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Much of what you need to know about our situation today is found in the Book of Jude August 26, 2009

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized.
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Jude is 25 verses and it is the book just before Revelation in the New Testament. You can go along with this study as you read Jude or read it first and refer back to this study. It says much about our situation today proving, once again, Biblical relevance in the present age.

1. Context

Who is Jude? Jude and James were two of the four brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3). Jude does not say that he was a brother of Jesus. He speaks of himself only as a servant of Jesus, who was now his Master. Jude was also humble enough to mention his well-known brother, James. James became a leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19; 2:9). It is said that Jude did not believe Jesus was the Son of God until after His resurrection which is another reason why he doesn’t say Jesus is his brother, but that he is merely a servant of Jesus Christ.

What was the situation at the time (what prompted the writing)? Jude wrote the letter to warn his readers against false teachers. These teachers claimed to be Christians. But they were being a great danger to the faith. It appears Jude was fighting Gnosticism. This doctrine teaches that the sins of the body do not affect the purity of the soul, thus, allow people to engage in immoral perversions and evil. Christians have the responsibility to keep this faith without change. They must be careful that people do not take important facts away from the faith. Neither must they add false ideas. The Greek word for ‘defend’ means that it will be a great struggle. Christians must be ready at any time to meet a sudden test of their trust in Jesus. To teach wicked ideas and actions will certainly bring God’s severe punishment on people like that.

2. Style: Jude writes in “3s”

Three Old Testament Judgments: Fallen angels – Sodom & Gomorrah – Dispute over Moses’ body.

Verse 6 Because of their pride, some angels refused to obey God (Revelation 12:7-9). They left heaven to marry women on earth (Genesis 6:1-2). The false teachers in their pride and desire for women were like the bad angels. Those angels did not ‘keep’ their proper position. So God ‘kept’ them in chains and in darkness until the day of judgment. If God judges even angels, he will judge men and women too. Verse 7 The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of all kinds of wicked behaviour. Genesis 19:1-11 describes how two angels visited Lot. They visited him to warn him to escape from God’s judgement against Sodom and Gomorrah. The men of Sodom wanted to use the visitors to satisfy their wicked desires for sex. God destroyed them with fire. Verse 9 Jude gets his information from an ancient book called ‘The Assumption of Moses’. This book is not in the Old Testament. But Jude’s readers would know the story. When Moses died (Deuteronomy 34:5-6), God sent one of his most important angels, Michael, to bury his body. But the devil said that the body belonged to him. This was because Moses had murdered an Egyptian (Exodus 2:12). Michael did not argue with the devil. He said that God himself would deal with him.

Three declarations of woe: Cain, Balaam, Korah. Cain was the first person to kill someone. He killed his own brother (Genesis 4:1-15). The false teachers are ‘killing’ the belief of other people. Cain killed Abel. But God had already warned Cain about his anger. Jews in New Testament times therefore remembered Cain as someone who did not believe in God’s judgement. But God did punish him. People who decide not to trust and obey God are like Cain. God will punish them, too. Balaam is the second example. Balak, king of Moab, asked Balaam to curse Moab’s enemies, the Israelites (Numbers 22:7-18). At first, Balaam refused. But his greed for the bribe (money) that Balak offered him was too strong. So he said that he would do it. But when he tried, he found that God made him bless the Israelites instead of cursing them! (Deut. 23:5). And later, Balaam tempted the Israelites to break God’s law (Numbers 31:16). By New Testament times, Balaam was considered one who had led people away from God. Jude’s readers knew the story. So they would immediately understand what he meant. Korah was proud and jealous. He refused to accept the authority of Moses and Aaron. He also encouraged a large number of other people to oppose Moses. But God himself had appointed Moses to serve him. So Korah, and those who were with him, all died. The ground split open and swallowed those (Numbers 16:1-35). The false teachers were refusing to obey the church leaders. So they must expect God to punish them. He has already decided on their fate.

Enoch’s prophecy and the Apostles’ prediction of evil, divisions, and apostasy. Including the first man, Adam, Enoch is the seventh name in the first family line (1 Chronicles 1:1-3). The Jews considered seven was the perfect number. Genesis 5:24 tells us that Enoch ‘walked with God’, that is, he lived a holy life, very close to God. Enoch did not die, because God took him straight to heaven. Although he lived so long ago, Enoch speaks in his book of the return of the Lord to judge everyone. In particular, he tells of the awful fate of wicked people who do not obey God. Jude keeps repeating the word ‘wicked’ to emphasize how bad they are in God’s sight. They were not Christians at all. They did not believe that God would judge and punish them. They are making a very great mistake.

Two more sets of “3”

God has called them. God calls people to serve him in the same way as he called Israel (Isaiah 42:6). To serve him is a responsibility. It is also an honour, like an invitation to a special party. God is saying, ‘Be my guest!’ God loves them. God’s love protects them and also gives them inner strength every day. God is keeping them for Jesus Christ. Whatever happens, God will keep them in safety until Jesus comes again (Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4).

‘God’s mercy’: They need God’s pity to forgive them and to help them every day. And they will need it especially on the day of judgment. ‘God’s inner peace’: This peace of God is so much greater than we can understand (Philippians 4:7). Christians will have this inner peace because God has forgiven them. They know that he will help them to obey him. They know that God always keeps his promises. ‘God’s love’: They will come to realise how greatly God loves them (Romans 8:35). Then they will want to show love to other people (John 15:17). Christians cannot earn any of these qualities. They are God’s free gifts.

3. False teachers described in word pictures

Jude describes these dangerous men in word-pictures. He takes examples from the four regions of the physical world: clouds in the air; trees on the earth; waves of the sea; stars in the sky. Clouds that promise rain, but produce none, are useless (of no value). These men do nothing to help other Christians to grow in their trust of Jesus. Trees that produce no fruit, even in autumn, are as good as dead. The farmer burns them (Matthew 7:19). These men are without roots, without true life in Jesus Christ. So, these men are ‘twice dead’. In regard to waves: The Jews of the time stayed away from the sea. It could be wild and dangerous. The wicked are like the sea that never rests. Its waves never stop rolling, carrying dirt and mud (Isaiah 57:20). In a similar manner, these men never stop their wicked actions. They are like the dirty rubbish that the waves leave on the shore after a storm. Finally, with the wandering stars, Jude is referring to the book of Enoch. This book is not in the Bible, but was very popular in New Testament times. Enoch identifies these wandering stars as fallen (bad) angels. Enoch obeyed God and went straight to heaven (Genesis 4:17). The bad angels did not obey God and they lost their home in heaven. God has prepared a prison for them in deepest darkness. The false teachers who do not obey God will suffer the same fate.

4. The Apostles’ Warning

Verse 17 Jude has had much to say about the wicked words and behaviour of the false teachers. Now, to end his letter, he again speaks about his readers. They are his dear friends. He loves them, because they are like him. They believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as he does. Jude has already appreciated their memory of the Old Testament stories (verse 5). Now he commands them to remember how the apostles, too, warned them about wicked men (Acts 20:29; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3). Jesus also had warned about people like that (Matthew 7:15; 24:11). Verse 18 Memory was very important in the ancient world. Few people could read and books were rare. So Christians had to develop their memories. Jude’s readers must always keep clearly in their minds the good news of the gospel (what the Lord Jesus Christ has taught and done for them). Only then will they be strong enough to defend their faith against false teachers. Men who are as wicked as that only believe in their own ideas. They do not believe in what God teaches. Verse 19 By their selfish words and actions, these evil men upset the unity of the church members. They did so by forming their own groups at the love-meals. They did so when they claimed to be superior Christians. They claimed that the Holy Spirit was guiding them. They certainly did not have the Holy Spirit in their lives. God’s Spirit intends Christians to love and to help each other and to keep together.

5. Contending for the Faith – Remaining Strong in Jesus

Verse 20 Jude ends his letter with words to encourage his readers. God offers Christians the resources with which to overcome attacks from the wicked. That is God’s part. Their part, as loyal Christians, is to make full use of God’s resources. In this way they will build up a strong common faith. Unity is strength. Then with God’s help they will be able together to oppose the evil ideas and deeds of these wicked people. Jude tells his readers what to do: They are to ask the Holy Spirit to help them to pray. Their prayers must not be selfish or impatient. The Holy Spirit will teach them to know God’s desires, both for themselves and for other people. The false teachers do not have the Holy Spirit in their lives (verse 19). Otherwise, their behavior would be holy. Verse 21 They must keep themselves in God’s love. How do two people maintain their love for each other? They spend time together. They talk and listen to each other. They want to please each other. And the more that they do these things, the more their love for each other will grow. We keep ourselves in God’s love in a similar way. We must spend time quietly with him. We must talk (pray) to him, even about the little things of life. We must listen to what he says to us in our hearts. We must obey what he tells us to do. We shall want to please him at all times because we are preparing for life with God in heaven. That life is the gift of Jesus Christ to loyal Christians on the day when he returns.

6. A final set of  “3”

God’s people who need help Verses 22-23 Jude now speaks about three groups of people who need special help.

There are those with doubts. The false teachers have already damaged the faith of some weaker Christians. Now those weaker Christians are not sure about what to believe or how to live. Jude urges his readers to be especially kind to those who have doubts. They need help to understand clearly how God wants them to live. They are to be holy, as God is holy. They are to care for other people, and not be selfish. At all times they are to trust God completely, and not their own thoughts.

There are people who have been too ready to listen to the false teachers. Jude uses picture language. The people in this group are like a stick that is beginning to burn. Jude’s readers must rescue them quickly, before the fire burns them completely.

There are people who refuse to turn to God. Christians must pity them and be kind to them. But they must act with great care. This is in case the life without God that these people lead begins to appear attractive.

7. Finishing in Joy

We shall never be able to praise God enough. In love, God controls all. He rules over all. He supplies every need of all who trust him.

Sources:

William Barclay ~ The Letters of John & Jude ~ St. Andrews Press ~ Revised edition, 1998

Dick Lucas & Christopher Green ~ The Message of 2 Peter & Jude ~ The Bible Speaks Today ~ IVP, 1995

Michael Green ~ 2 Peter & Jude ~ Tyndale NT commentaries ~ IVP, 1987

R. H. Charles (translator) ~ The Book of Enoch ~ SPCK, 1997

Chambers 21st Century Dictionary Bibles ~ R.S.V, T.E.V, Jerusalem, Weymouth, J. B. Phillips, N.E.B, N.I.V

Wycliffe Associates (UK), November 2002

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