Pastor Scott Andrews | January 30, 2022
When I was in middle school – many years ago – the school I attended was right next to a 7-11. For those who don’t know, a 7-11 is a convenience store, like a Circle K or Kangaroo Express. Well, the side parking lot also doubled as a boxing ring or a UFC octagon – if there was going to be a fight after school, it was there, and everyone gathered to watch. Just like you see in the movies, only it was real. I had to walk by that store every day on the way home from school, so I saw many fights. Most were quickly broken up with little blood and gore. But I remember once, these two guys really got into it. One of them was the bully type – bigger, stronger – the other was smaller, almost scrawny. This is where it diverged from the movies – the smaller guy didn’t have any special superpowers. So, as you’d expect, the big guy got into his boxing stance and wailed on the smaller guy. Again, it wasn’t like the movies – the bully won big. I’ll spare you the gory details – but it finally took an adult to drag him off the smaller guy, whose face was literally being pounded into the asphalt. He was a bloody mess.
A few months later, my little brother got into it with a next-door neighbor kid. They were both about 8 or 9 and started fighting in the front yard. As I looked out the window, I noticed that bully was there, coaching the neighbor kid. Well, I ran outside and grabbed the bully’s arm to pull him away. He squared up in that familiar, terrifying boxing stance and punched me right in the jaw. Two important things you should know. First, I haven’t always been the intimidating physical specimen you see standing before you today. And second, I loved my brother, but not that much.
My life quickly passed before my eyes. Instead of punching him back, I grabbed my brother and dragged him inside. Who wants to fight if you know you’re going to get whipped? I didn’t have any superpowers, either.
Last week, we began the book of Jude. We did our normal introductory work when beginning any new book of the Bible. We found that many call Jude the most neglected book of the NT, largely because of its brevity, its quotations of apocryphal, non-canonical books, but most importantly, it’s ignored because of its in-your-face denunciation of false teachers, false believers promoting a sinful lifestyle more accurately, in the church. We didn’t get to them last week, but we will today.
As per normal introductory work, we looked at the author, the recipients, and the greeting. We found the book was likely written in the late 50s or mid-60s by the younger brother of James, who was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. And since James was the half-brother of Jesus, Jude was the half-brother of Jesus – although he didn’t refer to himself that way – rather, he called himself a slave of Jesus Christ. But even that was a statement of authority – to be owned by another in some way suggests you represent the owner. You speak with His authority.
We also found Jude is a so-called catholic or general epistle in that the specific recipients aren’t named. So, like the other general epistles, the book is named after the author, not the recipients – like James, I and II Peter, I, II and III John. But we did learn some specific things about the recipients – things that were incredibly important for them, and frankly, us. Remember, Jude said, “To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” All three of those words – called, loved and kept – are passive. Meaning, they are not things we do – they are done to us. We are called by God, loved by God, and kept for Jesus Christ. Not something we do, but something He does. We will need to be reminded of that over and over as we make our way through this very threatening letter with its strong words of denunciation. I will say it again and again – we are called, we are loved, and we are kept. So important was this truth that Jude ended the letter with the reminder:
24 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,
25 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.
God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord – is able to keep us and make us stand in His glorious presence – blameless and with great joy. Hallelujah.
And yet, we are living in a broken, sin-cursed world where the enemy of our souls is alive and well. And false teachers, frankly, sinners who love their sin, and want us to join them in their sin, stand against us. So, what then do we do? We fight for the faith. But the difference between this fight, and the potential, fearful fight I avoided as a 12-year-old is there is no need to fear. They can take their boxing stance against us, drag us into the ring, or the colosseum, or jail, or death, but victory is assured. Oh, we may get beat up and bloodied a bit on the way. But, we are called, we are loved, and we are kept. So, fight for the faith, we will. And we will win. Take your best shot, Satan – we win. But the promise of victory does not bring ease in the midst of the raging battle, it brings valor.
Bringing us to our text today. Having identified the author, Jude, the recipients, as much as we can, having received the greeting, “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you” we arrive at the occasion or the purpose of the letter. That is, what was the occasion that demanded this letter? Many times, as the author wrote his work, he would wait till the end to tell us the purpose for writing later. Remember, for example, that John waited till the end of his gospel and his first letter to identify his purpose. For the Gospel, “these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Or the end of I John, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
But here, at the outset – in verse 3 – Jude gives the purpose of his letter. So let’s read verses 3 and 4, our text for today to discover the purpose.
(Westminster Chapel) The outline is quite simple:
- The Purpose for Writing (3)
- The Reason for the Purpose (4)
By the way, last week I didn’t give you an outline of the book – let me put it up on the screen, and I’ve also made copies available at the welcome center if you want one:
- The Salutation (1-2)
- The Purpose for Writing (3-4)
- The Description of the False Teachers (5-19)
- Three Old Testament Examples Applied (5-10)
- Three More Old Testament Examples Applied (11-13)
- The Prophecy of Enoch Applied (14-16)
- The Prophecy of the Apostles Applied (17-19)
- The Exhortation to Believers (20-23)
- The Doxology (24-25)
You will note from this outline and as we make our way through the book, Jude was fond of triplets. In verse 2, he said you are called, loved, and kept. In verse 3, he wished you mercy, peace and love. In verses 5-10 he gives three OT examples, followed by three more examples. He loves triplets, which makes outlining the book easy.
So let’s start with the purpose of the letter in verse 3. He starts with the word beloved, which flows right from those first two verses. He reminded them they were loved by God; his blessing was that love would be multiplied to them; now he calls them beloved. They are loved by God, and likely by him. While we don’t know specifically who the readers were, Jude did – and he loved them. Remember, this book has been called one of the toughest, one of the strongest books of condemnation in the NT. But Jude started by telling them they were loved – and three times, he calls them beloved – here and verses 17 and 20 – right when they need it. Yes, he’s going to call out the false teachers and their sinful lifestyles, but throughout, he reminds the readers, they are loved. So are you.
Jude then tells them what he had intended to write. He actually had a different purpose in mind. I was making every effort – I had every desire, strong desire – to write to you about our common salvation. About the salvation in Christ that we share in common. And wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that, all the time? Talk about the grace and mercy God has extended to us through His Son. We remember the words of Paul to the Corinthians – I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It would be great – and I believe will be great when we get to heaven – to the not yet. You see, we are already saved, heaven is assured, but we are not yet there. We must fight. Jude writes, not so that we would be content, but that we would be vigilant. Here’s the challenge – many want to avoid any conflict at all costs. Can’t we just love one another, agree to get along, put aside our differences? Not yet. We are living in broken, sin-cursed world, where the only answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And when that gospel truth is threatened, when we catch the jab to the jaw and the enemy takes his stance, we must fight.
That’s what he goes on to say – I wanted to write you about our common salvation. But instead, I felt the necessity, I felt compelled, I was indeed forced by extenuating circumstances to write to appeal to you, plead with you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once handed down to the saints.
So much to be said here. While he intended to write about our common salvation, he had apparently received some distressing news – an alarming situation faced his readers. So he wrote the letter we now have. I would point out, a letter accepted into the Bible as inspired by the Holy Spirit – a letter with truths as much needed today as ever. It should not be neglected – and his encouragement to us is to contend earnestly for the faith.
To contend is a word you may be familiar with. It’s the word from which we get our word agonize. It was a word used of military conflict, but also of the contest of fighting or contending or competing in the Greek games. To contend means you work, you fight to the point of exhaustion. Why? Because the winner gets the prize, because in a military conflict, it is a matter of life and death. What it means is to contend for the faith will consume all our energies and more – but in the end, it is worth it. We win.
We remember the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy is his last letter, while certain death awaited. (execution awaited) Did that mean he lost? Hardly. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Who have longed for the return of Christ, who lived for the return of Christ, knowing that when we see Him, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. We long for, we look for our Christ. We don’t get distracted by the things of this world. But notice, Paul had fought the good fight. The word fought comes from the same word Jude uses to call us to fight, to earnestly contend. This a contest, a fight, and those who fight will win, and win the crown of righteousness.
Now, to be clear, Jude is not calling us to take up arms. The medieval church messed that up. Remember the Crusades which started in 1096, when Pope Urban II called for Christian soldiers to travel to Jerusalem and free the city from its occupation by the dreaded Muslim Turks? That’s not what Jude was calling for. What he wanted was that we earnestly contend for the faith and keep this body of Christ, this church, pure of any error of teaching or lifestyle what would betray the truth of the gospel. That would make a mockery of the Christian faith.
Notice, he says to contend for the faith – that speaks of a body of truth contained in the gospel – that was once for all – a once and final time – handed down to the saints. The gospel as articulated, written in the Word of God – was handed down one time by the apostles to the saints – that is, believers in Jesus who become holy by nature of their faith.
Once for all – here we are two thousand years later – preaching the same faith. Oh, there have attacks against the faith – those rising saying we need something more, something different. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, said he was seeking truth, and Jesus appeared to him and told him everybody had gotten it wrong, but he, Joseph Smith, would bear the true truth. And the Church of Latter Day Saints was born – a cult that is contrary to the faith once handed down. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon said Jesus failed, and that he, Reverend Moon, would be the Second Coming of Christ, to make all things new – he would be the Lord of the second advent. I’ve said this before – people are always looking for the new and improved – but what we need is the old and already proven – the faith handed down once for all to the saints.
Remember, Paul wrote to the Galatians, if anyone comes to you, even an angel from heaven, preaching a gospel other than the one we – that is, the apostles – have preached, let him be accursed. Let him be condemned to hell. There is one gospel and any supposed new truth that contradicts the gospel handed down to us by the apostles is to be earnestly rejected. Anyone who comes to you saying someone – even an angel – told them something new is to be rejected. The gospel we have is glorious and true – it cannot be improved. This is the problem in many churches today. We are looking for ways to entertain, to satisfy the needs of consumers, to share some new truth never heard before. If you hear something new – never heard before, it is likely wrong. No other gospel, no other faith will ever be given. This one, and this one only, is true and right, once for all handed down.
Paul said is this way in II Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” What we have heard, found in the Word of God, we are to receive, and to pass on. Ours is not to change it, not to improve upon it – ours is to preserve and faithfully pass it on.
And why is this needed? Why did Jude have to change the purpose of this letter? Point two – verse 4, for certain men – that’s likely pejorative – certain men, and you know who they are, have crept in unnoticed. This speaks of their intentional deception. They were likely traveling teachers which were quite prominent then – who had secretly crept into the church. They had come in through a side door, under the cover of darkness. What made them so dangerous is they were now the enemy on the inside. And they sounded good, and they looked good, and they appeared to be one of us. But what they shared, what they taught, and what they did was wrong – and must be dealt with. Notice, Jude says four things about them:
First, they were long beforehand marked for this condemnation. What does that mean? He’s likely referring to what Enoch had written in I Enoch centuries before – we’ll talk about that when we get there. He’s talking about all the prophets had written in the OT – that to turn from the true and living God carried dire consequences. He was talking about what the apostles had said about sure condemnation coming to those who would turn from the gospel. He even quotes Peter when he says, “In the last days there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” The point is, the condemnation of those teaching falsehoods, denying the truth of the gospel and Christ, of claiming Christ and living ungodly lives had been promised.
Next, he says they were ungodly persons. This is a favorite word for Jude used three times in describing these people who had crept in. Here, and in verse 18 which just quoted, mockers following their own ungodly lusts, and also verse 15. Look at it – speaking of the Lord’s future judgment, the Lord came with many thousands of holy ones – probably angels, “to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which the ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
Don’t miss this – he calls them ungodly because their actions were ungodly – that is, against God – These were irreverent. They were ungodly people who, thirdly, turned the grace of God into licentiousness – into wanton sinful activity. This word is almost always used of sinful sexual activity. It speaks of sexual immorality. Herein lies the major challenge of these who had infiltrated the church. They were bringing in their so-called sexual liberty. This was always a problem of the teaching of free grace. If grace freely forgives us, then we are free to sin in unbridled sexuality. One said it this way: of course God will forgive me, it’s His business.
It became such a big problem that Paul had to deal with it forthrightly in Romans 6. There, they were saying, if sin brings God’s grace, then we should sin more so that we get more grace. It sounds ridiculous to even say it – but by our actions, have we embraced the idea of free grace allowing for what Deitrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. Do we have the audacity to think, well I shouldn’t sin, but hey, God will forgive me? It’s His job. Do we presume on God’s grace? Knowing we should not, but we do, knowing He will forgive.
Sexual sin is what we’re talking about, and it has been welcomed into the so-called church of Jesus Christ. How so? Well, the vast majority of single adults in the church are sexually active. The vast majority of men and a growing number of women are involved in pornography. And the so-called church in many mainline denominations are accepting and even celebrating that which the Bible condemns – homosexual behavior – celebrating is as normal. It’s been called the next civil rights movement. Some are even ordaining those involved in such activity. We have welcomed the enemy of our souls into the camp. Sexual depravity of every kind.
And even as I say that, some of you are offended I would do so. It sounds unloving and judgmental. I don’t what to sound unkind, but Jude will address this very issue, and yet we are afraid to. Some of you will think me arrogant and bigoted. Some of you will never return. You think me old and out of date. Some of you will even call me, email me, and make appointments to see me to tell me how unloving I am – how your friends will never come back. How do I know that? I’ve been doing this a long time – and whenever I address things the Bible does, where the Bible does – as it does here – people squirm and get offended. Sexual immorality is rampant in the church, and we turn a blind eye. There’s an old song that asks, “Are we marching into the enemy’s camp, laying our weapons down? Shedding our armor as we go, leaving it on the ground?” And I’m suggesting we are. They did in Jude’s day and were doing the same today. And so, he writes to us to say, earnestly contend for the faith – a faith that changes lives.
Please notice the way Jude writes, “who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness.” Our God – this was personal. This is our God, the greatest treasure of our lives, that they are abusing. And there should be a response on our part. It should grieve us. If someone were to speak abusively of your spouse or your children or your parents or your siblings, some of you would rightly come to their defense. How much more should we come to the defense of our God and His grace when the gospel is being perverted? Especially when we remember what the Gospel entailed – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for undeserving sinners.
Finally, the last description is they deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. Your translation may have it, our only Sovereign and Lord. The word Master is the word despotes, from which we get our word despot. It’s not always a negative term – is speaks of a Master who is totally and sovereignly in control – and if that Master is altogether good, then His sovereignty is altogether good. He is also Lord – a word most often used of God, speaking of His deity and His right to rule our lives. But don’t miss how Sovereign and Lord refer to Jesus Christ – that is, His deity and absolute right to rule our lives.
Now, most agree these who had crept into the church were not spouting heretical teachings per se – that is, they were not denying the deity of Jesus or His humanity or His perfect life or His atonement or His resurrection. They were denying His Lordship of their lives by not living in ways He commanded – they were not living new lives in Christ – they were living lives of sin, thus denying His right to rule. Remember Titus 1, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient…”
The point is, what we are dealing with in this book are those who crept into the church and sought to spoil the church, not by their heretical teaching, but by their sinful lives. Of course, much of the time that goes hand in hand. But, we see today what Jude addresses: people who want to claim Jesus as Savior but have no intention of submitting to Him as Lord.
Some of you are living in sin, and show up on Sundays like everything is ok, and it’s not. Your soul is in eternal jeopardy. You cannot presume on God’s grace. Others of you are aware of people professing Christ – claim to know God – and yet living lives of egregious sin. What do we do? Because we love them, we confront them – we call them to repent, and call them to righteousness. It is not loving to allow sinners to live in sexual sin. It is loving to call them to righteousness – to submit to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ, lest their souls be in eternal peril.