Warnings against godless men – the message of Jude

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

“The Sin and Doom of Godless Men,” and the need to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Most of the letters of the New Testament were written to churches in trouble – and the letter from Jude is no exception. The difference is that in most cases the problem is some kind of wrong teaching leading the church astray. We have seen the heresies exposed in 2 Thessalonians and 2 Corinthians. But Jude is not addressed to a specific church, but to Christians and churches in general. The warnings in Jude are not so much against specific wrong teaching, but against godless people in general. Warnings against people whose false teachings lead the church into sin, into immorality or even into rejecting the Lordship of Christ. “By their fruits will you know them,” Jesus said. And in just 25 verses Jude gives no less than NINE warnings against the dangers of godless men “secretly slipping in” whose errors were revealed by their behavior. And the first is found in verse 5.

5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

1. The unbelieving Israelites

They were people who had been rescued by God from Egypt by passing through the Red Sea, but then rebelled against God during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They committed all kinds of sins, but their underlying problem was simply lack of faith.

1 Corinthians 10 …. our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Matthew Henry comments: “They had miracles in abundance, the parting of the Red Sea, manna for daily bread, water from the rock, the gift of the Ten Commandments, yet even they perished in unbelief. We have much greater advantages than they had; their so fatal error should be our awful warning.” The warning from the unbelieving Israelites who failed to put their trust in God. And the second warning comes in verse 6.

2. The rebellious angels

6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Scholars believe that the letter of Jude was the source for very similar passages found in 2 Peter, partly due to various stylistic details and partly because Jude is the shorter letter. Both have passages which talk about the fall of those angels who sided with Satan and rebelled against God and were thrown out of heaven, which we also read in about Revelation chapter 12. Those rebellious angels were kept in darkness, bound in everlasting chains – what a terrifying picture of God’s eternal judgment on all who rebel against him and lead others astray to do the same.
2Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; ….. 6 ….. and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; ….. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

The sin of rebelling against God’s authority. And Jude and 2 Peter lead on to the third warning.

3. Sodom and Gomorrah

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.

Gen 18:20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Sodom and Gomorrah – bywords for sexual sin and for the fire of God’s judgment on sinners across four thousand years! They are the warning Jude gives to his readers about the dangers of sexual temptation. Then comes the fourth warning, which is easier to understand when we know the background Jude is assuming when he talks about

4. The good example of the archangel Michael

Jude 8 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

There were a number of books called the pseudepigrapha written in the times between the Old and New Testaments. One of them is “The Assumption of Moses” which talks about the Archangel Michael arguing with the devil about the body of Moses. Jude quotes from that book to give a good example to follow, the archangel who showed proper respect for celestial beings. That is in contrast to the behaviour of godless men..

10 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

Speaking abusively. Blind criticism, abuse rather than logical argument – the fourth sin to avoid. Then in verse 11 we have three warnings in just one verse, three well-known names.

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.

5. The way of Cain

Genesis 4:2 Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Instead of offering the sacrifice God was expected, Cain had offered to God what was easiest for him. That made God angry. And then Cain was jealous of his brother Abel so he murdered him. Giving God less than the best he could offer. Jealousy and murder! The bad example of Cain.

6. Balaam’s error

We read in Numbers 16 how Balaam the prophet was summoned by King Balak of the Moabites who tried to bribe him into putting a curse on the Israelites. Balaam was only kept on the straight and narrow by his faithful donkey talking to him and saving him from the Lord’s angel who would otherwise have killed him.

Balaam’s sin was to say what people wanted him to say and do what they wanted him to do just for the money – rather than to deliver God’s messages as a prophet should.
2 Peter 2:15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
As we saw in 2 Corinthians, the lure of wealth and possessions leads many Christian leaders astray. Balaam gives this sixth example from history of a sin to avoid.

7. Korah’s rebellion

Numbers 16 Korah ….. Dathan and Abiram, … became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron. ……
The end result was the earth opened and swallowed up these rebels alive, because, says moses, they treated the Lord with contempt by refusing to respect God’s appointed leaders Moses and Aaron. Disobeying authority – a clear seventh mark of ungodly men.

Ungodly men can slip secretly into the church and do untold damage. Just listen to the powerful images Jude uses to describe these false teachers.
12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm, shepherds who feed only themselves. – instead of the good shepherd who takes care of the flock leading them to feed in green pastures besides still waters, these false shepherds only care about themselves.

They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; in a hot country, which needs water to survive, clouds without rain are a bad thing. Like ungodly men they promise much but don’t deliver anything.

autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. No fruit in the past, uprooted so no hope for the future – twice dead – “as much use as a chocolate teapot!”

13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; as much use as the waves beating on the shore

wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved for ever. Wandering stars – no use for navigation, no use for light,

Jude uses all these dramatic pictures as vivid warnings that false teachers should expect the worst of punishments in this world and the next. That doesn’t meant everyone who teaches by mistake anything that is not exactly true. If that were the case, nobody would ever dare risk teaching anything from the Bible even in Home Groups let alone from the pulpit! But the warning is that all ungodly men who lead others astray to exploit them or profit from them will face the judgment of Almighty God.

Seven warnings from Israel’s history. So many different ways of sinning! So many ways to provoke God’s judgement. Jude uses all of these to describe the false teachers who lead churches astray. And he has two more warnings to come

14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

8. The warning from Enoch

This is a direct quote of a prophecy from another inter-Testamental book called the Book of Enoch which was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It says that God is coming
“To convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way”

Jude spells out their specific sins. 16 These men are grumblers and fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

Grumbling and finding fault. Boasting and flattery. Following their own evil desires rather than doing God’s will. And Jude ends with a warning not from the Old Testament but from the teachings of the apostles.

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 men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

9. The warning from the apostles

A warning against people who cause division in the church, mocking truth and rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. Rejecting God and teaching others to do the same. The book of Proverbs tells us, “The fool says in his heart there is no God” and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Mocking and scoffing are the ninth mark of ungodly men.

What a catalogue of sins to avoid! Unbelief, rebellion against God’s authority, sexual immorality, blind abuse, jealousy and murder, greed for profit, rebelling against God’s chosen leaders, grumbling and finding fault, mocking and scoffing. Nine signs of false teachers as we hold fast to the true faith once and for all delivered to the saints. But Jude also wants to be positive, so he finishes with good examples to follow.

20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith – the challenge to keep on growing, not to stand still but to be built up! If we think we are standing still we are actually slipping backward.

and pray in the Holy Spirit. – prayer led by God, the heart of our relationship with God.

21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. We keep in God’s love by faith and holy living: trust and obey!

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; the call for every Christian to support and encourage each other in the faith, especially those who are having tough times.

23 snatch others from the fire and save them; that is what outreach is all about! When we preach the gospel we aren’t just offering other people a better more fulfilled life – we are rescuing them from a burning building, saving them from certain and eternal death.

to others show mercy, mercy and love and forgiveness to everybody!

mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. We need to take sin seriously – to treat sin like a poisonous snake, not a cream cake “naughty but nice”.

This may all sound very hard. But Jude has some wonderful encouragement for us! It’s ALL GOD’S GRACE. He started his letter by reminding us of who we are as Christians.

1 To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: We are kept by Christ – by a love which will never let us go! Safe in God’s hands! We don’t have to save ourselves – which is just as well because we never could save ourselves. We just trust ourselves to God’s grace. And Jude ends his letter with that same grace.
21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
We arent relying on our own good works or our own righteousness or on our own efforts to stay close to God and to be saved= our hope and our confidence are in God’s almighty power, the One who is able to save from the guttermost to the uttermost!

24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy
God is indeed more than able to keep us from falling!! If we trust in his grace and rely on Him instead of ourselves. Indeed he is able to purify us from all our sins and bring us into his glorious presence! With great joy!! With GREAT joy!

So don’t be put off by all these warnings of ways in which we can be deceived. Don’t be discouraged by the challenges. Instead stand firm in your faith! God can and God WILL keep you safe in his love.

24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen.

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