I recently had to install some new virus software on my laptop. It seems a few viruses had come in through the backdoor and were causing a nuisance. If you have been using computers or surfing the net for very long you have encountered these pests. Some of them are minor in scope and are more annoying than anything. Of course others, are quite serious and pose a real threat to your computer and personal information. I have dealt with both types. The simple truth of the matter is no virus is wanted and any virus is potentially threatening and dangerous. Heresies, I would argue, work much the same way.
I have been teaching a men’s bible study once a week on the book of Jude. It is a small book, but it is packed full of teaching and wisdom. I must admit there is far more there than I first imagined when I agreed to teach the class. Jude admonished the believers to contend for the faith. The reason? There were certain people who had crept in unnoticed. (v.4)
These certain people, as Jude referred to them, are false teachers, or heretics. Simply put, they are teaching doctrine that goes against the foundational truths of the gospel of Christ. In fact, Jude pointed this out, when he said these heretics, pervert the grace of God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (v.4)
We must be careful about throwing the word heresy around too lightly. Someone is not a heretic simply because they disagree with me on some doctrinal issue. Heresy is understood to be an attack on an essential, non-negotiable truth of the Christian faith. So, for instance, an assault on the orthodox teaching of the Trinity would be considered heretical.
What catches my eye about Jude’s statement is that these certain people had crept in unnoticed. Much like the viruses I battled on my laptop, which had crept onto my drive without my knowledge or detection, so too, these false teachers had entered the church unnoticed and were a real and present danger to the fellowship and the creed of Christian faith.
How imminent was this threat? It was such a threat that Jude changed his subject matter for his letter. He originally intended on writing to the believers about our common salvation. (v.3) However, upon hearing of these heretical teachings he found it necessary to write to them about contending for the faith.
How then shall we live? How then shall we contend for the faith? In automotive repair, sensor signals can be graphed and shown as wave-forms on a lab scope. Young techs many times have an issue, upon seeing the waveform, in recognizing whether it is a good pattern or a bad pattern. The reason for this is they don’t yet have a clear image in their mind of what a good waveform looks like; therefore, it is almost impossible to recognize a faulty one.
The principle is an easy one to apply. In order to recognize a bad waveform, you must first know what a good waveform looks like. In other words, to know a defective pattern when you see it, you must first be able to recognize a known good pattern.
I think it works much the same way when it comes to false teaching. In order to recognize heretical teaching, one must first have a grasp on proper doctrine. If I know what a good apple is suppose to look like, I will be able to detect a rotten apple when I see one.
For Jude’s audience, these false teachers had entered in without their noticing it. They presented a threat to the early church, because they were undermining the foundational teachings of Christ and the apostles. Therefore, Jude saw it as imperative to warn the believers against the nature of these apostates who threatened their faith.
Eternal vigilance is not only the call of democracy, but of orthodox faith as well.