Enemies in the Church (2)
Examples of Apostasy
Let us worship God.
“LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.”
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Let us pray.
Oh Lord our God we thank thee that we are privileged to be thy people, to be members of thy family, the household of faith. Teach us day by day to walk as thy faithful children, to know that thy hand is upon us for good, and in everything to give thanks unto Thee. This morning again, O Lord we come to submit ourselves to thy word, for thy word is truth. Grant that by thy word we see our place, our time, and our duty in terms of Thee. In Christ’s name, amen.
Our scripture this morning is Jude verses five through seven. Jude is the brief letter just before Revelation written by our Lord’s brother. Our subject; Examples of Apostasy. Jude 5-7.
“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
Jude’s concern in his brief letter is with the influx of alien faiths and influences into Christianity, into the church. Because we have today, as over the centuries, false and evil doctrines and religions masquerading as true Christianity, what Jude has to say is very important for us. Paul not only denounced all heresies, he also called attention to their errors. Jude’s approach is different; he tells his readers you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once declared unto the saints. Before Jude, the other men, like Paul and John, had sharply and clearly defined the line between the faith and heresies. Now Jude says: “you have the truth, fight for it and defend its priority!”
In verse five Jude grimly reminds them that Israel had been miraculously delivered out of the land of Egypt. Israel’s deliverance was a spectacular one, far more notable then was their own redemption as Christians. All the same, because Israel showed ingratitude and rebelliousness, God destroyed almost the whole nation. One miracle revealed another in Israel’s years in the wilderness, but God still destroyed a carefully protected people because of their unbelief. Why should he spare the early church? They were equally, if not more, blessed. Obviously, this letter was written before the fall of Jerusalem, or else Jude would certainly have cited that as a great example of God’s judgment on unbelief. His phrase: “though ye once knew this” is more accurately to be translated: “though you know all things, once and for all” they cannot plead ignorance, in other words. It was a temptation to say of the Hebrews who left Egypt that they were slaves and not as enlightened as the present generation. The problem, however, was not an intellectual one but a moral one. We always want to shift the nature of a problem onto ignorance, or inability to learn somehow, or not as [being as] learned, or anything but to say it’s a moral problem. Anyone can understand that!
It was a temptation to plead ignorance, to say of the Hebrews who left Egypt that they were slaves and not as enlightened as the present generation, but they could not do that, it was a moral failure. The people of the Exodus like the present generation trusted more in their own understanding than in the Lord. The new teachers who had entered the church in Jude’s day, the Gnostics, stressed intellectual understanding, and denigrated moral issues as simplistic. They never saw a moral problem, rather intellectual ones, educational ones; ignorance of certain premises supposedly. Their writings in fact lacked moral content and were more metaphysical than ethical. The Lord had saved the people out of the land of Egypt, and this Israel had conveniently chosen to neglect, or to treat as their due because they were the chosen people. It is all too easy for Christians to see themselves as a chosen people who therefore deserve only the best from God when the calling of the elect is to serve God in the war against the city of man, the current Tower of Babel. Instead of realizing how much we owe God, we tend to think more of what God should give to us. Thus we become whiners instead of moral forces.
Jude’s first example of ingratitude and apostasy is Israel after its deliverance from Egypt. Jude’s second example is the company of the fallen angels. They refused to keep their first estate, or principality. Created by God for a high and holy place, they sought apparently more power. The reference in Romans 8:38 and Ephesians 1:21 are to angelic spheres of authority, to angelic spheres of service, and this dignity they forsook. In rebelling against God, they lost all their privileged status. The fallen angels did not remain in their proper place, or office, and they left their proper habitation. As a result, they are now in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. The emphasis here, however, is not on the fallen angels, but on Christians who may go astray. They are a more privileged group then were the Hebrews of the Exodus, and even the fallen Angels. Jude is thus saying in effect: “if these things can happen to them, why not to you? You are the most privileged people because of Jesus Christ.”
Jude’s third example is Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plains. They were privileged to have so rich and fertile an area, well-watered and with a lush growth. These are set forth by God as examples of His judgment: “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” Jude says. Two sins in particular are cited; giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh. The word ‘fornication’ in the original Greek covers more than sexual acts, although this is a part of the meaning, it means lasciviousness, blasphemous attitudes, and more. ‘Strange flesh’ has reference to homosexuality. The cities were wealthy, proud, and arrogant. It has been said of urban life that men there see more of man’s work than God’s work, and they accordingly become too prone to seeing man in independence from God, and with such a perspective they become ungrateful and apostate.
The Gnostics saw themselves as men who addressed the faith and advanced it because they were in harmony with the philosophy and science of their age. They were living, it was felt, in a golden era of mankind, with government, philosophy, science, technology, and human thought generally at its highest. For men to resist merging their simple, biblical faith into the highest of man’s wisdom was for them absurd. Their thinking was like that of our time. Jude’s requirement is simple: “ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” The thinkers of the city of man are contemptuous then, as they are now, of God’s Revelation. They have their own word of truth.
The great scholar on Gnostic literature, Dr. Hans Jonas, not a Christian, wrote of the resemblance between Gnostic myth and the myth of Neo-Darwinian biology. So our science, in Dr. Jonas’s eyes, is simply a form of Gnosticism. The mythology of Darwin has great prestige as against the Bible, this will us to understand what the early church faced. The whole array of science, philosophy, technology, this whole world of thought said: “You have to reinterpret everything you believe in terms of this body of knowledge or you will be fools.” The wisdom of that era found the Christian revelation to be wanting. Time has disposed of the wisdom of that era, but we face a new generation of self-styled wise men. This is why the letter of Jude is so timely, it gets to a problem that has plagued the church age after age, and is especially prevalent today.
Let us pray.
Our Father we thank thee for the words of Jude. We pray they may open our eyes to the foolishness of the world’s wisdom around us when it seeks to erect itself above thee and thy word. Makes us faithful adherence to Jesus Christ and to thine enscriptured word, teach us so to walk day by day that guided by thy word, and by thy Spirit, we are in all things more than conquerors through Christ who loved us, in His name we pray, amen.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder