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;Jude 1:12(NASB)
Jude did not plan to write the book of Jude. He intended to write an epistle about our common salvation. However, as he started to write his letter his thoughts were interrupted, and he felt compelled, by the Spirit, to change his focus and talk about 'The Faith'. He was driven to write about the body of truth which was once for all delivered to the saints, but had become twisted and perverted by false teachers.
He was deeply concerned about the apostate teachers and heretical doctrines that were increasingly infiltrating the Church, and his deep desire was to impress on his readers the importance of contending for the faith. Jude wanted all true believers to fervently fight to maintain the purity of the whole counsel of Scripture, and to contend for the faith.
Jude made it clear that the Church is made up of two groups of people that were the antithesis of each other: The first group are believers; the beloved of God. The second group are unbelievers; godless men who have secretly slipped into the congregation of Christ. Jude describes the unbelievers as "raging waves of the sea" and "wandering stars." He wanted to warn his readers that these scheming infiltrators not only twist the Word of God into becoming a licence to engage in immorality, but also deny the Lord Jesus Christ as our only Sovereign, Saviour, and Lord.
Jude's short but hard-hitting epistle gives six biblical examples of apostate groups and individuals who threaten the moral shipwreck and spiritual sabotage of believers. He reinforces his argument with additional examples from nature: "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; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever."
The first illustration likened submerged rocks lying just below the surface of the sea, which could gouge a gaping hole in the bottom of a boat causing it to sink, to the devastation that false teachers could cause in a congregation of believers if allowed to minister unchallenged. Jude warned that such men would blemish the 'love feasts' - communal meals that were so common in those early days of the Church, which often included a celebration of the Lord's Supper.
One identifying mark of these false shepherds was a lack of care for the flock, combined with a selfish, money-grabbing, and controlling nature for their own well-being. They only fed themselves, while having no consideration for those in their care. Indeed, every metaphor to which Jude alluded, restated the serious dangers to individual Christians and Church groups if false teachers were not addressed. "Clouds without water" suggests these ungodly infiltrators do not feed and refresh the flock of God, but withhold the life-giving teaching of the whole counsel of God, while describing them as "autumn trees without fruit," is a big marker of their arrogant apostasy.
If Jude gave his urgent warning against false teachers deceiving believers with a false gospel and gnostic teachings so early in Church history, how much more careful we should be in recognising and dealing with apostate teachers who have covertly infiltrated our own fellowships.
And Jude spells out very clearly what is required of each believer. We are to contend earnestly for the faith that was given to us in the Holy Scriptures, and maintain unbroken fellowship with the Lord. We need to search the Scriptures for ourselves to ensure that the teachings we are hearing are scriptural, quickly recognising when someone is promoting a false gospel, twisted teachings, or unscriptural dogma.
We need to realise that both heretical teachers (unbelievers who have an agenda to destroy the truth of the gospel) and apostate teachers (believers who have partially or wholly renounced their Christian faith) exist in Christendom today. They often thrive in churches that focus on a social gospel, a crossless gospel, a watered-down gospel, replacement theology, or who only teach what their congregations want to hear!
We are not to allow ourselves or teachers to cherry-pick their favourite doctrines and exclude or distort the truth of God's Word. Rather, we are to keep on building up our strength by praying in the Holy Spirit, walking in truth, remaining in the love of God, dying to self, and living for Him. And we are to be looking for the soon return of the Lord Jesus to take us to be Himself.
We are to be holy because He is holy, and we are to always remember that God Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And so we should only do those things that honour His holy name.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the Word of God and the truth that it contains. Thank You for holy men of God who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen the Scriptures that teach us the truth of Your Word. Give me a desire to know Your Word and discernment to recognise false teachings and apostate teachers. Give me an urgent desire to know Your Word more and to contend for the truth that was once given to the saints. Knowing the terrible damage they can do to believers, I pray that false teachers may be identified, exposed, and removed, both in my local Church and throughout the world. Revive Your people with the same urgency that flooded Jude's heart when he exhorted us to reject false teachers through an ever deepening knowledge of Your Word. This I pray in Jesus' name, AMEN.