Today’s Scripture reading is the Epistle of Jude and The First Epistle of John, chapter 1.
“The General Epistle of Jude” may be the lesser known of the pastoral epistles, but I believe you will find it challenging and absorbing. Concerning the title, the term “General” indicated the letter was not dedicated to a specific church, but to the churches and believers in general.
The authorship was attributed to one who identified himself as Jude, and introduced himself in the first verse as, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (Jude 1a). Bible scholars are nearly unanimous in their opinion that Jude was the half-brother of Jesus Christ, and therefore the son of Joseph and Mary, and “brother of James” (Jude 1:1). James, from our study in the Acts of the Apostles, was believed to have been the pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 12:17; 21:18-25; Galatians 1:19). Although a half-brother of Jesus, Jude identified himself as a “servant,” literally a slave “of Jesus Christ” (1:1).
As with the Second Epistle of Peter, the Epistle of Jude was most likely written in the latter half of the 1st century. The intended recipients of the letter were believers who were already facing growing trials and persecutions. In his salutation, Jude affirmed those followers of Christ, and reminded them they were “sanctified [set apart, called to be holy] by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called” (meaning chosen, 1:1). Following his affectionate greeting, Jude made no hesitation as to the purpose of his letter.
Warning: The Danger of Apostates (1:3-4)
It appears Jude’s original intent was to write a letter that exhorted and encouraged believers regarding their “common salvation” (1:3). Yet, something changed, and Jude was impressed to write an urgent letter that warned and admonished believers to beware of enemies of the Gospel who were in their midst. Perhaps the theme of the epistle might be summed up in this statement: “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (1:3).
What was the “faith” for which Jude challenged believers to contend? (1:3)
The “faith” was the whole whole body of Biblical doctrine (teachings). To “contend for the faith,” meant to agonize, struggle, and even war. Contending implied more than a skirmish or battle; it portrayed an agonizing effort and struggle. When one contends for something, they are wholly committed, and unwilling to quit till the victory is won.
Thus, Jude challenged believers to face the trials and challenges of those who opposed “the faith” and never surrender (1:3). That brings us to another question:
With whom were believers to contend? (1:4)
Even before the end of the first century, there were wicked men in the midst of the saints, in their churches, and fellowships. They were a threat to the faith, having “crept in unawares,” and by stealth were accepted by the congregation (1:4b). They were apostates, “ungodly men,” who had turned the teachings of God’s grace into a liberty that opened the door to sexual debauchery and a license to sin (1:4c). They had no fear or reverence for God, and denied “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:4d).
An Assurance of God’s Judgment Upon Apostasy (1:5-7)
In his second epistle, Peter challenged believers to remember those things they had been taught (2 Peter 1:12, 15; 3:1). Jude did the same, and reminded believers of the judgment of God against all ungodliness. To know the ways and pattern of God’s working in the present and future, one needs to know and remember those things the Lord has done in the past. Thus, to be assured God would not allow apostasy to go unpunished, Jude put forward three patterns of God’s judgment in the past.
The first, how the Lord saved Israel out of Egyptian slavery, and graciously guided over six-hundred thousand souls (Exodus 12:37) through the wilderness (a cloud shadowing the people by day, and a pillar of fire guiding them at night). Yet, when the children of Israel rebelled, and refused to trust God and enter the Promised Land, the Lord “destroyed them that believed not” and they perished in the wilderness.
A second example of God’s judgment, was when He judged the angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17). The LORD sentenced those fallen angels “in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (1:6; 2 Peter 2:4).
God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah was the third example of divine judgment (1:7; Genesis 19). As God judged those cities for their sin and sexual debauchery, He would surely not spare those evil men who had crept into the midst of His people, and led them astray with their heresies and wicked ways.
The majority of churches and Christian institutions in the 21st century have not earnestly contended for the faith, and the evidence of that failure is widespread carnality, and immorality. Tragically, believers who tolerate such wickedness in their leadership and churches, will themselves fall under the heavy hand of God’s judgment.
Warning – Reject the truth, and you will suffer God’s judgment.
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