“Now I want to remind you, though you have known all these things, that the Lord once saved a people from the land of Egypt and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
(Jude 5-7, ESV)
Within this section that offers warnings from the history of Israel, we find three sins that are being addressed: Idolatry, Pride, and Sexual Perversion. In the context of the letter of Jude, these sins are likely the sins that these false teachers have brought with them. Jude wants the church of his day, and by extension, the church of all ages to understand just how dangerous these sins are and that God will not permit these sins to flourish in the life of his people. These are sins of the world and Christians are not to be of the world.
These are also extraordinarily dangerous sins. The medieval church developed what they called the “Seven Deadly Sins” which were wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lechery, envy, gluttony. One pastor friend of mine argues that all sins stem from the sin of pride—as pride was at the heart of the first sin. I would argue that Jude is laying out a trio of sins that God deals most harshly against. There are certainly some sins that God is a bit more lenient towards when you read the ancient law, for example, but these three sins are sins against which God’s heaviest wrath is poured out. And, I would suggest that the reason for this is two-fold. First, these three sins will surely and rapidly take you out of fellowship with God. Second, these sins produce other sins in a person’s life.
Remember well the Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans 1. The reality of God can be seen in his natural revelation—Creation itself—but people chose to chase after their own desires, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Their punishment for their denial of God was to be left to their sin. Sin destroys—it corrodes our souls. But Paul emphasizes three sins in particular: Idolatry (vs. 25), Sexual Perversion (vss. 26-27), and Pride (vs. 28). These are the same three sins that Jude is bringing out, and from these three sins, flow all other sinful living (Romans 1:29-32).
The greatest problem that the Israelites had in their wilderness wanderings was Idolatry. Over and over again, the people are contending with Moses about how things were so much better in Egypt. They made the golden calf, and as they approached the promised land, they also engaged in idolatry with the pagans of the region. Because of this, God kept them in the wilderness for forty years so that none of the original people who left Egypt would enter the Promised Land. Many of these were even killed directly with sickness, war, or natural disaster. Yet, even in the midst of such idolatry, God preserved a faithful remnant for himself.
We may be tempted to wonder about what God was doing, rescuing his people and then killing off those who were unfaithful. Yet, what happened in the wilderness is a picture of what will happen in judgment. There are many who have entered into fellowship with the visible church, but not all of these people are born again believers. There will come a time when we will all stand before God’s throne of judgment and whether we are redeemed or condemned will have nothing to do with which membership card we held in life. It will have everything to do with whether we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Anything that has captured our hearts other than Jesus—whether that be our money, our careers, our families, our accomplishments, etc…–this is idolatry. And idolatry is not something that God tolerates in his body.