Sunday Sermon: “Same Song, Second Verse” (Jude 5-11)

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[The following sermon was delivered at Cornerstone Community Church in Montgomery, TX, on 07/18/2021. I’m sharing this sermon manuscript solely as a blessing to my readers in their personal spiritual walk, and I hope it is edifying in that regard.]


Like many modern conveniences, social media can be both a blessing and a burden. It can help you connect with other believers from around the country and even the world, allowing you to share in prayers and praises and encouragement. It can also put you in contact with some absolute spiritual foolishness.

I saw one such post this week, in which a commenter, responding to a post by an outright false teacher, said, “Calling people ‘false teachers’ who simply have different theologies and ways of interpreting the Bible shows absolute ignorance for the long history of theology and doctrine. I’ll never understand such arrogance from certain groups.”

I didn’t respond to this person (which I take as a sign of the Spirit’s work in my heart!) partly because I didn’t know her and partly because, by the look of her other posts, it felt like a “pearls before swine” situation. But it did get me thinking about the nature of false teaching. Heresy and false teaching aren’t merely a difference of opinion or interpretation. False teachers fundamentally twist and alter and throw out the core truths of the Gospel.

And, with apologies to that social media commenter, the history of the Christian church is one of consistently calling out and rebuking false teaching. That’s why we have all those early church creeds—they were written, in part, to address current-day heresies. As we heard from Jude last week, our calling is to contend for the faith, and that means marking and avoiding false teachers who try to corrupt it.

What this week’s section shows us is that every generation’s crop of false teachers all seem to follow the same pattern—a pattern we can trace throughout the history of God’s people in the Bible. Let’s look at verses 5-11. 

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. 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— 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. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 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. (Jude 5-11)

I’ve titled this week’s sermon “Same Song, Second Verse.” If you’re taking notes, my outline isn’t as Baptistically alliterative, unfortunately. Three points, though: 1) Warnings from the Past [5-7]; 2) Arrogant Blasphemy [8-10]; 3) History Repeating [11].

Let’s first consider Jude’s warnings from the past.

1) Warnings from the Past (v. 5-7)

Jude transitions from his thesis statement in verses 3-4 by saying that he wants to remind his hearers of something they once fully knew. This recalls Paul’s words in Philippians 3:1, telling the Philippian Christians that his repeated reminders to rejoice are no trouble to him and are safe for them. We should never tire of hearing the repeated, unchanging truths of the Gospel—it is no trouble for the faithful shepherd to preach it, and it is safe for the faithful church member to hear it again.

Jude reminds his readers that “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Now, this is a pretty striking statement on its face. After all, Jude is asserting that it was the Son of God who ultimately rescued the people of Israel from their bondage and led them through the wilderness. This raises a good reminder for us as well, when we are tempted to assume (even unintentionally) that the Old Testament was about YHWH and Israel, and that Jesus is like a new character being introduced in Act 2. The Scriptures affirm that our Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) were fully present throughout the entire history of Israel. Paul argues this in I Corinthians 10. Let’s hold our spot in Jude and take a look at that. 

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (I Cor. 10:1-5)

We’ll come back to this passage at the end of the sermon, but I just want to make a few quick points from this text:

  1. Paul affirms that Christ Jesus was with His people in their wanderings, and that symbolically, He Himself was the rock that produced fresh water for them, providing them refreshment.
  2. With most of the Israelites, God was not pleased. These were the faithless ones who would not enter the promised land but believed the fearful report of the 10 spies, so God led Israel to wander for 40 years and all of their generation but two died in the wilderness, as a judgment for their unbelief.

Jude underlines this in verse 5 of our text by saying that Jesus destroyed those who did not believe. As Dr. Jim Hamilton notes in his masterful work God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, the pattern of God in Scripture is often to rescue some through the just condemnation of others. We see this explicitly in the miracle of the Red Sea crossing, and I think this plays out equally clearly in how God shows mercy by not destroying all of Israel for their wilderness rebellions—yet He does defend His honor at certain points by delivering judgment upon Israel’s sins.

Now, verse 6, and one of a few tricky spots in our passage today: “And the angels who did not stay within their position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…” A few notes on this:

1) Who are these angels? The main two arguments are that these are either the angels who rebelled with Lucifer and were cast out of heaven; or these are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, angelic beings who left heaven to somehow walk among mankind and have relations with human women. I’m not entirely sure which angels are described here, but based on some of the commentaries I’ve looked at, I’m leaning toward this second option. Matthew Harmon, in the ESV Exegetical Commentary, suggests that the context of Jude and his reference to the book of Enoch later point to this second option, since that document references this story from Genesis 6.
2) The angels abandoned their proper dwelling and authority in order to sin, so now they are kept by Christ: We don’t have more details about this angelic authority, though some verses in Scripture allude to angels being given charge to watch over certain parts of God’s creation, including us. Since these angels didn’t keep their position, they are now kept—and the word “kept” in the original language isn’t the safe and secure “keeping” that we have discussed already from verse 1. No, this word for “kept” has the sense of being held in custody, as if in prison.
3) They are in eternal chains of gloomy darkness until the day of judgment: This phrase gives us a little trouble depending on which angels we may be talking about. Obviously, certain fallen angels aren’t being imprisoned in our current age. Some commentators say that the language about eternal chains point to a figurative captivity, meaning their judgment is certain and inescapable. However, Thomas Coutouzis (in his commentary on Jude called Agonizing for the Faith) relies on the parallel passage in II Peter 2 to draw a connection between this “gloomy darkness” and “the pit” or abyss of hell mentioned in Peter’s letter to the plea from the demoniac’s Legion in Luke 8, where they plead with Jesus not to cast them into “the abyss.”
So, putting this together, Jude points to these demons who rebelled against their God-given role and place in order to follow their own sinful desires, and now face eternal judgment and destruction for that sin.

Charles Spurgeon, commenting on this verse, gives us a solemn warning:

“The angels—think how high they stood in their first estate. If sin could drag an angel from the skies, it may well pluck a minister from the pulpit, a deacon from the communion table, or a church member out of the midst of his brothers and sisters. Perseverance in holiness is the sign of eternal salvation. If we forsake the Lord and turn back to our former evil ways, it will be the evidence that we never really believed in Christ and that there was no true work of grace in our hearts.”

Charles Spurgeon

Jude’s historical warnings continue to verse 7: “…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’s language here is pretty clear but I want to emphasize a few things:

1) God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was total. This story from Genesis 18 and 19 tells us how God utterly destroyed these cities and the cities surrounding them, raining sulfur and fire down upon them. Jeremiah 50:40 notes that God rendered the area uninhabitable, to the point that you could not even stay in that area as you passed through.

2) God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was for sexual sin. Some modern critics have tried to argue that the sin of these cities was actually self-indulgence and lack of hospitality or compassion for the poor—making this argument solely from a description of Sodom in Ezekiel 16. Often, this argument is made with the intention to undermine the Biblical position on homosexuality by assigning the cause for God’s judgment elsewhere. But by doing so, these revisionist historians are ignoring practically every other reference to Sodom in the Bible! And certainly, the people of S&G were guilty of these sins among others. But Jude makes it crystal clear why S&G were condemned—they indulged in rampant sexual sin and pursued unnatural desire (“other flesh” in the original Greek), which is undoubtedly a reference to same-sex desire and fornication. Do not be deceived, my friends: the Bible is consistent and unmistakable that homosexual desire and behavior is sinful and destructive. It’s not something to be proud of. It’s not something to embrace as your identity. It’s something to repent of and to put off. Hear me, please: If you are struggling with same-sex attraction and desires, I want you to know that there is hope for you and there is grace for you in Christ Jesus. Like every single one of us, you have a sin nature that desires to resist God’s law. We were all “born that way.” But the blood of Jesus washes us, sanctifies us, makes us new creatures. Seek your identity in Christ Jesus and what His word says about who you are. If you want to talk about this more after the service, come find me.

3) God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was a living picture of hell. Jude closes verse 7 by telling us that the destruction of S&G gives us a real-world picture of eternal judgment. What will hell be like for those who do not repent of sin and follow Jesus? Destruction. Fire. Sulfur. Anguish. Forever.

After examining these warnings from the past, Jude goes into detail about the arrogant blasphemies of the false teachers.

2) Arrogant Blasphemies (8-10)

Jude says that “in like manner” the false teachers infiltrating the church do the same things: they defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But he starts by calling them “dreamers,” saying they “rely on their dreams.” The language here is of someone who prophesies or interprets their dreams in a way that is subjective, naturally sinful, and corrupted. This is nothing new to the people of God. In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Moses warns that false prophets will try to lead the people astray into idolatry and sin by prophesying their wicked dreams, but the people of God should not believe them. However, we see in Jeremiah 23 that this is exactly what happened. [READ Jeremiah 23:23-32]

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.  I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:23-32

The prophet Zechariah also decries the wicked dreams of false teachers in Zech. 10:2.

Jude writes that these dreaming schemers defile the flesh, meaning their actions make them morally unclean. They reject authority and blaspheme the “glorious ones.” Here, “glorious ones” could mean holy angels or, more likely, unholy angels. I say more likely because the next verses provide us another unusual interpretive challenge regarding angelic argumentation.

Verse 9 states: “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” Now, what on earth is going on here? A few points:

1) Obviously, this story isn’t in Scripture. Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 34. The Lord takes him up to the top of Mount Nebo to let him see the Promised Land with his eyes, though he’s not allowed to enter. Then Moses dies and the Lord Himself buries him in an unknown location in the valley of Moab. Jude’s story of Michael and Satan is believed to come from an ancient Jewish text outside of the Bible, called the Testament or Assumption of Moses. In this document, Michael the archangel argues with Satan, who claims that he has a right to Moses’ body because he was a murderer.

It’s a weird story. But I want to make this plain: that ancient Jewish document isn’t Scripture. It’s not inspired or authoritative. Jude here is drawing from a cultural touchstone that his readers presumably were familiar with in order to make a point. We can recognize that principle or argument as truth and thus Scriptural, even if the source material is not (just like Paul quoting lines from pagan poets in order to provide analogies).

2) In the story, Michael refuses to rebuke Satan himself. Why? A few reasons. First, Michael recognizes that Satan, twisted by sin as he is, used to be the angel of light Lucifer, a “shining one” and former servant of God. Peter writes in II Peter 2:11, “Bold and willful, [the false teachers] do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” Perhaps a second reason for why Michael didn’t rebuke Satan himself is that he didn’t have the right to—that’s God’s rightful place. To presume to rebuke the devil on your own authority is to take on a position as if you were God. And yes, I think this has implications for us now. Some teachers and ministries may call on you to “rebuke the devil” or try to “bind him in Jesus’ name” (as if “in Jesus’ name” were magic words). The way I read this verse, we would be best to leave the rebuking of Satan to our king, and just defer to His authority on the matter.

Jude sets up the contrast between Michael’s actions in verse 9 and the actions of the false teachers in verse 10: “But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” In other words, the false teachers presumptively blaspheme by speaking against spiritual powers as if they had the authority and clout to do so, while at the same time leaving themselves open to demonic corruption and control.

But consider this: what have we seen so far that these teachers know instinctively, like unreasoning animals? The cravings of their flesh, the rebellion of their hearts, and the debasement of their minds. That sounds an awful lot like the description of sin’s utter corruption from Romans chapter 1. There, Paul warns that the wrath of God is being stored up against the sinfulness of mankind, who walk in the ways that these false teachers seem to run in instinctively.

Next, Jude ties in more references to Israel’s history in verse 11.

3) History Repeating (v.11)

“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.”

Like the Old Testament prophets, Jude pronounces a word of woeful judgment on these teachers and, in so doing, likens them to 3 accursed figures from Israel’s past.

They walked in the way of Cain. This takes us back to Genesis 4, as Cain the son of Adam and Eve slays his brother Abel because Abel’s blood sacrifice was accepted by God and Cain’s own harvest offering was not. When God refused Cain’s sacrifice, he became enraged and rather than submitting to God’s rule for how to worship, took out his anger on the one with whom God was pleased. John writes in I John 3:12 that Cain was “of the evil one” and killed his brother because Abel’s deeds were righteous and Cain’s were not. Some commentators note that ancient Jewish writings attribute other sins to Cain after he was sent into the wilderness, such as greed, violence, lust, and leading others astray into sin. We don’t know any of that for sure, but what we can see from Scripture is Cain’s stubborn unwillingness to worship God as He commanded and his hatred of those who do.

They abandoned themselves for the gain of Balaam’s error. This points us to Numbers 22-24. Balak, the king of Moab, bribes the prophet Balaam to pronounce a curse on the wandering Israelites, but 3 times Balaam ends up speaking blessings on them, because that’s what YHWH had told him to say. However, we see in Peter’s parallel wording in II Peter 2:15-16 that Balaam “loved gain from wrongdoing” and was rebuked supernaturally by his own donkey in order to “restrain the prophet’s madness.” Unfortunately, the story of Balaam goes beyond the talking donkey. In Numbers 25, we learn that the daughters of Moab walked among the men of Israel (presumably at the direction of Balak), and the men of Israel followed their sinful lusts and lay with them, which led into eventual Baal worship and idolatry. This brought judgment and death upon the men who sinned in this way—a plague from God that killed 23 or 24 THOUSAND people. We learn later in Numbers 37 that it was Balaam who instigated this plot by Moab in order to try to destroy Israel. The greedy prophet got his payday, but ultimately was executed later by the leaders of Israel for his subversion.

They perished in Korah’s rebellion. This takes us to Numbers 16. Korah was a Levite, and the cousin of Aaron and Moses. He was a Kohathite, the Levite clan who was given the responsibility of guarding, caring for, and transporting the most holy objects in the Tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant. Yet, Korah and his 250 followers were not satisfied with this responsibility; rather, they wanted to overthrow the authority of Moses and Aaron. They accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves, when (in their words) “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them.” Moses told them to take censers of incense to present before the Lord, and that God would show who are His. Then Moses warned the rest of the people to get away from Korah’s family and tents. The ground itself opened up and swallowed Korah and his family, and then fire from the Lord consumed his 250 followers who were offering illegitimate incense offerings. If that wasn’t bad enough, the people of Israel turned on Moses and Aaron and accused THEM of killing their brethren, so God sent a plague of destruction among Israel that killed 14,700 people until Aaron interceded for them. In the end, those who rejected the authority of God’s word (in the mouth of His prophet) and wanted to rule themselves were consumed, and the people they led astray were also destroyed.

I noticed something interesting when studying this verse. Admittedly, I don’t know Greek yet, so I can’t say this with certainty, and this may perhaps be a comment on how the text has been translated. But in my ESV translation, all of these verbs in verse 11 are in the past tense: walked, abandoned, perished. I think this points back to verse 4, in which Jude says that the condemnation of these teachers was established long ago. Like the angels in eternal chains of gloomy darkness, God’s judgment of these false teachers is sure and cannot be avoided, outside of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. And yet even then, the writer of Hebrews warns that once a professing believer has “tasted” the goodness of salvation (meaning not that they have been born again, but that they have heard the Gospel taught in its fullness and have tasted the benefits of life within the body of Christ) and then turns away, what hope does such a one have, other than most certain judgment?

Here, we’ll have to leave Jude and continue his comments in a couple of weeks. Now, turn back to I Corinthians 10. Let’s start again from verse 1. See if you can recognize some of the references here.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

I Corinthians 10:1-10

Paul says that these things took place as examples for us—they were true historical events, but they were recorded for our sake as warnings “that we might not desire evil as they did.” He mentions in verse 7 the incident of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32. In verse 8, the sexual immorality he mentions—that’s Balaam’s dirty work. In verse 9, we see a reference to the judgment of fiery serpents from Numbers 21, and then in verse 10, those who grumbled and were destroyed by the Destroyer—a reference that could be applied to a few different instances in the Wilderness Wandering of Israel, but certainly could be applied to Korah’s rebellion.

In recent years, certain famous evangelical speakers have talked about how we New Testament Christians should “unhitch” from the Old Testament; but I hope today’s study proves that the New Testament is inextricably linked to the Old. In these Old Testament accounts, don’t we see ourselves? Should we not study these as well, and gain their lessons? That’s what Paul argues in this passage in I Corinthians 10. Keep reading, starting in verse 11: “Now, these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

These stories that Paul alludes to and that Jude references are reminders that the destructive lure of sin is nothing new, and that the schemes and ploys of false teachers and wicked dreamers are just reboots and replays of a very old gameplan. God has given us these Scriptures so that we know what’s up and can spot the game being run on us by these servants of Satan.

Friends, heed the warning of Paul in I Corinthians 10:12—let anyone who thinks he stands take heed, or WATCH OUT, in case he falls. The moment we become proud of our personal faithfulness and righteousness, we are ripe for the picking.

My wife and I received some troubling news this week: we learned that a former friend of ours from several years ago was recently found to be guilty of heinous sexual sin, sin that he had been hiding from his wife and his church family for years. This young man was a professing believer and could hold forth on sound doctrine and theological conversation like a seminary graduate. Yet in the hidden places of his heart, he held fast to sexual immorality, rejecting the authority of Jesus over that part of his life, and that rebellion eventually consumed him and came to light.

In closing, here is my caution and my final word for you this morning: Consider your ways. Take heed lest you fall.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, hear the certain warning of Jude 5: this same Jesus who rescued his covenant people and destroyed those who did not believe? He’s coming again. And when he returns, the Bible says he’s not going to show up as a baby in a manger or a humble carpenter. He’s going to be the Rider on the White Horse from Revelation 19, with a blood-soaked robe and a sword coming out of his mouth to destroy his enemies. On that great and terrible day, it will be too late to try to broker peace with this conquering King. The book of Hebrews says today is the day of salvation. You face a certain destruction unless you turn from your sin and rebellion against a holy God, and in repentance call on Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. There is no other way to make peace with God. None. Jesus is your only hope—but He stands ready and willing to receive you to Himself.

And for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to leave you with this same warning: Jesus is coming back. In what state will He find us on that day? Will we be holding fast to the truth, or wandering off after teachers who blaspheme what they don’t understand, indulge their sexual desires and encourage others to do likewise, and reject the authority of God and His word? Our hope and our confidence is what we discussed in verse 1: Those whom God calls and loves, He keeps to the end (a theme we’ll revisit in a few weeks). But until that day when our King returns in victory, we have a task before us to contend for the faith and call sinners to repentance. We should take care not to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes, so that we are not ensnared. By the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, we will stand firm.

Now, may the God of all truth lead you and guard your steps. May He give you wisdom and grace in all things. May He lovingly bring your smallest sins to light so that you can repent and turn away from them and live lives of holy obedience and humility. May He protect you, keep you, establish you, and cause you to stand firm to the end, in the name of Jesus Christ and for the praise of His glory. Amen.


Sunday Sermon: “Contend for the Faith” (Jude 1-4)

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[Background/Disclaimer: The following sermon was delivered at Cornerstone Community Church in Montgomery, TX, on 07/11/2021. I adapted the section covering verses 3-4 from an earlier sermon I preached on 6/20/2021 at my home church, University Park Baptist Church, in Houston, TX.

In preparing for that first sermon, I relied mainly on the ESV Exegetical Commentary covering the epistle of Jude, Matthew Henry’s commentary on Jude, and various available study Bible notes. While I try to cite any direct quotations, I also want to acknowledge the background assistance of these study helps, in case there are any turns of phrase or linguistic connections that I may have appropriated without realizing and acknowledging it.

I’m sharing this sermon manuscript solely as a blessing to my readers in their personal spiritual walk, and I hope it is edifying in that regard.]


I’d like to open this morning with a lengthy, but I think beneficial, quote:

“The purpose of this book is not to decide the religious issue of the present day, but merely to present the issue as sharply and clearly as possible, in order that the reader may be aided in deciding it for himself. Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time; there are many who prefer to fight their intellectual battles in what Dr. Francis L. Patton has aptly called a “condition of low visibility.” Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in the columns of church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.”

J. Greshem Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

Machen wrote this opening paragraph to Christianity and Liberalism in 1923. It seems that not much has changed in the last 100 years. At this moment in the life of the Evangelical church, we are hard pressed on all sides to be very broad-minded and tolerant when it comes to doctrine and practice, urged from both without and within to focus on what we agree about instead of what we disagree about, when it comes to the world around us. Machen disagrees, suggesting that what matters most is what we’re willing to fight for.

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the epistle of Jude and thinking about why we as Christians are called to “contend for the faith.” This morning, we’ll look at the first four verses, which encompass the introduction and main thesis statement of this powerful letter.

For those taking notes, the outline has 3 points: 1) A Chosen People (v.1-2); 2) A Change of Plans (v.3); and 4) A Church in Peril (v.4).

Let’s take a look at the full text:

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:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

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. 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.

Jude 1-4 ESV

A Chosen People (v.1-2)

This letter begins the way many of the other epistles do, typical of first-century correspondence: we have a statement of whom the letter is from and to whom the letter is written. In verse 1, we see “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James.” Well, who’s Jude? For that matter, who’s James? What we know from the writings of the early church is that this James is James the half-brother of Jesus, the writer of the epistle of James in the New Testament and the apostle who eventually became one of the elders of the Jerusalem church, taking over for the more famous disciple and apostle James (Son of Thunder, brother of John) after that James was martyred in Acts 12.

So what do we know about this James? He was the son of Mary and Joseph, and at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he didn’t seem to believe Jesus was the Messiah. In Matthew 13, we see that Jesus goes back home to Nazareth to teach, and the response of the crowd is, “Don’t we know this guy? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son, Mary’s boy?” In verse 55, it continues, “And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” So James (and by extension, Judas or “Jude”) are half-brothers of Jesus, sons of Mary and Joseph.

Jude identifies himself as the brother of James, so that the readers know who is speaking—but notice that he didn’t call himself the brother of Jesus. Instead, he calls himself Jesus’s servant (or, in the Greek, bondservant or slave), just as James does in James 1:1. And notice also that Jude calls Jesus “Christ”—Messiah, Anointed One. What would have caused such a change in Jude, and in James?

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

I Corinthians 15:3-7 ESV (emphasis mine)

Seeing your older brother working miracles, teaching with wisdom and authority, and then coming back to life after being brutally crucified would probably do the trick! Now, Jude isn’t just the brother of “Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son”; he’s the bondservant and slave of Jesus the Risen Messiah!

Who is Jude writing to? He doesn’t indicate a specific church or region. Some commentators point to context clues to suggest it may be specific churches in Israel or nearby regions—churches with lots of Jewish believers who would recognize the references to the Old Testament and other Jewish works throughout the letter. However, I would suggest that while Jude certainly had a specific audience in mind, his greeting and message to all of us who are in Christ, because they are universally applicable to the church in every age: “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for [or by] Jesus Christ.” We could spend all day on this one verse, because there is such richness in it. But I want to take just a few moments to help you see why it’s so important that we know who we are when we make our stand. If you are a born-again disciple of Jesus Christ, this is who you are:

  • You are called. The God of the Universe chose to reveal Himself to you and to draw you to Himself through the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John 10 that His sheep hear His voice. Because you have been called by God, you are now His, you are in His hand, and nothing and no one can take you out of it. You have been adopted by God and have all the rights and privileges that come with that adoption.
  • You are beloved of the Father. You are loved by God—all 3 persons of God, the Father, the Son, the Spirit. Our position in Christ gives us security and confidence that we can approach the throne of grace boldly, not only because we are cleansed from our unrighteousness and given the righteousness of Jesus, but because we are truly and completely loved by God.
  • You are kept for Jesus Christ. Those whom God calls, God keeps. Those who are born again to new life are secure in their salvation. We’ll spend some more time at the end of the series talking about this, but let’s just revel in this reality for a moment.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39 ESV

What beautiful promises we have in just this one verse—a verse that, let’s admit it, we’re tempted to gloss over.

Then Jude gives an initial blessing in his greeting in Verse 2: “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” As if his previous comment weren’t enough, Jude prays that God would not just grant his readers mercy, peace, and love, but that they would have these graces in abundance—that they’d be multiplied to them! Throughout the New Testament, we see prayers and promises to this effect: the gracious generosity of God toward His people, granting them mercy, peace, and love in Himself, which they then extend and display to the world!

After this beautiful introduction, we move on to the main message of Jude’s letter in verse 3.

A Change of Plans (v.3)

In the first phrase of verse 3, we see a change in plans. “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation…” Jude tells us that his original intent for writing was pastoral and didactic—his desire was to write about theology. He tells his brothers and sisters, beloved of the Father, that he was very eager to expound on “our common salvation.” He wished to establish the faith of the believers by reminding them of the truths of the Gospel taught by the apostles—the very faith he describes as being “once for all delivered to the saints.” We don’t know what that epistle would have looked like. Perhaps, like Paul, he would have talked about how there is no distinction or favoritism when it comes to who has access to God in Christ Jesus, or how all believers have the same Father and the same Lord and the same Spirit and the same baptism. Maybe Jude would have reminded the churches what his brother Jesus taught about the narrow way of salvation and the call to all who were willing to come and drink from Him the water of life. Perhaps Jude might have commented on Peter’s letters that reminded the church of the rich blessings of salvation and the calling to live as holy exiles.

We have no indication what his specific focus might have been, because as he considered taking up the pen (or, possibly, dictating to his personal scribe) to write to the scattered churches, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to address a different matter. He says that he “found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith…” Rather than focusing on the more uplifting topic of our salvation, Jude is compelled to sound a warning bell for the churches. This was his duty as a servant of the Lord, a responsibility that Paul writes in Titus 1:9 is laid upon every minister of the Gospel:  “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Don’t miss that two-part requirement: a faithful elder/pastor must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught—the “faith once delivered to all the saints”—AND be able to rebuke those who try to subvert it. In this passage, Jude is calling out not just to church leaders but to all believers to contend for the faith.

Commentators indicate that the word contend here has a grammatical root from which we derive the English word “agonize.” This is a word from the athletic arena, as wrestlers and combatants grapple and strain and struggle and fight for ground. This word “contend” is not a word with a clean and wrinkle-free jersey; “contend” here is a sweat-soaked and blood-stained word. It’s similar to the phrasing in Paul’s instructions in I Corinthians 9 to run the race to win, and his declaration in II Timothy 4 that he has fought the good fight and finished the race, in keeping the faith. Jude is pleading with the believers to fight, to wrestle, to struggle for the sake of the unadulterated and undiluted faith, the true word that was handed down to them from Jesus and His apostles.

What is this precious word? It’s the word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that begins with bad news: All people are sinners by nature and choice, and all of us deserve the just wrath of a holy God for our rebellion and sin. But Jesus, the son of God, came to us, born of a virgin, born under the law, lived a perfect life of holy obedience and complete righteousness before God, and then died in the place of sinners as a sacrifice for sin, taking on the guilt of our sin and the wrath of God against it, satisfying justice, dying and then rising again 3 days later, in victory over death and as a sign that the penalty for our sin has been paid. Now, we who turn away from our sins and believe on Jesus as Savior AND Lord, trusting in His death and resurrection in our place, are credited with Jesus’ perfect righteousness and have peace with God in Him. When we are born again from death to life, we receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our future inheritance, we are sanctified bit by bit, remade day by day into the image of Jesus, and looking forward to the last day, when we will be raised up with Him, freed of all trace and effect of sin, to live forever in perfect communion with God and His people!

That’s the message that Jude urges his hearers to fight for. Not a social program, not a political strategy, not an ideological agenda: a declaration that Jesus is Lord of all and an invitation to all who have ears to hear to repent and believe this good news.

My friend, if you don’t know this Jesus or believe this message, I’m thrilled to get to tell you: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Are you a sinner? Turn from your sin and rebellion and run to Jesus! There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. He is your only hope. Don’t put this off another day, even another hour, because you truly don’t know for sure how much life you have ahead of you. I’m begging you—come talk to me after the service, for the sake of your very soul.

So, why was Jude compelled by the Holy Spirit to sound the alarm and call the churches to stand firm and fight for the faith? Because Jude recognized they were in danger. That’s our third point.

A Church in Peril (v.4)

Look at the beginning of Verse 4: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed…” Jude knows that there are false teachers who have worked their way into the churches. These spiritual saboteurs didn’t kick open the front door, announcing their apostasy openly. As John MacArthur puts it, the phrasing here describes someone who slides in through the side door, making his way among the flock, before his works become plain.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to believers; throughout the New Testament, we have been warned about it by Jesus and the apostles. Four examples:

  • Jesus warns of wolves in sheep’s clothing and false teachers (Matthew 7:15-23)
  • Paul warned the Ephesian elders as he was leaving that they would eventually be infiltrated (Acts 20:25-31)
  • Paul tells Timothy in II Timothy 3 and 4 that apostates will arise even within the church, and that in the last days, false converts will be drawn to false teachers that please their appetites (II Tim. 4:1-4)
  • In Peter’s second letter (which covers many of the same themes as Jude), he warns of false teachers who infiltrate the church in much the same way (II Peter 2:1-10).

Are we surprised that the sons of the Serpent have the same methods as their slithering father, who smoothly approached Adam and Eve and hissed, “Has God really said…?”

I was reading recently some of Charles Spurgeon’s articles in which he described the Downgrade of evangelicalism in his day. In one piece describing the slide of certain churches into error (often by name!), he noted how it usually wasn’t the lead pastor who would fall into theological error directly; instead, these men erred by not being vigilant in whom they welcomed as guest speakers or whom they hired as assistant ministers. They welcomed false brothers to come alongside them in ministry, excusing or ignoring the occasional red flag in that person’s teaching, until finally the older minister would retire and be succeeded by these younger men who were steeped in theological liberalism and humanism. The lack of watchfulness on the part of the shepherd and the flock allowed the wolves to enter the sheep pen.

This is a danger we should be on guard against, even among “conservative” denominations and associations, as some people, even some influential voices, decry calls for doctrinal clarity and accountability as “the leaven of the Pharisees” and a rising tide of “fundamentalism.” But we must not let fear of being called “legalists” cause us to run into the opposite ditch of becoming complacent about what we affirm together as believers. By all means, let us strive to be kind, winsome, and humble in what we proclaim and how we communicate, but our efforts to be gentle or welcoming must NEVER come at the expense of compromising or downplaying what the Scriptures clearly state.

In our text, Jude is sounding the alarm that the churches should be on the alert against these false teachers, and it would benefit us, as it has every generation before us, to mark these characteristics in our minds. In verse 4, Jude describes the false teachers in 4 ways:

  1. They were long ago designated for destruction:
  2. They are ungodly people;
  3. They pervert the grace of God into sensuality
  4. They deny their Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

First, these false teachers were designated for destruction; the wording here is that their doom was written out beforehand, warned about in the past. Jude is pointing to the various Scriptural warnings (including the ones we’ve looked at already) about the destiny of all those who corrupt the truth of God’s word for selfish gain. Beyond that, these false teachers were designated for destruction in that their fruits showed they were themselves “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” as Paul describes in Romans 9—doomed by their rebellion against the truth to face the wrath of God for their wickedness.

Second, the false teachers are ungodly people: Their lives and lifestyles were oriented away from God and toward selfish gain. They are irreverent, impious, disregarding or even mocking what is holy. Later, in verse 18, Jude describes them as “scoffers, following their ungodly passions.” It should always put us on alert when a professing teacher of the Gospel is happy to make light of the things of God or mock what is holy.  

Next, Jude writes that they pervert (or twist/replace) the grace of our God into sensuality: Even while they pretend to be spiritual leaders and faithful teachers, their actions reveal their true desires. These false teachers abuse the very concept of grace by using it as an excuse to indulge in sensuality—a shameless flaunting of immoral behavior, usually in regards to sexual sin. These people push the boundaries of what is appropriate or acceptable, under the guise of “spiritual freedom.” They are driven by their passions and lusts and often struggle (and fail) to hide their sinful hungers—all the while claiming “grace” as a cover for sin. Consider how Paul rebukes this thinking in Romans 6. Throughout the Scriptures, the people of God are called to live holy lives—and the standard of holiness is set by God, not by the culture around them. Yet these false teachers abuse the grace of God for their own selfish ends and teach their followers to do the same.

Finally, they deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ: The rebellious nature of their false doctrine ultimately leads to a denial of the lordship of Jesus (either directly or indirectly) over the life of the believer. Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me ‘lord, lord’ and not do what I tell you?” False teachers pay lip-service to the lordship of Jesus but deny it by their lives because they refuse to obey the commands of Jesus. In some cases, they may even deny their Lord and Master by creating a false version of Jesus to worship and serve in His place: a counterfeit Jesus who excuses sin and perversion, who feeds their ego and looks the other way when it comes to their greed and selfish desires. Like the Israelites bowing before the Golden Calf and calling it “Yahweh,” false teachers present a false Jesus that promises everything and demands nothing, a pseudo-Christ who just so happens to look like HE was made in OUR image.

Jude goes on in his letter to describe these false teachers in greater detail, before closing out the letter with exhortations to the churches to stand firm and build themselves up in the faith, but for now, we will stop here and spend the rest of our time considering how these warnings apply to the church in our day. Because we should make no mistake: this is a warning bell that should be ringing in the ears of every generation of Christians until Jesus returns. Our enemy hasn’t taken a vacation; he is still seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. He is still sowing weeds among the wheat field. And he’s still sending out false teachers to try to ensnare true and false converts in a web of deception.

So I want to close with some applications and exhortations for you, brothers and sisters:

Hold fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

You may have heard it said before, but the way that federal agents learn how to recognize counterfeit money isn’t by spending their time looking at fake bills but by extensively studying the authentic ones. Beloved, we have been graciously given the very words of God, in a book preserved through the ages. We have no reason not to study it, to fill our minds and hearts with it, to know the truth and be able to distinguish truth from the “almost-but-not-quite-truth” or the “truth-plus-a-little-something-else.” And we don’t study the Scriptures merely to increase our knowledge (this was the error of the Pharisees in John 5, who studied the Scriptures thinking that this is what would give them eternal life); we study the Scriptures because we want to know the God who wrote them. When my wife writes me a little card or encouraging note, I don’t put it away without opening it and say, “Thank you so much. I appreciate your thinking of me.” Of course not! I read it and take in its meaning; why? Because I adore my wife, and her words reveal her heart and mind to me. How much infinitely more does the perfect, inerrant, sufficient, authoritative Word of God reveal to us who He is and what He expects of us! Christian, we are to be people of the Book. That is our first and greatest defense against the schemes of false teachers. We need to be diligent to learn these precious truths, so that they shape our thinking and speech.

Be careful whose voices you welcome as your teachers.

We live in a world that is jam-packed with messaging. All day long, we are being bombarded with ideas and suggestions from marketers, influencers, and would-be teachers. Every single piece of media we consume, from books to music to visual entertainment to social media feeds, has a specific worldview behind it. We cannot be naïve about this. We must—MUST—be on guard about which voices we are giving our attention to. Everything we take in and engage with needs to be run through the filter of “Is this true? Is this consistent with what God says in His Word?”

I want to speak a word here specifically to the men in the church, to the husbands and fathers. As a husband and father myself, I want to urge and exhort you my brothers to stand guard over the eyes and ears, the hearts and minds of your household. You are responsible as the spiritual leader of your home to guard your wife and children against those who would try to lead them astray. And I’m not saying that wives or even children are helpless or unable to discern truth from error—not at all; in fact, that should be one of our goals, to teach, train, and help them do just that. And there is a great blessing in having a godly wife who is equally vigilant over herself and her children. My wife recently encouraged me when she watched a movie before showing it to our daughters, and later told me she decided against it because she recognized the subtle worldview implications that were hidden inside the otherwise sweet and innocent-looking cartoon. She understands how media can catechize our children in ways we don’t expect.

Men, we must not follow the pattern of our first ancestor Adam, who passively stood by as his wife was lied to by a false teacher telling sweet little lies about who God is and what He has commanded. We need to be paying attention to what voices come into our homes, into our car radios, into our children’s electronic devices. I’m not calling for a locked-down, 1950’s hyper-fundamentalist “keep out the world” approach either. I spent part of my childhood in that kind of church. That well-intentioned approach doesn’t work. What I’m talking about is active participation in advising and exhorting and supporting your wife, in taking the lead with her help to train your children to engage the world as Christians, to think Christianly, to be good Bereans and measure everything against the Scriptures. We dare not check out and back off, because we’re too busy or we want to avoid conflict in our homes over certain media. Men, your family is being hunted. Our enemy is a predator who wants to ensnare and drag away the hearts and minds of you, your wife, and your children. I’m not being overdramatic. I’m telling you the truth. Let’s get serious about this.

And that even means having a discerning ear when it comes to voices that claim to be Christian. Did you pick up on this from the text? These aren’t teachers from the outside, trying to lure the believers into worshiping an obvious idol. These are false converts, using the language of Christian faith as a cover for worldly philosophy and practice. In other words, we can’t let our guard down when we turn on Pureflix or tune the car radio to the local Christian station. Some of the most damnable heresies are smuggled into our homes through the “safe for the whole family” programming we are fed under the banner of “Christian.” No matter how many times a song says the name Jesus, we need to listen carefully to make sure they’re talking about the right one!

Again, please don’t mishear me: I’m not trying to create an extrabiblical code of conduct or confuse the commands of God with the traditions or cultural preferences of men. But, brothers and sisters, we who have been called, redeemed, and kept by God, who live in this world as strangers and pilgrims, need to remind ourselves what the Scriptures say: anyone who loves this world and its system and its wicked ways does not have the love of the Father in them.

Speak up when it comes time to take your stand.

Finally, we should heed Jude’s exhortation in verse 3: our brother urges the Church then and the Church now not just to hold onto the faith, but to contend, to struggle, to wrestle for it. This means there comes a point where we must engage the people and ideas around us with what we know is true.

This contending isn’t a physical struggle; we’re not called to wage a holy war and physically destroy those who oppose us—that’s not the way of Christ. Rather, as Paul writes in II Corinthians 10:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

This means that, in the arena of ideas, Christians are called to contend for the truth of God with the weapons God gives us in the way that God commands us to do so. In our generation, as in past generations, the plain truths of the Scriptures are called into question. Today, the Bible’s teaching of God’s design for human sexuality and holy marriage is denied or contradicted as being hateful and harmful. The truth about how the blood of Jesus tears down the dividing wall of racial hostility and gives us new identities in Christ is called insufficient, simplistic, or even oppressive. The insistence that Jesus is Lord of His Church and that we must in all things obey God rather than men is considered by some to be subversive and dangerous. In the marketplace of ideas, we should be ready for these doctrinal truths that we hold to be mocked, opposed, or even shouted down. This should not surprise us. Yet here we stand; we can do no other.

But in the midst of our contending, let’s not forget what we’re fighting for. We are not merely culture warriors; that’s not our true calling. We have not been given a divine mandate to save western civilization or American culture; that’s not our true kingdom. Our king has given us marching orders, based on His having all authority in heaven and on earth, to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that King Jesus has commanded us. That’s our mandate. That’s our mission.

Saints, contend for the faith: in your hearts, in your homes, in the world. To God be the glory.