How Do They Do It?

When a person reads the epistle of Jude, or Second Peter, you begin to wonder, “How is it that a person can be so contrary to what the Bible says in their teaching and their lives, and yet “creep in unnoticed”?” How is it that the church does not spot them immediately? Consider the description of apostate teachers:

· They are deceptive-v.3
· They resist greater authorities, including church leadership-vv.4, 8, 11, 16.
· They are fleshly-vv. 4, 8,
· They prey on the saints-vv.12,16.
· They don’t care for doctrine-vv. 4,10, 16.
· They complain and criticize-v.16.
· They are a law unto themselves-v.18.

Peter has even more to say concerning their lifestyle, including fleshly indulgence, adultery, and slavery to corruption. The question then becomes, “How can they be ‘unnoticed’?” Jude, along with Peter, tell us how they do it and this modus operandi is very important for the church to consider if it is going to be successful in contending for the truth.

Jude wrote,

         3      Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
         4      For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The brother of the Lord, Jude, had the desire to write to the the churches of the dispersion concerning the glories of their salvation. But, he had learned that apostates had entered the fellowship of the saints and with that reality, he was compelled to write to the church to appeal to them to fight hard against the error that would emanate from these men. How he had heard about them, who they were, how he identified them, and were they known in other churches as leading them astray, is impossible to tell. However, Jude is not writing to name the imposters, but to describe them. This is far better so that they, and their kind, can be identified and removed. Further, it serves us better because we can also identify their kind and take steps to deal with it.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught about this. In the Old Testament, if a false prophet would arise, according to Deuteronomy 13:1-11, and counseled rebellion within the context of signs and wonders (which came true or actually happened, by the way) he would be killed. The death penalty was the result for the man who would come in and define God in a way that was not according to the Law of Moses. The death penalty would have the affect of curbing others from following suit.

Yet, we are not under those regulations. So, what are we to do with those who counsel rebellion? The big picture is found in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. This parable, told by the Lord Himself, teaches us how to handle the “sons of the evil one.”

   24      Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
         25      “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.
         26      “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.
         27      “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
         28      “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’
         29      “But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.
         30      ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

This is a parable meant to teach of the character and economy of the kingdom of heaven. The difficulty of understanding these things demands that Jesus teach in a parable. This parable covers a lot of ground in teaching us how the kingdom of heaven will exist and does now exist. The entire parable is the comparison. In summary, a man sowed good seed in his field, another man, an enemy, came along undercover (unnoticed), and sowed bad seed in the man’s good field. This is a very evil and malicious thing to do. As the crop bore grain, the workers of the field saw the tares alongside of it and went and told the owner that the field has both weeds and wheat. The loyal workers were willing to enter the field and begin pulling up the tares amidst the wheat. The owner, concerned for his wheat, said, “No. You can’t do that without affecting the wheat also. When harvest comes, we will gather the tares and burn them at that time.”

Later, in private, Jesus explains the parable:

         36      Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
         37      And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,
         38      and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;
         39      and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.
         40      “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.
         41      “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,
         42      and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
         43      “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

The Son of Man sows the seed of the sons of the kingdom of heaven in the field of the world. The tares, planted by the devil, are the sons of the evil one. The enemy has placed evil alongside righteousness. Both are allowed to co-exist for a time in the kingdom of heaven. However, at the end of this age, the reapers (the angels of God) will be called to separate the wheat from the tares. The evil ones will the judged by eternal fire, and the righteous children of God will enter into the “kingdom of their Father” and will reign in brilliance forever.

Those evil workers are allowed to exist alongside the righteous. We are not called to kill them or anything of the sort. We are only called to wait until harvest and let the Lord separate them out and fulfill that instruction. In the church, we are to identify them, call attention to their teaching, and warn the saints. Pastors are tasked with the burden of protecting the flock of God from these deceptive workers and their leavenous teaching. The saints are to build themselves up on the their holy faith and not spend their days identifying error. There is much more to learning of Christ than there is to learning of Satan. The influence will be felt in the world, and that can, and does, bleed into the church.

But, the question remains, “How?” The brilliance of Satan becomes clear at this point. Notice Jude 4,

…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here is their tactic. They are ungodly persons. They are immoral, irreverent, and opposing to God. Their craft is found in the skills of deception. Jude says that these ungodly persons creep in unnoticed by the church because they change the meaning of grace into its antithesis. That is, apostates are skilled at changing definitions of key truths.

The word that Jude uses for “turn” is the Greek word, μετατιθέντες . This word is a very descriptive and clear word. It means, in the temporal or spatial sense, to place and object from one location to another location. In the ideological sense, it means to change, pervert, or transfer meaning from one thing to another. It is the idea of transformation of ideas or truth into something other than its actual meaning. Putting this into the verse, we see that these teachers come in and change/alter the meaning of ‘grace’ from the accomplished righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15-21) given to those who believe in Jesus Christ which leads to righteous living (Titus 2:11-14), to then mean the freedom to indulge in licentiousness and pleasure. You see, if they can convince the church that true Christian living is self-indulgence and pleasure-seeking, then their sensual lives will blend right in with the things they assert. If a person can call grace “freedom,” then their so-called freedoms will define grace and thus they sneak in unnoticed. Brilliant!

Consider this, grace reigns in righteousness and leads to eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21). Grace is given by God and is necessary for justification (Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace is from the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11). Grace allows God to forgive trespasses (Ephesians 1:7). Grace defines the very throne of God (Hebrews 4:16). Finally, grace, the provision of the righteousness that satisfies the holiness of God which sinners have offended (Matthew 5:48), instructs us

…to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, –Titus 2:12

Nowhere do we find that grace provides for our indulgences, desires, and dreams. Grace, in fact, does not allow for that. Rather, it comes at the expense of denying ourselves. The Lord Jesus told the crowd of disciples on a number of occasions that if they want to have life, they must deny themselves, take their cross, and follow Him (Matthew 10:37-39; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23; 14:27f.). To follow Jesus Christ is a life of the denial of the flesh, not an exercise of the flesh. The cost is more than most want to consider, but that does not change the demand. Grace is grace precisely because it is the provision of the righteousness that we could never generate, but is required in order to approach God. Thus, true grace leads to the practice of this righteousness…through Christ.

So, the next time someone wants to come to you and redefine grace as freedom from rules, laws, and the burden of righteous living, consider the possibility that they might be attempting to redefine grace to provide for their own licentiousness.