I follow many pastors, Youtubers, and podcasters online and several of them have taken a stand against specific false teachers over the last six months.
While this is a noble pursuit, I find that these online Bible thinkers tend to be aggressive and unbiblical in the way that they handle situations in local congregations that they are not personally involved in.
I will not mention any specific people, but I hope that by looking through Jude you will be encouraged and helped in how to handle exhorting the church against false teaching.
Jude is an interesting person in the history of the Gospel because he was one of Jesus’ biological brothers who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.
Once Jesus came back from the dead Jude, James, and the other two brothers came to saving faith in Jesus.“What strikes me about this letter is that Jude primarily uses historical examples of God’s previous judgements on people and angels to bring comfort to believers.”
Jude’s letter reflects a sincere conversion in the way that he refers to himself as a “slave of Jesus and brother of James.” (Jude 1)
He wanted to make clear who he was, but also who he was in Jesus first – not the brother of God, but a willing servant of God.
Jude initially wanted to write this letter to encourage believers in their salvation, and to provide assurance, but instead changed course when it became clear that local congregations were being affected by heretical teachers and leaders who denied the authority of Jesus and encouraged sensuality.
They essentially had an “anything goes” attitude in the way they were leading their churches.
Due to this, Jude wrote this letter, not to tell anyone off, but to carefully instruct and encourage believers who were caught up in the situation.
What strikes me about this letter is that Jude primarily uses historical examples of God’s previous judgements on people and angels to bring comfort to believers.
He invites us to remember how God does not let evil go on forever and that He must bring justice to bear against rebellion that subverts His authority.
Jude shows us by example how to interpret the Old Testament in a New Testament era.“Jude instructs us to build our faith up, pray often, allow ourselves to experience God’s love, and be excited for the return of Christ.”
He also used examples from sources, and while we do not consider false teachings about Enoch or the Assumption of Moses to be divinely inspired like Jude’s readers would have, these would nevertheless have been familiar and important to his intended audience. (Jude 9, Jude 14)
His intention here is to provide us with hope; God is not a spectator; He is actively working in our lives.
So how does Jude identify false teachers? The first indication is that they deny the authority of Jesus with their words and with their life. (Jude 4)
Jesus indicated on many occasions that we will know if others really love Him based on what they do and what they produce. (Matt. 7:17)
Jude also alludes to people using “divine dreams” to leverage power in the local church. (Jude 8).
I would venture to say that with just these two indicators we have more of a problem today with false teachers than the first century church.
Don’t get me wrong, they had their fair share. But the problem has only grown in the last two millennia, and especially since the birth of the Internet.
Anyone can make their ideas known to the whole world, creating cult followings of all kinds. In fact, some preachers have such a vast influence now we consider them “church celebrities.”
Unfortunately, these larger-than-life personalities also come with very real personal sin, flawed leadership, and false doctrines that the typical church must deal with as they relate to their communities.
For example, one preacher, hundreds of miles away, could potentially change the opinion of my community either in favor of or against my church.
So, what does this all mean for us? Jude instructs us to build our faith up, pray often, allow ourselves to experience God’s love, and be excited for the return of Christ.
We must help those who struggle with doubt and temptation and condemn all sin in our local church bodies.“We can deal with false teaching appropriately by getting rid of it in our local churches, but we must remember that whatever is happening in another local church is the business of its pastor and congregation.”
We can deal with false teaching appropriately by getting rid of it in our local churches, but we must remember that whatever is happening in another local church is the business of its pastor and congregation.
It’s easy to hear about something and post an article, record a podcast, or make a video that could be categorized as slanderous.
Likely, we don’t have the full story, and we must pray for our fellow brothers and sisters who suffer at the hands of bad shepherds.
If false teaching is happening under our care, we must boldly lead and invoke church discipline according to Matthew 18:15-20.
A call to be a pastor is not one we should take lightly, and God will hold us accountable for what we do with the authority he has temporarily granted us.
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Interior of a Gothic Church by Dirck van Delen (1641). The Rijksmuseum. SK-C-1799