Body of Christ, Christ Jesus, Colossians 2:7, Contending for our Faith, Deuteronomy 12:32, Encouragement, Faith, Guarding our Faith, Jude 3, Settled in our Faith, We are called by God, We Are Loved by God, We are Secure in God
Jude 3, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”
Our Text – (Jude 1-9)
Theme – Believers must be zealous in contending for and guarding the faith.
(Jude’s Priceless Letter)
Jude writes a letter of concern from a heart of love, compassion and understanding. While written to first-century believers, the message he is relaying to his readers, as with all Scripture transcends time, and is especially on target for the time in which we live.
If you happen to have a letter from Mark Twain in your attic or in the basement hidden away in a box in the corner, it would be worth a great deal of money to collectors! A personal, 9 page letter written to his daughter in 1875 sold for a record $33,000 in 1991. Ordinary correspondence from the author of Tom Sawyer usually brings between $1,200 to $1,500 per page. Experts say that even though Mark Twain wrote approximately 50,000 letters during his lifetime, the demand is still strong for these personal notes from one of America’s favorite authors.
You probably don’t have any of Mark Twain’s notes; however, chances are very good that you own a priceless collection of letters. Twenty-one of the 27 books of the New Testament are letters written to encourage, comfort, instruct and uplift believers in Christ. To every believer, the value of these New Testament letters isn’t in their cash value, but in the wisdom they bring to an open heart and the wisdom from God Himself.
The believers in Jude’s time, as well as for believers today must contend for “the faith” and to avoid the doctrinal and moral pitfalls that this letter warns us about and to live distinctively lives for the Lord. The message of Jude is one of the most severe in the New Testament because of the apostasy within the earlier church. So threatening were these heresies that the Spirit caused Jude to write this letter of warning urging his readers and including believers today to contend earnestly for the faith because of the prevalence of these false teachers who had already invaded the local churches.
Deuteronomy 12:32 tell us, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it (God’s Word). In verse 4 Jude speaks about certain men who have secretly slipped in unaware. The word revelation too many people is more than just the name of the last book of the Bible. To many self-promoting pastors, revelation is something God personally gives to them. However, what they say God has given them contradicts His teaching recorded for us in the Bible.
Maybe you have been exposed to those who claim to have had a special “revelation” or “word” from God. If so, be very careful! Unless what a person proclaims as truth can be verified by the clear teaching of the Bible, it is a personal opinion at the best and definitely not divine revelation from God. We are warned in the Scriptures not to add to nor take away from what God has revealed to us in His written Word (Deuteronomy 4:2). Similar warnings can also be found in Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6, and Revelation 22:18). If someone attempts to teach a doctrine not found in the Bible; beware, no matter how polished and well known the person is. We simply need to test all teaching by the truth of God’s eternal Word.
WE NEED TO BE SETTLED IN OUR FAITH
Colossians 2:7a, “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith”
When the Colossians trusted in Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit planted them in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), just as He did you and me. They were “rooted and built up in him” (2:7). If the foundation isn’t solid, the superstructure that is built upon it, regardless of its sturdy appearance, will soon crumble and eventually come down and won’t be fit for habitation. The apostle Paul used the metaphor of a building to warn us that we who have made Jesus Christ the foundation of our faith can still build a poor superstructure.
We do this when we use materials like “wood, hay, straw,” which can’t stand the fire test. These combustibles represent wrong doctrines and careless behavior; every thought and deed that is false, impure, or worthless. If we build with these qualities, our lives will accomplish little of eternal value. The Bible speaks of our lives as buildings (2 Corinthians. 5:1) and describes for us the kind of foundation upon which our life must be built. Thus, our life will be different if we use gold, silver, and precious stones! These valuable elements stand for materials of a lasting quality. Our life is a process of building, and for to it to weather the storms, it must be built on a solid foundation. My friend, Jesus Christ is that solid foundation (I Corinthians 3:11). In addition to a good foundation, quality materials, ingredients, and workmanship must also go into the building.
From the first century until now, false philosophies and religions have given their adherents only to empty promises and unfounded claims. From first-century Gnosticism to twenty-first century New Age, every system of error has failed to give lasting peace and eternal hope. Having been rooted in Christ, the Colossians was to be “built up in him, and established in the faith” (v. 7). Just as a structurally sound building rests on a firm foundation, so the Christian life rests on Christ the Solid Rock. Having Christ as their foundation, believers build their lives on Him, layer by layer. They find that “the faith” provides all the building materials they need. The Colossians didn’t need the Gnostics’ “building materials.” Having been taught the faith, they had everything they needed.
Foundations are paramount in regards to solid growth. You wouldn’t try to build a skyscraper without first preparing the foundation and making sure you were on solid ground? And if the quality of the building is poorly constructed, the devastation is the greatest. We all know that weak buildings don’t survive very well during an earthquake, and so it is in our spiritual life. Many people do well when their life is going well; however, when the storms of difficulty crash upon them they begin to fall apart. Why? Because their life is built upon a weak foundation of their own human abilities. As long as their problems aren’t greater than their own ability to cope with them, all is well, on the surface, but when the problems grow larger than their own inner strength, they crumble. Thus, without a solid foundation they cannot cope with the seismic shocks of life.
WHEN SETTLED IN OUR FAITH WE THEN NEED TO GUARD THE TRUTH
OF OUR PRICELESS FAITH
Colossians 2:4, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments”
God’s truth is a priceless treasure. The psalmist declared, “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver’ (Psalm 119:72). The word “delude” in this verse refers to someone using what seems to be good, rational, and even believable arguments that are not biblical to draw the Colossians and believers today away from the Truth. Does this happen often today?
You better believe it does. “Plausible arguments” simply means the ability to talk someone into something even though it is based on wrong conclusions. We need to be like the Bereans and check out what we hear from the pulpit, evangelist and teachers against the immovable Word of God. As members of the Body of Christ, we have the responsibility to study the Scriptures so we can effectively discern the presence of false teaching, those who try to sell a new and improved means of salvation.
True wisdom and knowledge are found only in Christ. Jesus cannot be improved upon. He is the ultimate and perfect treasure. Even an attempt to tweak Him a little bit here or there is a failure to recognize Him for the treasure that He already is. Paul wanted those in Colosse and Laodicea to be satisfied with Jesus Christ as He was and to reject the Gnostics. A pastor shared that while he was a seminary student, religious tolerance was invading the association to which his home church belonged.
One of his professors, known for his fatherly charm and gentleness, alleged that the virgin birth of Christ is a myth; the Cross, a mistake; and the Resurrection, a hoax. Hearing these assaults on Christ from the mouth of such a highly respected professor unsettled him at first. Then the words of a hymn pulled him back to firm theological ground, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.” Sometimes religious deception comes packaged in persuasive, smooth talking, gentle teachers; but believers can never go wrong if they draw their wisdom and knowledge from Christ and God’s Eternal Word.
A. The Letter Writer (Jude 1-2)
He is the brother of James most likely the James who was a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13) and the writer of a New Testament letter that bears his name (James 1:1), which would mean that Jude and James were half-brothers. In our text for today’s lesson, Jude didn’t consider himself worthy to call himself a brother of Jesus, but just his servant (Jude 1). This claim is a real change from the days before the resurrection of Christ, when Jude along with his brothers; didn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ (John 7:5).
However, the brothers later believed that Jesus was the Christ and were among the early disciples (Acts 1:14). Jude illustrates the truth that no one is too privileged to be exempt from the need to be redeemed. He writes with the authority of a Biblical writer even though he doesn’t claim to be an apostle. His letter isn’t written to a specific church, but simply describes the recipients in the following three ways:
(1) That we are loved by God.
Believers are the object of God’s love, for God is love and loves us (1 John 4:16). My, what a wonderful promise to remember; while we live in a very insecure world. I read a story sometime ago of a substitute teacher that was overwhelmed. She was helping to care for a small group of children at a school that specialized in students with severe disabilities. As she sat with a little boy who seemed extremely agitated, she learned over to him and whispered in his ear, “Jesus loves you.” Immediately the boy’s agitation calmed, and he began to laugh and make happy sounds.
Have you ever thought about the power of those three words, “Jesus loves you?” Can anything be so simple, yet more profound? Please consider what it means to have the Creator of all things who knows your name. Think of the comfort in knowing that the Great Physician has you best interests at heart. Then ponder the security of knowing that the Good Shepherd is watching over you. Then contemplate what it means that the Savior cared enough to die for you.
Ponder what the apostle Paul said. He asked, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). The answer, “Nothing in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What does it mean to have Someone like that love you? It means life and peace and hope and joy!
(2) That we are kept secure in our position in Jesus Christ. God our Creator preserves the salvation of those who trust in Him.
(3) That we are called of God.
God’s gracious and effective call is His summons to salvation, which He has extended to all who will call upon the name of Jesus (Romans 8:30). The knowledge of God’s love, His keeping power and His call always provides assurance and inner peace for us, which includes those times when our faith is critically challenged. Jude’s greeting is a typical first-century greeting, when he says, “Mercy, peace and love by yours in abundance. Jude’s heart overflowed with love and concern while he warns his readers about those who would, if it were possible, destroy their faith. Thus, Jude’s wisdom is for an abundance of three things for his readers, including us today.
(a) First of all he desires God’s mercy, because they are facing the challenge and dangers of false teachers. God’s mercy sustains us at all times, especially in those times of difficulty. Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.”
(b) Secondly, Jude also desires peace for his readers. God’s peace gives us calmness for our own hearts and minds. Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
(c) Finally, Jude wishes for an abundance of God’s love. God’s love, which is shed abroad in our hearts, provides us with confidence, especially as we face trials and spiritual peril.
GOD’S LOVE & CARE FOR US
If you were to ask a loving mother of a large family, which child would she be willing to give up? I’m sure she would think your question was absurd! Susannah Wesley had 19 sons and daughters. Among them were John and Charles Wesley, who spearheaded the revival in 18th century England. Yet, if you were to read the letters she wrote to each of her children, you would marvel at her concern for their unique personalities and problems. It was as if each child was here one and only offspring.
That’s a picture that Jude is telling his readers, and believers today that God loves them and cares very much about each one of His children. So, if you are ever tempted to wonder if God knows you exist or cares what happens to you, remember what Jesus did for you on the cross? Then you will know how much He loves you! In very simple English, “God loves you so much as if you were His only child!”
B. The Severe Danger (Jude 3-4)
Jude has a sincere desire to write to his readers about the theme of salvation when he takes pen and paper in hand. All believers share in the same salvation, which is common to all of us. However, Jude is now compelled to change his subject, because he sees the encroaching apostasy brought on by the adversaries of God who endanger the church. His love for God’s truth and his fellow believers moves him to sound a solemn and very serious warning.
Jude’s new theme for his readers concerns the course of action that his readers must take in light of the grave danger that has arisen from within their own ranks (Jude3). He exhorts them to contend intently for the faith. The term earnestly contend was used of those who participated in athletic contests. The term means to endeavor with strenuous zeal and agony. Jude’s usage of the term is an exhortation to all believers to struggle offensively against doctrinal error and moral perversions that false teachers propagate. We contend earnestly when we proclaim the truths of God’s Word accurately, clearly, and fearlessly. Have someone read 2 Timothy 2:14-17; 4:1-2.
The faith is the body of truth that the Scriptures teach. Paul also warned that some would depart from the truth (1 Timothy 4:1). The faith is the truth by which we are saved and by which we live godly lives. Galatians 1:6-0 puts it this way, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
The apostles had a definite role in delivering the faith through their teaching and preaching. God in grace and wisdom has provided through special revelation a distinct body of truth, which we embrace by personal faith. Jude explains further that our precious faith has been delivered to us once and for all. Once and for all is the meaning of the word “once”. This word underlines the finality of the Christian faith. There is no room to think that God grants additions and extra insights to it through the years of the church history. The Christian faith cannot be changed, for its foundational truths are nonnegotiable.
Jude then gives the reason why he feels the compelling obligation to change his theme. Certain men have secretly slipped into the fellowship with a different kind of gospel. This infiltration poses a serious danger to doctrinal and moral purity within the church. These men are pretenders who impersonate real believers. They are actually enemies of God and to His people. Jude therefore has good reason for his intractable stance on the faith.
Jude describes these men as godless, for they are destitute of an attitude of reverential awe toward God (Jude 4). This lack of reverence is demonstrated by the way in which they change God’s grace into a license for unbridled lust and shamelessness. Their idea is that God’s grace permits us to sin. The apostle Paul also confronted this perverted doctrine with his “God forbid,” for believers cannot live in sin even though God extends His grace to us in abundance (Romans 6:1-2).
Jude further states that these men also deny the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. Their denial of Christ’s lordship is also a denial of the Father who sent Him (1 John 2:23). Such denial leads them to play loose and fast with what God commands. This faulty thinking results in their moral error. Bad theology and bad morals go hand in hand. They seek to satisfy their fleshly desires, whatever they may be. They teach others to do the same, arguing that God’s grace allows it. These men are able to say the right words, sing the songs, and quote Bible verses. They sound very convincing and have wormed their way into the fellowship of the church.
C. Examples of God’s Judgment (Jude 5-7)
Jude and the Scriptures call us to remember Biblical truths. God doesn’t forget His promises, and we shouldn’t either. There is no place for tolerance for religious views that differ from those God has given to us in the Bible. In these verses Jude draws upon some Old Testament accounts of divine judgment, which clearly illustrate the truth that rebellion against God will never succeed.
(1) The first example is taken from Israel’s history and on their unbelief.
An entire generation of Israelites fell in the wilderness after having been delivered from Egyptian bondage. Israel’s exodus from slavery in Egypt is the greatest event in her Old Testament history. It is a pictorial illustration of God’s salvation of His people. However, against the background of deliverance, there was a rabble of Israelites who turned their backs on God. They chose not to believe, despite the promises of God and the demonstration of His redemptive power. Have someone read Numbers 14:26-30 and Hebrews 3:16-19.
Jude goes on to say that these false teachers are like that generation of Israelites who fell in the wilderness due to their unbelief. These men who oppose the truth profess to believe in the fundamentals of the faith while they willingly embrace heresy. They are attracted to an immoral lifestyle and to the belief in a God who allows such. Their God isn’t the God of the Bible; therefore, they are engaging in a form of idolatry.
In Old Testament times, idolatry was easy to recognize such as dancing around a golden calf, bowing before the Baal’s. Even when the apostle Paul wrote to followers of Christ in first-century Corinth, pagan idolatry was openly practiced; however, he warned them to avoid any association with it as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:14, “My beloved, flee from idolatry.” Idolatry is still a danger to the people of God, though it isn’t always so open or obvious. Idols are usually more subtle and hard to detect, for they set up their home in the hidden places of our heart.
An idol would be any possession or person we put our hope in to bring us fulfillment, and any goal or aspiration that becomes more important to us than God; these are the “gods” that attract our allegiance and controls our lives. Only God can satisfy the deepest needs of our heart and make us truly alive.
(2) Another example is of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The judgment of the two cities on the plain south of the Dead Sea serves as a dreadful example of God’s judgment on those who give themselves over to the lusts of their sinful nature. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah engaged in a form of sexual relations that was unnatural to them, homosexuality.
D. Linkage with false teachers (Jude 8-9)
In verses 8-9, Jude draws a link or connection between these illustrations of God’s judgment and the false teachers. He sees them as dreamers (verse 8) because they are unrealistic in their thinking about God and morality. He is speaking figuratively, for these men are captivated in their thoughts with carnal images produced by the lusts to their sinful natures. Jude draws three parallels beginning with:
(a) The contamination of their own bodies. They are like the men of Sodom and Gomorrah in the engagement in sexual abuses. One major evidence of the presence of these dreamers within the church’s is the loosening of the standards of sexual morality and the corresponding acceptance of behavior once deemed to be unbiblical!
(b) Jude also says that they scoff at authority (Jude 8). They reject authority, as the unbelieving Israelites rejected the authority of the Lord in the wilderness. In the context of Jude’s statement, these false teachers deny the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ (verse 4). This rejection leads to despising human authority, both civil power and church leaders. False teachers often argue that Biblical standards need reinterpretation, because they fit a culture that is long past. For example, some mainline denominations now ordain homosexual pastors who claim that Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality and it therefore must be okay for today.
In every era of history there has always been a spirit of the age that challenges the acceptance of the Bible, God’s breathed and eternal Word. The temptation of human tendency is to remove or alter those portions that seem old-fashioned and outdated for the times in which we live. Whether it’s the doctrine of hell or God’s view on sexual behavior, many feel pressured to reject part of the Bible. Inevitably, some truths will always be offensive in every day and age.
The book of Jeremiah records for us centuries ago, regarding a Jewish king, who was handed a scroll with a message from God. As the document was read aloud, the king took offense (as many do today), and with a small knife he cut out a portion of the scroll and threw it into the fire. Eventually the entire text was thrown into the flames, yet the king and his servants who had heard the words of the Lord “were not afraid” (Jeremiah 36:24). However, in the end, the king lost his kingdom because of his disobedience.
Thomas Mann an internationally acclaimed novelist wrote a whole series of books on Joseph, the person who is the focus of Genesis, chapter 37- 50. Thus from his writings, we know that he had more than a superficial acquaintance with the Bible. Yet, his biographer records that on Christmas in 1940, Mann read aloud from the Bible for the “general amusement” of his family. At one point he said, “This book is a harmless diversion, exactly what I need.” One can only wonder why the family was amused and what Mann meant by calling God’s holy Word “a harmless diversion.” While the Bible does contain humor, it message speaks about matters that are deeply serious and of eternal importance.
Because it is the Word of God and therefore the Word of Truth, the Bible is to be read with reverence. Its timeless teachings should elicit a response of heartfelt gratitude and obedience, but certainly not amusement. It was given by God’s inspiration and is His revelation to man. My beloved, on its pages we find everything we need to know to receive salvation and to live for the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul declared that it “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.
When we read the God’s Word, let’s not get sidetracked by interesting statistics, or unusual facts, or as “harmless diversion” as Mann stated. We should read them as a precious and priceless source of light, truth and hope. So, let’s carefully and most prayerfully study the contents of the Bible to discover what God is saying to us about Himself and His plan for our lives. When we do that, it will make our Bible knowledge most profitable.
The point that Jude is conveying to his audience and for us today is that we must contend for and guard our faith and the truth of God’s precious Word. When people selectively edit the Bible to suit their own purposes, when they neglect its teachings, of Scripture and deny the sovereign lordship of Christ they show no fear of God. Rather than submit to what He says, they exalt their own finite reason and fallible conscience above the inspired Scripture.
Thus, when we’re tempted to overlook or ignore altogether a portion of the Word of God, remember that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”.
In a changing world you can trust God’s unchanging Word.