17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
(Jude vv. 17-19 NIV)
In our last few sessions together, Jude reminded his readers (and us) that God will judge the ungodly words and actions of those who oppose Him or are defiant toward Him. Jude cited a number of Old Testament examples of folks who had the same mindset as these false teachers and the terrible consequences of their blatant defiance and sin.
In today’s passage, Jude reminds his readers (and us) that these false teachers are not some new revelation from God as they claim to be. The apostles had warned of both their coming and their motive.
Jude begins with “But” to contrast, to change both direction and subject. Jude was denouncing these false teachers; now he turns his attention to encourage the saints in the church.
Notice that Jude refers to the recipients of his letter as “dear friends” or “beloved” – all terms of endearment and loving concern for his readers. Jude’s words are meant to be an encouragement and hope for his readers; this was not a disciplinary or corrective letter for something these believers had done wrong.
In fact, Jude tells his readers to “remember” what the Apostles had told them. Jude’s words were an exhortation, a command to recall what they had been taught by Peter and the other apostles.
In verse 18, Jude quotes the apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:3). And what was the message of these nay-sayers? Peter tells us in his next sentence:
They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
(2 Peter 3:4 NIV)
Have you heard anyone say something similar in our day?
“It’s been 2,000 years since Jesus promised to return. Obviously He is not coming back.”
“Christianity is an ancient myth. Was Jesus even a real person, or some made-up character that told stories about ethics and morality?”
Peter’s point, which Jude reiterates, is clear: These false teachers are not interested in learning the truth – they are only interested in justifying their sin and fulfilling their selfish desires. They want to do whatever they want and have no guilt or consequences for their thoughts, words, or actions.
Jude reminds his readers that the goal of these false teachers is to divide and conquer, to get peoples’ eyes off the Lord and onto someone or something else. Jude is appealing to his readers with human reason while reminding them that the false teachers run on instinct, not reason. Human reasoning, a God-given ability, will save their lives if applied; running on instinct, like a wild animal, will ultimately cost them their life (v. 10).
Lastly, in verse 19, Jude reminds his readers that these false teachers are devoid of God’s Holy Spirit – they are operating strictly in their natural (non-spiritual) state.
As I ponder Jude’s words this morning, I think I can safely say that I am not a false teacher that Jude spoke against. However, I am reminded of Jude’s two simple tests of my every thought, word, and action to keep me focused and centered on Christ:
- Why do I think/ speak/ do the way I do? What is my motivation?
Am I seeking God’s glory or my own?
Am I seeking His good, or am I feeding my own selfish desires?
- Is God’s Holy Spirit evident and leading in what I am thinking/ speaking/ doing?
Am I operating on my own human power or instinct?
Or am I empowered and directed by His Holy Spirit?
May we live our everyday lives under the authority and guidance of God’s Holy Spirit in all we think, say, and do – for His glory, and not our own.