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.”

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