Reading Plan – Day 2
A Little Bad Affects the Whole Batch
The body of Christ, the church, isn’t immune to failure from within or attacks from the outside. Sometimes the church thrives and experiences an Acts 2:42-47 kind of fellowship and growth. During those times, there is a lot of excitement and spiritual and physical growth is evident. People are coming to Christ and the church is healthy and whole.
At other times it seems like the church is hemorrhaging on the inside. The church sometimes goes through periods of time where it is bleeding uncontrollably. Sometimes it is because of leadership failure and sin. At other times, people who appear to be a part of the church, are destroying the church by bringing in destructive influences.
The Apostle Paul had a little phrase that he used to describe the destructive effects of such people. He said, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (1 Corinthians 5:6, Galatians 5:9). He used this phrase to point out the effects of unrepentant sin and or false teaching in the church. It ruins everything if it isn’t rooted out. Like yeast, in a batch of dough, it grows and affects everything.
Jude is writing for the same reasons. In this situation, individuals have “secretly slipped in” and are affecting the whole church (Jude 3). Jude describes them as “godless men,” who embrace “immorality,” and “deny Jesus Christ” (verse 4).
Jude’s references the Old Testament to illustrate the fate of these individuals. There are three examples from the Old Testament and then a third example that is surprisingly not found in the Bible.
His first reference is to the Exodus. The last part of Genesis and then Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua all contain parts of the story of God’s people, redeemed from slavery in Egypt. You might be wondering why it takes so much of the Old Testament to tell the story but remember there are over 400 years of history packed into God’s work among Israel and her redemption from slavery in Egypt.
Jude references God’s salvation for Israel from slavery. But Jude also reminds his readers that God punished a whole generation of people. We know that those punished “grumbled against” Moses and Aaron. At one people these people were even planning on stoning Moses and Aaron. They were threatening to go back to Egypt (Numbers 14). Had God not intervened, Moses and Aaron would have been stoned and the people enslaved again. When God intervened, he also pronounced judgment on an entire generation of men who lead the revolt. Not one of them would see the promised land. They had seen the miracles God performed in Egypt and yet they still resisted God. So, they would die in the desert on the journey to the promised land. The only exceptions were Caleb and Joshua, both of whom trusted God unfailingly.
Jude’s second example is the angels of heaven who voluntarily abandoned their home in heaven and revolted against God. Peter also refers to these angels whom God punished. (2 Peter 2:4). Both Jude and Peter remind their readers that the angels are waiting for their final judgment because of their sin. They both use the angels as an example for us. The point: God does not overlook our unrepentant or purposeful sin.
Jude’s last Old Testament example is Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7). He reminds his readers of Sodom and Gomorrah’s sexual immorality and perversion. Today people have tried to pass off Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin as a lack of hospitality and violence, but Jude tells us that these were more likely a byproduct of the sexual immorality and perversion. Genesis 19 tells us about the depravity of these cities. Genesis said that the “men young and old” surround the house and demanded Lot release his guests so they could have sex with them. You can go back and read the story, but suffice it to say that God’s punishment was immediate. Few of the judgments in scripture were as extensive as Sodom and Gomorrah’s. While prohibitions against sexual immorality are spread throughout scripture these cities represent immorality without any inhibition and thus were judged without reserve. This example is also a reminder of God’s holiness. God’s forgiveness is abundant, and his grace is lavish. At the same time, God is holy, and the death of Jesus came at a great cost. We cannot expect that Jesus’s death gives us the permission to indulge in sin without consequence.
One More Example
Jude’s last example isn’t found in scripture but was likely known to his readers. The story that Jude refers to comes from extra-biblical literature from the first century. No surviving copies exist but the early church father Origen tells us that the story comes from the Ascension of Moses. Jude’s use of this story doesn’t mean that he was saying that the story is inspired and true. Instead, it is something familiar to the readers that he can use to make his point.
Already in this short letter, we have learned that these individuals pervert the grace of God, practice immorality, and deny Christ (Jude 4). Jude now adds their “dreams” which they claim to have and which they use to justify their sin, “reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings (Jude 8). It’s likely they were claiming to have received special knowledge from angels in their dreams thus Jude’s statement about abusing celestial beings. Jude’s story of the Devil and the archangel Michael arguing over the body of Moses is an illustration Jude uses. Again, it’s not in the Bible, but it is well known to his readers. There is a similar scene in Zachariah 3:1-5. Jude is arguing here that anyone who claims to have authority over celestial beings is a liar and slanderer. Any dealings with angels (fallen or not) are done based on the authority of the Lord God, not on one’s own authority. Jude’s opponents are claiming authority and yet without “understanding” (Jude 10).
This is a rather simple and rather complicated passage all at the same time. It’s simple in that Jude’s message is clear; those who secretly slip in and begin to teach false things and immorality will face the judgment of God.
At the same time, the circumstances are complicated. Whoever these people are they are claiming through their dreams things they then use to reject authority—likely pastoral authority and the authority of scripture itself (verse 8). Extreme sexual immorality and perversion are also being justified.
Our circumstances may not be exactly the same, however, it seems today that people are continuously using outside sources (different than dreams, but not totally dissimilar) to reject Biblical authority. In addition, any pastor or Christian leader who points out the sexual immorality will quite likely be called intolerant, hate-filled, and similar to a racist.
We should expect external conflict with culture. More alarming is the internal conflict that is now occurring. Even in the church immorality is being accepted. Have people “secretly slipped in” (Jude 4)? It would seem that Jude’s warning is extremely relevant today and thus the need to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Contending for the faith seems to be something that we do inside the church first and with vigilance. Contending for the faith outside of the church looks a lot more like loving evangelism.
- What has today’s reading taught you and how are you responding in your heart?
- In what ways have you accepted sin over the authority of the Bible?
- How does Jude’s description of his readers resonate in your heart (called, loved, and kept in Christ—Jude 1)?
Consider writing down a key verse or verses from today on an index card or small piece of paper and carry it with you today. Look at it as often as you can as a reminder of what you learned today.
Possible Verse: Jude 5