Have you ever looked at someone and just knew somethings was off? When you found out what, did the thought of I KNEW IT! Actually come out of your mouth in an embarrassing fashion. Or worse, did you think someone was wonderful, only to find out something else. Nothing is worse than finding out someone isn’t whom they seem to be. The worst manifestation of that reality is false teachers in the Church. Jude wanted to write about 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. Many times “the gospel” that is being referred to is false teaching. We must contend for the truth, and we must 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 LSB “Michael the archangel, when he, disputing with the devil, was arguing about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these men blaspheme the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.”
False teachers are consumed with their own ego 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. “For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have poured themselves into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black 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 invent 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 biblical blessing and a right understanding of prosperity, false teachers put the emphasis on money. A good way to find out if you have fallen into the false understanding and application of blessing is to 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. All these men were swallowed up by the earth. 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 lead to shipwreck.
Without fear: Their conscience had been seared to conviction.
Waterless clouds: They had 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 mens 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 not only go the way of pragmatism but 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. As Messianic Rabbi, Greg Hershberg said recently, “We are to worship in spirit and truth. Spirit is the right heart, and truth is the right information. You can be sincere and wrong at the same time. Uzzah went to steady the Ark and died. He had the right heart, but the wrong information.”
Don’t just examine your own heart, but the content of the teachings you listen to. The Bible commands us to test the spirits and to even test prophecy. We must hear and walk in truth. A persons 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, 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 listen to truth.