Change that proves eternal verities

Jude - Fifth in a series

From Jude's perspective, everything had changed. He was born when Jews and Gentiles were separate by God's command, slaves were not fortunate people, and women and men differed in measured value, but now there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female (Gal 3:28). In Christ all are one and each one is a new creature (2 Cor 5:17), by confession that He is Lord.

Yes, it happened just as Scripture promised, A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]. (Ez 36:27, 28)

Walking in God's laws; keeping his commands and doing them— now, with the Holy Spirit, it shall be done!

The Lord was plain that the law was not set aside by his coming, yet at times it seemed that way. In dietary laws and sacrificial observances, there was a new understanding. Christ himself was the passover lamb and few restrictions were observed in what might be eaten, yet other laws were unchanged.

It would be impossible to navigate all these changes without the Holy Spirit who brought to Jude's mind the words of Jesus (John 16:13).

Funny, in certain matters there were no changes. For example, the people of the Lord were still vastly outnumbered. With Israel it was never survival of the fittest but of the weakest in terms of numbers, weapons and steeds. Now more than ever it would be survival by God's power to save and by his sovereign plan.

Major differences in how evildoers were to be dealt with had developed over the centuries. In Israel's past, idolatrous nations were decimated to enable the Hebrews' survival, and rebels against God's laws were dealt with severely. Now, enemy nations were in control of the ancient nation of Israel, and the evildoer in the midst of God's new nation must be tested, at times shunned, or, Jude will say, clearly discerned [edited 7-5], for indeed, knowledge is power. How different the circumstances and commands! Yet in the flood of change, the steadfast love of the Lord endured.

Jude begins his purpose statement with the term of endearment, "Beloved." Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3)

Twice more in his letter he addresses the readers as "beloved." There is a musical cadence of three beats to the measure throughout, as Jude expresses what is in his heart. We will find:

  • Three defining characteristics of the ungodly men who have crept in among the believers; (Jud 1: 4)
  • Three examples of how God historically has dealt with rebels; (Jud 1: 5-7)
  • Three further descriptions of the "filthy dreamers"; (Jud 1:8)
  • Three points about their behavior and nature; (Jud 1:10)
  • Three examples from Scripture of like-minded men; (Jud 1:11)
  • Four analogies comparing these evil men to ugly or terrifying scenes from the earth and heavens, but these are within a list of nine aspects of their behavior; (Jud 1:12-16)
  • Followed by three final observations about these mockers; (Jud 1:17-19)
  • Then three words of advice on how believers need to build up their hearts in the faith, to withstand the influence of the false brothers; (Jud 1:20-21)
  • Three tactics for dealing with those who have fallen under the spell of the infiltrators, plus advice on how to regard such missions; [edited 7-5] (Jud 1:22-23)
  • Followed by words of assurance, adoration and praise, of course, nine in full. (Jud 1:24-25)

The reason for all these three's is to uphold the faith ONCE delivered, as stated in Jude 1:3. This instance of the word "once" connotes one time, once, once for all in the Greek. There would be no new revelations. (Heb 9:26, 28; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18)

It may be of interest to the reader to review E. E. Bullinger's insights in his Number in Scripture chapter onThree.

Hoping for Mercy

Jude - Fourth in a series

The opening of Jude's letter finishes with these words: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. (Jude 1:2)

Love and peace are among the first gifts of the Spirit enumerated by Paul: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness… (Gal 5:22,23) Each of us knows experientially that we cannot love from the heart nor be free of anxiety and worry except by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Mercy, however, is God's encompassing salvation for man (in the sense of all people, women included).

When Paul wrote to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and other groups, he bid them grace and peace, (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2) but when he wrote to Timothy and Titus, his own sons in the faith, he went further, to include mercy with grace and peace. (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4) He wanted his special sons in Christ to be drawn to reflect on their root need of Christ. They were likely to come under the same intense trials he himself had known. They would never survive without crying out for God's mercy.

Paul wished for Philemon God's grace and peace (Philemon 1:3) Philemon was not a close son even though Paul stated he owed him his life, that is, his salvation.

As Peter wrote to fellow believers in various places, he wished them grace and peace (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2) with the mention of mercy not far behind (1 Pet 1:3) and the need to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10) urged, for he warned about false prophets in the church.

When the apostle John wrote to warn about deceivers, he wrote from his heart, "Grace be with you, mercy and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ…" (2 John 1:3) Mercy for lambs can protect them from wolves.

Therefore, when Jude's greeting includes mercy, we know he is reaching out to brothers and sisters in dangerous circumstances. There were and are powers that can only be confronted with God's merciful help, not by might, (Zech 4:6) and we sheep are not good at self preservation in any sense.

What is the difference between grace and mercy? A good expression of grace is in 2 Corinthians: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. 2 Cor 5:19a Grace is God's good will and favor toward men. Mercy shifts the focus to our helpless state. It is good will toward destitute, imperiled and afflicted people. We welcome God's grace, but we cry out for his mercy.

We should enter into Jude's arena where evil men are spotlighted and exposed, realizing we, too, are susceptible to their designs. Christ alone can protect us, and he will, but we should stop to reflect on our helpless state without Him. We need God's mercy.

A coveted stature

Jude - Third in a series

Jude warns his brothers and sisters about so-called Christians who have infiltrated their church to pollute and overthrow it, and urges them to contend for the faith.

To ready them for this alarm, he begins by reminding them of their stature as members of the body. It is this stature that the Evil One wildly despises. Believers are:

  • sanctified, loved of God,
  • preserved in Jesus Christ, and
  • called. (Jude 1:1)

As we saw in the previous post, the love of God that sanctifies is welcoming and faithful though all others forsake us, not permissive or short-sighted, but forgiving, upbuilding, and it is unending.

The second concept, that of being preserved in Christ, is, like the first, expressed in the Greek "perfect tense" which as in English, "describes an action… having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated." (ref, studylight.org Interlinear Bible)

Some Bible translations read kept for Christ and others, preserved in Jesus Christ. If I am kept for Christ, it is the Father who works, but if by him, then it is Christ working— so which is it?

Here is a reply from the "Divines" who joined together in the 17th century to ruminate all of Scripture and distill the essential doctrines of the Christian faith in what we now call The Westminster Confession. Our preservation is assured because it is based on:

  • The unchangeable mind of our loving God: Those whom he predestined he also called, and those who are called he has justified, and those who are justified are glorified. (Rom 8:30)
  • The merit and intercession of Christ. (John 3:16; Heb 7:25)
  • The abiding of God's Holy Spirit in our hearts. (John 14:26) (See Westminster Confession, Chapter XVII, www.reformed.org)

The summary statements in a good Confession and their attendant scriptures are helpful as a defense against those who would overturn the church in any century whether they be humans or rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12).

A good illustration in Scripture of a believer who was preserved by and for Christ is Peter. Though he denied Christ at the critical moment, he was forgiven and became a church leader. Preservation does not equal continually abiding but God is faithful.

Jude's third word for believers in the KJV is Called, however it precedes the other two in practice as well as in many Bible translations. The Christian's heart is awakened by God's Spirit calling him or her to come near and to follow closely. This call must provoke a certain fear and result in a thirst for finding out what is in God's Word. It will engender a desire to pray and to hear more from God. Eventually, it will lead to a hunger for friendship and community with other believers.

Of course, this last phase is often disturbed by the situation Jude describes, where certain people creep in to spoil the fellowship as we will see. This is why studying Jude’s letter is as relevant now as it was in the first century, for our security in Christ will be menaced and can be eroded when we are off guard.

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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