Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Preached: June 27, 2010
I have included in your bulletin a little book mark you can keep in your Bible with all of the books in the Bible and how they are organized. I will be spending the next several weeks on the letters that were written to general believers everywhere.
Whenever I start a series, I like to give you as much observational information as I can first, so I hope you will find this as interesting as I did. First of all the book of James was not written by the apostle James, but James the half brother of Jesus. Jude was also another half brother of Jesus. More about this later.
The apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter, but from the beginning there has always been a dispute whether 2 Peter was actually written by Peter. 2 Peter was the last book to be added to the cannon because of the controversy over who the writer was. The style is a little different than 1 Peter and the theme parallels the book of Jude closely. Many scholars think that Jude actually wrote 2 Peter, and thought it should be called 2 Jude, but the author and title are really irrelevant. They are not God breathed and flawless just like the chapter and verse markings are not flawless or a part of God’s perfect Word.
Then there are the 3 books of the apostle John, which are not contested at all and Hebrews which no one can say for certain who wrote it. Some think it might be Paul, and others a disciple of Paul’s, but no one knows for sure.
As I read through the content of these books, and considered the information about the writers, I have decided to do them in a different order than the Bible has them. We will start with Jude and then go to 2 Peter since the themes are so similar. Then we will do 1 Peter, the 3 Johns, and finally James. I reserve the right to change this plan as I get more deeply into the books. I do not plan to do the book of Hebrews in this series.
So lets take a look at the little book of Jude today. It is the last book before Revelation. It is very short with only 25 verses and no chapters. It covers the pitfalls and barriers that deceivers put in the way of living the Christian life but more importantly, it also gives wise instruction about how to continue in the faith and how to behave in the face of adversity. This book was written to instruct believers how to live out their Christian lives.
So, if we are to be instructed by this book, we first must be good learners. In fact our whole lives are spent learning and growing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in
2 Cor 10:15 Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow , our area of activity among you will greatly expand.
We are to be a learning church. As a learning church, Paul is saying here that the faith of believers should grow to the point that he no longer has to spend as much time with them so that he can do what he was called to do which is expand and tell more people.
A learning church learns to stand together and depend more on Christ and less on an individual leader like Paul. Christ must increase and the leaders must decrease. I hope you will understand that I have both family and friends who I know I will see in heaven that are Catholic. So please take this the way it is intended. As you mature in your faith, you no longer need a Pope (or a mini-Pope) to interpret and apply the Bible for you. This is made very clear.
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk , not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk , being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil
We need to be growing and maturing and learning every day. Indeed there are some very old babies in the church who do not know how to take instruction and actually LEARN from it. We need to not just be hearers of the Word, but we need to really learn from it.
I would like us to consider ourselves over the next several weeks as The Learning Church. We never stop learning about our faith. Just about the time you think you have your faith figured out and nailed down, another new test comes along you haven’t seen before. Or sometimes it is that same old test that we struggle with every time!
So with all that preparatory explanation, lets actually start to dig into the book of Jude and see what instruction he has for us to learn from today. Please open your Bibles to Jude.
If you don’t own a Bible of your own, talk to me and I will make sure you get one. At some point, it is a good idea for everyone to save up your money and invest in a good study Bible with a concordance and commentary to help you along. As a diligent learner, that would be one of the most valuable investments you will make in your life.
1:1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.
The first verse tells us that it is written by Jude who calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. This is interesting because we know that James was Jesus brother which means that Jude was also Jesus brother but he did not use that family connection as something to boast about. Being Jesus servant is what should be boasted about. James and Jude were really only half brothers to Jesus because they all had the same mother, but Jesus’ Father was God in Heaven.
The first verse also tells us that this book is written to real authentic believers. Not the ones who were imitation believers. The main point is, “do not be taken in by imitation believers”. This book is written to those who have been “called”. Those who have heard the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts and minds and have accepted the call by giving their lives in exchange for His. This book is written to those who are called, and who are loved by God, and who are kept by Jesus Christ. Let’s pick up in verse 3 and 4 of Jude.
Jude 3-4 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Let’ stop there for now. Almost every commentary I read on Jude highlighted verse 3 as the key verse of the book. Especially the phrase “contend for the faith”. We who are true believers cannot say, “I could-a been a contender” because if we are believers in the Lord, we ARE contenders. We continually contend for the faith. What does it mean to contend for the faith?
This word that is translated “contend” is the only time this word is used in the entire Bible. It is a Greek word. It was used in that day as a contender in the Greek Olympic games. One who is to go up against competitors. It implies that there are those who want to take the prize away from us. It is compelling us to train up, prepare for, struggle to win against the opponent.
Don’t be surprised that there are those who would try to take away your prize or those who try to corrupt the grace we have received. Why shouldn’t we be surprised?
Because the Word of God tells us all through the scriptures that there will be those who will slip in among us that will try to entice us away from the simple message that Jesus is Sovereign and He is Lord.
Paul told the elders from Ephesus in
Acts 20: 29-31
29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. (pretending to be Christian, but not living like it) Have nothing to do with them.
Does this mean we stop loving them? No, we love the sinner, but not the sin. Does this mean we shun them and never talk to them? We will see in a few minutes that Jude tells us not to ignore them, but to try to lead them away from their certain eternal destruction, and then instructs us how to do that in a loving way.
So, we contend for our faith because, like the believers Jude is writing to, there are those who take the message of God’s grace and change it into a license for immorality which was NEVER meant to be.
The next verses in 5 – 16 describe how to recognize these imposters and how dangerous they really are. But it also warns that we are NOT to directly engage the evil spirits that that have polluted them. Sometimes we hear preachers rebuke Satan directly, but not even the archangel Michael dared to do that as we see in verse 9. Our hope and protection is from God through the Holy Spirit given to us by Jesus Christ.
So, yes, we are to contend and strain and battle for our faith because we do have an opponent among us. The key question I have though is this: How do we protect ourselves from such people? How can we guard ourselves from such teachings? What can we do to ensure that we are found on the side of the truth? What are we to do when it is detected that false teaching and belief and all manners of perversity and sin has crept into our midst?
Well Jude does not leave us without instruction. I am going to read the answer to this important instructions he gives us, but I am also going to leave the explanation of it as a cliffhanger for next week. There is much to be said about this passage that we can not get all in one sitting. According to the experts, your brains are now full and need to digest what you have heard before you can take any more.
The answer to our key question is verses 20 – 23.
Jude 20-23 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to read the whole book of Jude, but meditate and think deeply on verses 20 – 23. Let’s become The Learning Church.
Please stand with me as we pray.
Jude 24-25 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.