For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 28, 2008
Jude was a younger half-brother of the Lord Jesus. He introduces himself in his short epistle as the brother of James, but the Gospels mention several of Jesus' brothers, and one of them is Judas or Jude. Obviously this is not the same Judas who betrayed Jesus. Judas (or Judah) was quite a common name in 1st century Israel, particularly since most of the Jews living there were from the tribe of Judah.
Jude's book is quite short, but it is a very powerful condemnation of false teachers. This epistle was written late in the first century, certainly at a much later time than his brother James' epistle. Jude does not mention much specific doctrinal error like John does, but he does attack the motives of the false teachers. If you are around someone for very long, you know what motivates them, whether it is money or power or something more positive.
"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." (vs. 3-7)
Jude jumps right in to this book with a warning about tolerating false teachers. Jude reminds his readers about the fact that people practicing wickedness throughout history have been judged by God and that they need to separate themselves from that wickedness, if for no other reason than to get out of the way of the coming judgment. God judged the angels who fell, He judged the people of Sodom for their wickedness and He judged the people of Israel who rejected Him, even after He saved them from Egypt.
"Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you.' But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever." (vs. 8-13)
These are dangerous people Jude's readers are dealing with. Don't get the wrong idea by the term "love feasts." This is just a reference to a meal shared by all the people in a church. Jude says that these people are a reef. A reef is, among other things, a hidden danger to ships as they sail through what looks like safe waters. These people were right in the midst of the church, and they were wicked men, unsaved and creating problems. Apparently some of them were leaders in the church, since Jude says they were like shepherds feeding themselves instead of feeding the flock. We need to be very careful of the people we put in leadership positions in the church. The Lord takes His church very seriously, and we should be very careful to make sure that those in authority take the church seriously as well.
Apparently, among their many other errors, they were preoccupied with demons. They were obsessed with casting them out and blaming all of people's problems on demons. I have met a couple of people like that. I knew one man, who later abandoned his wife and left the ministry, whose whole ministry seemed to change after he became preoccupied with the idea of demons. When I was very young, he came and preached several times at my church and was very good. He had a profitable ministry. But then things took a bizarre turn and his sermons started being all about demons and he had stories about all the demons he cast out of people and that sort of thing. Of course demons are real, but honestly it is not our job to try to confront them directly. Jude says here that not even Michael, the most powerful of the angels, came against Satan in his own power, but came in the power of the Lord Himself. As a general rule, don't trust someone who is preoccupied with demons as the source of evil in the world.
The story about Michael and Satan is actually an old Jewish legend that Jude records as fact in Scripture. In the next passage Jude quotes from another apocryphal source, the prophecy of Enoch. These days, people are obsessed with the apocryphal writings, particularly of the New Testament period. The "Da Vinci Code" book and movie, along with hundreds of other books touting "new evidence" about the origins of Christianity, is based on these writings. The church thoroughly studied and proved these writings to be false more than 1,800 years ago, but today these "brilliant" writers have dredged them back up pretending they have found something new. The moral of Jude's use of such material here is that they often can have accurate historical information in them, but if what they say goes against the plain teaching of Scripture, it is imperative that we leave that stuff alone and stick with the Bible. I have actually read some of the Apocrypha, the books that are included in the Catholic Bible. Most of what I have read is interesting historical information, but neither the Jews nor most orthodox Christians recognize it as scripture. Not even the Catholic church places it on the same level as the traditional Old and New Testaments.
"It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.' These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage." (vs. 14-16)
Jude continues here with his theme of judgment on wicked men, and what these believers need to do to get out of the way of the coming judgment. He quotes Enoch, who prophesied thousands of years ago that the Lord was coming to bring about judgment.
"But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, 'In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.' It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit." (vs. 17-19)
This passage is certainly a clue that this epistle was written late in the Apostolic Age. Jude mentions that the Apostles had already written about the fact that there will be mockers in the last days. This quote sounds an awful lot like II Peter 3, but Paul also wrote something similar in II Timothy 3, and there are other passages as well that warn about apostasy in the last days. Certainly things have only gotten progressively worse as the centuries have passed.
"But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 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." (vs. 20-25, ESV)
This is Jude's conclusion. He reminds his readers to remain faithful to the Lord through whatever comes and to be faithful witnesses. They were to be witnesses both to those outside the church and those inside the church who were led astray by the false teachers. Lots of people like to quote verse 22 in the King James: "And of some have compassion, making a difference." The preacher in church yesterday said, "The Bible says, 'Compassion makes a difference.'" Well of course compassion does make a difference, but looking at it in context, what it is saying here is that Jude's readers (and that would include us) need to have compassion on those who have been led astray by the false teachers. When he tells us to "make a difference," it means to make a difference between the false teachers, who should be shunned, and those led astray by the false teachers - “those who doubt” - who can still be led to true Biblical faith.