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By Jonathan Carmack

Watching over the Flock

According to News24Zim A Zimbabwean pastor has reportedly convinced his congregants his holy pens can make students pass their exams – and the more you pay for one, the better grades you’ll get. Prophet Sham Hungwe of House of Grace International Church in Harare is selling the pens, which cost from $1 up to $20. According to this report, the prophet told his congregation those sitting exams only needed faith and one of the special pens to pass. “They are anointed and I declare passes when your children sit for exams. They are said to work for anyone who is sitting for any test,” he said. According to Nigerian Watch, one person testified: “My son is not very bright and I think this will help him. With the knowledge he has acquired and this pen from the man of God, I think it is going to work.” One student said he scored highly in his A-levels last year after using the pen he was given by the prophet, reports.

There is perhaps no other time when we are more vulnerable to deception than when we are told something we really want to believe. It doesn’t matter how outrageous the claim, or how obvious it is that the messenger is motivated by greed. If it’s what we want to be true, we swallow hook, line and sinker. It is for this reason that pastors are called to watch over the flock. The Apostle Luke said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-30 , “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them”.

Here in the book of Acts, Luke tells us pastors are called to tenderhearted watchfulness and I believe part of my responsibility as a pastor is to teach the Gospel but also help you identify what is truth and what is not as well as hold each other accountable to what scripture says. As scripture can easily be turned into something it is not through errors. Brother Freddie Fritz explained this and five different types of errors in his sermon on false teachers. HE said,

  1.      First, some people are sincerely ignorant. For example, Apollos was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures, and even taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. So, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26).
  2. Second, other people have sincerely misunderstood the truth. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians to correct several areas of misunderstanding and error in teaching from the Scripture.
  3. Third, sometimes a teacher is temporarily inconsistent. That was the case with the Apostle Peter in Antioch. The Apostle Paul confronted Peter about his inconsistency of living out God’s example(Galatians 2:11-14).
  4. Fourth, sometimes people are simply deceived. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a stern warning to them not to believe any other false gospel.
  5. And fifth, and obviously the most egregious there are false teachers. These are the people Jude wrote about when he warned that there were false teachers who were creeping into the church (Jude 4). False teachers are really dangerous because they will not submit to correction.

I believe a wonderful book in scripture that isn’t the longest but is filled with wonderful instruction we all could learn from in our own walks. Particularly, the discernment to not be led astray by false teaching. Jude’s letter was written to a group of believers with a warning against false teachings. As false teachers had arisen against the church, Jude encouraged believers to contend for the faith by putting forth an intense effort to fight for the truth of the gospel while also assuring them that Jesus will protect them and preserve them until he returns and presents them to the Father.

As we read our scripture together, we are going to answer three questions, that will help bring understanding to what is being taught. A practice, I encourage not only for the book of Jude but in general when studying the word of God.

1. Who wrote the letter? (consider background)

2. Who was he writing to ?( consider what is going on to the area or church that is being written to)

3. Why is he writing this letter? (What’s going on for this to be written??)

Normally, you receive the answer to these questions in the first couple of verses of a letter. So lets practice with our scripture reading Jude 1:1-2.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for[a] Jesus Christ:

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

Our first question was who wrote this letter and we received our answer.

  1. The author of this letter is likely one of four half-brothers of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels. Most likely Jude short for Judas and no this is obviously not the same Judas who betrayed Jesus.
    1. Now consider this, from the accounts of the Gospels, none of the brothers followed Jesus before his death. However, after his resurrection, they become disciples (see Acts 1:14). Interestingly, Jude identifies himself as the brother of James, yet only refers to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ (Jude 1).
    2. Now for our second question, Who is he writing to? Now The specific audience that Jude writes his letter to is not stated, but from the text, it appears Jude was writing to a Messianic Jewish community.
  2. Now, this information is very important, it helps us understand that a half brother of Jesus, who was not a follower until after his death. Which gives us insight on his relationship of grace and affection for Jesus is writing this letter to a group of believers who are amongst the wolves. He is passionate about the truth of the gospel because he witnessed firsthand the grace of which its content is about.

We tend to quickly read past the introduction to get to the main purpose of a letter. Yet, I believe the importance when reading is evident in knowing who wrote and who they are writing to not to mention in Jude’s opening statements in the first verse, he reminds his readers of three powerful truths.

    1. First, they “have been called.” … Our primary calling as followers of Jesus is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost, we are called to Someone (God)”
    2. Second, they are “loved in God the Father.” As Brennan Manning reminds us, God “has a single relentless stance towards us; He loves us.
    3. Third, they are “kept for Jesus Christ.  Jude is declaring to believers that we are guarded and watched over by Jesus Christ, and he will strengthen us to persevere until the end (see Jude 24).

If you are used to skipping over the introduction, you are missing important truths and background information that is vital to the understanding of scripture. This basic technique will help bring understanding to the scripture and will allow you to study deeper into the context. Read with me in verse 3- 4 as we will soon discover the third question, why? which I have foreshadowed to.

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about[b] long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

  1. Here we see Jude’s reason why for writing this letter.
    1. Jude’s original intention was to write a longer letter about their common salvation in Christ (Jude 3). However, an urgent matter had arisen among the believers that compelled Jude to write a quick letter, urging them to “contend for the faith.” To contend for the faith means to “struggle for, contend, fight”
    2. Because corrupt teachers had secretly infiltrated the church (v. 4), Jude urged the disciples to put forth an intense effort to fight for the truth of the faith. The infiltrating false teachers had begun sharing false teachings and ideas. Interestingly, Jude does not call out the particular false teachings they are spreading. Instead, Jude points out the way these ungodly teachers are living their lives. Their moral compromise is a direct indication of the wrong teachings and theology that they hold and proclaim to others.
    3. For example, if the person who is teaching is living a life that bears no fruit and is living immoral then this is a clear sign/hint that they may be teaching falsely and from false intentions.

First, Jude says they “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 4). These false teachers corrupted the truth of God’s grace by turning grace into an opportunity for moral freedom from restraint, especially in gratifying their flesh.

  • A form of this teaching is still prevalent in the church today. The idea is that since we are already forgiven by God through Jesus’s death, we can do whatever we want. The mantra “I am free in Christ” is distorted into the idea that we are free to sin and afterward play the “grace card” to cover ourselves. However, this perversion of God’s grace, in reality, is a denial and rejection of Jesus’s teachings and authority.

To further explain this, from verses 5-7, Jude warns the followers of Jesus to keep away from such beliefs, teachings, and practices by giving a series of illustrations from the Old Testament and Jewish tradition. Please look over the scripture in verses 5-7 as I give a summary of his examples. Jude reminds his readers about people who rebelled against God’s authority and received divine justice in verse 5. The first story is about how God had delivered his people from Egypt but then destroyed those who did not believe. In Numbers 14, the newly delivered Israelites began to grumble against God and plan on committing mutiny to replace Moses and then return to Egypt. God intervened before they could stone Moses and the other leaders. In response to their rebellion, God declared that all those above the age of 20 would die in the wilderness and not enter the promised land. Jude also recalls in verse 7 the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis 19. The inhabitants “gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (Jude 7), even to the extent of seeking to have sex with the two angels who visited the city (Genesis 19:4–5). The purposes of these stories are to “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

I find what Jude does in verse 8-13 really eye opening. Read with me.

In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”[d] 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.

11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

After the examples, Jude compares the corrupt teachers that they are encountering to the previous three illustrations by saying that, “in the very same way,” they reject God’s authority. The ungodly people resort to “the strength of their dreams” Here, Jude “suggests that they may have claimed to receive some of their teachings through visions” What the false teachers were doing was Rather than basing their teachings upon the foundation of Scripture, the false teachers used dreams, visions, and prophetic words to justify their beliefs. Again, this parallels a similar danger that we still face today. Although God certainly can use dreams, visions, and the prophetic to confirm his will to us, all these forms must be in alignment and agreement with his written Word. Too often, people share God’s “message” to them through visions, dreams, and prophetic words, solely relying on non-scriptural means. They evaluate their visions or “words” from God above the Scriptures. This practice is extremely dangerous and can be abusive. The false teachers rely on their dreams to be authoritative, and as a result, they as Jude points out in verse 8 “pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings” (Jude 8). Jude then provides another illustration from a well-known Jewish text of that period called the “Testament of Moses.” In the section Jude quotes from, Moses has died, and Michael and the devil get into a dispute over the body of Moses (v. 9).

I understand these stories from extrabiblical sources may seem odd to us, but to the ears of a first-century Jew who would have been raised with them, the stories reinforced Jude’s warning. Even though these false teachers were currently seeking to pervert the gospel, their behavior had ancient roots in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition: they were rebelling against God’s authority, they were sexually immoral, and they rejected God’s messengers. Then in verse 11, Jude begins his second trio set of illustrations. He issues a strong warning, “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion” (Jude 11).

  • All three of these stories are about those who had rebelled against God and also corrupted others. Jude then compares the false teachers to several word pictures including “shepherds who feed only themselves” (see Ezekiel 34:2), “clouds without rain” (see Proverbs 25:14), and “wild waves of the sea” (see Isaiah 57:20). All of which reference old testament scriptures that the audience would understand.

Finally, Jude concludes the first section of his letter by quoting from 1 Enoch to make his point.  

14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”[e] 

Church, as believers, we are to fight for and defend the truth of our faith. For those who are ungodly and are false teachers, God will in his timing bring judgment upon them if they fail to repent. In this article I read from CT Pastors, a pastor explains how he had to learn the hard way to be a “heresy healer” instead of a “heresy hunter.” He uses the following illustration: “Imagine a sharp, young doctor walking into a refugee camp. He sees an old man, half-naked, shivering and struggling to keep warm under a threadbare blanket. The doctor looks closer at the blanket and sees that it is filthy, smeared with feces and probably disease-ridden. In horror the doctor rips the blanket off of the old man and says, ‘Don’t you know that blanket will make you sick?’ Then he walks off, saying, ‘My job is done here.’ But had he done anything for the old man? Can we blame the old man for picking up the blanket as soon as the doctor walks away?”

I want to close with this because while we should fight for the truth, I don’t want you to walk away today and say well I better not teach.  Church, You have a truth that is the most valuable information that any person in the world can hear. That alone should make us want to go and share it, but then through the one who brought us hope, grace and salvation we have been commanded to be Christ ambassadors to the world. However, often I hear people say how far our country has fallen morally or how different our world is and I myself have talked about how illiterate believers have become in knowing the word of God. But my question for you and I is this, what are we doing about it? Fight for the Truth, but also fight to share that truth with those who don’t know it. Don’t use our mistakes in the past prevent you from sharing the truth that we are called to fight for. We all make errors and we all learn and grow in scripture, however, don’t allow your past mistakes stop you from sharing the Gospel. Believe in scripture, which tells us everything works together for the good of the Lord. How can your mistakes be used for the good of the lord, when you allow God to use those mistakes to show you a better way. So together lets grow with one another, let’s watch over the flock, and ultimately share the Good news with those around us.