A Study of Jude
The Face of Danger: A Call to Battle for the Faith (Jude 3-4)
“Spiritual terrorists and saboteurs within the church pose a far more serious threat than manifestly hostile forces on the outside. From the very start of the Church age, all the most spiritually deadly onslaughts against the gospel have come from people who pretended to be Christians—not from atheists and agnostics on the outside.” ~ J. MacArthur
Atypical of first-century letters, Jude omits the thanksgiving after the initial salutation and greeting and immediately moves to the reason for his writing. The purpose for his penning this letter was a call for Christians to maintain the truth of the faith in the midst of false teaching and the ungodliness plaguing the church. The urgency of this message is seen in the fact that Jude had initially planned on writing about their salvation, but he abandons this topic to address this new and serious threat to the readers. Gravely concerned, Jude charters this new course as he seeks to assist his readers as they persevere in their faith.
II. A Call to Battle for the Faith
A. What is this Faith?
v. 3 – The reference to “faith” encompasses far more than trusting God. Rather, the term speaks to the traditional teachings of the church. “The substance of apostolic faith, this body of doctrine, is complete and must govern the meaning of the terms in which doctrine is defined and discussed” (David Allen, “Contending for the Faith: Jude 3-4,” SJT 58.1, 13).
Orthodoxy is vital to the church. At the end of the day, one’s morals will reflect one’s doctrine (2 John 9).
B. Who Must Battle for This Faith?
The following descriptors clearly indicate that believers are responsible for battling for this faith. Note the following:
- They are referred to as “beloved.” This term is used throughout the New Testament to refer to members of the Church (see 2 Peter 3:1, 8, 14, 17; 1 John 2:7).
- They are recipients of the traditions of the apostles. “Tradition” is often viewed as a set of practices and beliefs that are outdated, irrelevant, and narrow-minded. Scripture, on the other hand, presents “traditions” as that which are sound, practical, and invaluable. These teachings are for our benefit and growth (see 1 Tim 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). As one writer observes, “Jude’s language about the Fatih is highly dogmatic, highly orthodox, highly zealous . . . men who used such phrases believed passionately in a creed” (C. Bigg, The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, 325).
Jude’s reference “to once for all” indicates that no supplements or corrections will be tolerated.
- They are called to be contenders for that which was entrusted to them. The term “contend” is a strong term used of athletes and soldiers (see Eph 6:12; 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:7).
C. Why is There a Battle for This Faith?
The answer to this question is simple but alarming—false teachers are in the assembly! Jesus, along with other New Testament writers, understood the danger of false teachers (e.g., Col 2:4-5; 2 Tim 4:3; 2 Peter 2:1; 3:4).
Jude describes these “men” as follows:
- Subtle men. Their true character and motives are hidden as they infiltrate the camp. Some scholars believe this phrase and the reference to “certain men” are disparaging references to these intruders (e.g., T. Schreiner, 1, 2, Peter, Jude, 436).
Ironically, their strategy follows Satan’s playbook. All the way back to Genesis 3, we see Satan using subtle tactics to counterfeit truth.
- Condemned long ago. Scholars debate when exactly they were condemned. However, it appears that the false teachers’ condemnation was from a variety of sources. One commentator writes, “He [Jude] makes his case by citing from the Old Testament (vv. 5-8, 11), from Jewish traditions (vv. 9, 14-16), and from the teaching of the apostles (vv. 17-18)” (Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 230).
The reasons for their judgment stems from their ungodliness, licentiousness, and denial of Jesus’ lordship.
- Godless individuals. The term “godless” speaks of one without religion or one who fails to worship (Rom 4:5; 5:6; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Peter 2:5-6). As one scholar notes, the term is used of irreverence in an ethical sense “not theoretical atheism, but practical godlessness” (Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 38).
- Immoral. Under the so-called banner of grace, the false teachers excuse any penalty for sin. They abuse the freedoms that stem from our association with Christ to fulfill their own sinful desires. This particular term for “immorality” often denotes sexual sin (see 2 Cor 12:21; Eph 4:19)—a topic Jude mentions several times in his epistle (vv. 8, 16, 18, 23).
- Deniers of Jesus as Sovereign Lord. Based upon this epistle, it would seem that their denial is of Christ’s demand for obedience and his lordship over their lives. As noted by Paul in Titus 1:6: “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.” This Christological title speaks to Jesus’ divinity.
A. As for followers of Christ, we need to be excited about the truth. Every Christian must be a biblically-educated theologian.
2 Timothy 2:14-15 –
B. Our Gospel cannot be divorced from the holiness of God.
2 Timothy 4:2-5 –
“Divorced from the holiness of God, sin is merely self-defeating behavior or a breach in etiquette . . . Divorced from the holiness of God, our gospel becomes indistinguishable from any of a host of alternative self-help doctrines. Divorced from the holiness of God, our public morality is reduced to little more than an accumulation of trade-offs between competing private interests.” ~ David Wells, No Place for Truth, 300
For further thought . . .
Based upon our study this morning, I invite you to spend some additional time this week reflecting on the following:
We must remember that there will be disagreements within the Body of Christ concerning secondary matters (e.g., certain eschatological events). These secondary areas do not make one a heretic. Rather, it is the core doctrines that form orthodoxy. In these matters, there is no room for debate. What core beliefs are vital for the Church? In other words, which doctrines are non-negotiable for those professing to be Christ-followers? As you think through this list, we must remember to contend for the faith in love and grace.
- Here is a suggested list to think through:
- Inerrancy and Inspiration of Scripture.
- A Literal Adam and Eve.
- The Sinful Nature of Humanity.
- The Deity of Christ.
- The Virgin Birth.
- The Sinless Life of Christ.
- Substitutionary Atonement (e.g., Christ as the only means of salvation via His work at the cross.).
- A Literal, Bodily Resurrection of Christ.
- A Literal Second Coming.
- An Eternal Heaven and Hell.