Tagged: Epistle of Jude

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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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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The Divisions False Teachers Create

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 second half of Chapter 14.

Previously: Merely Natural: Scoffers Without the Spirit

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But you, dear friends, remember the words foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” These people create divisions and are merely natural, not having the Spirit. (Jude 17-19 HCSB)

Jude writes that false teachers “create divisions” (v. 19). The Greek word apodiorizo refers not only to divisions, but to the motives behind them and the results they produce. The term means “to make a distinction.” It describes these interlopers as ones who present themselves as superior to other leaders in the church. Marvin Vincent, the Presbyterian minister best known for his Word Studies in the New Testament, writes that these false teachers “draw a line through the Church and set off one part from another.”

In this regard, they are like the Pharisees, lovers of money who, while listening to Jesus, are “scoffing at Him” (Luke 16:14). Jesus tells them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight” (v. 15).

The religious leaders demonstrate hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing another. Jesus tells the crowds not to do what the scribes and Pharisees do because “they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people” (Matt. 23:3b-7).

Finally, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day concoct their own twisted view of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus warns His disciples to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” meaning their false teaching (Matt. 16:6, 11-12).
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Merely Natural: Scoffers Without the Spirit

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 Chapter 12: Wild Waves and Wandering Stars: The Doom of False Teachers.

Previously: Look! The Lord Comes: The Prophecy of Enoch

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But you, dear friends, remember the words foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” These people create divisions and are merely natural, not having the Spirit. (Jude 17-19 HCSB)

William MacLeod Raine (1871 – 1954) was a newspaper man and author of a number of western adventure novels. In a feature about Dodge City, Kansas, Raine wrote that practical jokes fueled the city’s “good spirits” in the late 19thcentury – and the wilder the joke, the better.

Enter “Mysterious Dave,” also known as Dave Mathers, one of the nastiest characters to walk the sawdust trail. Raine called him “the worst of bad men and a notorious scoffer.”

It so happened that an evangelist known as Brother Johnson came to town and led a series of meetings so successful that the crowds outgrew the church and adjourned to a local dance hall, thus attracting Mysterious Dave. He listened to Brother Johnson preach several times, admiring the evangelist’s fiery sermons against sin. Perhaps, the preacher thought, there was hope for this Dodge City scoundrel.

So, Brother Johnson preached directly at Dave, leveraging the full weight of his message against the sinner’s stubborn resistance. And then it happened. Dave buried his head in his hands and sobbed. The preacher boldly exclaimed that he was willing to die if he could convert this one vile sinner. The deacons in the congregation agreed that they, too, would not resist going straight to heaven if Mysterious Dave were converted.

At last Dave rose to his feet and said, “I’ve got yore company, friends. Now, while we’re all saved I reckon we better start straight for heaven. First off, the preacher; then the deacons; me last.” Dave pulled out his “whoppin’ big gun” and started shooting.

The preacher dove through a window to avoid the gunfire. His deacons scattered in search of cover. Raine concluded, “Seemed like they was willin’ to postpone taking that ticket to heaven. After that they never did worry any more about Dave’s soul.”

Notorious scoffers like Dave Mathers eventually reveal their true character. They are incorrigible and unrepentant. At some point, people may fairly conclude that they have passed the point of no return. Nothing successfully prompts a change in their behavior because their character is fully corrupted.

But scoffers in the Old West are nothing new. First-century false teachers honed the art of ridicule long before the first brigands rode into Dodge City. Jude reminds his readers that the apostles warned us of such people. We should be on guard but not surprised.
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Principles of Biblical Interpretation

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 middle portion of Chapter 8: Principles of Biblical Interpretation.

Previously: Kept With Eternal Chains: When Angels Desert

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In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as they did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)

As we wrestle with the identity of Jude’s angels, it may help to consider some basic principles for interpreting Scripture. Biblical hermeneutics is “the science and art of understanding, translating, and explaining the meaning of the Scripture text,” according to Wayne McDill, author of 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching. In 2 Tim. 2:15, Paul commands Timothy to engage in hermeneutics: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

McDill offers seven principles for “rightly dividing” (KJV) the Word of God:

(1) Identify the kind of literature your text is for insight into its meaning.

Bible scholars call this the genre of the text. Is the text law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, prophecy, apocalyptic, or something else? All genres are not created equal when it comes to conveying divine revelation. Carefully discerning the genre of a passage, or an entire book, is key to understanding. The genre of Jude is that of an epistle – a letter written to a general or specific audience conveying greetings and instruction.

(2) Consider the context of the passage for a better understanding of its meaning. What is the historical setting of the passage? Who is the intended audience? What are the social, political, and religious situations that the Holy Spirit and the human author seek to address? Jude likely is written in the mid 60s A.D., when Israel is about to experience God’s wrath at the hands of the Romans, and when the early church is on the cusp of great dangers from false teachers.

(3) Read the text for its plain and obvious meaning. “A common and persistent myth about the Bible is that its real meaning is hidden behind the surface message,” writes McDill. “Even though the Bible uses symbolic or figurative language, most of it is clear to the reader. Even when you do not know about the people, places, and events in question, you can grasp the point of the text.” While Jude alludes to apocryphal books and employs graphic images to describe the lifestyles of false teachers, his message is plain to the reader: Now is the time to take a stand for the Christian faith.

(4) Try to discern the writer’s intentions when he wrote the text. Luke, for example, tells us he has “carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed” (Luke 1:3-4). In the case of Jude, the author makes it clear that he intends to warn his readers about false teachers who have infiltrated the church, and to spur them to earnestly contend for the faith.

(5) Look carefully at the language of the text for what it reveals about its meaning. The words of the text are all we have of the writer’s thoughts, says McDill. If he hadn’t written it down, we wouldn’t know what he was thinking. So we should carefully examine the author’s words and phrases, and how he constructs his message. Jude uses strong language to characterize false teachers. It may help if we study these terms in the original language using lexicons and word-study books. In addition, Jude often organizes his thoughts in groups of three. For example, in calling his readers to remember how God judges the wicked, he lists three lessons from history: unbelieving Israelites, fallen angels, and the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.

(6) Notice the various theological themes in the text. Though a text generally has one intended meaning, it can have a number of significant theological themes – and a variety of applications. When Jude writes about false teachers denying their only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (v. 4), we might draw from this the urgency of knowing sound doctrine concerning the person and work of the Messiah.

(7) Always take a God-centered perspective for interpreting your text. The “theological interpretation” arises from the assumption that the Bible is really God’s means of making Himself known to us, notes McGill. What it says about Him always is central to every text. “The Bible was not given by God to tell us about ancient religious people and how we should all try to be like them,” he writes. “It was given to tell us about the faithful God whom they either served or denied. Their response is not the central message; God’s will and his involvement with his creation are. Even texts that give instructions as to how we should behave reveal something about God.” Jude’s epistle, while warning of false teachers and calling believers to contend for the faith, ultimately points to a sovereign God who is holy, loving, faithful, and just.

Next: Eternal chains in darkness