these are the introductory phrases to the two subjects under consideration in this brief but exceedingly valuable letter. The writer first traces the course of apostasy and reveals some of its features, then exhorts his readers to steadfastness in the faith, those who had been sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ and called.
oft quoted doxology in verses 24-25 becomes
richer when viewed against the background of the whole epistle. This little
book might be called the Falling Chapter, for it contains references to many
falls. In verse 5 we see a people falling,
Jude's concern was that certain men had crept in unawares. Note the preposition for it is all important. Men who had crept out were not the real danger. "They went out from us," John says, "but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us, but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John 2 : 19). The Church, though weakened numerically, has only been strengthened spiritually when some have openly [been] defected. A deadening work however has been performed by those who have crept in. Even in that early day, approximately A.D. 66, professing members of the Church were denying the doctrine of free grace, and it was necessary to urge the saints to contend earnestly for the faith. Subsequent history has shown how needful the warning was.
A consideration of verse 11 will give the thoughtful reader much light on the subject of these apostatising teachers, these men who have crept into the Church undiscerned. "Woe unto them," cries Jude, "for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." Consider each of these illustrations briefly.
THE WAY OF CAIN
mention of Cain indicates how early the trouble started and its source.
Modernism is not really modern for it had its springs in
Cain may be said therefore to have been the first to introduce a bloodless theology. In this he was typical of thousands to follow, men now found within the Church who deny the vital truth of redemption through the blood of Christ. To-day as in A.D. 66 there are many with an alternative "Gospel," and it can be said largely of the great denominational movements that they have gone in the way of Cain - they have left out the blood. False teachers abound who deny that the Lord bought us with His blood, and Peter prophesied that many would follow their pernicious ways (2 Peter 2: 2). Pernicious teaching, the bloodless theology initiated by Cain, is the first mark of the apostate teacher.
THE ERROR OF BALAAM
was a professional enchanter. Of false prophets in the Church, Jude says they
have run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. What was
the error of Balaam? He made several, but his chief error lay in persisting
in a course which he knew to be wrong "for reward".
"Come, curse me Jacob, and come defy
Peter draws attention to this fatal greed of Balaam's. "He loved the wages of unrighteousness." There is no more pathetic figure in Scripture. How unutterably sad are his words "I shall see him, but not now. I shall behold him, but not nigh" (Numbers 24: 17). This man knew the value and the end of righteousness. He coveted the lot of the righteous, knowing that the end of that man is peace. "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his" (Numbers 23: 10). But he was not prepared to live the life of the righteous. He loved the wages of unrighteousness, the present material gain. Balaam hoped to work for one master and draw his wages from another. Fatal delusion, for God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.
Many so-called Christian teachers are running greedily after the error, stifling conscience to preach a "Gospel" which will secure them advancement and preferment, but which they know to be futile and false. The error of Balaam! The Church is indeed suffering at the hands of professional shepherds, "hirelings" as the Lord called them. "For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6 : 10).
THE GAINSAYING OF KORAH
Korah (Core in
Jude 11) headed a rebellion in his day
against the leadership of
Yet we see the counterpart of Korah from earliest days in the Church. Unregenerate [and many regenerate] men are never satisfied with God's arrangements. The divine order of priesthood since the ascension of Christ has been one of beautiful simplicity - a King-priest in Heaven and a kingdom of priests on earth, every believer being a priest unto God, able to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ and needing no intermediary. "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2 : 5). But religionists from the first have considered this insufficient and imposed an earthly priesthood on the heavenly seeking to intrude between the believer and his Lord, ignoring the clear teaching of the New Testament. Their lot like Korah is to perish, but alas many perish with them in their gainsaying. Priest-craft is the third great mark of apostasy.
From these thoughts Jude turns to address his leaders more directly - "But ye beloved". It had been necessary to dwell at some length on the character of apostasy so that the false teaching could be readily recognised. "It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints". Now he concludes with a brief but forceful appeal to the believers to develop and deepen their spiritual life, the only sure way to combat error and apostasy. Verses 20-21 contain a four point programme for victorious living.
First, "building up yourselves in your most holy faith." This is a call to edification. The Word of God's grace is able to build us up, and the believer well-taught in the Word will be quick to detect error. In a measure the saints are able to build each other up and to edify one another, but there is also the need for personal feeding on the Word - "building up yourselves."
Second, "praying in the Holy Ghost." This is a call to supplication. The [Holy] Spirit directs the mind of the true seeker to the Throne of Grace, where we can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Only by praying in the Holy Ghost can the Christian develop his prayer life fully. Prayers composed by other men centuries ago have perhaps a literary value but not a spiritual. Paul said, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also."(1 Cor. 14: 15).
The Devil trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
Third, "keep yourselves in the love of God" - a call to preservation. There is a sense in which the [regenerate] believer must keep himself. Though preserved in Jesus Christ and called (verse 1), preservation is here enjoined as a spiritual exercise. Jude points to Christ as the One who is able to keep, yet exhorts his readers "keep yourselves in the love of God." Deliberately therefore the child of God must maintain his spirituality by living in the good of heavenly things and keeping within the influence of God's love.*
[* If you obey my commands, our Lord says, you will remain in my love, (John 15: 10).]
Fourth, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" - this is expectation. The hourly expected return of the Saviour from Heaven is the highest incentive to holy living and steadfastness in the faith. An atmosphere of expectancy prevailed in the early Church, and it was doubtless the dimming of that glorious hope, the slackening in day to day looking, which led eventually to spiritual sloth and a lack of earnestness, and which let in a flood of error never since eradicated. No programme for Christian living is complete without the hope of the Coming. The grace of God teaches us that we should "live ... looking" (Titus 2: 12-13); looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing [appearing of the glory] for the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
-The Balance of Truth.
1. We do well to remind ourselves of the words of Dr. A. B. Simpson. "There are two ways of looking at the Lords Coming. There is a looking for and there is a looking at it. It is possible to look at it with a keen intellect and profound interest, and yet have it mean nothing to us personally. It is possible to know but little of the theology and exegesis of the subject, and yet have a deep and holy longing for our Lord to appear. When a wedding is about to occur, the public are looking at it, but the bride is looking for it. Oh, that this great theme may not only be our study but our personal hope, for unto them that look for Him shall He appear a second time without sin unto salvation."
2. To recognise the approach of the "day of the Lord" is expected of all regenerate believers. Just as certainly they are warned that they will not know the day or the hour: it is tragic how many evangelicals abhor responsibility truth. An overcomer, it is assumed, is another name for a regenerate believer!
What does that mean? That the worst backsliders, and one who dies as such, will receive all the golden prizes and honours, designed for devoted service even to martyrdom, which our Lord holds out to the Seven Churches; and if these were attained simply by saving faith - and the Lord says that every overcomer will receive - then every regenerate believer must receive them all! Not only does such exposition baffle all comment, but the challenges to the Lords redeemed people, are made totally irrelevant to regenerate members of the Church. What will such evangelicals feel when they discover the truth at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
An unspeakable awful description is given by the Apostle Peter (throughout the second chapter of his second Epistle) of apostasy as it will be in the last days. "Among YOU there will be false teachers, who shall bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master THAT BOUGHT THEM" (2 Pet. 2: 1). Only a regenerate believer can be an apostate.