Warning to Save Lives

“…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, ESV)

A few years back there was an advertising campaign to help prevent texting and driving.  Below is one of the videos. Watch with care, the images are terrifying: 

Commercials like these come as a dire warning.  The dangers of distracted driving are real and deadly; the NTHSA reports that in 2018, distracted driving was the cause of 2,841 deaths. Still, I am tempted to pull out my phone while driving and check my texts, and I am appalled at how many times I see others driving while staring at their phone.

This is the kind of message that Jude is giving here in Jude 7. In verses 5-7, Jude gives a series of 3 warnings to those who would “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4).” In the first warning, we read of the Israelites, who though they had been delivered from Egypt persisted in unbelief and were destroyed in the wilderness. Next we read of the angelic beings who left their positions of authority and are now being kept in chains awaiting the judgment of the great day. Finally, today we are reminded of the awesome judgment brought down upon Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what awaits those who persist in sin and ungodliness.

Let us be clear: the Bible explicitly condemns the practice of homosexuality (Lev 18:22, 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Ti 1:9-11), and this is seen most vividly in the wrath of God poured out on Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities in Genesis 19. In that story, we read that while Lot brought the angels into his home, the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house demanding he send out the two men so that they may “know” them. In Hebrew, “to know” someone suggested sexual intimacy (Gen 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…”). While sexual sin was not the only sin for which these cities were punished (Ezekiel 16:19 tells us they were also punished for their pride, gluttony, and disregard for the poor), we can be certain that sexual immorality is what Sodom and Gomorrah would be remembered for through the ages. The message of God’s Word is consistent: God has created us male and female, and our lives are to bring him glory, even in our relationships with one another.  The practice of homosexuality is a sin in that it does not conform to God’s law for our lives.

And let us remember, Christ Jesus came to save sinners.  All who come to him in faith, trusting in His righteousness, resting in His completed work of redemption in His death and resurrection, will know forgiveness and peace with God. Jesus is able to save from every sin, and to break the power of sin in our lives.

But if we only focus on the sexual immorality associated with Sodom and Gomorrah when hearing Jude’s warning, we’ve missed the picture entirely. It would be like watching the video and saying to yourself “Well, they didn’t say anything about drinking and driving, so that must be okay now.” 

Certainly Jude is warning the church against the ongoing practice of sexual immorality, this is the sensuality at mind in verse 4. It is likely that the false teachers who were twisting the grace of God were saying that because you have grace, you can sin all the more because it’s all been forgiven.  But the purpose of Jude’s warning is to remind us that those who persist in sin will come under judgement. You cannot play with fire and not expect to be burned, you cannot abide in sin and claim to have seen and known the Lord (1 John 3:5).

I read recently that warnings are one of the means by which God helps to preserve His people. He tells us of the dangers of sins, and gives us examples (the unbelieving Israelites, the fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah) to keep us from falling into sin. Let us not be like those who would persist in ungodliness, or like those who would encourage others in their sin (Rom 1:32), nor like those who sit in self-righteous condemnation of others (Rom 2:1). But let us heed the warnings and trust in the grace of God in Jesus Christ for our salvation, listening to and obeying the voice of our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ as he leads us in the way of righteousness.

SDG

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