Jude 5-16 as preached by Timothy O'Day.
In Jude 5-16, we are exhorted to remember that God's judgment...
1. Is real
2. Comes against those who reject him
3. Comes against those who endanger others
4. Will be shown as obviously right on the last day
No one wants to bring bad news. But we also recognize that in some circumstances it would be wrong to do so. The doctor who checks the tests and finds the answers that will dissolve the patient and her family to tears surely doesn’t rejoice in delivering that news, but we would view it as a high handed travesty if he lied and said she was fine. Or, on a much smaller scale, the friend who didn’t have the heart to tell you that you had spinach stuck in your teeth surely did you no kindness as you go around the rest of the day introducing yourself to strangers. After you find out you simply wonder why they would not tell you.
Why do we cower at giving news that will upset someone else? One predominant reason is that we do not want to be seen as harsh. We live in a “live and let live” culture, so the first one to come out and say, “You really shouldn’t do that,” is the bad guy. This is especially true of the idea of judgment. No one receives harsher judgment then the person who renders judgment! You are given the label, “judgmental,” or “legalist,” or “unloving.” To speak of judgment is to open yourself up for judgment.
No one rejoices to say to someone else, “according to what God has said, you are destined for hell.” Who could relish that! When you actually grasp the implications of why someone is going to hell and when you grasp the horrors of hell, you do not get excited about giving this news. But just like the doctor who has to deliver the diagnosis, we must say what is true. And we can do so with hope because just like a doctor, we give the hard news of judgment and quickly follow it with the hope of salvation. Yes, we must tell of the coming judgment, but we also get to speak of the cure to sin that comes through Jesus Christ.
As we saw last time in verse 3, Jude was excited to write to this church in order to talk about the joy of their shared salvation. But the fact that false teachers had crept into their midst obligated him to share a word that was less enjoyable but more necessary to speak of: their need to contend for the faith. In these verses today, he continues to speak tot hem on how they are to contend for the faith, and he does so by calling them to remember the certain aspects of God’s judgment that, having been delivered to them once for all already, they need to be reminded of in order to stand firm against the false teaching. What do they need to remember? What do we need to remember?
First, that judgment is real.
You see in verse 5 that Jude begins by saying that what he is going to share with them they already know. They know it because it is part of the faith that was once for all delivered to them (3). What he wants to remind them of, as we see at the end of verse 7, is that Scripture testifies clearly to the reality of judgment. We should not, then, forget that it is real. We should not assume that it will not come. It is real and it will come. Jude makes this clear through several examples. He points to…
The generation of Israel judged in the wilderness after the Exodus (5). This is the generation of Israelites who, though they had seen God’s mighty work in the Exodus, received his provision to live in the wilderness, and had the pleasure of God’s personal, special presence among them, still doubted that God would keep his promise when they got to the edge of the promised land. Upon seeing the inhabitants of the land, they refused to enter the land thinking that God was leading them to their death. In judgment, God pronounced that they would not enter his rest because of their unbelief. It would be the next generation to enter the land.
The angels who left their proper boundaries (6). This is a reference to the angels, spoken of as sons of God in Genesis 6:1-2, leaving their proper boundaries set by God taking human wives. In response to this rejection of God’s authority and boundaries, they are kept in chains until the day of judgment.
Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities around it (7). These cities were destroyed because they rejected God’s authority by rejecting the boundaries that God set over sexuality. They practiced all kinds of sexual immorality and preyed upon people and treated each other not as humans but as objects of pleasure.
Now, as we see in verse 7, these are examples to show us that judgment is real. One of the great dangers of watching people reject God’s authority is that we get used to it. We become deluded and think that judgment will not come. RC Sproul, a well known theologian who has gone to be with the Lord now, has a story from his teaching days that shows this danger well. He taught a class that required three papers over the term of the class. He listed in the syllabus that late papers would not be accepted and would be given a zero. As time goes by, the day for the first paper to be turned in comes and several people come to him days before the deadline and ask for an extension. These are new students and not used to the rigors of college yet, so he relents and gives them the extension. When the due date for the next paper comes, over even more students ask for an extension. He figures it is a busy time with other classes putting heavy demands on them, so he gives the extension. For the third paper, no one asks for an extension. A few people, though, come to class and simply say, “I’ll get that to you this week.” Sproul responds by saying, “No, you will get a zero.” He proceeds to go through the class asking if students have their papers. Those who don’t are immediately given zeros on the assignment. They begin to protest, “But before you gave an extension!” And Sproul pointed out that he chose to give mercy at those times. The syllabus stated they would get a zero, he is merely doing what he told them at the beginning and what he warned them he would do. They had deluded themselves into thinking that mercy was the only possibility.
Mercy is a gift, not the standard. And we can delude ourselves into thinking that God will not keep his promise. How do we delude ourselves into thinking that God’s judgment isn’t real? The three examples given point out how we often do so.
Like the Israelites, you might think that you are untouchable. After all, they had a special title from God. They were called his people. But do not think that simply calling yourself a Christian and going to a church means that you can reject God’s authority. Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:21-23 saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Like the angels, you can delude yourself into thinking that your position is too great and too powerful. How many leaders in the church fall into this trap by thinking, “I am too important to this church,” or, “I am too important to my community, confession and repentance just isn’t possible. I’ll lose too much.” But what will it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your very soul?
Like those in Sodom and Gomorrah, you can delude yourself into thinking that judgment isn’t coming because everyone else is practicing the same wickedness. We feel comfort in numbers don’t we? “Surely it is okay if all of these other people are doing it, right? God can’t judge all of us, can he?” Yes, he can. Yes, he will.
So remember and do not be deceived or deluded: God will not be mocked. He will judge.
Second, God’s judgment comes against those who reject him.
Verses 5-7, as we have already seen, exemplify this reality. Israel rejected the Lord by refusing to obey the him because they did not believe he would keep his promise to give them the land. The angels rejected the the Lord by refusing to stay within their given boundaries. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah rejected the Lord by saying no to his design and good purpose for sexuality. In all of these situations, then, the creatures refused and rejected the Creator. They refused to believe that God is good and refused to call good what he calls good. Instead, they sought to define good based on their own wisdom (Israel), desire for authority (angels), and bodily cravings (Sodom and Gomorrah).
Despite these examples from scripture, verses 8 tells us that the false teachers in the midst of this church live “in like manner.” And those who practice the same rejection of God should only expect the same judgment as those listed in the given examples. How are they the same?
They defile the flesh: Instead of submitting to God’s instructions about sexuality, they follow their bodily cravings.
Reject authority: Instead of submitting to God’s authority, they seek to “ungod” him. The claim to know better than God and to be better than God.
Blaspheme the glorious ones: Instead of revering what is higher and unknown to us, these false teachers mock and slander angelic beings. This is a version of rejecting authority by assuming an authority that they do not have.
And they do these things by relying on dreams. That is to say, the basis for their acts of defiling the flesh, rejecting authority, and slandering what they do not understand, is their own subjective experience. They derive their authority from their own subjective dreams instead of God’s word.
Jude then turns to an illustration to show how wrong this is. He points to a Jewish story about an argument that the Archangel Michael had with Satan after the death of Moses. This is a story that his readers would know so it was a helpful point of illustration to get them to grasp what he was talking about. The story states that Satan wanted to claim the body of Moses because Moses was a murderer. In response to this claim, Jude stresses that Michael did not even dare slander Satan. Instead, he stayed within his boundaries of authority and called on the Lord to act and to rectify the situation. In appealing for God to act, Michael is relying on God’s ultimate authority, acting within his bounds, and not entering into slander even of Satan. Michael is right in that God has claim over Moses, but he stays within his proper place in announcing this claim. But like Satan, verse 10 tells us that false teachers are ruled by passion and not thought.
What rules you? When you are trying to make a claim about what you should do in a situation, to what do you appeal as authoritative? Are you ruled by bodily craving? By a desire to simply be in charge? If you look to yourself as your ultimate authority, what makes you more right than the next man who does the same?
What directs your path? Your way of living? Passion and desire? Can you say that you are submitting to what is good or simply your whim?
Is there anything greater than you? Or are you blinded by pride and think that nothing really has claim on you? The only cure for this is to humbly bow in worship to the one who is greater than all. Only worship can cure pride.
Third, God’s judgment comes against those who endanger others
Jude also calls us to remember the dangers of sins spread. Simply put, those who reject God inevitably call others to reject God, too. Jude makes this point by listing three more examples from he OT.
Cain: Along with Abel, Cain was a son of Adam and Eve. When he and Abel gave an offering to the Lord, the Lord accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. The reason for this isn’t important to understand at this point. What is important to understand is Cain’s response. God spoke to Cain warning him that he was being tempted to sin. Turning further from God was not the solution; turning to him was (Gen 4:6-7). Yet, Cain turned to making his own solution to the situation. He killed Abel and became an outcast. What is of note is that the rest of Genesis 4 speaks of how the line of Cain became progressively worse. His sin trickled down and spread to the next generations.
Balaam: Balaam was a prophet hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel as they were on the cusp of entering the promised land. While he refused to curse Israel, saying that he could not curse whom God told him to bless, that did not stop him from giving advice to Moab. He advised Moab to draw Israel into idolatry and so incur the Lord’s judgment. Why did he do this? The promise of money (cf. Numbers 31:16, see also Numbers 25).
Korah: Korah, of the tribe of Levi, led others in the tribe of Levi to challenge Moses and Aaron, whom God had placed as leaders over Israel. He accused Moses and Aaron of merely exalting themselves and called for equality.
Notice these two things. First, all of these men led others to reject the Lord and incur his judgment. Second, all of them veiled their rebellion in piety. Cain wanted to be accepted by God, which is good. His response was to reject God’s word and murder. Balaam said that he would not curse those whom God blessed, which is good. But tried to find a work around in order to gain money. Korah wanted to make clear that everyone was holy, but he did so by rejecting God’s leaders.
You can cloak rejection of God in religion and in holy language. And when you do this you drag others into your errors. All errors are dangerous, but errors about God are the most dangerous because all of your thinking flows from your thinking about God.
Verses 12-13 point out how these false teachers are so dangerous to others in the church. Jude uses various illustrations to help us understand.
They are hidden reefs: Reefs can wreck a ship. When you cannot see the reef, you are simply unaware of the danger that you are in. These false teachers are in the midst of the church at their love feasts—celebrations in which they took communion—thus they are living in rebellion but acting as if all is well, thus hardening their hearts and teaching others to simply accept their sinful lifestyles.
They are shepherds who feed themselves: Shepherds are to make care for the flock their priority. Jesus tells us in John 10 that he is the good shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Pastors are shepherds of the church called to follow Jesus. That is to say, we are to be ready to lay down our lives for you. But these false teachers claim to be shepherds, but their lifestyle shows that they care first for themselves. They lull the flock into a false sense of security, then, because the flock thinks they have a shepherd who will protect them. They really just have men who want to take from them. And what do you think will happen when trouble comes? He will run. He will go after gain. He will leave them to fend for themselves.
They are waterless clouds, swept along by the wind: They have the appearance of providing, but they don’t. And because they have no anchor in God’s word, they change with the times. They have no convictions but shift with the cultural winds.
Fruitless trees in autumn: They do not have works that fit with their claim of maturity. Trees in autumn should have fruit, so their claim to maturity is shown to be false. To claim to be mature in Christ but to walk in rebellion is really a claim to be dead. If a tree is supposed to be at mature age but does not produce fruit, then you know it is a dead tree.
Wild waves: Like a wave, they are noisy (claiming attention) and stirring up nothing but dirt. They produce works that are shameful.
Thus, they are wandering stars. They are not held in place but have left their proper place of living under God’s authority. As such they move only further into eternal darkness, which is judgment and destruction.
Remember, Jude is talking about men in the church. He is talking about men who are exerting influence in the church, so we need to identify men who are like this and contend with them. We also need to identify in each other any growing disposition toward disregard for God’s authority that first manifests itself in tolerance of sin.
I do not mean that I want us to perform a witch hunt. I do mean that we need to care enough for each other that we do not let each other toy around with sin. What I mean is that we need to take the reality of judgment seriously and the corrupting nature of sin seriously. You cannot remain neutral when it comes to sin. Sin changes you. Like the Ring of Power in the Lord of the Rings, it corrupts those who hold on to it. Those who have the ring are enamored with it. It becomes precious to them and they want to hide it away, but always keep it. Even if they do not always wear it, they want to have it close by. But each one is always overcome by the ring and changed by it. The same is true of sin. So why would you harbor it? Keeping it close by, even if you are keeping it kept away in your pocket, slowly changes you. And it will draw others in with you to their destruction. You are leading people somewhere by what you say and what you do. Where are you leading people?
Fourth, God’s judgment will be shown as obviously right on the last day.
This may be one of the greatest struggles for many of you. You don’t like talking about judgment possibly because you do not think it is right for God to judge. But such thinking reveals something that is wrong in your calculations. You have a view of man that is too high and a view of God that is too low. If you cannot stand the idea of someone you love, who has rejected God, sitting under his judgment, it is because you have little regard for God. That might sound extreme, but it is true. The only reason we view judgment as extreme is because we view sin as not that bad because God, the one whom all sin is against, is not that great. But the greater our view of God, the clearer it becomes to us that sin is horrible. And so we will struggle with the idea of judgment, I think, until we see God on the day of judgment. Then all will be clear and judgment will obviously be right and good.
This is the point Jude is making in verses 14-16. In these verses he refers to another Jewish story about Enoch, who is listed in Adam’s genealogy. Enoch was unique because he is not listed as having died. Rather, he walked with God and then God took him. Here Jude speaks of a prophecy that is attributed to Enoch and agrees with the testimony of Scripture: God will judge when he comes with his holy ones. But at his judgment, he will not simply render his verdict. He will also, as it says in verse 15, “convict all the ungodly.” That is an important expression. It does not merely mean that he lay down a sentence of conviction. It means that he will lead them to acknowledge their guilt. They will see and know that they have ungodly deeds and that they have pursued an ungodly way of life and have spoken harshly and wrongly about God. Deeds, life pursuit, and words. All of these things will be laid before those who are judged and they will end up saying, “You’re right.”
Have you ever seen a man or a woman who have lived in a persistent pattern of selfish rebellion for years? They convince themselves that they are not wrong. A man can commit adultery for years, lying about it and saying that he loves his wife. And he can somehow convince himself that he is right, justified, and guiltless. But then someone finds out and brings what he is hiding into the light. Suddenly what he had hidden from himself for years is plain to see in front of his eyes: he is guilty. He goes from convinced of his innocence to convicted by his deeds, life pursuit, and words. This is a small taste of what judgment will be like.
When you stand before God, the fake world that you make with your lies and justifications comes crumbling down as the facade it always really was. And like the big reveal at the end of a movie, you will be left saying, “How did I not see it all before!” It was so obvious.
That is what the day of judgment will be like for many. But hear this good news. You can have that day now. You can come before the Lord now, using his word to reveal your sin and the fake world that you have made. You can come to him and say, “I know I am a sinner. Strip me bear and show me my sin so that I may be forgiven and not condemned.” You can come now and instead of being convicted and condemned you can be convicted and saved. And all of this is under God’s authority. Jesus, who has all authority, has called his church to proclaim this message to you now: throw down your weapons of rebellion, your sin, and come to Jesus. He will forgive you. He will renew you. Jesus is the only one who can do this. But you must come to him and trust him. That means you must come to him and believe everything that he says about himself—that he is the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, who for us and for our salvation took on flesh, becoming fully human, and living a life of perfect obedience to God as a man. As the perfectly obedient man, he did not have to die but chose to undergo death on the cross. This was not a merely physical death. On the cross God poured out his wrath that sin deserves on Jesus. Jesus, then, becomes our wrath bearer, taking the judgment you deserve for sin. And in order to prove that he really has taken away sin, God raised him up on the third day. So now, if you come to Jesus, leaving your life of rebellion and instead submitting to the Lordship of Jesus, you will be saved from the wrath that is surely coming.
So do not wait. Behold Jesus. Be broken over the seriousness of your sin as you behold his beauty. And then be restored and made new by that same beauty.