Achtung believers!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
Jude 5

The invitation to the Christian faith should come with a warning label. It does, actually. But like the warning tags on your mattress, the warnings of the Christian faith often go unread and unheeded.

The call to follow Jesus is a call to forgiveness, grace, and new and eternal life (John 3:16). But it is also a call to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 2:21), to take up your cross and die with Jesus (Matt 16:24). Salvation is the free gift of God received by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22-24), but you must be willing to give up everything for the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46).

Jude’s short letter is full of warnings to the believing community. He is writing to urge Christians everywhere to contend for the faith, because certain people have crept in unawares, and are twisting the grace of God into sensuality and denying our Lord and Master Jesus Christ (Jude 4).  As I wrote last week, this is a warning that we are to be on guard against those outside influences, and even inward persuasions, that would corrupt or twist the grace of God into licentiousness or lawlessness.

Verses 5-7 continue with these warnings, using a series of analogies to give caution to the Church. In the verse above, Jude looks back to the foundational event of the people of Israel, their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt, as a point of reference for the contemporary Church.

After nearly 500 years of slavery in Egypt, a captivity to darkness and death, God delivered His people by mighty acts of power. Through the 10 plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn throughout all the land, except for those whose homes were marked by the blood of the lamb, God saved His people from captivity. He brought them through the Red Sea, parting the waters that they may walk on dry land. He led them by the cloud by day and the fiery pillar at night. 

(Notice that Jude has a very high Christo-centric view of Salvation: “Jesus, who saved a people out of Egypt…”. Though Jesus is not mentioned in the Exodus story, early Christians clearly saw the eternal Son of God working through the Old Testament. The salvation of the people from Egypt was the work of the Christ; the exodus prefiguring the ultimate salvation that Jesus would secure for God’s elect (in the curse of the first-born and the blood of the lamb that marks those who believe) This is what’s known as the doctrine of inseparable operations: in which every action of God is from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and this is an order that is inherent to God’s triune identity.)

There was not one person among all of Israel who did not know, and would not confess belief in the God who saved them from their enemy. All would have been circumcised (the rite of acceptance into the covenant community). All would have attested to the mighty work of God on their behalf.  All would have been able to profess an orthodox belief.

And yet we are told that the entire generation who were brought out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:16-19; Num 14:20-25). They knew the right things, even had all the correct outward rites, but their faith was not genuine, they did not trust in the Lord, and they would not obey His commands (1 Cor 10:1-5). Though they had been saved from captivity in Egypt, they still came under judgment because of their unbelief.

Do you see what Jude’s doing here? He’s warned the church about those who have snuck in to corrupt the church with false teachings. Now he’s warning believers to examine their hearts. You may know the right things, have gone through all the right ceremonies, even professing outwardly your faith in Jesus Christ. But if that faith is not genuine, if it has no effect on the rest of your life, you are liable to the same threat of destruction that the Israelites faced in the wilderness.

We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and this is not by works so that no man may boast (Eph 2:8-9). But we are also saved for the good works that God has set apart for us from before the beginning of time (Eph 3:10).

Jude will give us no false sense of security. He warns us of a dead orthodoxy: where we hold on to correct doctrine without a change of heart (regeneration) or change of practice, or any demonstration of love for God or one another.  We are saved by faith, and yet even our Westminster Confession describes a saving faith as that which “yields obedience to the commands, trembles at the threatenings, and embraces the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come” (WCF XIV.2).

Beloved, hear and heed the warning from Jude. Guard your hearts, “that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12).

SDG

Beware the Creeper

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

tardis

I have been a long-time fan of the old BBC show “Doctor Who.” For those who are unfamiliar, the titular character is a “Time Lord” who travels through space and time in a blue police call box in order to right cosmic wrongs. When the actor portraying the Doctor leaves the show, the character “regenerates,” allowing the show to continue on indefinitely.  

Back in the 80’s, the show didn’t have much in the way of a budget for special effects, so the production was pretty campy, but the stories were well written and entertaining. Every Saturday night I would watch an episode with my dad just before bed, always left in suspense to see how the story would be resolved the next week.

A few years back the BBC began making new episodes of Doctor Who. The show started with great promise; exciting stories, good writing, and superb special effects – it was great fun. Over time, however, new show runners and writers, all who came with social and political agendas, made the show preachy and unwatchable. Now, the show has morphed so much it looks and feels nothing like the original.  

In my last study from Jude, we considered the call to contend for the faith because it was under attack. In verse 4, we see where this attack was coming from: “Certain people,” Jude says, “have crept in unnoticed… who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

We have no idea who these “certain men” were, but we’ve seen things like this elsewhere in the NT letters.  Paul writes in Galatians about the “circumcision party” who had come to the church preaching a different gospel, which wasn’t even a gospel at all.  In the letters to the churches in Revelation, the Lord speaks of false apostles, Jezebels who promote immorality, and those who follow the teaching of Balaam.  From the very beginning, the threat of false teaching corrupting the church was immanent, and the church must be diligent in defending the faith from corrupting influences.

The warning of “certain persons creeping in unnoticed” must be heeded.  These were people who came into the fellowship of the believers, pretending to share their faith, but with the ultimate purpose of twisting and perverting the faith.  Jude says that they “perverted the grace of our God into sensuality.” When Paul rebuked the “circumcision party” in Galatians, he was confronting a legalistic movement that promoted salvation by works which denied the sufficiency of the work of Christ for our redemption, a gift of grace that we receive by faith alone. What Jude is dealing with here is the extreme opposite. This was an antinomian (“against the law”) movement that taught that once you have the gracious forgiveness of God, everything was permissible. Grace became a license for indulgence, immorality, and sensuality. In perverting God’s grace into licentiousness, these creeper teachers were rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ who calls His disciples to a life of obedience to His commands.

Grace became a license for indulgence, immorality, and sensuality. In perverting God’s grace into licentiousness, these creeper teachers were rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ who calls His disciples to a life of obedience to His commands.

Unfortunately, this pernicious teaching still finds its way into the church today. Mainline denominations (like the PCUSA) allow for the ordination of practicing, unrepentant homosexuals and same-sex marriages, all under the auspices of “grace.” Their primary focus in dealing with these issues is the pursuit of civil rights and social justice rather than faithfulness to the Word of God and obedience to Jesus Christ. There has been such a creeping drift away from the Word of God that what’s left of the church is unrecognizable. Jude’s judgment is just a relevant today as it was back then, the creepers have snuck in and twisted the faith.

But as we take notice of how these corrupt teachings have crept into the larger church, I think it is important that we also be on guard against the creeping in our own hearts.  Have we allowed our own lives to creep away from the truth of God’s Word?  Are we guided and shaped more by philosophies and political movements than by the authority of God’s Word? What informs our worldview? Is our faith and practice ruled by God’s Word, or by what is expedient and quickly profitable? 

Do we indulge in what we know to be sinful, all the while justifying ourselves in our own eyes. “I know that I’m forgiven, and that God will continue to forgive, even this sin that I’m about to do.” Beloved, “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning… (1 John 3:9).  We do not continue to sin so that grace may abound. By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom 6:1-12).

As we contend for the faith, let us beware of the creepers; those who would sneak in to twist and corrupt the faith of the church, and those inward creeping passions of the flesh that would draw us away from our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

SDG