Victory Over Apostasy
Jude 17 – 25
This is the year of the Olympics. Athletes have toned their muscles and perfected their skills in preparation for the games. After years of rigorous physical training, mental hardening and national competition, the athlete is confident of victory. He will enter the contest with both eyes fixed on one goal: victory.
What is true of the athlete can be said of the Christian, but his test is not a game. He is up against apostasy which the Bible predicted would flood the world in the last days. He is facing all kinds of psychics, mystics and pseudo-religionist who propagate their bizarre teachings worldwide. Jude described their defiled character, deceptive teachings and deplorable conduct in order to warn the Christian to guard against them.
Rather than set forth a defensive strategy in order to counter apostasy, Jude went on the offense. He provided instruction which, if implemented by the Christian, would assure him victory over apostasy.
Reminding The Believer
So often the Christian is quick to forget the Word of God, leaving both himself and the church vulnerable to heretical teachers. Satan comes with the apostate and is ready to snatch God’s Word from the mind and heart of each believer. Therefore, Jude admonished the “beloved” (v. 17) within the church to remember three truths.
First, he urged them to recall the “words which were spoken before by the apostles” (v. 17) concerning apostates intruding into the church. Possibly they had heard firsthand the preaching and teaching of the apostles or had read their epistles. Whatever the case might be, they were very much aware of the apostles’ warnings.
Second, he reminded the reader of how prevalent apostasy would become in the “last time” (v. 18). The last times began with Christ’s first advent and will conclude at His Second Coming. But in between, the apostles profiled the growing dangers of corrupt men and teachings filtering into the church.
after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30).
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who secretly shall bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, … And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
John warned, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1).
The apostles’ warning needs to be heeded without delay. Failure to do so will leave the church without discernment and susceptible to a myriad of fallacious teachings being propagated today.
Third, he reminded them of the character and conduct of the apostates. They are scoffers or mockers (v. 18), who scorn God’s Word (2 Pet. 3:3), especially the promise of Christ’s Second Coming (2 Pet. 3:4). They are sinful, walking “after their own ungodly lusts” (v. 18). That is, they lusted to experience any new form of ungodliness which came their way. They caused schisms in the church by separating themselves (v. 19). Most likely they came in with the motive to split the church or take it over. They were soulish, meaning “sensual, having not the Spirit” (v. 19). The word sensual has reference to that which pertains to the soul. These men were totally governed by an unregenerate Adamic nature. It is clear that apostates are not Christians no matter how knowledgeable, articulate and perceptive they might be, for they have “not the Spirit” of God. Paul put it simply, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). This admonishment is extremely important since many Christians, who lack discernment, are being led to follow teachers who lack a Spirit-directed ministry.
Responsibility Of The Believer
How can the Christian remain untainted by the many heresies manifested within and without the church today? This can be done only by taking Jude’s command to heart: “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (v. 21). The believer is to keep (put a guard over) his life in the sphere of God’s love, so that he abides in the place of full blessing from the Lord. Jude is not saying that God would ever stop loving the Christian, for this is impossible (Rom. 8:35-39). But it is possible that failure to obey Christ (Jn. 15:9-10) would limit God from bestowing the fullness of His love and blessing.
The believer keeps himself in God’s love by maintaining three practices. First, by “building up yourselves on your most holy faith” (v. 20). The words “building up” have reference to building a superstructure on a solid foundation which was established at the time of the believer’s salvation. This is done by adding to one’s faith “virtue, knowledge, … self-control, … patience, … godliness, … brotherly kindness, love (2 Pet 1:5-7). The pronoun “yourselves” (v. 20) tells the Christian he is responsible for his own spiritual growth and must not solely rely upon a pastor, Sunday school teacher or Christian leader to provide it. Growth only comes through in-depth study and meditation on God’s Word.
Second, one is kept in God’s love through “praying in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20); that is, prayer by means of a dependence on the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27). The prerequisite of such praying is a Spirit-filled (controlled) life.
Third, one is kept in God’s love when he anticipates the coming of the Lord: “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”’ (v. 21). The word “looking” means to wait anxiously for the coming of Christ. Those who live with such hope are to manifest purity of life (1 Jn. 3:3).
The words “building up”, “praying” and “looking” are in the present tense which means that they are to be continually practiced if the Christian expects to be victorious over heretical teaching.
What a contrast between the Christian and the apostate. The Christian who has received God’s mercy awaits the Second Coming of Christ and will receive blessing at that time. For the apostate who has rejected God’s mercy and scoffed at the Second Coming, only judgment and damnation await him at Christ’s coming.
Rescuing The Beguiled
Since God does not give up on those who embrace apostasy, Jude felt duty bound to instruct his reader to evangelize them. In order to grasp what Jude is teaching, a more lucid translation must be given to the next two verses:
And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh (w. 22-23, NASV).
There are three types of apostates who need reaching. First, there is the sincere doubter: show “mercy on some, who are doubting” (v. 22). Most likely these people heard the claims of Christ and were close to a decision but wavered because of intellectual confusion on what to believe. They needed to be given the true gospel in love; something totally lacking in the apostates and their teachings.
Second, there is the denouncer who had heard the gospel but denounced it and embraced the apostate’s teachings. Since they are in imminent danger of going to Hell, Jude admonished, “save … pulling them out of the fire” (v. 23). Only God can save them, but He works through the Christian to do so. Notice, there is a sense of urgency to pull or snatch them from the fire. The idea is to exercise action which is strenuous and aggressive in rescuing someone from great danger, like snatching an individual from a burning building.
What better illustration can be given than Lot and his family who were snatched from Sodom by angels just before the city was destroyed in a rain of fire and brimstone (Gen. 19:15-16, 24). Israel as well is pictured as “a firebrand plucked out of the burning” (Amos 4:11; Zech. 3:2) or retrieved from the fire of destruction for God’s purpose.
Third, there are those totally defiled, “and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (v. 23, NASV). These are so polluted that there is little hope of salvaging them from apostasy. Nevertheless, an attempt must be made to save such from damnation. The witnesser is to love the sinner but hate his sin. His sin is characterized by “garments spotted (polluted) by the flesh” (v. 23). The “flesh” speaks of the sinner’s unregenerate sin nature. This can be best illustrated by a leper whose inner garment (tunic) worn next to the flesh has become contaminated by his disease. In like manner, the apostate can contaminate all who come in contact with him if proper precautions are not taken. Therefore, the Christian needs to take great care in dealing with the apostate “with fear” (v. 23) or caution, lest he become defiled by his teachings.
In these two verses Jude has presented seven truths about evangelism: (1) Men are lost and in need of salvation; (2) salvation is only provided through Christ; (3) God uses the Christian to reach the lost; (4) the Christian must be on guard not to become influenced by the false teach- ings of those he is trying to reach for Christ; (5) the Christian must be aware of the heretical beliefs of the apostate; (6) the unbeliever will be eternally consigned to flaming fire (Mt. 10:28; Rev. 21:8) if he rejects Christ; and (7) while the apostate lives there is a possibility for him to receive Christ.
Jude concluded his epistle by focusing on God’s glorious power to preserve the Christian from apostasy (cf. v. 1).
First, there is His ability to keep the believer: “Now unto him that is able to keep you (v. 24). The Lord is sovereignly in control of all things, and in His omnipotence He is able to deliver the believer through his pilgrimage on earth. He is also the “only wise God” (v. 25), thus the believer can draw upon His omniscience (Jas. 1:5) to stand against an apostate age. Some translations of verse twenty-five read, “the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ” (v. 25). Jesus is the only Savior in the universe who is able to provide salvation and deliverance from wickedness. He is omnipresent, “both now and ever” (v. 25) to protect the believer from whatever harm Satan might bring his way.
Second, there is God’s assurance to keep the believer “from falling” (stumbling) (v. 24). The “keep” is not the same as used in verse twenty-one; here it means to preserve. The word “falling” means to stumble as one travels along the pathway of faith. When the believer is apt to wander down the wrong path or stumble over obstacles put in his path, the Lord will preserve his steps from destruction. God will see the believer through this evil world and present him “faultless before the presence of his glory” (v. 24). One day the Christian will stand in God’s presence clothed in Christ’s righteousness, “not having spot, or wrinkle … and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). In that day he will be filled with “exceeding joy” (v. 24). Such assurance should produce exceeding joy in the heart of each Christian today.
Third, he ascribed adoration to God for what He has provided in Christ, “glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever” (v. 25). Glory is the radiant shining forth of all God is in Himself. The majesty of God is His regal greatness, splendor and dignity as sovereign Lord. He has dominion which speaks of His unprecedented strength and power as sovereign Ruler of the universe. Finally, power has reference to the ability and authority God manifests as He governs the universe. Knowing that there is such a god in the universe who has provided victory over apostasy to all who trust in Him, What else can be said but “Amen” (v. 25)!
How is the Christian today able to discern false religious leaders? The Radio Bible Class in their booklet “What About Those Dangerous Religious Groups?” has provided some very good answers:
1 Are they characterized by reverence and humility or by brashness and arrogance (2 Cor. 10:1-18)?
2 Are they gentle, or are they demanding (2 Tim. 2:24-26)?
3 Do they show respect for other authority and power, including the Lord, parents, government, and even Satan himself (2 Pet. 2:10-12; Jude 8:10)?
4 Do they show respect and love for gifted Christian leaders (1 Cor. 3:1-19)?
5 Do they promote individual discernment, growth and maturity in their followers, or do they foster dependence and submission (Acts 17:11; Eph. 4:11-16)?
6 Do they exploit their members financially, or do they do everything possible not to burden them (1 Pet. 5:2; 2 Pet, 2:3)?
7 Is there evidence of sexual faithfulness, or are they sensually indulgent (2 Pet. 2:14)?
8 Do they encourage separation from sin to God, or do they tighten the grip of evil on their members by telling them only what they want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4)?
9 Do they sacrifice their own interests for the well-being of their group, or are they carried like kings on their followers’ shoulders (Phil. 2:3-4)?
10 Do they in practice draw the attention and allegiance of their followers to Christ, or are those just words they use while actually focusing attention on themselves (Act 20:28-31; 3 Jn. 9;10)?
11 Do they abuse their authority, throwing their weight around, or do they lead by information, encouragement and example (1 Pet. 5:1-4)?
12 Do they adopt and authoritarian manner, or are they willing to be treated as brothers (Mt. 23:8-12)?
13 Are their groups loved and hated because of their personal faith and allegiance to Christ, or because of the teaching and interpretations peculiar to the founder (1 Tim. 1:3-7)?
14 Do they keep their members by love, example and teaching, or by making them afraid to leave the group (Gal. 2:11-21)?
15 Do they meet the qualifications of a spiritual overseer, or are they gifted men of questionable character (1 Tim. 3:1-7)?
By asking the above questions, one can discern if a particular religious leader or group is apostate or headed in that direction.
Are you in spiritual condition and confident of victory as you stand against apostasy? Only you know the answer. Jude has set forth seven commands that, when followed, assure the Christian of victory;
- Earnestly contend for the faith (V.3)
- Remember the words of the apostles (v. 17)
- Build yourself up in the faith (v. 20)
- Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20)
- Keep yourself in the center of God’s love (v. 21)
- Look for the coming of the Lord (v. 21)
- Show mercy on the unsaved and evangelize them (vv. 22-23)
WHY NOT START WORKING OUT ON SOME OF THESE PRINCIPLES RIGHT NOW!
- Martin R. DeHaan, II, What About Those Dangerous Religious Groups (Grand Rapids: Radio Bible Class, 1986), pp. 9-10.