Jude has finished the first half of his letter to those who are called, beloved, and kept. He has spent the first half of his letter addressing the false teachers (we see this in the phrases, they, them, themselves, etc). Jude now shifts his focus. He has told the church about the errors of this teaching and the teachers. They have perverted God’s grace into sensuality. They have denied Jesus as Lord and master. He used illustrations from the Old Testament, he painted a picture of what the false teachers are like using images from nature. Finally, he has laid his charges on the table, they are grumblers, malcontents, sin followers, boasters, and using those less fortunate to gain some form of personal boasters. Jude has pointed out the error of their teaching. He has shown the outcome of the false teachers.
However, Jude shifts his focus now to the true believers, as he begins in verse 17 with, but you. In contrast to the false teachers, he focuses on the ones who are called, beloved, and kept. Now you might say that the first half of Jude’s letter is an unpacking of verse 4 and the second half is an unpacking of verse 3, how we are to contend for the faith. Now, this is nice and neat and is true to some degree. But we need to know that even though Jude is not speaking directly about those who are called, beloved, and kept. He is writing this letter to them. Jude is showing them that they need to know what the true faith is that has been delivered to all the saints, but he shows them the seriousness of these errors that have crept into the church. He will later in this section show us how to deal with false teaching, but he is not mincing words when it comes to what they are teaching and the outcome of their teaching both temporally and eternally. We need to be able to call out errors and heresies. We need to show grace and mercy to those who teach them (vs 22-23), but we should not so mercy and grace to the false teaching itself. The church has room for sinners who need mercy, there should be no room in the church for the false teaching that perverts grace or denies Christ.
As mentioned before, Jude now turns specifically to those who are called, beloved, and kept. He started verse five by explaining that he wanted to remind them of something that once knew but now have forgotten. Now in this section, he tells them to remember. That the church at this point had forgotten several things, they had forgotten what happened to those who died in the wilderness. But also even what the apostles had told them. We see Jude making connections in the Old Testament, and applying them to the New Testament, but he is pointing out that the New Testament also tells us of this. He calls them, Beloved, which is shorthand for how he addresses the readers in verse 1.
For such a short book it has been an issue of controversy in scholarship, due to its similar writings to 2 Peter, Jude’s use of the book of first Enoch, and other apparent issues that people point out. And in verse 17 we find another apparent issue. In verse 14, Jude mentioned that Enoch “prophesied…” Now he says that the Apostles predicted… Some scholars question this statement written by Jude because he uses the phrase ‘apostles.’ I found it hard to understand their opposition to this, but from what I understand they question how could the apostles make such a prediction when we have no record of just a statement by the apostles (as a group). However, we see many times when apostles make similar statements (Acts 20:29-30, 1 Tim 4:1-5, even Matthew (an apostle records Jesus’ words) Matt 7:15-20). I think this is a very limited reading of the word Apostles (as a group) rather than the apostles (as individuals on different occasions). The second issue they raise is the past tense of the word ‘they said,’ they imply that because this is past tense the Apostles must have died. Again, I think this is limiting the scope of what this word could mean. Lastly, they believe that this must have been written down and spears to be a quote. The closest written source of this is found in 2 Peter 3:1. Depending on which you thought was written first would alter our understanding. I believe Jude was written before Peter, and Peter’s is somewhat of a commentary on the book of Jude. However, even if Peter was written first, Peter also uses the phrase the apostles. The best reading, I believe, is that Jude is summarizing the teaching of the apostles through oral tradition that they had been taught by Jesus during his earthly ministry. He is not quoting them directly but is summarizing their teaching.
So, what was the apostles’ prediction, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” Jude simply is saying, that we should not be surprised that within the covenant community, we have people who are like these false teachers. He has pointed this out through stories of the Old Testament. That we have false teachers from the beginning like Cain. We have had those questioning God’s appointed leaders, God’s ways, God’s salvation, God’s creation, and other things. Why are we surprised when it is the same in the church? What did we expect in the church, it to be exactly like heaven? Jude said, we saw this in the Old Testament, but even the apostles have been saying this as well. That the church will have scoffers who do not follow the word of God but they will follow their ungodly passions. Now, this is a very important point that Jude is making, because he is not addressing the world ‘out-there’ he is addressing those false teachers who have crept ‘in here.’ Within the people of God who are called to be godly, will be ungodly people. Who have not had their hearts changed to follow Christ but just continue following their sinful passions. He simply points out, that not only we should know this from the Old Testament, but we have also been told this would happen by the apostles. His reminder is that we should know this would happen, but also we should be ready for this to happen. It is sad to say, but in this age between Jesus ascending to the Father and coming back on the last day we will not have true peace. That conflict will remain. Jesus did not promise that believers would not have trouble, but in the midst of trouble we would have peace (John 14:27). Jesus did not say that Satan would not attack God’s people, but that the gates of hell would not prevail against Christ’s church (Matt 16:18). He goes on and tells his disciples that, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19). The verse implies conflict will continue, but Jesus will be victorious in the end. Jude says that we should contend for the faith and we should not be surprised when we need to contend. Thomas Schreiner explains it well, “The church therefore should not be surprised at their intrusion into the congregation but should be prepared to fend off the insidious presence of the interlopers.”
Divisions and Separation
In the first section of Jude, he speaks specifically of the false teachers. As he tells the church that we shouldn’t be surprised that the church is in a battle, he tells them what these false teachers look like. This verse (vs 19) Jude speaks of the false teachers again, I think this could be the most spine-chilling verse in the book of Jude. As we think about what the church has to face and the hurdles that have to be crossed.
He warns the church that these false teachers will cause divisions. If you have been a Christian for any length of time involved in a church, you know of stories either than happened in your church or you have seen happen to churches. Drive down most streets and you can almost see the story of divisions. These divisions stem from false teachers. This does not mean every church is a division caused by false teachers. But what are we talking about when it comes to division? Presbyterians can be called the ‘split P’s.’ If you look at the history of Presbyterian denominations, you see many branches and forks. Some of these forks join back together again. Even our church has had the story of separating from a Presbyterian Denomination to join another. And even any protestant branch of the Christian church separated from the Roman Catholic church. As we think about these divisions, we need to be reminded Jude is pointing out that False teachers cause these divisions. Of each of the examples I have mentioned we are the branch that separated from the ‘trunk.’ The reason for all of these was that the trunk was rotten, the trunk had departed from the Faith that was delivered to all the saints. The Catholic Church perverted grace into merit earned through senses, they denied Jesus as the head and master of his church. The Presbyterian denominations separated important issues of faith and conscience. The ARP was formed because there was a perversion of how grace was to be offered, the ARP brothers said there should be a free offer of the Gospel to all mankind. The PCA separated from the rotten trunk of what is now the PCUSA, where they denied the need for grace at all, for all ways lead to heaven (they said), and they denied the scriptures and Christ’s word to the church selecting passages. The division comes not from only those who separate from a church but from the one faith that has been delivered to the saints in the Bible. We might pray this church will never close its doors, but our prayer should be that we would never close these doors unless we depart from the truth contained in the Bible. That we would remain faithful to the Word of God as our only rule of faith and practice.
Jude then says that these false teachers are worldly. Again, this should be a jarring statement to us. Here Jude is talking about people within the church. Jesus said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14–15). Jesus said, that his disciples would be in the world, but not of the world. Yet in the church, those who call themselves Christ’s disciples, are not only in the world but are of the world. They are worldly people. James says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:14–15). Here within the church, most likely on the church membership rolls are people that focus on only what is natural, and physical. Now we might not deny the Spiritual, but our actions we might only think of this life and this world. We spend no time thinking of our souls, only our bodies. We think only of today, and never eternity. We think only of pleasure and not of God’s glory.
In the Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan, he meets a man called “Mr. Worldly Wiseman.” Mr. Worldly Wiseman was actually quite a wise and knowledgeable man, but one of his downsides was that he was not able to see past the natural. The warns Christian,
“Hear me; I am older than thou: thou art like to meet with, in the way which thou goest, wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and what not. These things are certainly true, having been confirmed by many testimonies. And should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger.”
Mr. Worldly Wiseman did not lie in all that he said. He was right Christian was to face all of these dangers. However, he failed to understand who this stranger whom Christian would meet at the end. He only saw the dangers on a physical level, never understanding the destination that Christian would one day arrive at. We need to be cautious that we do not let this become our perspective, we are citizens of heaven. This should have a huge impact on how we live.
We should not be surprised by this last point if we understood the previous points Paul writes, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). However, we see that someone can be within the church and not be a true Christian. We have seen this point before, but here comes the shocking part of this passage. If they are devoid of the Spirit, then they cannot truly repent and be born again (John 3). Jude can make this statement under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We cannot make such a claim based on what tomorrow will bring. We do not know if the person is a true believer who has wandered, an unconverted person who will become saved, or a reprobate. However, we can be aware that just because someone is in the church and even in leadership within the church does not mean that they are truly saved. Many kings of Israel and even Judah, from all Scriptural perspectives, were not believers. It is not for us to make such an eternal judgment. Yet we should know that this can be a reality.
Jude will turn this book around and show us how we are to contend for the faith. But I will leave you with one thing. That this Faith is worth contending for. You might never want to go to court, however, you would if the inheritance was worth it, or if someone was trying to take your house or your children away from you. This faith is worth fighting for because it is the only hope that anyone can find. The only truth of salvation. It is true grace, true mercy, and true love. We must be willing to stand firm. To protect what was delivered to the Saints. Because without this, we have no hope of salvation, a false gospel, and we end up like the false teachers who have utter darkness reserved for them.
 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).