Jude: A against false teaching

It’s somewhat reassuring (at least I think it is…) that there are so many New Testament passages about false teachers. That might seem like an odd statement to make, but hear me out. As I hear about some preachers today, many of them with a lot of fame and a lot of money, who distort the truth, it’s hard not to become disheartened. However, we are warned time and time again that false teachers will come. They will distort the message of God into something evil for their own desires and gain. So, I may get disheartened, but God knew what would happen and God, in his justice, will deal with the issue.

So, what do these false teachers look like? There’s a number of things that they do or say, which tells you they are false teachers, set out to only help themselves:

  • they give permission for immoral behaviour;
  • they reject other authorities;
  • they pollute their own bodies;
  • they think about profit;
  • they are grumblers and fault-finders;
  • they boast about themselves;
  • they flatter others to manipulate;
  • they scoff;
  • they are divisive;
  • they follow their own desires or instinct;
  • and, most importantly, they deny the significance of Jesus Christ.

So, then, this helps us realise what a real teacher is:

  • they don’t permit immorality;
  • they are humble and submit to others;
  • they lead a life of purity;
  • they are self-sacrificing;
  • they are joyful and encouraging;
  • they admit their faults;
  • they praise others with authenticity;
  • they honour and respect others;
  • they seek unity;
  • they seek the kingdom first, pursuing the Lord’s will through the leading of the Holy Spirit;
  • they preach the importance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

Jude also tells us how to treat others, and given the context, perhaps those who are caught up by these false teachings. It is to show mercy, “snatching them from the fire” (v. 22), but also to hate the practices of those who err.

He also gives advice on how to stay in line with the faith. You are to build up your faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. In that way we can stay in God’s love and be patient for the mercy of Jesus’ arrival.

And finally, Jude ends with this doxology, which I am just going to paste here because it’s great:

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

verses 24-25

2 Peter 2: false teachers

This is definitely one of those passages that you read and you find yourself more uncertain that when you started. It is definitely on my “go back to and read more on” list (which, by now is about six pages long). It reveals my woeful and inadequate knowledge of scripture and leaves me in awe of those who have a more comprehensive knowledge. Maybe, one day I will get there.

The passage is mostly about false teachers and the consequence for their actions. (It doesn’t look hopeful for them.) It compares them to fallen angels, who, having known the truth, have turned their back on it. Peter actually goes as far as to say it would have been better had they not known the truth at all, rather than knowing and still preaching heresies.

One interesting point is that in verse two, it suggests that false teaching will bring the way of truth into disrepute. I certainly think this is true and I can see how people have become cynical about Christianity due to what they have heard from preachers.

I think this passage raises certain questions:

  • How do we make sure that we don’t become on of the “many” that follow false teachers?
  • How do we test the motives of teachers?
  • How do we make sure that our motives are always God honouring when we preach the good news?

I perhaps don’t have certain answers on this. I think this is an opportunity for prayer and pondering. (Granted, all Bible reading should be an opportunity for this.) I wonder if you have any thoughts on the matter. I might do a follow up post on this.

2 Timothy 4

Again, Paul discussed the importance of perseverance and of integrity, especially in keeping with the word of God. It reminds us how important consistent and faithful study of the Word is. It also tells us how we should pursue it expecting the Holy Spirit to inform us, not our culture or those preaching it. There is a long history of people distorting scripture for their own purposes or so that people would want to listen. We must remember that God is the ultimate authority on Scripture, so it’s his opinion on it that matters.

Paul talks about his difficulties again: being poured out, abandoned, cheated by those around him. He still notes how God was faithful in these circumstances. Again, it reminds us that the approval of man is not worth seeking, but it is God, who will sustain and strengthen us, who we should endlessly pursue. I am definitely a people pleaser, and forget that it is God that I should be pursuing, although he is always to pursue me first.

1 Timothy 3

This chapter is quite daunting. It goes through the qualifications for serving in the church. It probably doesn’t look like the job advert you’d see in any newspapers or any employment website. This is about character, not achievements or success. So, no degree needed here, no flashy statistics about church growth, no dazzling 10-year plan.

Instead you need to be

  • well-thought-of
  • committed spouse
  • calm
  • patient
  • hospitable
  • sober
  • gentle
  • good parent with obedient children
  • not materialistic
  • long-time believer
  • sincere
  • honest

It’s quite a list! I wonder how many of those I’d feel comfortable saying I embodied.

This chapter also tells us that the Christian faith is mysterious (I’m starting to believe this) but these things are true:

He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.

(verse 16)

This is what we believe about Jesus and continue to proclaim and live out.

Amos 5

God calls the people of Israel to repentance. He tells them again and again “Seek me and live.” This is what we are to do. We too are sinners; like Israel we turn astray. Although our idols are not the gods of foreign nations, we have idols. But we are to seek God and live.

He is particularly condemnatory of those who “turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground”; “hate the one who upholds justice” and “detest the one who tells the truth”. Those who levy unfair taxes will see their wealth and homes destroyed. Those “who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts” are to experience God’s wrath. Again, it feels like these accusations can be about many people we see today in the media, people in very influential positions.

It’s interesting what it says in verse 13. It says, “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” It makes me wonder if this too is a moral judgment against the “prudent”. It seems a bit like cowardice here. It also makes me ask, “Are these evil times?”

Verse 14-15 set some ways to please God and live: seek good, love good, maintain justice and hate evil.

The end of Amos 5 is pretty famous. It mentions religious ceremonies. They are doing what is seen to be right. Here, perhaps, is the emphasise on the word seen. These offerings, festivals and assemblies are outward displays of righteousness. However, they are just window-dressing; they are glitter on a turd. You can still smell the stench, no matter how much you put on.

For it is the lack of justice, the oppression, the hatred of truth that is what angers God and is what needs to change.

And the more I read Amos, the more I feel it was written for now. For the times are evil.