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Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World: A Study of the Epistle of Jude (Principle #2)

15 Dec


5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

A number of years ago lightning struck the English church of the liberal bishop David Jenkins, a man who had publicly denied the Virgin Birth and the deity of Christ. Some conservative Christians rejoiced in what appeared at the time to be an act of God’s judgment against unbelief. Philip Yancey asks, however, “Why should David Jenkins provoke divine wrath when the outright blasphemer Bertrand Russell lived unpunished into cranky old age? If God consistently sent lightning bolts in response to bad doctrine, our plant would sparkle nightly like a Christmas tree.” (Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God)

The Nature of God
We learn in this section that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys! We all love a delivering God. We struggle with the very idea of a God who can destroy people, especially His people (v. 5). We have forgotten that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). We skip over verses that tell us that our God is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). We euphemize God’s threats of judgment (Ezek. 18:4, 20 – the soul that sins shall die; Jn. 3:36- the wrath of God abides on him) in the Bible, sometimes contrasting the God of mercy in the New Testament with the God of wrath in the Old Testament (an old liberal fallacy, by the way). We swallow without thinking the universalists’ error that God’s primary attribute is love — and He, therefore, is incapable of executing His wrath on the wicked, and especially on His own people! But we are wrong. The God who delivers is also the God who can destroy!

Three Historical Examples
Jude gives three illustrations of God’s judgment in verses 5-7. He brought destruction upon His own people in the wilderness and in the Promised Land. He also brought judgment upon a category of angels “who abandoned their positions of authority” (v. 6). Much speculation has surrounded this example Jude uses of AWOL angels, but his point must not be missed: they are “kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day.”

The third example of God’s judgment Jude gives is that of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7). Their story is told in Genesis 19. Although many who support a pro-homosexual lifestyle have worked hard to deny that God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was for their sin of homosexuality, such efforts fail in light of the biblical text itself. They “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” because of their “sexual immorality and perversion.”

Historical Ignorance
These present false teachers, who have caused Jude to write his battle plan for these believers, have not paid attention to God’s acts of judgment in history. Instead, these dream-driven heretics pollute themselves, abuse celestial beings, and slander what they don’t understand (vv. 8-10). Although we know very little about the dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil about Moses’ body, he serves as an example of careful respect for spiritual beings. These false teachers show no such respect.

Jude moves from his example in the angelic world to three this-world illustrations of rebellion against God’s authority:

(1) the way of Cain – We read of Cain’s jealousy and killing of his brother Abel in Genesis 4.

(2) The Balaam story is a fascinating one found in Numbers 22. There is much more here than a man’s conversation with his donkey, for Balaam’s greed led to his rebellion against the Lord.

(3) Korah’s rebellion (against Moses and Aaron) is recorded in Numbers 16. The Lord desires “to consume them in a moment” (v. 21). The congregation is told to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “lest you be consumed in all their sins” (v. 26). Moses predicts that the earth would open its mouth and swallow them up because “these men have rejected the Lord.” (v. 30). The earth indeed opened up, swallowed them down alive, then closed over them. But the Israelites rebelled against Moses and a plague killed 14,700 of God’s people the next day (v. 49)!

Wow! Jude pulls no punches when he rails against these contemporary false teachers! They have so polluted God’s truth that they deserve the very ground they stand on to open up and swallow them alive!

Malignant Metaphors
Jude then uses six strong metaphors to describe the effects these false teachers are having upon God’s people:
They are blemishes at the Christian love feasts, eating with these believers without hesitation.
They are shepherds who feed only themselves.
They are unstable clouds who provide no rain.
They are unfruitful trees twice dead.
They are wild waves foaming up their shame.
They are wandering stars awaiting God’s judgment.

Although much could be said about each of these metaphors, Jude is making the point that these false teachers are unashamedly mixing in with God’s people, making promises they cannot keep, shamelessly producing no fruit, and, therefore, merit the blackest darkness of God’s judgment!

However, these false teachers did not take God by surprise. Enoch predicted their judgment (v. 14) and the apostles foretold the coming of ungodly scoffers in the last times (v. 18). The negative effects of these grumblers and faultfinders divide God’s people, for they do not have the Spirit (v. 19).

How interesting that Jude the former scoffer who became a servant of Jesus Christ warns these believers about those who seek to confuse and disrupt God’s people!

The Ugliness of Unbelief
If the principle in verses 5-19 is that we should speak clearly of God’s judgment against unbelief, why is unbelief so bad? Many in our culture define “belief” as a person’s “opinion,” and “we certainly don’t persecute people for their opinions, do we?!”

Certainly some beliefs are mere opinions. “I believe the Cubs will win the World Series this year.” But what if I said to you, “I don’t believe you when you claim you did not steal $20 from me”? Am I merely expressing an opinion? Or am I not making a statement about your character, about whether you can be trusted, about your honesty? If my statement is only a statement of my opinion, then why do I feel a need to ask for your forgiveness when I find my twenty-dollar bill in my car?

Unbelief in the Bible is cosmic treachery, spiritual rebellion. It is essentially I-am-God-ism! It is disrespect of God’s person, a challenge to His integrity, an attempt to de-throne His rule.

When someone in effect says, “I will not affirm reality as God describes it! I will not speak the truth as God gives it! I will not submit to His will!”, these statements are not mere opinions. They are preparations for God’s judgment, as surely as Cain’s murderous action, Balaam’s greed, and Korah’s insurrection!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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