These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. Jude 16
Sometimes you have to hit a nail several times before you’re really confident it will hold. You want the nail driven extra, extra deep because whatever it’s holding simply must not fall down. So, if you’re hanging your great-great-grandmother’s family heirloom decorative mirror, you’re probably going to make sure the nail that holds it in place is driven extra well. You’re going to hit it several times.
And sometimes the Bible is like that, too. Sometimes the biblical authors seem to hit the same nail again, and again, and again. Because there are certain biblical concepts that simply must not fall to the ground. And so the authors hit the same nail and say the same thing over, and over, and over again. And such is the case with Jude. He keeps coming back, time after time, to the false teachers and their characteristics. For, evidently, he really, really wants his readers to get it. He wants to make sure they can see and smell a heretic from a mile away. This biblical concept simply cannot fall to the ground … for, if it does, then some of Jude’s hearers will fall into hell, having been tripped up by the snares of the false teachers who have crept in among them.
So, with that in mind, bear with Jude as he hits the same nail a third time; as he rattles off another list of ways we can recognize the false teachers. Here in verse 16, he gives five of them. Let’s think each trait over, briefly ...
First, false teachers are characterized by grumbling. “These are grumblers” Jude says. They complain. They murmur. Why? Because they want everything their way. They are self-seeking divas. They are building an empire for themselves, not for God. And so, when things don’t go exactly the way they want; when people don’t fall in line, the whining begins!
Second, false teachers are characterized by accusing, or “finding fault”. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. When things don’t go according to their master plan, it can’t possibly be because they themselves are at fault; or because God is simply not blessing their heresy. No, it’s always someone else. And the offender has to be found out, so he can be rooted out or brought into line.
Third, false teachers are characterized by lusting. They follow after “their own lusts.” Again, the whole reason they are in ministry is to build a personal kingdom. Because, if you have power over people, then you can usually get what you want – the right car, the right salary package, the right women, and so on. And, yes, there are pastors that do this today! They have turned their pulpit into a throne … and are able to get away with opulence and even sexual sin because they have built an empire in which they are above the law.
Fourth, false teachers are characterized by boasting. “They speak arrogantly.” This is all part of the propaganda. In order to build up their control and authority; in order to increase their personal capital with their hearers … sermons, church events, anniversary celebrations, and so on are carefully contrived to make the pastor more and more of a celebrity; more and more of a demigod and a superman. Sometimes it’s his gifts that are accentuated. Other times it’s his learning. Sometimes it’s his ‘command’ over the spirits that is flaunted. And things like clothing and appearance all come under consideration as well. ‘How can I make myself appear to be as superhuman as possible?’ is the question these men are often asking themselves, even if subconsciously.
Fifth, false teachers are characterized by flattering. Some people won’t fall in line and worship the pastor simply because he appears to be almost a demigod. No, they’re not going to fall in line that easily. And what they need is a little flattering; a few extra pats on the back. And false teachers are almost always glad to give it. But this is not a pastor encouraging his people. It’s “flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” Because, again, the false teacher’s goal is often to build a little kingdom for himself. And if he has to butter a few people up in order to do so, so be it!
Now what’s the summary? False teachers are in it for themselves. That’s why they boast and flatter – to gain the adulation of their hearers. That’s why they grumble and accuse – to make anyone who dares oppose them look like either a buffoon or a renegade who opposes ‘God’s anointed.’ All of it is because of lust – a lust for power, and praise, and fame, and all the sensual pleasures that come with such things. So be careful of celebrity preachers. And be careful, too, of men who are not so famous … but whose actions and attitudes make it very clear that they’re dying to be so. God’s teachers build God’s kingdom. False teachers build their own.