Have you ever looked at someone and just knew something was off? When you found out what did the thought of I KNEW IT! Come out of your mouth embarrassingly. Or worse, did you think someone was terrific, only to find out something else. Nothing is worse than finding out someone isn’t who they seem to be. The worst manifestation of that reality is false teachers in the Church. Jude wanted to write about the common salvation, the gospel, but he was compelled to call out false teachers. We see the opposite in our day; we want to talk about “the gospel” but not identify false teaching. Unfortunately, many times “the gospel” that is being referred to is false teaching. We must contend for the truth and protect the integrity of the true gospel by calling out false gospels and false teachers.
At the beginning of his letter, Jude said that false teachers had crept in unaware. People were not using discernment which allowed false teaching and false teachers to come in unquestioned. Jude brings up the example of Michael the archangel in Jude 1:9-10 TLV “But when Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, was arguing about the body of Moses, he did not dare to render a judgment against him for slander, but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these people slander whatever they do not understand. And whatever they do understand instinctively—like animals without reason—by these things they are destroyed.”
False teachers are consumed with their egos and presumed authority. Michael the archangel didn’t rail against satan but said, “the Lord rebuke you.” Spiritual warfare is real, but false teachers claim a level of authority Scripture doesn’t give. As someone who ministers in the area of deliverance, I often see some wild teaching associated with spiritual warfare. We are not to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes, but we are called to resist him, not wrestle with him. We need to take a biblical and balanced approach to spiritual warfare and let the Lord handle the enemy in the heavenly realms.
In verses eleven through thirteen, Jude gives us a complete profile of the character of a false teacher. “Woe to them! For they went the way of Cain; they were consumed for pay in Balaam’s error; and in Korah’s rebellion they have been destroyed. 12 These people are hidden rocky reefs at your love feasts—shamelessly feasting with you, tending only to themselves. They are waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”
Jude lists three examples of rebellion and twelve traits of a false teacher. I encourage you to read the accounts of the Old Testament as we will look briefly at each. Cain killed his brother out of anger after God did not accept his offering. Cain knew what God required, yet he invented his own offering. False teachers will create ways of worshipping God to replace what is commanded in Scripture.
False teachers embrace the error of Balaam. They are greedy and pervert the Scripture to endorse a lifestyle of greed. While there is a biblical blessing and a proper understanding of prosperity, false teachers emphasize money. If you want to find out if you have fallen into the wrong interpretation and application of blessing, ask yourself, if God doesn’t answer my request, can I still be content? Scripture says godliness with contentment is great gain. If you find yourself standing in faith for material things more often than for the salvation of others, or if the teachers you listen to teach more on money than other subjects, it may be an indication you are listening to teachers that have embraced the error of Balaam.
The third and final Old Testament example given is the rebellion of Korah. After he was not chosen as a priest, Korah recruited others to rebel against Moses with him. The earth swallowed up all these men. Korah has much in common with satan’s rebellion. We must watch for those who put the emphasis on their position and not God’s purpose. Jude then lists various characteristics of false teachers:
Men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts: Because these men snuck in, unaware the people couldn’t tell their faith was slowly being led to shipwreck.
Without fear: Their conscience had been seared to conviction.
Waterless clouds: They had an appearance but no substance.
Trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots: Remember the words of Jesus concerning those who have no fruit. They are cut down and thrown into the fire.
Wild waves: They have no doctrinal stability.
“Wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” A wandering or shooting star amazes for a moment but is quickly gone. This illustration, along with clouds without water, perfectly describes the celebrity pastor culture that permeates much of the church today. Anyone can look good. Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs. They looked good on the outside but were full of dead men’s bones. We need to consider the examples and characteristics Jude laid out in these verses. Someone may have been sound in the past, but you must ask, when things begin to seem off, are they on the pathway to apostasy? Do they have no fear of God? Are they culturally relevant but biblically irreverent? Do they emphasize money more than ministry? Are they trendy or truthful? Unfortunately, we are seeing many church leaders in our day go the way of pragmatism and leave the gospel altogether for worldly ideologies.
You must protect yourself from following the path of a false teacher. They may mean well, and many don’t know they are deceived. The mantra today is about people’s sincerity. You can be sincere and wrong simultaneously; Uzzah went to steady the Ark and died. He had the right heart but incorrect information.”
Don’t just examine your own heart but the content of the teachings. The Bible commands us to test the spirits and even to test prophecy. We must hear and walk in truth. A person’s past track record doesn’t matter if they are now off the track. If teachers have been corrected but continue in error, quit listening to them. It doesn’t matter how much their teaching meant to you in the past; your spiritual development is at stake, and you cannot afford to listen to a false teacher. Review what you’re reading and listening to, be prayerful about what and who you allow to speak to you. Whether it be your pastor, a podcast, author, blogger, or YouTube and social media ministries, You need to hear the truth.