Jesus said that one way we will be able to tell it is the end times is that false teachers will come. It has been the end time since He ascended and the latter days will end when He returns, but nonetheless, He also said that the end will come like a flood, and will be like birth pains. In other words, from the beginning of the period to the end, things will get worse and worse:
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)
Actually, when the disciples asked about the signs of the end of the age, the first sign Jesus gave was that there will be deception:
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“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:3-5).
When Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1, Paul said that ‘dangerous times will come’. That was a prophecy. John MacArthur expounds on the verses:
“The word “times” is the word “seasons” or epochs. And the picture here is the idea that during the period of the church age there will be seasons when the church is under great danger in perilous perilous condition. This is primarily due to the encroachment on the church of false teachers and false doctrine. Verse 13 says, “Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Evil men, impostors who come into the church rising from within become a tremendous danger to the church. False teachers and their product, false doctrine, and their converts, false Christians, are inevitable in the life of the church and exceedingly dangerous. We look at the church today and we know we’re in dangerous times. The church as we speak of it in the largest sense, Christianity or Christendom, is mixed up with all kinds of things. It is literally filled with false teachers propagating false doctrine being believed by false converts or false Christians. The church is filled with men and women who deny Scripture in their theology, who deny Scripture in their living.
The church tolerates that false teaching, tolerates that ungodly living. Even in some cases justifies it quite as it did in Ephesus where Timothy was when he received this letter from Paul. Only today it’s far worse than it was then because evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse and worse as you come closer to the coming of Christ.
We are 2,000 years nearer the coming of our Lord than the church at Ephesus and we then have to suffer the accumulation of deceit and false teaching through all of those centuries that is now encroaching upon the church today.”
The word ‘accumulation’ is a great way to put it. Not only has false teaching accumulated, more is coming in every day, in greater force and in greater number.
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Therefore, we know by the word of God that we are living in dangerous times and what is causing the danger is false doctrine. It is causing persecution from without and contentions from within. We usually think of danger as things like machine guns or unbalanced madmen, but in reality false teaching is a machine gun that kills just as surely as bullets do, and it is brought by unbalanced madmen who can’t think straight (Ephesians 4:17 and Romans 1:21).
With the fact of coming flood of false doctrine established, let’s turn to Jude for a moment. Jude 1:3 says says what to do about it,
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3)
Jude wrote that though he had other plans for his letter’s content, something had arisen which changed his mind. He used very strong language to indicate that his intent had been changed and he must now address a different topic. Various translations use the word
When Jude uses the word compelled or necessary, or must, he is using the Greek word anankēn, a root of anagke. This word means literally to “compress or to press tight. In human terms it indicates a compelling need requiring immediate action, i.e. in a pressing situation. The definition also means it calls for timely help, i.e. strong force needed to accomplish something compulsory or absolutely required.” (Strong’s)
Gills Exposition says of the verse, “by the “faith” is meant the doctrine of faith, in which sense it is used whenever faith is said to be preached, obeyed, departed, or erred from, or denied, or made shipwreck of, or when exhortations are made to stand fast, and continue in it
Jude found it necessary to warn the brethren to take action regarding the existing evils in the Church. Jude used the strongest terms possible to urge them to fight for the faith. By faith, Jude means doctrine.
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Yet we are living in strange times. Just as false doctrine is permeating everywhere, we are told to tolerate it. Just as people of the faith are littering the sea of the church in shipwrecks, we are told to step over them as they lay gasping and dying, so as not to offend them.
Jude did not say, “I planned to write to you about our common salvation but I see that false doctrine is coming in. If you think of it, would you address this? If you get a chance? Either way. But if someone makes a charge of intolerance or says that you are not loving by doing this, back off immediately and pray for forgiveness for your offense.”
Jude did not say, “There may be a false thing we need to take care of, but that’s for later. First, witness to the people by your actions, not your words, so they will see you’re not a hypocrite. Then after a few years when you’ve established a relationship based on common interests and mutual trust, mention to them delicately, without naming names! that sometimes false doctrine comes in. If you feel led. Or not.”
Brethren, it is obvious that addressing false doctrine is a must. Jude said to contend. Contending is contentious. That’s a fact. I’m not saying to BE contentious. But there is emotional and spiritual turmoil associated with combating false doctrine.
This is because people who gravitate to false doctrine are deceived, and no one likes to be told they are being deceived. There is intellectual pride there which must be dealt with by the person, and sometimes they get angry at you for exposing this to them. People who follow false teachers do so because the teacher’s teaching is comforting them in their flesh, and excising the flesh is always painful. (2 Timothy 2:17, Mark 9:47). People cling to false teaching because they like it. No one enjoys being told that something they like is bad for them. They have already invested too much, and their pride, comfort, personal reputation etc. is now tied into it.
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What does contending look like in practical terms? If you have a conversation with someone and they mention they enjoy watching Joyce Meyer, the person should be told that Joyce Meyer is a false teacher preaching heresy. If you have all the facts at your disposal, perhaps you can tell them this immediately. But more likely it is better to draw back, pray, gather the facts of why she is false and also why it is important to tell the person she is false, and take her aside at another time. This is what Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos. (Acts 18:24-28). He was a brother, he just had some facts wrong.
John Ed Mathison writes,
They took him aside!
“How do you deal with people when they have made a mistake and obviously you know how to help them? Knowing what to do is sometimes not as important as how we do it. In Acts 18:24 there was an interesting man by the name of Apollos who had become a convert to the Christian faith. He became a fervent disciple. He desired to teach and share his faith. His enthusiasm seemed to outrun the grounding of his intellectual understanding of God’s truth. He began to make a few errors. How do you handle somebody who is in error? It is easy to confront the person in front of a lot of people and make yourself look good by showing them their faults. Sometimes the practice is to go to somebody and tell them what someone else is doing wrong, without confronting the person who is actually making the mistake. Some people simply “pray about it.” Some people criticize the errors in an indirect manner. Priscilla and Aquila did the right thing. The Bible says “They took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26) They didn’t embarrass him. They didn’t pull rank on him. They took him aside in order to be helpful to him.”
Paul took another tack. When Peter was engaged in false doctrine and had done nothing to refute it, Paul opposed Peter to his face. (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul waded into the fray, willing to take the pain of conflict in contending with Peter, in order to defend the truth of the gospel. You see the emergency portion of the verse, “even Barnabas was led astray.” (Galatians 2:13). Failure to confront false doctrine means others get hurt! In the Galatians situation, Jews and Gentiles were split! Peter was passive, not leading in the authority of his office! Confusion, not unity, reined! And poor Barnabas was being led away by satan.
Roger R. Nicole said of contending for the faith in his article “How to deal with those who differ from me” (.pdf here), “We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). That does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it does involve avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, standing forth for the truth of God—without welching at any particular moment.”
Ultimately, it is up to you to do your part. This means:
–reading the bible so you know when false doctrine comes in the first place
–staying prayed up so your relationship with Jesus is fresh and alive
–loving others enough to risk emotional turmoil when contending for the faith
–honoring Jesus by being a good soldier and fighting the good fight
It’s up to you also to decide whether to confront privately or publicly. I’ve done both as different cases arose. The bible shows us several ways to contend and therefore all are correct, but not all are equally applicable to each situation. How you contend is between you and the Holy Spirit, but it must be done. Paul and Jude made no bones about that.
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The Christian Courier advises in their article, “Contend Earnestly for the Faith“
“Contending Is Not Contentiousness. There are some who have yet to learn the difference between contending for the faith and being contentious for the faith. Contending for the faith is a balanced proclamation and defense of the fundamental elements of gospel truth, whereas contentiousness is a wrangling disposition that generates ill will over inconsequential matters.” More at the link