Good morning brethren, sisters and young people. In about one month's time our daily reading planner will take use to the epistle of Jude. This letter has always fascinated me. It is really small like Obadiah and Philemon, yet it is packed with information and exhortation. For our exhortation today I would like to consider this small letter.
Sitting near the end of the Bible, the letter written by Jude is almost completely overwhelmed by its neighbouring book, the book of the Apocalypse. Sometimes we get totally fascinated by these larger and seemingly far more interesting books and we ignore the smaller books. At least, that is my case. In a small way today I would like to rectify that.
As an introduction, let us learn a little bit about Jude the man. Jude's name means Praise, being the equivalent of the Hebrew name Judah. He is one of the brothers of Jesus who accompanied Jesus early in his ministry (John 2:12). He was also probably among those who tried to interfere later (Matt 12:46; Luke 8:19). After Jesus' resurrection he would have been among those that saw Jesus (1 Cor 15:7) and were converted and stayed with the apostles (Acts 1:14).
Jude introduces himself in the letter as "the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James". Despite his obvious connection to Jesus, he portrays himself as Jesus' servant. He could have easily said, "Look here, I'm Jesus' brother, so listen to me". We could say that this is the first lesson in the epistle; the lesson of humility. No matter our station in life, what we do in the world or ecclesia, what office we hold in the ecclesia or even whom we are related to, we must all put on the humble mind of Christ, as Paul also told the Philippians (2:1-8). We might say that Jude had thoroughly learned his lesson and would never interfere in the work of the Lord again.
Jude addressed his letter to those "that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called". Sanctified means "to make clean or holy". This letter therefore applies to us since, by belief and obedience to the Gospel we are made clean by God's grace. This, of course, does not mean that we can now sit around and relax. We must be active and vigilant in our struggle against the world and its influences and become holy or separate in our lives. As Peter said in 1 Peter 1:15 & 16, "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy".
As Jude begins his letter he tells his readers that his original plan was to write to them concerning "the common salvation". It seems that this was set aside because of the troubles that were developing in the early ecclesia, as Paul warned of in 2 Thess. 2, "mystery of iniquity doth already work". Jude saw that "it was needful... to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints". The word for "contend" here is a military term and its root word is the word from which we get our English word agonize. This indicates that there is a need on the part of the faithful to contend for the faith to the point of personal sacrifice and possibly loss. Let's look at a few other passages that bear this idea out. Philippians 1:27; 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7-8. These passages give the idea that there is to be an undaunted, uncompromising, wholehearted struggle for the truth.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel... - Philippians 1:27
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare... - 1 Tim. 1:18
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. - 1 Tim. 6:12
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. - 2 Tim. 4:7-8
The truth, "the faith which was once delivered to the saints" is the focal point of our struggle. This faith is to be kept pure at all costs. As at the time of Jude, we currently have factions within the body of Christ which "turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness" through their decrying the importance of doctrine. We also have those that, through their lifestyle, show that the world is more important than the truth. We are to fight both these influences so that it will not influence the rest of the ecclesia or ourselves. We have been given the best thing in the world; we must not treat it as something ordinary. Our attitude should be the same as Peter's when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life".
Jude, after warning of the evil influences of ungodly men, reminds his readers of three Old Testament examples of ungodliness. The first example is that is given is that of Israel in the wilderness. After seeing Yahweh's goodness and his deliverance Israel turned against Him, and they were dealt with severely. This is a warning to us if we turn against God after He has shown us His goodness in sending His son for us. We will be dealt with severely in the judgment if we do this.
The second example is that of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. These men "depised the dominion" of those whom God had put in control. Moses had reminded them that they each had been given "principality", or a place of honour, in the congregation, yet they chose to despise what they were given and lusted after more power. This reminds us that the truth is not a power game; it is not a contest to see who runs the ecclesia. It is God who controls who is in the ecclesial offices, as he did with Moses.
The third example is that of Sodom and Gomorrah. I believe that Jude brings this to our attention for the express purpose of showing that the truth can be corrupted by more than doctrinal error. I believe that he is trying to show us that moral attitudes also affect our walk in Christ. If we allow worldly thinking into the ecclesia as the apostate churches around us have we will be destroyed, both now and in the age to come.
Jude contrasts "these filthy dreamers" which "defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities" with the Michael the archangel. Jude's reference to this Old Testament episode is to emphasis the faithful Joshua and Michael. Joshua had been prepared to quietly wait for God to judge his cause. Likewise the angel Michael did not descend to the abusive, demoralizing tactics of the Samaritans who "blasphemed" by falsely accusing Joshua and his fellow workers. Faithful endurance is a necessary attitude in the Truth.
Jude likens the false brethren to animals without reason. They compromised the truth and ran after the flesh, in the ways of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. Each of these three men give the prevalent attitudes of those that let flesh rule them. Cain claimed to be a worshiper of God, but was only prepared to do so on his own terms. Balaam mouthed the words of God, but was intent upon his own self-glorification, not on God's. While he was speaking God's words, he pursued his own material advantage. Korah refused to be humbled before divine authority. He was dominated by fleshly pride and rejected those who had been set in authority over the ecclesias.
Again Jude refers to the false brethren; but this time he uses six figures of speech to show the depraving affect these brethren had on the doctrines of the Truth.
"These are spots"... or literally, "these are hidden rocks". Hidden from view their real menace is not apparent but like the hidden rocks covered over by the blue calm ocean, these false teachers could make "shipwreck of their faith" and ours, as in 1 Tim. 1:19-20. (RSV)
The next metaphor is not too clear in the King James Version, but it is brought out in the New English Bible. "They are shepherds who take care only of themselves". Jude is likening these false brethren to shepherds who do not care for the flock and only feed themselves, and to make matters worse, the idea is that they feed off the flock! As Peter said in 2 Peter 2:3, they "made merchandise" of the ecclesia.
I believe Jude uses this metaphor to remind the true believers of Ezekiel 34, where God condemns the shepherds, or the spiritual leaders of Israel. This would bring to mind that the false brethren where under the same condemnation.
The third figure of speech describes the true character of these false brethren. "Clouds they are without water." They have the appearance of bringing refreshment to the dry, undernourished earth, but they have failed to provide the life giving rain when the winds have finally blown them away. These brethren are unstable, "carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14).
"Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots". This metaphor gives the idea that like the metaphor of the clouds, these brethren fail to give that which is needful for the ecclesia. They have no fruit whereby the believers can be nourished. They can truly be "known by their fruits", for they have none of the essential fruits of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23)
In the fifth metaphor it is possible that Jude is alluding back to the Old Testament again. Isaiah said, "the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt". Jude again reveals to us that these men can make shipwreck of someone's faith through their unrestrained false preaching.
Jude's last figure of speech refers to these false brethren as "wandering stars", or as in the Greek, "planets". One cannot use a planet for a guide, for it does not stay in one direction, but changes its position in the night sky. People like this cannot be a true disciple in Christ.
"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
These words are very self-explanatory. Jude is quoting Enoch, by the guidance of the Holy Sprit, to show the Divine judgment that will be met out to these false brethren at the return of Jesus Christ. This judgment is due because they are "murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage". They have no consideration for God, nor any time for Him. They are completely self absorbed. They want the praise of man.
Jude then reminds his readers that the apostles spoke of these things before. Let's look at Acts 20:28-30; 2 Tim 3:1-5.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. - Acts 20:28-30
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. - 2 Tim 3:1-5
With these warnings Jude exhorts the believers to "build up yourselves on your most holy faith" by, as Paul says in Hebrews 3:13 "exhorting one another daily". He also asks that they would attempt to save those that are destroying themselves and others, having "compassion", not bitterness. God "is not willing that any should perish" is the attitude that Jude is trying to teach the believers. For "he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins". We would do well to give heed to this example. Our ways must be "seasoned with salt" that we may gently show those that are falling away the true way to life eternal.
Now as we turn to the memorial table let us meditate on the closing words of Jude:
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
Written by Matthew Smith
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