by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Like many of you, I have been tracking the latest news about the coronavirus. Specifically, this issue has become a point of discussion in the ethics course I teach at a local university. As of March 3, there have been over 90,000 confirmed cases in more than 70 countries, with more than 3,000 confirmed deaths. According to the CDC, there are now 100 confirmed cases in the United States with six people dying from the virus. While, to date, more people have died due to the annual flu, the fear of the unknown about the coronavirus has crippled the entire world.
While keeping up to date on the coronavirus, I am also doing a study on the book of Jude. This study has been a great reminder on the impact that false teaching can have in the church. What has stood out to me in this study is how false teaching spreads, since it does not come from outside the church but within. As Jude states, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation.” The Greek word for crept literally means “enter in secretly by stealth.” Thus, the deception of false teaching lies in the fact that it originates from those who appear to be genuine believers but, in reality, oppose the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, already entrenched inside the church, they can use this position to quickly and effectively spread their deceptive message. As the apostle Peter warned, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies… and many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1, 2).
While we are still learning more each day about the coronavirus, aspects of how this virus spreads are similar to Jude’s warning about false teachers in the church. We know that the coronavirus can be spread by people who show no symptoms (asymptomatic and appear to be healthy), so too, false teaching is sometimes spread by those who outwardly appear to be a genuine follower of Jesus but on the inside are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “ravenous/vicious wolves” (Acts 20:29).
In addition, just as experts believe that the coronavirus had already been in the U.S. for several weeks prior to the first official confirmed case, false teachers are already implanted in the church, infecting others with their false teaching.
At the advice of the CDC, many people have taken precautionary steps to address a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in their community. From having extra food, water, nutritional supplements and cleaning products, to a simple game plan if schools and other public facilities close down, the CDC advises people to be proactive rather than reactive to the potential impact that this may have on everyday life. So, too, Christians must be proactive and not reactive in dealing with the spread of false teaching in the church. In fact, this preparation is of greater significance than preparing for the coronavirus as it deals with issues of eternal significance.
As we continue to watch and prepare for the coronavirus, may we also watch and prepare for false teaching in our churches. By being a student of God’s Word, and one who daily seeks God in prayer (Jude 1:20), we can be ready to contend for the faith against the virus of false teaching that attacks the very hearts and souls of those it infects.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we can stand firm in the face of these threats because of WHO our faith rests in. As Jude concludes his letter, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24, 25).”