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

Contend for the Faith

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3, ESV)

Just recently my family completed a Quarantine Movie Marathon of the Marvel Avengers movies.  It was fun to watch the stories from beginning to end (at least the end for now) and to see how everything came together over 20+ movies. I love the “Avengers assemble,” line at the end, when all the heroes come together for the last great battle.

That got me to thinking about other great “battle-cry” scenes from the movies, like the great speech from William Wallace in Braveheart:

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

There’s always the classic, “win one for the Gipper” speech in the Knute Rockne movie, or even the timeless Shakespearean St. Cripsen Day rally, 

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Here in Jude’s letter is a rally-cry of sorts, for in our reading today, Jude is calling the Beloved in Christ to contend for the faith. This wasn’t the original intent of his letter; he set out to write about “our common salvation.” By “common” Jude doesn’t mean ordinary, rather, the salvation that we share in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps his letter would have echoed Paul’s messages in 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 2:11-22.

Instead, Jude finds it necessary to appeal to the Church to contend for the faith. We’ll read later why this call is necessary (“certain people have crept in… who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality…), but for now it is important to establish what it means to “contend for the faith.”

The Greek word that Jude uses here is the root of our English “agonize.”  It is the same word used of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, where we read of Jesus sweating blood as He wrestled with God’s will (Luke 22:44). “The Gospel is under attack,” Jude is saying, therefore we must defend its purity, strive for the practice of faith, and stand firm in it. This is a call to action, the rally cry, summoning all who are in Christ to contend for the faith.

But how do we do that?  

I think the key is found in how Jude describes the faith for which we are to contend.  It is the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  

The Christian faith is a delivered faith. Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).  Contending for the faith begins by knowing the faith by studying the scriptures. We study God’s Word in order that we may know the truth of God and live according to that truth. We are to surround ourselves with good teachers who will help us to grow in our knowledge of the faith. We are to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). The first way we contend for the faith is by being firmly fixed, deeply rooted, in it.

The Christian faith is also an established faith.  The faith is given to us from God “once and for all.”  The doctrines of the Christian faith are essential and unchanging.  They are fixed before all time, and have been entrusted to us, the saints.  Our understanding may change, but the eternal truths of God do not change, nor should we try to change them.  You either believe in the Faith or you don’t. In Rich Mullins’ song “Creed,” he sings of the faith, 

I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am 
I did not make it, no it is making me 
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man

We come to the faith to be shaped by it, reformed by it, to find life in it.  We do not defend the faith by changing it, but by being changed by it.

Finally, the Christian faith is a contended faith. We’ll see later the kind of challenges the Saints were facing, but for now it is enough to know that when you stand for faith in Jesus Christ, you must, by necessity, stand against that which opposes the Christ. I had a college professor say, “If you won’t stand against something, you probably don’t stand for anything.” You cannot be for Christ and also be for that which is against him.  You cannot be for Christ and have everyone be for you.  We are to contend for the faith, therefore by necessity we must stand against that which would destroy the faith. 

Beloved, let us hear the rally cry as well, and take up the cause of contending for the faith. May we hear and receive it, be established in it, and stand for the faith entrusted to us.

SDG