May 1, 2019
I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Before I became a pastor I was a teacher, and my first gig was full-time substitute… essentially a traveling teacher. One of my first jobs was a three-month stint teaching freshmen world history. I had no idea what I was doing, and after my first week all I wanted to do was apologize to every teacher I’d ever had and then lay in the fetal position in a dark room. I was terrible.
We were studying World War I, and I just wasn’t getting through. On the final test, the students regurgitated facts, but I wasn’t sure they really learned anything. That is until one of the most difficult students in the class wrote, “Germany was the ants in France’s pants.”
I got through to one.
At the end of the semester the administration asked if I wanted to get certified and come back. I said no thank-you because those students needed someone more qualified; someone who could get through to more than one, because teachers matter.
Yesterday we saw the what of Jude’s letter: defend the faith. Today we begin to see the why: because teachers matter.
Jude says, “some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches.” Remember, just like we saw in 2 John last week, these churches were not like the ones we have today. They were intimate gatherings of a few people who met in someone’s home. Other versions translate “they have wormed their way in” as people who have “stolen in” or “secretly slipped in.” Remember, it was common in these first home churches for traveling teachers to pass through. And Just like John, it seems Jude was addressing the issue of traveling teachers preaching and teaching false doctrine that could be getting through to more than one.
But it wasn’t just any false doctrine they were teaching, it was a big one, and the reason for the big why of this letter. They were teaching that “God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.”
In other words, God’s grace gives us license. In other words, because of grace God will love us no matter what, so we can do whatever.
But nope, Jude is not having it.
Jude calls out the same thing Paul addressed in Romans 6:14-16: “… you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”
And actually, they were teaching an even bigger one: “they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Again, Jude isn’t having it. And again, Paul in Romans 10:9 backs him up: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
(A side note: remember last week how John was dealing with false teachers who did not believe Jesus came in a real body, which means he couldn’t rise from the dead? Yeah, probably the same brand of teachers. Are you seeing a pattern?).
Eugene Peterson calls Jude a whistleblower, his letter warning churches of the real danger threatening the core of the faith, which is why Jude calls for a defense (again, hang on to the end of letter to see this in a different way).
But Jude’s whistleblowing was not just for his friends. There’s a reason his letter is in the canon of Scripture, and it’s probably because the Holy Spirit knew the church would always need a whistleblower. I’ll let NT Wright from his study on Jude have the last word:
Find people today who say that God loves everyone exactly as they are, so everyone must stay exactly as they are, doing all the things they want to do, because God is so full of generosity that obviously he wants them to do that; find such people, and you’ve found those of whom [Jude] is writing. Find people today who say that Jesus is one religious teacher among others, one way of salvation among others, that there might well be a variety of paths up the mountain of which Jesus’ path is only one, that it’s important not to make exclusive claims or we’ll become arrogant; find such people, and you’ve found those of whom [Jude] is writing.
To be continued…
Jesus, give me more and more mercy, peace, and love. Help me hold fast to your teaching and not be swayed from your truth. For the sake of the gospel, amen.
Who are your teachers, and what are you learning?
For the awakening,