Twenty three minutes from https://twitter.com/WelshRev at https://www.facebook.com/TyrBugail for https://www.facebook.com/Grace.Wales.online , https://welshrev.blogspot.com/and https://yGRWP.com
There is a reasonably accurate transcript on the link on this page.
We concluded our series in 1 John last week and I’m heading into a few ‘one-off’ sermons for a few weeks now this summer … and this week’s has been stimulated by an item in the news you may have heard about.
We’re going to go straight through the tiny book that we call ‘Jude’.
And this seldom-read New Testament book throws up questions like: What? Who? And WHY?
The first question has got to be …
• Who was Jude? Vv. 1-2
Well the first thing is that his actual name was ‘Judah’ (the correct pronunciation of his name in Greek and Hebrew and correct transcription into English).
And Judah was one of Jesus’s brothers and was a travelling teacher and missionary evangelist.
Jude 1-4 says “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.”
According to Matthew 13:55 & Mark 6:3 Jesus had a number of brothers who did not believe during Jesus’ lifetime but were convinced by and after His resurrection from the dead (Acts 1:14 & 1 Corinthians 9:5).
James was one of them, and so was Judah.
And then we might ask ‘Why?
This book of Judah was written to people whose identity we don’t know and aren’t told, but we can say:
1. it looks very much as if they were people very steeped in the Jewish culture and literature of their time, because just as Paul make reference to the Greek poets and philosophers popular at the time in Greek and Roman culture in Athens, and to a local poet from that area to Titus who was working on Crete at the time, so Jude makes reference to the Jewish literature of the inter-testamental period to make his case to HIS readers in this short book of Jude.
So He writes, it would appear, to a Messianic Jewish community steeped in the Old Testament and in the popular literature of their culture and time.
2. Judah had become aware of a particular crisis facing this church and wrote to deal with some teaching that was threatening the life of their church.
Now, before you start thinking this is a narrow, sectarian, nasty sort of thing he’s doing here you need to bear in mind what the truth of the Gospel is and does.
These people were living in a time when idolatry and the lifestyle it engendered had destroyed the quality and perceived value of human life across the pagan world,
and when a strangling narrow legalism … a bondage to rules you couldn’t keep and an oppressive religious hierarchical system … had done the same for these people’s ancestors in the Jewish world.
It wasn’t just that their old religion didn’t help them the way it should, it was that their old religion hurt them, harmed them and spiritually imprisoned them doing them this direct harm and hurt every day of their lives.
However, in the words Paul wrote to a people of similar Jewish experience in Galatians 5:1, it was for freedom that Christ had set them free through the TRUTH of the Gospel that they’d heard.
We need to recover this understanding of liberation by the truth and reassert it for our generation.
Living in an age dominated by philosophical relativism tends to a suspicion of people who value the sort of propositional truth of the Gospel which is the very source of our Christian freedom … people tend to be repulsed by asserting and contending for the truth that brings life.
But to downgrade the truth is to harm the life and to abandon the Way … and Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life so by abandoning those we abandon Him.
Is that worth thinking about?
Judah thought so … and that’s why he abandoned his earlier plan to write them a lengthy letter on a different subject and wrote them the shorter but beautifully crafted letter that we’re looking at today … because he saw these folks were falling into danger and they NEEDED this.
The structure of what Judah writes reflects the need …
• The structure of the letter
The letter begins with an address and opening charge (vv. 1-4).
That’s followed by a long warning section with accusations against the false teachings leading the whole shebang away from the liberating, life-giving Gospel in vv. 5-19
And then the book closes with a closing charge detailing what this church is supposed to do in the light of all of this (vv. 20-25).
Judah says his original plan was to write this longer work that explored our shared salvation through the Messiah, but the urgent need he refers to had arisen so he starts off on this different track by urging the church he’s writing to that they should contend for the true Christian faith:
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.
They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
The first thing you’ll notice there, then, is that he is not messing about.
He is addressing converted people and he’s being frank with them.
Converted people have got the Spirit of Truth active in their hearts.
They have had a new heart given them with God’s Law written in it … as prophesied by major Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
A plain call to the truth is going to be a magnet to people like that and will winnow out the chaff who do NOT have the new heart the Spirit gives and who do not therefore get drawn like moths to the light.
(By the way … it IS a safety light not one that will hurt them, as we have just been saying … it is the light of life, of the freedom and liberty of the children of God).
So Judah weighs right in because that is exactly the way to achieve his purpose of drawing together those on whom the light of truth has dawned and distinguishing them clearly from those on whom it has not.
It is a rallying cry to the genuine believer in whom God is powerfully at work by His Spirit and those are the ones who follow the battle standard of the Spirit of truth.
Those who are pushed back by his message are going to be those who have not benefitted personally and been saved by the Gospel he is standing up for here.
Please notice, Jude doesn’t begin with HOW they should contend for the faith.
He starts with WHY.
• WHY contend for the faith?
It is because of the corrupt teachers that have infiltrated this church.
Did you notice that his target is not theoretical but entirely (and surprisingly perhaps, given our culturally-conditioned mindset) PERSONAL?
It is these PEOPLE that are the problem, and Judah targets THEM … their lifestyle, their moral compromise, because those are the key to recognising that they have dodgy theology.
(We didn’t spot it, possibly, because we’d never think of speaking out boldly like this?)
Here it is: v. 4 “They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
Now this is all a bit theoretical for us because it come from times and places long ago so let’s bring it bang up to date.
There were two texts placed above the ‘Statement from Anglican Bishops and Primates who are keen to affirm and celebrate LGBT+ people’ at the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion yesterday.
(There’s up to date for you!)
Both those texts were utterly wrenched out of their context and then the published statement went straight on to say:
“God is Love! This love revealed by Jesus, described in the Scriptures and proclaimed by the Church, is Good News for all - without exception. That is why we believe that LGBT+ people are a precious part of God’s creation - for each of us is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14),
and all are equally loved.
We recognise that many LGBT+ people have historically been wounded by the Church and particularly hurt by the events of the last few weeks. We wish to affirm the holiness of their love wherever it is found in committed relationships.
We therefore commit to working with our siblings across the Communion to listen to their stories and understand their contexts, which vary greatly. However, we will never shy away from tackling discrimination and prejudice against those of differing sexualities and gender identities.
Together, we will speak healing and hope to our broken world and look forward to the day when all may feel truly welcomed, valued and affirmed.
Signed by bishops from across the Anglican Communion including:
Most Revd Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Most Revd Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States
Most Revd Naudal Alves Gomes, Archbishop of Brazil
Most Revd Linda Nicholls, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada
Most Revd Andy Johns, Archbishop of Wales …”
There were two other bishops in Wales who seem to have signed this to date, a man I counted a friend at university and the newish bishop of Monmouth Cherry Vann (who is, obviously, a lady).
Wikipedia tells us: “Bishop Cherry Vann lives with her civil partner, Wendy. The Church in Wales allows clergy to be in same-sex civil partnerships.”
What are we to say of this?
What do you think Judah would say about this?
Or any other of the New Testament apostles and writers?
Or to the current day bishops from the African continent who are clearly much more steeped in Scripture than these bishops in the English and Welsh Anglican churches, or those who claim Evangelical credentials and stand wringing their hands and pitying their situation because of what their leaders are doing but who do NOT stand out and away from this mess the way Judah does and calls others to do for the sake of the Gospel itself?
No, here’s the sort of stuff the apostolic authors were writing and urging on the faithful:
“v. 4 “They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
And for that reason Judah appeals to those who ARE faithful to God and His Word on account of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts:
“I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.”
• Who to contend against?
Notice again, please, that it is NOT theories that are being discussed and opposed but PEOPLE who are being discerned to be false teachers by the conduct of their lives which evidences that they are NOT living by God’s Word and Spirit.
They no doubt claim to do so.
But they do NOT.
“certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
They get hold of one expression of an aspect of Gospel truth, and shoot off at a tangent from ‘The Way’ and start to freestyle with it!
So these people say:
1. We are free in Christ, then
2. Therefore everything is allowable
Or mebbe (this is a common one too)
1. God is love
2. Therefore anything WE want to see as loving is of God.
When God goes to such great lengths in His Word (and we saw this recently in 1 John) to define what love is and is not, this is particularly lacking in integrity!
Look, these people Judah is writing about in his own era have distorted God’s grace as a licence to sin, especially it seems when it comes to money and sex, and so (says Judah) they betray Jesus by rejecting His authority and His teaching.
But before we make a mistake here, let’s just take note of how this contending for the faith is to be pursued.
• HOW is this charge to be pursued?!
Let me tell you something about sheepdogs that you may not have learned from watching them on the television.
Sheepdogs are calm, quiet, controlled around the sheep.
They have - at this time of year in particular - to be able to manage their own emotions and excitement and show great restraint to be able to move not just grown ewes but the lambs following behind them … lambs that have not yet learned the way of wisdom but therefore need gentle not violent handling so that they learn well.
But ewes can be protective of their lambs.
And then there are rams - separated from the ewes but being fed in such a way now that they will be full of fight and vigour ready to serve the ewes in the near-ish future … and they may need much firmer handling.
As the hormones rise in these bigger beasts that same self-controlled dog needs to be able to push at the flank of the recalcitrant animal, take it head on, and even get in closer than that even and GRIP.
A grip is a bite that inflicts sufficient pain to end the stand-off, but doesn’t do damage to that sheep.
The sheep dog needs to be able to retain its composure but get right up close and personal and use its teeth.
These false teachers … not the following flock or the lambs coming up to join it … need to be got up close and personal with and GRIPPED by the shepherd of God’s flock who not only shows but uses teeth.
On the false teachers, the recalcitrant, the immoral teachers of soul-destroying truth … like the teaching that God is love but doesn’t require faith to bring repentance from sin, as defined by the Father.
These things Judah writes about are amongst us today, and Judah’s method is to call it out and to go for the personal perpetrators of deluding error over their lifestyles.
I am suggesting that we in contemporary Evangelicalism have so swallowed the liberal ethos of our culture, and disconnected repentance from faith and freedom that we are VERY reluctant to do what Judah does here.
The sheepdog is to be always on top of his own excitement and emotions.
Motivated by the need to move the flock along the Shepherd’s chosen path not playing it freestyle to suit his fancy.
But ready to get hold of an issue or a bunch of people prejudicing the way of the Saviour.
So in the next – long – section of this letter, Judah starts accusing the false teachers very directly ... but we'll go into how he does that next time.