Jude – Contending for the Faith
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These shorter letters of the New Testament are often neglected, but the neglect of this important letter says more about us than it does about the Book of Jude. “Its neglect reflects more the superficiality of the generation that neglects it than the irrelevance of its burning message.” (Guthrie)
A. The danger that prompted Jude to write this letter.
1. (1) The author and the readers.
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
a. Jude: The name is literally “Judas.” But to avoid connection with Judas Iscariot, the infamous man who betrayed Jesus, most English translators have used the name “Jude.”
i. There are six people named “Judas” mentioned in the New Testament, but the best evidence identifies this as the one mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3: Jude, the half-brother of Jesus.
ii. Jude, like the other half-brothers of Jesus (including James), didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah until after the resurrection of Jesus (John 7:5 and Acts 1:14).
b. A bondservant of Jesus Christ: Jude was a blood relative of Jesus, but he considered himself only as a bondservant of Jesus Christ. The fact that he wanted himself to be known this way instead of introducing himself as “Jude, the half-brother of Jesus” tells us something of the humility of Jude and the relative unimportance of being connected to Jesus by human relationships.
i. Jesus spoke of this relative unimportance in passage such as Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 11:27-28.
ii. Without a doubt, Jude valued the fact that Jesus was his half-brother and that he grew up in the same household as Jesus. But even more valuable to him was his new relationship with Jesus. To Jude, the blood of the cross that saved him was more important than the family blood in his veins that related him to Jesus. Jude could say with Paul, “Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
c. And brother of James: James was an important leader of the church in Jerusalem and the author of the New Testament letter that bears his name. Both James and Jude were half-brothers of Jesus.
d. To those who are called: Jude wrote to Christians. This is not an evangelistic tract and it deals with things that believers need to hear, but often don’t want to.
i. Jude identified his readers as Christians in three specific ways:
· They were called. A person is a Christian because God has called him. The important thing is to answer the call when it comes, just as we answer the telephone when it is ringing.
· They were sanctified by God the Father. This means that they were set apart – set apart from the world and set apart unto God.
· They were preserved in Jesus. Jesus Christ is our guardian and our protector.
2. (2) Jude gives a warm and typical greeting.
Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
a. Mercy, peace, and love: This is not the same greeting as found in most of Paul’s letters (which usually begin with some variation of “Grace and peace unto you”). Yet it is substantially the same.
b. Be multiplied to you: In the mind and heart of Jude, it wasn’t enough to have mercy, peace, and love added to the life of the Christian. He looked for multiplication instead of simple addition.
3. (3) The call to defend the faith.
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
a. I was very diligent to write to you: Jude’s initial desire was to write about our common salvation. But something happened – Jude found it necessary to write a different letter. We might say that this was the letter that didn’t want to be written.
i. The letter of Jude is essentially a sermon. In it, Jude preached against the dangerous practices and doctrines that put the gospel of Jesus Christ in peril. These were serious issues and Jude dealt with them seriously.
ii. We should be happy that Jude was sensitive to the Holy Spirit here. What might have only been a letter from a Christian leader to a particular church instead became a precious instrument inspired by the Holy Spirit and valuable as a warning in these last days.
b. Concerning our common salvation: Our salvation isn’t common in the sense that it is cheap or that everyone has it. It is common in the sense that we are saved in common, in community. God doesn’t have one way for the rich and another way for the poor, or one way for the good and another way for the bad. We all come to God the same way. If it isn’t a common salvation, it isn’t God’s salvation – and it isn’t salvation at all.
i. An individual Christian may not know it, understand it, or benefit by it, but to be a Christian is to be a part of a community. To be a Christian means you stand shoulder to shoulder with millions of Christians who have gone before. We stand with strong Christians and weak Christians, brave Christians and cowardly Christians, old Christians and young Christians. We are part of an invisible, mighty army that spans back through the generations.
ii. “Upon other matters there are distinctions among believers, but yet there is a common salvation enjoyed by the Arminian as well as by the Calvinist, possessed by the Presbyterian as well as by the Episcopalian, prized by the Quaker as well as by the Baptist. Those who are in Christ are more near of kin than they know of, and their intense unity in deep essential truth is a greater force than most of them imagine: only give it scope and it will work wonders.” (Spurgeon)
iii. In the 1980’s a survey poll found that 70% of Americans who go to church say that you can be a good Christian without going to church. This doesn’t match with Jude’s idea of a common salvation.
c. Exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith: This was the great need that Jude interrupted his intended letter to address. The ancient Greek word translated “contend” comes from the athletic world – from the wrestling mat. It is a strengthened form of the word meaning “to agonize.” Therefore “contend” speaks of hard and diligent work.
i. The verb translated contend earnestly is (in the grammar of the ancient Greek) in the present infinitive, showing that the Christian struggle is continuous.
ii. We contend earnestly for the faith because it is valuable. If you walk into an art gallery and there are no guards or no sort of security system, you must draw one conclusion: there is nothing very valuable in that art gallery. Valuables are protected; worthless things are not.
d. Exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith: If we emphasize the word you, we see that this was something that Jude wanted each individual Christian to do. There are many ways that every Christian can contend earnestly for the faith.
i. We contend for the faith in a positive sense when we give an unflinching witness, distribute tracts, make possible the training of faithful ambassadors for Jesus, or when we strengthen the hands of faithful pastors who honor the Word of God in their pulpits. These are a few among many ways that we can contend earnestly for the faith in a positive sense.
ii. We contend for the faith in a negative way when we withhold support and encouragement from false teachers.
iii. We contend for the faith in a practical sense when we live uncompromising Christian lives and give credit to the Lord who changed us.
iv. Obviously, faithful missionaries and evangelists contend earnestly for the faith. But so does the Sunday School teacher or the home group leaders, who is faithful to the Scriptures. People like this contend for the faith just as much as a front-line missionary does, and each one of us should contend for the gospel wherever God puts us.
e. Contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints: Here, Jude tells us what we are contending for. There is a lot of earnest contention in the world but usually not for the right things. The faith once for all delivered to the saints is something worth contending for.
i. “The faith” doesn’t mean our own personal belief, or faith in the sense of our trust in God. The phrase the faith means “The essential truths of the gospel that all true Christians hold in common.” The faith is used in this sense repeatedly in the New Testament (Acts 6:7, 13:8, 14:22, 16:5, 24:24; Romans 1:5 and 16:26; Colossians 2:7, and 1 Timothy 1:2 are just some of the examples). We must contend earnestly for the truth. “The faith is the body of truth that very early in the church’s history took on a definite form (cf. Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Galatians 1:23).” (Blum)
ii. Once means that the faith was delivered one time, and doesn’t need to be delivered again. Of course, we distribute this truth again and again. But it was delivered by God to the world through the apostles and prophets once (Ephesians 2:20). God may speak today, but never in the authoritative way that He spoke through the first apostles and prophets as recorded in the New Testament. “There is no other gospel, there will be none. Its content will be more fully understood, its implications will be developed, its predictions will be fulfilled; but it will never be supplemented or succeeded or supplanted.” (Erdman)
iii. For all means that this faith is for everybody. We don’t have the option to simply make up our own faith and still be true to God. This faith is for all, but today, it isn’t popular to really believe in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Instead, most people want to believe in the faith they make up as they go along and decide is right for them. More people believe in “the faith that is in my heart” than the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
iv. In the book Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah and his colleagues wrote about an interview with a young nurse named Sheila Larson, whom they described as representing many American’s experience and views on religion. Speaking about her own faith and how it operated in her life, she said: “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It is ‘Sheilaism.’ Just my own little voice.” We might say that this highly individualistic faith is the most popular religion in the world, but the idea that we can or should put together our own faith is wrong. Christianity is based on one faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints.
4. (4) We need to contend for the faith because there are dangerous men among Christians.
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
a. Certain men have crept in unnoticed: In part, this is what makes them so dangerous – they are unnoticed. No one noticed that they were dangerous. They didn’t wear a “Danger: False Teacher” name tag. These certain men probably claimed to be more Biblical than anybody else was.
i. Crept in means, “To slip in secretly as if by a side door.” (Robertson) “Satan knows right well that one devil in the church can do far more than a thousand devils outside her bounds.” (Spurgeon)
b. Who long ago were marked out for this condemnation: These certain men have a destiny – the destiny of every false teacher and leader. They are marked and destined for this condemnation, and it is enough to say that they are ungodly men. They are ungodly simply in the sense that they are not like God and no matter the outward appearances, they disregard God.
i. They were unnoticed by men, but not by God. The Lord is not wringing His hands in heaven, worrying about those who deceive others through their teaching and through their lifestyles. They may be hidden to some believers but as far as God is concerned, their condemnation was marked out long ago. Their judgment is assured. The truth will win out; our responsibility is to be on the side with the truth.
c. Who turn the grace of our God into lewdness: These certain men had received something of the grace of God. But when they received it, they turned it into an excuse for their lewdness.
i. The idea behind the ancient word lewdness is sin that is practiced without shame, without any sense of conscience or decency. Usually the word is used in the sense of sensual sins, such as sexual immorality. But it can also be used in the sense of brazen anti-biblical teaching, when the truth is denied and lies are taught without shame. Jude probably had both ideas in mind here, because as the rest of the letter will develop, these certain men had both moral problems and doctrinal problems.
ii. These words of Jude show that there is a danger in preaching grace. There are some who may take the truth of God’s grace and turn the grace of our God into lewdness. But this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong or dangerous about the message of God’s grace. It simply shows how corrupt the human heart is.
d. And deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ: These certain mendeny the Lord Jesus Christ. They do this by refusing to recognize who Jesus said He was, and therefore they also deny who God the Father is also.
i. We are not told specifically how these men deny the only Lord God. It may be that they denied Him with their ungodly living or it may be that they denied Him with their heretical doctrines. Probably both were true.
B. Three examples that show the certainty of God’s judgment against the certain men.
1. (5) The example of the people of Israel.
But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
a. But I want to remind you, though you once knew this: Jude knew he wasn’t telling them anything new. They were already taught this example, but they needed to hear it again and to apply it to their present situation.
i. Ideally, every Christian would read these allusions to the Old Testament and say, “Yes Jude, I know exactly what you are talking about.” If we don’t know what Jude wrote about, it shows we need to deepen our understanding of the Bible.
ii. “As for the root facts, the fundamental doctrines, the primary truths of Scripture, we must from day to day insist upon them. We must never say of them, ‘Everybody knows them’; for, alas! everybody forgets them.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “The use of God’s Word is not only to teach what we could not have otherwise known, but also to rouse us to a serious meditation of those things which we already understand, and not to suffer us to grow torpid in a cold knowledge.” (Calvin)
b. The Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt: Jude reminds us of what happened in Numbers 14. God delivered the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. They went out of Egypt and without unintended delays came to a place called Kadesh Barnea, on the threshold of the Promised Land. But at Kadesh Barnea, the people refused to trust God and go into the Promised Land of Canaan. Therefore almost none of the adult generation who left Egypt entered into the Promised Land.
i. Think of what God did for the people of Israel in this situation, and then how they responded to Him. They experienced God’s miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea. They heard the very voice of God at Mount Sinai. They received His daily care and provision of manna in the wilderness. Yet they still lapsed into unbelief, and never entered into the place of blessing and rest God had for them.
c. Afterward destroyed those who did not believe: Those who doubted and rejected God at Kadesh Barnea paid a bigger price than just not entering the Promised Land. They also received the judgment of God. Psalm 95 describes how the Lord reacted to them: For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, “It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways. So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest” (Psalm 95:10-11).
i. The warning through Jude is clear. The people of Israel started out from Egypt well enough. They had many blessings from God along the way. But they did not endure to the end, because they did not believe God’s promise of power and protection.
ii. This example gives two lessons. First, it assures us that the certain men causing trouble will certainly be judged, even though they may have started out well in their walk with God. Jude says, “The certain men might have started out well. But so did the children of Israel, and God afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Secondly, it warns us that we also must follow Jesus to the end, and never be among those who did not believe. The final test of our Christianity is endurance. Some start the race but never finish it.
2. (6) The example of the angels who sinned.
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;
a. The angels who did not keep their proper domain: Jude’s letter is famous for bringing up obscure or controversial points, and this is one of them. Jude speaks of the angels who sinned, who are now imprisoned and awaiting a future day of judgment.
i. “It is not too much to say that the New Testament no where else presents so many strange phenomenons, or raises so many curious questions within so narrow a space.” (Salmond, Pulpit Commentary)
b. Angels who did not keep their proper domain: There is some measure of controversy about the identity of these particular angels. We only have two places in the Bible where it speaks of angels sinning. First, there was the original rebellion of some angels against God (Isaiah 14:12-14, Revelation 12:4). Secondly, there was the sin of the sons of God described in Genesis 6:1-2.
i. Genesis 6:1-2 is a controversial passage all on its own. It says, Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. There is a significant debate as to if the sons of God are angelic beings, or just another way of saying “followers of God” among humans. Jude helps us answer this question.
c. Did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode: This offence was connected with some kind of sexual sin, such as the sexual union between rebellious angelic beings (the sons of God in Genesis 6:2) and the human beings (the daughters of men in Genesis 6:2). We know that there was some sexual aspect to this sin because Jude tells us in the following verse, Jude 7: as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh. The words in a similar manner to these refers back to the angels of Jude 6, and the words gone after strange flesh refers to their unnatural sexual union.
i. We know some things about this unnatural sexual union from Genesis 6. We know that this unnatural union produced unnatural offspring. The unnatural union corrupted the genetic pool of mankind, so God had to find Noah, a man perfect in his generations (Genesis 6:9) – that is, “pure in his genetics.” This unnatural union prompted an incredibly drastic judgment of God – a global flood, wiping out all of mankind except for eight people.
ii. We can add another piece of knowledge from Jude 6. This unnatural union prompted God to uniquely imprison the angels who sinned in this way. They are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
iii. As for the specific details of this unnatural union, it is useless to speculate. We don’t know how “fallen angel” genetic material could mix with human genetic material. Perhaps it happened through a unique form of demon possession and the fallen angel worked through a human host. We know that angels have the ability to assume human appearance at least temporarily, but we don’t know more than that.
d. He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day: God judged these wicked angels, setting them in everlasting chains. Apparently some fallen angels are in bondage while others are unbound and active among mankind as demons.
i. By not keeping their proper place, they are now kept in chains. Their sinful pursuit of freedom put them in bondage. In the same way, those who insist on the freedom to do whatever they want are like these angels – bound with everlasting chains. True freedom comes from obedience.
ii. If angels cannot break the chains sin brought upon them, we are foolish to think that humans can break them. We can’t set ourselves free from these chains, but we can only be set free by Jesus.
iii. This reminds us that these angels who sinned with an unnatural sexual union are no longer active. With His radical judgment back in the days of Noah, God put an end to this kind of unnatural sexual union.
iv. This example gives two lessons. First, it assures us that the certain men causing trouble will be judged, no matter what their spiritual status had been. These angels at one time stood in the immediate, glorious presence of God – and now they are in everlasting chains. If God judged the angels who sinned, He will judge these certain men. Secondly, it warns us that we also must continue walking with Jesus. If the past spiritual experience of these angels didn’t guarantee their future spiritual state, then neither does ours. We must keep walking and be on guard.
3. (7) The example of Sodom and Gomorrah.
As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
a. As Sodom and Gomorrah: These two cities (and the cities around them) also stand as examples of God’s judgment. Their sin – which was most conspicuously homosexuality, but included other sins as well – brought forth God’s judgment.
i. Sodom and Gomorrah were blessed, privileged places. They were situated in a blessed area: it was well watered everywhere… like the garden of the LORD (Genesis 13:10).
b. Having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh: Jude refers to the account in Genesis 19, where the homosexual conduct of the men of Sodom is described. Ezekiel 16:49 tells us of other sins of Sodom: Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. Sexual depravity was not their only sin, but it was certainly among their sins, and Jude makes this plain.
i. The sins described in Ezekiel 16:49 show that Sodom and Gomorrah were indeed prosperous, blessed areas. You don’t have fullness of food, and abundance of idleness if you don’t have material blessings. But despite their great blessing from God and material prosperity, they sinned and were judged.
c. Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire: In Genesis 19, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with fire from heaven. But that wasn’t the end of their judgment by fire. Far worse than what happened in Genesis 19, they suffered the vengeance of eternal fire.
i. This example gives two lessons. First, it assures us that the certain men causing trouble will be judged, no matter how much they had been blessed in the past. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah were once wonderfully blessed but eventually suffered the vengeance of eternal fire, so will it be with these certain men. Secondly, it warns us that we also must continue walking with Jesus. If the blessings of the past didn’t guarantee their future spiritual state, then neither does ours.
C. More sins of the certain men.
1. (8) The character of these dangerous certain men.
Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
a. Likewise also: Jude connected the certain men with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in their sensuality (defile the flesh) and in their rejection of God’s authority (reject authority).
i. When Jude pointed out that these certain men reject authority, it meant that they wanted to be in authority. Therefore they rejected the authority of God and they rejected those God put in authority.
ii. Today, our culture encourages us to reject authority and to recognize self as the only real authority in our lives. We can do this with the Bible, by choosing to only believe certain passages. We can do it with our beliefs, by choosing at the “salad bar” of religion. Or we can do it with our lifestyle, by making our own rules and not recognizing the proper authorities God has established.
iii. In the darkest days of Israel, society was characterized by a term: every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). Today, this is the pattern of all the world and especially Western civilization.
b. These dreamers: It is possible that Jude meant that the certain men were out of touch with reality. It is more likely that he meant they claimed to have prophetic dreams which were really deceptions.
c. Speak evil of dignitaries: Probably these dignitaries were the apostles or other leaders in the church. Their rejection of authority was connected with their speaking evil of dignitaries.
2. (9) Michael the archangel as an example of someone who would not speak evil of dignitaries.
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
a. Michael the archangel… the devil: Jude mentioned two kinds of angelic beings. Michael is among the angelic beings faithful to God, who are the servants of God and man. The devil is among the angelic beings rebelling against God, who are the enemies of man.
i. There are invisible, angelic beings all around us. There are ministering spirits sent by God to assist us, and demonic spirits who want to defeat us. The devil can’t unsave a saved person; but through his deceptions he can corrupt and defile a Christian who is supposed to walk in purity and freedom. To the devil, we are time bombs, ready to wreck his work – bombs that he would like to defuse and make ineffective.
ii. Many people today don’t believe the devil exists, but the Bible says he does. Or, if they believe he exists, they think of him in funny images from the Middle Ages. Back then, miracle plays were a chief form of entertainment. They were sort of a pageant where religious stories were acted out on stage. The audience learned to look for one character that was always dressed in red, wore horns on his head, and had a tail dangling behind him. His shoes looked like cloven hoofs, and he had a pitchfork in his hand. The audience was amused by this silly characterization of Satan, and got the idea that he was sort of a comical character. The devil doesn’t mind being thought of this way.
b. Michael the archangel: This angelic being is mentioned by name in four passages of the Bible: Daniel 10, Daniel 12, Revelation 12 and here in Jude. Every time Michael appears, it is in the context of battle or readiness to fight. He is an archangel, which simply means a “leading angel.”
i. If the devil has an opposite, it certainly isn’t God. It is Michael the archangel – another high ranking angelic being.
ii. “Let it be observed that the word archangel is never found in the plural number in the sacred writings. There can be properly only one archangel, one chief or head of all the angelic host. Nor is the word devil, as applied to the great enemy of mankind, ever found in the plural; there can be but one monarch of all fallen spirits.” (Clarke)
c. When he disputed about the body of Moses: This is another obscure reference by Jude. The last we read about the body of Moses is in Deuteronomy 34:5-6: So Moses, the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows the grave to this day.
i. We don’t know where Jude received his information about this dispute. He may have received a unique revelation from God. But according to teachers in the early church, Jude referred to an apocryphal book known as the Assumption of Moses, of which only small portions survive.
ii. We don’t even exactly know why there was a dispute about the body of Moses. Some have said that the devil wanted to use Moses’ body as an object of worship to lead Israel astray into idolatry. Others have thought that Satan wanted to desecrate the body of Moses, and claimed a right to it because Moses had murdered an Egyptian.
iii. It is more likely that the devil anticipated a purpose God had for Moses’ body, and the devil tried to defeat that plan. We know that after his death, Moses appeared in bodily form at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3) with Elijah (whose body was caught up to heaven in 2 Kings 2). Perhaps also Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses of Revelation 11, and God needed Moses’ body for that future plan.
iv. But for Jude, the main point isn’t why Michael was disputed, but how he disputed with the devil.
d. Dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” The manner of Michael’s fight is a model for spiritual warfare. First, we see that Michael was in a battle. Secondly, we see that he battled in the Lord’s authority.
i. This proves to us that Michael is not Jesus, as some heretical groups have thought. Jesus rebuked the devil in His own authority, but Michael did not. “The point of contrast is that Michael could not reject the devil’s accusation on his own authority.” (Bauckham)
ii. Significantly, Michael dared not bring against him a reviling accusation. Michael did not mock or accuse the devil. God hasn’t called us to judge the devil, to condemn the devil, to mock him or accuse him, but to battle against him in the name of the Lord.
iii. This relates to the certain men by a “how much more” line of thinking. If Michael dared not bring against him a reviling accusation against the devil, how much more should these certain men not speak evil of dignitaries.
3. (10) More of the bad character of the certain men.
But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.
a. But these speak evil: In contrast to Michael, who would not even speak evil of the devil, these certain men spoke evil, especially when they rejected authority and spoke against dignitaries.
b. Of whatever they do not know: The certain men didn’t even know the things or the people they spoke evil about. Their evil speech was made worse by their ignorance.
i. Since they also spoke against dignitaries and rejected authority, these certain men did not know about true spiritual leadership and authority – so they found it easy to speak evil against it.
c. Whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves: These certain men pretended to be spiritual, but their only knowledge was really natural. Even what they knew naturally, they still used to corrupt themselves with an unspiritual mind.
i. Brute beasts can be smart or clever in an instinctive way, but they obviously do not have spiritual knowledge. It was the same way with these certain men.
ii. “How ironical that when men should claim to be knowledgeable, they should actually be ignorant; when they think themselves superior to the common man they should actually be on the same level as animals, and be corrupted by the very practices in which they seek liberty and self-expression.” (Green)
D. Three examples of the certain men.
1. (11a) The certain men have gone in the way of Cain.
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain,
a. The way of Cain: Cain’s story is found in Genesis 4. Each of the sons of Adam and Eve brought an offering to the Lord. Cain (being a farmer) brought an offering from his harvest. Abel (being a shepherd) brought an offering from his flocks. God accepted Abel’s offering, but He rejected Cain’s sacrifice.
i. Many people assume that because Abel brought a blood sacrifice and Cain brought a grain sacrifice, that the difference between the two offerings was sacrificial blood. But the real difference was between faith and unbelief. Hebrews 11:4 makes this plain: By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
ii. Cain’s sacrifice was probably more pleasing to the senses than the carcass of a dead lamb. But his sacrifice was offered without faith, and therefore it was unacceptable to God. You can give to God whatever you have or whatever you are, but you must offer it in faith.
b. The way of Cain: Genesis 4:5 says that after God rejected his sacrifice, Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. He became angry because he knew he was rejected by God. In a fit of anger Cain murdered Abel, and then he lied about it to God.
i. 1 John 3:12 tells us that Cain murdered his brother because Abel’s works were righteous (by faith), while Cain’s own were wicked. Cain’s lack was not in works, but in faith.
c. The way of Cain: Jude says that Cain typifies a way that the certain men follow in. It is the way of unbelief and empty religion, which leads to jealousy, persecution of the truly godly, and eventually to murderous anger.
i. There is no greater curse on the earth than empty, vain religion; those who have a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). No wonder Paul added, and from such people turn away!
ii. Many Christians are afraid of secular humanism or atheism or the world. But dead religion is far more dangerous, and sends more people to hell than anything else. These certain men were in the way of Cain, which is the way of dead religion.
2. (11b) The certain men are in the error of Balaam.
Have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit,
a. The error of Balaam: Balaam’s story is in Numbers 22 to 25 and 31. During the time of the Exodus, Israel advanced to the land of Moab, after defeating the Amorites. When the Israelites came near, King Balak of Moab sought the help of a prophet named Balaam.
i. The first delegation from King Balak arrived and God told Balaam to have nothing to do with them. God’s initial words to Balaam were, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Numbers 22:12).
ii. After the first visit another, more prestigious delegation came with great riches. Balaam wanted to go with them and God allowed him to go. Balaam lusted after the riches and prestige offered to him and God gave him over to his own sin.
iii. God warned Balaam to turn back when he was on the way to see Balak. Yet his heart was set on the rich reward King Balak promised and he continued on. Balaam even ignored a talking donkey, sent to warn him to turn back.
iv. Balaam knew that he has done wrong. In Numbers 22:34, he said to God I have sinned… Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back. But he didn’t turn back. He continued on, refusing to see that when God says no, we must take it as a no. Instead, God gave Balaam what his sinful heart desired.
v. After meeting with King Balak of Moab, Balaam prophesied over Israel four times. But as he spoke forth God’s word, he did not curse Israel – instead he blessed her each time. When he was unsuccessful in cursing Israel, Balaam advised Balak on how to bring Israel under a curse. Instead of trying to have a prophet curse Israel, he should lead her into fornication and idolatry and then God would curse a disobedient Israel.
vi. Balak did just that, sending his young women into the camp of Israel to lead Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry. Because of the people’s sin, God did curse Israel – He brought a plague of judgment upon Israel that killed 24,000. Therefore Balaam was guilty of the greatest of sins: deliberately leading others into sin. Worse yet, he did it for money.
b. Greedily in the error of Balaam for profit: The greedy error of Balaam was that he was willing to compromise everything for money. The certain men Jude warned about had the same heart.
i. Many Christians would never deny Jesus under persecution, but might deny Him if offered a large sum of money. There is not a single sin that corrupt man will not commit for the sake of money. Covetousness is such a dangerous sin that it killed Jesus – 30 pieces of silver helped put Jesus on the cross.
ii. Have run greedily is literally “they were poured out” (Robertson). This is a strong picture of excessive indulgence. But Paul also uses the same term for the extravagant way God loves us: the love of God has been poured out in our hearts (Romans 5:5).
3. (11c) The certain men live out the rebellion of Korah.
And perished in the rebellion of Korah.
a. The rebellion of Korah: Korah’s story is found in Numbers 16. He was a prominent man in Israel, and one day came to Moses, saying, You take too much upon yourself, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourself about the congregation of the LORD? (Numbers 16:3) Korah and his followers resented the authority God gave to Moses and Aaron.
i. When Korah said this, Moses fell on his face, knowing God’s judgment would soon come. Moses then proposed a test: each group took censers (for burning incense) and came before the Lord. The Lord Himself would choose which man He wanted to represent Him: Moses or Korah.
ii. When they both came before God, the Lord told Moses to step away. Then, the ground opened up and swallowed Korah and his followers. After that, fire came down from heaven and burned up all of his supporters. They all perished.
b. Rebellion: Korah was a Levite, but not of the priestly family of Aaron. As a Levite, he had had his own God-appointed sphere of ministry, yet he was not content with it. He wanted the ministry and the authority of Moses.
i. Korah needed to learn this essential lesson: we should work hard to fulfill everything God has called us to be. At the same time, we should never try to be what God has not called us to be.
c. Therebellion of Korah: This was also a rejection of God’s appointed leaders, especially God’s appointed Mediator. When the certain men rejected authority and spoke evil against dignitaries, they walked in the rebellion of Korah.
i. The rebellion of Korah “lies in the broader idea of a contemptuous and determined assertion of self against divinely appointed ordinances.” (Salmond, The Pulpit Commentary)
ii. These three men came from quite different backgrounds: Cain was a farmer, Balaam was a prophet, and Korah was a leader in Israel. Apostasy is never confined to one group of people. “There are apostates in the pulpit, in the palace, and in the poorhouse.” (Coder)
E. What the future holds for these certain men.
1. (12-13) A vivid description of the depravity of these certain men.
These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
a. Spots in your love feasts: The early Christians often met for a common meal, something like a potluck dinner. They called these meals love feasts, or “Agape Feasts.” When these certain men came, they were serving only themselves. They ate greedily at the love feasts while others went hungry.
i. At the Agape Feast, everybody brought what they could – some a little, some a lot; but they all shared it together. For some slaves who were Christians it might have been the only decent meal they regularly ate. The selfishness of these certain men spoiled the fellowship. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 describes a similar problem in the Corinthian church.
ii. It always spoils fellowship when we come to church with a selfish “bless me” attitude. Many who would never eat selfishly at a church meal still come to church concerned with serving only themselves.
iii. Spots: Some Greek scholars think this word should be translated “hidden rocks” instead of spots. One way or another, it doesn’t make much real difference to the meaning of the passage.
iv. Serving only themselves: Literally in the ancient Greek this is “shepherding themselves” (Robertson). They were shepherds of a sort – but only shepherding themselves.
b. Clouds without water, carried by the winds: Clouds without water are good for nothing. They bring no life-giving rain and they only block out the sun. They exist just for themselves. The certain men were like these clouds.
i. Once while driving by a factory, my daughter Aan-Sofie looked at the billows of white smoke coming from the smoke stacks. She said, “That’s where they make clouds!” These certain men were like those empty clouds – good for nothing, carried by the winds, floating on the breeze from one fad to another.
c. Late autumn trees without fruit: By late autumn, trees should have fruit. But these certain men did not bear fruit even when they should. They were like trees that only take instead of give.
d. Raging waves of the sea: For modern man, the sea is often a thing of beauty. But to ancient man, especially in Biblical cultures, the sea was an unmanageable terror. Isaiah 57:20 expresses this idea: But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. These certain men were busy and active like the raging waves of the sea, but all it brought was foaming up their own shame.
i. Busyness is no mark of correctness. The fruit of these men was like the foam or scum at the seashore. Jude has in mind the ugly shoreline after a storm has washed up all sorts of driftwood, seaweed and debris.
e. Wandering stars: Like comets streaking through the sky, these certain men astonished the world for a time, and then vanished into darkness. An unpredictable star was no good for guidance and navigation. Even so these deceivers were useless and untrustworthy.
f. Blackness of darkness forever: This described their destiny. Unless they repent, they would end up in hell – and be there forever.
i. The punishment of hell is forever because a mere man is paying for his own sins, offering an imperfect sacrifice which must be repeated over and over again for eternity. A perfect man can offer a single sacrifice; but an imperfect man must continually offer a sacrifice.
ii. Our obligations to God are infinite and can therefore only be satisfied in Jesus, an infinite person
2. (14-15) The certainty of judgment upon these certain men.
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
a. Now Enoch: Here Jude quoted from Enoch, who is described in Genesis 5 and mentioned in Hebrews 11. The ancient book of Enoch was not received as Scripture, but it was highly respected among both the Jews and early Christians.
i. “Tertullian tells us that the book of Enoch’s prophecies were preserved by Noah in the ark, and that they continued and were read until the times of the apostles. But because they contained many famous testimonies concerning Jesus Christ, the Jews out of malice suppressed and abolished the whole book.” (Trapp)
ii. Jude did not quote from Enoch to tell us anything new, but to give a vivid description of what the Bible already teaches. The Apostle Paul also quoted non-Biblical sources on at least three different occasions (Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Titus 1:12). This wasn’t to proclaim a new truth, but to support an already established Biblical principle.
iii. Jude’s quoting of the book of Enoch doesn’t mean that the whole book of Enoch inspired Scripture – only the portion Jude quotes. In the same way, when Paul quoted a pagan poet, he didn’t mean that the entire work of the poet was inspired by God.
b. To convict all who are ungodly: In this quotation from the book of Enoch Jude emphasized the words all and ungodly. God is coming to judge all of the ungodly.
c. To execute judgment on all: Many people take the judgment of God lightly. But the most important question in the world is “Will God judge me? Am I accountable to Him?” If we are truly accountable to God, we are fools if we do not prepare to face that judgment.
i. Think of someone arrested for a crime, with a date to appear in court – but made absolutely no preparation for his appearance before the judge. That person would be a fool. We shouldn’t be so foolish, and instead take advantage of our court-appointed advocate – Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1).
3. (16-18) The methods of the certain men.
These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.
a. Grumblers, complainers… they mouth great swelling words, flattering people: Jude noticed that their methods all revolved around words. On top of their questionable lives, they were essentially a people of deception, departing from the foundation of Jesus Christ, and the apostles and prophets.
b. These are grumblers, complainers: These people were complainers. It has rightly been observed that whenever a man gets out of touch with God, he is likely to begin complaining about something.
i. Grumbling “is to insult the God who gives us all things; it is to forget that whatever befalls us, nothing can separate us from His love, nor deprive us of that most priceless of all treasures, the Lord’s presence in our lives.” (Green)
ii. “You know the sort of people alluded to here, nothing ever satisfies them. They are discontented even with the gospel. The bread of heaven must be cut into three pieces, and served on dainty napkins, or else they cannot eat it; and very soon their soul hates even this light bread. There is no way by which a Christian man can serve God so as to please them. They will pick holes in every preacher’s coat; and if the great High Priest himself were here, they would find fault with the color of the stones of his breastplate.” (Spurgeon)
c. Flattering people: These certain men knew how to use smooth, flattering words to get an advantage over other people. They would say anything – good or bad – to get an advantage.
d. But you, beloved, remember: We are to be different. We are to remember what Jesus and the apostles said, which were spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word of God is always the answer to dangers in or out of the church.
i. The apostles had warned that just these things would happen; and even more so as the day approaches: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
e. There would be mockers in the last time: Perhaps Jude had in mind those who mock the idea of Jesus’ return. Or he may mean the kind of men who mock those who don’t go along the same path of destruction they travel on.
i. Mockers… who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts: Those who live according to their own ungodly lusts love to mock those who want to please God. Jude wants Christians to expect this kind of mocking, so they won’t be surprised by it.
4. (19) The spiritual status of these certain men.
These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
a. These are sensual persons: Essentially, these men were not spiritual; they were carnal and insensitive to the Holy Spirit.
i. Sensual in this context has nothing to do with sexual attractiveness. It describes the person who lives only by and for what he can get through his physical senses, and he lives this way selfishly. His motto is, “If it feels good, do it” or, “How can it be wrong if it feels so right?”
b. Who cause divisions: These certain men had an instinct to separate themselves and make divisions. “The word, found only once in the Bible, denotes those superior people who keep themselves to themselves – Christian Pharisees.” (Green)
c. Not having the Spirit: This same description could be written over many churches, or church projects, or evangelism campaigns, or home groups, or even individual Christian lives. The church and the world truly need genuinely spiritual men and women today.
F. What to do about the danger of the certain men.
Significantly, Jude does not tell us to attack the certain men who are a danger to the church. Instead, he tells us to focus on our walk with the Lord, help others affected by the certain men, and to focus on God. We simply are to pay the certain men no attention, except for what is necessary for our warning. God will take care of them.
1. (20-21) Take a look inward.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
a. Keep yourselves in the love of God: We know that God loves even the ungodly (Romans 5:6). Therefore Jude doesn’t mean, “Live in such a way to make yourself lovable to God.” Instead, to keep yourselves in the love of God means to keep yourself in harmony with God’s ever-present love.
i. But we should understand what it means when the Bible says that God loves the ungodly. The significance of the idea that God loves us all has been twisted considerably. Consider the sinner who defends his sinful practice by saying “God loves me just the way I am.” His implication is that “God loves me; I must be pretty good.” Actually, the fact that God loves him is a reflection on God’s goodness, not his own. The perspective isn’t, “I’m so great that even God loves me,” but “God is so great that He loves even me.”
ii. God’s love extends everywhere, and nothing can separate us from it. But we can deny ourselves the benefits of God’s love. People who don’t keep themselves in the love of God end up living as if they are on the dark side of the moon. The sun is always out there, always shining, but they are never in a position to receive its light or warmth. An example of this is the Prodigal Son of Luke 15, who was always loved by the father, but for a time he did not benefit from it.
b. Building yourselves up on your most holy faith: This is one way that we can keep ourselves in the love of God. It means to keep growing spiritually, and to keep building up. Jude tells us, “build yourselves up on your most holy faith.” This means that we are responsible for our own spiritual growth. It means that we cannot wait for spiritual growth to just happen, or expect others to make us grow.
i. Jude has shown us the frailty of men and how deceivers even infiltrated the church. If you entrust your spiritual growth to someone else, it will not only hurt your spiritual growth, but it may also lead you astray.
ii. Others can help provide an environment conducive for spiritual growth. But no one can make another person grow in his relationship with the Lord.
iii. On your most holy faith: The most holy faith is the same as the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Jude wasn’t talking about growing inthe most holy faith (though that is a valid idea). Jude is talking about growing on your most holy faith. We grow on the foundation of the truth.
c. Praying in the Holy Spirit: This is another way to keep ourselves in the love of God. The battle against wrong living and wrong teaching is a spiritual battle, requiring prayer in the Holy Spirit.
i. Many of our prayers are directed by our own needs, by our own intellects, or by our own wishes and desires. But there is a higher level of prayer: Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26).
ii. The Holy Spirit may help us pray by giving us the right words to say when we pray. He may speak through groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26). Or the Holy Spirit may do it through the gift of tongues, a gift God gives to seeking hearts, which want to communicate with Him on a deeper level than normal conversation.
iii. “Such is our sloth, and that such is the coldness of our flesh, that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God… no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide.” (Calvin)
d. Looking for the mercy of Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life: This is a third way that we can keep ourselves in the love of God. As we keep the blessed hope of Jesus’ soon return alive in our hearts, this effectively keeps us in the love of God, and helps us to not give away our faith.
2. (22-23) Take a look outward, to those around you.
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
a. On some have compassion: Jude begins here to tell us what we must do with those who have been influenced by these certain men. We need to make a distinction, based on where they are coming from. Certainly, on some have compassion.
i. Using wisdom we approach different people in different manners. By being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we can know when we should comfort, and when we should rebuke. Christians should not abandon a friend flirting with false teaching. They should help him through it in love.
ii. The means we continue to love them. No matter how bad a person is, or how misleading and terrible their doctrine, we are not allowed to hate them – or to be unconcerned for their salvation.
iii. Compassion often means watching over someone, helping them with accountability. “Meantime watch over others as well as yourselves; and give them such help as their various needs require.” (Wesley)
b. Others save with fear: This second group must be confronted more strongly – but in fear, not in a sanctimonious superiority. You may need to pull them out of the fire, but never do it in pride.
i. This outward look is important. It demonstrates that we are not only concerned for our own spiritual welfare. It proves that we genuinely care about other Christians who are edging towards significant error.
3. (24-25) Take a look upward to the God of all glory
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
a. Now to Him: Jude closes the letter with a famous doxology (a brief declaration of praise to God). Jude’s doxology reminds us of God’s care and of our destiny.
b. Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless: Jude’s message of warning and doom might have depressed and discouraged his readers. Perhaps his original readers thought that with so much false teaching and immorality around, very few Christians would ever reach heaven. Here he reminds them that the answer lies only in the power of God. He is able to keep you, and you aren’t able to keep yourself.
i. In mountain climbing, the beginning hiker attaches himself to the expert so that if he loses his footing he won’t stumble and fall to his death. In the same manner, if we keep connected with God, we cannot fall. He keeps us safe.
ii. By comparing passages of Scripture, we also find out who is really responsible for our safe keeping. Jude began the letter by addressing those who are preserved in Jesus (Jude 1). Then he exhorted Christians to avoid dangerous men and to keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 21) Here at the end he concluded with the recognition that it is ultimately God who keeps us from stumbling and falling. Paul put the same idea in Philippians 2:12-13: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
iii. Keeping us spiritually safe is God’s work. But you can always tell the people He is working in, because they are working also. God doesn’t call us to simply let the Christian life happen to us and He doesn’t command us to save ourselves. He calls us to a partnership with Him.
c. Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy: As God is faithful, we won’t have to slink shamefacedly into the presence of God. We can be presented before Him with exceeding joy.
d. Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever: This all reminds us of God’s wisdom, glory, and power. Jude isn’t trying to say that we can or should give these things to God. When we acknowledge and declare the truth about God, it glorifies Him. We aren’t giving God more majesty or power than He had before; we are just recognizing and declaring it.
i. Both now and forever: This could also be translated “unto all the ages.” This is “as complete a statement of eternity as can be made in human language.” (Robertson) Our victory, our triumph in God, is forever.
ii. There is serious deception in the world and often among those called Christians. There are enemies of the gospel who have infiltrated the church. Yet despite the greatness of the threat, God is greater still. He wins, and if we will only stay with Him, we are guaranteed victory also.
iii. Jude is a book full of warning, but it closes with supreme confidence in God. Dangerous times should make us trust in a mighty God.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission