Pastor Scott Andrews | February 6, 2022
What’s the big deal about sin anyway? The world hardly uses the word anymore, the church only a little more. We live in a culture which has downplayed sin – renaming it as personal freedom or personal choice. We live in a church which has downplayed sin, renaming it as mistakes or failures. I’m only human, you know. And further, both the culture and the church level charges of bigotry, judgmentalism or self-righteousness against Christians who think the Bible does make a big deal about sin. That it does say certain behaviors are terribly sinful, rebellion against God, and deserving of divine wrath. That sin is such a big deal that it took the death of the Son of God to save us from that deserved divine wrath.
This diminishing or dismissing sin is one reason the little book of Jude has been so neglected. It is admittedly very strong and has some very offensive things to say about sin and God’s subsequent judgment. I would suggest some of the things I’ve said through the years, preaching through the Bible. but especially over the past couple of weeks, would not be accepted out there. For some of you, accepted in here. My desire is not to be offensive, to hurt you, to judge you harshly. My desire is to be loving, but also faithfully proclaim God’s truth. You see, sin is a big deal. And so true, faithful, biblical love encourages, admonishes and protects the ones loved. That is my passionate desire. To not allow sin to consume you, destroy you.
Last week, we saw the purpose for which Jude wrote his letter in verses 3-4:
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write 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.
4 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 our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
I wanted to write you about the faith we share in Jesus. But, undoubtedly having heard of some serious challenges in the church, Jude instead felt the necessity – felt compelled to appeal to you to earnestly contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints. I cannot imagine what Jude might say to the church today.
By the way, to contend for the faith is not just the responsibility of pastors, elders or other church leaders. Remember, he’s writing to those who are the called, loved by the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ. The letter is not addressed exclusively to church leaders – it’s addressed to the church – to believers – to you. We all have the responsibility to contend for the faith.
So, does that mean we all have to go to Bible college or seminary? That we all have to take apologetics courses to ably give a defense for the faith? Not exactly. Nothing wrong with a good theological education, but that’s not really what Jude is talking about. In the context of this book, he is talking about how the gospel changes us – transforms us – purifies us so that we become more like Jesus. And if we have false teachers or false believers showing up saying, we can live however we want, we’re forgiven; we can presume on God’s grace, because He’ll forgive us; if they say the gospel of grace gives us permission to live lives of sin, we must earnestly contend for the faith. This position is called antinomianism. That is, anti-law – Jesus has freed us from the Law, any law requiring righteousness, we’re free to pursue what we want.
That’s what Jude means – our lives have been changed by the gospel. To be sure, our changed lives don’t save us – they just prove we have been saved and rescued from divine wrath. We are new creatures in Christ. Perfect? Not in this life. But together, we joyfully pursue Christlikeness and encourage and admonish one another to do the same. We don’t allow sin to go unchecked – we realize a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. A little sin, left unchecked, will have deleterious effects.
Want proof? Our text today. You see, in verse 4, he said certain persons – you know who they are – have secretly crept in to spread their evil lies by their evil lives. And to be sure, it’s not enough for them to live in sin – they want you to join them. They want you to accept and celebrate their immorality. Their condemnation – which Jude is getting ready to illustrate – was promised long ago. They are ungodly, they turn the grace of God into licentiousness, which typically refers to sexual immorality, and they deny our only Master and Lord. Bringing us to our text today – Jude 5-10. Let’s read that.
In this passage, Jude lists three well-known stories of disobedience and their consequent judgments. I say well-known because these specific stories were regularly used in Jewish literature at this time to illustrate rebellion, and God’s corresponding judgment. Then, in verses 8-10, Jude applies the stories to these who had secretly crept into the church. Meaning, they’re not just historical stories – they speak to Jude’s church, and they speak to us.
Now, you should know at the outset, these stories present some interpretive challenges. We’ll do our best to understand exactly what Jude meant by citing the stories, to include this reference to a story not even found in the Bible. As we saw last week in the outline of the book, Jude uses three OT stories in verses 5-7, then applies them in verses 8-10. So that forms our outline today:
- The Rebellion and Destruction of the Children of Israel (5)
- The Rebellion and Destruction of Fallen Angels (6)
- The Rebellion and Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (7)
- The Rebellion and (Promised) Destruction of these False Believers (8-10)
Please notice – children of Israel, angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the church – Jews, Gentiles, angels and the church – all inclusive; meaning, there is not a place in the universe where God’s good and sovereign rule is not in effect. To include in your life. We can seek to throw it off, to not believe, to live how we want, but if we do, destruction is sure.
All three of these examples left their abode, left their place – left what God intended. The Israelites left the land of promise in unbelief, the fallen angels left heaven, and Sodom and Gomorrah left what God prescribed in sexual relations for gross immorality, for strange flesh.
Now again, as we both read the text and outline it, this is challenging with strong words many have not and will not like, some of you will not like. But, as we go verse by verse through the Scripture – skipping nothing since it’s all God’s word – we will allow the chips to fall where they may. Meaning, I did not wake up Friday morning – which is my writing day – and think, let’s see, what verses can I use that will be most irritating to people.
So, let’s start with the rebellion and destruction of the Children of Israel in verse 5. Again, Jude has some hard things to say – not about his readers, but to his readers about these false believers who had infiltrated the church. While saying strong things, he’s very careful to draw a distinction. He had already reminded them, they were called, they were loved, and they were kept. Now, he says, I desire to remind you, though you already know this. He’s being gentle. You’ve heard this before – it’s not new – but by way or reminder, let me tell you about how these false believers are just like three different groups of beings. And the concern I have, as I shared last week, is these same kinds of people have infiltrated the church today.
The first group is the ones the Lord had saved out of the land of Egypt. We know that story well – these readers, likely Jewish, knew this story well. This was one of the highpoints of the OT, the Exodus. The children of Israel had moved to Egypt during a famine. You remember – Joseph had been sent ahead by the sovereign plan of God. Later, during the famine, his father Jacob and his family moved to Egypt where Joseph could care for them. There were seventy in all who moved. Years later, long after Joseph and his family had died, a pharaoh came to power who did not know Joseph’s family, and all they’d done to preserve the Egyptians. All he noticed was the Israelites were multiplying and become a great nation within their borders.
So, the Egyptians reduced the nation of Israel to servitude – they made slaves of the Israelites. But God did not forget His people. He raised a hero – Moses – to deliver Israel from their captivity. You remember the story of the Exodus – Moses showed up, unleashed 10 plagues against the Egyptians. It was an amazing display of God’s supremacy over all the gods of Egypt. In the end, pharaoh was forced to “let my people go.” They had been there for 400 years and grown to a nation of some two million. Deliverance was sweet. But we remember, pharaoh changed his mind, and pursued the Israelites right to the Red Sea. But, God saved one of the best miracles for last – He parted the Red Sea, and the Israelites walked across on dry ground.
God led them to Mt. Sinai where He gave them the Law. The plan was they were then to travel to the land of Canaan – the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants. Some time later, they were right at the edge of the land of promise. Moses sent 12 men into the land to spy it out, presumably a reconnaissance mission before they took the land. You remember the story – the 12 spies came back, and reported, it is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. But, 10 of those spies said, there are giants in the land – we appear like grasshoppers before them. Most scholars agree this is the story to which Jude is referring. Remember I suggested there were many Jewish works at this time that referred to these three stories. We know from those writings, this story was the disobedience referenced. We read about it in Numbers 13 and 14. Look at it:
26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.
28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;
29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.
30 ‘Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
31 ‘Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected.
32 ‘But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness.
33 ‘Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.
34 ‘According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition.
35 ‘I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’”
Because they did not believe. These people had seen God’s hand at work in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness. They had seen Sinai rumble under His presence. He had led them by a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day. By this time, He had provided manna, water from the rock, and quail for meat. And yet, they did not believe. What does He have to do for you to believe?
Can I suggest this is the root problem to any disobedience. We just don’t believe God. We don’t believe He will provide. We don’t believe His word. We don’t believe He will punish. And as a result of their disobedience, He destroyed them. Because, unbelief questions the goodness, power, wisdom and sovereignty of God. It questions His right to rule our lives. Did God really say, was the serpent’s question to Eve in the garden. And humanity has been repeating the question ever since. Did God really say, and who is He to say so? I’m the master of my own life – personal choice and personal freedom – I will live my own life. You can, and you bear the consequences.
The next familiar story is found in verse 6. It’s a challenging one: the angels who did not keep their domain, but abandoned their proper abode, God has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. It’s a play on words here – they did not keep, so God kept them. To what OT story is Jude referring? Again, we have to understand the story as it was told in his day. It is recorded in many works, with the other stories – along with the widely-held – actually, exclusively-held understanding of the story. It’s found in Genesis 6 – look at it with me – this is the time of the Flood:
1 Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,
2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
They were in fact giants. The interpretation of this story during Jude’s day was the sons of God were fallen angels (Job calls angels sons of God), who abandoned their assigned areas of responsibility. With angels, there appears to be both a hierarchy as well as geographical areas and specific duties. We see these angels saw the daughters of men were beautiful, they took on male human form, took them as wives, and produced offspring. It was because of this, it was thought, that God brought the flood on the earth.
There’s lots of discussion about this – that is, whether or not that is the right interpretation of the text. It was the understanding of Jude’s day. Scholars argue today – some suggesting the sons of God were the descendants of Seth while the daughters of men were the descendants of Cain. The text in Genesis doesn’t really say. But, what would be the problem with the descendants of Adam and Eve marrying? Everyone was a descendant of Adam and Eve – there doesn’t seem to be any prohibition against those two lines marrying. It gets a little confusing. But, why would their offspring produce giants?
The argument against the sons of God being angels is what Jesus said – (Sadducees) that when we get to the eternal state, there will be no marriage – we will be like the angels. The point is, we will not marry. But Jesus did not say the angels were asexual. I’m not going to try to solve the riddle – after studying this text, I’m more inclined to go with the sons of God being fallen angels. By the way, this story is told of fallen angels called Watchers in the Book of Enoch, which Jude will quote later.
The point is, this was the prevailing thought when Jude wrote it – that these were fallen angels who were sexually sinful. They were rebellious. They left the place God had assigned. As a result, God judged them – He kept them in eternal bonds under darkness. He judged them, and punished them, holding them for eternal judgment when we read in the Book of Revelation they will be cast into the lake of fire – a place prepared for Satan and his angels.
The point of us is, we can go with personal freedoms – the my body, my choice idea. That sexuality is a matter between two consenting adults – or in this case, two consenting beings. But the Scripture is clear – marriage and subsequent sexual relations are reserved for man and woman. This is how God designed it – you can live in rebellion against God’s good and sovereign plan, but there are consequences. That’s why this point is titled, the Rebellion and Destruction of Fallen Angels. You can choose to abandon God’s plan in your fallenness, but there will be consequences.
Bringing us to the third OT example. By the way, please notice these aren’t in chronological order – but they were often recorded together. Verse 7 is the Rebellion and Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice Jude begins with, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them… In other words, Jude likens the sexual sin of the fallen angels to the sexual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. We find this story in Genesis 18 and 19. I won’t take the time to read it, but briefly – Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked, and their wickedness had risen to God – that is, had not escaped God’s notice. So God told Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. But, there was a problem – that’s where Lot, Abraham’s nephew lived – so Abraham bargained with God to not destroy the cities if ten righteous people could be found there.
Two angels were sent to deliver Lot and his family before the destruction. Lot takes them into his home. That night, all the men of the city, both young and old, all of them surrounded Lot’s house, seeking to have homosexual relations with the angels, whom – don’t miss – they thought to be men. God sent the angels to destroy Sodom because their wickedness had risen to Him – they left the divine parameters of relationship. And we see it in their desire for relations with these men.
The angels blinded the wicked men of the city – and delivered Lot, his wife, and two daughters. That’s all – there were not ten righteous people in the city. Fire and brimstone or sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed the cities. Incidentally, archeological evidence in the cities to the south of the Dead Sea reveal these cities were in fact were destroyed by fire at the same time – never to be rebuilt. Archeologists don’t know what started the fires – presumably because they’ve never read the Bible.
Look at the way Jude writes it – Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because in the same way as these – just as the fallen angels of the previous verse – indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, so did the men of Sodom, frankly wanting to rape them. It was gross immorality – as stated by all those other writings that list this story – because of their desire to engage in forcible homosexual activity.
Notice, Jude goes on to say they went after strange flesh. Some suggest, probably rightly, the men were going after angels, so that was the strange flesh. But scholars then and today agree, the men didn’t know they were angels – they thought them simply males – and they were going after men in a sexual way – a homosexual way – not prescribed by God who designed the sexual relationship to be between a man and woman within marriage. It was gross immorality that had already arisen to God. Therefore, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Interesting, the fire and brimstone would have brought immediate death by fire – but Jude calls it eternal, indicating that the fire and brimstone was temporal punishment, while the fires of hell are eternal punishment.
I told you last week, the problem with these false believers was to be found largely in their sexual immorality. Two of the three stories describe gross immorality – sexual activity outside what God designed. Angels left their own domains, the Sodomites burned in their lust for other men. We can try to explain it away – but the Scripture is consistently clear that such sexual activity is sin. I won’t take the time to read all those passages, but they are clear.
So, saying, my body, my choice – two consenting adults – I can do what I want even if God forbids it – is an act of rebellion which will bring eternal punishment. And the concern Jude was addressing was this was being brought into the church under the guise of the grace of God. That grace had been turned into licentiousness – sexual depravity. So, don’t miss it, this is how we contend for the faith – we confront sin and we don’t allow it to live and spread among us. Because we love God, and we love each other.
Last week I also suggested that sexual sin was rampant in the church. This church? Probably. So what then do we do? I suggested we repent. Repentance has a two-fold sense to it. First, we confess, that is, we agree with God that we are guilty of what we have been charged. The first step in conquering sin is to acknowledge it is indeed sin, worthy of divine judgment. Stop justifying your sins. It’s the way God made me – I can’t help it – everyone does it. First step, agree with God. Second, we seek God’s grace to turn from sin, and pursue Him. Therein lies the problem. For some of you, Jesus is not your greatest treasure. The truth is, you love your sin more than you love Jesus.
I am calling you, by God’s grace, to repent. Agree that your actions are sinful, turn from them, and pursue Christ. Further, some of you, in gentle love, should confront those you know love this world and its enticements more than Jesus. You need to come alongside them and say, this is the way, let’s walk in it together. That’s how we contend for the faith.
By the way, it doesn’t necessarily mean we discard them. It may mean that – if they willfully reject Christ and His word. But our loving attempts should be also twofold. First, to confront and call to righteousness. And second, to make yourself available to walk with them together, to pursue righteousness. If this text is true – then rebellion will bring destruction. So it seems to me we should do whatever is necessary to help people escape. That is what the end of this letter will say.
We come to a time of communion, but let me tell you what we’re going to do. We will observe communion – a time when we remember the great price of the death of the Son of God for our sin to deliver us from divine wrath. I will give you time to spend the Lord – to confess, to repent. But after communion, we’ll sing a song, Hunter will dismiss us. But afterward, Elders and their wives will here at the front to pray for and with you. For you and your sin with which you struggle. James 5 says, in the context of elders, to confess your sins to one another. We will pray for you. We also pray with you if there someone you know and love who needs to be gently and lovingly confronted. That God will give you grace and courage to act.
But first, communion.