Monday, August 06, 2007

The Reality of Apostates (Part 2)

Having laid out some of the context for Jude 17-23 in Part 1, I feel comfortable to now move on into this text itself.

17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” (Jude 17-23)

The first portion of this section of Scripture provides us what I have called the Marks of the mocker (vs.18,19). One of Jude’s favorite words that he uses in describing these apostates is that they are “ungodly”. The word simply means “Godless” or “impious”. Godless apostates, whether they are the proponents and advocates of their heresy or they are simply the duped (willingly or unwillingly) who follow them, hold to what Paul calls a “form of godliness” (2 Tim 3:5), but are as irreligious, impious, and debauched as they can be. They will follow their lusts, and “turn the grace of our Lord into licentiousness” (v.4). It becomes somewhat difficult to separate the leaders from the followers here, but Peter’s description, in his context is specifically of the teachers, is not maligned if we understand that the adherents will follow their leaders’ example.
12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;” (2 Peter 2:12-15)

One of the three marks of a mocker that are found in Jude’s letter here is that they cause division (v.19). We can gain an idea of what this might look like through Paul’s account of Peter’s hypocrisy at Galatia. Before the false teachers from Jerusalem came to Galatia, Paul would fellowship and eat with the gentile believers. But once they came and began spreading their heresy, Peter was stopped fellowshipping with the gentiles because of a fear of the Judaizers (cf. Galatians 2:12). Coming back to this point later in the book, Paul describes their tactics when he wrote,
“They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.” (Galatians 4:17)

This method is a two pronged attack made by these teachers. First they come in and begin teaching things that and if you adhere to the teachings, it will cause you to disassociate and separate from the true brethren. And the second part is now that the convert has no connection with the former teachers of the true gospel, they are bound to the apostate false teacher. Paul also gives a description of these types of teachers and this ploy that they use in his closing to the book of Romans,
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Romans 16:17-18)

The second mark of a mocker is that they will be worldly-minded and controlled by their lusts and passions. Many times it is the case that they will turn to the licentiousness (Jude 4) of sexual sin, but they may also be enticed by the allure of prestige, fame, or fortune. Paul refers to those who even preach the true gospel from impure motives and out of “selfish ambition” (Philippians 1:17). And if there are men who preach the true gospel because of ambition, how much more could proponents of a false gospel do so.

But perhaps the most notable mark of the worldly-mindedness of these false teachers is that they are sexually debauched, and revel in their perversions.
2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

13 They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you,” (2 Peter 2:2-3, 13)

The final mark of a mocker that Jude gives to us is the most personally tragic for that individual and it explains the other manifestations of their wickedness, and that is that they are Spirit-less, devoid of the Holy Spirit. Just before Paul lays out what the fruit of the Holy Spirit looks like in a believer, he contrasts it with what the deeds (fruit) of the flesh are.
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Apostates do these things, if for no other reason, as a testimony to the fact that they do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them and are manifesting their true nature. Not only will these apostates who are devoid of the Spirit act out their ungodly nature, but they will even be unable to truly understand the things of God. And that is because they do not have the Spirit to make them wise.
"14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:13-16)

Having reminded his readers what types of things to look out for in apostates, he then moves into reminding them what the characteristics of a Christian should be (vs. 20-21). The goal that they are working toward is one of being built up in the holy faith that was “delivered once for all to the saints” (v.3). The first way in which to work towards this goal that he reminds them of is by praying in the Spirit.
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18)
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.“ (Romans 8:26-27)

“Praying in the Spirit” is similar to praying in “Jesus’ Name”. It is not a posture, a phrase, or a formula that we have and use; it is the act of praying in alignment with the Will of God and the commands of God. Jesus instructed that we pray that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, just like praying in Jesus’ name is not the “stamp” that we put on our prayers to send them to God, praying “in the Spirit” is not the formula or posture of praying, but it is both the perspective of our prayer (i.e. God’s perspective) and the power behind our prayer.

Secondly he reminds them that they need to stay in the love of God. The big question is simply, how does one do that? The answer, just as simply stated, is,
5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.“ (2 John 5,6)

We stay in the love of God and we show that we love Christ by obeying His commandments. It is a direct answer to a direct question. The only problem is that when we attempt to live that out, we see just how much of our obedience (all of it) is dependant upon the Holy Spirit.

The final way that Jude exhorts his readers on how to build themselves up in the holy faith is to keep looking forward to and anticipating the return of Christ.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11-14)
27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews :27-28)
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)

This is and must be the hope and desire of all Christians that Christ would come back finally receive all that is due Him. We also see the same idea and desire in Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he vacillates between living and serving them and dying and being with Christ. He wants to be with Christ, not just to have an end of the trials, but because being with Christ is the reward of eternity.

This has been one of those things that I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around. Both this idea of eagerly anticipating the return of Christ and loving God are things that I know, but where they go from knowing and understanding to feeling is still tough for me. It is one thing that I pray for often; that God would cause me to love Him and long for Him. I know what it is and what it feels like to love my wife and what love to her should look like. I know what my love to God should look like, but the feeling…that is the tricky part for me.

Jude first describes the marks of the mockers, then he gives the characteristics that Christians should display, and now he moves on to three responses of rescue by the Christians to the apostates in their midst. In his commentary series, John MacArthur calls these three types of evangelistic targets the “confused, the convinced, and the committed”.1

First of all, we are to have to deal with the confused, and we are to “have mercy on those who are doubting.” This seems to be directed at apostates, or those who might-soon-be apostates, who are still fairly tentative and have doubts about what they are doing. The word “doubting” (v.22) shows that these people are not totally convinced yet of heretical and false teaching, but they are being wooed by the seductive nature of the teaching and the teacher. With these individuals, we need to come along side of them, showing mercy, and show them the love of God and the truth through the scriptures. It is possible that they may be won back to the Truth by the delicate and gentle means of exhortation and refutation of the false teaching.

The second group of apostates are those men and women that are convinced that the false teaching is true, and we are to attempt to save these people by snatching them out of the fire (v.23). The picture of this type of apostate brother by the fact that we need to “snatch him” or “grab him out” of the fire shows the severe nature of where he is in relation to heresy. He is so close to the brink and convinced in his error that we cannot simply, graciously, and mercifully reason with him, but we must be bold and zealous in our exhortation and in our warning. If we didn’t use evangelistic tactics and have that kind of mentality with the previous type, we certainly should now. But we need to be bold, because the increasing error of their belief is causing them to be taken further and further away from the truth, and closer and closer to destruction.

The final group of apostates here are those that are committed. And Jude warns us to be have mercy with fear and hate and be wary of the “garment polluted by the flesh” (v.23). In a contemporary understanding, avoid getting to close to these apostates as you would avoid sticking your hand into the mess of a dirty diaper. Do parents handle dirty diapers? Yes, but we are careful not too get to close or too exposed to the filth so that we do not become dirty ourselves. So, in seeking these people, we must have fear in our merciful undertaking of evangelism because if we get too close and become careless, we may be tainted by the lies that they espouse, even if we do not, ourselves, apostatize.
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19,20)

I have used the term “evangelize” to refer to our mentality and method in going out after apostates. Is it possible that someone caught up in a heresy and showing signs of apostasy is in fact a believer? Yes, but that is not for us to determine. The truth of the gospel is able to shake a believer out of error in the same way that it is able to be the vehicle that God uses to give life to the dead. Some would argue that if we use this mentality that we are being judgmental and unloving of our brethren. My response would be that since we do not know based on the lives being lived out and truths that are being espoused if these people are saved or not, we best treat them in the most loving way fearing the worst reality. In other words, if we don’t know where they stand and we have ample reason to be concerned for their souls, treat them as unbelievers. Don’t fellowship with them in worship and go after them in evangelism.


1 “Second Peter and Jude – The MacArthur New Testament Commentary” by John MacArthur, P. 202

Click here to hear my sermon on this text.


Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson