In The Meantime (Sermon)
Have you ever wondered: What should I be doing right now? What should a follower of Jesus be doing between salvation and glorification? In this space of already but not yet, what should the actions of a believer be? Is it all seriousness or can there be some fun? Is life all duty and not delight? Is it all gravity and no gladness? What does it mean to be “holy” or “perfect?” How can you be faithful in faithless times?
Today we will look at Jude. It is the last of the General Epistles and probably the most neglected. It is short and a bit strange. It is written by the half-brother of Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. He introduces himself in verse one.
Jude 1:1 (ESV)—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:
Jude has moved from a pre-resurrection skeptic to selfless, submitted, bond slave of Jesus! Notice that sweeping coverage of the language. To be “called” is reference to God’s sovereign call to salvation in the past. “Beloved” is God’s love in the past that continues in the present and to be “kept” expresses positive assurance regarding the future!
In verse 3, Jude unpacks why he is writing.
Jude 1:3 (ESV)—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.
Jude’s original plan for writing seems to have changed. He moves from a message about “our common salvation” to something he deems more urgent and pressing. It sounds like it has become an emergency in his mind. It believes that it is “necessary” to challenge his readers. The language here is as if he has a heavy burden and is delivering a mandate. The charge is “to contend for the faith.” This is military or athletic language that refers to a struggle or intense effort that is continuous and vigorous. Of course, “the faith” is talking about refers to the traditional teaching of the apostles, specifically, the Gospel.
Why did Jude change subjects? What happened?
Jude 1:4 (ESV)—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.
With evil, crafty, and cunning intention, a group has “crept” into the body of believers with the aim to do as much harm as possible. Jude gives four details about this group. First, they “were designated for this condemnation.” They are going to experience judgment. Second, they were “ungodly people.” The had no reverence for God. Third, they “pervert the grace of God into sensuality.” They have turned grace into an opportunity for license. Fourth, they deny Jesus.
But why is this a big deal to Jude? Why is this so important? Why is he so worked up and serious about this? The bottom line is that judgment is coming. In verses 5-16, Jude is going to give examples of God’s judgment in the past and then give examples of present actions that warrant God’s judgment in the present.
The first historic example Jude uses is Egypt in verse 5.
Jude 1:5 (ESV)—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.
The second historic example Jude uses is the angels in verse 6.
Jude 1:6 (ESV)—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—
The third historic example Jude uses is Sodom and Gomorah in verse 7.
Jude 1:7 (ESV)—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.
Jude give this as an example of those who turn from God and follow lustful desires. He is saying, watch out for these guys and don’t be these guys!
In verses 8-13 Jude points out some present actions that deserve judgment.
Jude 1:8 (ESV)—Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
Here in verse 8, he points out 3 sins: “relying on their dreams,” “defile the flesh,” and reject authority.” In verse 10 he states they are “unreasoning animals.” They cannot reason! Jude argues that this bad and that there are consequences for our sin.
Jude 1:11 (ESV)—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.
They are walking in error like “Cain,” who murdered. They are walking in error like “Balaam,” who was motivated by greed. They are walking in error like “Korah,” who rebelled! There are consequences for sin. Judgment is coming.
In verse 12, Jude points out three dangers.
Jude 1:12 (ESV)—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;
The first is “hidden reefs.” Not all is as it seems. The second is “they feast with you without fear” and the third is “shepherds feeding themselves.” They are selfish and have no concern for others.
In verses 12 and 13 Jude gives four illustrations from the natural world.
Jude 1:13 (ESV)—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.
Jude’s point is that clouds, trees, waves, and stars are unreliable to guide people. Moving to verses 14-16, Jude writes of future judgment and cites 1 Enoch.
Jude 1:14-16 (ESV)—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.
In verse 16, Jude is exposing the character and nature of bad guys while warning believers of their final destiny while calling them to action now! What you believe affects how you live. How are you living? Are you contending for the faith? Are you contending for your faith? Jude has made the case for why one should contend for the faith, but how do you do it? How do you contend for the faith? He shows in verses 17-23.
Rigorously Study The Word (17-19)
Jude 1:17-19 (ESV)—But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
“Remember…the predictions of the apostles” means taking to heart so that the ideas are imprinted upon one’s life. Satan is at work and his attacks usually come from the inside. His drive is to divide! How will you respond when the attack comes? Are you prepared to contend?
Relentlessly Invest In The Right Relationships (20-21)
Jude 1:20-21 (ESV)—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.
Which relationships are you investing in? Which relationships do you value as worth fighting for? What relationships are you willing to sacrifice for? Regarding your connection and relationship with Jesus, is He the object of your affections? Do you make space in your busy schedule to spend time with Him and deepen your relationship with Him? Successful relationships come at a cost. But whatever you pay, is nothing compared to what He has paid to be in relationship with you!
Regularly Extend Mercy (22-23)
Jude 1:22-23 (ESV)—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.
Writer Robert Coleman argues that people are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation. People need to see the love and mercy of God in action. Coleman argues for urgency in following Jesus. He expresses: “There can be no dillydallying around with the commands of Christ. We are engaged in warfare, the issues of which are life and death, and every day that we are indifferent to our responsivities is a day lost to the cause of Christ.”
Mercy strains to snatch those in peril out of the fire.
Jude closes on a high note of doxology.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) 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.
So, in the meantime, contend for the faith with joy and confidence, by trusting the work of Jesus in the past and His help in the present for our hope in the future!
Manuscript for a sermon originally preached at Explore Church on 7/11/10.
Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1993), 50-51.