Have you ever thought as a believer what the first century Church was like, when all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were simply called "Christians" ? Now in this age of electronics and high speed travel many Christians are not really exhorting each other to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Both Paul and Jude used the word "contend". Paul used it to discuss how Christians fight a spiritual battle against evil (Ephesians 6:12) and run a race for the incorruptible crown (I Corinthians 9:25). Jude urged Christians to "earnestly contend for the faith", which is the body of Christian doctrine passed down from Jesus Christ to His apostles once for all and believed by the Christian community. Jude exhorted his listeners to earnestly contend for the faith by battling against the poisonous doctrine of false teachers and faithfully teaching God's people, truth in the race they run for the Lord (Hebrews 12:1).
Even the first century Church had false teachers proclaiming there false way of salvation that sounded extremely close to the truth. Not only did they attack Christianity from outside the Church, but they also infiltrated the body of Christ creeping in "unawares" or unnoticed (Jude 4) and sinisterly distorted the Gospel of Christ by "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4). These false teachers were ungodly men claiming that people who received God's grace were free to live anyway they chose. They failed to teach that true saving faith leads to a transformed life (Romans12:1-2).
The New Testament is filled with warnings about people who teach false doctrine. Jesus cautioned that "ravening wolves" will come in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). But we will be able to discern their true nature and "by their fruits" we will know them by the way they handle the Word of God. False teachers handle the Word of God "deceitfully" (2 Corinthians 4:2) and bring in "damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). Paul warned "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them' (Acts 20:28-30).
Examples of false teaching (partial list) :
1. Theistic evolution : Evolution is true and was used by God.
2. Emerging church : There is no absolute truth.
3. Prosperity gospel : God wants you rich and happy.
4. Universalism : Everyone goes to heaven.
5. Preterism : All prophecy was fulfilled in A.D.
6. Open theism : God does not know the future.
7. Social gospel : The church's first priority is to help the poor and that salvation can be attained by works.
It should be as no surprise that mockers and scoffers are in our churches today (2 Peter3:3),(Jude 17-18). Jude described them as "murmurers, complainers, walking after own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage" (Jude 16).
Three things a Christian must do in these last days while we earnestly contend for the faith. Jude listed three practical essentials for true Christians that will help you detect and avoid false teachers and they are easy to remember (Jude 20-21). Keep growing (2 Peter 3:18), keep praying (I Thessalonians 5:17), and keep trusting (I Thessalonians 5:24). "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 20-21).
No matter what false teachers say, nothing can destroy the truth about our God the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful Christians who desire to serve the Lord should keep growing, praying, and trusting. These are essentials, and they will give you the discernment you need to recognize and resist false doctrine.