Part 1 in a series on the book of Jude
I have been drawn back to the book of Jude because of things I see occurring in the church in America. We cannot be caught by surprise at the presence of evil in our churches, and in our fellowships. Jesus told us that would happen, and Jude writes because he was compelled to discuss the many ways that evil people have crept in among the believers. I want to spend several posts examining the book of Jude, the concept of Apostasy and the hunger for holiness, godlyness and freedom in Christ. It is with that goal that i offer these articles as a clarification, and perhaps because in my life it has been a wake up call to live a holy life, seeking God daily, moment by moment. I pray you will see God’s word as deep truth, and you too will join in asking God to protect his people, and build his church free of apostacy, error, slander and greed.
Jesus warned us over and over that the church would be filled with believers and unbelievers alike.
In Matthew 13 we learn that some are wheat- healthy, solid, good; and some are rates- simulations, copies, knock-offs of the real thing. To a point they look alike…but at some place in time the difference begins to show. The wheat forms heads of grain- the tires form something but there is no grain, no substance, nothing fruitful. Yet the tares are the big fake out – looking like and growing along side the true ones, only visible when the fruit should be visible. No grain produced, no purpose except to take up valuable farmland, soil nutrients, and crowd out the good. Consider how this is played out in churches everywhere.
And then there is the book of Jude which challenges true Christ followers to earnestly contend for the faith because there are deceptive apostates that have come in among us. Let’s read Jude’s words:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:3-4 NIV)
So let’s pull some points from this passage:
- Jude is compelled to write about contending for the faith. Contending speaks of a challenge, a debate, a polished understanding of the subject. Contending is used of soldiers guarding the city who are prepared and have great strategy and planning for how they will protect and defend their post.
- Jude reminds Christ followers that faith was given once and for all. Faith is something given once to every believer, but it is something that must be worked on, given attention to. It was a gift to every believer.
- Jude reminds believers that faith was entrusted to God’s holy people. The word entrusted means to be put into someone’s care. This faith is more than a gift – it is a sacred trust from God to his people, to be handled rightly, protected, guarded.
So we know that faith is a gift that has been entrusted or placed in our care by God. Verse 4 furnishes the reasons for why we are to earnestly contend for the faith… it is because of the tares, the false ones, the apostates.
Look out at the church, especially the comfortable church in America and you will begin to see how the defense of the gospel is diminishing, and the invasion of ungodly people is coming. Lets continue to look at what Jude tells us about these people:
- Certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago – God was not surprised by the presence of falsehood, of tares. He was not taken by surprise, but instead warned of this centuries before, speaking through the profits. Condemnation is a very harsh word – it is a noun that means “the action of condemning someone to a punishment; sentencing”. The actions and choices these people have made are already condemned, judged, worthy of punishment. The language indicates these deeds have been accounted for by God….
- These individuals have slipped in among you – they live, breath, move and act among the believers. They influence, deceive, redirect, thwart the work of God for their own purposes and devices. They have slipped in – secretly, quietly, almost without notice they have joined us.
This brings me to a thought about how easy it is to influence one another, and how easily we can be encouraged or discouraged in our faith. As believers we need community – a safe group of fellow believers that can hold us accountable, and visa versa. But the people Jude is speaking of buck the idea of accountability. They prefer instead to build influence by lies, deception, and exhorting peep pressure. I must say that of late i have been asking the Lord to filter my thoughts, and give me discernment and wisdom to be a positive influence to other believers. I am also praying that God would give me discernment to see the truth in situations and people that appear to be not preaching and living their faith as the Bible prescribes. So lets continue looking at Jude to see how these people are described:
- Ungodly people – Literally the translation means “people not of God”. How they live, what they do, say and think will be evident and apparent. They live in patterns that God does not approve, or is not the best choice.
- who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality – This is the fruit of their life. These ungodly people alter truth, using their altered perception for their own purposes and those purposes are not moral. Simply put, they justify their sin with God’s word. Pervert – to alter something with a sharply negative intention, to mar or damage what was whole. There is a contrast between grace of God and license for sin…. how opposite to each other, and what a great benchmark for determining a situation. God will always extend grace – granting us favor that is not earned, giving us blessing though we deserve hell itself. And God’s grace is pure, whole, right and good. But these other people choose to damage that truth, take from God’s free gift and extend instead damage, pain, injury, all for the sake of advancing their own plan or goal. How unsettling that is!
- They deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.- How can you miss the truth that Jesus Christ is the ruler and king over all – he was the creator, and he is the one who handles every aspect of life. These people choose to deny this truth, living as though God does not exist. They live for their own goals with self as center of life.
It is for these warnings that God has put in place the office of Elders. Elders are intended to be the shephards of the flock on earth, watching over the body of believers, protecting them from harm, alarm and deception. It is a sacred office, a responsibility that should never be entered into lightly. Scriptures are careful to lay out the qualities elders should have, the qualifications for the office. And while i have spent several posts discussing these qualities, and how important they are to the body lets consider them in light of Jude’s announcement that tares or false teachers will live among us.
Elders should be knowledgable and well studied in the scripture – why? because error can begin with subtle changes in truth. Like a counterfeit piece of currency examined by a bank teller, the changes are subtle, but the tell knows what to look for – specific marks, watermarks, etc. When they are not there, or they are altered the currency is counterfeit. Likewise, a little error can lead to big error, and should be examined and corrected quickly before it has a chance to grow and take root.
Elders should be leaders – Scripture tells us they should be the husband of one wife, having their children and home in order. Leadership starts with a good home life…. when that is good the elder has demonstrated that he has a leadership ability and is capable to influence for good those he loves.
Elders should be courageous – Standing for truth requires discernment, diplomacy and the courage to speak truth to situations that are wrong. Elders should be unbiased, not easily influenced by one person or another. They should be reflecting the values of Christ to the congregation.
Elders should be accountable for their lives and faith to trustworthy brothers in the faith. Accountability speaks of bearing one’s soul, being totally honest, and seeking counsel for living. We all need community, and we need each other to remain strong, stand firm and live rightly.
When elders are not leaders, not strong in their faith, or are easily influenced by others who are not living rightly it is very dangerous for the flock of God. The majority of God’s people look for and need the strength of leaders to protect them, defend the faith, and make certain that the church is a place of safety and protection for God’s people. When elders become self serving or greedy the protection and grace of God are not present. And the sheep stumble.\
When elders choose to have no courage they open the door for deception, error, and greater problems. And it all goes back to a church that is rightly governed versus a church that is not.
Lord, we need you now more than ever to flood our churches with your spirit. We need you to call your leaders out and strengthen them for service, granting them great insight into your word, and wisdom to recognize truth from error. We need you to raise up strong leaders with hearts fully yielded to you. You have told us we do not have because we do not ask. So we are asking – May you build your church, and not permit the gates of hell to prevail against the church. May you call out the error of those who refuse to see error, or refuse to lead, and may you call them to step down from their neglected office. We ask you to pour out your spirit on us, and give us deep insight into your word, and discernment for how to deal with those who are not believers. We ask that you tear down anyone who has placed themself in a leadership role without your wisdom and insight. And Please heal those who have been hurt or injured by false people. I claim the promise that you are triumphant over hell and the grave, and I thank you that you are all powerful and there is not anyone Amen