The mystery of lawlessness was already working (II Thessalonians 2:7). The false church appropriated the true church's central figure—its savior, Jesus Christ—but rejected the law of God and turned His grace into license (Jude 4; see Titus 1:16). By rejecting the law of God and inserting pagan beliefs, they really also rejected the central figure, Christ, as well, which is very interesting to consider. A dichotomy is produced. They accept the name of Christ, the central figure, the great hero, then turn right around and reject His law. It is double-mindedness, and yet people fall for it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)
Of all people, we who have left the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in the past decade should be most aware of the antinomian spirit working in the church of God. The doctrinal changes that began to be instituted mere months after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong had as their goal the removal of God's law, particularly the Sabbath, from the church's beliefs. WCG's subsequent heavy emphasis on "grace" and "love," along with its renunciation of "legalism" exposed its antinomian position. Because of these changes, it has joined evangelical Protestant "Christianity" to the point that it now worships on Sunday, encourages celebration of Christmas and Easter, and permits the use of crucifixes and images of "Jesus" by its ministry and membership and in its publications.
The "Christian" churches of this world are predominantly antinomian to some extent. Both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism belong to what can be termed Hellenistic Christianity, that is, a form of Christianity heavily influenced by Greek philosophies, particularly Gnosticism. Catholicism is the more moderate of the two, having retained obedience to the Church and its traditions as well as requiring certain works for salvation. However, its belief of the afterlife, with its levels of heaven, limbo, purgatory, and beatific vision - not to mention its belief in an immortal soul - brand it as Gnostic.
Protestantism is more antinomian, having rejected Catholicism's works during the Reformation. Martin Luther's doctrine of salvation by grace "through faith alone" removes God's law from the equation altogether. Pure Protestant theology is so antinomian that it claims that lawkeeping in any form - which it terms "legalism" - is detrimental to the soul's growth in spirituality. This form of Christianity also champions the doctrine of eternal security, the idea that, once one accepts Jesus, he can never lose his salvation, no matter what sins he commits ("once saved, always saved"). This doctrine knocks out law and judgment for sin in one blow.
Of course, the world itself is antinomian because it is under the sway of Satan the Devil, who despises God's law (Ephesians 2:2; I John 5:19; Romans 8:7). He even tried his antinomian tricks on Jesus, who countered with quotations from the law (Matthew 4:1-10)! Certainly, our adversary will tempt us similarly, trying to get us to put God's law aside so we can fulfill our desires.
Jesus, however, in his prayer in John 17, asks God to help us in this, and He also gives us the antidote to antinomianism:
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep [guard, protect] them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (verses 15-17)
Knowing God's truth and practicing it to become holy will protect us from the rampant antinomianism of this world, this age that is soon to end. Still to come are the Beast and his False Prophet, who will exemplify this anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-law spirit. To endure to the end, to survive the mystery of lawlessness that will mark the end time, we must hold fast to God's Word and seek His righteousness. "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the [New Jerusalem]" (Revelation 22:14).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
In verse 4, Jude gives a few general points about false teachers. The literal translation of the first part is, "For certain men have wormed their way in." They slithered in like snakes without others being aware, on the sly. God, however, marked them out as enemies a long time ago; He knows they are there. This agrees with Jesus' Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:1). There, God allowed the adversary to sow the tares among the wheat, but He left them in the field for a reason. Paul says in I Corinthians 11:19 that they are left to show "who are approved" and who is not. Over time, God's enemies are shown in stark contrast to His true children.
Jude calls these false teachers "ungodly" or impious. The word "ungodly" crops up six times in the book of Jude, making it a significant word in the epistle. It means "irreverent" or "impious." People who are ungodly are not afraid to contravene God's way because they do not have the fear of God. They simply do what they feel like doing. They have nothing in common with God. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to think of them as "extreme" because, as II Corinthians 11:13-15 says, Satan transforms his ministers into angels of light. They look good on the outside, but on the inside they are ungodly. Their externals may be deceiving, but their fruits give them away.
The apostle also mentions that they are blatantly immoral, turning God's grace into licentiousness. They believe that the more they sin, the more they allow God to shower them with His grace and mercy, twisting what grace is. They think they are glorifying God by giving Him the opportunity to forgive them more. How ridiculous! How perverse!
Lastly, they deny Christ. This does not mean they say that Christ never existed or that He is not the Savior. However, everything they say and do, everything they believe, contradicts God's way. If one denies a statement, he is contradicting the person who says it. Jude is using "deny" in this sense. The false teachers contradict Jesus Christ in everything. Once again, they can appear to be following the rules, but their innermost drives and motivations are a denial of the true way of God.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Contrary to popular belief, we live in one of the most difficult and dangerous ages in all of human history. Some would be willing to argue this, saying that civilization has come a long way and that mankind is not as cruel as the record of history shows that he once was. Certainly living in the first century in the Roman Empire must have been difficult, they might say as an example, since we have the Bible's account of the apostles living in constant danger—and most of them died horrible deaths!
That is true. From what the Bible shows, that constant danger promoted closeness to God; the apostles relied on God to keep them safe and provide deliverance for them at every turn. While we are not being hunted down for our religious beliefs, the danger we face today is far greater—spiritually—in that it does just the opposite: It promotes a slow separation from God. We know this kind of danger by the illustration of the frog in the pot of water. The increase in temperature happens so slowly that the frog fails to realize that it is in trouble until it is too late to jump to safety.
What produces this danger for us, the called-out children of God? What is the signature attitude of the era that we live in? What failing among the majority of people will cause the loss of our freedoms and the downfall of our nation? It is compromising with the laws and principles of God.
We live in a nation that has largely compromised the character it once possessed. Just a minority uphold the Christian principles that underlay documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which provided the foundation for America to become the envy of the world. Now, so many are willing to trade their hard-won freedoms for a little temporary security, essentially selling their birthright.
We face an analogous situation among the greater churches of God. We live in a time when the majority of those with whom we once fellowshipped have compromised the beliefs they used to hold dear. Many of these people have joined worldly churches, or worse, losing faith altogether, have slipped back into the world. Some have contrived strange new doctrines to live by, and despite attending services among the scattered churches, too many have nearly lost their faith and zeal for this way of life.
In our church history, we can see how deadly even a little compromising with God's ways is. It almost always leads to greater compromises until a person is so far from what has been revealed in Scripture that he has apostatized, cutting himself off from God. What a sad end after such a promising start!
In these perilous times, it is of the utmost importance that we resist the urge to use our human reasoning to compromise with God's law. We must be particularly careful in what we perceive as the "smaller areas" of God's Word. Why? Because Satan often makes his greatest inroads by getting us to relax in little things and gradually convincing us to do the same in more vital matters. If he can just get his foot in the door, he feels he has won a great victory and can make us slip away from God. Paul, however, exhorts us, ". . . nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27).
Once we compromise, the process of sin has commenced, and godly character, which is so precious to God, begins to erode, opening the way for sin on a larger scale. If a wise man like Solomon went from ignoring a seemingly obscure admonition to the flagrant breaking of many of God's commandments, we, too, can certainly yield to the peril of compromise. We must learn to spot and avoid the little compromises that lead to big sins.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Licentiousness or lewdness is not a sin of weakness but one of willful disobedience. Licentious people do things that are really wild. Some look upon God's grace and kindness as an excuse to sin, saying, in effect, that His kindness does away with law, so we are free to do as we please. Essentially, they suppose that, somehow or another, the government of God is done away.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace
The 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant surmised, "Freedom is the birthright of man; it belongs to him by right of his humanity, in so far as this consists with every other person's freedom."
It is ironic that while many people in the United States feel a sense of increased "freedom" in areas of personal immorality and unethical behaviors, their civil freedoms have been steadily eroding all around them. Laws are passed every day by lawmakers that restrict the freedom of movement and activity we have so long enjoyed and taken for granted. Many of these laws trample our constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. Unrealized is the fact that this loss of physical freedom is a reflection of the willful disregard for the laws of God.
In his early-20th-century book, The Civilized Mind, Lynn Harold Hough wrote this insightful statement,
The escape from the Ten Commandments through violating them has never kept its promise of giving a new freedom. The experience is like the attempt to escape from the law of gravitation by defying it. The result is likely to be at least a bad fall. The philosophy of license is really a network of clever lies. The apostles of license are all the while promising that which they cannot give. You cannot become free physically by defying the laws of nature. And you cannot become free morally by defying the laws of ethics.
Is it wise to give the government heavier chains to restrict freedom? At what point do these "benevolent" chains become the chains of slavery to an unholy tyrant? The answer is the point at which a nation and its leadership reject the instruction of a righteous, benevolent God. Only God can guarantee liberty. It is not enough to say we are Christians; we have to live as Christ lived.
True Christians can take comfort in this: The laws of God and the freedom they guarantee stand solidly and immutably in place for those whose thoughts and actions are based on love. Not even the conspiring governments of this world can destroy that.
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:13-15)
Our true freedom is not in the protections and guarantees of any earthly government but in the liberty assured by God Himself to those who live their lives in benevolent service to one another.
Martin G. Collins
Called to Liberty
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jude 1:4: