“Beloved, I was eager to be able to write you of our common salvation, but it has become necessary to write you to struggle for the holy faith that has been once and for all time delivered to you. For certain ones have snuck in secretly, who have from long ago been preordained for judgment, ungodly people, who have exchanged the grace of our God for sensuality and are even denying our only master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Again, Jude refers to the church as beloved. Christians are beloved to God and to one another. We are bound together by the saving blood of Jesus Christ and linked as his body. Shamefully, we rarely act that way. Yes, we often have legitimate differences about what a particular piece of scripture means and how a particular doctrine unfolds. Many of these things we hold dearly to. Yet, often, these differences create such animosity between groups that it is impossible to serve or even to fellowship together. We need to hold to the essentials of the faith desperately, but we also need to be able to show our brother grace when we differ over non-essential issues. We might not be able to share our pulpits in good conscience, but we can break bread together and serve our community together.
And Jude gets right to the problem. His desire, as all of our desires should be, was to share the Gospel with the people of this church. A Christian never gets tired of hearing the story of Jesus and him crucified and being taught the truths of the faith. These things are given to us for the building up of our faith and for our encouragement in times of trial. They are the source of joy for the Christian and the passion of the evangelist. These are the things that bind us together as one body. Jude uses the term koino/ß (koinos) from which the term “koinonia” comes from. The word simply means “that which is common to us” but in the Christian faith it came to be used to describe the essentials of what it meant to be a believer. It included things like the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, the resurrection, salvation through faith alone, etc… These are things that one cannot reject and still call himself a Christian. These are things worthy of struggling for and worthy of dying for, and as Jude points out, they have been given once and for all time. There is no revelation of God beyond the Canon of scripture. There are no new revelations that supercede what has been revealed in the 66 books of the Bible. That means that other books like the Quran, the book of Mormon, etc… are all works of men, not God. This is what Jude desires to dwell upon, and what a pleasant task that would have been, but there are false teachers amongst flock.
These false teachers have established themselves in the church as leaders, they pervert the grace of God into a license for immorality, and they deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ. These are men who, like Judas the betrayer, were destined for perdition from the beginning of time. Yet, they have fooled the church into letting them lead. Sadly, this problem is still with us today. We have many people who take the glorious doctrine of “Grace alone” and use that to justify all kinds of sin. Indeed, God does forgive, but he also calls us to repentance and to living a holy life.
When I was growing up, I used to collect and trade baseball cards with friends. Even as a youth I understood that some cards were more valuable than others. The trick to card trading was to wind up with cards that were more valuable than the cards you were giving up. Sometimes, though, you would get suckered into a really bad deal. That is what these false teachers had done. They had freely traded the grace of God, something that is without price and of infinite value, for the sinful pleasures of the flesh. What a bad trade that was. They got royally suckered and were about the art of suckering others into their folly—misery loves company. Friends, times have changed very little. The arguments that people are making in America today are exactly the same. They argue that if God is love he could never condemn people to Hell. Don’t succumb to this trap. God is love, yet he is also just. As humans we are on a one-way track to eternal destruction; God loved us so much that he offers us a way to be saved from that destruction. Don’t exchange the truth of God’s grace for the lie of momentary pleasures of the flesh.
These false teachers also were denying that Jesus Christ was Lord. They wanted a savior to redeem them from their sins, but lordship means submission. Jesus told us that if we loved him we would obey his teachings (John 14:15). Yet, we cannot have one without the other. There is no such thing as a no-cost salvation—a salvation that does not require you to make changes in your life. This is not to suggest that salvation is based on our works, but this is saying that when God does a work in the life of a person, He finishes what he began and moves us through the process of sanctification to mold us into the image of his son. Being a Christian is not a lethargic, Sunday morning only faith, but it consumes the whole of life. When you preach that God forgives you no matter what you do, you eliminate the idea of Christian growth and you do away with the Lordship of Christ. That is what these false teachers were doing in Jude’s day and that is what many false teachers in America are doing today.
One of the dangers that most churches run into is in compromising the qualifications for teacher, elder, deacon, or even membership. We feel such a need to fill spaces on committees or in Sunday-school classrooms that we are willing to take any warm body that we find. Yet, if we do not carefully examine who we bring into leadership, there is a good chance that the church, or a segment of our church, will be led astray. This needs to be especially so with respect to choosing teaching elders. Oh the damage that has been done by preachers with wild ideas that stray from the truth and draw their congregations with them. Heed very closely these warnings of Jude.