Jude, Part 2

The Appeal

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (NIV)

In just a few words, Jude gives his readers the reason why he is writing to them. Characteristic of this entire, compact epistle, these two verses are packed with meaning and significance, both for those in the pew and those who stand behind the pulpit.

1. Concern from one believer for another, verse 3

Jude is on the verse of exposing “ungodly men,” false teachers, who have stealthily infiltrated the Church and are promulgating their heresies, destroying the faith and morals of the congregation. False teachers are expert at that; pushing their brand heresy on unsuspecting believers; they don’t have to be behind a pulpit. They can be right beside you. And if a believer succumbs to false teaching, they will find their faith withering. This is why, as you read the twenty four verses of this letter, you can “feel” an atmosphere of judgment. Yet Jude writes under a canopy of “love.” Even administering church discipline, it should be done in love, agape love. He has already written about God’s love, but now he will talk about it personally.

First, Jude calls his readers “dear friends.” This is more than a form of greeting; it’s a way of distinguishing his readers from the false teachers skulking in the background; they are not his friends, dear or otherwise. The Greek word is agapetoi, and literally translated means “beloved.” Notice the word looks a lot like agape. This kind of love “unconditional.” The agapetoi might be considered “friends through thick and thin,” it’s a term of extreme endearment Jude uses, and he doesn’t use it lightly. The recipients are his “unconditional friends.” This is a special kind of relationship believers can have only with each other because they are bound together by a common faith, which Jude will write about, but also by a common Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Canfield wrote:

[Agapetoi] sums up the central motif of the Christian life, indicating at the same time the love of the speaker or writer for his brethren, and behind that and more important, the love of God in Christ for all.

Second, the phrase although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, indicates that Jude changed his mind and his letter took a different direction than he intended. Apparently, he wanted to write about “the salvation we share,” or as it is literally translated, “our common salvation.” That’s a curious expression and is unique to Jude. Given the context of the letter, Jude must be referring to the Christian faith. All believers share the same faith in the here and now; believers are saved. It is a glorious experience we all have in common. Salvation has a three-fold aspect to it: past, present, and future.

  • Past: [H]e saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

  • Present: Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. (Hebrews 6:9)

  • Future: [S]o Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

The fact that he uses the word “share” is also noteworthy. Throughout this letter, Jude suggests that this bond believers have in common helps them to withstand the false teachers who do not possess this salvation.

The next phrase, I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith, is translated in the NEB this way: It became urgently necessary to write at once. Jude felt divinely compelled to change the contents of the letter. This gives us an insight into Jude’s thought process: he had an interest in the spiritual lives of his friends. So much so, that he felt compelled to write to them, to warn them to be on guard. In fact, Jude exhorts the believers to brace themselves as they face a critical situation. Bengal writes that Jude appeals to his friends to do not one, but two things:

  • Fight earnestly in behalf of the faith, against the enemy;

  • Build up one’s self in the faith.

In order to not be taken in by false teachers, you must be secure in your own faith. If you don’t know what you believe, you won’t be able to resist the heresies of the false teachers. That’s why the second thing is so important to the outcome of the first.

This “contending” for the faith is a never-ending struggle. It comes from a Greek word that occurs only here in the New Testament and describes an intense wrestling match. It is so intense, that the idea is to exert oneself without distraction; it also suggests self-denial and single minded determination. It’s in the present tense, suggesting the Christian struggle is a continuous one; believers are never to let their guard down, even for a moment.

The “faith” refers to the Gospel, the body of objective truth preached to them, the facts of Christ and of salvation. Sometimes “the faith” is used subjectively, “I have faith in Christ.” Given the context here, though, it seems clear Jude is referring to the objective faith of Christian teachings or doctrine.

Finally, the last phrase of verse three tells us about this faith: it was was once for all entrusted to the saints. The “saints,” of course, refers to members of the Church. That is a common designation for Christians, the Greek phrase tois hagiois, means “the holy ones.” It’s a title all Christians bear, but Jude also uses it here “as an appeal to the brethren to stand fast against the teaching and practice of…the unholy ones.” (Mayor) Those who teach or believe things contrary to what’s in the Bible are not holy, but unholy, and corrupt those who are holy.

Notice what Jude says about this faith, and remember Jude is not talking about your faith, but rather the “body of recognized truth” (Blum) we call the Word of God: it was entrusted once for all to the saints.

The word “entrusted” refers to a deposit made. Romans 3:2b says–

[T]hey have been entrusted with the very words of God.

God delivered His truth to Jesus Christ, Jesus committed God’s truth to the apostles, who in turn entrusted it to the believers.

2. False teachers: dangerous and deceptive, denying and distorting, verse 4

Verse four gives us the “why” behind verse three.

Ungodly men had “secretly slipped in.” The Greek word, pareisedysan, and very descriptive. These deceivers has “crept in unawares.” The prefix, “para” means “come along side” and perfectly describes how false teachers sneak into a church: they come in alongside genuine believers, pretending to be one of them. Paul encountered false teachers often, and in Galatians 2:4 he makes a similar statement:

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

And Peter also had occasion to warn his people about false teachers–

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

False teachers creep in secretly and the secretly spread their dangerous ideas. Like a virus, they spread from member to member until the whole congregation is infected.

The question we ask ourselves is who are these false teachers? Where they ministers of the Gospel? Where they itinerant preachers, traveling from community to community, from church to church? Or where they just people, who seem to happen into your church? We may never know exactly who Jude has mind, although many reputable scholars seem to favor the notion that Jude has in mind the same kind of traveling preachers as did Peter. My own thoughts are that, even if that is who Jude had in mind, this warning is easily applicable to both the pulpit and to the pew. False teachers take on many forms, but the result of their teachings is always the same: a wake of destruction, from ruined lives to fractured churches.

One thing is certain, however, and that is the motive of these false teachers: since they teach in secret, what they’re teaching can’t be good.

Another thing certain is that these “certain men” were already living under condemnation. The NIV says, whose condemnation was written about long ago, while the KJV reads, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation. Peterson’s The Message paraphrases a difficult Greek sentence like this: our Scriptures warned us this would happen. The difficulty with this view is we aren’t sure what Scriptures Jude is referring to. We would naturally think of the Old Testament, but there are no specific references to the doom of false teachers in the Old Testament. Gottlob Schrenk believes that the term “written about” metaphorically refers to a list that is kept in heaven, and as believers are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life, so there is a list of false teachers kept. Peter hints at this:

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

What are these men teaching? There are two teachings Jude hones in on two, and there is no doubt how deviant it was: (1) [they] change the grace of our God into a license for immorality. A couple of observations about the godless men. First, they may be godless, but they are acquainted with the grace of God, since they were changing it. This suggests they may have, at one time been genuine believers, but no longer. They could be individuals who have some belief in God, but are not committed to Him in any way. Second, that they are godless in evidenced by their conduct; they not only teach God’s grace allows them to sin, but they indulge in it.

This false teaching says believers can indulge in all manner of sexual sins and merely ask for forgiveness because of God’s grace.

(2) deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude doesn’t say exactly how these men were denying Christ, other than by their conduct. Yet this is enough: actions speak louder than words. Titus 16–

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

3. Lessons for all in the Church

These two verses contain enough principles, applications and lessons for two sermons.

  • The job of the Pastor is first and foremost to feed his people the living Word of God. Vance Havner once said of the Bible: “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” The most urgent need in the Body of Christ is a knowledge of God’s Word, rightly applied.

  • The Pastor’s role is to counsel, exhort, and encourage the people to hold fast to their faith. He is to uphold the centrality and authority of the Bible, while opposing any person who attempts to inject their own notions in the lives of his congregation.

  • We are all to guard the Truth that has been entrusted to us. God’s Word has been deposited into our hearts. May we always strive to live by its dictates and honor it’s admonitions, giving it the highest place of respect in our lives. Higher than our own ideas or opinions, higher than the thoughts of your Pastor, and higher than the teachings of any man or church.

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