Book of Jude

August 13, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Our commentary on this fascinating book of the Bible – Jude – is complete and at the editor’s. We hope to have it back within the next two weeks after which time, we’ll send it off for publication.  Stay tuned!

Here is an excerpt from this soon-to-be-released book, from chapter 3:

In verses three through four, Jude states the reason he was led to write.  Originally, he wanted to write about the salvation that he shared with the believers to which he was writing.  However, apparently, the Holy Spirit directed his thoughts instead toward those who had wormed their way into the visible Church, but were not really of the fold; not authentic believers.

It is interesting how the Lord works.  We start to move out in one direction, and the Lord moves us in another.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Note that Jude did not struggle against the new direction the Lord had placed on his heart.  When he says “while I was making every effort to write…” he is not necessarily saying that he was determined to write about salvation and nothing else.

It is likely that under the circumstances that existed at the time, with so much upheaval because of growing persecution from Roman authorities and Jews, finding the time to write at all was very difficult.  By this time of the church’s history, the tide had begun to turn against Christians.  First thought by Rome to be little more than a sect within Judaism, they soon realized because of the negative reaction of Jews toward Christian, that Christianity was not something with which orthodox Jewish individuals agreed.

With people like Paul (Saul, prior to his conversion in Acts 9) chasing down Jews who had believed to have converted to Christianity from Judaism, as well as the fact that Jews in general were opposed to Christians, Rome soon realized that persecuting Christians was in their best interest, since it made Jews happy as well.  When Jews were happy, there was little danger of Jewish revolt or treasonous uprisings against Rome.

I believe it is for this reason that Jude says what he says about the reason he initially wanted to write.  He was likely becoming hemmed in on all sides and he himself probably had to deal with a number of apostates that he warns his readers about.  When an apostate enters the church, you can bet that little fires will start all over the place, drawing people away if allowed.  These little fires, if left unchecked, will grow into full-blown conflagrations.  It is the responsibility of the leaders of that particular assembly to take care of the matter by putting that person out of the fold, if necessary in order to maintain biblical peace, even if that person happens to be a teacher or pastor.

So it was that Jude wrote.  The Holy Spirit obviously impressed upon him the realization that apostates were becoming a problem and people needed to guard their hearts and minds from the error these false teachers espoused.  Apostates needed to be opposed and it was extremely important to head off problems before they became monumental and this is what Jude was trying to accomplish.  Like the shepherd who carefully watches not only his sheep, but watches for any sign of danger and takes precautions against that danger, Jude, as a shepherd, was dutifully doing what he could to warn his readers that danger may be near.  Maybe that danger had not yet approached, but his readers needed to be aware that there was a good likelihood that they would possibly soon be facing the challenges of dealing with an apostate, if they had not done so already.

Jude’s letter was also very clearly a form of encouragement.  In it, he tried to help them understand what the apostate “looked” like in terms of their modus operandi and how they might approach that local congregation.  If they could see this in one of these apostates, they would be able to identify him and take action against him.

A car is very difficult to turn when the motor is off and it is in park.  Once the car is started and put in drive, as the operator applies pressure to the gas pedal, the car begins to move and turning becomes extremely easy.  We can see this same scenario in Jude’s writing.  As he began writing regarding a direction he thought was correct, the Holy Spirit simply nudged him to focus on a different area.  This is the mark of an authentic Christian who is eagerly looking for the directing of the Holy Spirit.  That type of Christian can “go with the flow” and not be encumbered by confusion because he is open to the Holy Spirit’s direction in his life.

Once Jude explained what he had originally intended to write, but then was moved to deal with another issue, he is off and running, wasting no time explaining what these apostates do to gain the trust of those within a congregation.

He first warns his readers that above all things, it is important to “contend for the faith.”  This means a form of apologetics, but Jude is not talking about debate.  He is taking about presenting the gospel clearly and in so uncertain terms.  If someone in the congregation begins using unfamiliar language with reference to the gospel of Jesus, they should be gently questioned in order to determine their real intent.

We know that members of cults work like this, often employing the exact same terms Christians use, yet their meaning is far different from the orthodox meaning.  Once we get down to brass tacks and the meaning that the other individual is applying to his verbiage, the problem can then be tackled with Scripture.

If the person argues against the truth of Scripture, then he needs to be gently warned.  If he insists that he is correct, but is not, then he needs to be put out of that congregation.  To allow him to remain, in spite of his unwillingness to learn and understand the truth of Scripture, he will simply become a poison that will spread through the entire congregation.

Striving earnestly for the faith means to defend it.  Do you know what you believe and why you believe it?  If you don’t, then you might unknowingly and unwillingly become party to error.  As a Christian, it is not good enough to say “I am saved,” and that’s it.  Salvation is the beginning and our growth starts at that point.  We will spend the remainder of our lives learning more about God, who He is, and what He is accomplishing in and through us.

If you can look back on your life since becoming a Christian and not notice any real difference between the way you are now and the way you were a few years ago, something is wrong.  That something has to do with you and your lack of growth.  You haven’t grown because you have not studied His Word and you have not spent time in prayer, seeking His will for your life.  It’s that simple and it is the number one reason that people get sidetracked by others.  It is because they do not know His Word and therefore, do not know Him all that well.

The apostate can easily take advantage of a person in such a condition because that apostate may know a few verses here and there and has the ability to skew Scripture so that they sound like what they are preaching or teaching is correct, but is not.  People listening to him may easily fall victim to the apostate because they have no ability to defend the faith, since they really don’t know what the faith is, according to Scripture.

After Jude declares that our Christian faith needs to be defended at all costs, he explains is that these apostates are extremely stealthy.  He says that they “crept in unnoticed.”  This is important to understand.  How could this have happened?

Unfortunately, in many congregations, as the individual congregants come to know one another, they tend to become relaxed and even comfortable in their relationships because they believe that they truly do know the other people.  This creates an informal attitude toward others and engenders joy within the fellowship.  Outsiders coming in realize that they get along and their resistance to newcomers lessens because of it.

Apostates look for this type of situation that exists in a church.  They know that if the congregation gets along and openly accepts newcomers without a critical eye, they have an excellent chance of slipping in unnoticed and after some time, will be able to woo many within the congregation over to their way of thinking.  It happens all the time in churches today.

I know one man who stated he was a Jewish believer.  He did not like to say he was a Jewish Christian, or even that he was a Christian.  He was Jewish and wanted to be known as Jewish.  When he went to church, he wore the Jewish prayer shawl and Yarmulke (pronounced ya-ma-ka).  He also stood during prayer with his hands raised to the ceiling.  Of course, because of it, this man was noticed and people began to be attracted to him.  He wasted no time in opening the Scriptures to them.  He was very soft-spoken and had an air of authority.  He also had no difficulty in disagreeing with someone when they said something that he considered to be wrong and did so in a way that was not necessarily an affront to others.

As it turned out, this particular individual made it a habit to go around to different Christian churches so that he could gather people to himself.  He would then form his own Bible study groups and those people would begin to support him through donations (he had formed a non-profit for himself).

As you can imagine, because his actions were done without the knowledge or consent of the leaders of these churches, it became a problem when discovered.  This man often taught things that were against the teachings of the particular church from which he gathered people.  People were to call him “rabbi” or women were to call him “lord.”

One church was forced to call him and explain to him that before he came back (he was a somewhat regular attender), he would have to speak with the Elders to explain his actions.  He never went back.

The people that he had gathered from that church were also contacted and told that they had to choose one or the other, to follow that man or continue to associate with the church.  It is easy to see why the Elders made this very wise choice.  While it sounds like an ultimatum (and it is), the reality is that because that man was teaching things that went against what the church those folks belonged to taught, problems would arise in short order.

Eventually, the man left the state after indicating that he had been called to a Jewish Messianic congregation in the eastern part of the United States.  After he left, things went back to a sense of normalcy.

It is very easy to see how this could happen.  For one thing, as noted, people today do not read their Bibles nor do they study it.  They depend on the pastor or some other leader or teacher to expound the Scriptures on Sundays and they think that’s all they need.  Of course that is untrue.  We cannot ever get enough of God’s Word and needless to say, the more we know, the more we grow.  The more we grow, the less likely we are to fall prey to some apostate wandering through our congregation.  This was Jude’s main concern, placed on his heart by the Holy Spirit.

Marked Out
Jude also says that these individuals are not only crafty and clever in the way they infiltrate a congregation, but they have been marked out long ago for condemnation.  In other words, the leaders in the congregation should not hesitate to deal with them firmly, if need be since the apostates are ultimately, objects of wrath.  It is more important to ensure the safety and solidity of the congregation, than to allow someone who lives by SELF to thwart God’s purposes.

We can see this in action several times throughout the New Testament.  Of course, we also note that God dealt with the matter often in the Old with respect to the unbelievers in Israel.

In the book of Acts, chapter five, we learn of a situation in which two people, Ananias and Sapphira, wound up lying to the Holy Spirit.  They had sold land and brought the money to the apostles (Peter) so that it could be used to help those in need within the church. Unfortunately for these two, they had gotten together and decided that they would only give part of the money they had earned after selling their land to the church, but would still say that they were giving the whole thing.

When they gave their money to Peter, the Holy Spirit enlightened Peter so that he knew their plan and was prompted to ask them if the money they were giving was the total they received for the sale of their property.  Ananias answered that it was (Sapphira was not with him at that moment).  Peter asked Ananias why he thought it was fine to lie to the Holy Spirit?  Peter clarified for Ananias that ultimately, he had lied to God, not him (Peter).  At that very moment, Ananias fell dead.

Shortly afterward the men had buried Ananias, Sapphira entered and Peter asked her the same question.  She also answered as her husband had, and also fell dead.  The same men who had just finished burying Ananias, arrived just in time to remove Sapphira’s dead body for burial.

Imagine if these two individuals had been allowed to get away with their lying.  It was not important that they gave everything to the church.  The problem was that they lied about what they did give.  They could have honestly said to Peter that they sold their property and were giving only part of it as a donation to the church.  That would have been fine as they were under no obligation to begin with to give anything to the church.  They had made the choice to sell the land and offer even part of it to the newly formed and growing Church.  It was because they lied about the true amount they gave to the Church that God took their lives.  This became a warning for all in the Church.

Now, the big difference between Ananias and Sapphira and all apostates that Jude is referring to, is that on one hand, apostates are not truly part of the authentic Church, whereas Ananias and Sapphira could have been and likely were part of it.  If so, God merely took Ananias and Sapphira home early, before they should have died because of their sin of lying to God, as if He would never know.

Apostates, on the other hand, are not only not part of the authentic Church, but really have no desire to be part of it.  Their only desire is for themselves and they will use whatever means necessary to gain what they believe they need and want.

An excellent example of this today can be seen in the lives of many TV and radio preachers.  When looking below the surface and past their Christian-sounding verbiage, it becomes clear that money is their god and they do whatever it takes to gain more of it, even using the gospel as their chief means.

I could easily name names, but you may be thinking of the same type of person that I am thinking of here.  Look at the TV evangelists who have these large non-profit corporations.  They dress in the best suits; they have huge homes on acres of land somewhere, with horses, cattle, and all the rest.  How does that work, one might ask?

Many of these individuals teach and preach that they are no different from us, except that they have learned to put their faith to good use.  Sure they have, in feeding and catering to themselves.  They tell us that we can be just like them if only we will begin to trust God.

The reality is that these people are charlatans and do not want us to become just like them because then there will be one less person to support them and their lifestyle.  Oh sure, occasionally, they will have someone on their show who purportedly has learned to use his or her faith the way they do, but more often than not, these people are plants, designed to encourage the listeners to believe that Joe or Jane Average can exercise faith like the TV evangelist and look what happens!  It’s all a terrible sham.

These individuals are apostates because they are using religion to acquire things that they want in life.  When you see them in a one-on-one interview, they appear humble, they quote Scripture, and they talk about God as if they truly know Him, but inwardly, they are wolves, merely pretending to be sheep.  Over time, they have become masters at deception and their net worth proves it.

I am not saying that God never causes any of His children to become rich.  There are many Christians who are wealthy through hard work and God’s blessing and they use their resources wisely for God’s Kingdom.  There is nothing wrong with that.

I’m referring to people who use religion as a means of becoming rich.  In God’s Name, they fleece people, most of them poor already, out of what they have and they have absolutely no remorse about what they do.

There are many evangelists within the Word of Faith movement for instance, who do this.  They preach a “name-it-claim-it” type of theology in which all we have to do is use our faith to draw the things we want/need to us and God will have to do it.  This is absolute garbage and it is the highest insult to God’s sovereignty and holiness, reducing Him to the level of some genie in a bottle.

The reason many succumb to it is because they do not know the Scriptures themselves, but simply rely on what these TV evangelists say on the air or write about in their books.  The problem of course, is that for the most part, what these individuals teach is largely taken out of its original context and therefore, made to say something else entirely to prop up their lifestyle as being the “correct” way to live the Christian life.

I will never forget the time I was watching the Larry King Live show.  His guest was Tammy Faye Baker (long before she and Jim had divorced and she had become ill due to cancer).  King asked her if Jesus was alive today, would He be wearing (at the time) $500 suits. Would He live like a millionaire in large homes and having expensive cars. Without hesitation, Baker responded that she believed He would and that He would be a “man of the times.”

This is patently ridiculous.  He could have easily been a “man of the times” during His own lifetime.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were wealthy, most beyond measure.  They wore the nicest robes and had the expensive homes and ate the best food.  Jesus could have done that if He had wanted to compromise, but He didn’t want to because it was not the Father’s will for His life.  Moreover, much of the money that the Pharisees gained was gotten through cheating fellow Jews.

If Jesus were physically alive on this planet today, He would live a life of simplicity, just as He did when He walked this earth over 2,000 years ago.  Nothing about Him would be different.

It is tragic that people give so much credence to TV evangelists and others who preach a lifestyle that stands in direct opposition to God’s Word.  More than anything, God has made authentic Christians rich but those riches are in the spiritual realm.  There is nothing greater than that because all wealth will one day disappear.

Those who live their life piling up riches for themselves will learn that they cannot enter the next life with one penny of it.  It doesn’t matter to apostates, because their ultimate goal is to be surrounded by people who essentially worship them, not God and give to them, not God.

Most of these apostates want to become wealthy, but not all.  Some are simply content to have many people following their teachings and hanging on their every word.  After a time, anything that leader does is fine, even if it means having sexual relations with young girls, or forbidding any of his followers to have sexual relations at all (even if married), or only allowing people to marry the people he approves.

Apostates need people to follow them and it is for this reason alone that they become part of local churches.  They are completely aware of the fact that most people who attend churches do not read their Bibles, but simply depend upon the teaching of another person to spoon feed them their theology.  Apostates know that it is relatively easy to take advantage of members of any flock because of this lack of biblical knowledge.

For the most part, all they have to do is enter into a congregation with a seeming innocence and self-deprecation, yet with an open friendliness that they know will break down barriers.  Toss in a couple of memorized Scripture verses and they are in.  Once they are accepted by members in that group, they begin to plant seeds, seeds that will take root and eventually cause people to start following the apostate.  This occurs over time and is much like the frog that sits in a pot of water that slowly comes to a boil.  The frog has no clue that it will eventually boil to death.

If an apostate came into a church congregation and on his very first Sunday, ran up to the pulpit and declared himself to be a god, people would escort him out very quickly.  Apostates are not stupid.  They do not do this, but take their time to ensnare certain individuals that have let their guards down and they build from there.

Turning Grace into Licentiousness
One of the things that these apostates do is start planting the idea that because of God’s grace, Christians can live any way they want to live.  We have been forgiven!  Because of that forgiveness, all of our sins, past, present, and future are gone!  Since that is the case, then we should enjoy life to its fullest now.  Come on, join the fun!

Normally, the average church has rules of some sort.  Many of these rules are not written down, but the expectation is there and people are aware of those expectations.  For instance, we know that the Bible teaches that it is wrong to commit adultery.  That’s a given, yet people still do it.  Aside from the commandments though, there are rules that churches have that leaders expect parishioners to follow for the good of the entire congregation.

Things like not drinking alcohol or attending movies may not be part of the written dogma of a particular church, but everyone who attends that church knows that it may be frowned upon by the leaders.

Is there anything wrong with actually drinking or going to movies?  Some people believe that the Bible teaches that you should never drink.  Others don’t see it that way.  What is the guiding factor?  Paul tells us that if what we are doing causes a brother to stumble, we shouldn’t do it, certainly not in front of that brother (cf. Romans 14).

So the guiding parameter here is based on love for that other individual.  It’s part of the Christian’s moral code and Paul details it for us in 1 Corinthians 13.

The apostate teaches people that these things should be enjoyed and not prohibited.  People tend to like this and those who are weak in these areas will be drawn to such a person.

I know a number of pastors (and you probably do as well), who have lost their pastorates because they committed adultery with someone in their church, or they were involved in other questionable activities.  Either they were counseling the woman and things got way out of hand, or they simply found themselves attracted to the church secretary and over time, went with their desires.

These things happen because people are not close to God.  They begin catering to themselves and find ways to keep SELF happy.  This is what the apostate does and teaches others to indulge in as well.

The apostate is always happy, always loud (once you get to know them), always has an answer about things biblical, and always encourages people to live life to the fullest.  We are saved therefore since we cannot lose our salvation, go for it!  This is a sham.

Yes, I do believe a person who authentically receives Jesus as Savior and Lord cannot lose that salvation.  At the same time, it is important to understand that the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in our life, will begin directing our steps and remolding our character in the image of Jesus.  If we oppose that, the Lord reserves every right to take us home, just like Ananias and Sapphira.

The people who say they are Christians and are really not, have little to fear in this life.  God will likely not “take them home” because that will happen soon enough when they die and are sent to hell because of their life and actions now.  The tragedy is what they do to others.

Anyone can say they are Christian and many people do.  This does not mean that they actually are or were authentic Christians.  It simply means they said they were one.

Not long ago, tragically, a madman gunned down nearly 100 people in Norway.  He had a page on a social network in which he stated he was a “Christian” and a “right-wing conservative.”  He also stated that he was part of the Knights Templar.

On the day of his massacre, he was wearing a police uniform so that the young people at the youth camp he was at would not be afraid of him and even gather round him.  It was because of his fake identity as a law enforcement official that he was able to kill as many people as he did that day.  He says he’s not insane and what he did, he intended to do for the sake of his nation because of his disagreement over Norway’s immigration laws and the growth of Islam there.

As you can imagine, the liberal media had a heyday with this news that he was “Christian” and “right-winger.”  The actual truth of the situation is that he is not a Christian any more than Judas Iscariot was a Christian.  That did not interest the liberal media though.  The gunman claimed to be a Christian, so we should believe him, right?  According to the liberal media, yes.  I noticed though, that this same media did not for a moment believe him to be an actual law enforcement official, even though he attempted to pass himself off as one.  Christian? Yes. Police officer? No.  That makes no sense, except for the fact that it merely proves that the average person does not know what constitutes an authentic Christian.  Just ask anyone who claims to be an “ex-Christian.”  They don’t know either, but claim that they were at one time a true Christian, but now, are not.

Apostates are just like this.  They pretend or say they are something when they are not.  They have their own agendas and that’s all they care about.  Pulling the wool over as many eyes as possible is their initial goal so that their ultimate goal can be achieved; serving SELF.

Please notice also that Jude clearly makes the following statement about these apostates.  The apostates “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ

Jude’s wording here is important.  They not only deny God (Jesus), but notice how Jude refers to Jesus here, as “Master” and “Lord.”  At the beginning of his letter, Jude called himself a “bondservant,” literally, a slave to Jesus and Jude is one willingly.  He was devoted to Jesus and had voluntarily put Jesus in the place of Master and Lord of his (Jude’s) life.  This is exactly how all of us are to respond to Jesus.  We can do it now, in this life willingly, or we will be forced to bend the knee in the next life (cf. Philippians 2:10).  Obviously, to do so of our own volition in this life is the hallmark of an authentic Christian.  Those who refuse to bend the knee to Jesus now will be the ones who are forced to do it then.

Apostates like to give the impression that Jesus is their Master, while the truth of the matter is that they deny Him that place of honor.  In effect, the apostate is his own highest authority, bowing to no one else in this life.  He believes he answers only to himself and no one else.  Again though, impressions are important.  The apostate wants to give the impression above all things that he is one of the true flock and other Christians have nothing to worry about and can therefore, readily receive him with open arms.

Paul also points this out in his second letter to Timothy.  He says that individuals like the ones Jude describes are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power,” (2 Timothy 3:4-5).  Ultimately, these apostates love pleasure, not God, because they love themselves.  In order to have a lifestyle which allows them to indulge their pleasures, they must have followers who are willing to support their lifestyle.  Christians can become easy prey to individuals like this and it is all because too many do not study to grow through knowledge of God’s Word.

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