The Third and Final in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Jude
The epistle of Jude may be short, but it is packed. In the span of just 25 verses, Jude manages to remind those reading/hearing this letter of a received body of doctrine (“the faith once for all delivered”) which came to them directly from the apostles themselves. Jude warns churches to be on guard for false teachers, and reminds us of the inevitability of God’s judgment upon those who seek to exploit God’s people, or lead them astray. Jude then gives the church specific instructions as how to remain in the love of God, until Jesus returns, as promised, at the end of the age. Christians are to build themselves up in the faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and eagerly await the Lord’s return. Not bad for a twenty-five verse epistle!
The epistle of Jude has three parts–the opening greeting and declaration of Jude’s purpose in writing (verses 1-5), which is followed by a mini-sermon in verses 5-16, in which Jude alludes to a number of key Old Testament events and people (the Passover and Exodus, God’s destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and infamous figures such as Cain, Balaam, Korah). Jude also utilizes themes addressed in two Jewish apocryphal books, which were well-known, apparently, to many in Jude’s original audience. These two works include the Assumption (Testament) of Moses, and the Book of Enoch. The authors of both of these books include well-known legends which attempt to explain certain events in the Old Testament which are not explained within the biblical text itself–such as the fate of Moses’ body, or the crimes of the Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-4), which, according to the Book of Enoch, resulted in fallen angels being bound in chains until the day of judgment.
In addition to a number of Old Testament events and people, Jude cites from these two apocryphal texts so as to make the point that God’s judgment upon those false teachers then troubling the churches was a certainty. Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch in verses 14-15 to make the point that the countless number of holy ones about whom Enoch prophesies, will actually accompany Jesus Christ on the day of his return. In verse 14, Jude writes, “it was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, `Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 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.’” Jude appeals to specific Old Testament events, and even some of the legendary interpretations of them, to show that all of these open-ended Old Testament events are fulfilled in and through the person and work of Jesus. Even these two apocryphal books make predictions and offer interpretations of certain events which can only properly be understood in the light of the coming of Jesus. Jude’s point is that as God judged false teachers and false prophets throughout the course of redemptive history, so too, Jesus Christ will return at the end of the age to bring certain judgment upon all those who seek to lead the people of God astray with the intention of exploiting them for personal gain motivated by pure self-indulgence.
In the third and final portion of Jude (vv. 17-25), our text, Jude makes three points of application. The first is an exhortation to all those reading and hearing this letter to remember the predictions made by the apostles–the situation in which the Christians of Jude’s day now find themselves (dealing with false teachers) is something of which the Apostles had specifically warned. The second point Jude makes is that until the day of judgment, God’s people should devote themselves to dwelling in God’s love, so that the acrimony and doctrinal debate which is taking place in the churches (as necessary as it is) does not cause God’s people to become cold or hard-hearted toward one another. Allowing the church to become a place of bitterness and contention would be as bad as allowing the false teachers to go unchecked. To ensure that this is not the case, Christians are to build themselves up in the faith, they are to pray in the Spirit, and they are to wait eagerly for the Lord’s return. Third, Jude explains how Christians are to treat those who have been deceived by false prophets and false preachers. Christians are to exercise great mercy toward them, while at the same time exercising great caution that they themselves do not fall into the same kind of errors as those who have been deceived.
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