Posts Tagged 'Jude'

Jude, Part 6

How To Survive With Your Faith Intact

Jude 17—23

With the exception of one more brief warning, Jude is finished with the issue of false teachers or apostates. The remaining verses of this brief and powerful letter contain a series of exhortations designed to encourage the believers to remain faithful and Jude even gives them some practical advice, which we would do well to take to heart.

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 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. 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.

1. Remember the Gospel, verses 17, 18

Like Ezekiel, Jude sees himself a watchman on the walls of Zion; times are dangerous for the House of God, and so he tells his readers to remember. The words “but” and “but you” in these verses are in the emphatic position, showing what Jude thought of his readers. He holds them in high esteem, especially in contrast to the false teachers. Jude expects much from them.

Jude again addresses his readers as agapetoi, “my beloved.” Because he loved his friends so much, Jude has spent considerable time on this issue. They face struggles, and in the face of what is to come, the first piece of advice given is to remember the teachings of the apostles. The Twelves, as they were known, and Paul, had a far reaching ministry, most of which we know nothing of. Edwin Blum makes a wonderful comment:

[T]heir preaching was part of the oral deposit of faith for the early churches.

The readers must be able to recall the message of the Gospel so that they can defend themselves against the pernicious attacks of the apostates. This is a powerful bit of advice for it places the emphasis of defense on the Word of God, not on the words of man. False teachers can be beaten, but not by clever arguments based on man’s doctrines, but on the plain teachings of the Word.

The teaching that Jude quotes is not found anywhere in the New Testament in those exact words; this has led most scholars to conclude that Jude paraphrased the overall teaching of the apostles. For example, Paul wrote this in Acts 20:29,

I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.

The Greek suggests that the idea of this teaching, that there would be selfish scoffers in the last days, was something taught repeatedly by the apostles. Through their sermons, they drilled this into the hearts and heads of the congregations of the early church. The term “last days” as used throughout the New Testament refers to their present time and a time in the future. The apostles never relaxed their vigilance, even during relative good times they were conscious that the believer is an enemy to the world in which he lives. This is surely a message for today, as we see the Church compromising itself time and time again, making friends with the world instead of fighting against it.

And so, Jude advises his friends that the best defense against false teaching is to know the Word of God. Believers have been warned of perilous times, they should not be surprised when they come, but they should know how to defend and contend for the faith.

2. Avoid false teachers, verse 19

For just a moment, Jude returns to the subject of false teachers. He merely reminds them that they:

  • “divide you.” The Greek word is extremely rare and may be “they make distinctions” between believers. Rather than accepting a brother or sister as a brother or sister, these false teachers put people into classes.
  • “follow mere natural instincts.” The Greek is psychikoi, from which we get our word “psychic,” but really means “soulish” or “unspiritual.” The church today seems plagued by teachers and preachers who claim special knowledge or “revelation” based on some kind of mystical experience, yet their lives don’t stand up under scrutiny.
  • “do not have the Spirit.” Despite their grand words, they are void of the Holy Spirit.

These kind of people do not have a place in the Church. Believers are not even to associate with heretics like this. Jesus spoke of not casting our peals before swine; in other words, some people are best avoided because of the damage they can cause to the Body of Christ.

3. Persevere and pray, verses 20, 21

The repetition of agapetoi serves to personalize the remaining few verses and points back to Jude’s friends. He gives his readers a series of four admonitions dealing with faith, prayer, love, and hope.

  • Believers should “build themselves up” in their “most holy faith.” The Greek suggests this “building up” is a continuous process that never ends. The “most holy faith” refers to the objective faith that came through the apostles; it includes all their teachings and practices. Today, we would say that believers need to study the Word of God, apply its teachings to the practices of everyday life and in that way, we are built up, fortified. Christians are also built up by fellowshipping together and worshiping together.
  • Believers are to be praying in the Holy Spirit. Once again, the Greek indicates a continuous, never ending activity. Praying in the Holy Spirit is not “praying in tongues” as some teach. Since all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, all believers should pray according to His will. That will is made known through the Word of God, through inner promptings and through the preaching of the gospel. Paul wrote a similar things in Ephesians 6:8. The wonderful thing about being filled with the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit takes our feeble prayers and prefects and presents them to God the Father (Kistemaker). See also Romans 8:26. This is in sharp contrast to the apostates, who don’t have the Holy Spirit in them.
  • Believers are to keep themselves in the love of God. The Greek for “keep” is teresate, an aorist imperative, stressing urgency. Robert Shank succinctly observed, The burden of Jude is that his readers continue to fight the good fight of faith. Charles Spurgeon is known to have placed a plaque over the doorway to his London Pastor’s College that read: Holding I am held. What an amazing truth! Neither clause can stand alone, they are both necessary for together they summarize the essence of Christ’s words, “Remain in me, and I in you.”
  • Finally, believers are to be focused on the “mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” because that is what gives them “eternal life.” Literally, the last half of verse 20 reads, “As you are waiting with expectation.” Elsewhere in the NT, believers are live their lives in anticipation of: the resurrection (Acts 24:15); their eternal glory (Titus 2:13); and the return of Christ (Luke 12:36). We can see that the life of the believer should be lived in expectation of great and positive things! In the context of Jude, believers are to eagerly anticipate the day of judgment for they will be acquitted as all believers experience the fullness of the mercy of Christ, but the wicked will be punished.

4. Show mercy, verses 22, 23

These verses contain some minor textual problems, which serve only as distractions because they don’t add or take away from anything Jude is trying to say. Basically, Jude is telling believers that there are three groups of people who need to shown mercy: those who are hesitating in questioning their faith, those who need to be saved from the fire, and those who need pity because they have been contaminated by the false teachers.

In view of the mercy we have been shown in Christ, we ought to show as much to those who need it. Stephen Grellet is thought to have said:

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.

  1. The first command to show mercy to those who are doubting (hesitating). The NEB has a translated this phrase in a striking way: “There are some doubting souls who need your pity.” Perhaps these false teachers have caused some to question their faith, these folk need to be reassured, not criticized. They need to shown patience, love, and mercy.
  2. The second group to whom mercy must be shown involves those who have been scotched by the flames of sin. Jude likely has in mind Amos 4:11, where God says to Israel, “You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire.” Those who are so influenced by sin are in danger of losing their very souls and time is short for them. To these who are on the verse of perishing, we are the instruments of their salvation. Calvin comments, “The word ‘save’ is transferred to men, not that they are the authors, but they are the ministers of salvation.”
  3. The final group needing mercy is a group tainted or corrupted by sin. These have likely been involved in the immorality of the false teachers. But the imagery is powerful. The picture Jude paints is of undergarments soiled by discharges from the body. Jude wants his readers to feel intense repulsion at that thought. Those who are covered in such filth desperately need help. What a marvelous picture of the length and breadth of God’s mercy and grace: He is able to exchange the excrement-covered garments for festive garments of righteousness. There is not one sinner—even the most defiled sinner—who is beyond salvation through faith in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work.

5. Concluding words of praise, verses 24, 25

In a stunning ascription of adoration, Jude turns to God. Interestingly, he has come full circle. He opened his letter attributing love and protection to God the Father and Jesus Christ. He concludes it by praising God and His Son for their protection.

First, after reading about these false teachers, one gets the impression that just getting to heaven is almost impossible. In the face of the constant struggles to maintain our faith, how can we do it? The answer lies in the keeping power of God the Father. This doxology, the most powerful in the NT, reminds us of God’s ability to bring every one of His own safely to Himself. God is able to guard His own as “the apple of His eye” (Deut. 32:10), for we are His precious possession.

Second, not only does God protect us, He will present us to God His Father. We are utterly unable to enter into heaven on our own merit. But glory be to God, through the effort of His Son, we are protected from falling away and made able to enter Heaven’s gate. Not only that, we are presented to the Father without fault! That is a statement made even more stunning by the fact that the singular Greek word, amomos, is used here of believers and in 1 Peter 1:19 of Jesus Christ!

Finally, and I think most remarkably, the phrase “with great joy.” To whom does this apply? To believer most assuredly. The final completion of our great salvation will fill us with unbelievable joy. But imagine the joy that will fill heaven when believers stand complete before their heavenly Father will be shared with all the saints of glory and with the Father and the Son.

Jude, Part 5

Saints and Sinners

Jude 14—16

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

In these three verses, Jude hones in on these apostates and gives clues that will help believers identify them. Never let it be said that the Bible keeps its readers in the dark.

In verses 14 and 15, Jude again quotes fro m an apocryphal book, known as 1 Enoch. While fragments of this ancient text have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the first century of the Christian era it was widely circulated and well known. This is why Jude quoted from it. He gives no hint that he thought what he cited was inspired; so many early believers were familiar with it, he used it as a kind of “sermon illustration.”

1. What Enoch Saw, verse 14—15

This prophecy of Enoch is not found anywhere in the Old Testament. We are told about Enoch in Genesis 5:18—24,

When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

And this is all we know about Enoch. “He walked with God;” apparently he had an amazing spiritual nature, and God simply removed him from the earth and he did not experience death. This godly man, who lived and spoke the word of the Lord before the Flood, like Jude, Paul, and Peter, preached against the false teachers of his day. We see that this problem of false teachers and false teaching is as old as man himself. For some reason, God the Holy Spirit saw fit to exclude Enoch’s writings from the canon of inspired Scripture, but here is one, single prophecy that is included: a prophecy against false teachers and their doom. Dr. Wuest’s translation of verses 14 and 15 goes like this:

And there prophesied also with respect to these, the seventh from Adam, Enoch, saying, “Behold, there comes the Lord with His holy myriads, to execute judgment against all and to convict all those who are destitute of a reverential awe towards God, concerning all their works of impiety which the impiously performed and concerning all the harsh things which impious sinners spoke against Him.

The subject of the sentence, and the subject of Enoch’s sermon, is the Lord. Jude puts the quotation is the perspective of Christ’s return. The “holy Myriads,” we know in light of Revelation, refers to either the angelic host that will accompany Christ or to the saints that will also accompany Him, or both. Jude’s point: When Christ returns in glory and power, He is coming to execute judgment upon all sinners and to convict the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in an ungodly way.

It’s interesting when we compare Enoch with the Church. Enoch was translated, removed from the earth by God. The Body of Christ, the Church, similarly, will be translated, removed from the earth by God. What will be left behind when the Church leaves will be an apostate church and a world populated by unregenerate sinners. That kind of world was judged by God using a flood, in Noah’s day. In the same way, God will judge the world to come when Christ returns. The great hymn-writer John Newton wrote these words:

At His call the dead awaken,
Rise to life from earth and sea;
All the powers of nature, shaken,
By His looks prepare to flee.
Careless sinner.
What will then become of thee?

Enoch not only preached against the wickedness of his day, but he looked far into the future to address all godless people of all generations. In fact, in the Greek, the stress in on those two words, “all” and “godless.” In a sense, this brief word of prophecy, spoken in antiquity, is a summary everything every written about Divine judgment through the pages of Scripture.

Those of us who love the Lord and love His Word grow impatient with what see as a rapid degeneration of the Church. Sometimes it is hard to fathom why the Lord permits so much heresy to preached in His Name. So many people are led astray, down the garden path of heresy. But Jude reminds us, through Enoch, a man ahead of his time, that a day of reckoning is coming. Peter said a similar thing, in 2 Peter 3:8—9,

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. (The Message)

Rest assured, the wicked will get their reward. Once upon a time, the great preacher Jonathan Edwards preached a powerful sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Now, as Leonard Ravenhill observed, the tide has changed; it is now “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners!” But, it won’t always be like this. False teachers are, as we noted before, the walking dead.

2. How to spot a false teacher, verse 16

After quoting Enoch’s prophecy, Jude applies it to the ungodly men, the apostate teachers, of his day. These false teachers, with their flowery words and heady concepts, are really, at their core, disreputable human beings. These false teachers are:

  • Grumblers. The KJV calls them “murmurers.” The Greek word means to “utter complaints,” literally to “whine.” It’s not a loud, outspoken kind of whining, but a quiet and persistent grumbling against God.
  • Faultfinders. That is, they are complainers. The false teachers complain about their lot in life, they are always searching but never finding. They are discontent, unhappy and miserable.
  • They follow their own evil desires. That’s how the NIV translates it, but a more accurate translation might be: “they follow their own passions.” They walk after their own lusts and desires, either good or bad. These apostates do whatever they want without regard for God or God’s will. That’s why they are never satisfied. Nothing can satisfy the needs of the human heart save Christ.
  • They boast about themselves. Literally, “their mouths speak bombastic words.” They’re immodest, arrogant, self-confident, and they use extravagant language to impress impressionable minds.
  • They flatter others for their own advantage. The Greek is very picturesque: “They honor faces for the sake of advantage,” in other words, they surround themselves with the pretty people, the attractive people, the talented people, so that they themselves will benefit from that relationship.

In other words, these apostates exhibit character traits exactly opposite to the Christ-like traits believers are called to demonstrate.

Jude 4

Exposing the False Teachers

Likewise also, these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil and disputing about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee!”
But these speak evil of those things which they know not; but what they come to know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain and have run greedily after the error of Balaam for their reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.

These are spots on your feasts of charity when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. Clouds they are without water, carried about by winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. (Jude 8—13, 21st Century KJV)

After giving three examples of rebellion against the will of God and the subsequent descriptions of God’s judgment, Jude continues to describe the godless false teachers of his day. He has already given the reader a brief description of them in verse 4:

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)

1. Perversions of the Apostates, verse 8

Now, Jude expands on this description using three powerful verbs: pollute, reject, and slander.

  • Pollute. By using the phrase “In the very same way,” Jude links the behavior of these false teachers to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. This sin of polluting matches the homosexual acts of verse 7. Whether Jude limits their sin to just that or other sexual sins is unknown, but we get the idea that these false teachers engaged in sexual excess.
  • Reject: Jude observes that these men reject authority. There is a difference of opinion as to what “authority” Jude has in mind. Calvin suggests Jude is referring to civil magistrates, while other expositors think he was referring to church leaders. Perhaps Jude had all kinds of authority in mind, especially their rejection of Christ’s authority over them.
  • Slander: Finally, these godless men “slander celestial beings.” Jude doesn’t say how or why they do this. Given when we know of them so far, perhaps in their materialistic and worldly lifestyle they deny the very existence of all spiritual beings, both good and evil.

2. Pattern of Michael, verse 9

Michael is one of only two angels named in all of Scripture. The other one is Gabriel. “Michael,” literally translated means “one who is like God” is portrayed by Daniel as the guardian angel of the Jews (Dan. 12:1). In Revelation, Michael is seen as a “warrior angel” who does battle against the devil (Rev. 12:7—9). This verse has caused some great debates in theological circles from the days of the early church. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Didymus of Alexandria, early church fathers all, have written that Jude is quoting from something called “The Assumption of Moses,” an apocryphal book, of which only a few fragments remain.

The fact that Jude freely quotes from not one but two apocryphal books led some in the early church to question the inspiration of Jude. However, Jude merely quotes from the books, he doesn’t claim they are authoritative or inspired. His point in quoting from these sources seems pretty obvious; his readers would doubtless have been familiar with them, inspired, folklore or not, and the false teachers should have learned from the example of the archangel Michael. In the “Assumption of Moses,” the Devil claimed the right to the body of Moses because of Moses’ sin of murder. In spite of Michael’s high position, power and dignity, he refused to argue with or slander the Devil, but rather referred their dispute to God, the Highest Authority.

The point, as Barclay said is:

If the greatest of the good angels refused to speak evil of the greatest of the evil angels, even in circumstances like that, the surely no human may speak evil of any angel.

3. Practices of the Apostates, verse 10

“Yet these men” is statement of extreme contempt and shows how Jude felt about them. They, unlike Michael, presume to speak evil about things they don’t know anything about. These “dreamers” have some knowledge, but mock at things they know nothing of. As Jude says elsewhere, in verse 19,

These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

They may have some knowledge, but they are completely devoid of Divine knowledge. This reminds us of the words of Paul:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

From the Scottish Psalter Hymnal, we read this version of David’s psalm, 14:

The God who sits enthroned on high,
The foolish in the heart deny;
Not one does good: corrupt in thought,
Unrighteous works their hands have wrought.

Without God’s guidance and spiritual discernment, people are abysmally ignorant of reality and can rely only instinct; only on what they see. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes came to the same conclusion. He called it “folly” or “vanity.”

4. Past Judgments Upon the Apostates, verse 11

This verse begins with Jude imitating Jesus as He pronounced His series of “Woes” in the Gospels. No other New Testament writer did this. If we break this verse down, the trio of rebellious religious rebels looks like this:

  • Cain: the worshiper who gave too little;
  • Balaam: the prophet who prayed too often (about the same thing)
  • Korah: the minister who professed to much (claiming equal authority with Moses and Aaron)

Note the progression here, their sinful rebellion goes from the relatively minor (improper worship) to more serious (improper praying), finally to overestimating their own importance. Jude says there is no hope for people like this. Each verb, “have taken,” “have rushed,” and “have been destroyed” are all in the aorist tense, indicating a complete action. Arndt and Gingrich, masters of Greek, have said this indicates that Jude is saying because their sin is so certain, their punishment is so certain, that he regards it as having come upon them already. These false teacher, in Jude’s estimation, are the walking dead.

5. Predicted end of the Perverts, verses 12-13

With striking eloquence, Jude piles figure upon figure to describe the apostate teachers in detail, ending in their end.

  • Blemishes at your love feasts. There are two ways to translate spilas (blemishes, NIV). It can be rendered “rocks” or “hidden rock,” as the NASB reads, or “spots” or “blemishes,” as the NIV and KJV, among others, have translated it. Either translation puts the apostates in a bad light: if they are likened to “hidden rocks,” Jude has mind the “shipwreck of faith,” so they are dangerous to genuine believers. If “blemishes,” Jude indicates a “defilement.” The Love Feast” was a big meal that accompanied the Communion service in the early church. The idea Jude is putting forward is that merely fellowshipping with such persons can jeopardize the stability of genuine faith by corrupting all who come in contact with them.
  • Shepherds who feed only themselves. What a way to describe a person; selfish and self-centered, caring only for their own needs and wants. False shepherds who care nothing for the flock.
  • Clouds blown by wind without rain. Literally, these false teachers are “waterless clouds,” promising rain but delivering nothing.
  • Twice dead trees. Jude compares the apostate teachers fruitless trees, long past harvest. Not only have these trees not born fruit, they have been uprooted—twice dead.
  • Restless sea. For us today, the sea is a vision of beauty, but to ancient man, the sea was a place of terror and fear. The prophet Isaiah also compared the sinner to the sea: But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. (Isa. 57:20). The false teachers are restless, moving from place to place, leaving behind what the restless sea leaves behind on the seashore: foam and scum.
  • Wandering stars. This is the final metaphor to describe the apostate teachers. Stars can be helpful because the illuminate the darkness, All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, but in the case of the false teachers, they are so erratic, they illuminated nothing. The emphasis, however, is not on the word “stars,” but on the concept of “wandering.” It’s root is the same root for the word “error.” J.B. Moffatt calls these men “erratic comets or shooting meteors, who have deserted their proper orbit and broken away from the regulations of the Lord.”

These false teachers, because they are out of orbit, have to moral center, and are burning themselves out is sin, heading for a place of complete blackness forever.

Jude 3

A Warning From History

I want to remind you of something that you really know already: and although the Lord saved all the people from the land of Egypt, yet afterwards he brought to their downfall those who would not trust him. And the very angels who failed in their high duties and abandoned their proper sphere have been deprived by God of both light and liberty until the judgment of the great day. Sodom and Gomorrah and the adjacent cities who, in the same way as these men today, gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion, stand in their punishment as a permanent warning of the fire of judgment. (JBP)

As we read Jude, it’s wise to keep in mind to whom he was writing. The early Christian church was made up, in large part, of Jewish converts. These Jewish converts would know their history well and they would easily make the connection between these lessons from history and the modern false teacher.

In Jeremiah 13, we read this verse that can almost be called a proverb, because it is nugget of truth:

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13:23, NIV)

In general, people don’t change. The very same false teachings that plagued the Church in Jude’s day, are the same ones that the Church struggles with today. The names are different, and the faces are different, but the false teachings are the same, and the devastating results of those false teachings are the same: ruined lives and broken churches.

1. Judgment: God’s promise you can count on

Before Jude continues with his description of the false teachers and their ultimate condemnation, he turns to Jewish history, which he says readers already know, and he gives three examples of divine judgment. Here’s a good reason to know what is written in the Old Testament:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11, NIV)

Specifically, Paul is referring to Moses and the children of Israel, but there is an overriding principle in that verse. Knowledge of the Word of God will help you avoid the same pitfalls that people in the Old Testament fall into. That’s why Jude told his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith” earlier in his letter; because it contains the what they needed to identify and drive away the false teachers. What is true in Jude’s day, is true in our day. That’s why these 24 verses are so relevant.

Peter also relied on examples from history when he was warning against false teachers as well.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:12, NIV)

So, as Peter did, Jude does. Jude will give three examples of the Lord’s judgments on those who knowingly rebelled against the Lord. The judgment of God is sure and certain, but in this dispensation of grace, man is apt to think God is out of the judging business.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal. 6:7, NIV)

And that’s the point of Jude’s argument. The false teachers were sowing disharmony and discord. They were the causing dissension and leading others astray. They were the vilest of sinners: they actually knew the truth yet mocked it by doing the exact opposite.

2. Example #1: Deliverance from Egypt

Israel was God’s chosen nation. He delivered them from bondage in Egypt by great and mighty wonders and miracles. The people experienced God’s grace as nobody else in history ever had. They saw the miracles. They heard and saw His revelation at Mount Sinai. They received His special care while they journeyed through the desert. And yet, despite being the recipients of all this, some of their number disbelieved and rebelled against the Moses and the Lord.

Jude reminds his readers that “the Lord later destroyed those who did not believe.” We note that these people who experienced God’s wrath “did not believe.” In other words, they were part of the company of believers, but they themselves were not believers. How many were there?

In Numbers 1:45-46, we read that there were over 600,000 men over the age of twenty. If we add in an equal number of women, then those who died in the desert on the way to Canaan totaled over 1,200,000 people. If we divide that number by the total number of days of the 38 year journey, we arrive an amazing 90 deaths per day; that’s almost 100 of Israel’s youngest and strongest who died each day under God’s judgment.

That sounds severe, but remember, the Israelites were physically delivered from bondage, not by their faith as a nation, but by God’s covenant love and mercy. By rejecting God’s guidance, they experienced God’s anger. By rebelling against His leadership, they were demonstrating their rebellious nature.

The warning in this example is clear: unbelief and rebellion are not tolerated by God. These people, while not believers, knew what the truth was, but they refused in the stubbornness of their hearts, to submit to God.

3. Example #2: Angles who fell

This is one of the verses that scholars love to debate. These angels left their “proper sphere” or “proper dwelling.” That was their sin.

Many Bible teachers associate Jude’s allusion with Genesis 6:1-4, where we read of angels (sons of God) coming down to earth and, cohabiting with women (daughters of men), producing a half-human, half-demonic race of freaks (giants). The apocryphal book of Enoch, from which Jude quotes later on, speaks of this piece of Jewish folklore in depth. The early church fathers believed this interpretation of Genesis 6. But is that what Jude had in mind? It seems inconceivable that angels, who do not have bodies, could procreate with a human being.

Without regard to exactly what Jude meant, the sin of the angles is very clear: they refused to stay within their divinely appointed sphere. They, like the rebellious Israelites, refused to obey God’s will in favor of their own.

What was their punishment? These sinful angels are kept in (or are reserved for) a place of darkness, in chains, awaiting their final judgment. Some commentators think this is a literal judgment; that there are some fallen angles bound and some lose, running over the earth. Others see Jude writing metaphorically: these angels are bound in a “spiritual darkness” as they await their final judgment. Again, it’s difficult to know with any certainty what Jude is alluding to, however, one thing we can know with absolute certainty is this: these fallen angels are living under condemnation because, in their rebellion, they usurped their desires over God’s will.

4. Example #3: Immoral cities

The third and final example of rebellion is the most vivid. Throughout the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah are given as outstanding examples or symbols of gross immorality and serve as an eternal testament to God’s hatred for this kind of sin. What was the sin? The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were involved in gross homosexuality, that’s what is meant by the term “other flesh” (NIV).

The point of Jude using this example is not the homosexual act, which is vile enough, but rather he points to a much deeper sin. The activity of the Sodomites was a perversion of the normal order of God’s creation.

5. Jude’s purpose

What is Jude’s purpose in giving these examples? He is unfolding the fate of these false teachers in a progressive nature. Note:

  • The unbelieving Israelites were buried in the desert;
  • The unfaithful angles are bound in a hellish darkness;
  • The immoral cities were burned with fire, a type of eternal fire (verse 7).

God’s judgment is past, present, and future. It cannot be escaped. For those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, for those who refuse to seek God’s will and live in obedience to it, and for those who are determined to go their own way, doing their own thing, their fate is already sealed. Such is the fate of the false teachers.

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.

Jude: A Message for Our Time, Part One

The Greeting

Just twenty-four short verses long, this brief letter, part of what we call The Catholic Epistles, is contains some of the pertinent warnings for our generation in all the Bible. Jude’s purpose in writing this letter was to warn his readers to be on guard against “innovators” who were smuggling false teachings into the church (Edwin Blum). This little book with the powerful message has been referred to as “the most neglected book in the New Testament” by Douglas Bowers.

Yet in our politically correct charged time, the message of Jude is more timely than ever. Our culture shuns and perverts the truth, while the culture of the modern Church is becoming more and more indifferent to the truth. So much so, that many Christians cannot distinguish between truth and error. Jude wasn’t the only writer of the Bible who fought against false teachers. Paul warned Timothy about them in their relationship to widows in his church:

From their number come those creatures who worm their way into people’s houses, and find easy prey in silly women with an exaggerated sense of sin and morbid cravings – who are always learning and yet never able to grasp the truth. These men are as much enemies to the truth as Jannes and Jambres were to Moses. Their minds are distorted, and they are traitors to the faith. (2 Timothy 3:6-8)

That phrase, “always learning and yet never able to grasp the truth,” perfectly describes, not only some of the widows and “silly women,” in Timothy’s church, but the average member of a church, who hears the truth taught and preached week after week, yet seems unable to function in that truth. The writer to Hebrews felt this common pastoral frustration and expressed it this way:

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (Hebrews 5:12)

How many members of our churches could best be described as “spiritual midgets,” when they ought to be “spiritual giants?” Is it any wonder the once great and influential Church of Jesus Christ has, to a very large extent, become unimportant and irrelevant in the thinking of so many these days?

Delbert Rose wrote:

The Christian life depends upon grace expressing itself in godliness; basic to Jude’s theology is the inescapable relationship between belief and behavior, between error and evil, between sound faith and good works.

If one’s beliefs are wrong, their behavior will not bring glory to God. Donald Guthrie, in his excellent commentary on Jude marks the relevancy of this epistle by saying:

As long as men need stern rebukes for their practices, the Epistle of Jude will remain relevant. It ought to become the fiery cross to rouse the churches to vigorous action against today’s blatant apostasy.

1. Jude Who? 1:1a

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

Jude was a very common name in New Testament times. It is actually the English variant of “Judas.” James was also a common name in New Testament times. Jude writes that he is the bother James, so who exactly was James? Generally, one identifies his father, not his brother, in an introduction. But here, Jude links himself to James. It is likely he did this because this James may have carried some weight in minds of the recipients. In the New Testament, there are no less than five prominent men named James:

James, the son of Zebedee, Matt. 10:2;
James, the son of Alpheus, Matt. 10:3
James the Younger, Mark 15:40
James, the father of Judas, Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13
James, the half brother of the Lord, Matt. 13:55

Of these five, it is probable that the last one, James the half brother of our Lord, is the most likely candidate. By linking himself to his brother, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, Jude also links himself to the Savior. We can learn a little about Jude’s character by the way he introduces himself. William Barclay noted:

Few things tell more about a man than the way in which he speaks of himself. Jude was willing to be remembered by his relationship to his far more famous brother.

But why not be remembered by his relationship to his half-brother, Jesus? A verse in John 7 is very telling:

For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:5)

In humility, Jude would rather be known as a “servant” or “slave” of the brother, now recognized as the Savior, he had once denied.

The Greek word for “servant” is doulos, which may be properly translated as “bondservant” or “slave.” But we would be incorrect to view a doulos as we would view a “slave” by today’s usage of the word. A doulos in Jude’s time was a person willingly subjected themselves to their master. They were a slave because that’s what they wanted to be. Again, Rose has noted that this lordship of Jesus Christ is a major theme in this letter, considering the people to whom it was written had been denying the Lordship of Jesus, preferring the lordship of the false teachers. So at the very beginning of this letter, then, Jude places himself at a contradistinction to his readers.

2. The Called, verse 1b

To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.

The recipients of this letter are simply called “the called.” No other destination is given. This suggests that Jude was not a pastor, or a spiritual father to any particular congregation. Perhaps he was just a very interested individual who was dismayed by the state of the church in general.

The phrase, “the called” is a designation that has become synonymous with “a Christian.” It comes from a single Greek word, kletois, which is a word packed with meaning. It stresses a sovereign act of God in summoning one to salvation. “Many are called,” but only the “few” accepting the terms of the call are “chosen,” Matthew 20:16; 22:14. It paints the picture of a God who goes in search of soul to save, calling out to that soul, wanting that soul to respond to His call.

Certain blessings belong only the kletois. They are:

Loved by God the Father. Some translations read “sanctified by God,” but this is likely a mistranslation of two Greek words which appear look very similar to each other. The best evidence, though, is that Jude wrote that “the called” are indeed “loved by God.” And this makes perfect sense, for God is love, 1 John 4:16, and He has set His love on His people. This was a concept that Jude’s readers would have understood immediately. Consider Deuteronomy 7:6-8–

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you.

Kept by Jesus Christ. These words echo the words of Jesus Himself concerning His disciples:

While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. (John 17:12)

The word “kept” or “preserved” is teteremenois, which is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing activity. Christ’s preservation of His people has never stopped and will never stop. This is a wonderful promise: Christ will keep us! It reminds us of what Paul wrote,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:35)

But, later on his letter, Jude indicates that this keeping process will not go on automatically. He ends his letter saying,

Keep yourselves in the love of God (verse 21).

In the Greek, the word “by” is absent. Some translations have used the word “in,” as in “kept in Jesus Christ.” But, in keeping faithful with the context, we could read this part of the verse like this: “kept for Jesus Christ,” with the thought that God the Father preserves the kletois for His Son.

3. Amazing blessings, verse 2

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

The NIV, as well as most translations, give us a paraphrase of this verse, not an actual translation. The exact translation is:

May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. (NASB)

All three of these things: mercy, peace, and love, are things God does for us or gives to us.

  • “Mercy” is from the Greek eleos, which is translated “the unmerited goodness of God.” This is how God deals with us each and every day; He treats us better than we deserve.
  • “Peace” is eirene, and has reference to a “harmonious relationship.” What else could accompany the acceptance of God’s mercy but peace? God makes is possible for believers to be in a harmonious relationship with Him.
  • “Love” is from the awesome Greek word agape. Of all the New Testament writers, Jude is the only one who has used this word in this way.

All three of these are given to us by God, who causes them to grow in our lives. This multiplication of abstract things like mercy, peace, and love is difficult to understand. It not unlike memorizing the dreaded “times tables” in school. Kids learn their “times tables” through constant repetition and practice. This is the concept of Jude 2: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. Jude does not say they must be multiplied, but that they may be multiplied. God is the one who does the multiplication, not us.

These intangible qualities are multiplied as we approach God throne, seeking His mercy and forgiveness of our sins. The more we come to God, the more God grants us the gifts of mercy, peace and love. (Kistemaker)

Jude could have written, “May mercy, peace, and love be added to you.” But he used multiplied because God’s gifts are doubled, and tripled, and quadrupled. That’s an amazing thing. Addition is easy to understand:


But the times tables are a lot harder to remember:


Multiplication is really mind-boggling. But, this is how God gives us these gifts of mercy, peace, and love. We cannot comprehend what the results are in our lives. And God doesn’t expect us to. He wants us to pray, “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”

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