Enemies in the Church (1)
Let us worship God.
“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praises unto Thy name oh most high, to show forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning and Thy faithfulness every night.”
Let us pray. Our Father we give thanks unto thee, thy faithfulness and thy loving kindness has ever been manifested toward us. Thou art good to us who so often cannot be good to ourselves. Teach us to trust in thee. Give us grace day by day to walk in the confidence that because our times are in thy hands who doest all things well, the beginning and the ending are thine ordination and thy mercy and grace unto us. Bless us now as we give ourselves to the study of thy Word. In Christ’s name, amen.
Our scripture is from the Epistle of Jude verses 1-4, our subject ‘The Enemy.’ Jude 1-4, Jude is the very short book just before Revelation.
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. 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. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Epistle of Jude is a general letter by a man who identifies himself as the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 identify Jude, together with James, as brothers of Jesus. A scholar, JE Huther, said that the Jude, (or Judas, it’s the same name) who wrote this epistle was one of the four brothers and not cousins of Jesus is probable. In fact, Huther went on to say it is beyond any considerable doubt.
So, as with James, we have hear one of the four brothers of our Lord writing a letter. This is a brief and an obscure letter; that is it’s not widely known or studied, but its purpose is an important one. False teachers were perverting the faith, and Jude of necessity spoke out. By identifying himself as Jude, the brother of James, he indirectly notifies the reader that he writes with authority as the brother of James and Jesus. He does this not to gain personal prestige but to stress the urgency of his message. Those whom he addresses are the “… sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” These are the elect of God, persons who will heed Jude’s warning. They have been made holy by God’s grace and preserved from falling away by Jesus Christ because they are the call of God.
He greets them thus: “mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” This triple benediction is very Biblical; we encounter it throughout the Bible. In verse one the triple description is sanctified, preserved, and called. Jude not only wants this rich blessing on the saints, but he wants it multiplied. We must not take this benediction as a merely formal and courteous one; the churches were facing a very serious problem of infiltration by alien groups who saw in the success of Christianity an opportunity to capture a vigorous faith for their very different purposes. True, it was a persecuted group, but they intended to make it respectable. It was regarded as beneath one’s dignity intellectually, they were going to make it respectable intellectually.
Throughout church history infiltration has been a common problem to Christianity. Very early, as here, it was Gnosticism, later; Albigensianism, hellenic philosophies, humanism, modernism, and much, much more. These alien faiths have had in common the desire to merge into Christianity with a façade of agreement while working to remake the faith into a radically alien one. Jude felt an urgent necessity to alert Christians everywhere against this threat to the common salvation. Very often the infiltrating groups retained a façade that is very close to Christian. After all, Barthianism, or neoorthodoxy as it has been called, seemed to be saying the same thing as Christians have over the centuries, and as the Bible teaches, but they did not mean the same thing by it and wherever they succeeded they ate out the heart and the meaning of the faith.
The common salvation, Jude says, must be defended. The common or general salvation is one known to all. Jesus Christ, God incarnate had made atonement for the sins of His people, this they all knew, but now men were promoting supposedly new insights into the faith and higher truths. “Therefore,” he says, “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.” Men were determined to improve on the faith and modernize Jesus to conform to contemporary science and philosophy. This same effort was the Gnostic movement and it sought to take over Christianity; lock, stock, and barrel. Gnosticism represented the new and higher learning of its day, it is now almost incomprehensible and one can only marvel at the credulity of learned men. Contemporary philosophy and evolutionary science bears a strong resemblance to ancient Gnosticism, and perhaps in a century or so people will wonder that anyone could believe so absurd and complex a system.
The Christian faith needs no improving, no new revelations, it is complete: “once…” and for all time “delivered unto the saints.” We must “…earnestly contend,” Jude says, to defend and preserve that faith. “For there are certain men crept in unawares…” he says. They have insinuated their way into the church as supposed leaders and wise men, who in reality want to pervert the faith. These are men, who in God’s predestination, were ordained to this evil purpose and to condemnation.
“They are ungodly men turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness…” says Jude. And this can only be done by antinomianism, by abandoning the law of God, and this marked the older Gnosticism, and also the new. It is the beginning of every great apostasy from the faith. This ‘lasciviousness’ is identified for us in I Peter 4:3 and II Peter 2:19. It was simply a contempt of the law in the name of a higher spirituality, and this claim to a higher spirituality then marked gnosticism as it does now.
The faith is not an evolving matter, it was delivered unto the saints, Jude says, in its full and final form with Jesus Christ. The growth of the faith is in application, not in content. The faith doesn’t grow because we get new revelations; it grows because we apply the full and finished revelation to our lives and to our world. In application, the believer obeys and serves his Lord. He does not develop or alter the content of the faith, such men are: “…denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude says.
The Gnostics saw themselves as the truly enlightened ones, as more spiritual than they whose faith was simply to believe and to obey. The Gnostics were very good at confusing people by a pretentious form of learning. If I were to pass out the texts of some of the Gnostic writings, after two or three sentences you would probably give up. It isn’t worth the effort to try to make sense of what they’re saying, but they were good at bewildering people who didn’t have their learning and their background professionally. Gnosticism so thoroughly adapted itself to the thought of its age that it died with it in its then existing form. We still have it all around us in new age thinking and a great many other varieties. Then, as now, orthodox Christianity, Biblical Christianity, has been thoroughly out of tune with the wisdom of its day. This has been usually true over the centuries, and it is true now. The faithful believer has commonly been seen as an impediment to the progress of the faith, and he has commonly been treated with contempt. Jude’s letter is a general warning against all attempts to improve upon Christianity by making it more palatable to modern man.
Jude’s warning, thus, has relevance to more than a passing movement of his day. The fallen world order hates Jesus Christ and His people, it has always done whatever is possible to capture and revise biblical faith. Jude’s letter is a warning against this enemy, an enemy he face then, and which generation after generation has faced again in one form after another. Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God we thank Thee that we have been warned against these false and ‘higher’ spiritualities. We thank thee that thy word is written so that he who runs can read. Give us grace to give heed to thy word, to know that thy law word is binding always, that it is thy righteousness, thy justice, that it gives to us the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, of His atonement, and of His grace and mercy. Make us joyful in thy word, in Christ’s name, 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