A Lesson from Jude — Part One
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A Lesson from Jude — Part One

Jude 1:1–4  (ID: 3598)

In his epistle, Jude sounded a wakeup call to a sleeping church. The real danger, Alistair Begg explains, is not the world outside the fold of God’s people but individuals inside it who pervert God’s love and grace into sensuality and license. Jude couldn’t sit idly by as the flock was destroyed, and so he boldly responded, urging them to awaken and contend for the faith. The Gospel calls sinners to come as we are—but never to stay that way.

Series Containing This Sermon

Basics 2023

Faithful Servants, Foolish Message, Fearful World Selected Scriptures Series ID: 23521

Sermon Transcript: Print

All right. Turn to Jude, please—arguably the most neglected letter in the Bible. I’m going to read the whole chapter, although we won’t deal with it all, and then we’ll sing and turn to the Scriptures.

The letter of Jude:

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

“May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

“It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time[s] there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory 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.”

Well, like you, I’ve been greatly encouraged by the addresses that we’ve received from Colin and from Hershael. And I was struck by the fact that they had paid careful attention to the framework of the conference that we had outlined by these three phrases, which I couldn’t remember what they were. And so this morning, I went and asked one of our team, “What is this conference about? What are those three things?” Because I had given my book away, and so I didn’t have it in there as well. So, it’s about a fearful world and a foolish message and faithful servants. So I said, “Okay, so somehow I’ve got to make these opening verses of Jude fit that.”

So, what happens when the church has nothing to say to a fearful world because the church has suffered a loss of confidence in the message which the world regards as feeble and futile and largely irrelevant, and thus the servants of that gospel are confronted with the very real danger of being found faithless rather than faithful?

I come to this this morning out of a series that we have begun in Jude. I don’t feel that I have managed to get to the heart of what it’s all about as yet, and as our good friend Dick Lucas tells us, you know, you need to preach something two or three times to fully understand it. And so, hopefully I and we will be the beneficiaries of it as we look at it now.

In every generation, it is vital to recognize the threat, to heed the warning, and to keep the faith.

Last week, I had the privilege of being in the UK. And as I traveled on the Tube in London, I was reminded of the way in which the British Transport Police continue to sound an alarm and an alert for all on public transport. You’re just seated—some of you have experienced this—and suddenly the recording comes on, and it says, “See it. Say it. Sorted.” “See it. Say it. Sorted.” And if you’re a visitor from somewhere else, you say, “I don’t have a clue what that is about.” And what it is actually about is a concern on the part of the transport authorities and the Transport Police in particular to encourage passengers to look out in case there is anything of danger that confronts them. The subwarning is “Please remain vigilant for anything that seems out of place or unusual.” That’s the whole point. If you see it, say something about it, and then the promise is that the British transport authorities are going to sort it, if they ever show up.

It’s perfectly understandable, because safety and security are a matter of constant concern. The issues of our world are almost preoccupied with it, whether it is cybersecurity, the security of our children, the fact that even as you’ve been arriving here, the police are represented on the property. And that is true on a daily basis when the school is meeting here in our building. Because at Parkside, we are equally concerned to see that no one seeking to harm or cause harm is able to creep in unnoticed.

And it is that very issue, you will see in verse 4, that Jude is concerned about. Because he’s telling us, telling his readers, that this has actually taken place. He’s also honest enough to say that he’d been planning a different kind of letter but that he had changed his tack, feeling compelled to say something. Now, I take it that Jude follows 2 Peter; that Paul is probably dead; Peter may be; John is somewhere in Asia, but he’s inaccessible. And so Jude finds himself in a position where he’s saying, “You know, if I don’t write something about this now, I don’t know if anybody will.” It’s not that he’s excited about it. It’s not that he likes to point things out that are wrong. It’s certainly not that he has a spirit of contentiousness but rather under a sense of compulsion.

And the urgency of it was relevant in his day, and it is relevant in every day where the church of Jesus Christ, living in a kingdom that is “this world” kingdom, declaring values of a kingdom in which Jesus is the King, an eternal kingdom, so pressed upon by the surrounding and alien environment, if they are not absolutely convinced of the eternal verities of God’s revelation, may find themselves desperately in need of this warning. In every generation, it is vital to recognize the threat, to heed the warning, and to keep the faith.

Now, Jude is a good pastor. He’s a faithful pastor. And in his opening statement, you will notice that he encourages those whom he refers to a number of times throughout his letter as his “beloved” ones. And I’ve noted, actually, that my colleagues have used that terminology in addressing you. And it is right that that should be the case.

Jude—we don’t need to spend a long time on it—introduces himself as the writer. All of the commentators who don’t believe the Bible want to tell us that he’s a fiction, he invented this, and so on. You have to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy to make stuff up like that. He is clearly a servant of Jesus Christ, and he’s the brother of James. There is only one Jude in the New Testament who has a brother called James, and you can read of that in Matthew chapter 13.[1] I take it that his name is shortened in this way in order that he would be distinguished from the disciple who denied Jesus.

And so he identifies himself on two fronts—first, by his family relationship with James, who would lead the church in Jerusalem and who gave to us his little letter of five chapters. I think it’s interesting (I wonder: Do you?) that if as he is identified as the brother of James, that means that he was also the half-brother of Jesus. Now, let’s be honest: If you were the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of James, what would you lead with? Would you get introduced at the conference, “I’m the brother of James”? Big deal. “Oh, well, I’m the half-brother of Jesus.” No, “I am a brother of James, and I am a servant of Jesus.” The familial relationship with James is secondary to the spiritual relationship which he enjoys with Jesus.

We know from the Gospels, don’t we, that the disciples did not believe in Jesus? His own brothers did not believe in Jesus. John chapter 7. He was in Galilee and moving around, but he couldn’t go into Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him. And John says, “And incidentally, even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t actually believe in him at all.”[2] It’s only after the resurrection that Jude would declare Jesus as his Lord and Master.

One of the commentators makes just a very simple point, but it’s important: “No-one is too privileged to be exempt from the need to be converted.”[3] No one’s too privileged—neither Jude as Jesus’ half-brother nor Mary as the mother of Jesus. No one is so privileged as to bypass the need for conversion.

Now, he is writing to his readership, and he identifies them not by names—we don’t know who they are—not by who they are, not even by where they are, but actually by what they are. Jude is one of the General Epistles. There are seven of them. They’re not written to a specific individual or to a certain place. Kenneth Taylor in his Living Bible, when he paraphrases this, helpfully says, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and … brother of James. To: Christians everywhere.”[4]To: Christians everywhere.” It has an expansive influence. There are specific individuals that he has in mind and to whom he is writing, because the specifics of the letter are pointing to a particular place, a particular time, and to particular people.

But notice how he encourages them by his introduction. And I think this is very, very important. It’s not just as if he says, you know, “I need to think, have a nice introduction.” No, this is his heart as he speaks to them. Because he’s going to have to say things that are hard to take and are going to cause people to come up short. So he begins very clearly: “To those who are called.” “Called.” “You are the called of God,” he says. They knew themselves to have been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light,[5] coming to faith in Jesus Christ, discovering that the plan of God was from all of eternity to put together a people that are his very own and that it was the utterly undeserved privilege of each of these individuals who are on the receiving end of this designation to have been called into the family of God. The story of the Bible is actually that story, isn’t it? It’s the story of God’s free decision to put together a company from every tribe and nation and language and tongue in order that we might be to the praise of his glory.[6] I think it’s the Gettys’ song, isn’t it? “What grace is mine, that he who dwells in endless light called through the night to [reach] my [guilty] soul.”[7] They are the “called.”

And they are at the same time the “beloved.” The “beloved”: “beloved in God.” It’s wonderful to be loved, isn’t it? No one’s ever been worried about the fact that your spouse, if she would ever tell you that she loved you before she met you—would you be annoyed about that? Would you be annoyed if she said that she saw you from a distance and set her affections upon you? Would you be annoyed? Of course you wouldn’t. So why are some of you annoyed about the thought that God loved you long before he knew you?

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace this love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
You have taught me it is so.
Oh, what endless peace!
Oh, what transport all divine!
In a love that cannot cease,
I am his, and he is mine.[8]

No, you see, he starts in this way—he must start in this way—to remind them of their standing in Jesus. The pastors that have been the best in encouraging the church, I think, are those people who have managed to speak most of the love of God and who have been able to encourage the saints of God by reminding them of the fact that they are grounded in the keeping power of God, that they have been called from all of eternity, that they are beloved in the midst of the trials and struggles that they’re facing.

Yesterday morning, when I was with some of the folks that are here, I was quoting from an old ’60s musical that was written by an American couple called Jim and Carol Owens. And they did two musicals. One was called If My People. The other one was called Come Together. And in one of the songs that they have in that, they sing to one another,

You are the children of the kingdom of God.
You’re the chosen ones for whom the Savior came.
You’re his noble new creation by the Spirit and the blood.
You’re the church that he has built to bear his name.[9]

“This is who you are. My name is Jude, half-brother of Jesus, brother of James, and I’m writing to you,” he says. “I want you to remember that you’re called of God, that you’re beloved in God—a love that stretches all across eternity, stretches through the Testaments; a love that is unimpaired by time or by distance; a love that will never let you go.”

You remember when Moses is ready to die, and he’s expressing his blessings on his sons, who will take the cause up after him. And he says something about Reuben, and he says something about Levi, and he says something about Judah. And then he says something about Benjamin. And this is what he says about Benjamin: “The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety,”[10] for “he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”[11] It’s an amazing picture, isn’t it?

I once saw a man in Key West. He was riding a bicycle, and he had a dog on his shoulders. And as I looked, I thought, “That looks like a pit bull to me.” And it was. And so I was intrigued. I said… I think I said something stupid like, “Why do you have a dog on your shoulder, sir?” And I said, “That looks like a pit bull.” “Oh,” he said, “it is a pit bull.” I said, “Well, how do you get it to do that?” He said, “It was a stray. I loved it. And I love it. And it knows. And that’s why I can ride around with it right here.”

“The one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” It’s a wonderful picture. Everlasting love.

There’s been a sort of Southern influence here I’m beginning to get worried about—a number of people here from different places. But it does make me… Just thinking about the love, it allows me to, you know, quote from country western music. You know, “Oh, honey…” Hershael can use this when he goes back to Tanya—you know, the one that eats like crazy?

Oh, honey, I’m gonna love you forever,
Forever and ever, amen,
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather,
As long as old women sit and talk about old men.
If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful,
I’m gonna tell you again and again,
Honey, I’m gonna love you forever,
Forever and ever, amen.[12]

That is pure sentiment. But when God says it, he absolutely means it. This is the love. This is the love—a love that will not let me go. Even when we make a hash of it like Peter did, he doesn’t let us go.

“You are called. You’re beloved. And, of course, you’re kept.” “Kept”: “kept for Jesus Christ.” Well, of course, we’re kept by Jesus Christ. Kept by him. He’s going to remind them of that by the time he gets to the letter, which you will be reading probably on your drive home. But in the meantime, he wants to encourage them to keep themselves. But as a good and a faithful pastor, before delving into the woes, if you like, he establishes the truths.

In order to help me remember these little triads (and Jude is full of them—triplets or triads, whatever way you want to look at it), I remember this by remembering the Central Bank of Kenya, which is c for called, b for beloved, and k for kept—which will probably mean that all you will ever remember is the Central Bank of Kenya, and you’ll never remember what the other things were. In other words, I shouldn’t even have mentioned it at all.

But I have another one for you in verse 2, which is the Milwaukee Public Library—A place I’ve never visited nor plan on visiting, but there you have it: “mercy, peace, and love.” “Mercy, peace, and love.” “You’re the called, the beloved, kept for Jesus.” “That’s why I’m keeping you,” he says. “That’s why Jesus keeps you: so that you might be useful to him. And in seeking to be useful to him, in light of the context in which you find yourself,” which he’s going to delve into in a moment or two, he reminds them—in fact, he prays for them. Essentially, what he says is “Like you, I am a servant of Jesus Christ, and I am praying for you. And this is what I’m praying: that you might have a special awareness of the mercy of God, whereby he doesn’t give to us what we deserve, whereby with mercy and with judgment he weaves the web of our lives, so that in being the recipients of mercy, we might in turn show mercy to those who are wandering from the path.”

And “peace.” “Peace.” “You [will] keep him in perfect peace,” says Isaiah, “whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you,”[13] in the face of disruption, in the face of opposition. Peace.

And “love.” “Speaking the truth in love,”[14] keeping us on track. Only God can supply all that we need for every challenge and privilege that we face. And he doesn’t just ask that they might know it but that it might “be multiplied to you”—that he multiplies the blessings that he showers upon us.

“I was planning on writing to you,” he goes on to say, “in a certain way, but I want to make sure that before I get to the matter at hand, you are not in any doubt that I address you as the called and the beloved and the kept and that when I pray for you, I pray along these lines: mercy, peace, and love.” And with all that said, he then goes on to make his appeal and to explain why it is that he needs to do so and why it is that he is sounding the alarm.

Only God can supply all that we need for every challenge and privilege that we face.

One of the features of living in Cleveland is access to some of the best healthcare in the world. And each of us as pastors spend, as you do, time in various facilities, and every so often, when you’re there to visit someone, you will have experienced this: you have that three blasts on the trumpet or whatever it is, or the ding-ding-ding, and then it goes into “Code blue, floor 6, room E12. Code blue, room 6-E12,” whatever else it is. And it never fails to put the hair up on the back of my neck, because I know that exactly what has happened there is that someone has gone into a cardiac arrest, and the word is going out for everybody to hear so that those who are able to do something will actually get up and do something.

And what I suggest to you is happening here in Jude writing in this way is that he is sounding out a code blue. In the Cleveland Clinic, they have what they call a crash cart, which has all the necessary materials. And so, when the code blue sounds, the crash cart is brought into action. So here he is, having addressed them in this way, having identified himself in this way: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to sound this warning, to write appealing to you. In other words, instead of taking a more leisurely approach to the vastness of God’s panoramic purposes, I determined that what I have to go on and write to you is a matter of great urgency. I’m sounding, if you like,” he says, “a wakeup call to a church that has been half asleep.” And the reason we know that it’s been half asleep is because it has allowed “certain people” with an evil agenda to creep in unnoticed. And the real danger that is being confronted is not an external danger; it is an internal danger.

I think it is timely for us to ponder this as those who are servants of God’s Word and servants of God’s people and living in an alien culture. There is no question that we understand the eroding impact of godlessness all around us. The temptation, then, is to respond to that directly by whatever mechanism. And some of us are tempted to make political responses to that which is actually a fundamental theological problem. And what Jude is saying here is this: “The real challenge that you folks are facing is not external. It is internal. It is internal. And that’s why I’m sounding this note.”

Now, Jude recognizes that it’s going to take backbone to heed his appeal. And in fact, the verb that he uses, “to contend,” is akin to yesterday morning’s, or yesterday afternoon’s, beginning, agōnizómenos. It’s actually, again—there’s going to be an agony involved in this. “This is not for the faint-hearted. This is not for the fearful. This is going to make a real challenge to you, because I’m appealing to you to contend for the faith.” Now, he’s not talking about “Look after your own subjective response and your own beliefs.” He’s talking about that which is objective. He is talking to the reality of biblical Christian doctrine—creed, if you like; truth as an objective reality; that which has been “delivered,” he says, “once for all … to the saints.”

The apostolic gospel is not a loose association of ideas that have been cobbled together over a period of time. It’s not a concept that’s to be toyed with, or fiddled with, or amended, or diluted, or depleted, or recreated, or reconstructed, or whatever it might be. None of us have the privilege to fiddle with things in that way at all. We dare not. It’s “not a thing,” says Thomas [Manton], that is “invented but [rather] given”; it is “not found out by us, but delivered by God himself,” and it is “delivered [into] our custody, that we [might] keep it for [eternity].”[15] [Manton] was writing between 1620 and 1677. This is 2023. Paul writes to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians, and he is saying the same thing to them: “This is very important. What I received from the Lord, that I delivered to you.”[16] “… I preached to you, which you received,” the gospel, “in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless,” of course, “you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins,”[17] and so on.

Now, let me say this in case I forget to say it: depending on personality type, some of us are really prone to jumping up with an excited, animated commitment when we come to a verb like “contend.” It sort of brings out the worst in us immediately. Now, to contend means to strive earnestly. It means to make vigorous efforts. It means to endeavor. It means to struggle. It does not mean the same as being contentious. The contentious person is prone to strife, prone to dispute, prone to argument, and prone to be quarrelsome.

Now, let’s not misunderstand what Jude is saying here. He’s not encouraging a spirit of contentiousness amongst those to whom he writes. But he is saying to them, and therefore to us, “If you are going to take seriously a commitment to the unerring authority of the Word of God—its sufficiency, its inerrancy, and so on—then there’s going to be an agony that’s involved in this, not simply because of the opposition of a world that doesn’t believe in God but because of a church that has fallen asleep and has allowed into its ranks certain people who, with an agenda that is not godly, are seeking to circumvent what is going on.”

Now, one of the things that is often missed in this—and I come to this with a measure of temerity—but I think it’s important to point out that the Roman Catholic Church is an opponent of this in this regard: that the Roman Catholic Church believes in both Scripture and in the tradition, the ex cathedra statements that have come from the bishop on earth, from the pope himself. And “both Scripture and Tradition,” according to Roman Catholic theology, “must be [honored] and [accepted] with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”[18] “With equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”

Now, there you have it. And all of a sudden, in the midst of that, Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, stands up and says, “Wait a minute.” For having discovered the righteousness of God that is by grace through faith in Jesus plus nothing else, he says, “No, the two things cannot go together.” And he realizes, “I’m going to have to choose between the teaching of Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Because the Church continues to say that only the Church can interpret the Scriptures and that the Scriptures speak through the Church.”

So when you come, for example, to your Roman Catholic friends, as I have many of them, and they’re worried, literally to death, about purgatory, well, where did that come from? It didn’t come from the Scriptures. Somebody crept in undetected and said, “Here’s a way to keep people in total fear. Here’s a way to manipulate and manage them.” In every generation, whatever the issue is, there has to be the someone who says, “Hey!”

At the present time in the UK, the Anglican Communion is facing this very issue. And the question is: Where is the Luther who will stand up and say, “I wanted to write to you about all kinds of things, but I felt that I must actually put a stake in the ground and say to you, ‘Come on, now, let’s rally around this, the objective truth of the gospel’”? Calvin writes—he says if we consider what schemes the Evil One employs to divert the faith, “what was a useful warning in the time of Jude, is more … necessary in our age.”[19] Again, that’s a long time ago. And if it was necessary in his age, it’s surely necessary in our age.

I don’t know what you think, and this is just my opinion, but I think that evangelicalism in the West is probably more nontheological than it has ever been in the entire history of the church. More nontheological. People write to me all the time from different places. And this is not an unusual note, but it so saddens me when I get them that I write them down. This is in my little black book, page 87, but you’ll never know. And this is written to somebody who’s somewhere in the country. “The struggle to find solid teaching and a high view of God and his Word is very real. We visited over ten churches, and rarely did one begin with the opening of the Word.”

Somebody saw my notes yesterday, and they said, “Oh, you write your notes down?” I said, “Oh yeah.” They said, “Well, that’s kind of ancient, isn’t it?” I said, “Oh, no question about it. It is ancient.” And I said, “You know, I write them down.” And I showed it to them. And they looked at it, and they said, “But this says, ‘Let’s take our Bibles and turn to…’ You have to write that down in case you forget that?” I said, “No, I write it down so I will never forget it.” And actually, I write it down so that if I drop dead in the pulpit, and I’ve only managed the first sentence, that’s it: “Let us turn to the Word of God.” Well, I won’t divert on that. I can feel one coming, but I’m not going to do it.

Now, the men that he goes on to introduce us to, we ought not to imagine them walking around with horns or pitchforks. “These people”—“these people” that he is identifying—were immediately likable people. They were the kind of people who would be able to move in smoothly. They would be the kind of people that, if somebody was prepared to say, “Hey, wait a minute; I think that might be off,” people would say, “Oh, it couldn’t possibly be off. I mean, after all, look at Mr. Jenkins. He’s such a nice man. He’s a smooth man.” “Well,” he says, “I want you to know that I’m appealing to you to contend because these people crept in unnoticed.”

Now, I said before that I take it that—and I may be wrong on this—but I’m assuming that Jude comes after 2 Peter. Because it seems to me that what Peter says is going to happen Jude now says is happening. So in 2 Peter 2, for example: “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who [brought] them, bringing upon themselves … destruction.”[20] Chapter 3: “This is now the second letter I’m writing to you, beloved. In both of them, I’m reminding you of this: that there will be those scoffers who come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.”[21] Now, these are not people from the outside community. These are people within the framework of the fellowship. These are the people who are rising from within—“certain people.” I think it’s quite masterful that he doesn’t give them any names. I’m sure he could have named some of them. There’s a big debate about “Should you name people? Should you not name people?” If you name them, then sure, you identify somebody, but you let a ton of people off the hook. So I think it’s genius on his part. No, these people are infiltrators. They ingratiate themselves. Down in verse 16, they show favor “to gain advantage.”

And so he issues the warning. Paul had issued the warning in Acts 20: “After I leave you, fierce wolves will come in, arising from among your own selves.”[22] When John writes in 2 John, he’s dealing with the very same thing. Why would we be surprised if we did not face, at this point in history, the very same issues?

The battle over the authority and truth of the Bible is being fought not only with an alien culture but within our very own institutions, where men have grown fearful of actually declaring what the Bible says.

Now, I say to you again: these people will not be coming around the fellowships suggesting that we have tarot card readings. They’ll be teaching Bible classes. They will be seeking to work in children’s ministry. And their presence doesn’t take God by surprise. Because you will notice that their condemnation was written about long ago. They continue to follow a pattern—the pattern that he identifies in verse 11. These people are ungodly people. Their character will be seen in their behavior and will be revealed in their beliefs.

How will we identify it? Well, he says they will “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” In other words, they will say, “Because of grace, you can do whatever you want to do without any fear at all.” That’s the kind of things they’ll say. Their strategy will be to replace the grace of God with license. The word here in Greek actually covers a full range of sensuality, debauchery, sexual permissiveness—and I find it quite fascinating that at this point in history, here is where the real battle is being fought. The battle over the authority and truth of the Bible is being fought not only with an alien culture but within our very own institutions, where men have grown fearful of actually declaring what the Bible says. And so it is far more attractive to come in with a plausible story and a sweet smile and flattering intentions and blank the whole thing out. Jude says, “No, we’re not going to do that.”

The gospel call to sinners is “Come as you are,” right? “Come as you are. All you weary and sinful and messed up, come to me.” But the ongoing call is not “And by the way, you can stay as you are.” The gospel, when it is perverted, always provides a smokescreen for immorality. It goes like this: “God loves us. Therefore, everything goes.” “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”[23] These fellows say yes.

Now, our time is gone. And it’s not hard to find contemporary illustrations of this, and I’ll leave you to work through some of that yourself. But the fascinating thing is the moral and theological interface between these elements, isn’t it? Either we change our view of God to fit our immoral choices, or we bring our immoral tendencies under the jurisdiction of God.

Probably within the circles in which many of us move, the great threat to the authority of Scripture that we face on an ongoing basis comes not from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church or even from authorities of secular thinking. It comes from the authority of experience. The authority of experience. So you sit with somebody, and you’re talking with them about the call of God upon their life and the nature of what it means to live under the jurisdiction of Jesus. And they say something like this: “Well, I know God says it’s wrong. But I’m sure he understands, because it just feels so right. It just feels so right. It just didn’t feel right living with her. If you knew what she was really like, Pastor, you would agree.”

“I have no comment to make on that, but I have a comment to make on this: the fact that it feels so right for you to be hiding with the lady from the gym? You have no freedom to believe anything than what Jesus taught. We have no freedom to behave in any other way than Jesus commands.”

And the command to identify and hold to these things with boldness is the necessity of holding to them with gentleness. And that’s why I tried to say, let us not get up on our high horse with a spirit of contentiousness. When Paul writes about this, he says, you know, “I … entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of [Jesus] Christ,”[24] so that they are wooed back. Jude, as a shepherd, can’t sit idly by and watch the internal destruction of the flock. He doesn’t offer helpful advice but a strong, striking, prophetic word from God through his servant to the saints, urging them, urging us to wake up and contend for the faith.

O Lord, we thank you that your Word is a lamp to our feet; it’s a light to our path.[25] We tremble before it, Lord. We tremble before its warnings. We fasten ourselves to its promises. We hear what you have to say to us through your servant Jude. We’re swept up in the wonder of your calling and your love and your keeping power—and how we need your mercy and your peace and your love! And by nature, we recoil from this. We want to recoil from it. But we don’t want, Lord, to fail, in our generation, to do just exactly what your Word says. So come, Lord, and wake us up. Help us to stand up as a church in our day, to take the place that you’ve appointed, and to live as you have designed. For Christ’s sake we ask it. Amen.

[1] See Matthew 13:55.

[2] John 7:5 (paraphrased).

[3] Dick Lucas and Christopher Green, The Message of 2 Peter and Jude: The Promise of His Coming, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1995), 167.

[4] Jude 1 (TLB).

[5] See 1 Peter 2:9.

[6] See Revelation 7:9.

[7] Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty, “What Grace Is Mine” (2009).

[8] Wade Robinson, “I Am His, and He Is Mine” (1890). Lyrics lightly altered.

[9] Jimmy Owens and Carol Owens, “Children of the Kingdom” (1974).

[10] Deuteronomy 33:12 (ESV).

[11] Deuteronomy 33:12 (NIV).

[12] Paul Overstreet, “Forever and Ever, Amen” (1987). Lyrics lightly altered.

[13] Isaiah 26:3 (ESV).

[14] Ephesians 4:15 (ESV).

[15] Thomas Manton, A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes on the Epistle of Jude (London, 1658), 143.

[16] 1 Corinthians 15:3 (paraphrased).

[17] 1 Corinthians 15:1–3 (ESV).

[18] Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 82.

[19] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1855), 427.

[20] 2 Peter 2:1 (ESV).

[21] 2 Peter 3:1–3 (paraphrased).

[22] Acts 20:29–30 (paraphrased).

[23] Romans 6:1 (KJV).

[24] 2 Corinthians 10:1 (ESV).

[25] See Psalm 119:105.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.