Jude 1 (English Standard Version)
(During this week between Christmas and New Year’s, we are looking at the five books in the Bible that have only one chapter.)
1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Judgment on False Teachers
3Beloved, 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.
- The ancient Greek word translated contend comes from the athletic world – the wrestling mat. It is a strengthened form of the word meaning “to agonize.” Contend speaks of hard and diligent work.
- The verb translated contend earnestly is in the present infinitive, showing that the Christian struggle is continuous.
“Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies.”
We are never to lie down and allow lies to take hold and fester. We are to relentlessly assault error with the truth. That is our battle.
–Brandon N. Davison
4For 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.
Jude could not be more clear in his terminology when referring to false teachers. I have underlined the epithets he uses when speaking of false teachers. He bolsters his argument by giving three examples which show the certainty of God’s judgement against those “certain people” — the example of the people of Israel (verse 5), the example of the angels who sinned (verse 6), and the example of Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 7).
5Now 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. 6And 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— 7just 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.
8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
The post-modern culture of today dismisses the notion of any absolute authority and encourages individuals to be their own judges of what is right and what is wrong. People can do this by picking and choosing what in the Scripture they will believe and follow. Or they can do this by mixing up teachings from many religions and believing what they think is nice. Or we can do this by proclaiming ourselves to be Christians yet acting no differently from our non-believing neighbors. (Pause for self-examination.) It sounds a lot to me like the last, dark days of the Judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
9But 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.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
And now three more bad examples: Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
Cain offered his sacrifice to the Lord without faith, and was therefore unacceptable to God (Genesis 4, Hebrews 11:4). Then Cain became angry at his brother Abel (who had offered the Lord an acceptable offering) and killed him. Jude says that Cain typifies a way that the “certain men” follow in. It is the way of unbelief and empty religion, which leads to jealousy, persecution of the truly godly, and eventually to murderous anger.
The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22 to 25 and 31. Balaam, a prophet, disobeyed the Lord’s plain instructions and tried to curse the people of Israel because he would be paid handsomely for doing so. Jude says there are “certain men” leading and teaching the church who are willing to sell out everything for personal financial gain.
Korah resented the authority that God had given to Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and tried to get more power for himself. God destroyed him and his followers, as found in Numbers 16. “Certain men” try to do what they want for themselves rather than following Christ to the work he has called them to do.
11Woe 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. 12These 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; 13 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.
2 Corinthians 10:5-6 (New International Version)
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
14It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 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.” 16These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
A Call to Persevere
17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
My father, aged 96, visited us recently, and we talked at some length about his time fighting in New Guinea during World War II. He said something which quite moved me — that it was in battle that he learned what kind of a man he was. But actually — isn’t that true for all of us? It is the hard times which show most truly our inner character.
Jude calls us to be contenders for the faith, willing to fight against our own selfish desires and habits, and against the perverse and unkind ways of the world. Jude cheers us on to work at building our faith and prayer life, to love each other with mercy and Christ-likeness. It is not necessarily easy, but it is of eternal value. My prayer for all of us readers of DWELLING in the Word, as we go into a new year, is that we will not grow weary in the battles of our lives, but keep our eyes on Jesus, who has already, and forever, won the victory!
Libera sings “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.