“Without question, the greatest threat to the church has always been false teaching.” – John MacArthur
In our modern American church culture, calling someone a false teacher is not socially acceptable. Anyone who dares to stand up to these false teachers is instantly viewed as judgmental and lacking grace toward those who would perpetuate a false gospel. Society seems to hold in high esteem those who are open-minded toward all expressions of Christianity. These believers are, as Paul describes in Philippians, tossed about by every wind of doctrine.
The biggest example in Scripture is in Galatians. Galatians is Paul’s plea to the church at Galatia to protect the gospel message they had received from the Apostles. Works (circumcision and following the law) could not save. In today’s context, this is similar to the prosperity gospel that teaches if you pray enough, give enough money, and have enough faith, good things will happen to you.
Thankfully, this is not a new problem. Even the early church faced similar issues. Thankfully, God inspired the biblical authors to write such needed warnings to the early (and thereby modern) church.
The book of Jude gives the early church a strong warning against false teachers.
The Warning and Battle
Jude opens his letter with the following exhortation, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). What the ESV translates as “contend” can more accurately be translated as “to contend earnestly.”
This conveys the idea of combat and defense. The church is called to war for the truth – to fight against false doctrine. This is not something Christians do as a side gig. This is something believers should earnestly pursue – defending the truth of God’s Word.
Jude 1:8 gives examples of those who crept into the people of God and gives clear characteristics of false teachers. They rely on their own dreams, defile their flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme angels.
“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires, they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16).
Jude’s point: For the true believer, false teachers will be easy to spot based on their fruit. Mark them and avoid them.
With millennials leaving the church in droves and fewer and fewer people having a biblical understanding of who God is, the incarnation of Christ, and basic Christian doctrine, it seems as if the church is losing this anti-cultural uphill climb against an anti-Christ and anti-Gospel culture.
Christ Over the Church
Jude ends with a beautiful doxology that demonstrates the faithfulness of Christ to his beloved bride.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).
Christ has already won the battle. He cried, “It is finished!” from the cross as he breathed his last. He died a victor.
Don’t miss the phrase “with great joy.” The triumph of the church in Christ brings great joy to our Savior. As Christ intercedes for the saints, this brings him great joy because just as Christ is our inheritance, the church is Christ’s inheritance.
Let this truth comfort your heart as the church wages war against false teachers and against this dark world. One day, all will be made right.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas, TX, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.