Sunday School Lesson
NOV. 30, 2003
MAINTAIN STEADFAST FAITH
Focal Verses—JUDE 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13, 16-23
Devotional Reading—GALATIANS 6:1-10
1. We will be able to explain the characteristics of steadfastness
2. We will be able to recognize that our choices have eternal consequences
3. We will be able to commit to living faithful lives for JESUS CHRIST.
“Keep yourselves in the love of GOD, looking for the mercy of our LORD JESUS CHRIST unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 21-22).
Jude warns believers against those who deny that JESUS CHRIST is LORD and MASTER, and against those who preach immoral practices.
By way of background, Jude is considered by most scholars to be the brother of James and the half brother of JESUS CHRIST (see Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). Although very little is known about him or about those to whom he was writing the epistle bearing his name, it is clear that Jude faced the same kinds of problems in writing to the churches as did the Apostles Paul and Peter.
1. BE ON GUARD AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS (Jude 3-4, 8, 10)
Jude begins his letter by sharing his purpose in writing to these believers. We are not given their identity, but it is obvious that Jude is concerned about their spiritual health. The apostle is very aware that people who taught a doctrine completely foreign to the truth was influencing these believers. Therefore, it was necessary for him to share with them about the “common salvation” (v.3).
The idea the apostle is conveying is that this salvation is open for all to see. Unlike Gnosticism, which taught that only the enlightened ones were privy to its pure revelation, GOD’S salvation is for everyone. “For GOD so loved the world, that HE gave HIS only begotten SON, that whosoever believeth in HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Jude declares that it was necessary for him to write to these believers and encourage them, in the midst of the heretical teaching that was infiltrating the church, to stand up and fight for the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST. Jude affirms that the believer must resist, at all costs, any forms of heresy that may come into the church and cause people to turn away from the truth.
GOD gave the apostle the doctrine of grace and redemption found only in the blood of JESUS CHRIST and HIS efficacious work on the cross. This “faith” has stood the test of time. Therefore, we must be careful that we don’t allow any new “wave” of teaching that is not in line with the WORD OF GOD to creep into our churches. The word that GOD gave the believers in the first-century is the same WORD we must contend for today.
The apostle tells us why it is necessary that we remain steadfast to GOD’S WORD. Jude recognized that in the midst of the church, ungodly men had come in to turn GOD’S grace into a license to live any way that people pleased. The word that Jude used is “lasciviousness” (v.4) that, in the Greek language, means a readiness for pleasure without any restraints; or doing and thinking anything imaginable.
Jude describes these false teachers as ungodly persons who have no fear of or reverence toward GOD. The apostle says that these people are “dreamers [who] defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (v.8). One of the main characteristics of false teachers is that their lives are marked by ungodliness. Because their spirits are “polluted,” false teachers usually have “dreams and visions” that are not from GOD. Yet, their goal is to convince the unlearned that they have a “word” from the LORD.
Second, the ungodly not only defile their own flesh, but they also pollute the body of CHRIST with their damnable heresy. Gnostics taught that it was all right to indulge in fleshly behavior as long as the spirit was developing in godlike fashion. How deceived can people be? Scripture affirms that our bodies are the temples of the HOLY GHOST. GOD is just as concerned with our having a clean “temple” as HE is with our having an undefiled spirit.
Third, these false teachers encouraged rebellion against constituted authority. The Bible tells us that all authority comes from GOD whether we like it or not. It is not our responsibility to attempt to overthrow authority in the church, home, or society. True believers are called to pray for those in authority. Those who are false teachers are anarchists. They believe in overthrowing all authority, and all constraints so they can live any way they please.
Jude warns the believers how to spot these heretics. First, they speak evil only of what they don’t know. The Bible tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue and that we will eat the fruit of whatever we speak. That’s why it is important to pray about those persons and things we are not clear on rather than to criticize with our mouths. In addition, we don’t want to become “gossip mongers” who tear down the church, the pastor, and other leaders. Second, Jude says you can spot these people like “brute beasts”—they even corrupt themselves in things that they know.
2. RECOGNIZE THEIR SHAMELESS DEEDS (vv.12-13, 16-19)
Jude does not mince words when it comes to identifying the corrupt and ungodly. He knew he had a responsibility to make sure that the people he served did not get “hoodwinked” by their influence. Jude affirms that one way to recognize these men is by their coming into fellowship meal and causing dissension among believers.
The love feast was a time when believers would come together to share a meal and the LORD’S SUPPER and fellowship with one another (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). For Jude, these corrupt men were nothing more than “spots in your [the] feasts of charity [love]” (v.12). These men probably corrupted the celebration with their pride, arrogance, rebellion, and sin. Perhaps they shared some words with people, confusing some and challenging others. Thus, it was necessary for Jude to characterize these heretics in the following ways:
--“Clouds…without water, carried about of winds” (v.12). These false teachers are a nuisance to the growth and development of GOD’S church because they don’t produce anything except disciples who are false like them.
--“Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (v.12). On one occasion when JESUS was hungry, HE noticed a fig tree that had no fruit. JESUS spoke a curse upon the tree so that it would never produce again. Like that fig tree, false teachers may look good, but upon close inspection they are no different than a tree that hasn’t produced any fruit except that which is rotten and tasteless. The only “fruit” a false teacher produces is that which has no appeal for the true believer. Why? Like a tree whose root system is rotten, a false teacher must be plucked up before he destroys everyone he touches.
--“Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame” (v.13). Here, Jude compares the false teacher to the sea or ocean whose waves can be dangerous to the shoreline and to homes built nearby if it gets out of control. In like manner, when a false teacher gets out of control there is no telling what he or she may destroy. How false teachers who espouse their damnable heresies have destroyed many people’s lives. Like structures falling into the sea at the force of the ocean’s waves, so, too, do people fall under their destructive force.
--“Wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (v.13). Jude makes it clear that false teachers are no different than the angelic hosts that fell from GOD’S grace and became demons who gave their allegiance to Satan. Unless they repent, false teachers will forever be in darkness and away from the LORD.
For Jude, false teachers are not to be given any consideration whatsoever. They are dangerous, and their sole purpose is to enslave GOD’S people to their pernicious ways. Their characteristics include murmuring, complaining, and being lustful, arrogant, and prideful—all works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Jude affirms how important it is that we do not listen to these heretics.
3. COMMIT YOURSELF TO MAINTAINING GODLY FAITH (vv.20-23)
Jude would have ended his letter on a negative note if all he did was point out the ungodly. However, the apostle also wants to encourage the people to maintain steadfastness even in the midst of an ungodly society.
First, the believers are called to “build [themselves] up” in the faith that has been given to them by our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. Like bodybuilders who spend hours exercising and flexing their muscles so they can stay in shape, believers are called to spend hours in GODS’S WORD, exercising their spiritual “muscles” and increasing their stamina for the truth so we won’t be tossed about by every wind of doctrine that comes our way.
Second, Jude tells us that we must pray in the HOLY GHOST (v.21). The Bible tells us that we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the HOLY SPIRIT prays through (and for) us with words and sounds that cannot be discerned by the human spirit. There are times when we don’t know what to say, or when mere words are inadequate. That’s why we must be filled with the HOLY SPIRIT and allow HIM to bring our petitions before the FATHER. HE knows our needs better than we do, and HE is always willing to help us reach the throne of grace.
Third, we must “keep [ourselves] in the love of GOD.” Jude affirms that as believers, we have the responsibility to keep our bodies under subjection to the FATHER so that we don’t allow the flesh to dominate our lives. GOD has given us the commandment to walk in the SPIRIT and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
Jude says a believer must diligently seek after the grace of the LORD GOD that leads us to salvation and eternal life and away from a life of sin. As we continually seek after the LORD and walk as HE commands, we can discern the truth and help those who are caught up in the web of deception that is too prevalent even in the church today.
The love of GOD gives us a compassion to minister to those who are bound in a life of sin so that we can “pull them out of the fire” of false doctrine. While we can never join them in their pernicious ways, we should be willing to do all we can to bring people to the knowledge of the truth, even if we have to expose their sins.
Jude understood that heresy was a dangerous cancer that must be rooted out of the church of JESUS CHRIST if we are to maintain steadfast faith in CHRIST. Let us recognize this truth and do what we can to keep heresy out of our fellowship as well.
THINK ABOUT IT!!!!
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
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