To The Only God Our Savior

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the beginning of Chapter 16: Doxology: To the Only God Our Savior.

Previously: Under the Spell of False Teachers

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Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25 HCSB)

The epistle of Jude is rich with graphic imagery and stark warnings. It is an urgent message, a wake-up call to the saints, imploring them to wrestle vigorously in defense of the core doctrines that define the Christian faith.

False teachers have crept into the church. They are ungodly, promiscuous, arrogant, immoral, disrespectful, blasphemous, beastly, selfish, fearless, grumbling, flattering, scoffing, and devoid of the Spirit. Their judgment has been marked out long ago. They have passed the point of no return. Their goal is to take as many people as possible to hell with them in a stretch limousine.

Israel’s history shows that their ilk goes down for the count beneath the judgment of God, yet they persist in their wickedness. They are dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves of the sea, and wandering stars.

It seems overwhelming to contend with such foes. Equally frightening is the nagging fear that no doubt runs through the minds of Jude’s readers, including us: If the apostates were immersed in Christianity and still walked away, could the same thing happen to us? And then, the unthinkable: Did they lose their salvation – and could we?

But Jude’s warning comes with an ironclad guarantee. Yes, God judges the wicked, but He also remains faithful to His own. And, in the end, He keeps them secure. No one is able to pry them from His loving arms.
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Incarnational heresies

This is the sixth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Six key passages on the Incarnation.

As we complete our examination of the Incarnation – the eternal Son of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – it’s important to identify a number of heretical views that have plagued the church throughout its history. Some of these heresies effectively have been countered, while others continue to rear their ugly heads and cause people who sincerely seek the truth to embrace “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).

In God Among Sages, Kenneth Samples highlights eight historical heresies with respect to the Incarnation.

Docetism. This was an early form of Gnosticism, a heresy that threatened the fledgling church throughout its first three centuries. Docetism advanced a type of dualism, expressing the belief that spirit is good and matter is evil.

Docetists argued that Jesus only appeared to be human. In fact, their name comes from the Greek word dokeo, which means “to seem.” They asserted that Jesus had a “phantom-like body.”

Docetism denied the true humanity of Jesus, which undermined the reality of His death on the cross, burial, and physical resurrection – all necessary elements in the gospel message. The apostle John countered Docetism head-on in 1 John 4:1-3.
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Under the spell of false teachers

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the end of Chapter 15: But You, Dear Friends: Hating the Garment Defiled By the Flesh

Previously: But You, Dear Friends

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But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.(Jude 20-23 HCSB)

Now that we have built a protective perimeter around our hearts by shoring up our doctrinal infrastructure, praying in the Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God, and waiting eagerly for the return of Christ (vv. 20-21), Jude instructs us to rescue those under the spell of false teachers.

Specifically, he addresses three groups of people: doubters, deceived, and departed. As John MacArthur writes, “Those who pose the greatest threat to the church also constitute part of its mission field.” We must do more than erect a defensive wall around us. Like those who have put on the full armor of God, we must engage in battle against “the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12).

The doubters

The first group of people Jude addresses consists of those who doubt. That is, they are not able to discern between true doctrine and false doctrine. These may be the same folks Peter describes as “unstable people” that prove to be easy marks for false teachers (2 Peter 2:14). Likely, the doubters are immature believers who are not well-grounded in the faith, although Jude also could be describing unbelievers who are being drawn to Christ, but who must contend with the obstacles of false doctrine. Jude hints that false teachers also prey on disgruntled church members because the false teachers themselves are “discontented grumblers” (v. 16).

False teachers are clever. Often attractive, articulate, and persuasive, they profess to speak for God – even using Scripture and biblical terms – yet they deny the central beliefs of historical Christianity. How can someone seeking the truth, whether an unbeliever or an immature Christian, tell the difference between true doctrine and false doctrine? This is the front line of battle where Jude has challenged us to be, contending for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all (v. 3).
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Subordination and Scripture

This is the fifth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Six key passages on the Incarnation

In the previous column, we examined six key passages of Scripture that help us understand the Incarnation – the eternal Son of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Bible is clear that Jesus is one person with two distinct, but undivided, natures: human and divine. This means, at least in part, that by adding sinless humanity to His deity, Jesus did not become less than co-equal with the other members of the Trinity.

At the same time, we must address several verses of Scripture that seem to say Jesus is a lesser being than God. Those who promote this false view of Jesus, and who use these Scriptures to support their position, are known as “ontological subordinationists.”

These are people who believe that Jesus is less than God by nature of who He is. Rather than the eternal Son of God, Jesus either is a created being, a lesser god, or both.

This should not be confused with “relational subordination,” a biblically faithful position also known as “economic subordination.” According to this view, the three persons of the Godhead are equal in nature, but they voluntarily submit to each other respecting the roles they play in creation and salvation.

We should embrace relational subordination and reject ontological subordination.

Counterfeit Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) reject Christ’s deity, along with the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead, they believe Jesus is subordinate in nature or essence to the Father. JWs insist that Jesus is the first of Jehovah’s creations, Michael the archangel.
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But You, Dear Friends

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the first half of Chapter 15: But You, Dear Friends: Hating the Garment Defiled by the Flesh.

Previously: The Divisions False Teachers Create

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But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (Jude 20-23 HCSB)

Fans of the phenomenally popular sit-com Seinfeld may recall the episode that first aired April 15, 1993. “The Smelly Car” revolves around a parking valet’s excessive body odor, which attaches itself to the interior of Jerry’s BMW. The malignant scent clings to Jerry’s clothing, and it lingers in Elaine’s hair, ruining her romantic life.

Exasperated, Jerry tells his friend Kramer, “Don’t you see what’s happening here? It’s attached itself to me! It’s alive! … This is not just an odor – you need a priest to get rid of this thing!”

Determined to get satisfaction, Jerry drives back to the restaurant where the valet soiled his car and demands that the maître d’ pay for detailing. When the maître d’ refuses, Jerry locks him in the car until, overcome by the stench, he relents. Jerry has the car thoroughly cleaned, but to no avail; the B.O. remains. So, he tries returning the car, but the dealership won’t take it back due to the invasive stench.

At last, Jerry drives into a rough neighborhood, leaves the car unlocked, and sets the keys in plain sight. At this point, he just wants to be rid of the vehicle at any cost. A young thief waits for Jerry to walk away, then seizes the opportunity to take the BMW for a joyride. Once inside the befouled car, he changes his mind.

Co-writer Peter Melhman reportedly got the idea for the episode from the real-life experience of a friend.

It’s not uncommon to find ourselves in situations where flop sweat, the smoke of burning trash, or a run-in with a skunk produces a malodorous companion to our hair and clothing, attracting unwanted attention and requiring a thorough remedy. The polluting effects of soiled garments are in Jude’s mind when he writes the final verses of his epistle, for he warns his readers to beware of the collateral damage done by those engaged in ungodly behavior. He instructs followers of Jesus to “have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (v. 23).

Fortunately, the One who is able to make us “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy” (v. 24), is the same One who walks through a Babylonian furnace with three Hebrew men and delivers them safely without so much as a hint of smoke on their clothing.
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