Fake News Content Delivered by Deception
We continue this with our excursion through the book of Jude. In this session, we will visit the text marked verse 4 which reads For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord, in order to grasp what Jude was charging purveyors of Fake News! of teaching.
What Was Charged: 4
Jude informs his readers that certain men had secretly gained admission into their fellowship to who he was writing. He may have known who these men were. It is even possible that some of them could have been his converts. Imagine the conflict which must have been fighting with him as he preceded to confront these men whom he loved. This Greek term tis is common in the Second Testament to specify a specific group of people known to the readers (cf. Rom. 3.8; 1 Cor 4.18; 15.24; 2 Cor. 3.1; 10-12, Gal 1.7; 1 Tim. 1.3, 19). The language that Jude used presumed that these dubious rabble-rousers were roving prognosticators or teachers. It suggests that these troublemakers were itinerants who usually traveled with a band of followers.
In today’s world, there are many who fit this description who are part of ChurchWorld, but there are also folks who work outside of ChurchWorld who fit this description, namely, those in today’s media world who work on both right and left sides of the aisle.
The point of reference for today’s ChurchWorld is that the men and women who travel from gathering to gathering with a prophetic-styled ministry have accountability to a body of Jesus followers who are permanently located. This does not always bring final authority to a so-called prophet, but it is a move in the right direction. Roving prophets and teachers were not uncommon in early Christianity or its contemporary religious world in general. It still occurs in today’s version of ChurchWorld. The arrival of such teachers into a Christian community and their brand of trouble was not uncommon in the ecclesia gatherings of Jude’s day (Matt. 7.15; 2 Cor. 10-11; 1 John 4.1; 2 John 10).
One could translate have secretly slipped in by have entered without being noticed. The words slipped in indicates that the action of slipping in had occurred at one time and the ones who had slipped in had taken the initiative to do so. These men and maybe even women had joined the gatherings under false pretenses. They had slid into these gatherings undetected. Remember, these are roving teachers whom Jude may have known. Jude does not say how many there were. Only that they had come into the fellowship and settled alongside those who were already there. They mingled with the true people of God appearing to fellowship with them and pretending to hold to the same beliefs. They professed to be teaching Christian propositions and did it with great subtlety and finesse. There was no real fellowship because these men/women were counterfeit Christians—errorist, false, corrupt, and despicable.
One must remember that the early Jesus followers were a charismatic group of folks. The gracelets of the Spirit were alive and well, as they still are today. One of these gracelets is called the “discernings of Spirits.” This gift is mentioned in the listing of gracelets in 1 Corinthians 12.8-10. In my book Gracelets, I suggest that a way of defining this gracelet is “Perception empowered by the Spirit to judge the source of prophetic words, whether divine, human, or demonic.”[ref]Winn Griffin. Gracelets. 134.[/ref] In his book, Jesus and the Spirit, James D. G. Dunn suggests that this gracelet should be coupled with prophecy, that it should not be considered as an independent gracelet, but rather seen as a test for any prophecy, which would control the abuse of the gracelet of prophecy.[ref]James D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, 233.[/ref] This insight helps a community of faith to determine if what is being taught is from God or another source. Jude is suggesting that this gracelet was not in operation in their fellowships. If it had been, these men would never have been allowed to enter and teach.
For the first readers of Jude, the career of the false proclaimers of Fake News! should be recognizable because their career was written about before they arrived on the scene. In short, their condemnation was written about long ago. God had directed this condemnation to be written. The fate of these men and women had been spoken about before the event occurred. (For several different views of this text see Bauckham, [ref]Richard J. Bauckham. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 50, 2 Peter, Jude. 1983. 36[/ref]). The prediction was made in the Scriptures, and the condemnation, or sentence, was passed on them. Jude may have been saying to the fellowships that if you were better informed about what Scripture had taught about these false teachers you would not be in the fix you are in presently.
The following verses Jude 5-19 form a unit of material that substantiates the claim of this verse. The whole of Jude 5-19 serves as an explanation of whose condemnation was written about long ago. These illustrations are not all the prophecies that Jude could have had in mind. They are only the ones he chose to write about.
Jude wanted his readers to understand that these men and women are not headed for some destruction, but that their immoral behavior will induce God’s condemnation. Fake Newsers: Beware!
Two things were charged against these false teachers.
They are godless men, who change the grace of God into a license for immorality. The words godless men should be understood against their background.
According to Barclay, the original word is:
a very expressive word. It is used of the spacious and seductive words of a clever pleader seeping gradually into the minds of a judge and jury; it is used of an outlaw slipping secretly back into the country from which he has been expelled; it is used of the slow and subtle entry of innovations into the life of state, which in the end undermine and break down the ancestral laws. It always indicates a stealthy insinuation of something evil into a society or situation.[ref]William Barclay. Daily Study Bible: Jude, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/jude-1.html. accessed April 18, 2018[/ref]
In the Septuagint (LXX), the words carry the basic sense of irreverence. For the First Testament Jew, the commandments of God governed the whole of the conduct of men and women. The opposite of keeping the commandments was to be irreverent or ungodly. For Jude, the words godless men summed up the conduct of these false teachers. They were impious. They acted unrighteously because they had rejected the moral authority of God. Remember, they were Antinomians. They were free to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it. They believed that the worse their sin, the more the grace of God could abound. Paul had responded to this very idea in Romans 6. The false purveyors of Fake News were distorting the gospel message to justify their excessive immorality. Christian freedom was being made an excuse for immoral behavior. They were turning one thing into another, changing one thing for something else. They were perverting the grace of God into a license that permitted them to do excessively as they like. The Greek word connotes that they made the decision to be immoral and there was no cessation of their actions of immorality. They kept right on with their perversion of grace regardless of what may have been said. William Barclay[ref]William Barclay. Daily Study Bible: Jude, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/jude-1.html. accessed April 18, 2018[/ref] tells us that the word “godless men” used by Jude was a grim and terrible word. It described a person who had lost all sense of shame and did not care who saw his sin and immorality. He had ceased to care about decency at all.
And deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and lord. The word deny indicates that their denial was habitual conduct and action. The word told Jude’s reader that the perverting of grace and the denying were equally wrong. Both actions receive equal disdain and condemnation from Jude. There is a second and in this phrase that connects sovereign and lord, again indicating the equality of both of these titles as carrying equal value. The emphasis here is on sovereign and lord. In Jude’s mind, there was only one sovereign and lord and that was Jesus, over against the belief of the false teachers who may have believed in many sovereigns. Their denial was a form of embryonic Gnosticism. Remember, Gnosticism, as we have written previously, was a form of belief that was most dangerous at the close of the Second Century. It most likely began much earlier than this date. There had been a tremendous influx of Gentiles into the early church. This influx brought with it several elements of the Greek philosophical mindset. The basic presupposition of this philosophy was dualism. This dualism says that spirit was good and material was evil. Salvation was an escape from the realm of matter to spirit via knowledge. This conflict became most acute in the understanding of the person of Jesus. The Gnostic asked the question, “How could infinite pure spirit have anything to do with an evil material body?” There were two solutions to this dilemma:
First, Jesus was not really human—he only appeared to be. This view is called Docetism that came from the Greek word dekeo, which is defined as to seem. This made Jesus a ghost, an illusion; he seemed to be a man but had no real existence.
Second, Jesus’ spirit did not inhabit his body until his baptism and his spirit left before his death. This was called Cerinthianism, because of its leader, Cerinthus. This view made Jesus a Dr. Jekyll–Mr. Hyde; one did not know when Jesus was human or when he was divine.
The dualism of good and evil may be the background for what Jude says in verse 4a, …who changed the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
The process of being converted by Fake News! is the constant repetitiveness of the fake news that the purveyors provide for anyone who will listen. For the most part, listening is a passive task. So, the stuff that is being packed into your brains on a constant basis simply lodges there and without any active action on your part, you begin to think that what you have heard is real and true. But, it’s not. Often without knowing it, you and I get deceived. I have come to believe that this is one of the ploys of the enemy that seeks to destroy the followers of Jesus. Be aware of what you are listening to and reading. And above all, be an active listener, not a passive one. Question the source and the content before you buy into it and start trying to convince others of its rightness.
The August 2017 “Digital News Fact Sheet” put out by Pew[ref]Digital News Fact Sheet. AUGUST 7, 2017. http://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/digital-news/. accessed April 19, 2018[/ref] says the following:
In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) ever get news online (either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, “born on the web” news outlets.