The Epistle of Jude may be one of the most neglected New Testament books. Bible readers are tempted – in part by its brevity and in part by its similarity to 2 Peter 2 – to skip over Jude on the way to Revelation, or to give this short epistle little more than a glance.
This is unfortunate, because Jude speaks volumes about the value of Christian apologetics. The Last Apologist is more than a verse-by-verse commentary. Each chapter explores key words and phrases, and poses thought-provoking questions that make this a handy resource for personal or group study.
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In Jude 20-23, the writer addresses three groups of people: doubters, deceived, and departed. The text reads:
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.
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).
In the epistle of Jude, the author describes certain false teachers as “merely natural, not having the Spirit” (v. 19). He seems to be stating plainly that these professing Christians are unbelievers. How can he make such a judgment?
Doesn’t Jesus say, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matt. 7:1)? Isn’t God the only one who may rightly search the hearts of people (Jer. 17:10)?
How can Jude possibly know that these interlopers are lost? Isn’t it possible they are merely deceived, or backslidden?
First, we should note that Jude describes these particular false teachers as “natural.” Literally, this means “animal-souled” and stands in contrast with “spiritual,” or “having the Spirit.” The apostle Paul describes the unbeliever as a “natural man” who “does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14).
Clearly, Jude and Paul are depicting people outside the kingdom of God. Jude’s use of the term psuchikos – soulish, sensual, animal-souled – describes them in sensual rather than spiritual terms.
As John MacArthur puts it, “His [Jude’s] materialistic description exposed them for who they really were – religious terrorists who lacked such internal qualities as a proper self-perception, the ability to reason, and a true knowledge of God. Even though the false teachers claimed a transcendental understanding of God, they did not know Him at all.”
Recently, we completed our verse-by-verse study of the Epistle of Jude. If you missed any part of the study, you may begin here.
For complete copies of the book, including a study of key words and a listing of questions for personal or group study, you may order print or Kindle copies from Amazon, or order online from the Missouri Baptist Convention.
If you’d like a free copy of the study in PDF format, you may download the file here.
Coming soon: Chapter-by-chapter excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation.
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 last half of Chapter 16: Doxology: To the Only God Our Savior.
Previously: To the Only God Our Savior
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)
Jude ends his epistle with a wonderful four-part doxology, or word of praise. To “the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Jude offers:
Glory– the sum total of all that God is and does. The word “glory” captures all the divine attributes in their radiance. The Greek word doxa, from which we get “glory,” means honor; renown; an especially divine quality; the unspoken manifestation of God; splendor. We see this in Yahweh in the Old Testament. In the desert, the Lord provides a place in the crevice of a rock for Moses, and covers His servant with His hand to protect him from the certain death that results when sinful humans see God’s glorious face (Ex. 33:20-23).
Such glory belongs only to God (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). However, in the New Testament, we see divine glory as an attribute of Jesus – an attribute He shared with the Father before the creation of the world (John 17:5). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus shows Peter, James, and John his glory. His face shines like the sun, and even His clothes become as white as light (Matt. 17:1-8). The writer of Hebrews notes this about Jesus, “He is the radiance of His [God’s] glory, the exact expression of His nature …” (Heb. 1:3a).