By Elizabeth Prata
For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4).
For context, Jude is opening his letter by saying he’d wanted to speak of the faith and their common salvation, but must change his intended topic to one of discernment. He warned against false teachers in the next verses, including the one above.
There are so many parts to this verse to explore and chew on. Today, let’s look at the first phrase, ‘certain people have crept in unnoticed’. The question is, WHY was it unnoticed? Why didn’t the people notice the false teachers among them? It all starts with destructive heresies, ungodly men creeping in unnoticed. And why aren’t they noticed?
Because Christians today all too often fail to be familiar with the real thing, foregoing Bible study, quiet time, prayers, and worship, so that when the counterfeit shows up, being only subtly different from the Truth, it goes unnoticed.
Where do they creep into? They creep into houses, as was the custom of that day, and today, by television or podcast or books. They creep into the church as a tare. They creep in to the ministry as a false teacher. They creep in, and the majority of the population of the place are unaware.
At night, especially if you live in the south, or in a city apartment building in the north, cockroaches scamper about. While you sleep, they creep in to your cupboards and nibble on your food. They scuttle in, while you are sleeping unaware. They come out at night to eat and cavort over your clean counters, they creep in and you don’t notice them…until one day you spot a dropping. And another day another dropping, then a pile of droppings. Likening false teachers to cockroaches is an apt metaphor.
They creep in, they are unwelcome, they hide as long as they can, until the putrid fruit of their presence is detected. Southerners, knowing the frequency with which cockroaches like to invade, will protect the house. They have regular pest control measures. Do you want cockroaches crawling over your baby as he sleeps sweetly in the crib? Of course not! So protective measures are taken to keep the house free of pests.
So it should be with churches. Jude is a protective measure, dispensing wisdom from experience and a purity of truth from the Holy Spirit
Peter also is a protective measure against the pestilence of false teaching and the people who bring it. There is a parallel verse to Jude,
But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1).
Barnes’ Notes on Peter’s verse: “[T]here were artful and wicked men who had crept into the church, pretending to be religious teachers, but whose doctrines tended to sap the very foundations of truth. The apostle Peter, describing these same persons, says, “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.” See the notes, 2 Peter 2:1. Substantially the same idea is expressed here by saying that they “had crept in unawares;” that is, they had come in “by stealth;” they had not come by a bold and open avowal of their real sentiments. They professed to teach the Christian religion, when in fact they denied some of its fundamental doctrines; they professed to be holy, when in fact they were living most scandalous lives. In all ages there have been men who were willing to do this for base purposes.”
They creep in, and insinuate themselves into the minds and hearts of their prey. The prey, (us), are unaware they are being devoured by a predator, and when discovered can’t believe the wolf is really a wolf. “But he’s so nice!” they say. “She helped me!” they cry. “It can’t be true!” and they disbelieve this person or that certain person is really false. Like kudzu, overnight the tentacles have grown and clung on. Disentangling now is unworkable and difficult.
Meanwhile, as Barnes mentioned, what are the ‘base purposes’ for which they have crept in? We know one of them is greed. (2 Peter 2:3, 2 Corinthians 2:17). They have other appetites they want to satiate, too. (Romans 16:18). Whatever their base desires, they are immoral. Greed, lust, fame, pride…whatever it is that the false teacher seeks, they find it by preying on unwary Christians. They peddle His word for dishonest gain. They contradict holy precepts and upright living required by God of His people and especially of His ministers.
Too often we forget we are in a war. With all the talk of winsomeness and seekers and love…we forget that we give sin no quarter. We kill it. We forget that there are active and present enemies out to kill US, to draw us away, or to pollute our souls, or to deceive us. The enemy wants to destroy our witness. He wants to do anything against Christ that he can, and will stop at nothing short of God’s own boundaries to get it done.
We slay sin, we tear down philosophies, we anathematize false teachers. Those are fighting words. So, dear sister, fight!