4 Feb 2014 by Tony Dibble-
A potential danger in the Christian life is to gradually lose the fundamentals of the faith. This could arise because our beliefs may be infiltrated by misconceptions from manipulators. What are these misconceptions? How and from where do such threats arise from? How could these risks be avoided?
1. Nature of Apostasy
The Epistle of Jude is about drifting away from the firm beliefs that we have been taught. Moving away from the solid ground of the faith is called apostasy. It may be unnoticed initially (v 4) when false teachers begin to distort GOD’s message.
Apostasy involves adding any of the world’s philosophies or casual attitudes to the gospel. A false teaching always has simple appeal. The Christian will be a ready victim if his beliefs are uncertain. The aim of apostasy is to weaken the truth. It aims to kill evangelism by robbing its impact when it markets nonsense alongside truth.
Jude warns readers of a specific instance of apostasy. He is very defensive and uses very emotive language. Since GOD freely forgives us (the apostates say), we can therefore call on such forgiveness on any occasion. Thus, we could sin continually in the body and claim forgiveness, they suggest. This is accommodating the sin of the flesh.
2. Sources of apostasy
Apostasy arises from foolish thinking, out of a rejection of authority and from nurturing an evil attitude towards spiritual matters (v 8). It comes about because one has no proper knowledge of spiritual issues. Apostates depend on unnatural instincts and their teaching leads to moral corruption (v 10).
3. Character of false teachers and their destructive work
False teachers serve only themselves and have no fear of us, even when right in our midst (v 12). They have no substance and they are drifters. Their's is a wasted life without any firm foundation. They are openly unashamed and have no sense of any future direction (v 13). Jude identifies them as murmurers, and complainers who are directed by their lusts. Their talk is impressive but such talk only flatters people to get them on their side (v 16). They create divisions within the church and attack the dignity of the faith. They are guided by their flesh, and not by the Holy Spirit (v 18 &19). The end result of their actions is to deny Christ (v 4).
4. GOD’s response
Apostasy is the equivalent of unbelief (v 5), rebellion (v 6) and immorality (v 7). Jude draws examples from the Old Testament of such sinful acts which GOD dealt with seriously, and swiftly.
5. Consequences of apostasy
The consequences of apostasy (in v 11) are no different from:
- the murder of GOD’s faithful (Cain),
- taking bribes to destroy GOD’s people (Baalam), and
- fomenting rebellion by GOD’s people against Him (Korah).
William Barclay in The Letters of John and Jude suggests that Jude was preaching against a sect called the Orphites, who considered Cain, Baalam and Korah as heroes of their apostate faith.
The condemnation of apostasy is very strong. In verse 15, the word “ungodly” is used four times:
- apostates are called ungodly;
- their acts described as ungodly;
- their way of doing things is labelled ungodly;
- their attacks against Christ are condemned as ungodly.
6. Measures to curb apostasy
- Be alert
To avoid apostasy, we should always be alert to this ever-present risk. We should not treat the substance of our faith lightly nor be relaxed about our main beliefs. Jude found it necessary to write about this to the early church (v 3) and to remind them about what they already knew (v 5).
- Defend the faith firmly as in battle
Jude tells us that we are to earnestly contend for the faith (v 3).This amounts to saying (from the original Greek) that we must consider the defence of our faith, like a wrestling match, where we do not give up our position but stick it out. There is nothing new about our common faith. We do not need to update it through accommodating any new persuasive doctrine. It is the same faith delivered to us from the time of the apostles (v 3).We must therefore stick assuredly to our position without letting our flesh put us at risk of hell (v 7).
- Build up our faith
We are to build up ourselves in the faith (v 20).The Bible likens us to a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).Therefore we need to build up this faith in the Holy Spirit with Christ as the cornerstone (Isa 28:16; Eph 2:19-22). The best guide to battle apostate teaching is use of the “sword of the Spirit”. This is the word of GOD (Eph 6:17). We are to abide in the word of Christ (John 15:7).When the word of GOD is systematically used, it would tear down the premises of apostate teaching.
- Pray in the Spirit
Praying in the Holy Spirit (v 20) is another instruction. The Holy Spirit helps us pray (Rom 8:26).For otherwise, we would end up praying in the flesh and outside the will of GOD. The Holy Spirit is our “Resident Boss” to quote Watchman Nee. The Spirit lives in us 24 hours a day and we are to listen to Him when He speaks. He is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), a defender against the lying doctrines of men (Mark 7:7).
- Stay in the love of GOD
We are also to be kept in the love of GOD (v 21).The love of GOD is the most important commandment (Matt 22:37). The love of the flesh (1 Jn 2:16) is what attracts the old character to apostate teaching. This is because apostasy blends well with the world’s ethos of having self-serving appetites.
- Fix our sights on Christ
We are to continue looking for the mercy of Christ for eternal life (v 21).We should never take our eyes off this goal. This focus on Christ will cause us to be rooted without any carelessness in keeping a firm faith.
- Help those trapped in apostasy
When dealing with people who are trapped in apostasy, Jude tells us to show understanding towards them (v 22).Some may be so badly tainted with apostasy that they are virtually hell-bound: they need to be hauled out as their covering by sin is so terrible (v 23).
Jude, at the beginning of the Epistle, spoke of being preserved in Christ (v 1).Towards the end he reminds us that Christ is able to keep us from stumbling in our faith. We would be able to be presented blameless by Christ on the last day (v 24) as He has taken the place of sin.
References for pictures