Honest and dishonest sinners

Jude - Twelfth in a series

Jude gives three final defining points about the mockers… who walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 1:18, 19)

Some commentators state that the concept of separating oneself from others in the church is to hold back from works of ministry whether by teaching or serving. Historically, at times certain tribes would not join in the larger effort to protect Israel. (Judges 5:16, 23)

Another, John Calvin, says, "He means that they separated from the Church, because they would not bear the yoke of discipline, as they who indulge the flesh dislike spiritual life."

It was not simply that they formed separate factions. Paul points out that there must be divisions in a church at times. The Lord uses differences in opinions to train us in good doctrine, for we must discern what is right in important questions. (1 Cor 11:18, 19) By hearing two sides we must choose, which is a strengthening action.

So, it was not simply that they held separate views; it was much more than that. Their lives were ruled by the flesh. To a new or non-believer, what does that mean? We all have flesh. We all have bodily urges and many needs to fulfill. We are all sensual to some end or desire and that is normal. So what is Jude's point? It is best summed up in Jesus' flat comment, The Spirit is what gives life, the flesh is of no use at all. (John 6:63)

The Spirit is God's Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, given to believers to enable them to live in Christ. All believers have the Spirit, but it is a different matter to be FILLED with the Spirit.

I once heard a sermon that gave four points on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wrote them down:

  • Put away all known sin.
  • Do not grieve the Spirit.
  • Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Be filled with the Spirit.

The first is not too hard to understand, and with the help of the Lord, not impossible to do. We are not conscious of many of our sins, so start with the things you are aware of. If you delay bringing your behavior in line with God's revealed will— the commands and enlightenment we are given in the Bible— you have made a choice to oppose God.

The second point reveals good things about God. Imagine, He is grieved if we fail to conform to his high standards. (Eph 4:29-32) Perhaps we envision him as angry, and this is true when people continuously rebel and commit extremely sinful deeds, but for the Christian trying to be obedient, taking one step forward and two steps back, the Spirit is grieved, an emotion attributed only to those who love us. Don't grieve Him further by giving up on your goal to make progress in your walk with the Lord; go back to step one-- put away your sin, and try again.

What is it to quench? Quenching is extinguishing a fire, to suppress, to stifle. Paul's instruction to the Thessalonians not to quench the spirit (1 Thess 5:19) was encouragement to stay strong in their devotion to Christ. The Spirit makes us zealous to serve and honor the Lord. We can put out this fire by being sensual and attending to the things that support the flesh rather than putting first God's kingdom and righteousness. (Mat 6:33)

Finally, seek greater fullness in your commitment to serve the Lord. We are told in Luke 11:13 that we must ask for the Spirit. Though we receive Him when we first turn from sin and confess belief in Christ, we need to continually be filled: Ask and you shall receive. Be earnest in your desire to have more life! (Eph 5:18; Ps 51:10-12)

The Christian is under strict instructions to be wholly committed and devoted to the Lord:

  • Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)
  • No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
  • Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Mat 8:28)
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:48)

Can the flesh assist us to fully give our hearts to God? No, only the Spirit can move us to zeal and total devotion.

The abundant life promised and flowing freely from Christ (John 10:10) requires being full of the Holy Spirit. The flesh comes under the rule of the Spirit, making it much easier to (mostly!) obey God's commands. And we are promised strength for this goal to follow Christ wholeheartedly: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chr 16:9)

The intruders did not have the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) Like the sincere Christians, they were sinners, but unlike them, they did not worry about putting away their sin. In that sense they were dishonest sinners. The honest sinner acknowledges failure and prays for help to be obedient. The dishonest one is settled in sensuality and sins willfully and without conscience. These ones are even more comfortable in their sin when they succeed in attracting followers. They honestly love it.

Peter and Jude

Jude - Eleventh in a series

There are similarities between Jude's letter and the second chapter of II Peter, but also differences. We will take a look.

First, Peter speaks of false teachers that "shall be… among you" not that already were, though as he continues, he seems to know these men as imminent troublers of the faithful. Jude warns that the evil men were in their midst.

Both Peter and Jude expose the charlatans, but Peter characterizes them more as false teachers (2 Pet 2:1) while Jude sees them as mockers (Jude 1:18). Both describe them as

  • entering the body by stealth
  • "spots" in the communion meals
  • sexually perverse and licentious
  • deniers of Christ, and as
  • condemned already.

Jude brings to remembrance the rebellious Hebrews under Moses, the angels who left their first estate, and Sodom and Gomorrha as three examples of those destroyed or expertly managed by God to exclude them from further rebellion; Peter points to "the angels that sinned," the old world of Noah's day, and Sodom and Gomorrha, as examples of God's dexterity in punishing evil while sparing the righteous, namely Noah, Lot and their family members.

Thus, Peter's emphasis is on God's power to save the righteous in the midst of catasrophe, (2 Pet 2:4-7) and Jude focuses on God's determination to punish rebellion as demonstrated throughout history. (Jude 1:5-7)

Both Peter and Jude write about Michael the archangel: Peter alludes to him (2 Pet 2:10, 11) but Jude cites an incident between Michael and Satan. (Jude 1:10)

In both cases it is pointed out that angels have sense and discernment enough not to spar with the devil, but the false brethren lack good judgment and are not afraid to "speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10; Jude 1:8), with Peter noting their presumptuous and self-willed nature, and Jude stating that they despise dominion and are slaves to their lower nature.

For mere men to rail against evil or even wonderful principalities shows complete lack of judgment that proper education and preaching might have corrected, unless the offender were without conscience (see previous post).

Jude's analogies of the offenders to natural phenomena include those that are lifeless and without dynamism and those with terrible force, driving and fierce. The apostates are intensely powerful while inwardly dead.

Four scenes describe the apostates: clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. (Jude 1:12,13) Peter likewise sees their emptiness and contradictory wild motion and force (2 Pet 2:17).

In five descriptors, Jude sums up the personality of the ungodly deceiver: These are (a) murmurers, (b) complainers, (c) walking after their own lusts (fleshly); and (d) their mouth speaketh great swelling words (boastful, arrogant), (e) having men's persons in admiration because of advantage (flatterers, controlling types). (Jude 1:16)

Peter also notes the trait of boastfulness (2 Pet 2:18) but dwells more on their lustful behavior and wanton alluring of weak believers who had recently been saved from such lifestyles. He warns that should they return to their former selves after having come clean by the knowledge of the Lord; it would have been better never to have known the new way of righteousness (2 Pet 2:20-22). Jude, in contrast, commands the strong to save the weak. (Jude 1:22, 23)

Jude's letter is reminiscent of Peter's, or vice versa, but a careful reading brings out differences. Yet, there are enough similarities to make plain there was a cult that affected many churches.

We also wonder if Jude had read Peter's letter or vice versa, and chose to repeat certain phrases and points as a way of enforcing the views.

Since Peter states in his second letter that he knows his death is near (2 Pet 1:14), Jude may have upheld and promoted Peter's words as a memorial, a needed exhortation, and as a method of confirming his insights.(Jude 1:17)

Paul also foretold that ungodly deceivers would strive to ruin the church, and John corroborated all these warnings. (Acts 20:29; 1 Tim 4:1, 2; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7-11; 3 John 1:9-11)

Thus we have in the Bible two thorough warnings against such men and shorter ones in other letters.

By the testimony of two or three witnesses the truth is upheld.(Deut 19:15)

Sociopathic spots

Jude - Tenth in a series

Throughout his letter, Jude draws comparisons to Scriptural examples of those who turned from God and led others astray, but whether leaders or followers, all suffered the same consequences.

In verse 12 the ungodly men are described as spots: These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear… (Jud 1:12)

In the Greek, a spot is "a rock in the sea, ledge, reef; a metaphor for men who by their conduct damage others morally, wreck them as it were." (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon or bluletterbible.org) Peter uses a similar word, but his "spots" are related in the Greek to gluttonous men. (2 Pet 2:13) On comparisons between 2 Peter and Jude there is more to come in the next post.

Jude is warning that some who share in communion are impostors. In the early church the communion service was a larger meal than our current practice of tokens enjoyed within the confines of worship. Perhaps it could be likened to a church fellowship dinner.

The fellowship meal is the easiest place for believers to develop friendships with "spots." In a milieu of trust and love that follows common worship, people enjoy conversation and openness; but what if the common worship was not really held in common?

Yet, the impostors, or those claiming identity with Christ for deceptive motives, are very convincing, because they show no fear. In other words, they are without a conscience— or are they? Has God left any without a sense of what is right and what is wrong? When people call evil good, and good evil, (Isa 5:20), are they really convinced of their own lies?

Only God knows the answer to that question, but from the standpoint of living with others in an imperfect world, the answer is yes, they appear and act totally convinced, and it is not possible to reason with such people. Perhaps that is why Jude does not urge his readers to explain God's Word to the deceivers.

Instead, he simply advises believers to stay strong in Christ, and repeats Enoch's words to the faithful: And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14, 15)

The person without a conscience will, in the end, become convicted of his or her wrongs. But before that time, he can take away the righteousness of the righteous from him. (Isa 5:23 KJV)

Let us value Jude's warning, for anyone who falls under the spell of the charismatic sociopath will be judged, too. Wrong is wrong. So, stay strong, or become strong, because the Lord is coming!

And when He comes, a host will accompany him. Jesus told his disciples that his angels would be with him for the purpose of gathering his children. (Mat 24:30, 31; 25:31) Saints in the context of Enoch's prophecy, probably refers to angels as Holy Ones, not to people sanctified in Christ. At that time, departed believers will not yet have bodies, but soon thereafter, they will have. We can trust that a resurrection awaits. Stand firm in this belief, hope for the return of Christ, and be on the alert for ungodly, sociopathic fraudsters.

Note, Paul also uses the term saints to describe those with Christ at his return, however, he makes clear they are angels, not departed human souls (1 Thess 3:13; 2 Thess 1:7)

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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