Six Vivid Pictures Of The False Teachers!
As you read along in this letter, you hear Jude getting more and more worked up, like a backwoods preacher on revival night. At this point, the apostle really begins to thunder! He growls that these false teachers are blemishes on the Christians’ agape-love feasts that lead the people into riotous carousing.
The agape-love feasts were actually potluck suppers where the early Christians would gather and bring food with them to the Sunday worship service. After the service, they would all partake together; they called this a love feast. What a blessed name! I love potluck suppers, but I would much rather we returned to the original Christian name of them: love feasts!
These feast were wonderful times of fellowship, but they began to deteriorate as people divided into cliques. Some kept the bucket of finger-lickin’ chicken for themselves, others kept the angel food cake, and soon there was division. Instead of love, these feasts began to celebrate selfishness. The false teachers were the most selfish of all taking and partaking, giving nothing, looking only for themselves.
As Jude goes on, he adds imagery upon imagery, much as James does in his epistle and as Jesus does in His parables. Jude 12 and 13 present six vivid pictures of the false teachers and help to explain why they are dangerous to the church.
These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Jude 1:12,13 (NKJV)
1. Filthy Spots
Peter called them spots and blemishes (2 Peter 2:13). These men had invaded the “love feasts” in the local assemblies, but all they did was defile them. Instead of adding to the sanctity of the occasion, they detracted from it, like Judas at the last Passover that Jesus celebrated with His disciples. The tragedy is that the members of the assembly did not realize the true character of these men! They thought the men were spiritual!
The Greek word translated “spots” can also mean “hidden rocks.” The mariner who is unaware of the hidden rocks can quickly wreck his ship. The pilot must always be alert, for waters that look calm and safe can contain treacherous reefs.
Spiritual leaders must constantly be on guard.
2. Selfish Shepherds
The word translated “feeding” means “shepherding.” Instead of shepherding the flock and caring for the needs of the people, these apostates only take care of themselves. Jude may have had in mind Isaiah 56:10-12 and Ezekiel 34, where the prophets condemned the political and spiritual leaders of the nation (“shepherds”) for exploiting the people and caring only for themselves.
It is a serious thing to be a shepherd over God’s flock. Our example must be Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. False shepherds use and abuse people in order to get what they want, and yet all the while, the people love it! Paul marveled at this when he wrote 2 Corinthians 11:20—
“You don’t mind, do you, if a man takes away your liberty, spends your money, takes advantage of you, puts on airs, or even smacks your face?”
These selfish shepherds do all of this “without fear.” They are an arrogant lot! This is the difference between a true shepherd and a hireling: the true shepherd cares for the sheep, while the hireling cares only for himself. “What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep?” (Ezek. 34:2) But these apostates ought to be afraid, for their judgment is coming.
3. Empty Clouds
Clouds that promise rain, but fail to produce, are a disappointment to the farmer whose crops desperately need water. The apostates look like men who can give spiritual help, and they boast of their abilities, but they are unable to produce. “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.“ (Prov. 25:14).“They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.” (2 Peter 2:19).
The Word of God is sometimes compared to the rain and the dew. “Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew.“ (Deut. 32:2). Isaiah 55:10; compares God’s Word to the rain and snow from heaven that brings fruit on the earth. Like the clouds in the sky, the false teachers may be prominent and even attractive; but if they cannot bring rain, they are useless.
4. Dead Trees
The picture is that of an orchard in autumn, the time when the farmer expects fruit. But these trees are fruitless! “You can identify them by their fruit” (Matt. 7:16). Those who teach and preach the Word have the responsibility of feeding others, but the false teachers have nothing to give. They are not only fruitless, but they are also rootless (“plucked up by the root”); this is why they are “twice dead.” What a contrast to the godly man in Psalm 1:3!
One of the evidences of true salvation is producing spiritual fruit. The seed that fell on the hard soil, the shallow soil, and the crowded soil did not produce fruit; but the seed that fell on the “good ground” did produce fruit (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). No matter how much of the Bible the false teachers may quote, the seed is not producing fruit in their own lives or through their ministries.
Because they have no spiritual roots. They lack spiritual life.
Fruit has in it the seed for more fruit (Gen. 1:11-12). One of the evidences that a ministry is truly of God is that the fruit multiplies. Manufactured “results” are sterile and dead, but true fruit continues to grow and reproduce itself in the lives of others.
5. Raging Waves
I personally do not enjoy being in or on the ocean (I am not a good swimmer). However, I do enjoy sitting by the ocean and contemplating its grandeur and power. But I certainly would not want to be either in or on the ocean in a storm! There is great power in those waves, as many a mariner has discovered.
But Jude compared the apostates to “raging waves of the sea” not because of their power, but because of their pride and arrogant speech. “Their mouth speaketh great swelling words” (Jude 16).
Like the swelling of the sea, they make a lot of noise, but what do they produce?
Have you ever walked along the beach the morning after a storm and seen the ugly refuse that has been deposited on the shore?
Jude may have had Isaiah 57:20 in mind: “But those who still reject me are like the restless sea, which is never still but continually churns up mud and dirt.“ All that the “great swelling words” of the apostates can produce is foam and flotsam! The true teachers of the Word bring up the treasures of the deep, but the false teachers produce only refuse. And what they boast about, they really ought to be ashamed of! (See Phil. 3:19)
6. Wandering Stars
Jude was not referring to fixed stars, planets, or comets, because they have definite positions and orbits. He was referring to meteors, falling stars that suddenly appear and then vanish into the darkness, never to be seen again. Our Lord is compared to a star (Rev. 2:28; 22:16), and Christians are to shine as stars in this dark world (Phil. 2:15). Fixed stars can be depended on to guide the traveler through the darkness, but wandering stars can only lead him astray.
God has reserved chains of darkness for the rebellious angels (Jude 6), and He has reserved “the blackness of darkness forever” for apostate teachers. Beware of following a falling star! It will lead you into eternal blackness!
As you review these six pictures of the false teachers, you can easily see how dangerous they are and how important it is for the church to keep them out.
Murmurers and Complainers
These people are [habitual] murmurers, griping and complaining, following after their own desires [controlled by passion]; they speak arrogantly, [pretending admiration and] flattering people to gain an advantage.
Jude 16 (AMP)
Jude 16 completes the description and emphasizes even more why they are so dangerous: they are out to please themselves by taking advantage of others. This reminds us of Peter’s statement (2 Peter 2:14), “They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse.” or, as Phillips translates it, “Their technique of getting what they want is, through long practice, highly developed.” They give the impression that they are out to help you, but they are interested only in gratifying their own lusts.
What is their approach?
For one thing, they murmur and complain and cause people to become dissatisfied with life. While each of us should do all we can, as God enables us, to improve our lot in life, at the same time we must be careful not to criticize God’s providences or hinder His plans.
The nation Israel was judged because of her complaining (1 Cor. 10:1-10), and Christians are commanded not to complain (Phil. 2:14-16). If a false teacher can make a person critical of his pastor or church, or dissatisfied with his situation, he then can lead him astray into false doctrine.
The false teachers also use “great swelling words” to impress ignorant people. Peter called their speeches “great swelling words of emptiness” (2 Peter 2:18). They impress people with their vocabularies and oratory, but what they say is just so much “hot air.” They also use flattery to manipulate their listeners. They “bow and scrape” and pay compliments to others, if it is to their advantage.
Knowing these things, we are amazed that anybody would listen to these apostates and follow them; but many people are doing it today! There is something in fallen human nature that loves a lie and is willing to follow it, no matter where it may lead. But the success of the apostates is only temporary, for their judgment is coming.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I will not listen to, or have anything to do with, grumblers, complainers, and faultfinders. Their lives are products of their own evil desires. They boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. They do not move me, nor will I have anything to do with them.
I pray this declaration of faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Adventuring Through The Bible
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Alert