Bible Study Series: The Book of Jude - The Acts of the Apostates
Bible Study Jude 3-4: Beware the Creepers!
By Fraser Gordon
Jude wanted to write a letter of encouragement to the believers. We would all like to bring a message of hope, love and encouragement and the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. But as he had pen in hand the Spirit of God compelled him to write a letter of warning because false people had crept in among the fellowship causing trouble to believers and the body of scripture.
A thief and a robber
Jude 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word crept means to get in by the backdoor, to creep in subtly, or to steal in. They come in secretly unnoticed, have a look around and say, ‘I think I can make my home here’.
John 10.1 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
In John 10.9 Jesus said he was the door. Some try to enter the sheepfold another way, they do not come through Jesus. He calls them a thief and a robber.
2 Corinthians 11.13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
There were some believers in the Corinthian church that wanted to be regarded as equal in power and authority to Paul and the apostles, but they were false apostles and deceitful workers. People who, like Satan, transform themselves into ministers of righteousness. Satan can deceive many by coming as an angel of light. People often think of him as having horns and a pitch fork, but he comes as an angel of light to deceive. Many in the new age movement speak of encounters with angels surrounded by light and they have wonderful messages of love and peace. Yet this is a deception. Satan and his ministers may dress with religious clothing and use religious words to appear as ministers of light but they deny the work of Christ as the only means of salvation.
These men creep in unnoticed; they don’t come with a sign saying - false apostle, false teacher, false prophet, or unbeliever - “I’m going to wreck the fellowship’. They come in wearing sheep’s clothing, they are humble, they say the right things, have christian sayings and terminology but inwardly they are wolves dressed as sheep. Many of these men profess one thing but they believe another, like the liberal pastors who teach from God’s word but don’t really believe in scripture as the inspired word of God.
This is not a new thing, so let's look at two examples from the old testament.
The inhabitants of Gibeon
Joshua 9. 1-13 And it came to pass when all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan, in the hills and in the lowland and in all the coasts of the Great Sea toward Lebanon--the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite--heard about it, 2 that they gathered together to fight with Joshua and Israel with one accord.
3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, 5 old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy. 6 And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us."
7 Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?" 8 But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you, and where do you come from?" 9 So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, 10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan--to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. 11 Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, 'Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, "We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us." ' 12 This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and mouldy. 13 And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey."
This was Satan’s second attempt to corrupt God’s people after the victory of Jericho. The first was Achan who coveted wealth so he took a garment, silver and gold and hid them in his tent. This lusting after the things of the world bought the judgement of God upon Israel. The second attempt to corrupt God’s people was to unify them with the world.
Israel was commanded to destroy certain nations and not mix with them but the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon worked craftily to seek an alliance with Israel. They came and deceived Joshua looking like they had come from afar with old clothing, old wineskins, and mouldy food. But they lived right next door. They came to the camp at Gilgal which was base camp for Joshua and the nation. Gilgal was where the nation rested after circumcision which had been neglected in the years of the wilderness wanderings. It was also the place where the reproach of Egypt was rolled away, where manna ceased and they ate new food in the abundance of Canaan. Joshua encountered the commander of the army of the Lord at Gilgal who had come to take over. Gilgal is a type of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and our inclusion in that death, burial and resurrection into new life.
Joshua 9.14-15 Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. 15 So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.
Joshua did not ask counsel of the Lord. Had he done so he would not have been deceived into making a covenant with them. This is Satan’s attempt to corrupt God’s people - compromise, to join in union with all faiths, and to mix with the world of unbelievers.
The second example is in Nehemiah 13 where he rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem. This is a picture of us building the walls of our salvation and becoming secure in Christ Jesus. Nehemiah had three main enemies who continually hindered his progress, they were Sanballat, Geshum and Tobiah. These three picture Satan, the world, and the flesh. They too will continually hinder our own walk with God.
Nehemiah 13.4-9 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. 5 And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests. 6 But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, 7 and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. 8 And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. 9 Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
While Nehemiah was away visiting the king of Babylon, the last of these enemies Tobiah crept his way into the house of God. He even had his own room, the very room that was used for the offerings to God. Upon learning this Nehemiah knew that Tobiah was dangerous and threw him and his goods out and had the room cleansed. There are times when people creep in the side door and we have to boot them out the back door.
In Revelation 2.18 Jesus addressed the church of Thyatira. This church was noted for their love, faith and perseverance. That was the good report, however, the bad report was that they tolerated the woman Jezebel. Her false teaching was seducing them to commit sexual immorality. Tolerance has now flooded western society and churches want to be seen as loving and non judgemental but sin is not addressed and sinful actions are not judged by God’s word. Tolerance rules.
Who are these men who creep in?
In the bible commentary of William MacDonald it says, “they are supposed to be ministers of the gospel. They hold positions of leadership in christendom. Some are bishops or church council members or seminary professors. But they all have this in common; they are against the Christ of the bible and have invented for themselves a liberal or Neo Orthodox Christ and have stripped Him of glory, majesty, dominion and authority.”
Ungodly and unholy
Firstly Jude says these men are ungodly, and unholy. They profess God but deny His power in their lives and in time their lives show that they are not even believers. They may be there for money, power or fame, but they lack reverence for God and are ungodly.
Matthew 7.15-23 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practise lawlessness!'
This is a very scary verse. There will be many who have prophesied, cast out demons, and done many wonders but they have climbed in some other way and did not know the Lord, weren’t born again or had not truly repented of their sin. To these Jesus said “I never knew you, depart from me you who practise lawlessness.” The parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13.24-30 is describing a similar scenario. The enemy plants his bad seed among the good and they look the same until harvest time.
They abuse grace
Secondly Jude says these men abuse grace. They turned the grace of God into lewdness - filthy, unbridled lust, and excess licentiousness. They used God’s goodness and grace as an excuse to indulge the flesh. When the great message of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is realised - that a man or woman is totally forgiven, set free, and counted as righteous before a Holy God - only the corrupt, fallen human heart would abuse it!
Galatians 5.13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Romans 6.1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
In Jude’s day one of the problems was Gnosticism. Gnosticism teaches that the body was evil and only the spirit of man was good, therefore you could do whatever you wanted with the body. As stated in Romans 12.1, the believer’s body is holy and should be presented to God as a living sacrifice for his service, not to indulge the flesh.
Titus 2.11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Unlike these false teachers that were turning grace into lewdness, the true message of grace teaches us to live godly, holy and purified lives, looking for our blessed hope, the return of Jesus Christ.
They deny the deity of Christ
Thirdly these false people deny the deity of Jesus. Most of Satan’s attacks upon the church are toward the work of Jesus on the cross. His power in saving mankind, His resurrection, and His deity as an equal member of the trinity. The trinity being that within the nature of God there are three eternal persons. We see this same issue in the book of Colossians. Paul set this right, confronting the gnostic teachers.
Colossians 1.15-20. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
“That in all things He may have the preeminence” - that means first place!
One final thought
Concerning false people creeping into the church, remember there is safety in a church that preaches the whole counsel of God. By this I mean all scripture, or a church that teaches the bible verse by verse. False people find it harder to make their home in these churches because there is usually a high degree of discernment among the believers. If your fellowship is music or entertainment driven, or the scriptures are not given their rightful place of importance then false people may find a home there and make themselves comfortable.