With apologies to the Beatles for my misuse of their 1968 hit song title for this post, this lesson from The MANual is not from Paul McCartney. As we near the end of this “long and winding road” in my year-long journey through my NIV Bible for Men, we stop at the last of the personal letters (epistles), which comes from the half-brother of Jesus.
In the second to last book of the New Testament, Jude reminds us to keep strong in the faith and oppose the heresy spoken by false teachers in the world. It’s kind of like dismissing the theory you can play a Beatles’ song backward for a hidden message (OK, I will stop with the Beatles references!).
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the basic definition of heresy is “adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma.” Wikipedia defines Dogma as a “set of beliefs accepted by members of a group without being questioned or doubted.” Heresy basically means living contrary to the principles or doctrines of religion (such as Roman Catholicism, Judaism, or Protestantism), positions of a philosopher or philosophical school (such as Stoicism), or a political belief system (such as communism, progressivism, liberalism, conservatism, and fascism).
From the first century on, the early church was threatened by the false teachings of heretics (someone who practices heresy, such as those I wrote about in prior posts on the lessons from Colossians, Thessalonians, and Hebrews). Still today, Christianity is often under attack from those who believe its biblical teaching is no longer relevant. So it’s just as important to know God’s Word and oppose heresy as it was back then. Whether its a religious, philosophical, or political system, you must start by understanding the principles and then validate the authorship.
For purposes of this post, heresy is going against the official position of God’s Word.
Which Jude Was He?
In the New Testament, there were several men named Jude or Judas, which was a derivative of the name Judah, much like Sam is a derivative of Samuel. Three men named Jude (Judas) had significant roles in Jesus’ day:
- Judas Iscariot, who was a chosen disciple but betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and later hanged himself.
- Judas, the apostle identified in the Gospels as “Judas, not Iscariot” (which means there were two men with the name of Jude/Judas among the twelve disciples).
- Jude, the son of Mary and Joseph, who was raised as a brother to Jesus Christ (Mark 6:3).
Even though he was among Jesus’ siblings, neither the author of this letter nor James (another half-brother of Jesus), claimed a familial relationship with Jesus in their letters. This was probably out of reverence of Jesus’ divine identity.
At first, both Jude and James did not believe the claims that Jesus was the Messiah (John 7:3–5). At one point, both waited with Mary outside the place where Jesus was teaching in order to bring Him home with them (Matthew 12:46–47). Their purpose was “to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21).
It was most likely not until after the resurrection though that Jude and James came to understand that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Jude was a leader in the early church.
The Book of Jude
This one chapter book, written around A.D. 65, has just 25 verses. The MANual refers to it as “a call to arms” with two parts: warnings against the danger of false teachers (Jude 1:1-16) and the duty to fight for God’s truth (Jude 1:17-25).
Jude begins with a greeting by identifying himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” (Jude 1:1), which validates his familial relationship. He expresses deep concern about believers abandoning the faith and turning to false teachers (Jude 1:3–4). He speaks easily of Jesus, as one who knew Him intimately. His manner of addressing “those who are called, loved by God the Father, and kept in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:2) is kind and loving.
Jude credits the Lord Jesus with saving His people from Egypt (Jude 1:5). He reminds them of the rebellion of their ancestors —the nation of Israel. He reminds them the angels, once pure and holy, gave in to pride and joined Satan to rebel against God. Jude also reminds them that God wiped the inhabitants of both Sodom and Gomorrah off the face of the earth due to their sin (Jude 1:5-7). He teaches that the eternal fire should serve as a warning of the same judgment to those who reject God and His Word.
Yet Jude is direct and unapologetic in addressing the wickedness of false teachers (Jude 1:12–13). He gives three examples of men from the Old Testament who did whatever their instincts told them: Cain, who murdered his brother out of vengeful jealously; Balaam, who prophesied out of greed and disobedience; and Korah, who rebelled against God’s leader to gain power. These illustrated attitudes that are typical of false teachers– pride, selfishness, jealousy, greed, lust for power, and disregard for God’s will. Jude quotes Enoch, a seventh-generation descendant of Adam, that The Lord will convict everyone of their ungodly practices and beliefs
A Good Defense
“Live and let live” is a popular cultural philosophy. These days, if someone believes in something that you disagree with, it’s socially acceptable to say, “Whatever works for you is OK with me.” But that is not a defense where God’s truth is concerned. A good defense is knowing God’s Word.
If you hear someone misrepresent scriptural truths, you are called to speak up. God expects His people to be just as zealous as He is in defending His truth. If you have the courage to confront a false teacher or a misdirected believer, trust the Holy Spirit to guide your words and help your listeners understand God’s truth.
- Why is it hard to discern what is false teaching these days? Is it because we know so little of the Bible?
- Why do many believers find is difficult to defend their faith?
So while you need to know your Bible well, the best defense is to simply state what believing in Jesus has done for your life.
Thankfully, Jude changes his tune in the second half of his letter. In verses 17-20, Jude gives us a call to persevere against the scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires. He suggests that false teachers do not have the Holy Spirit in them. He says to keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the Lord Jesus Who brings you to eternal life. Until then, be merciful to those who doubt and show mercy to those stained by corrupted flesh and false teaching.
Jude’s doxology to finish this short letter gives glory to Jesus, Who represents us to His Father without fault and with great joy (1:25-25).
Why is Jude so Important?
Jude and his brother James teach us that a basic level of familiarity with Jesus is not sufficient to save us. They lived in the same household for many years with the Son of God, yet did not believe in Him. They knew about Him but did not know Him. Living in the household with the Son of God could not save them. They had to learn from Jesus and be saved by grace through faith, just like everyone else who wants to know God (Ephesians 2:8–9). There were no shortcuts for Jude and James.
There are no shortcuts when we follow Jesus either. Knowing God’s Word and the gift of eternal life that comes by following His ways, takes work. Today, many believers live a nominal. luke warm, culturally-influenced life. It’s what Pat Morley of Man in the Mirror Ministries calls “Cultural Christianity.”
Cultural Christians are people in proximity to the truth but have not allowed God’s truth to redefine their lives. They allow the culture to influence them more than the Word of God. Cultural Christians want the best of both worlds. They exchange the truth of God for what the world tells them is true. They also practice “Spare Tire Christianity” that keeps Jesus in the trunk just in case their life goes flat.
But Jesus said we must know Him to have eternal life:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.”—John 14:6–7
This ‘ warning directly from Jesus in Matthew should also be a wake-up call to cultural Christianity:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”— Matthew 7:21–23
There are also no shortcuts when following the Son of God. While the Bible teaches we cannot earn our salvation by good works or sacrificial living, the desire to please Jesus is a direct result of a personal transformation. It means living above the influence and teachings of this world. It means making Jesus the Lord of your life.
- Does your life look different than before you gave your life to Jesus?
- What does further transformation look like in your life?
God Buddy Focus
The book of Jude urges us to defend God’s truth and pass it on to others. As believers in the ways of Jesus, we are called to live differently from our culture. We’re given the responsibility to be on guard against those who contradict God’s Word. So while others may not always agree with us, we should always be ready to discuss our faith, but not in a confrontational manner. Demonstrate your a committed Christian by the way you love like Jesus and leave the ultimate judgment up to God.
- What cultural issues do you believe conflict with God’s Word?
- Have you studied Scripture to make sure you have a foundation on which you can discuss your viewpoints with others?
- How can you become less judgemental and more loving while still “speaking the truth in love”?
The next post is the final book of the Bible: Revelation.