FALSE TEACHERS Jude
“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” (Jude 4).Hold fast to Jesus and godliness, and God will surely hold fast to you.
Jude’s identification of himself as the brother of James, and a very early tradition, has led to his likely identification as a half-brother of Jesus Himself (cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). James’ humility in introducing himself only as a servant of Jesus may reflect his early rejection of his half-Brother as the Messiah (cf. John 7:5; Acts 1:14). While the letter is undated, if the author is Jude the brother of Jesus, its date probably falls somewhere betweenA.D 60 and 80, as it reflects a concern for false teachers that is characteristic of the later letters of Paul and Peter, as well as John.
Jude wrote to warn of false teachers in the church (vv. 1–4), who will surely be judged by God (vv. 5–16). But believers who hold fast to Jesus and godliness (vv. 17–23) will be upheld by God, who merits our praise (vv. 24–25).
Understanding the Text
“Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance” Jude 1–2. References in the Gospels to Jesus’ half-brothers suggests that some hostility existed on their part. They weren’t at all happy at the notoriety Jesus gained as He began His preaching and healing ministry in Galilee. No doubt, like siblings everywhere, they thought to themselves, “What’s so special about HIM?” Yet after Jesus’ resurrection we find the brothers, with Mary and the disciples, praying in an upper room (Acts 1:14). The Baby born to their mother, the older Brother who roughhoused with them and took care of them as they grew up, was at last known by them as the Son of God. It’s one thing to know Jesus in the flesh. Today millions celebrate Christmas with no more insight into who Jesus really is than His brothers had. But when anyone comes to know Him as Son of God and Saviour, they like Jude find in Him mercy, peace, and grace in abundance. “Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” Jude 3. Some things in life are relative. I prefer green, someone else prefers blue. I like popcorn. Someone else likes potato chips. With preferences, it doesn’t make any real difference. Truth is different. It is absolute, in the sense that truth remains fixed and sure despite human preferences. And so Jude reminds us that when someone says, “I prefer to think of Jesus as just a good man,” we can’t respond, “OK. But I prefer to think of Him as God.” Contending for truth doesn’t mean being hostile, or shouting at those who do not believe. But it does mean making sure people realize that truth isn’t a matter of preference. Someone may well say, “I prefer to think of Jesus as just a good man.” But when they do, that’s our cue to answer, “I’m really sorry about that. You see, the Bible says Jesus is God the Son, and your whole future depends on whether or know you accept the truth of of that claim.” “Have secretly slipped in among you” Jude 4. Yesterday our Sarah came home from Sunday School, wearing a large paper medallion around her neck, that said in letters two inches high, “I am forgiven.” False teachers don’t wear medallions around their necks, announcing, “I am a false teacher.” Instead they slip in secretly. They pretend to be believers, and only after being accepted do they begin to smuggle their heresies into the congregation. Jude, as did Peter and Paul, reminds us that try as they will, false teachers can’t hide two identifying marks. They deny Jesus Christ, making Him out to be less than God. And they twist that grace which frees us from the grip of sin into a license for sin. Christmas is our great reaffirmation that Jesus Christ is God, come in the flesh. In remembrance of God’s great gift, let’s rededicate ourselves to live holy and godly lives. “I want to remind you” Jude 5–7. Jude pointed to three groups whose experience reminds us that God does punish sin. The three groups are linked first in that each rebelled against God, and second, in that each when rebelling turned to immorality. The most unusual group here is that of “angels who did not keep their position of authority.” Comparing Jude’s reference to first and second-centuryB.C Jewish works, he appears to refer to the “sons of God” of Genesis 6:4 who assumed bodies to mingle with the “daughters of men.” This radical violation of the creation order led to the guilty angels being “kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment.” Jude’s point is clear. God will most certainly punish the false teachers who share the spiritual and moral depravity exhibited by the Exodus generation, by fallen angels, and by the homosexual communities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let’s not hesitate to affirm this truth too. Sin merits punishment. And punishment will surely be meted out. “These dreamers” Jude 8–10. I read science fiction now and then. Flights of the imagination that create new worlds and new cultures intrigue me. But I never mistake the imaginary world of some author for reality. That’s the problem with false religious teaching. It abandons the reality unveiled in Scripture, and substitutes man’s imagination. “These dreamers” act like “unreasoning animals” in that they ignore spiritual truths and imagine a world in which they can give full reign to their natural baser passions. This is the utmost arrogance, and Jude alluded to a popular story of his day in which the archangel Michael is portrayed struggling with Satan for the body of Moses after his death. Even in our fiction, Jude seemed to say, the greatest of the angels hestitates to rebuke a being of higher rank! How arrogant for mere men to speak of spiritual realities that are far beyond their capacity to grasp. Watch out for those who ridicule spiritual things. What they say tells us nothing about God or angels. But it surely tells us a lot about them! “Woe to them” Jude 11–13. Jude emotionally piled up images that characterize the false teacher. The way of Cain is to strike out at those who do good. The error of Balaam is to trade spiritual services for worldly wealth. And the destruction of Korah is direct, divine intervention to punish those who rebel against him. The next series of images are powerful and poetic. Each pictures a phenomenon which promises much, but delivers nothing but harm. To be a shepherd is to promise to care for the sheep, but these shepherds take care of themselves! A dark cloud promises rain, but these false teachers bring only shrieking winds and no water. What a contrast to the thousands upon thousands of faithful pastors who give rather than receive, and who enrich our lives. “Enoch, the seventh from Adam” Jude 14–20. Jude quoted here from a second centuryB.C religious book called “The Book of Enoch.” Jude’s quotation did not mean he saw this book as Scripture, but does indicate he believed the sentiment expressed to be true. The Lord is coming, and with thousands upon thousands of holy angels (cf. 2 Thes. 1:5–10). When He returns, He will judge. And then the false teachers will receive the punishment they deserve. Until then, we should expect to find scoffers in the church, who will try to divide us (vv. 17–19). So let’s be doubly careful not to fall into their grasp. “But you, dear friends” Jude 20–21. The angels sang it on that first Christmas. “On earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The strident calls of scoffers have no appeal to us, who know Jesus as God-sent Babe and risen Saviour. We experience peace, as we concentrate on building ourselves up in “your most holy faith,” on prayer, and on keeping ourselves in love as we wait for Jesus to return. If you and I focus on these things we will experience a peace that certainty no one outside of Christ can possibly know. “Be merciful to those who doubt” Jude 22. Don’t classify those who doubt with false teachers. There’s a vast difference between honest uncertainty and arrogant unbelief. Jude reminds us to “be merciful” to doubters. Show that you care, try to encourage and help, never condemn. By love and mercy you can take a doubter by the hand and lead him or her to Christ. “Mixed with fear” Jude 23. Love for the lost must always be tempered by a hatred of sin. Jude warns us against identifying so closely with a sinner that we find ourselves drawn into his or her sin. The fear we feel in reaching out to others is not fear of them, but awareness of our own vulnerability.
Born a King(Jude 17–25)
There’s a strange correlation between the Christmas season and Jude’s letter. Christmas brings us vivid images of Baby Jesus, lying in a manger, a helpless Infant, watched over by Mary and Joseph and farm animals. Jude’s powerful warnings against false teachers contain vivid images too: images that make us sense our own vulnerability. But Jude ended his letter with a paean of praise to One he at last came to recognized as God our Saviour, resplendent in “glory, majesty, power and authority.” Jesus was born a helpless Babe. But He was born a King, and as King He now rules over all. It’s because of who Jesus is, “before all ages, now and forevermore,” that despite our weaknesses we have complete confidence that whatever schisms tear at the church, we will remain safe and secure. We are secure, not because of the strength of faith in Him, but because of the strength of Him in whom we believe. As Jude says, He “is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault, and with great joy.”
Trust in Jesus, not in your faith in Jesus.
“Be persuaded, timid soul, that He has loved you too much to cease loving you.” —Francois de la Mothe Pennelon