mother nursing a sick child December 20 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Jude, 2 Peter

Preventing a Virus

It is the cold and flue season. You have probably heard advice for prevention: get enough sleep, eat right, take your vitamins, drink a lot of water, and get a flue shot. Even after following good advice, however, sometimes a virus still infects us. In the days of the early church, Jude, a half brother of Jesus Christ,* and the Apostle Peter, in their letters to the churches, give written warnings of apostates (false teachers), which are like viruses which can infect the church. There is a danger that they will sicken the churches and make them ineffective. One bad virus can even destroy their testimony. Beware–the same is true today.

Jude was eager to write about the salvation which he and his brothers in Christ shared, but he now feels it more important to warn them of apostasy,

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord, (Jude 4, NIV).

In Jude and Peter’s day these godless men were Gnostics (those who claim they had special knowledge and revelation about angels). They will be later judged, but the danger to Christians was happening now.

Do we face the dangers of apostasy today? Yes. We find them in cults and false religions, but false teaching can even slip into our Christian congregations. False spiritual leaders claim special revelations or insights apart from the Bible, speak with convincing authority and seem to be genuine, but they often question or deny Jesus Christ is who he said he was. Jesus said he is the Son of God who came from heaven. He took on human flesh and died a sacrificial death for humanity to offer all of us salvation from sin and spiritual death (more...). Jesus makes a bold exclusive statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). False teachers deny this–saying there are many ways to God–and they deny the Bible is the written Word of God. The Apostle Peter, however, testifies to his readers,

We [meaning Jesus’ disciples] did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21, NIV)

This is a first danger sign of apostasy: people within the church leading others away from Jesus Christ and the truth of God found in the Bible–the inerrant, infallible Word of God–and exchanging it for lies and myths.

Today, as then, there is also an unhealthy attention on the mystical importance of angels. The proper perspective about how God works with people is taught in the November 22 Bible study. Those who teach in churches, Christian schools, and other Christian organizations should be believers who are totally committed to the truth of God.

The second danger sign of apostasy is the attitude toward the teachings of God. Peter and Jude said false teachers mock and revile the teachings of God. This is the same attitude of the serpent in the garden of Eden. The serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say …?” (Genesis 3:1, NIV). False teachers will question what the written Word of God has to say. They will spiritualize it or minimize it by saying the Bible is an old book and does not apply to our lives today, or they will pervert its teachings.

A third danger sign of false teachers is greed and sexual misconduct. Cults and false religions usually extract great sums of money from their followers with little or no accountability. Their aim is to fleece their flock (followers) of money so they might live in luxury and licentious living (although people would not normally know this unless they were in the inner circle of the cult or false religion). If we are not careful, alert, and do not require transparency and accountability of our leadership and finances, this perversion can also happen in our churches. We are answerable both to the Lord, to our members, and even to outsiders in regards to the use of our resources and our testimony.

What do we do about the dangers of apostasy? Jude’s admonition for his readers is for them “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3, NIV). By principle, Jude’s warnings apply to us; like the early church we also face false teachers in our day and we must contend for the faith.

How do we contend for the faith? Jude instructs all Christians,

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh, (Jude 1:20-23, NIV).

We build ourselves up in our most holy faith by giving careful attention to knowing God and preserving the truth of the gospel of our salvation. We must train ourselves through the disciplined study of God’s Word to refute errors and not be drawn away by false teaching. Although it is profitable to know our enemy’s tactics and teachings, it is not enough. We must be strong in the knowledge of God’s truth and practice it (2 Peter 1:2-8, 10b-11). We also need to be active in prayer because the Holy Spirit directs us in the ways of truth.

When apostates try to draw Christians away from their faith, some Christians will begin to doubt the truth. We must be patient with them and not harsh. For others, we must snatch them away from false teachers and their pernicious ways. God is able to keep us from falling, but we must be prepared and must act in love toward our brothers who are in danger. God wants to use those who are strong in the truth to help guard the weak.

False teachers will mock us when we speak of the coming of Jesus Christ in the future. Jesus is coming back, however, no matter what false teachers may say. How do we wish to be received into heaven? Peter says to his readers, “if you do these things [build on your faith] you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:10b-11, NIV). He has called us to himself. Will we be faithful?

Peter’s final instructions are, “Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17b-18a, NIV).

Lessons to Live By

  • Do you know the right way to God? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). He offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...) .
  • Be on guard against apostasy.
  • Build yourself up in the faith and help others who are struggling with their beliefs.
  • Jesus Christ our Savior is coming back. Let’s continue in our faithfulness so he will be proud of us.

Today’s Bible Memory Verses

“Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17b-18a, NIV).

*Note: James was Jude’s brother. James was a half brother of Jesus, which makes Jude also a half brother of Jesus. Notice Jude was humble. He did not say, “I am the brother of Jesus”– he said he was a “servant” of Jesus Christ (Jude 1).

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A Look Ahead: Persecution and Apostasy are difficult challenges for us to deal with. In the Apostle Paul's second letter to Timothy he encourages him to Endure through it all and keep fighting. Find out how we should do this in our Next Lesson.

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