Complete in Christ

What does it mean when Paul says he aims to present every man complete in Christ?

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all (B)wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

Sanctification is not something described as an automatic process. Believers need instruction to promote their growth in godliness. This instruction focuses on Jesus Christ, not some counterfeit theology. The authentic Jesus with the doctrines we call Christology and Soteriology… these are truths about who Jesus is, and what he accomplished in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

There are two things we NEED:

  1. Teaching – instruction from others. (positive)
  2. Warning – help in order to avoid wrong behavior and attitudes. (negative)

Think about it… WHICH of these do you prefer to hear?

WHAT should be the ratio in each sermon you’ve heard or Bible study your attended? The KEY is WISDOM, in order to be effective. We need to pray for teachers and preachers, leaders given by God to help mature believers in their faith.

The PURPOSE of all of this Paul writes about is to present every man complete in Christ. This is what Paul mentions in passages like in Colossians 1:22.

Does Paul mean that EVERY person will be presented complete, saved, and transformed? Meaning, does Paul preach Universalism? Here he means everyone (Jew as well as Gentile) rather than everyone, like everybody. The issue of the day meant that Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians.

WHAT were Paul’s means of accomplishing his goal?

  1. Proclaiming Christ (Colossians 1:28)
  2. Preaching God’s Word (Colossians 1:25).

Of all the topics that can be taught in a class or from the pulpit, it is worth nothing without the proclamation of the gospel. If someone is not saved, a good “how-to” or encouraging message is like putting a new suit on a corpse (think about Joel Osteen’s messages). The gospel is what transforms a person from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness into his kingdom of light.

And what IS the gospel? Remember 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

What IS the Gospel Slide

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Lessons from People of Faith

This is the third lesson from the little post card of Jude. He goes on to encourage God’s people to persevere in spite of the danger that faced them.

The Reminder to Remember the Apostles’ Warning (Jude 1:17–19)
The apostles had warned that scoffers would arise in the end times who would follow their own ungodly desires. Jude’s quotation of the apostles’ teaching is a general summary rather than a specific reference. It is the “last times” in relation to Jesus Christ’s return to reign on earth. While they may have claimed to be the truly spiritual group, the false teachers were really worldly minded and shared the viewpoint of unbelievers.

  1. The apostles had warned the coming generation about apostates, so that they would be prepared and not be taken by surprise (Acts 20:28–31; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2; 2 Timothy 3:1–5; 4:1–3; 2 Peter 2:1–3:4; 1 John 2:18; 2 John 1:7–11). God’s Word is designed to warn and protect (Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14); as Jude 1:18 indicates, there had been continually repeated warnings (all saying to you).
  2. Last time: This term refers to the time of Messiah from His first coming until His second (2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18). These characteristics will prevail until Christ returns.
  3. Mockers: As in 2 Peter 3:3, these are the scoffers at God’s future plans who pretend to know the truth but deny that judgment will ever come; choosing to follow ungodly lust.
  4. Jude’s profile of an apostate:
    1. Ungodly (Jude 1:4)
    2. Morally perverted (Jude 1:4)
    3. Deny Christ (Jude 1:4)
    4. Defile the flesh (Jude 1:8)
    5. Rebellious (Jude 1:8)
    6. Revile holy angels (Jude 1:8)
    7. Dreamers (Jude 1:10)
    8. Ignorant (Jude 1:10)
    9. Corrupted (Jude 1:10)
    10. Grumblers (Jude 1:16)
    11. Fault finders (Jude 1:16)
    12. Self seeking (Jude 1:16)
    13. Arrogant speakers (Jude 1:16)
    14. Flatterers (Jude 1:16)
    15. Mockers (Jude 1:18)
    16. Cause division (Jude 1:19)
    17. Worldly minded (Jude 1:19)
    18. Without the Spirit (Jude 1:19)

The Positive Instruction of the Readers (Jude 1:20–23)
Since believers are God’s temples under attack by hostile enemy forces, we need to build ourselves up, to strengthen ourselves spiritually, and to pray for God’s help in our warfare. We should also keep ourselves in the sphere of God’s love by abiding in Him (John 15:9–10), and we should keep our hope clearly in view since we have only a short time to remain faithful. Christians should help those who are struggling and perhaps stumbling under the influence of these false teachers and should attempt to restore those who have fallen into error. In the case of those whom heresy has completely swept away, we should have pity on them rather than condemning them without compassion. We should fear God’s displeasure and discipline if we embrace their error. We should avoid any contact with these people because of the corrupting influence they can have on us through their words and actions.

  1. Building: True believers have a sure foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) and cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) in Jesus Christ. The truths of the Christian faith have been provided in the teaching of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), so that Christians can build themselves up by the Word of God (Acts 20:32).
  2. Praying in the Holy Spirit: Simply a call to pray consistently in the will and power of the Spirit, as one would pray in the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26, 27).
  3. Waiting: An eager anticipation of Christ’s second coming to provide eternal life in its ultimate, resurrection form (Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:1–3), which is the ultimate expression of God’s mercy on one to whom Christ’s righteousness has undeservedly been imputed.
  4. Some (Jude 1:22, 23): They are: 1) sincere doubters who deserve compassion (Jude 1:22), 2) those who are deeper in unbelief and urgently need to be pulled from the fire (Jude 1:23); and 3) those declared disciples of apostasy who still deserve mercy, but are to be handled with much fear (Jude 1:23).

Conclusion (Jude 1:24–25)

Jude concluded his brief epistle with a formal doxology that included a prayer for his readers. His benediction (or doxology) is one of the most known in the NT (Romans 11:33–36; 16:25–27; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 13:20, 21). He wanted to assure them of God’s ability to help them remain faithful in spite of the apostasy that threatened them. Our confidence rests in God’s ability to keep us safe and faithful. Jude returned to the theme of salvation which he had hoped to develop at the beginning (Jude 1:3).

Lessons from Present Failures

As we continue taking a look at the little post card of Jude, we find lessons that could be right out of the news today.

Present Failures (Jude 1:8–16)
Jude next expounded the errors of the false teachers in his day to warn his readers even more strongly. Jude referred to certain Old Testament “types” (Jude 1:5–7, 11) and prophecies (Jude1:14–15, 17–18) and then interpreted them as fulfilled by the false teachers (Jude 1:8–10, 12–13, 16, 19).

He first exposed the nature of their error (Jude 1:8–9). Like dreamers living in the fancies of their own imaginations, the apostates substituted an unreal world for the real world of divine truth. Their presumption stands out boldly in comparison with Michael’s submission and reverence in dealing with another powerful angel, Satan. Michael could not reject the devil’s accusation on his own authority because he was not his judge. All he could do was ask the Lord, who alone is Judge, to condemn Satan for his slander.

Michael is the chief angel of God who especially watches over Israel (Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1) and leads the holy angels (Revelation 12:7). Nowhere else in Scripture is this struggle over the body of Moses mentioned. Michael had to fight with Satan to do God’s will, as he did on another occasion in Daniel 10:13.

Regarding the body of Moses: Moses died on Mt. Nebo in Moab without entering the Promised Land and was secretly buried in a place not known to man (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6). It would likely be that this confrontation took place as Michael buried Moses to prevent Satan from using Moses’ body for some twisted purpose. Perhaps Satan wanted to use it as an idol, an object of worship for Israel. God sent Michael to be certain it was buried. This account was recorded in the pseudepigraphal Assumption of Moses.

Jude next explained the seriousness of the error of the false teachers (Jude 1:10–13). The things they did “not understand but reviled” probably refer to aspects of God’s revealed will that they chose to reject. What they did understand was the gratification of the flesh, and that would destroy them (Jude 1:11).

  1. Cain’s way was the way of godlessness and sensuality, violence and lust, greed and blasphemy, that led to divine judgment (Genesis 4). He rebelled against God’s way of salvation and acceptable sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22, Ephesians 1:7). We are not able to come to God on our own terms, but on God’s terms. We cannot work to earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). The way of Cain is religion without faith, righteousness based on character and good works. His is the way of pride, man establishing his own righteousness and rejecting righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ (Romans 10:1-4, Philippians 3:3-12). Cain ended up with everything he could desire, except God.
  2. Balaam’s error was compromise with God’s enemies and teaching the Israelites they could sin without being punished (Numbers 31:16). Balaam devised a plan for Balak, king of Moab, to entice Israel into a compromising situation with idolatry and immorality which would bring God’s own judgment on His people. The way of Balaam is using one’s gifts and ministry to make money; using the spiritual to gain the material. These false teachers were in it for greedy gain. Balaam’s error was thinking that he could get away with anything for money. This true prophet prostituted his gift. The Revelation mentions the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14), the ability to violate their special position and get away with it. A little friendship with the world can’t really hurt you. But they turned the grace of God into a license to sin (Jude 1:4).
  3. Korah’s rebellion was against God and His appointed leaders, Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1–35). Korah, plus 250 Jewish leaders, rejected Moses and Aaron in an attempt to impose his will upon God and the people. They rebelled against God’s leader and dared God to do anything about it. How often do we speak against God’s leaders (Titus 3:1-2)? Apostates will unquestionably meet the same end as Korah—divine judgment.

Each of these three examples shows a different aspect of unbelief. Six more illustrations, this time from nature, emphasize the seriousness of the false teachers’ error (Jude 1:12–13).

  1. Hidden reefs” can be taken as “hidden rocks” or as “stains” or “filthy spots” (Jude 1:12). These apostates were dirt spots, filth on the garment of the church; or more likely, what God intended for the church as smooth sailing, they turned into a potential shipwreck through their presence. The “love feasts” were the regular gathering of the early church to partake of the bread and cup, plus share a common meal (1 Corinthians 11:20–30).
  2. Feast” or “selfish shepherds” (Jude 1:12). The word translated feeding can also be shepherding. Instead of shepherding the flock, they only took care of themselves. Their actions were without fear, such arrogance. There is a difference between a true shepherd and a hired hand.
  3. Clouds without water” (Jude 1:12, 2 Peter 2:17). Apostates promise spiritual life but are empty clouds which bring the hope of rain, but actually deliver nothing but dryness and death (Proverbs 25:14). They preach a false gospel that leads only to destruction. They promised liberty but delivered only bondage (2 Peter 2:19).
  4. Dead trees” or “Trees without fruit” (Jude 1:12). Apostates holding out the claim of providing a spiritual feast, but instead deliver famine (Luke 13:6–9). They are not only fruitless, they are rootless. Doubly dead trees will never yield fruit and, regardless of what they say, will always be barren because they are uprooted (Matthew 7:17–20). Contrast these people with Psalm 1:1-3). True evidence of salvation is spiritual fruit (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Their seed did not produce fruit. They lacked spiritual life.
  5. Wild waves” (Jude 1:13). Apostates promise powerful ministry, but are quickly exposed as wreakers of havoc and workers of worthless shame (Isaiah 57:20). The ocean can be a peaceful place, but I would not want to be on the water during a noreaster. Like the swell of the sea, they make a lot of noise and churn up foam and debris.
  6. Wandering stars” (Jude 1:13). This is not a fixed star, but most likely refers to a meteor or shooting star which has an uncontrolled moment of brilliance and then fades away forever into nothing. Apostates promise enduring spiritual direction, but deliver a brief, aimless, and worthless flash. Christians are to be shining lights in a dark world (Philippians 2:15).

We can see from these descriptions, we must be diligent to recognize them and keep them out of the church. They are not interested in building up the body of Christ but satisfying their own lusts. They murmur and complain, Christians are commanded not to do this (Philippians 2:14-16). They use great words to sway the ignorant, those who don’t know any better (2 Peter 2:18). They are full of hot air and use flattery to manipulate others. There is something about fallen human nature that loves to believe a lie and even follow it, no matter where it may lead.

Jude further warned of the consequences of their error (Jude 1:14–16). He quoted loosely from these non-canonical, pseudepigraphal writings (meaning, the actual author was not the one named in its title) (Jude 1:14, 9). He does these to support his points. Was this acceptable? Since Jude was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21) and included material that was accurate and true, he did nothing differently than Paul (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12). The point is that false teachers would be the objects of God’s judgment. Much like the former grumblers, the false teachers in Jude’s day grumbled primarily against God. They pursued their lusts for sensuality and gain (Jude 1:15, 16).

All we know about Enoch is found in Genesis 5:18-24 and Hebrews 11:5. He was the seventh from Adam to identify him as the godly Enoch from the ungodly one (Genesis 4:17) in Cain’s line. Enoch’s original message was likely about the coming Flood. False teachers mocked the prophecies of coming judgment. Enoch’s judgment had characteristics:

  1. It will be a personal judgment: God will judge the world but he will not send a famine or flood or assign an angel to take care of it, God himself will do it (James 5:9). It shows the seriousness of the event.
  2. While it is a personal judgment, God will not come alone: He will bring his holy ones (Jude 1:14), meaning the angels (Deuteronomy 33:2, Matthew 25:31) or the people of God Revelation 19:14, Colossians 3:4, 1 Thessalonians 3:13). The tables will be turned.
  3. It will be a universal judgment: It will be upon all and no one will escape. All but those in the ark died; all but Lot and his daughters died; it will be the day of judgment (2 Peter 3:7).
  4. It will be a just judgment: God will convict (convince) men of sin, declare them guilty, pass sentence and execute judgment. There will be a judge but no jury; a prosecution but no defense; a sentence but no appeal. God will have their record open; their deeds, motives and thoughts. He will recall the “hard speeches” (Jude 1:15) spoken against the Lord, words that were harsh, rough, stern and uncivil. Remember they were murmurers and complainers (Jude 1:16) unafraid to speak out against God (2 Peter 2:10) with great swelling words (2 Peter 2:18, Jude 1:16).

How long will God wait? The children ask (Psalm 94:3-4, 50:3).

The Godless without Faith

Chapter two of Second Peter brings the whole topic of false teachers. Ever since the time of Christ there have been those who twist the teachings of Jesus and the doctrines of the church. At times these differences have brought about greater understanding and clarity involving theology, like during the Reformation. Other times brought about significant deviation from the truth, which have been called heresies.

  1. Why do people follow false teachers?
  2. What are some false teachers they have been aware of in the last few years.
  3. What motivates false teachers to work their way into churches? (Several of Paul’s letters are written to refute false teaching and false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:3–15, Galatians 2:1–5; 1 Timothy 6:3–5).
  4. What kind of tactics do false teachers use to gain followers?
  5. Why will there be certain punishment for those who turn others away from God?

Jesus was warning the people of His day to be on the lookout for gifted leaders who would take advantage of them and lead them astray. They would be men who looked good on the outside but were corrupt on the inside. They would perform well. To put it bluntly, great preachers are not necessarily great Christians.The people can be fooled and led astray.

The best picture of what a Spirit-filled man looks like is Christ. His life was characterized by the Fruit of the Spirit in the midst of a world characterized by just the opposite of those characteristics.

  1. Jesus stood up to His opponents when it was appropriate, but He also knew when to be silent.
  2. He had the courage and wit to take on the intellectuals of His day on their turf according to their terms.
  3. He spoke with authority.
  4. People, especially children, were attracted to Him. Even sinners loved to be with Him.
  5. He was a very secure man. There was nothing pretentious or intimidating about Him.
  6. He didn’t need those props.
  7. At the end of His life He tackled the toughest account of all—death. And He won!

Questions to Consider:

  1. What makes false teachers popular today?
  2. How can we recognize false teaching?
  3. There are times when we need to confront and expose sin in the life of other believers. What are some guidelines for deciding when that is appropriate?

Commentary:

Peter warned his readers of the false teachers who presented a message contradictory to that of the apostles. He wrote of the characteristics of false teachers, the consequences of their teaching, their conduct, and their condemnation.

The Characteristics of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1–3)
False prophets in Old Testament times sought to lead God’s people away from the revelations of the true prophets, and false teachers in Peter’s time tried to lead God’s people away from the teaching of the apostles. The heretics added some of their own false teaching to the orthodox faith, thereby denying the One they professed to submit to as Christians. Their judgment would be sudden. Reckless and hardened immorality would accompany their doctrinal error. False teachers typically desire to satisfy themselves rather than God, which leads them to take advantage of their audiences. God is never late or asleep in executing justice, though He is patient (see 2 Peter 3:9).

The Consequences of False Teaching (2 Peter 2:4–10a)
Peter next described the consequences that follow false teaching to help his readers see the importance of avoiding it. He gave three examples of apostates in the past.

  1. His first example is the angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4), an example of how the devil works.
  2. His second example is the unbelievers of Noah’s day (2 Peter 2:5), an example of the world.
  3. The third example (2:6) is the turning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, an example of the flesh.

All three examples show that God will not only punish the wicked, but will also rescue the righteous from the judgment He will send on the ungodly who surround them.

The Conduct of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:10b–19)
Peter emphasized the conduct of false teachers in order to motivate his readers to turn away from them. Rather than behaving as good angels do, the false teachers acted like animals. Peter believed the false teachers therefore deserved treatment similar to that of animals. God will give them punishment in keeping with their crimes. Their practices were similar to stains on the clean fabric of the church, blemishes on its countenance, since the practitioners claimed to be Christians. The false teachers sinned without restraint and lured people not firmly committed to Jesus Christ to join them. They were also trying to get the Christians to participate in idolatry and immoral practices. Like the springs and mists Peter described (2 Peter 2:17), the false teachers failed to deliver what they promised and so were hypocrites. They appealed to their audiences with boastful words, promising more than they could deliver. They appealed to people who were only just escaping from those who live in error, probably new Christians and/or older carnal ones who were still in the process of making a final break with their pagan practices.

The Condemnation of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:20–22)
Peter focused in these verses on the false teachers’ final doom to warn his readers of the serious results of following their instruction. The false teachers in view had evidently heard the gospel preached and fully understood the apostles’ teaching that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior but had rejected it. They only escaped the defilements of the world in the sense that they had understood the gospel, which liberates sinners. But they had thrown away their key to deliverance and had thereby become entangled and overcome again by the defilements of the world. Their first state was also eternal damnation without having heard the gospel, but their final state was eternal damnation for having rejected the gospel.

It would have been better for the false teachers never to have gained full knowledge of God’s commandment regarding holy behavior than having gained it to reject it. Dogs return to corruption that comes from within themselves, and pigs return to filth they find outside themselves. False teachers do both things.