The First in a Two Part Series on the Epistle of Jude
One of the greatest threats to the Christian church occurs when its own pastors and teachers deny the very gospel which they’ve been entrusted to proclaim. In the Epistle of Jude, we witness a church which has been secretly infiltrated by self-appointed spokesmen for God, who were advocating the false teaching that because we are saved by God’s grace, we are no longer bound to follow the commandments of God. This is classic antinomianism. These false teachers claimed to be followers of Jesus, while at the same time were themselves engaging in all kinds of sexual immorality closely tied to the paganism of the age. By indulging in sins of the flesh under the guise of God’s grace, Jude says these teachers were denying the gospel of Jesus Christ. Having become aware that this was going on in the churches, Jude writes a short but very powerful exhortation to Christian faithful in these churches to oppose these false teachers with everything in them, and to earnestly “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
We begin a two-part series on the Epistle of Jude–one of the shortest epistles in the New Testament. What makes the Epistle of Jude such an interesting book for us is the fact that Jude is the brother of James and Jesus. In fact, based upon the list of Jesus’ brothers in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55, Jude is probably James’ younger brother. Since we have just completed a series on the Epistle of James, I thought it would be interesting to take a couple of Lord’s Days and go through this very interesting, but far too often overlooked portion of the New Testament. It is Jude who gives us one of the most often-quoted but least practiced exhortations of the New Testament: “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” In a perilous age such as ours, when far too many Christians are ignorant of the most basic of Christian doctrines, and all too prone to compromising with the paganism around us, we need to let Jude’s exhortation to contend for the faith to ring in our ears.
Although the author of this book is the brother of James–who wrote his epistle in the mid-forties of the first century–many argue that Jude was written as much as twenty years after the Epistle of James. This would give us a date of composition somewhere in the mid-sixties, although I think a good case can be made for a much earlier date (the early 50's). Although the date of this epistle is somewhat up in the air, it is very clear that Jude is writing under a completely different set of circumstances than those facing his brother James. For Jude, the issue which prompts the writing of this epistle is that Christians are under the assault of deceptive false teachers. Believers in Jude’s audience need to wake up and resist this group of false teachers who had secretly infiltrated their churches. At the same time they are doing that, Jude’s readers need to make every effort to build themselves up in the most holy faith–one of the surest and best ways to prevent false teachers from destroying the churches.
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