Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of Jude. It is a short little book written by one of the half-brothers of Christ. We began our study of false teachers. Last week, we looked at the destination of false teachers. Let’s review some of the things that Jude says will be the fate of false teachers, all false teachers. Their destiny, according to Jude, is condemnation (Jude 4), destruction (Jude 5), eternal fire (Jude 7), and blackest darkness forever (Jude 13). Last week, we looked at what will happen to false teachers.
Tonight, I want to look at not, what will happen to them but what exactly are they. How are they described in Jude? We know that false teachers pose a real danger to the church and we are to avoid them (Romans 16:17). Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets” but how do we identify them today? What do they look like? False teachers may look like sheep. Jesus said that they often come in sheep’s clothing.
They may be extremely gifted at public speaking. Paul said “by good words and fair speeches” the “hearts of the simple” are “deceived” (Rom. 16:18). Hitler was a great public speaker. Many of them have charismatic personalities and a large following. People are drawn to them. How do we know what to look for? How would one spot a false teacher today? What are some of the characteristics of false teachers?
How to Spot a False Teacher
A false teacher has two basic characteristics. False teachers are of doctrinally and are off morally. There is a doctrinal test and a moral test or false teachers.
False teachers always say things that are unbiblical (II Peter 2:1; cf. I John 4:1-3; II John 9-10). Now the only way to apply this test to a false teacher is that you have to know what the Bible teaches and you have to know it well (Isaiah 8:20). That is the problem. Most Christians do not know this book well, because Satan knows how to use the Bible as well. Satan quoted some Bible verses to Jesus when he tempted him.
One of the most serious problems facing the Church in the 21st century is the problem of Biblical illiteracy. We know from study after study that most professing Christians in America have a Bible but few read and study it regularly. “Americans revere the Bible but do not read it”, as George Gallup said. Even the ones who have a high view of Scripture do not know it very well.
In the Middle Ages, you expected most people to not know the Bible, because very few people had the Bible in their own language and reading it was discouraged but now there is really no excuse. We not only have the Bible at home but we have several different translations of it or access to the Internet with the Bible in multiple languages and translations with free commentaries. You can even take Bible classes from seminaries online for free (NT Survey, OT Survey, Life of Jesus, etc.).
What do False Teachers do with the Bible?
1) They DENY basic Bible doctrines.
They are not just off on some minor doctrine. They are off on major doctrines. They are off on who Jesus is. Every cult leader teaches a Jesus not found in the Bible. They teach things that are heretical. Now there are some things that the Bible is not clear on and Christians disagree. Heretics deny what the Bible is clear on and what all Bible-believing Christians agree.
2) They MOCK the Bible.
They do not just deny the Bible, they mock it (Jude 18). You take the Bible literally and they will just laugh at you. They will say, “You silly Christians believe that?” with a sneer on their face. You will face that in college.
3) They REPLACE the Bible.
They have their own Scriptures or their own translation of our Scriptures or they replace it in other ways (tradition). Remember, one of the things Jude says about false teachers is that they are “dreamers” (Jude 8). Was Jude against dreams? No. Now in Bible times, God revealed things through dreams and visions. He did after Jude was written as well. John received visions in the Book of Revelation and that was written after Jude. False teachers abuse dreams. They base their theology on dreams or private revelation. They used dream to contradict the Bible. They used dreams or private revelation (“God told me this”) to justify their sin.
Another way to identify false teachers is by looking at their life. What are some characteristics of false teachers?
A. Sexual Immorality (Jude 4, 8-10)
False teachers are not only off doctrinally, they are off morally. They abuse grace. How can people abuse grace? They abuse it when they use it as an excuse to sin (Romans 6:1). It is bad enough to sin. It is far worse to use the Bible to try to JUSTIFY your sin. They use grace as a REASON to sin. God will forgive you. They preach a message of freedom. It sounds good. You are free in Christ (Galatians 5:13; I Peter 2:16). Is this message preached today? Yes. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, who believes he is Jesus Christ, has a basic message: “freedom to indulge.” He says that sin no longer exists. The Devil and Hell do not exist. Grace was abused in Jude’s day and it is abused in our day as well.
False teachers not only use grace to justify sin, they use it to justify SEXUAL SIN. Jude says that these people “defile the flesh” or “pollute their own bodies” (Jude 8). They turn the grace of God into sensuality (Jude 4). Two examples from the OT dealt with sexual sins (cf. Jude 6-7, 13; II Peter 2:10). II Peter 2:14 says that false teachers have eyes full of adultery. You say that is interesting. Eyes full of adultery. That must be a metaphor. No, it is literal and it applies to false teachers today as well as in the first century. False teachers were immoral in Jude’s day and they are immoral in our own day. Let me give you two examples.
Joseph Smith was the one who founded of the Mormon Church. Mormons believe that he was a prophet and received revelations from God. In 1843 back in the day when the Mormon Church was headquartered in Illinois (not it is Utah), Joseph Smith supposedly had a revelation on “celestial marriage”. This is written in Section 132 of The Doctrines and Covenants (one of the four books that are part of the Mormon Scriptures) and became official church doctrine in the 1840s.
What did this revelation say? It said that Joseph Smith could have sex with as many women as he wanted. He chooses over thirty women but his wife Emma Smith was not allowed to leave her husband Joseph Smith or she would be destroyed (Sec 54). So the man just believed in polygamy. There is polygamy in the Bible. What’s the problem? At least eleven of them had legal husbands at the time of their “sealing” to Smith. They were married to other men at the time.
That is well documented and it makes him a serial adulterer and causes other people to commit adultery. There is no getting around that fact. Two of them were 14 at the time he married them. He was 37 when he married one of them. That makes him a pedophile. It sounds like Joseph Smith’s eyes were full of adultery. The same is true of polygamous leader Warren Jeffs. He claimed to be a prophet and was just convicted of child sexual assault for having sex with underage girls.
Koresh claimed to be a prophet and had his own group of followers in Texas called the Branch Davidians. In 1986, David Koresh had a revelation called “new light”. What was the new light revelation? This new revelation was that he could have sex with all of the women in the Davidian congregation including sex with underage girls (some as old as 12) and including the women who were married.
The men were to be all celibate. Like Joseph Smith, this was a revelation of polygamy and like Joseph Smith, wives were stolen from other husbands but unlike Joseph Smith, this was a rule just for Koresh. He was allowed to live in polygamy but no one else could. Both individuals followed their own evil desires and lusts (Jude 16, 18; II Peter 2:10) and used the Bible to justify their actions.
B. Rebellion (Jude 8-10)
False teachers have a problem with authority. Many of these cult leaders were excommunicated from other churches. David Koresh was excommunicated from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Alan John Miller was kicked out of the JW church. Hebrews 13:17 says that we are to submit to authority but false teachers are opposed to all authority.
Three Responses to Authority in Jude
1) They DESPISE authority (GNT)
They do not like the government telling them what to do. False teachers do not listen to human authorities. They do not want you to listen to other preachers. They do not want you to read the Bible for yourself, to think critically and to be a Berean. They discourage people from studying on their own. They are their own authority and they teach that they should not be challenged, corrected or questioned. If you try to do that, they quote verses like “Touch not my anointed one” (I Chronicles 16:22).
2) They REJECT authority (ESV)
There is no one above them. They are accountable to no one. They submit to no one. Instead, people are to submit to them. They are spiritual dictators. This attitude toward authority comes in four steps. First, they reject human authority and say, “I am not going to listen to anyone”. Second, they reject biblical authority. They reject the Bible. Jim Jones one time said to his congregation, “Where is your faith? Is it in this little black book of myths and fables and a thousand and one mistakes?” He then threw the Bible on the floor and said, “Your faith should be in me”. He said, “I am going to destroy this paper idol”. Third, they reject divine authority (God). The fourth step is that they say that they are God.
3) They REBEL against authority.
That is what Korah did (Jude 11). He rebelled against Moses in the OT. He said, “Moses and Aaron, you had your day but we are taking over now”. There are people like Korah in the church today. If you want to find out what happened to him, read Numbers 16. That is the chapter where the earth opens up and swallows some people.
There are many things we do not know about this passage. Why was Michael disputing with the devil about Moses’ body? Jude doesn’t say. Where did this story about this angelic dispute come from? It is not in the OT. It probably comes from another book but there is no book from history which has survived which has this quote. Two church father from the second century (Origen & Clement of Alexandria) said that it came from a book called The Assumption of Moses. In the 1800s The Assumption of Moses was found but it is an incomplete copy (about a third of it is missing) and does not contain any reference to this event.
Jude’s point in Jude 9 is not that we should all be polite to Satan. His point is that we should respect authority. That is still true today. As Christians, we should have a completely different attitude to God-ordained authorities in our day (teacher, parent, police officer, judge, president, church leader) than the world does.
This is really un-American. We live in a democracy and we have free speech. Many people on the left of the political spectrum don’t just say that they disagree with George Bush’ policies, they attack him personally and mock him. They say that he is a complete idiot. They hate him so much they can’t help themselves.
Many Republicans routinely trash-talk Obama. In fact, Obama came into office ridiculing the previous administration. He had absolutely no respect for Bush. Now respecting authorities does not mean that we always agree with the authorities. It does not mean that we cannot challenge or question the authorities but there is a proper way to do that.
C. Arrogance (Jude 16)
False teachers like to boast and brag. Joseph Smith said: “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.“
Saying that you can do something that you can do is not boasting. If you tell someone that you can speak seven languages and you can, that is not boasting. David did that. He told people that he could kill a lion and a bear. Going around and boasting about it is wrong.
They boast because they have an over-inflated ego (God complex). They have an inflated view of themselves. They think that they are something that they are not. They think they are Jesus (Jose Luis deJesus Miranda, AJ Miller). They claim to be the Second Coming (as does Rev. Sung Myung Moon of the Unification Church). They proclaim themselves as a god on earth or an apostle or God’s spokesman on earth (Joseph Smith, Warren Jeffs). They think they are better than others (superiority complex). Mormon scripture says that Joseph Smith is “second only to Jesus Christ” in greatness of all men that ever lived”. Romans 12:3 says, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to”.
D. Slander (Jude 8-10)
It is one thing to slander other Christians. False teachers do this. They misrepresent other Christians. They go a step beyond this and say that all other churches are false. All other pastors are liars. There is only one true church. False teachers in Jude’s day went beyond this. They even slandered angels. We do not know if these were good angels or bad angels. False teachers slander beings that are greater than they are. They also slander things they do not even understand. That is a lesson for us. How many times have we slandered another theological position held by another believer that we do not even understand. We do not really understand it but we are quick to mock it.
E. Selfishness (Jude 12)
They only think of themselves. They feed only themselves (Jude 12). This is one of six metaphors that Jude uses to describe these false teachers. They are shepherds. They are part of the leadership of the church but only think of themselves. Instead of taking care of the flock, they just take care of themselves (Jude 16). You have all of these fat shepherds and all of these starving scrawny sheep. God calls pastors to be shepherds and one of the responsibilities of shepherds is to feed the sheep.
How many churches in America have sheep that are not feed or are sick (cf. Ezekiel 34:2). They entertain the sheep and play with them but they do not feed them. I have even heard some pastors say that it is not their job to do this but Jesus said THREE TIMES “If you love me, feed my sheep”. It is the ONLY thing that Jesus ever said three times. This is one way to distinguish between a good and a bad shepherd. A good shepherd feeds the sheep and takes care of the sheep. A bad shepherd does not.
They are described as “clouds without rain.” You go to them for spiritual refreshment but are disappointed every time. There is no content or substance to their sermons. There is a story about an old Cherokee Indian from North Carolina who went off the reservation to church. The pastor was very animated, like many today who shout and scream. He was asked what he thought of the sermon and the Indian said “big thunder, big lightening, no rain”.
F. Greed (Jude 11; II Peter 2:14-15)
Balaam is Jude’s example of this. He was the pagan prophet for hire in the OT. Love of money was his downfall. False teachers are in the ministry for the money (I Timothy 6:5). They want to get rich. They are greedy and many of them preach the prosperity gospel. They preach the health and wealth gospel. They believe that it is God’s will for every Christian to be healthy and wealthy. It is a message that people want to hear. It tickles their ear (cf. II Timothy 4:3-4). We saw in Jude 16 that these false teachers flatter people. They tell them what they want to hear.
The four basic steps come from a sermon by James MacDonald. I added the example from Jim Jones.
History of the Church vol. 6, p. 408-409.
Doctrine and Covenants, 135:3.