Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Reading Through the Letter of Jude

ILetters Wright am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the Third Letter of John, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. Jude's letter is written to alert his readers to the danger of false teachers in the church. He reminds them that God knows how to judge those who reject the faith and how to preserve and protect those who hold on to the truth. Thus, his readers must recognize that there are people in the church who are trying to destroy the faith, and prepare themselves to rescue the church from them appropriately in God's strength. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

His greeting shows why defending the faith is so important. Believers are “slaves” of Jesus Christ, called into and kept in the faith by the love of God, and, thus, need the continuing work of God in their lives. His message is urgent because because false teachers have infiltrated the church to corrupt and destroy it. These teachers are ungodly, immoral people who deny the Deity and authority of Christ, despite pretending to believe. Good leaders must defend the faith because God has entrusted us with the special revelation of God contained in scripture and those who deny it will be condemned.

Find people who today are saying that God loves everyone exactly as they are, so everyone must stay exactly as they are, doing all the things they want to do, because God is so full of generosity that obviously he wants them to do that. Find such people, and you’ve found those of whom Judah is writing. 196, Jude 1-4

The main body of the letter presents examples of apostasy from the past as warnings of the danger of rejecting the truth. These rebels from the past lack submission to God and practice overreaching, abusive authority. They are seductive dangers that do not deliver what they promise and will be severely judged for their prideful words and deeds. Thus, Christians need to be able to recognize false teachers so that they can oppose them and avoid their judgment.

But the reality of false teaching, especially the rejection of authority, the denial of the uniqueness of Jesus, and the encouragement of sexual immorality, is with us today every bit as much as it was in the first century. We take a deep sigh for sorrow, and pray that Jesus the Messiah will indeed keep us safe. Part of the answer to that prayer will be that we have been alerted to the problem, so when it appears again, as it surely will, we will be able to recognize it for what it is. 202, Jude 5-16

This dark letter closes with a hopeful ending. Believers must remember that this was predicted and God is in control of the situation, and then take appropriate action to defend God's people from false teachers. Church leaders must take preemptive action to keep people in the faith by building each other up, praying, and focusing on the hope of the return of Christ. They must help those being deceived by mercifully confronting them with their errors and leading them back to the truth in a way that exposes the error but loves the deceived person. We can be hopeful, because God is the one who will ultimately preserve the truth, grow believers into maturity and keep believers safe in judgment. Thus, we can confidently fulfill our responsibility to preserve the truth of the Word and pass it on to the next generation.

The letter has had much to say about defilement, and the whole tone has been gloomy as a result. Looking into the murky pit of human wickedness is always like that. The alternative to the licentious and Jesus-denying teaching of the infiltrators isn’t, though, a gloomy, kill-joy religion. The very opposite! It is about glory, about purity, about glad and thrilling celebration. This, after all, is what we were made for. 206, Jude 17-25

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