A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Intending to write a letter to the Church on the subject of salvation, Jude was prompted instead to write about the false teachers who were already infecting the Church with their lies. He was just getting nicely wound up as we finished our first installment. Let’s rejoin him now as he releases the full force of his torrent against them. And as we saw last time, he wasn’t just writing about his times, he was also writing about ours.
These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude:12-13)
The phrase “love feast” refers to the early church’s practice of eating together and sharing communion at their weekly gathering. It was an adaptation of the Passover meal Jesus celebrated with His disciples. Jude said the false teachers didn’t belong there because unlike shepherds who understood their responsibility to “feed” their flock (provide sound teaching), these people are only interested in feeding themselves (filling their own stomachs).
Clouds without rain fail to fulfill their promise of bringing relief from the drought. They get our hopes up but don’t bring us comfort. Trees that don’t bear fruit are uprooted. Jude called them twice dead because by bearing no fruit they produce no offspring and by being uprooted their own life is ended. The wild waves of the sea come from odd directions. Today, sailors call them rogue waves. They can knock a boat off course or even cause it to capsize. Wandering stars are unreliable and cannot be used for navigation. Anyone following them is in danger of becoming lost.
These four analogies are all accurate descriptions of false teachers and show that they are not just wrong, they’re dangerous. And they’re most dangerous to those who are least able to defend themselves. Like wolves, they feed off the weak and the stragglers. Jude said the darkest blackness has been reserved for them forever, indicating they’re not saved. John confirmed this when he wrote the following about them;
They went out from us but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)
False teachers who deny the deity of Jesus or the sufficiency of His sacrifice, who teach what they know to be false because it profits them, and who rebel against the authority of Scripture are not just mistaken. They know in their hearts they’re wrong, and John said by their words and deeds they’re proving that they never belonged to us.
Paul said, “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
When you’re masquerading you’re pretending to be someone you know you’re not. Just like Satan knows he’s not an angel of light, his servants know they’re not servants of righteousness. These men are not merely deluded, they are consciously deceptive.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (Jude: 14-16)
Some commentators use this passage to support their view that the book of Enoch belongs in the Bible. But Jude was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and would have known that the book of Enoch a) was not written by Enoch, and b) has a number of historical and theological errors. Jude was very specific in identifying Enoch as belonging to the seventh generation after Adam. The Book of Enoch wasn’t written until several thousand years later.
Jude:14 is similar to 1 Enoch 1:9. But even if Jude was quoting it, that wouldn’t indicate a blanket endorsement of the book. Jude could have had confirmation from the Holy Spirit that the original Enoch actually said what Jude had written. That would explain why Jude attributed the statement to Enoch rather than the book by that name. The important thing to remember here is that the Lord will come to judge the false teachers for the way they’ve twisted and distorted the truth of His word.
But you don’t have to depend on Jude’s quote from Enoch to verify the judgments that await the godless false teachers. Peter said the same thing.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping (2 Peter 2:1-3).
In Old Testament times there were false prophets pretending to speak for the Lord. Now we have false teachers who twist His word into something it was never meant to be. What they teach denies the fact that the Lord died for all our sins and just by receiving His free gift we can live in eternity with Him. Instead they use their influence to introduce destructive heresies that lead their followers astray. Peter added his voice to Jude and John saying,
These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. (2 Peter 2:17)
And Jesus will seal the fate of these pretenders saying, “I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers.” (Matt. 7:23)
A Call to Persevere
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (Jude:17-19)
Many scholars believe Peter used Jude’s letter as a resource for his own writing, so it doesn’t surprise us to see similar ideas. Peter also warned that there would be scoffers among us. “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation ( 2 Peter 3:4). These advocates of evolution contend that things always have been and always will be. They laugh when we talk about the 2nd Coming, as if we’re being naive to think such thoughts.
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. (2 Peter 3:6)
It’s not that they never heard about how things began, or had no way of discovering the truth about the creation. Paul wrote that God made His authorship so clear that men are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20). On the contrary, they’ve made a conscious decision to ignore what God said about creating the Heavens and the Earth, and how he destroyed it when men became evil. Against all the evidence they’ve decided to believe that God doesn’t get involved in the workings of men and therefore won’t be coming back, ever.
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude:20-21).
Building faith is like building our muscles. It takes practice. Jude’s brother James said it this way.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3)
An athlete looks for chances to test himself and faces them joyfully because it’s an opportunity to make himself bigger, faster, stronger. We should be the same, thinking of the trials we face as opportunities to build our faith. We know in advance that the outcome will be in our favor, so we can consider these tests pure joy. They bring us closer to the Lord and help us look to that day He’s promised will come.
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (Jude:22-23)
Like the seasoned veteran encourages the rookie, we can reach out to those who doubt while we wait for the Lord’s return. I believe Jude had Zechariah 3:1-10 in mind here. It was a vision, one of eight Zechariah had in the same night. The Angel of the Lord was there, along with Joshua the High Priest and Satan. When Satan began to accuse the High Priest, God said, “The Lord rebuke you Satan. The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Joshua was dressed in filthy (literally excrement bespattered) clothing. The Angel of the Lord said, “Take off his filthy clothes”, and told Joshua He had taken away his sin. Then He had Joshua clothed in rich garments and said he was symbolic of things to come. He was referring to the day when the Lord would come to take away the filthy garments of our own righteousness and clothe us in rich garments of His righteousness.
“I will remove the sin of the people in a single day,” the Angel said, thereby identifying Himself as Jesus. It’s an incredible model I call the Gospel in Zechariah, and I think Jude was calling it to our attention for a reason. We need to remember what we were before and who we are now.
As we build our faith and wait for the Lord, we’ll become so heavenly minded that our earthly life will remind us of the High Priest’s filthy robes and we’ll long to be clothed with the heavenly garments of our eternal life.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude:24-25)
Jude’s letter ends the way it began, with an assurance that Jesus will obey His father’s will and not lose even one of us (John 6:38-40), but is able to keep us from falling and to present us to Himself without fault, as though we’d never sinned at all.
At the beginning I said the Epistle of Jude could be called the Acts of the Apostates. This is because of the author’s focus on the false teachers. And remember they all claim to be part of the Church, even though their teachings are far from the Gospel.
Some of them say Jesus is not the way at all. They deny His deity, doubt the fact that He died for our sins and rose again, and dismiss His claim that you have to be born again. Instead, they say you have to find the way yourself, by living a good life, or learning secret knowledge, or joining their group.
Others say He’s not the only way. They teach there are many ways to God and as long as you’re sincere in what you believe you’ll find yours.
Still others say He’s not all the way. They say He made it possible for you to begin your journey to God, but you have to complete it by your own efforts, living a righteous life according to their standards.
These are all paths on the broad road with its wide gate. They lead to destruction because in the final analysis they make you the author of your own salvation. These are the acts of the apostates.
The Bible says Jesus is the the way, the only way, and He’s all the way. Only by trusting exclusively in His completed work on the cross can we hope to see the Kingdom. Faith in His substitutionary death is the only thing we can do that isn’t counted as work, and it alone is credited to us as righteousness (Romans 4:5) This is the narrow road with the small gate, because it makes Jesus the sole author of our salvation.
It’s exciting to be part of a big crowd all praising God and caught up in the stimulation of a great musical production. There’s a feeling of self satisfaction that comes from being seen by your peers as a shining example of what it means to live a victorious life. And there’s an unparalleled sense of fulfillment to be found in expressing the love of the Lord to the less fortunate through missionary or social justice programs.
But if you’re not also a born again believer, none of that will get you even one step closer to the Kingdom. You’ll just be one more victim of the acts of the apostates. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). To be born again is to admit you’re a sinner, and that Jesus died for your sins and rose again. Are you born again? 05-31-14.