This evening we will be studying an entire book of the Bible. Even though it is only 25 verses long, it is very seldom studied. In fact, the only verses that are usually quoted are the first two and the last two verses.
Have you guessed which book it is? Yes, it is the Book of Jude. Many believers study the same Scriptures over and over again. Some will only read the words spoken by Christ in their red letter bibles. Others will only read the letters of Paul, to the exclusion of every other book. But the whole of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures is the Word of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That is in 2 Timothy (3:16) where Paul also writes that we should be unashamed workmen rightly dividing the word of truth.
To properly understand this book we need to do just that - rightly divide God's Word.
Let us start at the first two verses in the Concordant Version.
"Judas, a slave of Jesus Christ, yet a brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept by Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you!"
The author of this letter is commonly called Jude, but his correct name is Judas. This is the name I shall use throughout this study.
Just who is this Judas? Luke 6:13-19 records Christ's choosing of His disciples and naming them apostles. Verse 16 in the KJV lists two men named Judas - Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Here the Greek uses a common Greek idiom; the wording is actually 'Judas of James' and means 'Judas SON of James.' The Concordant Version is 'Judas of James.' So this Judas is not the brother of James, but the son.
In Matthew 13:55, we read, ".... Is not his mother said to be Miriam, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?" Mark 6:3, is almost the same, "Is not this the artisan, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?"
The only brothers called James and Judas mentioned in Scripture, are these two men, so this Judas is the most likely writer of the epistle.
He was not an apostle, neither was his brother James, even though James had a high place in the ecclesia in Jerusalem. Why didn't he claim to be the brother of Christ? Perhaps, he was humble and did not wish to claim any precedence by virtue of his relationship with his Lord.
Some have noted that in his letter he does not directly quote Scripture. On the contrary, he quotes books which are not in the Hebrew canon. Because of this it is no real surprise that this book was not initially accepted as part of the canon of the New Testament.
So why did Judas write this letter? He tells us in verses 3 - 4.
"Beloved, giving all diligence to be writing to you concerning our common salvation and life, I have had the necessity to write to you, entreating you to be contending for the faith once given over to the saints. For some men slip in who long ago have been written beforehand for this judgment; irreverent, bartering the grace of our God for wantonness, and disowning our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ."
What is plain is that these men who "slipped in" were not outsiders, but so-called members of the ecclesia. These were not Judaizers, on the contrary they were Gnostics. I shall explain later how we know this.
Please note that even though he uses the word 'grace', he is not exhorting the brethren to follow the teaching of Paul, but to "the faith once delivered to the [Circumcision] saints" by the apostles. That is, the original Twelve.
Judas warns the Circumcision of the same dangers that Christ and the apostles warned them of. The Jewish disciples were told by Peter on the day of Pentecost, "Repent, and be baptised each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the pardon of your sins, and you shall be obtaining the gratuity of the holy spirit." Peter then entreated his fellow Jews, "Be saved from this crooked generation!"
Judas is writing about the judgment of those who are closely united to Christ in the flesh. He can only offer pardon, not justification. Hence, these faithful Jews can have their pardon revoked if they fall away during the apostasy.
To get the message across, Judas tells the story of the Exodus and later Israelite history.
"Now I am intending to remind you, you who once are aware of all, that the Lord, when saving the people out of the land of Egypt, secondly destroys those who believe not. Besides, messengers who keep not their own sovereignty, but leave their own habitation, He has kept in imperceptible bonds under gloom for the judging of the great day. As Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner to these committing ultra-prostitution, and coming away after other flesh, are lying before us, a specimen, experiencing the justice of fire eonian."
Although the NATION of Ancient Israel was saved when they left Egypt, many individuals were destroyed because of their unbelief and by following the lusts of the flesh.
Just as there were many individuals at the time of the Exodus, who did not enter the Promised Land, so there will be only a remnant entering the future kingdom on this earth. This will be because of the difficult afflictions prophesied at the time of the end.
Sodom and Gomorrah should be a continual warning, then and now, of what happens to people when they commit 'ultra-prostitution' as the Concordant Version calls it. Or as the KJV has it, "giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example..."
If we mix this judgement period with the present era of grace, we will have a perverted idea of what God is doing in the world today. And as a result, live in fear of losing our salvation.
"Howbeit, these dreamers also, likewise are indeed defiling the flesh, yet are repudiating lordship and calumniating glories. Now when Michael, the chief messenger, doubting the Adversary, argued concerning the body of Moses, he dares not bring on a calumniating judging, but said, 'May the Lord rebuke you!' Yet these indeed are calumniating whatever they are not acquainted with, yet in whatever they are naturally adept, as the irrational animals, in these things they are being corrupted."
These verses remind us that the Adversary was over the archangel Michael. Michael did not try to overthrow his authority, or judge him slanderously. The way of Cain is to substitute human worship for God's commanded worship. Balaam's 'religion' was to get money. Korah was unqualified to perform sacred functions in the wilderness. Judas is using these examples to show, from Ancient Israel's past, what happens when disobedience and false religion take over - God's wrath and punishment follow.
Let us continue in verses 12-26.
"Woe to them! for they went in the way of Cain, and in the deception of Balaam's wages were they poured out, and in the contradiction of Korah they perished."
"These are the reefs in your love feasts, carousing with you fearlessly, shepherding themselves waterless clouds carried aside by winds; trees that are sear, unfruitful, twice dying, uprooted wild billows of the sea, frothing forth their own shame; straying stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been kept for an eon. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesies to these also, saying 'Lo! the Lord came among ten thousand of His saints, to do judging against all, and to expose all the irreverent concerning all their irreverent acts in which they are irreverent, and concerning all the hard words which irreverent sinners speak against Him.' These are murmurers, complainers, going according to their desires, and their mouth is speaking pompous things, marvelling at the aspect of things, on behalf of benefit."
It may seem difficult to understand that these people are believers, even though they attended their 'love feasts'. They were fearless and shepherding themselves. I mentioned they were Gnostics. We know this because Judas warned his fellow saints of their teachings.
What did the Gnostics teach? In one word - Dualism. Two eternal principles rule this world - Spirit and Matter. Spirit is good and Matter is evil and imperfect. Consequently the true God could not have been the Creator of this world. The God of the Old Testament was the Creator and was hostile to the good God of the New Testament. Two Gods - a good one and a wicked one.
To their minds this explained why there is so much sin, suffering and imperfection in this world. From this basic theory it follows logically that the wicked God's laws were also wicked. As a result, the lawbreakers must be servants of the true God and the obedient Old Testament saints must be servants of the ignorant and hostile God. The next step was to deny that Jesus was "our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ". The Gnostics reckoned that Jesus, however exalted he may be in the hierarchy, was just one of many between man and God. There was not just a hierarchy in the spirit world, there was also a hierarchy in the human world. A small elite of spirit filled believers and the soulish believers. So a barrier was built between the first and second class believers.
It is no surprise therefore that the Gnostics believed that it was incumbent on them to disobey the laws of the wicked God. As they were so spiritual they could disobey these laws and do as they pleased. They had no shame and produced no good fruit. Verses 17 - 19 of Judas's letter describes these people accurately when he writes:
"Yet you, beloved, remember the declarations which have been declared before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they said to you, 'In the last time will be coming scoffers, going according to their own irreverent desires'. These are those who isolate themselves, soulish, not having the spirit."
Judas ends by exhorting the true believers thus:
"Now you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in holy spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for life eonian. And to those, indeed, who are doubting, be merciful, yet others be saving, snatching them out of the fire, yet to others be merciful with fear, hating even the tunic spotted by the flesh."
"Snatching them out of the fire", indicates how seriously Judas considered the dangers posed by these false brethren.
He ends his letter as I shall with these words of comfort:
"Now to Him Who is able to guard you from tripping, and to stand you flawless in sight of His glory, in exultation to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority before the entire eon, now, as well as for all the eons.
© James Johnson