Monday, October 27, 2008

A Call to Arms...Jude 3-4: About the Aim

So far in our studies of the letter of Jude we have learned about the author – that Jude was saved; that he was a servant; and that Jude was serious (1a). We have also learned about the audience and their unique position as believers, who had been effectually called into the kingdom of God through the gospel; who were the special objects of the love of God the Father as the beloved; and who were kept or preserved for Jesus Christ (1b).

Today we learn about the aim of Jude’s letter (3-4) – that it is a call to arms; a rally cry for those who are kept for Jesus Christ to keep or guard the truth of the Word of God which has been entrusted to the saints. This is a reminder to the saints that we are in a war for truth, a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and that we are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ the Captain of the army. The Christian life is a battleground and not a playground and we are not volunteers but we have been chosen and enlisted by the Lord Himself.

Here we see three aspects of Jude the soldier of Christ: (1) Jude’s important desire, (2) Jude’s impelling necessity, and (3) Jude’s imperative reason.

Jude’s important desire (3a) – “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation….” Jude had set out to write an encouraging letter about the common salvation of the saints. This is a very important theme and is a noble and important desire for pastors to teach their people about the glorious truths of their positions as saints. After all, what we do and how we live should be determined by who we are in relationship to our position. Therefore the truth about our position as saints should serve as a motivator for us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

Doctrine determines duty or to put it another way belief determines behavior. This is why the apostle Paul began his letter to the Ephesians with the doctrine of who we are in Christ before he ever gave our duties as believers in Christ. A careful reading of Ephesians tells us both who we are and how we should conduct ourselves – and it is interesting that even in the book of Ephesians that our calling and blessings in salvation are to result in our victorious stand in the battle for truth.

While it is an important and necessary desire to teach the saints about our common salvation so that they can walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, it is also important for them to be reminded that based on their position that they are to war in a manner worthy of the gospel. As a pastor I would much rather encourage the saints than to declare war on apostates but the two must go hand in hand.

Jude’s impelling necessity (3b) – “…I felt the necessity to write you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude had no more than began to write his encouraging letter that he intended to be a discussion on the blessings and benefits of our common salvation that he was compelled or compressed into going another direction. The Spirit of God changed Jude’s mind and laid on him the necessity to write about the battle against the forces of evil which were rapidly gaining a foothold in the church. Jude was impelled by the Holy Spirit and the circumstances of apostates infiltrating the church to the extent that it was necessary for him to sound the trumpet.

What was it that the Holy Spirit impelled Jude to write to the saints? Jude was impelled to write an exhortation or an appeal. In the Greek language, the word for exhort or appeal was used to describe a general giving orders to the army. In other words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Jude called on the saints to engage in the battle for truth and especially as it pertains to the body of truth, the faith, which was once for all handed down to the saints. The saints have been given the responsibility from the Lord to guard and fight for the faith. The apostle Paul spoke of guarding or fighting for the faith many times in his letters to Timothy. Guarding the doctrine and keeping the gospel pure against the strange doctrines of the apostates and false teachers is a primary responsibility of pastors but it is also a primary responsibility of every Christian. The church is supposed to be the pillar and support of the truth and the only way to accomplish this is to guard the truth and battle for the truth.

We are told that we are to earnestly contend for the faith. Earnestly contend comes from a word from which we get our English word “agonize.” The word speaks of a vigorous intense, determined struggle to defeat the opposition. In other words we are to strain with every fiber of our being in this battle to maintain the purity of the faith without letting it be spoiled or corrupted by apostates and their strange doctrines. We are to exert ourselves to the point of agony in an effort to win the battle for truth. Jude tells us that it is with such intense effort that the saints should defend the doctrines of Christianity.

The exhortation was to earnestly contend for the faith. The faith here is not faith as exercised by the individual, but the body of truth pertaining to Christianity in its historic doctrines and life-giving salvation. In other words we are not seeking some new revelation but to be true to the historic doctrines of God which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is our responsibility to seek the ancient paths and to be sure that what we believe and are preaching, and teaching is in line with the Word of God. God is keeping us and we are to keep or guard the truth of the Word of God.

All the cults and false religions and I should also add apostate religions have abandoned the truth of God’s Word and are not keeping or guarding it but corrupting it with destructive heresies. They come up with new revelations and new interpretations although God’s Word plainly says that the body of truth has been once for all handed down to the saints. God has said what He needed to say and there isn’t going to be any further revelation. Muhammad was a liar, Joseph Smith was liar, and all who claim to have divine revelations of heaven or hell or anything else is a liar. If we want a divine revelation I suggest we read God’s divine revelation – His Word. God’s Word is not only His divinely inspired revelation of truth; it is totally sufficient in all areas of rule and practice. We do not need to look to the psychologists, anthropologists, or sociologists to see how we are to do church or grow the church – we only need to look to the Word of God and the historic truths of Christian doctrine.

Jude’s imperative reason (4) – “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude now gets to the reason that we must earnestly contend for the faith – the stealth of the enemy whose desire is to dilute, distort, and defile the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Notice how Jude characterized these apostates – “for certain persons have crept in unnoticed.” They use stealth. They enter alongside by stealth and deceit. They slip in secretly. They have the ability to go undetected by the radar. In other words they claim to be Christian and claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t misinterpret this passage. The way these people deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ is not through an outright denial but by turning His grace into licentiousness. They could not have crept in unnoticed with an outright denial of the Lord. They actually claim to be His servants and claim to speak His word. They disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). It is the responsibility of the church leaders to guard the flock (Acts 20:28-31) and the responsibility of the saints to be alert.

Jude also characterized these apostates as marked out for condemnation – “those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” The word of “marked out” is prographo and it means to write beforehand. God’s word tells beforehand the nature of the apostates and their coming judgment. Before it ever happened, God’s word told of the activity of the apostates who would sneak in and corrupt the meaning and application of God’s word thereby incurring a just and rightful condemnation for such ungodly activity. There is no excuse for apostates who twist God’s word because He has already said beforehand that they would and that He would judge and condemn them.

Another characterization that Jude gave of the apostates is that they are ungodly – “ungodly persons.” Ungodly is one of Jude’s key words in this letter. He used it six times in these twenty five verses. Ungodly means destitute of reverential awe toward God. This means that these people have no fear of God and that they reject His authority. Apostates will have nothing to do with the Lord as absolute ruler but would rather think of Him as their buddy who is interested in their happiness and not their holiness. Apostates want Jesus Christ as Savior but not as Lord. They want Him as a means to be used for their health, wealth, and prosperity but not as the ruler of their lives. They are ungodly!

The apostates are also transposers – “who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” By turning the grace of God into licentiousness, the apostates replace one thing with another. In this case they put licentiousness in the place of the grace of God. This is a redefinition of biblical grace into that which is not biblical and not intended. Licentiousness is nothing short of anarchy by giving the right to do whatever one pleases as though God’s grace allows such activity. Turning the grace of God into licentiousness turns the grace of God into a license to sin rather than a motivator to live righteously (Titus 2:11-12). Therefore, turning the grace of God into licentiousness becomes a denial of the rule and authority of the Lord in our lives. It becomes a denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Apostates “deny our only Master and Lord - “master” is from the word despot and means absolute master or ruler. The apostate views the Lordship of Jesus as a King with absolute or unlimited power as that which is oppressive. Therefore the apostate views the absolute rule of Jesus Christ as a type of tyrannical and oppressive rule. So the apostate recoils against salvation as an issue of Lordship and rejects the Lord’s authority choosing instead to replace God’s grace which gives us the power to live righteously under the Lordship of Jesus with licentiousness which is nothing short of anarchy.

So these persons are ungodly and without reverential awe of God and deny His absolute authority by turning His grace into licentiousness. Apostates claim to know Jesus Christ but they have not and will not receive Him as the King of God’s kingdom. Apostates don’t teach the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus but rather undermine it. Apostates want Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. We must guard against such destructive heresies!

No comments: