The book of Jude is seldom read these days. Most Christians have never studied it – which is a shame, for it is a warning which we need most urgently today.
Jude 1:1-25 NASB Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: (2) May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. (3) Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (4) For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (5) Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. (6) And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, (7) just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (8) Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. (9) But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (10) But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. (11) Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. (12) These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. (14) It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, (15) to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (16) These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. (17) But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, (18) that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." (19) These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. (20) But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, (21) keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (22) And have mercy on some, who are doubting; (23) save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (24) Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, (25) to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
About this book
It’s rather short – 25 verses in all, quite easy to read in a few minutes. Scholars have noted a great similarity (almost word for word in some instances) with 2nd
Peter. It is generally thought that Peter wrote first, and Jude is emphasizing the same message.
Who was Jude? We know that he is the brother of James (this is the James who wrote the book by that name). From that, we know that he is also the brother of Jesus. He is generally identified as one of the Apostles; in some parts of the Gospel he is identified as “Judas (not Iscariot).” Other than this we know very little of the man.
The mystery continues if we ask to whom he was writing. It’s clear that he’s writing to a Hebrew church – but which one? We don’t know, as the salutation provides no clue. Because of this mystery, the canonicity of this book has been questioned at various times. This is particularly so since Jude quotes things which come from very non-canonical sources. But with the exception of the Protestant Reformation, when it was challenged for a while, it has been accepted since the earliest days until now.
The real question today is this: why does your teacher pick this book to produce a one week study? The answer is simple: Jude and I have the same purpose in writing: to contend for the faith. That faith, “once for all entrusted to the saints,” is now being attacked by men who bear a remarkable resemblance to those described here.
During the Second World War, civilians who were charged with spotting enemy air raids were furnished with a deck of cards. The cards had the silhouettes of various enemy aircraft, along with other information useful for identification. This way, the spotters did not need to get a clear view of the aircraft to know what it was – the clues were enough.
Jude starts by giving us the same help here:
· These are Godless men. Isn’t that a little surprising, since they’re in the church? Not really. If my ego is stroked enough by being a big shot in the church, fraud is easy to commit.
· They change grace into license. One key error that is a clue to such men is that they presume upon the grace of God. They sin with the attitude that God will forgive them; after all, it’s his hobby.
· Most important: they deny Jesus Christ as Sovereign and Lord. Sovereign refers to Christ’s position; Lord to his power over their lives. So we would be looking for those who do not honor Christ as head of the church – nor obey his commands in their daily lives.
What will God do about it
Jude stops with those three points and gives us some examples of exactly what God has in store for such people. He cites the history the Hebrews would know to show just how severely God will deal with such people. This, therefore, is a reminder – but what a reminder:
· Remember the people coming out of Egypt by God’s might? They saw miracle after miracle – and exactly two of them made it to the promised land. The rest died in the desert. God has always been willing to pare down his people to a remnant who are faithful.
· Angels – Jude (quoting non-canonical books) reminds them that even angels have been imprisoned by God for their rebellion. No power in heaven or on earth can stop God’s wrath.
· Finally – a very relevant example today – he reminds us of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let us be quite explicit: they were the homosexual heavens of their day, as San Francisco is ours. They were utterly destroyed.
Now that Jude has thoroughly alarmed us (we’re not used to hellfire and brimstone anymore, are we?) he continues to define our opponents:
· They will be those who will pollute their own bodies. Jude knows, as we should, that sex is reserved for marriage. Anything else assaults your own body. How? If you have a prostitute, she becomes one flesh with you. In our own time we have seen the spread of diseases like AIDS. Isn’t it interesting that no one suggests that chastity would be of any assistance? Does the church really stand up for Christian marriage? If you think it does, tell me what it does about divorce?
· These men reject authority. If this is not familiar to you, please – open your eyes. I live next to a high school. It is a “magnet school” attracting the best and brightest from all of Orange County. It’s also a school whose student have mastered the art of giving obscene gestures to anyone who gets in their way.
· Interestingly, they “slander celestial beings.” The closest equivalent I could make to that today would be those who think that Jesus Christ is simply an obscenity.
Comparison to Old Testament characters
Jude knows that it’s difficult for us to remember a laundry list of faults, so he sticks in a list of similar people, familiar to us from the Old Testament. We need to do a bit of digging to discover what he means.
· Cain, we remember, murdered his brother Abel – and justified himself with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Here’s something to look out for. Cain’s problem was that his own evil was not acceptable to God – while his brother’s offering was accepted. Do you see envy and jealousy here? Look further and you will see this: God warned Cain. He had but to turn from his wickedness and he would have been accepted.
· Balaam – scattered across Numbers – is a fine example. He is a prophet of God – but he also dabbles in other gods and goddesses, and he likes divination and sorcery. More to the point – he does this for money. He led the Israelites to sexual orgies at some temples. He was a “prophet for hire” – telling you what you wanted to hear. Joshua eventually had him executed for sorcery. But here you see the example of the “shepherds who feed themselves” – church leaders serving themselves.
· Korah is another example. Korah and his followers decided to help God out. They knew they were as good as Aaron, so they went to offer incense and prayer to God at the Tabernacle. They placed their reason over God’s command. God had Moses separate them out – and then had the earth swallow them. Do we know anyone today who places human reason above God’s word?
Whose problem is this?
It comes to mind – after all, most of us are not church leaders. So Jude makes it personal:
· These men are “blemishes” on our potluck church dinners. As a teenage girl works so hard to rid herself of pimples, so we should work to rid ourselves of these men.
· The best test of such men is still the same: much sound, much fury – but no fruit for the Lord.
· They make a great show of being righteous, but we still must look at their fruits.
To make this urgent for us, Jude reminds us that there is the 2nd Coming of our Lord. We seldom hear much of this these days. We need to remember that our Lord is coming to judge the living and the dead. For the sake of our own salvation, we need to be watching out for these people. In the context of the 2nd Coming, Jude gives us warning to watch out for these people:
· Grumblers. Every church seems to have them, but we should take particular care that we don’t join them.
· Faultfinders. Of course, we only do that to point out someone else’s sin, right?
· Following their own evil desires. Have you ever known a Christian who put their desires above their love for Christ?
· Boasting. Some of us are so proud of just how humble we truly are.
· Flattery. This one interests me. It is as if they assume that all others in the church are like they are, frauds. When fraud meets fraud in public, flattery is the result.
Do such things affect us in our church? I would think so.
What to do about it
This is all well and good as warning – but then what? What’s the average Christian to do?
First, remember that you were warned that such men would appear. It was prophesied. So you should expect it. This is one reason you should stay in the church congregation where God has placed you – all the other congregations have this problem too. Don’t be surprised when you find it. What kind of people were prophesied?
· Scoffers, particularly those who doubt the return of the Lord.
· Those who follow only their natural instinct. Have you ever heard, “Something so wonderful and beautiful as sex just can’t be wrong, I know God would approve?”
· Most importantly, such people do not have the Holy Spirit. Remember the fruit of the Spirit? If it’s not there, you know you’ve found one.
Next, we need to take that we do not slip into the same things. We need to be building ourselves up. Jude gives us these specifics:
· Faith – if we must stand one against the world, this is essential.
· Prayer – those who are self centered have no time for this. If you are a true Christian, you make time for it.
· Keep in God’s love. Do you see the love of God flowing out from your hands?
· Surprisingly, you do all this while you wait – for his return.
Finally, having been forewarned, having built ourselves up in the faith, we must exercise church discipline when we can, in the love of God.
· First, we are to be merciful to those who doubt. For those who are new in the faith, nothing really helps like having wise counsel. This is an act of mercy.
· Next, we are to exercise church discipline. Remember what we are doing here: we are to “snatch others from the fire and save them.” Does this mean that we should consider those lost in sin as headed for hell? Yes. Even in a church that never mentions that word and uses the euphemism “Christ-less eternity.” (The Bible mentions hell fire; we mention home sickness.)
Finally, we are to show mercy mixed with fear. We must always remember that hell is real – so we should do everything we can to keep ourselves and our brothers and sisters from it.