Bible ancient-futurenetChurchmouse Campanologist presents another post in its Sunday series of Forbidden Bible Verses.  For past entries, click here.  I happened across today’s passage whilst reading one of Kim Riddlebarger’s posts, ‘But you must remember — Jude 1-25’Dr. Riddlebarger is senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, and visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California

The past few weeks this blog has been covering topics leaving us wondering where we as Christians stand in the great scheme of God’s plan, given the unusual (for lack of a better word) theology and behaviour in our world today.  Jude has a few answers for us — many of which we do not hear from today’s pulpit, unfortunately.  Today’s reading comes from the New International Reader’s Version.

 Jude 1 

I, Jude, am writing this letter. I serve Jesus Christ. I am a brother of James.   I am sending this letter to you who have been chosen by God. You are loved by God the Father. You are kept safe by Jesus Christ. 2 May more and more mercy, peace, and love be given to you.

A Warning Against Ungodly Teachers

3 Dear friends, I really wanted to write to you about the salvation we share. But now I feel I should write and ask you to stand up for the faith. God’s people were trusted with it once and for all time.

4 Certain people have slipped in among you in secret. Long ago it was written that they would be judged. They are godless people. They use the grace of our God as an excuse for sexual sins. They say no to Jesus Christ. He is our only Lord and King.

5 I want to remind you about some things you already know. The Lord saved his people. He brought them out of Egypt. But later he destroyed those who did not believe. 6 Some of the angels didn’t stay where they belonged. They didn’t keep their positions of authority. The Lord has kept those angels in darkness. They are held by chains that last forever. On judgment day, God will judge them.

7 The people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns around them also did evil things. They gave themselves over to sexual sins. They committed sins of the worst possible kind. They are an example of those who are punished with fire. The fire never goes out.

8 In the very same way, those dreamers pollute their own bodies. They don’t accept authority. They speak evil things against heavenly beings. 9 But not even Michael did that. He was the leader of the angels. He argued with the devil about the body of Moses. But he didn’t dare to speak evil things against the devil. Instead, he said, “May the Lord stop you!”

10 But those people speak evil things against what they don’t understand. They are like wild animals. They can’t think for themselves. They do what comes naturally to them. Those are the very things that destroy them.

11 How terrible it will be for them! They followed the way of Cain. They rushed ahead and made the same mistake as Balaam did. They did it because they loved money. They are like Korah. He turned against his leaders. Those people will certainly be destroyed, just as Korah was.

12 They are like stains at the meals you share. They eat too much. They have no shame. They are shepherds who feed only themselves. They are like clouds without rain. They are blown along by the wind. They are like trees in the fall. Since they have no fruit, they are pulled up. So they die twice.

13 They are like wild waves of the sea. Their shame rises up like foam. They are like falling stars. God has reserved a place of very black darkness for them. He will keep them there forever.

14 Enoch was the seventh man in the family line of Adam. He gave a prophecy about those people. He said, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones. 15 He is coming to judge everyone. He is coming to sentence all ungodly people. He will judge them for all the ungodly acts they have done. They have done them in ungodly ways. He will sentence ungodly sinners for all the bad things they have said about him.”

16 Those people complain. They find fault with others. They follow their own evil longings. They brag about themselves. They praise others to help themselves.

Remain in God’s Love

17 Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said was going to happen. 18 They told you, “In the last days, some people will make fun of the truth. They will follow their own ungodly longings.” 19 They are the people who separate you from one another. They do only what comes naturally. They are not led by the Holy Spirit.

20 Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Let the Holy Spirit guide and help you when you pray. 21 The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring you eternal life. As you wait for his mercy, remain in God’s love.

22 Show mercy to those who doubt. 23 Pull others out of the fire. Save them. To others, show mercy mixed with fear. Hate even the clothes that are stained by the sins of those who wear them.

Praise to God

24 Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy. 25 Give praise to the only God. He is our Savior. Glory, majesty, power and authority belong to him. Give praise to him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Give praise to the One who was before all time, who now is, and who will be forever. Amen.

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Jude introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus and brother of another apostle, James. In verses 2 and 3, he ensures his audience knows that they are among God’s people through a belief in Jesus Christ and that He will continue to bless them with love, mercy and peace.  God will not forget them.

Jude is writing to Jewish converts who were curious about the end times and were well versed in mysticism. At the time — around 50 AD — they also faced a crisis amongst themselves because of false prophets and heretics who had infiltrated their church.  These men were teaching a heresy, antinomianism, which says that as Christians are already saved, they do not have to obey God’s law.  They told the Christians that they were free to engage in whatever libidinous activity they pleased with no consequences.  These same men said that God spoke to them in dreams and visions.  (Sound familiar — a bit like today’s New Age Emergent Christian leaders?)   

Jude sees that he urgently needed to step in and remedy the situation.  His epistle reminds the new Christians of events from the Old Testament — Moses, Sodom and Gomorrah — in verses 5 through 7.  He reminds the Christians that God has a history of showing mercy and deliverance to His own as well as punishing those who disobey His will.  Note how he cautions them about God ‘destroying those who did not believe’ and those who fall prey to sexual sin: ‘They are an example of those who are punished with fire. The fire never goes out.’  Hell, anyone?  When was the last time you heard that in church?   

In verse 8, Jude warns the Christians that because the false teachers have rejected God’s authority and law in their ignorance, they are blaspheming against that which is off limits.  To emphasise the point, he refers to the Archangel Michael. This refers to a Jewish legend concerning Michael’s attempt to bury Moses’s body when Satan steps in and claims Moses for his own. Michael does not curse Satan but instead says that God has already rebuked him (Rev. 12:7, Zech. 3). Because the people understand Jewish mysticism and the lessons from the Old Testament, this reference will resonate with them. Jude goes on to say that the false teachers are a law unto themselves and are encouraging the converts to commit sins of the flesh which the Bible expressly forbids.  There is a difference from being personally tempted into sin and telling people that God came to them in a dream saying sexual sin would be acceptable to Him.  So, in verse 10, Jude says the false teachers are no better than animals relying on base appetites.  And, doing so will destroy them in the end. 

Continuing with references from Jewish history in verse 11, Jude reminds the people of the story of Cain, who killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4); Balaam who led the Israelites into idolatry; and Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron until the Lord opened up the ground under Korah and his household into which they were submerged (Numbers 16).  Jude’s point is that those who follow the false teachers will endure an almighty punishment.  

In verse 12, Jude expands on the faults of the false teachers: their gluttony, their shamelessness, their egotism, their lack of conviction.  They go as the wind blows them — physically and mentally. He continues in verse 16.  These men have no roots in God. In verse 13, Jude warns: ‘God has reserved a place of very black darkness for them. He will keep them there forever.’  

In verse 14, he reinforces this by way of the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch 9) — more Jewish history of divine judgment befalling the ungodly.  The warnings can’t get stronger than this.  Jude ties this in with coming Final Judgment of Jesus Christ.  The sins of the false teachers have always been thus, from the time God’s people knew Him up through the present.  That includes our day and age, too.  Note the mention in verse 18 of the ‘last days’ or ‘end times’.  Jude’s audience lived in those times, as do we.  These are the days between Christ’s Ascension into Heaven and His Second Coming.  And, now, just as then, ‘some people will make fun of the truth. They will follow their own ungodly longings’. Jude reminds the people in verse 17 that the apostles had said this would happen.  It did in Jude’s day and it continues now.  What ridicule God’s faithful face — privately, publicly — and sometimes with the help of clergy who have followed their own counsel instead of the Lord’s.  In verse 19 Jude cautions that these people will be divisive but, because the Holy Spirit does not work through them, they have no other way of thinking and conducting themselves. 

In conclusion, Jude counsels the new Christians from verse 20 through 25.  We, too, can follow his advice.   It’s quite straightforward: strengthen our personal faith, heed the Holy Spirit’s guidance in prayer, remember that Jesus Christ’s mercy will lead us to salvation and be reminded of God’s love.  Concerning our conduct to others, we should be kind to the doubters, help save others from temptation and for those outside our midst, be kind but cautious.  In any event, avoid temptation and those intent on sinning.

In the final two verses, Jude instructs the people to praise God — He who will prevent us from sin, He who will joyfully bring us to Him on the last day, He who is sovereign over all.  ‘Give praise to him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Give praise to the One who was before all time, who now is, and who will be forever.’     

Please take the time to read Dr Riddlebarger’s essay on Jude here.