I’ll be sharing here today some thoughts that came from our friend Peter Frey’s guest sermon, as well as some of my own content. As always, it is great to have Peter with us and to benefit from his incredibly clear instruction and application. As part of this four-week series on the Nooks and Crannies books, I gave him the choice between 2 John or Jude for his week, and he took Jude. It is an interesting read in many ways.
When speaking of nooks and crannies, my mind goes to those attics under the slopping rooflines of our homes, but Peter had another great illustration. It is like when you drop your phone in the car and it slips between the seat and the console. You have to squeeze your hand into that narrow space and somehow grip the phone to pull it up out of that nook. And just maybe, maybe, when doing that, you find something else there … like a $20-dollar bill you lost sometime in the past!
And that is what it is like when, after a long, long time, you open one of these little one-chapter books and find something of great value and interest.
Jude: he’s the brother of James – the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and the half-brother of Jesus. His letter is to a particular New Testament church of an apparently predominantly Jewish background to combat an immediate situation regarding false and heretical teaching. We see in the letter not only the use of Old Testament Scripture, but also some quotes from extra-biblical Jewish literature.
When the gospel message of Christ’s provision came upon the scene, being then mixed wrongly with Judaism and sprinkled with Greek philosophy (teaching that matter is evil and spirit is good), there were quite a number of perversions that were alien to the essential truth of the gospel. Many of these wrestled with understanding exactly who Jesus was. A phantom? A grand angelic being? A merely exemplary human? Other errors involved legalism on one hand, or total lawless licentiousness on the other.
This final category may be most in view in Jude’s writing. And it does not take us long to find ourselves seeing that we live in such a time, where up is down and left is right … if there is such a thing as right – like right and wrong! How do we live as Bible-oriented, truth-centered Christians in such a time? Do we muscle up and fight hard for truth? Or should we be driven by love and kindness with a gentle spirit winning the day?
The interesting component of Jude’s instruction includes both of these aspects as tools for living well through murky times.
On the one hand, Jude says that we are to contend for the truths of the gospel. This verb “contend” is a very strong word – used only here in the New Testament. It is “epagonizomai” … perhaps you can see a bit of the word “agonize” in there. This means to put every possible and extreme effort into something … like being a football lineman who is the lead blocker with a fourth-down-and-goal situation at the one-yard line. That guy is going to make every effort to clear a path into the endzone.
There is a time and an ongoing necessity to “contend for the truth” of the gospel. It is worth it. God loves truth and judges error and sin. Jude lists (verses 5-16) a variety of well-known occasions where people (and angels, vs. 6) chose to ignore truth and righteousness and live in their own way, resulting in destruction.
There is nothing surprising about this. It has always been this way, and it will be especially this way toward the end of the ages. So how do you live in a world such as this? How do you (Hey Jude) take a sad song and make it better?
- Build yourselves up in the faith – This speaks of living in biblical community and following God’s ways for successful experiences both within the family of faith and in the world beyond.
- Praying in the spirit – At the heart of this is living with a posture of dependence upon God.
- Waiting for the mercy of God – This involves having a cognizance of the big picture and living in a non-complacent, intentional way.
But we are not to have a disposition of living continuously with our boxing gloves on, combating every evil we see. Jude encourages us to be balanced by finding our mission in the mercy of God, being a part of God’s compassion for a lost world.
We don’t need to feel insecure about the wonderful message of the gospel. It is a fantastic truth. It acknowledges the evil that is so obviously prevalent in this sinful sphere, yet it also offers an alternative truth that is of value not just for now, but especially for eternity. So smile, and present the gospel to those who are lost.
1 – Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.