Dr. Richard L. Strauss
July 28, 1974
Some Christians don't know it, but there is a war on. Satan is ferociously fighting for the souls of men. There are literally scores of references in the Bible to the battle. For instance, Paul encouraged Timothy to "war a good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18). In another place he said, "Fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12). He told the Corinthians "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4). He exhorted the Ephesians to "put on the whole armor of God that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). And he assured both the Romans and the Corinthians that there is victory assured through Jesus Christ in this great battle (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37).
No where are the sides more clearly drawn nor the battle more vividly described than in this little epistle of Jude. The message of this little book is clearly about a big battle. While there is some dispute over which Jude wrote the book--we'll probably never solve the question totally--the best candidate for the author of the book seems to be the brother of the author of the book of James, who was also the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. So the book of Jude holds some authority if for no other reason than in all probability is was written by the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We don't know to whom Jude was addressing his epistle. He doesn't tell us where these saints lived that he writes to. But we do know something very unusual happened when the Apostle Jude sat down to write some believers somewhere in the ancient world. He had fully intended to write to them about the doctrine of salvation. It was his intention to expound and explore the various facets of our great salvation. But all of a sudden as he began to write, he felt this strange, overwhelming compulsion to write about something different. Not about our common salvation at all, but something entirely different.
"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation"--the salvation we all share if we know the Lord Jesus--"I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
He says, "I found it necessary." The words literally mean, "I had necessity." "I had necessity to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly." That phrase "contend earnestly" is actually one word in the original language and it means "to fight vigorously and fervently." That's right; the epistle of Jude is about a fight. It's about a war. And while some Christians are lackadaisically rocking along in their comfortable lives, God's people who are dedicated to Him are fully aware that there is a war on. We're in the middle of a battle.
The battle is--according to Jude--over the faith that was once delivered to the saints. He says, "fight vigorously for the once for all entrusted to the saints faith." That's literally what it says. I don't see how that can be anything other than the Word of God--the great truths of the Scripture that these first century Apostles recorded for us and gave to us once for all.
That's the heart of the book. The whole little book of Jude is built around this statement in verse 3. It is that we are to be fighting, contending, and battling for the truth of God's Word. We're in a fight. We're in a battle. The sides are God's truth vs. Satan's lie. God wants us to get in the fight for the truth of the Word of God.
There are many exhortations in the Scripture to meekness, to quietness, to peace, to turning the other cheek, and to things of that nature. They're important to understand. But listen, when it comes to standing for the truth of God's Word, we've got a fight on our hands. If we're going to get in a fight, we better know who are enemy is. We also ought to know what kind of strategy God wants us to follow.
So those are the two parts of Jude we're going to talk about: the enemy was face this morning, and the strategy we follow tonight. I hope you'll come back tonight. Please don't stop with just knowing who the enemy is. You need to know how to oppose him, so be with us this evening.
The exhortation is to earnestly fight for the faith. Why?
"For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
Here's the reason God tells us to fight fervently for the faith. He says certain men have slipped in secretly, crept in unawares. They sneaked in when no one was looking. That's what Jude says. They're not true Christians. God says they have already been written off to condemnation and they are ungodly men. So they're not really believers; they are feigned believers. But that doesn't dull the sharp edge of their incisive attacks. God says we need some keen spiritual perception to protect ourselves from their perverted doctrines.
Now we're not going to study the book of Jude verse by verse. We're going to skip around a little because it really is very difficult to find any structure to the book whatsoever. But we're going to jump around to different verses and try to find four things about the enemy. First of all, their aims. Secondly, their activities. Thirdly, their character. And finally, their end--their punishment.
Their aims are pretty well summed up in verse 4, and they're two-fold.
a. Turning Grace into Sensuality
Notice the end of the verse, turning "the grace of our God into lewdness" or sensuality. Turning the grace of God into an excuse for sexual sins. This is another example of how a book written more than 1900 years ago can be as relevant as tomorrow's news. The book of Jude is that relevant. All through the history of the Christian church, there have been illustrations of false teachers who have perverted the doctrine of God's grace to excuse their own licentious living. They were there in Jude's day. They are infiltrating the church of Jesus Christ today. From the pens of professing Christians have come "new thoughts" like situational ethics and the new morality. Turning the grace of our God into lewdness or sensuality.
I just pulled a few clippings from my file to illustrate what I'm talking about. For instance, a couple of years ago , there was a full-page ad in Playboy magazine to recruit members for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity. Over 600 inquiries were received according to Reverend Joseph Loopol, the vocation director for the Order. Twenty-eight men have been accepted for processing by this Roman Catholic order. Can you just imagine an old bishop talking to a young priest one day and saying something reminiscent like, "Ah, yes, my call to the priesthood. I remember it well. I was sitting there leafing through Playboy magazine..." Can you imagine that?
A couple weeks ago in the Times Advocate there was this shocking report: "The first national convention ever staged by members of the world's oldest profession was a one-night stand in a church. More than 300 people paid up to $5 a piece to crowd into the sanctuary of Glide Memorial Methodist Church for the first national hooker's convention. They applauded a three-hour program that ranged from bawdy songs to belly dancing and serious appeals for legalized prostitution." That in a church.
I subscribe to a newsletter called the Evangelical Newsletter. This one arrived last week. "Christianity is on a collision with the sexual revolution. Always thought to be patently un-Christian, the new sexual ethic is gaining some unlikely support from within the Christian camp. Take, for instance, Penn State's Ruston Roy, co-author of Honest Sex, a revolutionary new sex guide for the new generation of Christians. Granting that marriage is the highest form of sexual involvement, Roy asked, 'Is there any reason why admittedly lesser uses of sexual function are bad? Obviously there are millions of legal marriages which are veritable hells of relationships, yet we accept sexuality within that context. Do we thereby grant the right to create the rightness of sexuality to any kind of piece of paper from any country or deny it only because that piece of paper is missing? The empirical data are that today a percentage of concerned, loving, active Christians have had wholly positive experiences with pre-marital sex--some equally with pre-marital abstinences. Both are options for Christians today. Furthermore, given our world--America 1974--even marital sexual exclusivity is not the only option open to caring couples.'" These are "Christians."
The last one I'd like to read to you is one I clipped last night. It comes from Jim McNutt's little paper called The Single Eye. He does a great job on this little paper for singles; many of our own singles subscribe to it. Jim found this interesting bit of blasphemy: "'If your marriage foundered in a sea of infidelity, that is just what might have kept the boat from sinking.' So says Raymond Lawrence, founder and Chaplain of Clinical Pastoral Education at a Houston hospital. In 'Christianity in Crisis,' Chaplain Lawrence explains how extra-marital sex greatly improved the marriage of his counselees, Ed and Marjorie, as they gained the freedom to have other, including sexual, relationships. Lawrence was pleased to see move away from what he calls a relative absence of possessiveness and clinging dependency that characterizes so many marriages. 'It is not enough,' the Chaplain says, 'to parrot the orthodoxy of the past.' The challenge as he sees it lies instead in evaluating new emerging patterns of life with an open mind."
You see, Jude told us about this 1900 years ago, folks. There is no reason to be shocked. He said already there were some who had crept into the church unawares--men who were written off to condemnation, ungodly men who turned the grace of our God into sensuality. It should be no surprise.
"But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts" (Jude 17-18).
Why do these men believe like this? Primarily because they want to live like this, I assume. That's what the Word of God says. And even from pastors who profess to believe the Word of God, I've heard such things as a state of "super grace," when the heart is so free in God's grace that nothing we do with the body can be sinful.
Could Jude's warning be more appropriate than it is in the day in which we live? Watch out for those who would change the grace of God into sensuality. God's grace does not give us liberty to sin. It teaches us how to live--according to Titus chapter 2, anyway.
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12).
God's grace doesn't give us an excuse to sin, dear Christian friends. It tells us how to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. Watch out for false teachers.
b. Denying the Lord
At the very end of verse 4 we see their second aim.
"...ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
Denying the Lord. The Greek text actually says, "denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Disowning and repudiating our only Master and Lord--an obvious reference to deity. That's a great verse for the deity of Jesus Christ, and it is no secret that vast numbers of ministers in major denominations today now deny the basic Biblical doctrines of Christ, such as His deity, His eternal pre-existence, His virgin birth, His miracles, His substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection, His second coming. Jude warned us there would be such who would disown and repudiate our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. They sneaked in and now they systematically chip away the faith of their hearers. They are Satan's messengers; "wolves in sheep's clothing" as Jesus described them in Matthew 7. Jude says watch out for them.
Skip down now to verse 8. After three historic examples of God's judgment on Old Testament apostates--which we will look at in just a few moments, briefly--Jude tells us what these false prophets of his day were doing. Three things:
"Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries" (Jude 8).
Before we look at these, let me first say a word about that preface: "these dreamers." In calling them "dreamers," Jude is probably referring to their claim to be prophets. In Deuteronomy 13, a prophet was equated with a dreamer of dreams. The implication is that these men are claiming divine sanction--supernatural, divine sanction on their defiling and debauching activities. I want you to notice the word "likewise." The King James version says, "in like manner." That refers back to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. What was the basic sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you know? Homosexuality.
It's very, very interesting that in our day , several leading denominations have officially approved homosexuality. Some have ordained known homosexuals to the ministry, and sponsor homosexual churches. There are many of them in California. Isn't that interesting? The book of Jude is so very pertinent and practical--even though it was written nearly 2000 years ago--to the situation as it exists in our own land today. "Likewise these dreamers defile the flesh." That's God's opinion of homosexuality.
Second, they reject authority or as the King James puts it, they despise dominion. The word dominion means "lordship." It means "ruling power." Sometimes it refers to angelic authority. It can also refer to the authority of God Himself, or any duly constituted authority. We live in a day of increasing rebellion against authority, when men despise dominion.
They despise God's authority. They won't listen to the Word of God. "We don't just have to parrot the orthodoxy of the past," that man said. In other words, throw your Bible away, friend. It isn't relevant for today. That's what they say. They despise the revealed authority of Almighty God.
They also despise governmental authority. It's becoming more and more fashionable to disobey the laws of the land. They despise church authority. Whenever anyone opens the Word and tries to show them how there is an order of authority in the local church, they are not willing to subject themselves to it. They despise marital authority. They don't want to hear that there's an order of authority in the home and that God reveals a doctrine of headship in the home. And that's not all. I have read in recent days--now this one almost defies description. I have read in recent days of organized efforts to free children from parental authority. Now that one absolutely floors me. I guess we're just going to turn the kids loose now to do as they please. They despise dominion.
Third, they speak evil or, literally, they blaspheme dignities. The word dignities means "glorious beings." That's a probable reference to angels. I'm not exactly sure what they were doing or what Jude was concerned about. Maybe it was gnosticism with all those angels, which really blasphemed true angels. But anyway, we can certainly find an application today because there are now many religious leaders who deny the existence of angels--either good or evil angels. The furor over the film The Exorcist has brought some out of the woodwork who frankly say it's much ado about nothing; demons don't really exist, they tell us.
Jude goes on to use an illustration from a book that is outside the canon of Scripture. Books like this are called extra-canonical books. They're not inspired of God but they tell us things, in some cases, which are true. Jude uses two of them. That's one of the problems, incidentally, in the epistle of Jude, which we'll have to get an answer to when we find him. I don't really think it's too great of a problem, though. Jude is not really putting these books on the level of Scripture; he's just quoting them. Paul quoted poets from the day. Jude quotes apocryphal books because he finds there something that is true, that has relevance and application to our lives. He uses an illustration from a book called the "Assumption of Moses:"
"Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' (Jude 9).
In other words, even Michael, who was the greatest of the good angels, refused to personally accuse the devil, who was the greatest (and worst) of the evil angels. Instead, he said, "The Lord rebuke you." Now if Michael refrained from accusing Satan personally, how much less should we belittle any angelic being?
Verse 10 tells us of some more of their activities.
"But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves" (Jude 10).
These false teachers criticize everything that is outside the sphere of their understanding. What's outside the sphere of their understanding, basically, are the things of the Spirit of God. They're foolishness to them, but they do understand their own animal instincts. And their own animal instincts, Jude says, corrupt them. The things they do know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. They become slaves of their own physical appetites.
In verse 11, they are like three Old Testament characters.
"Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah" (Jude 11).
What did Cain do? Cain tried to approach God apart from God's ordained means of approaching Him--that is, blood sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-5). That's what these false teachers do.
Second, they are run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. Balaam lost eternal riches because he wanted some temporal riches, some reward or profit. He tried to curse the children of Israel for the money the king of Moab could give him (Numbers 22).
Third, they perished in the rebellion of Korah. Korah was that fellow who rebelled against the authority of Moses. God had to open up the earth to swallow him as punishment (Numbers 16:1-40). He rebelled against divinely constituted authority.
That's what these men are doing. That's their activity. They are gone in the way of Cain, the error of Balaam, and the rebellion of Korah.
I want you to notice thirdly, please, their character. We already have a pretty good idea of what these folks were like. But Jude is not finished with them yet. We have in verses 12 and 13, five vivid word pictures that present one of the most scathing denunciations of anybody in the New Testament. It rivals Christ's denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, and that one is pretty stiff. Maybe we begin to think, "Well, Jude, aren't you being a little harsh on this fellows?" But I want you to remember that the issue here is eternal life and eternal death. That's a pretty big issue. And I want you to consider the matchless grace of God that these men are perverting, and the perfect Son of God whom these men are dishonoring, and His costly sacrifice on Calvary's cross that these men are devaluating, and the precious souls that these men are deceiving. Maybe we'll come to the conclusion that Jude's language was not too harsh. Maybe it was rather tame.
"These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 12-13).
Look at the five pictures.
"Spots in your love feasts." That word spots literally means "hidden rocks." The idea is a huge boulder under the water that the ship captain can't see. Though he can't see it, it will utterly destroy his ship. "Hidden rocks in your love feasts." The love feast in the New Testament church was really the most blessed time of fellowship. They ate together and remembered the Lord's Supper together. But these men were about to wreck the love feast. Jude says they are like shepherds who feed only themselves, gorging themselves with food (they don't care about the sheep), and by implication--from what else he said in the epistle--they are looking for opportunities to gratify their sensual desires. They were making a divine love feast into a sensual love feast. There is no lower kind of animal today in my estimation than a man who uses the fellowship offered by the church to satisfy his own lustful ends. That happens even today. And as far as I'm concerned, there is no lower kind of individual. "Hidden rocks at your love feast."
"Clouds without water, carried about by the winds." Picture the farmer desperately in need of rain. A cloud approaches and his hopes rise but the cloud blows over and the rain never comes. Right now Mary's new step-dad in Nebraska is in need of rain. You've seen the television: corn farmers in Nebraska are suffering; there has been no rain. We get a letter every week--it's very interesting--from Mary's mom, who was a city girl all her life, and she tells us all about how the corn is doing. They're looking for rain and sometimes a cloud approaches but it blows over; and how discouraged they are. That's the way these false teachers are. They make great claims and great promises, but they're little more than hot air.
"Late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots." Autumn trees. It's time for the fruit to be there. The harvesters come but the trees are empty. Not only are the trees fruitless, but they're pulled up from the roots. Twice dead. Fruitless and uprooted. Like my plum tree. It had one little plum on it. All of a sudden I saw the leaves were dying. I took hold of the tree, and it pulled right out of the ground. Sneaky little gopher! Boy, I'd like to get him! He got about three other trees in my yard! Twice dead. Fruitless and pulled up by the roots. These men were in the church but they were outside of Jesus Christ. They had no root in them. They were lost.
"Raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame." Like churning ocean waves after a storm, spewing up seaweed and trash all over the beach.
"Wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." I don't really know what that refers to. Some Bible commentators think that Jude is talking about comets, which shine for a while and then pass into darkness.
There are also other indications of their character.
"These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts and they mouth great swelling words"--haughty words--"flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 16).
"These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit" (Jude 19). They set up a class of initiated elite who are supposedly above sin. But Jude tells it like it is: they are sensual. That's the word that means "soulish." It's a word translated in 1 Corinthians 2:14 as the natural man. They are lost, having not the Spirit. In the church but outside of Jesus Christ.
Look finally at their end, will you? Look back through Jude again starting at verse 4.
"For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation" (Jude 4a).
Condemned. Don't worry about them for that reason. We need to rescue people out of their grasp but as far as they're concerned, they've already given themselves over to their own lusts and for all practical purposes they are beyond hope. They are foreordained to condemnation.
We see in verse 5 that their condemnation is foreshadowed by the unbelieving Israelites who fell in the wilderness.
"But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 5).
In verse 6, they are like the rebellious angels who fell into darkness.
"And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6).
And they are like Sodom and Gomorrah; they're going to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
"As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
Look down in verse 11. Jude cries, "Woe unto them!" That's another indication of their judgment.
In verse 13, he assures them of "the blackness of darkness forever." That's pretty well spelled out, isn't it?
It is in verses 14 and 15 that he describes their doom at the Second Coming.
"Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him'" (Jude 14-15).
Now again we have a quotation from an extra-canonical book; it's the "Book of Enoch." It was not the Word of God but it spoke truly of this point: Jesus Christ is coming back again and He's going to punish unbelievers for their ungodly acts and for the harsh words they have spoken against Him. That's an awesome thought. Jesus Christ is coming again, to punish unbelievers for their ungodly deeds and for their harsh words spoken against Him.
Let me say something in all care and sincerity. You do not need to be a sensual, scheming, false teacher to experience Christ's wrath against sin in that day. In 2 Thessalonians 1, the Apostle Paul says to you who are troubled, "rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). All you have to do is neglect the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God says He will of necessity take vengeance on you when He returns. That is an awesome thought.
We encourage you to acknowledge what the Bible says is true: that every one of us is sinful. You, me, all of us. That Christ died for our sins. There is no hope of eternal salvation other than in His shed blood, His finished work, His sacrifice for our sins on Calvary's cross. When we do, He forgives us and gives us everlasting life. That's obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Won't you trust the Savior?
A Word to Christians
Christian, I have a word to you in closing. You need to be alert to the enemy and know how to defeat him. We're going to study Jude's strategy tonight in our next lesson; I hope you'll be here to find out how to defeat the enemy. But we also need to make it clear whose side we're on. Did you hear me? We need to make it crystal clear whose side we're on.
It's going to be hard to convince anyone you're on God's side if you have some of the distinguishing marks of these enemies of God, these false prophets, like verse 16. Would you look at that one again?
"These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 16).
These are five characteristics of these false prophets who are enemies of God. Yet I know some Christians who might have some of these characteristics. Hey, friend. Whose side are you on, anyway? Let's make it absolutely clear we're on God's side. Let's let the Spirit of God take control of our lives, clean out the works of the flesh, and begin to produce in us the fruit of His Spirit, that we may be effective instruments in God's hand to do His work. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, how we pray that You'll work in our lives, individually and in our assembly. God, make us a power testimony for Jesus Christ, when men and women and young people are willing to stand up for the Savior, whatever the personal cost or sacrifice. Whatever persecution or mocking or scorning we become the object of, God, help us to stand firm for the truth of the Word. We pray that Your Spirit may take control of our lives and bring us into conformity to the image of Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ. In His beauty and in His power, may we go forth by His Spirit to change our world.
Lord, we pray that if there are some unbelievers here today--those who have never trusted Jesus Christ--God, work in their hearts. May in these moments they believe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
While we're in an attitude of prayer and our eyes are closed, shutting out those things around us, and our heads are bowed in submission to God's authority and respect to Him, may I give you the opportunity to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? You heard the gospel--very briefly, but you heard it this morning. It is wrapped up according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3b--"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." That means when He died on that cross He died in your place to pay the penalty for your sins, and He asks you to trust Him. Not to trust yourself and your own good deeds, or your fine, moral, ethical life, but Him and His finished work on the cross. Will you tell Him you're willing to trust Him? Pray something like this in the quiet of your own heart right now:
"Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner and I need forgiveness. Thank You for paying for my forgiveness, for dying for my sins. Lord Jesus, I trust You now. Come into my life and save me."
He'll do it, and you'll be on the winning side by faith in Jesus Christ from this day forward.
Oh, God, we pray that You'll work mightily in human hearts and bring many to the cross of Christ and to our precious Savior for life and light and eternal salvation. In His name we pray. Amen.
Continue to LB-4B: Jude: The Big Battle (Part 2)