The little epistle of Jude: Three different takes

Wellington, a pastor friend, and I were having lunch.  I asked what he was preaching the following Sunday.

“Jude,” he said, “and it’s worrying me to death!”

I laughed. “Why?”

He said, “I’m doing a series through some of the shortest–and most overlooked–books of the Bible. I’ve done Philemon and II and III John, and so, locked myself in to do Jude this Sunday. I’m really having trouble finding a hold on it.”

Since I had not read Jude lately, my memory of what that book-of-one-chapter contained was fuzzy, so I had little assistance to offer him. What I said was, “As I recall, Jude quotes from the Apocrypha.”

Wellington said, “That’s what’s got me. I don’t know what to do with that.”

The Apocrypha is the name given to the books between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the Catholic Bible.  Protestants do not consider these writings as authoritative primarily because the Jews didn’t either.

In vs. 9, Jude refers to a small book titled “The Assumption of Moses.” In vs. 14 he does the same from the apocryphal book of I Enoch.

Now, referring to these books is not the same as endorsing them. The Protestant world agrees that these do not belong in the New Testament.

I said to him, “When I get back to the office, I’ll read through Jude and let you know if I have anything worth sharing.”

Within the hour, two things happened. One, I e-mailed him my take on Jude. And a few minutes after that, another pastor, Millington, came by my office to visit. He said, “I spoke at a Bible study luncheon today. Guess what I spoke on–Jude!”

That kind of coincidence is too unlikely for it not to have been of the Lord. I don’t know anyone who has preached on Jude in the last year. And here are two preachers within an hour of each other doing it.

So, here are three emails.  First, the one I sent Wellington. Second, the one I sent him an hour later giving the gist of Millington’s message. And three, the one Wellington emailed me Sunday morning telling what he planned to do in the sermon.

First: My email to Wellington–

“Here is my quick take on it. Jude is bracketed almost like a parenthesis by statements about the faith, i.e.,the truth revealed by God.

–Vs 3 “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” DEFEND THE FAITH

–Vs. 20 “but you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God….”DEEPEN YOURSELF IN THE FAITH

In between, Jude speaks of the attacks upon this holy faith. (Incidentally, Santa Fe means “holy faith.” Worthless information, but it occurred to me.)

Too many people devote themselves to defending the faith but not enough to deepening themselves in the faith. In their fightings and debates over doctrine and texts, they do not act like Christians.

My one suggestion about preparing for this, Wellington, is not to spend too many hours reading commentaries. Read two or three, but then lay them aside and spend the bulk of your time reading the text and reflecting on it.”

Second: My email to Wellington about Millington’s take on Jude

My friend Millington spoke on Jude at a luncheon today. Here is his outline–

–the urgency of contending for the faith. vs 3

–vs. 4 The people who had perverted the gospel had slipped in unnoticed. There were not immediately obvious.

–what we believe determines how we behave. A perversion of the gospel causes problems in the church

–vs 12-13 the descriptions of these people. There are 5 analogies from nature.

1) hidden reefs (Millington believes that’s the best translation of the word in this context.) These are people with a hidden agenda which you can’t see; they cause shipwrecks. They’re always looking out for themselves.

2) clouds without water. Carried about by winds. Look promising but are of little value. They join the church and we get all excited. But then the wind blows them to another church within a year.

3) dead fruitless trees. IN the church (orchard) but they never do anything.

4) raging waves. They stir up trouble. They love controversy. Faultfinders.

5) wandering stars. They chase after the latest fads. Lead people astray.

Then, Millington says, he came back and asked, “What kind of person are you? What kind of church member are you?” GOD HAS DESIGNED US TO BE–

charted reefs. To be right where we’re supposed to be, dependable. Your pastor knows he can always count on you. He never wonders on Sunday morning if you’re going to be at church or not. It’s a given.

water-laden clouds. Should provide spiritual nourishment for people. Every Sunday there are broken, hurting, ruined lives in church. Do they seek you out because you shower grace upon them?

fruit-bearing trees. Productive.

calm waves. Some stir up trouble, but some bring calm and peace into a room. Do not explode, their emotions do not guide them.

–fixed stars. Others can set their courses by them. The pastor points them out to a new believer and says, “Watch how this man lives.” The immature believer can come to him/her and say, “I saw this preacher on TV. Is what he said right?”

We are united in the gospel.

When your pastor has been with you for a while and now he gets in his car to leave, does he say, “O God, thank you for letting me be his pastor”? or does he say, “O God, what will I do with that?”

Third: The email in which Wellington tells me what he plans to do with the message. He began, “As of 7:45 am, here is my plan. If the Lord doesn’t change my mind by 10:45…”

Outline–

Defend Your Faith — vs. 3

Don’t be Devoured by the Faithless — vs 5-19

Deepen Your Faith — vs. 20

Just as throughout history (as Jude shares in these verses) there are always people trying to lead you in the wrong direction. Their teaching and actions are filled with error. We must be aware of the truth of God’s message in order to not be devoured by faithless people who, though acting spiritual, are attempting to take us down the wrong path. You must be so grounded in the truth that the error of their way becomes obvious. Recognizing these errors causes you to deepen your faith….

I’m planning to talk about some specific things we’ve been doing in our church to help people deepen their faith.

Thanks for all your help!

Keepers from Jude…

In preparation for writing this for the blog, I reviewed Jude again and noticed several “keeper” verses that no doubt have kept God’s people returning to this tiny epistle through the centuries….

Verse 3 of course, “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Note this shuts down the heresy of a continuing revelation. This faith is complete! There is a once-and-for-all quality about it. See Hebrews 9.)

Verses 17-18 “Remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that , ‘In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’” (And where does he get this? From Second Peter 3:3, an exact quote. Fascinating.)

Verses 22-23 “Have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire, and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Old-time preachers used to refer to evangelism as “snatching a brand from the burning,” a reference to this text.

Verses 24-25, the wonderful benediction–

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (vs. 24-25)

That one is as good as it gets.

Michael Green wrote about Jude….

Michael Green, respected British scholar, in his commentary* on Jude, refers to “the letter Jude did not write and the one he did.” In verse 3, Jude clearly says he had intended to write a document on the salvation we all share, but ended up writing something entirely different.

Green says, “He was driven to snatch up his pen by the news of a dangerous heresy. Instead of a pastoral letter, he found himself writing a broadsheet.” (Broadsheet is a Britishism for what we might call a flyer, a hastily printed poster that gets out an urgent message.)

What I called Jude’s benediction, Green calls his doxology. He writes, “It is a dangerous thing to live for Christ in an atmosphere of false teaching and seductive morals. It is a hazardous thing to try to rescue men for the gospel out of such an environment. If you get too near the fire, it will burn you; if you get too near the garment stained by the flesh, it will defile you. Is withdrawal the answer, then? No. Advance against the forces of evil, face the dangers involved, so long as you are strong in the Lord’s might. Such is the thrust, and the context, of Jude’s final verses.”

*I recommend Green’s commentary, part of the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series.

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