The Epistle of Jude
The Epistle of Jude is one that is very rarely considered amongst us; possibly because it deals with a rather depressing theme the uprise of heretical teachers in the House of God, and the divisions which have developed as a result of their teaching. It was written, as far as we gather, about AD66 when the state of things foretold by Paul in Acts 20:28-32 had developed.
Jude opens his epistle by describing himself as the slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James. If Jude was the brother of James the Lord’s brother it shows a remarkable change of attitude to the one evidenced in Nazareth when his brother said of Jesus “he is beside himself’. He addresses those who are sanctified or set apart by God the Father through belief of the Truth and are preserved for Jesus Christ for his coming, called to God’s Kingdom and Glory. In v2 he wishes mercy unto them by forgiveness of sins—and peace as a consequence—and also that the love therefore of the Father and Jesus be multiplied unto them. In v3 he speaks of writing to them of the common salvation.
Paul to Titus 1:4 also speaks of the common faith. By this, Brethren and Sisters, we think we can understand that there was an understood set of principles current in the early Church which was accepted as being a definition of The Gospel. A Belief in these principles was common to all the believers. This seems to give point to his following words in v3 “it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. therefore those set apart by God the Father. The faith was delivered to the early Ecclesia once for all, and nothing needs to be added to it. The Solemn responsibility of the “set apart” is to contend earnestly for it that it may not be lost as a result of the situation developing like Jude mentioned in v4
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This class of teaching brethren were those first mentioned in Acts 15:1. These were the Judaizers who taught that justification by faith was not sufficient, but that it was needful to keep the Law of Moses as well and be circumcised. The effect of their teaching was a denial of the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus as a Sacrifice for sin. For if justification could come by the works of the Law, Christ had died in vain, and their teaching was a denial of him as the Christ. Justification by works of the law ruled out any need for a saviour. The apostle Paul devotes the whole of the epistle to the Galatians to combating these false brethren. In Gal 6:12 he gives the underlying motive for their false teaching, but outward conformity to the Mosaic Law they hope to escape from Jewish persecutions; also Gal 4:16-17.
These false brethren in their teaching were a fatal obstacle to the Apostles, their whole work was undermined, for if justification to life eternal could be obtained by the works of the law, then the sacrifice of Jesus as the Christ was superfluous: there was no need to have faith in him and his atoning work. He had died in vain. The tendency of sinful men is ever to depart from the living God and seek salvation by works instead of taking hold of God’s righteousness in their acknowledging of their worthiness to die, apart from His sovereign grace. The trouble which started in the Ecclesia as recorded in Acts 15 by the time Jude wrote his epistle had become serious, so serious as to warrant the very strong condemnation implied in his following words v 14-15:
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15).
These words of Jude are revealing. as they show as that the return of Jesus Christ to the earth was understood by the saints so early as in Enoch’s day, the 7th from Adam. It seems to suggest that the 1st principles of the Truth were understood from the beginning far more clearly than we are inclined to believe. Jude tells us therefore, brethren and sisters, that there is a judgement for all heretical teachers and leaders of division in the Ecclesia of God from the beginning, at the coming of the Lord Jesus.
Apostasy from the Truth shall not always continue. This thought is a comfort to us in these days when we think of those who have arisen amongst us and drawn away disciples after them to the forming of division. Jude in verse 4 having spoken of their condemnation goes on to give examples of this class of teachers and leaders in the history of the Ecclesia of God in the Wilderness. In verse 5 he speaks of the generation who being bought out of Egypt by the Lord believed not the words of Caleb and Joshua concerning the Land but that of the 10 spies, and murmured and complained. There carcasses perished in the wilderness as God said.
Then Jude in verse 6 cites the incident of Korah, Dathan and Abiram mentioned in Numbers 16:1-3. Here was a division based on the desire for the pre-eminence, as we gather from the words of Moses v9-10 . We know their dreadful end in verse 29-33 . Compare Jude’s words of “everlasting chains under darkness” being the fate of the angels, and we clearly see who he was speaking of Korah & Co’s evil speaking against such dignities as Moses & Aaron. The heretical teachers in Paul’s day also spoke disrespectfully of the Apostles. We se the same tendency in our day when brethren in their pride speak contemptuously of such dignities as our bro. John Thomas, Robert Roberts, or other old brethren. The same tendency of the flesh in desiring pre-eminence is manifest. The deprecating of the character or work of another is very often indulged in by those who want themselves and their work exalted.
Passing to verse 9, we get an illusion to an incident upon which their has been difference of judgement amongst us:
“yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9)*
In our judgement, brethren and sisters, there is no need to lift it out of it’s context, which is concerning the incidents in the wilderness. We think it applies to Balaam and his controversy with the Angel of the Lord recorded in Num 22:33-34. We are told definitely in Daniel 10:13-21 that Michael was the Angel deputed to care for Israel. Balaam was undoubtedly an adversary to Israel who were all baptised into him (Moses) in the cloud and in the sea (I Cor. 10) and therefore were his body.
[note: Jude 9 is a direct quotation from Zechariah 3:1-2. However, that does not rule out an additional allusion to Balaam, as Brother Williams suggests—CAM]
The disputation (between Michael and the Devil) occurs we think in Numbers 22:33-35. The words of the Angel “the Lord rebuke thee” do not occur here, but this was doubtless the contention Jude speaks of. Here is a lesson for ourselves, brethren and sisters, not to bring a railing accusation against each other at any time. It is not for us who also have sins to manifest such a spirit.
Jude tells us in verse 11 that Balaam’s perverseness was due to his covetousness. For the sake of gain he was willing to slay the people of God. We know his end: he was slain with the sword. But he will surely rise to have his dreadful prophecy of his own latter end fulfilled Num 24:17: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh” – when the Lord will come in Jude’s words “to execute judgement upon all”.
These three incidents of the wilderness journey seem to embody the motives behind all the false teaching which arises in the household of God. Envy of faithful men, desire for pre-eminence, desire for gain etc. Now we want to remember, brethren and Sisters, that these men Jude speaks of brethren in the same covenant with God as we are. They principally if not entirely arose among the speaking brethren whose duty it was to feed the flock of God with the word of Truth. Jude speaks of them in v12 as being present at the Breaking of Bread in fellowship:
“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear” (Jude 12).
Though speaking brethren they were destitute of a sound knowledge of the word of God; clouds without water carried about with every wind of doctrine, Their exhortations and lectures were corrupt and destitute of true instruction whether to those within or without, and consequently were a means of leading others astray. Imbibing such doctrines as the immortality of the soul, salvation by works only, or by faith only, a Christ who was immaculate; and so forth, they gradually undermined the influence and the authority of the Apostles, until in Jude’s day they had become an influence in the church which caused Paul to say “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;” 2 Tim 1:15.
As Jude tells us in verse 18-19 they separated themselves causing divisions by reason of those who followed after their pernicious teaching. It is hard to understand, Brethren and Sisters, how they that had the gifts of the Spirit as overseers of the Ecclesia’s could have become corrupt in their teaching—but they did as Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 informs us.
The “angel of light” was the spirit endowed eldership, among who false teachers had arisen. Thus the Truth brethren and sisters, became corrupted through the prominent brethren whose duty it was to teach it and contend earnestly for it. These separatists Jude said were sensual; having not the Spirit and thus has been the characteristics of false teachers, and causers of division ever since then to our day. Thus every effusion of the Spirit’s teaching from the beginning has been corrupted. The Lord has raised up faithful men able to teach others whose work has continued unto he third and fourth generation, then apostasy has set in, and the Truth clouded with human speculation and philosophy, ending in darkness.
But Jude in verse 20 goes on to speak of the possibility of keeping oneself from the evil influence of false teaching. Here he exhorts the believers to build up themselves on their most holy faith therefore by the Word of God from which the faith comes. Paul gives the same council in Acts 20:32 when speaking of false teachers: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
The great defence against error is our study of the Oracles of God, as the words and writings of men, even of brethren may lead us astray, but the Bible never will.
This, with the other counsel of Jude, prayer, will keep ourselves looking for the Mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Then in verse 22, Jude goes on to speak of some who though espousing false teaching were more deceived than wilful perverters of the Truth. Verses 22-23 read:
“And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh”
The perverse corrupt teaching of heretical teachers with swelling words, words always influence some in the Brotherhood who are no sufficiently grounded and settled in the Word of God. such are deceived by good words and fair speeches and form part of division in good faith. Jude exhorts that such should be treated with compassion rather than the severe condemnation meted out to wilful perverters of the truth. The men who follow are an example. The knew nothing of conspiracy. Jude’s allusion to the garment spotted by the flesh may have some reference to Leprosy in the garment mentioned in Lev 14.
Jude’s Epistle, brethren and sisters, contains much instruction for us in these last days as we have entered into that perilous time of which Paul speaks that men therefore will not endure sound doctrine. There are those prominent in the Brotherhood whose public teaching is getting unsound, much could be said in this connection. It may be we, brethren and sisters, shall have the painful experience of seeing those we perhaps have esteemed as exponents of the Word in Faith and practice become corrupt. The phraseology of the statement for reunion with S.S. is not free from great swelling words which deceived. A consideration of Jude will help us to be prepared for a similar development in our own day. The great thing for us all is to have a sound understanding of the word of God that we be not deceived by subtle arguments and reasoning’s. Jude closes with the ascription of praise to the only one who can preserve us to his Heavenly Kingdom verses 24,25.