Jude 3-4

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
(Jude vv. 3-4 NIV)

Yesterday we began our journey through the letter of Jude.  In his introduction, Jude reminded us that we were called, are loved, and will continue to be kept for the day when Jesus returns to take his own to heaven.  Jude also lavished blessings on his readers, offering them God’s mercy, peace, and love in abundance.

In today’s passage, Jude presents the purpose for his letter – to identify and deal with false teachers that have crept into the local church.  Peter’s second letter had warned that there might be those who would bring false teaching into the church; in Jude’s letter, the false teachers had arrived and were infiltrating the church.

In yesterday’s introduction, we see what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. In today’s text, Jude states his purpose for writing and issues a call to action to deal with the false teachers.

Jude begins today’s passage by stating that while he really wanted to write to his dear friends about their common salvation in Christ, he was led by the Lord to write about staying true to their faith in Christ and to God’s Word that was entrusted to God’s people.

The phrase “once for all” is very important in Jude’s statement.  These false teachers were coming in and saying that they had a new word from God, new truths and teachings that were the “next thing” that superceded what Jesus taught.  Jude is saying that what they were taught by Jesus and the apostles is the truth, and there is no “new truth” as the false teachers claim.

In verse 4, Jude states that certain individuals have slipped into the church and started introducing false teachings as truth.  These false teachers didn’t come in the front door loudly proclaiming what they believed.  Instead, they came in the side door, earned peoples’ trust, and then got themselves into teaching positions where they could introduce their false teachings.  These false teachers are like wedding crashers who get dressed up and pass themselves off as friends of the bride or groom in order to fulfill their own selfish desires.

Jude tells us that these false teachers are not merely individuals that are mistaken in their beliefs; rather, these people are not followers of Christ at all.  They are pretending to be followers of Christ, but are ungodly, “who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

And what is their end?  What are the consequences laid out for these false teachers?  Jude says that their condemnation was written out long ago.   In other words, God was not surprised by these false teachers.  Long before they existed, God had known and had warned about their existence and had publicly warned about their coming, and had already laid out the heavy consequences of their sin.

So how do we identify false teachers?  What are some of their characteristics?  Jude gives us two clear markers – they pervert the grace of God, and they deny Jesus as Savior and Lord.

The second marker is easier to measure than the first.  We can simply ask, “Who is Jesus Christ?”, then listen carefully to their reply.  Do they confess Jesus as their Savior and Lord, or do they use “nice” words like “he was a great teacher” or “he was a nice man”, but deny Jesus’ claim to be God?

The first marker takes time and observation.  Again, a question helps in the understanding of a person’s motives.  Why does someone do what they do?  Are they teaching for God’s glory and basing their teachings on God’s Word?  Or are they teaching for their own selfish interests, for what they can get from their hearers, and are they using God’s Word out of context to support their own agenda?

May we immerse ourselves in God’s Word to know truth from falsehood, and may we seek discernment from the Lord through prayer in order to know those who teach God’s Word and those who do not, and have the boldness to confront in love those who do not.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jude 1-2

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

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
(Jude vv. 1-2 NIV)

As we begin our walk through the “book” of Jude, we are reminded that Jude’s writing is not a book, but a letter.  Today, we will take a look at Jude’s greeting in verses 1-2.

Jude begins by introducing himself through his relationship to the Lord and to his better-known brother James, the leader of the Jerusalem Council.  Notice that Jude does not play the “Jesus is my brother” card.  Instead, Jude puts himself under Jesus’ authority as his Savior and Lord, calling himself a servant of Jesus Christ.

Jude then addresses his intended audience – other followers of Jesus Christ.  From a historical point of view, Jude was likely living in Jerusalem and was writing to both Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus.

In the second half of verse 1, as Jude addresses his readers, he also reminds them of their relationship with Jesus – they are called, loved, and kept.

While Jude’s letter was addressed to the people of his time, his teaching applies to us as well.  Let’s take a look at each of these connectors with Jesus.

First, Jude reminds us that we were called.  For the record, we are not going to debate the whole “predestination vs. free will” topic in this space.  Entire books have been written about these two points of view.  In our limited human understanding, we often see these two points of view as polar opposites.  What if God shows us that instead of an “either-or”, it is really a “both-and”, where predestination and free will are really two sides of the same coin?  When we get to heaven, the Lord will explain these truths to us, and we will be able to understand His grand design and purpose.

The main thing to take away from Jude’s teaching that we were called is that God initiates the relationship with us.  We never “find God”; rather, He calls us, and we respond.  If we are followers of Christ, we have responded to His calling in the past.  If anyone is not a follower of Christ, then He still calls to that person and eagerly awaits their response.

Second, Jude reminds us that we are loved.  While our calling to Christ happened in the past (if we are now followers of Christ), the Father’s love is from the past, in the present, and promised for the future.  God’s love is everlasting, from eternity past to the present to eternity future.  Jude’s emphasis is on the present reality of God’s love for us.

Third, Jude reminds us that we are kept.  God does not grant us salvation, then turn us loose to figure out life on our own.  The idea here is that God watches over us, not as a stern disciplinarian, but as a loving Father watching out for and protecting His children.  And even though we live in this broken world where bad things happen, God promises to watch over us and redeem even the bad things for His glory and our good.

God’s “keeping” is in the present, with an eye to the future.  We are kept for Jesus, for the day that He returns to redeem His own, for those who follow Him.

So what does Jude have to say to those who are called, loved, and kept?  He offers them nothing less than the hospitality of Christ Himself:

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
(Jude 2 NIV)

God’s mercy is expressed to us by not giving us the punishment we deserved by our disobedience to Him.

God’s peace brings a renewed sense of unity to our relationships – both with God and with others. God’s peace is a blessing offered to us and over us, for both our being and our well-being.

God’s love is unconditional toward us, demonstrated by offering HIs own Son as payment for our sins.  And as we allow ourselves to be loved by God, we can then love others as He loves us.

Finally, Jude offers us what God has given him – mercy, peace, and love – not in scarcity, not in mere adequacy, but rather, in abundance.  The word used here means to multiply.

God’s abundance is not a fraction or percentage, nor an addition. Instead, it is multiplication, demonstrating His overwhelming care for us and His desire for a deep and abiding relationship with us.

May we experience His abundant mercy, peace, and love today.

And from His abundance, may we offer abundant mercy, peace, and love to others.

Blessings,
~kevin

Introduction to Jude

Today we begin our study of the book of Jude, the next-to-last book of the Bible.

Scholars agree that the author of this book was Jude, the namesake of the book.   Jude was one of the half-brothers of Jesus, as was James, the author of the book of James.

We see Jude (Judas) listed as one of Jesus’ half-brothers in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3.  We also see Jude introduce himself nearly identically to his brother James (see Jude 1 and James 1:1).  Both men identify themselves as servants of Jesus Christ; Jude identifies himself as James’ brother.

Notice that neither James nor Jude identify themselves as apostles, nor do they play the “I’m related to Jesus” card for their credentials.  Both men put themselves under the authority and direction of Jesus as the risen Lord and Savior, just like anyone else who follows Christ.

If you’ll recall, Jesus’ brothers did not believe Jesus was Messiah (John 7:1-9).  It was only after Jesus’ resurection that Jesus’ brothers believed that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 1:14).

Scholars believe that Jude was located in Jerusalem, just as James was.  James became the leader of the Jerusalem Council, and Jude was likely part of the early church as well.

The writing of Jude’s letter is sometime after Peter wrote his second epistle (around 68 AD), but before the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD).  Jude quotes from 2 Peter 3:3 in Jude 17-18.  Peter had warned that false teachers would come; Jude clearly deals with their arrival.

Jude most likely was writing to a Jewish audience that accepted Christ as Messiah, as he was located in Jerusalem; however, the message is applicable to both Jew and Gentile.

Jude’s message to his readers was clear – stick with the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, and not the “new” teachings of those who claimed to have the “next” or “better” teachings that superceded those of Jesus and His apostles.

These false teachers were going around and claiming that anything material was evil and anything spiritual was good.  They separated spirituality from everyday living, spiritual belief from spiritual practice.  With this mindset, they were teaching that as long as you “beleived”, it didn’t matter what you practiced.  These teachers would pass themselves off publicly as “saints”, but behind the scenes their lives were morally bankrupt.  Their talk in no way matched their walk.

As we walk through the book of Jude together, may we remember that our talk and our walk must be consistently in line with Jesus’ teachings.  The bad news is that this is hard to do – Jesus’ standard is perfection.  The good news is that Jesus knows we can’t achieve perfection this side of heaven, and He knows we can’t achieve this by our own “white knuckle” efforts of trying harder.  Instead, He sent His Helper (the Holy Spirit) to guide and direct us, to empower us to live in His strength and power for His glory.

Only as we submit to His authority do we gain His strength.

Blessings,
~kevin