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Contending for the Faith- Jude

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: Identifying Apostates

In thinking about the theme of the New Testament book of Jude I ran across an illustration from Ministry127.com which is entitled 'The Acid Test. Here is what they say:

"There are a lot of metals that on the surface look similar to gold. Centuries ago, people discovered that unscrupulous operators would take advantage of this to trick people into paying for worthless metal. In order to determine whether gold was genuine or not, scientists devised an “acid test.” The item that is supposed to be gold is rubbed on a black stone, leaving a mark behind. Gold is what is called a noble metal, meaning that it is resistant to the corrosive effects of acid. If the mark is washed away by the acid, then the metal is not real gold. If it remains unchanged, the genuine nature of the gold is proven.

In comparing this to the Christian faith, it is not always immediately apparent from the outside whether someone is a genuine believer doing work for God out of good motives or not. Some are tares among the wheat while others are doing the right things but for selfish motives. It is only when faith and works are put to the test that it will become clear."

Since the time of Jesus' apostles, there have always been people who have distorted the genuine message of Christianity and its good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And every generation must contend for that message. The book of Jude is a short 1 chapter epistle in the Bible whose sole purpose is to point out and expose those distorters by identifying their character. Jude, in speaking of these false teachers, exposes a precise distinction between the character of men who hold and teach error and those who hold to nothing but the truth.

The acid test of the false teacher is to observe his or her life and see how the person lives and not just what they say. Does their overall life match up with what Scripture teaches? Those wolves in sheep's clothing that Jesus had warned us of will show themselves by their evil lifestyle eventually if we are alert to it. Or, as our Lord Himself has said:

"By their fruit you shall know them." (Matthew 7:20)

Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Jude warned God's people that they needed to be able to recognize and expose these false teachers who had already begun to infiltrate Christ's church. And they needed to refuse to follow their damnable lies that would destroy the faith of both individuals and local churches alike. These people must be challenged by all those who have a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us look a little more deeply into this short but powerful book of Jude and apply it's truths to our lives today.

I. Author, Date and Audience

We begin by identifying the author. Jude, which is rendered Judah in Hebrew and Judas in the Greek, was a common name in Palestine at the time. There were at least 8 people named Jude in the New Testament. However, the author is generally accepted as Jude, one of Christ's 4 half-brothers. We learn in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 that Joseph and Mary had other sons after Jesus' miraculous virgin birth. And their names were James, Joseph, Simon and Judah.

Although Jude, as well as Christ's other half-brothers, had rejected Jesus as Messiah earlier (John 7:1-9), they were converted after the Lord's resurrection (Acts 1:14) and became His followers.

We must also note that the writer of this book is not the same man as the Apostle Judas the son of James.

The time period for the writing of this book is not fully known either but the doctrinal and moral apostasy discussed in Jude closely parallels II Peter 2:1-3:4. And it is believed that Peter's writings predated that of Jude. There are several reasons for this but one of the greatest is that Peter anticipates the coming of false teachers while Jude deals with those who have already arrived. Also, Jude quotes directly from II Peter 3:3 and acknowledges that it is from an apostle in verses 17-18.

So if we give II Peter a date between 63-64 A.D., which is generally accepted, it would have to be after those dates that Jude wrote. Many think that Jude was written between 68 A.D. and before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

It is also believed that Jude wrote his epistle from Jerusalem and, once again, the audience is not known but it seems obvious from the different illustrations that it was a Jewish readership. Jude doesn't quote directly from the Old Testament but there are at least 9 obvious allusions to it. So his readers knew the Old Testament and other Jewish writings very well.

II. Purpose of Jude's Epistle

Looking further at the purpose of this epistle, Jude himself said that he began to write about the "common salvation" with his readers, (3), but because of the urgency of the situation he changed his purpose to discuss the problem of false teachers and to denounce them.

He writes to defend against these false teachings which lead to lawlessness including such things as rebellion against God's authority, sexual immorality and the rejection of God's messengers.

He tells his readers not to be lead astray by false teachers and to help those who already have been lead astray (23).

Jude then goes on to emphasize that those who do evil will be judged by the Lord.

I think that we could summarize all of what Jude is trying to tell us by quoting verses 3 and 4. He says:

"Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the Master and Lord, Jesus Christ

III. Outline of the Book

Now lets get a quick look at the outline of the book of Jude. For the outline, I am relying on a slightly modified version of one that I found in the McArthur Study Bible. He begins his outline with 'Desires of Jude (1-2)'. I simply call it an introduction and greeting by Jude. Here it is:

I. Introduction and Greeting by Jude (1-2)

II. Declaration of War Against Apostates (3-4)

IV. Denunciation of Apostates (5-16)

V. Defenses Against Apostates (17-23)

VI. Doxology (24-25)

We now have a general understanding of the book. Let's begin from here to look at it more closely and to see how it affects us today.

IV. Jude's Denunciation Against the Apostates (5-16)

After Jude introduces himself and asks the readers to contend for the faith, declaring war on the apostates who are invading the church; he then, in verse 5, begins to denounce these false teachers by comparing them to some other ancient people and angels who rebelled. These are actual historical examples that serve to warn of God's judgment against rebellion. And they show the characteristics of the apostates of Jude's day as well.

Jude shows how these ancient rebellious beings received divine justice in the end. There appear to be two sets of 3 examples in the book with a transitional illustration between them. The first set of 3 simply tell of the acts the persons did which were followed by divine judgment. The transitional example in the middle sums this section up. The second set of 3 illustrations tells how those listed not only hurt themselves but went on to cause the downfall of others.

The first one of the beginning trio of examples is from Numbers 14 where the people of Israel rebelled against Moses and ended up dying in the dessert because of this (5).

The second, found in verse 5-6 of Jude, refers to an account in Genesis 6 which is also talked about in another extra-biblical book called 1 Enoch. Genesis 6 is all about how the Sons of God saw the daughters of men and took them as wives.

In other Scriptures the Sons of God are almost exclusively seen as angels. So, if we go with that interpretation, along with what is in 1 Enoch, what actually happened is that these angelic beings saw and took wives of the human race and produced an unnatural union which violated the God-ordained order of marriage and reproduction. This led these angels to be imprisoned until the coming judgment day.

Though the book of 1 Enoch isn't part of the Canon of Scripture, Jude seems to attest to its accuracy in this instance, as does 2 Peter 2:4 which speaks in a similar manner when it refers to the same incident. Peter said that God did not spare the angels who sinned but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.

This mixing of angels and humans seems to be what also contributed to the judgment against the whole ancient world that got destroyed by a flood in which Noah and his family of seven were the only ones to survive (6).

The final example in this first group of 3 is Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis 19. Whereas the angels in the Genesis 6 account had sex with humans, in Genesis 19 humans are attempting to have sex with angels (7). This is another example of rebellion against God's order leading to sexual immorality. It is obvious from these examples that the teachers of Jude's day were into some sort of sexual immorality as well. They saw God's grace as a license to sin, which lead to all manner of sexual sins.

The example that sums up the first 3 illustrations is found in verses 8 and 9. It talks about how these apostate teachers whom Jude is denouncing have lived up to all the immorality of the past. Jude says in verse 8:

"In the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties."

The actual historical example of how they reviled angelic majesties is found in verse 9. It comes from another extra-biblical source called the 'Testament of Moses' which is a creative retelling of Moses' final days and words based on the book of Deuteronomy. Jude, under divine authority shows that this account is what actually happened and not just a story that was well known by the average Jewish person of the time.

Scripture tells us that Moses was secretly buried by the Lord after he died in a place not known to man (Deuteronomy 34:5,6). It would seem that Michael the Archangel was given the task to bury him and a confrontation between he and Satan took place over the body. Satan probably wanted to use it for some diabolical scheme that he'd planned. God sent Michael to make certain Moses' body was buried properly.

Jude states that, rather than cursing Satan, a powerful angel, as the apostates probably would have, Michael deferred to the ultimate sovereign power of God. This is the supreme illustration of how Christians are to deal with Satan and demons. They are not to address them directly, like the apostates did, but rather seek the Lord's intervening power against them (9-10)

After Jude finishes this first set of illustrations showing God's judgement against sin we move on to the next group of three.

As we stated earlier, the second group of 3 illustrations, all found in verse 11 of Jude, show that the rebels not only hurt themselves but also corrupted others.

First, Cain, who early in Genesis, killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8) went on to build a city where violence reigned.

Next Balaam. who was a sorcerer, whose story is found in Genesis 22-25 and 31:16, couldn't curse Israel but later lured them into idolatry and sexual corruption.

Finally, the third of the trio is Korah, who in Numbers 16 lead a rebellion against Moses, which then caused the destruction of those who followed him.

This second set of 3 illustrations is followed with a lot of Old Testament images which describe the character of the current false teachers. He compares them to the selfish shepherds of Ezekiel 34:2 and the clouds with no rain of Proverbs 25:14. He also calls them chaotic waves. This is found in Isaiah 57:20. The meaning of this is that they are so selfish and self-absorbed that they create chaos wherever they go.

Jude then calls the apostates wandering stars. This comparison is most likely to a meteor or shooting star which has an uncontrolled moment of brilliance and then fades away forever into nothing. Apostates promise true spiritual direction but deliver an aimless and worthless flash of nothingness.

This section on the denunciation against the Apostates ends with a prophecy from Enoch against these false teachers. The prophecy is regarding the Lord's judgement coming upon them (14-16).

Enoch was a biblical character, seventh in the line of Adam. The Bible says that he walked with God and was taken directly to heaven without having to die (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5). The prophesy that he made is found in the book of I Enoch, though obviously the Holy Spirit also lead Jude to put it in his book as well, so we know that it was an actual prophesy by this godly man.

Enoch prophesied, before the flood, about Christ's second coming in judgment. The holy ones who come with him might be either angels or believers, since both angels and believers will accompany Him. In executing judgment the sentence will ultimately be eternal hell for these ungodly apostates whose core iniquity is a failure to reverence God (15).

V. Jude's Defenses Against Apostates (17-23)

Thankfully, Jude doesn't leave us without a proper defense against these godless men who seek to destroy us and God's church. First we must remember that this was predicted. In the last days there will be mockers following after their ungodly lusts. They will cause divisions. They will be worldly-minded and are devoid of the Spirit (17-19). And if we think that this is merely a first-century problem which cannot happen today, then we will be taken in by the modern day deceivers of our time.

We must counter them by keeping our faith strong by understanding the gospel of the grace of God. Verse 20 gives us the command: "Building yourselves up on your most holy faith." The truths of the Christian faith have been provided by the teachings of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). We must learn what they tell us and remain faithful to their teachings. We have to get to know our faith well in order to see when people are teaching us a counterfeit faith.

The imperative in verse 21 which states "keeping yourselves in the love of God." shows us that it is the believer's responsibility to be obedient and faithful by living out his salvation (Philippians 2:12) while God works out His will in us (Philippians 2:13). We have to remain in the place of obedience to God at all times.

While doing all of this we are to have an eager anticipation of the Lord's return. That anticipation will keep us focused on what is ultimate and eternal in this life and not what is temporary.

Also, while we are doing this, Jude commands us to think of others as well. We must have mercy on the doubters because these victims of the apostate teachers need mercy and patience, in order to help them to be swayed to the truth.

At the same time we are to attempt to rescue those who are more committed to the errors taught by the apostates. We must do our part to snatch them out of the fire so that they don't get even more entrenched in the web of these apostates.

A third group we are to have mercy on with fear (23). They need mercy, even though they are thoroughly polluted by the apostate's teachings. We have to make sure that they get the full gospel, even though we have to be careful lest we become contaminated also by them. The defiled garment in verse 23 is a picture of the apostate's debauched life which can spread it's contamination to a well-meaning evangelist.

Conclusion

Finally, as we look to the benediction or doxology of Jude in the last 2 verses, he gives us the assurance that whoever may come at us to destroy either us or the church that we attend, God is still in control. He is the one who will give us the power to have the victory. Not to stumble but to stand up for the truth of the gospel. Here is what Jude tells us:

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless 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!

The truth is that God wins in the end! And He has promised, those who are His, that nothing can separate us from His love through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38,39). The battle may be hard and may go against us at times. The enemy may even appear to be winning. But Christ has won the war. He is the Victor!

So let us resume the fight, continuing to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. And not giving in for a moment to those who would seek to destroy us or it. But may we rather rely upon Him who has us safely in the palm of His hand.

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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