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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

December 4, 2013

Jude 1-7

  1. Introduction: Jude was written in a day of transition and disruption of clear authority. As the Apostles began to die (or at least were too few and too far away to be consulted) and the Second Coming continued to be delayed, the early church faced the challenge of "standardizing" acceptable parameters for gospel teachings. The OT, the words and stories of Jesus, and the preaching of the Apostles became the standards. But the believers (whether a local church or geographical area is uncertain) were facing massive invasion of error through speculative theology/philosophy. What is known of the heresy:

    1. The heretics were part of the church meetings ("love feasts" cf. v. 12).

    2. The heretics were immoral, manipulative teachers who were causing divisions among God's people (cf. v. 19).

    3. The heretics seem to have used or discussed "angels" in their theology.

    4. The heretics seem to have emphasized secret "knowledge" (gnosis). If one is familiar with the Greco-Roman world of the first and second centuries, these characteristics imply the philosophical/theological movement known as “Gnosticism.”

  2. Verse 1-2. The writer identifies himself as Jude (Hebrew, Judah, or Greek, Judas) and characterizes himself by two designations. He first declares that his a "a bond-servant of Jesus Christ" indicating his submission to Christ. Secondly he speaks of his relationship with Christ in the natural "a brother of James.” He was a child of Mary who grew up with Jesus. The writer then shares who the letter is written to. The letter is written to the church as a whole and the writer describes the church as those who are called, loved, and kept by God. For the writer, if God calls you he loves you, and if he loves you he will keep you (see Romans 8:28-39). This is a great promise to the people of God that God will take care of them. In verse 2 the writer makes a threefold prayer that the church would experience the mercy, peace and love of God in abundance. These two verses offer a brief introduction for this very important letter.

  3. Verses 3-4. Jude originally intended to write to the church at Ephesus to encourage the saints there to continue in the faith. His goal seemed to have been to make sure that they were not discouraged in light of the recent deaths of Paul and Peter. The original purpose for writing was altered when news of false teachers infiltrating into the church at Ephesus reached Jude. The tone of the letter probably changed because of this as well. Jude’s purpose now was to “appeal to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v 3) because false teachers had crept into the church (v 4), just as Peter (and Paul) had predicted they would (v 17). The fact that Jude speaks so decisively as he does about the finalized form of the faith (vv 3, 5, 17) is therefore due to his desire that the church use the writings of Peter and Paul to discern the ungodliness of the false teachers. Jude mentions "the faith." This term is used here in the sense of the body of Christian truth (cf. v. 20; Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:22; Gal. 1:23; 3:23; 6:10; Phil. 1:27). It is surprising that Jude mentions this body of Christian truth but then discusses the lifestyle of the false teachers, not their doctrine. Obviously Christianity is both truths about Christ and mimicking the life of Christ. The false teachers of the NT period often tried to separate truth (orthodoxy) from life (orthopraxy). Christianity is not only what we affirm, but how we live out these affirmations.

    1. "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed" False teachers usually come from within the group (cf. 1 John 2:18-19). This refers to the false teachers who used cunning schemes (cf. vv. 8, 10, 11-12, 16, 18-19) in order to manipulate the people of God.

    2. "those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation" False teachers have crept in unnoticed throughout history and the tragedy continues (cf. Eph. 4:14).

    3. "godless men" These teachers are doctrinally false, which led to moral ungodliness. "By their fruit you shall know them" (cf. Matthew 7, 13).

    4. “who change” in this context, implies to change something (in the gospel) by substituting something else (here, from Greek philosophy). It denotes an intentional change or alteration.

    5. "the grace of our God into licentiousness” These false teachers use God's grace as a license for the flesh (cf. Rom. 6:1-23; 14:16; 1 Pet. 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:19), particularly sexual exploitation. These false teachers are exploiting the loving, forgiving character of God for their own selfish purposes, which is the essence of sin—independence from God. These are wolves in sheep's clothing (cf. Matt. 7:15). The tragedy is that God's people often do not recognize them and even yield themselves to them.

    6. "deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" The tense of this sentence means "they continue to deny." Literally, it means "renounce," which may refer to renouncing Christ by their lifestyle (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 1:16).

    7. This separation of profession from lifestyle was characteristic of the first-century false teachers. Later Gnosticism asserted that one is saved by secret knowledge of the angelic spheres between a high holy god and physical creation. Salvation was an intellectual concern and did not affect one's lifestyle. Jude and James respond harshly to this disjunction between faith and life (following Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5-7).

    8. Jude links vs.3-4 with 5-7 by pointing out that this kind of false teacher was not new; his character was exposed and condemned in the OT. Three examples are given: unbelieving Israel who doubted God’s promise to bring them into Canaan (5), angels who disobeyed God and are now kept in darkness (6), and the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah who engaged in sexual immorality (7).

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