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Jude 8

How To Recognise An Apostate

We are looking once again at the Letter of Jude in the New Testament of the Bible.  This time we come to verse sixteen, which tells us how we can recognise false teachers - those who are apostates from the truth.  Verse sixteen gives us this description of them: "These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage".

There is really no excuse for churches that fail to recognise these people for what they are.  Jude uses very plain language to describe them.  Their outstanding characteristics are all here.  False teachers have plagued the church from the earliest days.  There are three terms used to describe these apostates.  First of all they are "grumblers".  Jude uses a word that is unique in the New Testament.  It reminds us of the murmuring of the Children of Israel against Moses.  The verb form of the word occurs in John chapter six verse forty-one, where we read: "The Jews then murmured, or grumbled, against Jesus, because He said ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven'".  This murmuring and grumbling was a refusal to recognise or to accept the truth.  When our Lord Jesus ended his teaching on the bread of life it is recorded: "Aware his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’ … And from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed Him".  That is a clear example of apostasy - turning back and no longer following Christ.  This followed their murmuring against the Lord and his teaching.  Such grumbling is not trivial, it is sinful.  So beware of any who murmur against the teaching of the Lord Jesus and his word; of those who complain that it is too hard or demanding.  Such an attitude leads to a turning back from following the Lord.  It leads to apostasy.  If we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ we should be a very grateful people, not a murmuring, doubting people. 

Secondly, these men are complainers or faultfinders.  Again, Jude uses a term that is unique in the New Testament.  The verb form appears in Mark chapter seven, verse two where the Pharisees found fault with the disciples of the Lord.  Their complaint was followed by one of the Lord’s sternest rebukes.  He said, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites".  Their murmuring was really directed against the person of the Lord Jesus, even though it was spoken against his followers. 

Weak Christians may be overtaken by this sin of faultfinding, and if so they need to repent of it, for it can do a great deal of damage.  Others in a church who constantly find fault with others, or with the teaching, may actually be apostates, away from the Lord in heart and mind.  Complainers are those who are dissatisfied with their lot, they are not contented people.  True believers are able to live contented lives.  Paul writes from prison to the Philippian Christians, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation".  He also says "Godliness with contentment is great gain".

And the third thing we discover about these false teachers and apostates is that "They follow their own evil desires".  The same Greek word is used by Jesus in the parable of the sower where He speaks of the desire for other things choking the Word and making it unfruitful.  An apostate is one who has heard the Word of God and received it, but who subsequently rejects it and turns from it.  They would rather follow their own wicked ways and ideas than be subject to the truth. 

In his Second Letter chapter three and verse three, Peter writes, "You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires".  There has always been those who have mingled with the people of God for their own gain, or in order to plant their own ideas.  There is nothing new about apostasy.  We have murmurers, complainers and those who longed for the pleasures of Egypt all referred to in the Book of Numbers.  These people were with the Children of Israel, but not of them.  Their presence had a very negative effect on the nation.  The motives of apostates are evil and they seek only their own gain.  We must be on our guard against them and watch out for these signs. 

Next, Jude tells us that these men are never short of something to say.  He says they "boast about themselves".  Modern apostate leaders have plenty of opportunities to speak in the media.  They have statements for every situation and every occasion, but what they say is not based on the Word of God or a true interpretation of it.  Peter says of apostates that they have forsaken the right way and that their words are vain and empty.  By their oratory they persuade people, but their words are without true spiritual power.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy chapter four verse one: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron".  One characteristic of false teachers is their self-importance.  They project themselves and their personalities rather than pointing people to the Lord Jesus Christ.  True humility does not characterise them.  How up to date the Scriptures are in their descriptions of these men!

Then Jude says that these men "flatter others for their own advantage".  They flatter people to gain money, to get praise, and to gain position and authority in the church.  Flattery is a sin, condemned in Scripture.  In Psalm twelve, verses two and three we read: "Everyone lies to his neighbour; their flattering lips speak with deception.  May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue …"  In Proverbs twenty-seven we read that "A flattering mouth works ruin".  And in Proverbs twenty-nine, "A man who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet".

So the application is very clear to us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ: We should not murmur or complain against the Lord and his dealings with us; we must not live for the sinful desires of our bodies and minds.  And we must beware of those who do these things and of those who seek to gain personal advantage by flattering words. 

How are we to do this?  We are to follow the great example of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, who is himself the very truth that these apostates deny.  Let me close this talk with the words of Peter in his First Letter chapter two verses twenty-one to twenty-three:

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps:

‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. ’

When they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered He made no threats.  Instead He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly".

Click here for part 9.