Posts Tagged 'Jude'

Glory, Part 5

So far in our look at a handful of uses of the word “glory,” we’ve discovered that, for the most part, as far as the believer is concerned, “glory” is something in the future.  For example, we may experience “the glory of God” in the here-and-now, but compared to what we will experience of His glory in the future, what we may experience today is the barest sliver of what’s to come.

We’ve considered the believer’s “hope of glory,” when we studied Colossians 1:27.  That hope is the one thing all believers, from all dispensations, from all of the world, have in common.  It’s the hope that one day, our faith will become sight and be completely vindicated in the light of His glory.

We also looked at our “glorified bodies,” that Paul mentioned in Philippians 3:21.  When Christ comes, He will transform our fleshly body into a “glorious” body like His own.   That refers not only to the end of death and decay and corruption, but also the end sin.

We found out that according to Ephesians 1:18, believers are considered to be “God’s glorious inheritance!”  That’s a fact that’s hard to swallow.  You and I, by virtue of our relationship with Jesus Christ, have become extremely valuable to God – an inheritance.

And we studied these amazing verses in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  (Romans 8:20-21 | NIV84)

When Jesus returns and our redemption is made complete, our freedom from sin and the the grip of this world is finally broken and we, along with all of creation, will be made right.

And that gets us to the fifth use of the word glory, and it’s from the very brief letter written by a man named Jude, which is just one chapter long:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy–to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  (Jude 1:24-25 | NIV84)

We call those two verses a “doxology,” and among all the doxologies in Scripture, Jude’s is truly unique and majestic.  And it fits his short letter perfectly; a letter warning its readers of the dangers inherent in entertaining false teachers and adopting their corrupt teachings.  

A brief overview of the letter

The author of this letter is self-identified:  Jude, the brother of James.  Theories abound as to who exactly this person was, but it seems reasonable to conclude that Jude, the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus, was the writer of this letter.

Jude starts out stating his purpose in writing this letter:

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.   (Jude 1:3 | NIV84)

He started out wanting to talk about “the salvation we share.”  And why wouldn’t he?  No matter where a believer is from, his salvation is something he has in common with all believers, everywhere.  Styles of worship may differ, sometimes practices and even doctrines may vary slightly from culture to culture, but we all share a common salvation.  

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12 | NIV84)

“Under heaven” means everywhere.   Jesus Christ is the only way to God.  From Him alone comes the free gift of salvation of all people.  This is what Jude wanted his letter to be about.  But something changed his mind, and so instead of writing about our common salvation, Jude wrote about “contending for the faith.”  So he went from wanting to talk about salvation to fighting for it.  Sometimes a Christian has to “contend for the faith.”  Sometimes he doesn’t have a choice but to defend the salvation he possesses.  Here are a number of verses about this very topic:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….  (1 Peter 3:15 | NIV84)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.   (2 Corinthians 10:5 | NIV84)

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.   (Titus 1:9 | NIV84)

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  (Ephesians 5:11 | NIV84)

False teachers, false teaching

We don’t have any of the details, but somehow Jude found out that the people to whom he was writing had gotten themselves into a little trouble:

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.   (Jude 1:4 | NIV84)

Some false false teachers had wormed their way into the church Jude was writing to.  The way Jude wrote this is telling.  There were “certain men,” or just a few of them, but there would be more coming.  False teachers are like cockroaches.  There’s never just one.  And they’re a crafty lot – they literally “creep in” and “insinuate themselves” among the true believers; they pretend to be something they are not.  

As you read through the New Testament, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to get the drift that this problem was not just something that Jude wrote about.  Paul, Peter, and John all wrote letters earnestly trying to “contend for the faith.”  It seems almost impossible to conceive that mere years from the the ascension of Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the founding of the Church, that this was such a big problem.  There were false teachers everywhere, threatening every congregation with their weird, aberrant philosophies that were more often than not a mixture of Christian, Jewish, and Eastern theologies and philosophies.  And, sadly, these early Christians were just a gullible as this present generation is.  These days it seems like Christians will believe just any teaching that barely approximates the truth.  There’s a definite lack of wisdom and discernment among the members of the Body of Christ.   

Here’s Jude’s estimate of the ones he was concerned about:

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead.  They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.  (Jude 1:12-13 | NIV84)

It sounds like there’s plenty of hyperbole going on in those two verses, but there are facts in behind the hyperbole.  These false teachers were an embarrassment to the church.  They were gluttons at the church dinner.  In fact, they were worse than that.  The early church had “love feasts,” an odd name by today’s standards to be sure, but they served a real purpose back then.  A “love feast” really was a church dinner that celebrated and promoted a sense of community and brotherly love within a congregation, but it also helped out the poorer members of the church – they got a good free meal.  Yet these heretics took advantage of these “love feasts” to promote gluttony and immorality.  They were blowhards who talked a blue streak but were really saying nothing.  These false teachers pushed their ridiculous but dangerous heresies and because Christians want to believe the best about people, many members were falling hook-line-and-sinker for what they were peddling.  They turned a blind eye to the sinful behavior and embraced their vain philosophies.

But even worse than all that is this:

These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.   (Jude 1:19 | NIV84)

False teachers are divisive persons.  God is a God of order, and wherever in the church or in society where you see lawlessness and disorder, you may be sure God is not in it. 

A true response

So what exactly is a good Christian supposed to do with guys like this?  Well, as we already saw, Christians ought to be ready to defend and refute the truth whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.  But there’s more.  The ultimate judge of all false teachers is God and their fate is already decided:  “Blackest darkness has been reserved (for them) forever” (verse 13b).

But we who are mature, grounded believers have a responsibility to make sure what we believe is true and defendable.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  (Jude 1:20 | NIV84)

We also have a responsibility to watch for those who aren’t mature:

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.   (Jude 1:22-23 | NIV84)

We need to care for each other and when we see a weaker brother or sister slipping away, we need to “snatch them from the fire and save them.”  

And that gets us to the “great benediction” of Jude.  As it began, so this letter ends:  With words of assurance for the people of God living in these dark days.  These are dark days for the believer.  Christians are the most persecuted people on earth, according to recent studies.  Almost 100,000 Christians killed worldwide in 2016 alone.   (http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/748061/Christians-world-s-most-persecuted-religious-group-Vatican-Radio-Massimo-Introvigne-Islam)

But you don’t have to be killed to be persecuted.  You can be mocked, derided, and made fun of.  You can be tempted to adopt all manner of false teachings that will put your salvation in jeopardy.  How can you live rightside up in an upside down culture like this?  Jude makes it clear that you can live rightside up because the One who died for you is able to keep you from falling.  

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy….  (Jude 1:24 | NIV84)

Centuries before Jude wrote verse 24, Solomon gave us the secret to never becoming an apostate:

By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.  My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble….  (Proverbs 3:19c-23 | NIV84)

If you don’t want to be taken in by false teaching; if you want to stay above the strife and division that characterizes our culture today, make it your purpose in life to seek the wisdom of God and be guided by Word of God, which will bring understanding and knowledge of His will to you.  

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.  I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.   (Proverbs 4:10c-12 | NIV84)

Nothing can take the place of the wisdom that comes from the pages of the Bible.  That’s how God is able to “keep you” from stumbling.  But, if you do, all is not lost:

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.   (Psalms 37:23c-24 | NIV84)

We will be kept safe and we will be presented to God in the glory of His presence.  That’s a promise. Today, we walk the narrow path of faith, sometimes straying, sometimes stumbling, sometimes being tempted by false teachings.  But one day, like Enoch, we will be translated into God’s glorious presence, never to fall again.  

 

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Peter and Jude, Part 6

That this very short letter was not lost in the early years of the Church is a miracle. It’s a good thing the Holy Spirit miraculously preserved it for us because it deals with a problem that has persisted in the Church of Jesus Christ since it’s inception: false teachers.

These 25 verses were written by James’ brother, Jude.

From: Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and a brother of James. To: Christians everywhere-beloved of God and chosen by him. (Jude vs 1 | TLB)

This is the same James who was the well-known leader of the Jerusalem Church. While we know a lot about James and his ministry, we know nothing about his brother Jude except for a question he may have asked in the Upper Room:

Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but his other disciple with that name) said to him, “Sir, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us disciples and not to the world at large?”. (John 14:22 | TLB)

Scholars aren’t 100% certain that Judas the apostle is the Jude who wrote this short letter, but it’s entirely possible. Regardless, Jude was an itinerant preacher who addressed his letter to “Christians everywhere,” likely referring to congregations in which he had preached and taught the Word.

Jude’s letter is strikingly similar to Peter’s second letter, which is why they are frequently studied together.

As to why he wrote the letter, verse 3 gives us the impression that Jude was a little conflicted as to the reason he put pen to paper:

Dearly loved friends, I had been planning to write you some thoughts about the salvation God has given us, but now I find I must write of something else instead, urging you to stoutly defend the truth that God gave once for all to his people to keep without change through the years. (Jude vs 3 | TLB)

So he started out wanting to write about doctrine, but now Jude has decided to write about the urgency of defending sound doctrine. Jude may have been an itinerant preacher, but he is still considered a pastor of sorts and the primary job of the pastor is to feed his people the Word of God, on the Lord’s Day and at other times. Paul in his second letter to a young pastor named Timothy said as much:

preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not. Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word. (2 Timothy 4:2 | TLB)

In these 25 verses, we see Jude doing exactly what any pastor should be doing if members under his care are being harassed and threatened by, in this case, false teachers and false teaching. It seems as though some false teachers had sneaked into some of the churches Jude was familiar with and were causing trouble:

I say this because some godless teachers have wormed their way in among you, saying that after we become Christians we can do just as we like without fear of God’s punishment. The fate of such people was written long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude vs 4 | TLB)

Contending for the faith

Jude verse 3 is a call to arms and verse 4 gives the reason. Jude’s readers needed to get ready to do spiritual (and perhaps physical) battle against those sneaky false teachers. False teachers are always sneaky; they never come right out in the open with their false doctrines. For the ignorant or unaware, false teaching can be almost indistinguishable from the truth. False teaching may take many forms, and here it’s pretty simple: The false teachers were saying that a change in behavior wasn’t necessary; that a Christian could go on sinning, assured that God would forgive them. This was a case of turning the grace of God into a license to sin. It was an attractive heresy, to be sure, but no matter how good it sounded it was contrary to the doctrine of the Bible.

This brand of heresy was a branch of Gnosticism, which is still alive and well in the church today. It taught that the human body was essentially evil, and therefore it didn’t matter what a person did with his appetites, desires, and passions. For the Christian,, if God’s grace is great enough to cancel, cleanse, and cover all sin, why be concerned about sin, since grace is greater than any sin. It’s a crazy teaching, but you can see how some Christians would be tempted to use it to justify their sins.

The opposite of Gnosticism would have been the teaching of asceticism, a teaching very popular during Bible days.. This teaching, also very attractive to Christians today, taught that a believer needed to abstain from all worldly pleasures, whether condemned in the Bible or not. This teaching may be found in some of the “holiness”-type churches, which stress behavior and dress as a way to attain holiness, something definitely not taught in Scripture.

These false teachers may have been, at one time, genuine believers. The Living Bible seems to indicate that, saying they “turned against” Christ. That may have been the case, and if so, then their fate which Jude referred to may have been this:

Then he began to pour out his denunciations against the cities where he had done most of his miracles, because they hadn’t turned to God. Truly, Sodom will be better off at the Judgment Day than you.” (Matthew 11:20, 24 | TLB)

Defending the faith or contending for the faith is something Christians have been engaged in since the earliest days of the Church. O.S. Williams once wrote:

We must never cease to earnestly contend for the faith…And how? By loving the faith. By learning the faith. By living the faith.

Debating a non-believer or false teacher may or may not do any good, depending on how skilled a debater you may be. But living the faith boldly every day likely influences more onlookers than any debate ever could.

Characteristics of false teachers

Yet these false teachers carelessly go right on living their evil, immoral lives, degrading their bodies and laughing at those in authority over them, even scoffing at the Glorious Ones. (Jude vs 8 | TLB)

The false teachers “degrade their bodies.” Sin always ends in death, both spiritual and physical. Non-believers, and especially false teachers, live in such a way as to always meet the demands of their bodies. So they over-eat, get drunk, do drugs, and engage in all manner of risky behavior. Living to only please yourself almost always results in harm to the body. That’s a stark contrast to the Biblical teaching that our bodies are precious and are temples of the Holy Spirit!

Further, they “laugh at those in authority.” There is some question as to who these “authorities” are. Calvin thought Jude was referring to the civil authorities. Others think he had church leaders in mind. The former is likely the case, given the over all purpose of the letter. Worse than laughing at church leaders, these false teachers went to far as to “scoff at the glorious ones.” They made fun of angels and even the notion of the supernatural.

Even though this attitude marks a false teacher, there are those in the church today who are pleased to call themselves Christians, yet stubbornly refuse to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ nor under the godly discipline of the Church, preferring to live as they please.

But these men mock and curse at anything they do not understand, and like animals, they do whatever they feel like, thereby ruining their souls. (Jude vs 10 | TLB)

These men “mock and curse at anything they do not understand.” It’s a trait of the sinful person to speak loudest about which they don’t understand or know about the least.

And they behave “like animals.” They were irrational and without even knowing it, they were killing their souls.

Woe upon them! For they follow the example of Cain who killed his brother; and like Balaam, they will do anything for money; and like Korah, they have disobeyed God and will die under his curse. When these men join you at the love feasts of the church, they are evil smears among you, laughing and carrying on, gorging and stuffing themselves without a thought for others. They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much, but producing nothing. They are like fruit trees without any fruit at picking time. They are not only dead, but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out, roots and all, to be burned. (Jude vs 11, 12 | TLB)

These false teachers were following in the footsteps of Cain, the first murderer. Balaam was a false prophet-for-hire, who would say whatever he was paid to say. And Korah rebelled against Moses, who was put in a position of authority by God Himself.

They were obsessed with eating and laughing and carrying on. They had no shame at all. They were selfish. Verse 12 gives you a pretty good idea of how these false teachers lived and worked.

The coming judgment

Jude was sure that these false prophets fulfilled an ancient prophecy and quoted from the earliest known prophetic voice on judgment – Enoch’s – and then from something Jesus said.

Enoch, who lived seven generations after Adam, knew about these men and said this about them: “See, the Lord is coming with millions of his holy ones. He will bring the people of the world before him in judgment, to receive just punishment and to prove the terrible things they have done in rebellion against God, revealing all they have said against him.”. (Jude vs 14, 15 | TLB)

You can scour the bible, but you won’t find this prophecy anywhere. Of course, you will find Enoch, a fairly well-known Old Testament fellow whose claim to fame is that he may not have actually died but simply “walked with the Lord.” The prophecy Jude quotes is from the apocryphal book of Enoch, which his Jewish readers would have been very familiar with.

Without getting into the high grass of why Jude quoted from the apocrypha – that’s a discussion for another day – what is notable is that his words stressed the utter, complete depravity of the ungodly. And since these sentences are included in our Scriptures, they are authoritative and may be taken as a word from the Lord. The false teachers and the ungodly will stand before the Lord in judgment and they will be punished on account of the “terrible things they have done in rebellion against God.” They may seem to be getting away with it now, but the wicked they’ve done and said against God will be revealed for all the universe to see and they will pay the price for their ungodliness.

Even though Jude applies Enoch’s words to the false teachers of his day, the sentiment is highly relevant to our time. There is a lot scoffing at God and mocking of His Word going on today. The church is largely silent on the issue; the hell-fire and brimstone sermon has gone way out of fashion. As Leonard Ravenhill quipped:

The tide is completely turned from “sinners in the hands of an angry God” to “God in the hands of angry sinners.

Response of faithful believers

But you, dear friends, must build up your lives ever more strongly upon the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners. (Jude vs 20 – 23 | TLB)

In response to the threat of the false teachers, the first thing believer should do is to “build up [their] lives.” When faced with false teachers, make sure you’re strong in the faith. Further, “pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.” Jude isn’t the first New Testament writer to give this kind of advice. The New Testament is replete with admonitions to build and pray. Christians should be builders and prayers. Why should we be praying in the Spirit? False teachers may be mortal human beings, but Paul reminds us that our struggle is not against people.

For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies-the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. (Ephesians 6:12 | TLB)

True believers are to “stay (keep) within the boundaries of God’s love.” That’s a Greek word that’s very urgent. In spite of what he says later on about God keeping us, Jude’s little letter is all about the fight – the good fight of faith. God does His part, and we must do our part. Believers are kept within the bounds of God’s love by practicing three disciplines: building up our lives, praying in the Spirit, and waiting patiently for eternal life. Essentially, believers are to depend upon God at every turn in their fight against apostasy.

God keeps us, and we must keep ourselves. Or, as Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I in you.”

Peter and Jude, Part 5

For some reason, the doctrine of our Lord’s Second Coming has always produced division in His Church. And it’s not just a recent thing, either. Even back in the days of the apostles, this precious doctrine was mocked, laughed at, and doubted.

They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4 | NIV84)

For his part, Peter had absolutely no doubt that Jesus would keep His word and come back. Why would the apostle doubt it? With his very own eyes, Peter saw Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount and had experienced a slight foretaste of the future glory.

The people to whom Peter wrote this second letter were having their doubts; they were succumbing to false teaching and that resulted in a disbelief in the Second Coming. No Christian can afford to disregard or doubt this doctrine for to do so is to bring into question the veracity of the words of Jesus Himself! Not only that, belief in the Second Coming results in holy living, and that’s not unimportant.

Up to this point, chapter 3 in 2 Peter, Peter had been dealing with the libertines – these immoral and disreputable false teachers – and their victims. Of them, Peter concluded,

For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Peter 2:18, 19 | NIV84)

Some of their “empty, boastful words” dealt with the Second Coming. They didn’t believe it and they mocked those who did. With a new chapter comes a new line of thought. Peter wants his readers to think and think hard about the words spoken by the prophets and the apostles.

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:1, 2 | NIV84)

As one scholar wisely noted,

No state of grace this side of heaven exempts men from the need of repeated reminders of the truths of the Christian message, and all of this becomes the more urgent in the light of Christ’s imminent return to earth.

It’s not that the readers of this letter were morally depraved, but they were in danger of losing the purity of doctrine they had once held so tightly to. They were having niggling doubts about the Second Coming and as a result, they were just beginning to take on the characteristics of their nasty false teachers.

It’s so easy for believers of any generation to get distracted from the truth. It’s one thing to get distracted, though, but very often a mindless distraction can turn into the wedge that separates us from the truth of God’s Word. J.C. Ryle’s words on this are a powerful reminder of how wispy thin our grasp on the truth may be:

Amidst the flood of dangerous reading, I plead for my Master’s book; I call upon you not to forget the book of the soul. Do not let newspapers, novels, and romances be read, while the prophets and apostles are despised. Do not let the exciting and sensual swallow up your attention, while the edifying and sanctifying can find no place in your mind.

The day will come

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3, 4 | NIV84)

That phrase, “first of all,” means what Peter is about to say is of vital importance. What was so important for his readers to know? Simply that in “the last days, scoffers would come.” Obviously, Peter believed he was living in the last days, so we today may be confident that we are most definitely living in the last of the last days! And in these last days, people who lead self-indulgent lives will come to doubt the coming of the Lord. They will deny the coming of the Lord because to them, it will have become a ridiculous notion.

It is true that there have always been doubters and scoffers. There were those who mocked and made fun of Noah, and of Lot in Sodom, and even of Jesus Himself. Some people may doubt honestly, like Thomas, but the honest doubter is not who Peter has in mind here. The people Peter wrote about were not merely doubters, but men who had now come to violently oppose the doctrine of the Second Coming. These false teachers repudiated the promise of His coming because, they argued, things never change. They taught that God created everything, but that He never intervenes in the course of human history. Their God is a cold, impersonal one. Surely that line of thinking characterizes 21st century man; God is not real to him therefore he feels no obligation to live righteously. Even in the Church of Jesus Christ there are those who never give a moment’s thought to the Lord’s return.

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:5 – 7 | NIV84)

Peter’s handling of the false teachers was nothing less than brilliant. The scoffers insisted that God never intervenes; that things have always been the same, yet that isn’t true! Creation itself was a divine intervention and a disruption in history. Not only that, the same God who spoke about the Second Coming, also spoke the world into existence and He can speak it out existence. God’s Word starts, sustains, and stops all life. These false teachers were playing with the worst kind of fire; in the end this fire of God’s truth would consume them.

Verse 7 is not a prophecy so much as a promise: There will come a day when this world as we have come to know it, will be renovated by fire and the wicked judged. Indeed, things cannot and will not continue as they have been. The apostle John wrote about this very thing in Revelation 20:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (revelation 20:1 | NIV84)

When we read what Peter wrote, those sobering words lead us to two inescapable conclusions: God is absolutely in control of this world, from beginning to end. Regardless of some people may teach or believe, God is control. And second, we Christians need to trust God and His Word.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8, 9 | NIV84)

Not only is God 100% in control, but He is always on time. The scoffers would have believers think that God has either abandoned them or is taking a nap or just doesn’t keep His promises, but God is not bound by man’s version of time. God exists way, way, way outside of any concept of time and space man’s puny brain can conceive. No, God is not dragging His feet when it comes to keeping His promises. God is not late, He’s never early, but always on time. God’s timing is never determined by outside circumstances or other people. He is always in control and His only motivation is love. God loved the world so much He gave the world His only Son. And it is because of His love for the world that Jesus has not come back yet. Ravi Zacharias wrote,

Time is the brush of God, as He paints His masterpiece on the heart of humanity.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10 | NIV84)

Scoffers and doubters and false teachers may come, most people may ignore the Word of God concerning the Second Coming, but as Peter put it, “the day of the Lord WILL come,” end of discussion. Our Lord said essentially the same thing:

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44 | NIV84)

The Day of the Lord may begin in secret, but it will end with stunning earth-changes that Peter mentioned in verse 7. This planet of ours that we consider so permanent and dependable will not endure as it is today. It will change as God does His thing.

Live as if it can happen any day

The great Adrian Rogers once said this:

We ought to be living as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back this afternoon.

He’s right. The suddenness of our Lord’s return is a great motivating factor in living right. This was a favorite teaching of Peter:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:11, 12 | NIV84)

This is Peter’s practical application for the heady doctrine of the Second Coming. All Christian doctrine should influence how we live because there must be a connection between what we believe and how we live. For the Christians of Peter’s day, the kind of global destruction Peter described would have seemed impossible. But in our day, it is not only possible but probable. Peter says it is not only probable, but an abslute certainty. It’s all part of God’s plan for man and the world. Given that, we should be ready and prepared for it can happen any time. Part of being ready for Jesus Christ’s return is living lives marked by righteousness and holiness.

Closely connected to how we should live is the worldview we adopt. Christians should be “looking forward to” the Second Coming. And, while God has His own timetable, apparently Christians can hasten or speed up the day by fulfilling some necessary conditions for it to take place. Some of those conditions could be these:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 | NIV84)

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. (Acts 3:19, 20 | NIV84)

The doctrine of the Second Coming was never intended to be divisive. It should unite all believers in a common belief that encourages them keep the faith, keep trusting God, and keep living right. Matthew Henry said it best:

God will work when He pleases, how He pleases, and by what means He pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but He will perform His word, honor our faith, and reward them that diligently seek Him.

Peter and Jude, Part 2

What does it mean to be “a citizen?” For all the kerfuffle in the media, citizenship is still an important thing and there are some things a naturalized citizen can do that an alien or even a Green Card holder cannot. I went through the citizenship process years ago and I can tell you it was an expensive (very expensive, truth be told), intrusive, inconvenient, ordeal that ended up in a Federal courtroom with yours truly, along with 25 other immigrants, taking the oath of citizenship. I had been living and working in America for 13 years before I applied for citizenship. I had been obeying the laws of the land, filing income tax forms, and participating in many the things a citizen enjoys, all the while holding a mere Green Card (which is sort of pinkish nowadays).

As a citizen, suddenly I had more privileges than I imagined I would have. I knew that to vote I would have to become a legal citizen, but now I can’t be deported. I can now sponsor family members to bring them here. I can apply for all kinds of federal benefits (I wouldn’t, but I could), I can have a federal job (no thanks), I can run for public office (no way!), and I can get a passport. So, there are all kinds of benefits of being a citizen.

Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven because we are born again. We may be living here on earth, but our citizenship is in Heaven and we enjoy the benefits (or blessings) of our Heavenly citizenship and we have certain responsibilities, too.

Chosen

In 1 Peter 1:23, we read a verse that contrasts perishable (earthly) seed with imperishable (spiritual) seed:

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23 | NIV84)

We Christians have been born of imperishable seed – of spiritual seed – making us spiritual people, not carnal or worldly people. In chapter 2 Peter keeps up the contrast by using the Temple in Jerusalem as his example.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4, 5 |NIV84, read 2:4 – 8)

Through Jesus Christ (the living stone), and our new relationship with Him, we become “living stones,” alive in Christ, built into a “spiritual house.” That’s a curious thing to say, but if we read a verse Paul wrote, it become a little clearer:

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22 | NIV84)

The Jews had their precious temple in Jerusalem, where they supposed God lived. But as Christians, we become the place where God lives. God lives in us as individuals and corporately. We as a group comprise a great big “dwelling” in which God lives. But we are not cold and hard or rigid like the bricks the of which the Temple was made. We are “living” or “lively” stones.

As a group we are a spiritual temple in which God dwells and as individuals we are like the Jewish priests who worked in their Temple. We as individuals have been consecrated by God and we are holy as He is holy. We function as priests, offering up our spiritual sacrifices, our very selves, as opposed to offerings of animals. Our spiritual sacrifices are automatically acceptable to God because they are offered through Jesus Christ, who is our great High Priest.

You and I have been “chosen” by God to become holy people. When we became Christians, we received tremendous blessings that only Christians receive, but that same salvation carries with it responsibilities. Those things are briefly mentioned in the first few verses of chapter two, but essentially they form the rest of this first letter.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1 – 3 | NIV84)

We have been chosen by God to be different from the rest of the world. God is holy – He is separated from all others – and we are to be holy, too – separated from all others by our behavior. That’s what Peter is getting at here:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 | NIV84)

Verses 9 and 10 give us another contrast: the believer’s new, present life (verse 9) and their past (verse 10). Since God dragged us out of the darkness we were living in, we owe it to Him to start living like those living in the light. Or, put another way, because we are now God’s people, we should be proclaiming by word and deed the praises of God. Quoting Paul again, here’s his take on this:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 | NIV84)

Imitate Christ

The question is, how do we do that? It would be nice if God made us live right, using His incredible power to force us into behaving the right way all the time. But that’s not how He works. So He allows us to the freedom to serve Him, and the easiest way to serve Him and to live right is to simply imitate Christ!

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 | NIV84)

Peter is far cleverer than we give him credit for. Look at how he views the Christian living in the world today:

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world… (1 Peter 2:11a | NIV84)

That’s the best way to introduce his topic of living good lives. Since Christians are “aliens and strangers in the world,” we don’t have to behave like the world behaves. Here are some very specific steps believers should follow in living good lives before God, the world, and each other.

Abstain from sinful desires, verse 11.

How obvious is this? Godly living must begin with giving up sin! “Sinful desires” are “fleshly lusts,” and they are always – always – going against the spiritual side of our being.

Live good lives among the pagans, verse 12.

This seems obvious, but it escapes a lot of Christians who seem to think they can live Christ-like lives when they are around their Christian friends but live like pagans when they get around their co-workers or non-Christians friends. That goes right against the notion of “holy conduct,” which is a huge theme in Peter’s letter. Our holy and honorable lives need to be obvious to all who see us. This was a big teaching of Jesus when He said this: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 | NIV84)

Silence the ignorant talk of foolish men, verse 15.

Part of this is submitting ourselves to every law of man for the Lord’s sake (verse 13). Now, keep in mind that Peter wrote this during the horrendous reign of Nero, emperor of Rome. Peter makes it clear that as believers, we should do all that we can to obey civil authorities. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should break God’s higher laws for the sake of the state. It was this same Peter who, when standing on trial before the Sanhedrin, famously said: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 | NIV) We are, after all, primarily citizens of Heaven.

Live as free people, verse 16.

Here’s another aspect of our salvation that seems to escape a lot Christians: Jesus Christ has saved us to live a life of freedom. In fact, the only truly free people on earth are Christians! Paul was big on freedom in Christ, and he wrote this:

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13, 14 | NIV84)

The great freedom and liberty we have in Christ should never, ever be used as an excuse to sin. As soon as we do that, we will lose it and slip back into the slavery of sin. All our freedom in Christ needs to be tempered with love for others.

Honor all people, verse 17.

The word “honor,” timao, is also seen in Matthew 15:4 as part of Jesus’ admonition to “honor our father and mother” and to “honor the Son as we honor the Father.” It’s powerful. The mark of a true believer is that we should honor all people; we should never treat anybody shabbily or as objects for us to use and then discard.

Love the brotherhood of believers, verse 17.

The word Peter used here is agape, a love that transcends feelings and sentimentality. This love that we have for fellow believers should mark the true believer’s life. We ought to honor and respect all people, but love for other members of the Body of Christ should be obvious for all to see. John, the so-called “apostle of love,” believed this to be true and in his Gospel quoted Jesus as saying this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, 35 | NIV84)

Fear God, verse 17.

To “fear” God is really the greatest need of the Church, which has come to treat God with far too much casual familiarity. The Greek word Peter used is phobeomai, from which we get our word “phobia.” It means many different things, including: “to be in awe of,” “to revere or reverence,” and also “to be put in fear or fright,” and “to be afraid.” You get the idea.

Honor the king, verse 17.

We can imagine why Peter wrote this: Nero was the emporer and to dishonor him could mean losing your head! But there’s a bit more to it than that, although preserving your life or freedom is good reason to at the very least “honor” someone in political office. Here’s another one: At that time in history, many Christians were accused of treason because of their confession of and allegiance to Jesus Christ, King of the Jews. No wonder Peter advised his readers to be obvious in their honor and respect for the King.

In many cases, the laws of the land line up fairly closely to the Laws of God, and there’s nothing wrong when the government does things or passes laws that benefit all people. However, Paul expands on this idea in Romans 13, and adds a qualifier:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 | NIV84)

There may be times when a Christian cannot live at peace with a governing authority. When that happens, he must remain faithful to God even if it means dishonoring or disrespecting the king, or any governing authority, for that matter.

Living as a citizen of Heaven is the most rewarding life a person can live. It’s not always easy. It requires wisdom and discernment and determination. But God promises to guide and give us that wisdom and discernment and even the power to do so.

Peter and Jude, Part 1

Peter wrote two letters that we know of and Jude wrote one. In the world of New Testament epistles, Paul gets all the press but Peter and Jude had some very significant things to say to Christians. And these three letters are very similar, and because of that, they are frequently studied together.

We’ll begin our look at these letters by looking at what Peter had to say about “hope.” Robert Schuller, who pastored his Crystal Cathedral for an astounding 55 years, had this to say about “hope”:

Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.

That sounds good, but it only works when your “hope” is built on the right foundation. I prefer what Mote had to say about the topic:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

And then there’s what Peter said:

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3 | NIV84)

Born again to hope

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1, 2 | NIV84)

Peter was an interesting man who had an interesting career. He was a fisherman who had been called by Jesus Christ to become a “fisher of men.” Doremus Hayes, theologian, once described Peter as being: “…a likeable man…a hasty man…a going man…a loyal man…a “rock” man…a growing man…the Apostle of Hope.” He was certainly all those things at various times in his life and career.

The recipients of this letter are described as “God’s elect” by Peter. The Biblical doctrine of “election” bothers some Christians and has been a source of conflict among Bible scholars for generations. The Bible teaches “election.” In fact, you can find three kinds of Biblical election, according to Benjamin Field:

• The election of people to perform certain kinds of service;
• The election of nations or groups of people to receive religious blessings;
• A personal election of people to be the children of God and the heirs of eternal glory.

The third form of “election” is the one Peter is referring to. But this “election” of some to salvation does not exclude others from this blessing. God’s election and predestination are tremendous provisions and blessings for all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not an arbitrary predetermination of those who can believe. All who confess Christ become the “elect,” living with the realization that God will enable them to live victoriously on earth and enter eternity to stand before the Lord as His chosen.

That’s the foundation of the hope Peter’s readers had, and it should be foundation of your hope, too. Peter was writing to Christians living in horrible conditions. Although Nero had yet to begin his persecution of Christians, animosity toward them was growing in intensity. If any people needed some encouragement and to be reminded of the hope they have in Christ, it was the people to whom this letter was written.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 | NIV84)

The “living hope” of the believer is based on his personal relationship with Jesus Christ – the living Savior. The hope of these believers, living in tumultuous, uncertain times, was in the One who triumphed over His circumstances; He rose from the dead. That’s not an insignificant declaration. We, as Christians, have a living hope because our hope is in a living Savior!

But that hope we share with Peter’s readers is also in the fact that we are part of God’s family, and are therefore heirs to the glorious inheritance of God! Everything He has is ours. This would have been a big deal to Peter’s readers, many of whom had lost or would lose everything as the heat of persecution got dialed up. The state may be able to take your home and property, but what you get from God can never be taken from you! You may lose your job and your family may abandon you, but what God has in store for you is permanent. Being faithful in this life guarantees your full inheritance. Paul wrote something very similar to the Ephesians:

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13b – 14 | NIV84)

The basis of our hope

That the basis of our hope shouldn’t be in our circumstances is a thought that Peter expanded upon in this group of verses:

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7 – 9 | NIV84)

The “these” are all the problems his readers are facing because of their faith. Peter provides an invaluable insight into how God works. The trials and tribulations that his readers were facing, and indeed the trials and tribulations we face, too, were not unknown to God, nor were they punishment from Him, nor were they arbitrary! They served a very distinct purpose: to strengthen their faith in Christ. That’s right; those things we try so hard to avoid; those unpleasant things we plan our lives around escaping, are the very things God uses to make us better Christians! James thought about this very issue and came to the exact same conclusion Peter did:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2 – 4 | NIV84)

As you read what Peter wrote, you realize the power of our salvation. We believe in a living Savior! Ours is not a dead philosopher, whose philosophies couldn’t preserve His own life! Our Savior is the One, the only One in fact, who rose from the dead. Through the power that raised Him from dead, He has reached out and forward in time and space to save us, as we place our faith in Him. From time to time, hard times may come into our lives, but our lives are being actively preserved by that same Resurrection power to the point where what is meant to harm us – what would do irreparable harm to the unbeliever – does us good, making us stronger and wiser and far more valuable to God.

Our salvation is so special and so spectacular, that angels are fascinated with God’s work in man.

Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12b | NIV)

That’s right. The salvation that we so often take for granted and abuse is so unique and so phenomenal that angels, those eternal spirit beings with amazing powers, are desperate to understand it. They can’t possibly because they can’t experience it. Only sinful human beings who have placed their faith in Christ and have had their sins forgiven can. Luke put it this way:

…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10 | NIV84)

Only man can know the salvation God provides through Jesus Christ. Johnson Oatman, a prolific hymn-writer who wrote some 3,000 hymns in his lifetime, captured the thought perfectly in his hymn, “Holy, Holy Is What the Angels Sing”:

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.

Now would be a good time to ask yourself the question: What have the angels learned about MY salvation by observing MY life?

Transformed by hope into a holy person

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13 – 16 | NIV84)

As the Bard wrote, “Ay, there’s the rub.” God did so much for us Christ, but we have a responsibility – an obligation – to live holy lives. Uncertainty, difficult times, trials, and tribulations must not cause believers to give up and go back to their old ways of living, from which they’ve been saved.

Peter’s first bit of advice, “prepare your minds,” tells us something very important. The key to living a victorious Christian life is having and maintaining the right mental attitude. It all starts between our ears; by not allowing our minds to dwell too long on our circumstances, good or bad. Success in the Christian life depends on our intellect working with our moral and spiritual faculties. Paul knew the connection between the mind and the quality of our lives ran deep:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 | NIV84)

Changing our habitual way of thinking is up to us; God won’t do it for us. We wish He would, though. It’s not an easy thing to do. But if we’ll honor God, we must. According to what Peter wrote, we ought to be living and thinking as if Christ could return at any moment. The incredible privilege and glorious future of “the elect” demands that we adopt the “pattern” revealed to us: God is holy and we must be holy.

That phrase, “be holy in all you do,” has been translated by J.B. Phillips as:

Be holy in every department of your lives.

What is in the heart will be manifested in how you live your life. True holiness is not revealed in a church service where you are surrounded by other believers, but in how you live daily. True holiness is related to all civic, personal, religious, private, and public aspects of life. It is demonstrated in all your relationships. Holiness, morality, and ethics are all intertwined and cannot be separated because true ethical conduct is patterned after God, and He is our pattern.

Peter quoted from the Old Testament book of Leviticus to proof text what he wrote about the imperative to be holy:

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44, 45 | NIV84)

The reason God wants us to be holy is because He Himself is holy. It is His supreme purpose for His people to be as He is: Holy. It is part of our election; our calling. We can’t be holy simply by doing things. It requires our minds being reigned in so that we begin to see life as God does. We become holy because our God is Holy and when we are in a relationship with Him, we become like Him.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 | NIV84)

Holiness is God’s choice for the moral condition of His people. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Roy Nicholson makes a valuable observation:

Because of God’s nature it is right that man should resemble Him. He is the Creator. Because of man’s nature it is possible for him to resemble God. The possibility of being holy determines our duty to be holy.

 

 

TRUTHS FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING, PART 6

JUDE: STICKING WITH THE FAITH

Jude, an English version of Judas and Judah, was such a common name during the New Testament era, it’s difficult to know who the author of this letter could have been with 100% certainty. There are no less than six Judes or Judases mentioned in the New Testament, and the writer of this short letter was probably one of them. Of the six, scholars believe the author to have been either the apostle Jude (not Iscariot) or Judas, the brother of Jesus. Out of those two, it seems highly probable that Jude, the brother of Jesus wrote this marvelous, little letter.

It’s also difficult to ascertain when Jude wrote his letter and virtually impossible to know whom it was written. It is likely, though, it was written late in the first century, sometime between 60 and 80 AD.

The point of the letter is to contend for the faith. Heretics, Antinomians by name, had come to prominence in the Church and were influencing otherwise godly leaders. These false teachers were Gnostics who believed in a kind of cosmic dualism: the material universe was evil, but the spirit was good. They denied the divinity of Christ and had no respect for spiritual things or even good manners. Jude wrote to encourage his readers to “stay the course” and remain faithful to the Gospel.

1. Contend for the faith, verses 1—4

a. Called, loved, kept, vs. 1, 2

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

Assuming the writer to have been the half-brother of Jesus, Jude was a late-comer to the cause. None of Jesus’ brothers followed our Lord during His lifetime. It wasn’t until after Pentecost that they finally saw Jesus for Who He really was and became major influences in the early Church.

We don’t know much about Jude, the brother of Jesus, but we gather he must have been a humble man. Notice how he refrains from mentioning his family relationship to Jesus, preferring to call Himself “a servant of Jesus.” Barclay observes:

Few things tell more about a man than the way in which a man speaks of himself.

The greeting makes three important points about Christians:

  • Christians are called. The Greek word is kletois, which in the New Testament stresses the sovereignty of God’s grace in “calling” the sinner to salvation. As Jesus taught, “Many are called,” but only a “few” actually accept the terms of the call to become the “chosen.”

  • Christians are loved by God. Believers are called by love, to be loved, to love.

  • Christians are kept by Jesus Christ. The word translated “kept” is teteremenois, in the present tense, suggesting an ongoing preservation of the believer. Jesus promised to never leave us or foresake us. No matter how “alone” we may feel, we are never truly alone nor are we ever expected to somehow “fend for ourselves.” He who calls us and loves us also looks after us.

b. The Christian faith, vs. 3

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.

This verse begins Jude’s earnest appeal for his readers to stick with the faith. But from this one verse we glean four important aspects of our salvation.

  • It’s a salvation that was entrusted to us. The KJV’s “delivered” gives us deeper understanding of the Gospel of salvation. It did not come to by way of the clever innovations of man. God’s plan of salvation did not spring from the mind of Moses or the mind of some false teacher. It was a divine plan given to man; entrusted to his care.

  • It’s a salvation given once for all. That’s really the key thought: one word in the Greek, hapax, a word full of urgency meaning the Gospel was given one time and it will never be repeated. There is ONE faith, in other words. It has never been altered or added to an it can never be altered or added to at any time in the future.

  • It’s a salvation given to the saints. The Word of life was given to those who had been set apart by God for Himself. The faith we cherish today was handed down to us by men and women set apart by God, just as we have been set apart by God.

  • It’s a salvation that must be contended for. The faith must be, from time to time, be defended by those who possess it. The word translated “contend for” comes from the Greek root agona, a strong word suggesting a fight or contest.

Verse three is really a “call to arms.” There may be a time when the saints of God must vigorously fight for the faith. To fight for the faith, though, must never be done using man’s weapons. Paul’s teaching on this is important to note:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3—5)

c. Enemies of the faith, vs. 4

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.

Here is why Jude felt compelled to write his letter. These were a slippery bunch of false teachers who “secretly slipped in among you.” That’s actually one Greek word that always suggests a secret, subtle insinuation of something wicked into a larger group or situation. That’s how false teachers work; they appear to be something they aren’t.

There weren’t a large number of these false teachers—Jude uses the word “certain,” inferring just a few. Their arrival on the scene should not have been a surprise to Jude’s readers. These false teachers had been written about for centuries. There have always been false teachers among God’s people, even back in the Old Testament era. And God cuts false teachers no slack: they are condemned even while they peddle they evil wares.

There is no hope for a false teacher, especially these perverts. The Gnostics believed the body to be a tool of evil, and so according to their thinking, it didn’t matter what a person did in the body. One could live to satisfy any appetite or desire or passion and it didn’t matter because God’s grace would take care of it. God’s grace, in other words, was being perverted into a justification for sin.

2. Expect God’s judgments, verses 5—16

a. Past examples, vs. 5—7

Jude’s readers knew what he was about to write, but that wasn’t going to stop him from reminding them of that which they knew so well. These godless men, too, should have learned their lesson from history. Jude uses three examples of how God dealt sternly with those who rebelled against Him.

  • Unbelieving Israel, vs. 5. When God delivered His people out of Egypt, and when He revealed Himself at Mt Sinai, they witnessed the greatest display of divine grace up to that time in history. In spite of the deliverance, the Law, the care and provision during the wilderness wanderings, some Israelites disbelieved and rebelled against God. Even within the covenant family of God, there was a minority of unbelievers and that minority did not escape God’s judgment. Similarly, these ungodly men within the Church will likewise be destroyed because of their unbelief.

  • Unfaithful angels, vs. 6. Even father back in history were the angels that rebelled against God. This likely refers to the “sons of God” who came to earth and mingled with women (Genesis 6:4; Job 1:6; 2:1). These unfaithful angels didn’t do what they were supposed to do and are even now bound over for judgment.

  • Immoral cities, vs 7. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is always cited in Scripture as an example of God’s wrath against sin. Those twin cities were judged and punished about 2,000 BC, but they remain to this very day a type of punishment that will befall all the ungodly: eternal fire.

b. Filthy dreamers and brute beasts, vs. 8—11

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

These were not only false teachers, they were thoroughly nasty men. Because their judgment is certain, Jude pronounces a stern “woe” on them. He gives examples of three others who faced certain judgment.

  • The false teachers have “taken the way of Cain.” The Greek verb Jude used describes one’s religious walk: they walked the way Cain walked. Cain’s walk was a walk devoid of faith; a walk that eventually led him to murder his brother, Abel. Cain’s “religion” was one of his own invention; he made up a way to approach God that God did not approve of.

  • The false teachers involved themselves in Balaam’s error. Balaam is like a prototype of every false teacher, false prophet, and preacher-for-hire down through history. Like Balaam, who prophesied for money, these false teachers were consumed with greed.

  • The false teachers were destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. Korah’s story is found in Numbers 16 and it tells the sad story of the punishment that befell Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 others who rebelled against Moses’ authority. Of course, these false teachers of Jude’s day had not yet been destroyed, but their doom was so certain, it is as though they had already been destroyed.

Another way to view this trio of religious rebels is like this: (1) Cain—the man who sacrificed too little; (2) Balaam—the man who prayed too often for the wrong reasons; (3) Korah and the men who professed too much.

c. Empty clouds and wandering stars, vs. 12—16

With unparalleled eloquence, Jude piles figure upon figure to describe these false teachers. Six figures in all, they all add up to one thing:

These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (verse 16)

They were selfish, hypocritical, delusional, deceivers. Bennet characterized them well:

When it was safe to do so, they blustered and bullied, and played the superior person, but they cringed to rich men, and flattered them for the sake of dinners and presents.

3. Remember, build, keep, and rescue, verses 17—25

a. Remember what the apostles said, vs. 17—19

Naturally the New Testament didn’t exist when Jude wrote this letter, but the teachings of the apostles were well known, both from letters written by the likes of Paul and Peter circulating among the churches, to the evangelistic efforts of Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Luke, and all the early missionaries who carried the Gospel to the four corners of the earth.

These false teachers, unlike the apostles, did not walk as Christ walked but rather walked in a way that satisfied their own “ungodly desires.” They had no “code of ethics,” but could be considered “spiritual anarchists.” They, like all false teachers, divided congregations to create schisms and factions, pitting believer against believer.

How could they behave like this? Because they did not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.

In spite of how wicked these men were, the apostles all knew they were coming; it should be no surprise that false teachers are in the Church.

b. Build and keep, vs. 20, 21

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

This is the burden of Jude! “Keep” comes from the Greek teresate, a terribly urgent word. It is absolutely imperative to “keep yourself in God’s love.” But does God hold us, or do we hold God? Scripture goes both ways, but leave it to Spurgeon to put this idea into a pithy saying: Holding I am held. It’s a mutual holding. We cling to God, and hold us. Jesus said much the same thing:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. (John 15:4a)

While we are “holding and being held,” we are to be actively building ourselves up in the faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. In regard to the second admonition, we should pray all the time, but when the Holy Spirit takes charge, we pray as we should pray. Praying in the Spirit means that we pray in His strength, and in His wisdom. The Spirit moves our hearts and directs our minds. We build ourselves up in the faith by fellowship with God through His Word and with His people.

c. Rescue those in danger, vs. 22, 23

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

These verses are a powerful reminder of what we owe the other person. What is our response to the overwhelming love and mercy we have experienced in Jesus Christ? We are to show that same love and mercy to those whose walk with Christ isn’t as strong as ours. Stephen Grellet was thought to penned these words, and it should be the hallmark of our lives as Christians:

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to my fellow creature. let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

d. The doxology, vs. 24, 24

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

There are many doxologies in the New Testament, but Jude’s is, to some, the most powerful. His warnings about false teachers and their doom could be considered depressing and discouraging. One wonders how overcoming these false teachers is even possible! Can the believer ever just serve the Lord in peace and safety? Yes! The believer has nothing whatsoever to fear from any false teacher because God is looking out for them. God the Father is able to keep us from falling. Think of that! God is able to keep us from stumbling or falling; He is able to help us persevere in the faith so that one day we may stand before God without any fear that we have come up short. What a relief! None of us has to live using our own devices.

Jude’s conclusion stirs the soul and should be memorized by all Christians. It’s very easy to be distracted by the machinations of man. It’s easy to get discouraged the evil that’s all around us. Sometimes we wonder if our faith will ever prevail over anything in this life. Jude’s words, when taken to heart, lift us up, beyond the petty conflicts and problems of this life and enables us to gain a glimpse into the heavenly realms where we may see God firmly seated on His throne, in complete control. God’s plan for His people will be carried out. No false teacher will stop Him for fulfilling His will for us.

(c) 2012 WitzEnd

TRUTHS FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING, Part 5

Jesus keeps the believer safe.

JUDE: STICKING WITH THE FAITH!

Jude, an English version of Judas and Judah, was such a common name during the New Testament era, it’s difficult to know who the author of this letter could have been with 100% certainty. There are no less than six Judes or Judases mentioned in the New Testament, and the writer of this short letter was probably one of them. Of the six, scholars believe the author to have been either the apostle Jude (not Iscariot) or Judas, the brother of Jesus. Out of those two, it seems highly probable that Jude, the brother of Jesus wrote this marvelous, little letter.

It’s also difficult to ascertain when Jude wrote his letter and virtually impossible to know whom it was written. It is likely, though, it was written late in the first century, sometime between 60 and 80 AD.

The point of the letter is to contend for the faith. Heretics, Antinomians by name, had come to prominence in the Church and were influencing otherwise godly leaders. These false teachers were Gnostics who believed in a kind of cosmic dualism: the material universe was evil, but the spirit was good. They denied the divinity of Christ and had no respect for spiritual things or even good manners. Jude wrote to encourage his readers to “stay the course” and remain faithful to the Gospel.

1. Contend for the faith, verses 1—4

a. Called, loved, kept, vs. 1, 2

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

Assuming the writer to have been the half-brother of Jesus, Jude was a late-comer to the cause. None of Jesus’ brothers followed our Lord during His lifetime. It wasn’t until after Pentecost that they finally saw Jesus for Who He really was and became major influences in the early Church.

We don’t know much about Jude, the brother of Jesus, but we gather he must have been a humble man. Notice how he refrains from mentioning his family relationship to Jesus, preferring to call Himself “a servant of Jesus.” Barclay observes:

Few things tell more about a man than the way in which a man speaks of himself.

The greeting makes three important points about Christians:

  • Christians are called. The Greek word is kletois, which in the New Testament stresses the sovereignty of God’s grace in “calling” the sinner to salvation. As Jesus taught, “Many are called,” but only a “few” actually accept the terms of the call to become the “chosen.”

  • Christians are loved by God. Believers are called by love, to be loved, to love.

  • Christians are kept by Jesus Christ. The word translated “kept” is teteremenois, in the present tense, suggesting an ongoing preservation of the believer. Jesus promised to never leave us or foresake us. No matter how “alone” we may feel, we are never truly alone nor are we ever expected to somehow “fend for ourselves.” He who calls us and loves us also looks after us.

b. The Christian faith, vs. 3

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.

This verse begins Jude’s earnest appeal for his readers to stick with the faith. But from this one verse we glean four important aspects of our salvation.

  • It’s a salvation that was entrusted to us. The KJV’s “delivered” gives us deeper understanding of the Gospel of salvation. It did not come to by way of the clever innovations of man. God’s plan of salvation did not spring from the mind of Moses or the mind of some false teacher. It was a divine plan given to man; entrusted to his care.

  • It’s a salvation given once for all. That’s really the key thought: one word in the Greek, hapax, a word full of urgency, meaning the Gospel was given one time and it will never be repeated. There is ONE faith, in other words. It has never been altered or added to an it can never be altered or added to at any time in the future.

  • It’s a salvation given to the saints. The Word of life was given to those who had been set apart by God for Himself. The faith we cherish today was handed down to us by men and women set apart by God, just as we have been set apart by God.

  • It’s a salvation that must be contended for. The faith must be, from time to time, be defended by those who possess it. The word translated “contend for” comes from the Greek root agona, a strong word suggesting a fight or contest.

Verse three is really a “call to arms.” There may be a time when the saints of God must vigorously fight for the faith. To fight for the faith, though, must never be done using man’s weapons. Paul’s teaching on this is important to note:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3—5)

c. Enemies of the faith, vs. 4

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.

Here is why Jude felt compelled to write his letter. These were a slippery bunch of false teachers who “secretly slipped in among you.” That’s actually one Greek word that always suggests a secret, subtle insinuation of something wicked into a larger group or situation. That’s how false teachers work; they appear to be something they aren’t.

There weren’t a large number of these false teachers—Jude uses the word “certain,” inferring just a few. Their arrival on the scene should not have been a surprise to Jude’s readers. These false teachers had been written about for centuries. There have always been false teachers among God’s people, even back in the Old Testament era. And God cuts false teachers no slack: they are condemned even while they peddle they evil wares.

There is no hope for a false teacher, especially these perverts. The Gnostics believed the body to be a tool of evil, and so according to their thinking, it didn’t matter what a person did in the body. One could live to satisfy any appetite or desire or passion and it didn’t matter because God’s grace would take care of it. God’s grace, in other words, was being perverted into a justification for sin.

2. Expect God’s judgments, verses 5—16

a. Past examples, vs. 5—7

Jude’s readers knew what he was about to write, but that wasn’t going to stop him from reminding them of that which they knew so well. These godless men, too, should have learned their lesson from history. Jude uses three examples of how God dealt sternly with those who rebelled against Him.

  • Unbelieving Israel, vs. 5. When God delivered His people out of Egypt, when God revealed Himself at Mt Sinai, they witnessed the greatest display of divine grace up to that time in history. In spite of the deliverance, the Law, the care and provision during the wilderness wanderings, some Israelites disbelieved and rebelled against God. Even within the covenant family of God, there was a minority of unbelievers and that minority did not escape God’s judgment. Similarly, these ungodly men within the Church will be destroyed because of their unbelief.

  • Unfaithful angels, vs. 6. Even father back in history were the angels that rebelled against God. This likely refers to the “sons of God” who came to earth and mingled with women (Genesis 6:4; Job 1:6; 2:1). These unfaithful angels didn’t do what they were supposed to do and are even now bound over for judgment.

  • Immoral cities, vs 7. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is always cited in Scripture as an example of God’s wrath against sin. Those twin cities were judged and punished about 2,000 BC, but they remain to this very day a type of punishment that will befall all the ungodly: eternal fire.

b. Filthy dreamers and brute beasts, vs. 8—11

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

These were not only false teachers, they were thoroughly nasty men. Because their judgment is certain, Jude pronounces a stern “woe” on them. He gives examples of three others who faced certain judgment.

  • The false teachers have “taken the way of Cain.” The Greek verb Jude used describes one’s religious walk: they walked the way Cain walked. Cain’s walk was a walk devoid of faith; a walk that eventually led to murdering his brother, Abel. Cain’s “religion” was one of his own invention; he made up a way to approach God that God did not approve of.

  • The false teachers involved themselves in Balaam’s error. Balaam is like a prototype of every false teacher, false prophet, and preacher-for-hire down through history. Like Balaam, who prophesied for money, these false teachers were consumed with greed.

  • The false teachers were destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. Korah’s story is found in Numbers 16 and it tells the sad story of the punishment that befell Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 others who rebelled against Moses’ authority. Of course, these false teachers of Jude’s day had not yet been destroyed, their doom was so certain, it is as though they had already been destroyed.

Another way to view this trio of religious rebels is like this: (1) Cain—the man who sacrificed too little; (2) Balaam—the man who prayed too often for the wrong reasons; (3) Korah and the men who professed too much.

c. Empty clouds and wandering stars, vs. 12—16

With unparalleled eloquence, Jude piles figure upon figure to describe these false teachers. Six figures in all, they all add up to one thing:

These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (verse 16)

They were selfish, hypocritical, delusional, deceivers. Bennet characterized them well:

When it was safe to do so, they blustered and bullied, and played the superior person, but they cringed to rich men, and flattered them for the sake of dinners and presents.

3. Remember, build, keep, and rescue, verses 17—25

a. Remember what the apostles said, vs. 17—19

Naturally the New Testament didn’t exist when Jude wrote this letter, but the teachings of the apostles were well known, both from letters written by the likes of Paul and Peter, to the evangelistic efforts of Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Luke, and all the early missionaries who carried the Gospel to the four corners of the earth.

These false teachers, unlike the apostles, did not walk as Christ walked but rather walked in a way that satisfied their own “ungodly desires.” They had no “code of ethics,” but could be considered “spiritual anarchists.” They, like all false teachers do, divided congregations to create schisms and factions, pitting believer against believer.

How could they behave like this? Because they did not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.

In spite of how wicked these men were, the apostles all knew they were coming; it should be no surprise that false teachers are in the Church.

b. Build and keep, vs. 20, 21

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

This is the burden of Jude! “Keep” comes from the Greek teresate, a terribly urgent word. It is absolutely imperative to “keep yourself in God’s love.” But does God hold us, or do we hold God? Scripture goes both ways, but leave it to Spurgeon to put this idea into a pithy saying: Holding I am held. It’s a mutual holding. We cling to God, and God holds us. Jesus said much the same thing:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. (John 15:4a)

While we are “holding and being held,” we are to be actively building ourselves up in the faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. In regard to the second admonition, we should pray all the time, but when the Holy Spirit takes charge, we pray as we should pray. Praying in the Spirit means that we pray in His strength, and in His wisdom. The Spirit moves our hearts and directs our minds. We build ourselves up in the faith by fellowship with God through His Word and with His people.

c. Rescue those in danger, vs. 22, 23

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

These verses are a powerful reminder of what we owe the other person. What is our response to the overwhelming love and mercy we have experienced in Jesus Christ? We are to show that same love and mercy to those whose walk with Christ isn’t as strong as ours. Stephen Grellet was thought to penned these words, and it should be the hallmark of our lives as Christians:

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to my fellow creature. let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

d. The doxology, vs. 24, 24

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

There are many doxologies in the New Testament, but Jude’s is, to some, the most powerful. His warnings about false teachers and their doom could be considered depressing and discouraging. One wonders how overcoming these false teachers is possible! Can the believer ever just serve the Lord in peace and safety? Yes! The believer has nothing whatsoever to fear from any false teacher because God is looking out for them. God the Father is able to keep us from falling. Think of that! God is able to keep us from stumbling or falling; He is able to help us persevere in the faith so that one day we may stand before God without any fear that we have come up short. What a relief! None of us has to live using our own devices.

Jude’s conclusion stirs the soul and should be memorized by all Christians. It’s very easy to distracted by the machinations of man. It’s easy to get discouraged by the evil that’s all around us. Sometimes we wonder if our faith will ever prevail over anything in this life. Jude’s words, when taken to heart, lift us up, beyond the petty conflicts and problems of this life and enables us to gain a glimpse into the heavenly realms where we may see God firmly seated on His throne, in complete control. God’s plan for His people will be carried out. No false teacher will stop Him for fulfilling His will for us.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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