Not everyone who claims to follow Christ does. Therefore, we must uplift the true body of Christ, always guarding against divisiveness.
But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. (Jude 1:17-21)
I’m certain that anyone reading these words has heard the phrase “wolves in sheep’s clothing” before.
This is exactly what the believers Jude was writing to were dealing with at the time of this letter. Jude stated that his intentions for writing were originally different (Jude 1:3). But his topic changed when he learned of what was happening.
The unfortunate truth is that there will always be some who will present themselves as bearing the truth of Christ who are in fact deceivers. That is why we as believers should always be prepared to use discernment when receiving teaching.
When we receive teaching in error, the end result will be division in the body of Christ. As believers it is our duty to be ever watchful, always guarding against divisiveness that comes from false teaching.
What False Teaching?
The believers that Jude was writing to were facing a problem. Some had entered their fellowship who were spreading erroneous teachings. Evidently, they were saying that since God’s grace was sufficient to cover all our sin, Christians are free to live immorally (Jude 1:4).
This teaching seems to have come up from time to time in the early church. Paul felt the need to write extensively about it (Romans 6). In truth, this is one of those arguments that seemingly never goes away. In current times, this idea that Christians can be oblivious to their sin has been labeled hyper-grace.
This of course is not true. As believers, we are called by Christ to holy living. We are encouraged to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) and to fellow believers (James 5:16).
Discerning the Truth
As we read about the spread of the gospel in the early church, we must remember that the early believers did not have a collection of New Testament writings to refer to. Early gentile believers also would not have had familiarity with the Old Testament writings to fall back on.
We, however, have the advantage of having an entire collection of Old and New Testament writings. With the Bible, we can put any teaching we hear to the test. The Bible will always reveal truth and expose error.
There is a group of people briefly mentioned in the book of Acts that we can take great example from.
Paul and Silas ventured to Berea and shared their message in the Jewish synagogue there. We are told that the Bereans – while being open-minded – also “searched the scriptures day after day” to test what Paul and Silas were teaching (Acts 17:10-11).
This is yet another reason to follow the disciplines – such as studying the Bible – that allow us to abide with Christ. When we spend time connecting intimately to Christ through His word, prayer, and fellowshipping with other believers, it gives us the ability to see the truth more clearly. It helps us in refuting error, and by extension guarding against divisiveness.
Guarding Against the Wolves
In our quest of guarding against divisiveness, we must be prepared to acknowledge that false Christians will attempt to enter and disrupt fellowships. Sometimes error can be chalked up to immaturity on the part of a believer young in the faith. But we also need to accept that some are truly seeking to take advantage of true followers.
Let me be clear here. I’m talking about a healthy, balanced awareness. I am not promoting seeing a villain around every corner. But to act as if there aren’t forces in opposition to us is naive.
Discernment can be especially difficult in today’s modern church and its wide-open views towards attending services. It is easier for attendees to live “on the surface” and make assumptions about another person’s faith.
This can only be addressed by pursuing deep, abiding fellowship – the kind that produces a love that the world recognizes as unique to followers of Christ. In doing so, we can recognize the mature and new followers, and discern the true followers from the false ones.
Regardless of your fellowship experience(s), the need to promote truth and counter error remains the same. This requires us to have a mature knowledge of our faith and continually putting it to use in discerning right and wrong (Hebrews 5:14).
Keeping the Fellowship
Given this, it should a goal of every believer to cultivate strong relationships based on our common faith within their local fellowship, whatever that looks like.
Our acts of fellowship can look like many different things, but at the root of our gatherings should always be to “build each other up” in our faith, as Jude says.
We must always remember that now that we belong to Christ, we reside in a foreign territory. Therefore, we must be diligent to always be guarding against divisiveness introduced by those who would take advantage of us. If we don’t take the time to lift each other up in prayer, peace, joy, accountability, knowledge, and love, who will?
And in so doing, we will strengthen our spiritual muscles and build a unity that will be better prepared to guard against error that can be brought against us. Again, as Jude says in today’s passage, we will keep ourselves safe in God’s love.
More Bible verses about guarding against divisiveness:
Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 1:9-10; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 4:1