Discord and Division
People seeking to cause division were not unique to the first-century church; they have been alive and well throughout the church’s history. Jude’s instruction here is therefore as practical for us today as it was for the believers to whom he first wrote.
Those causing division in the early church shared in a harmful combination of moral and doctrinal error. They were devoid of the Spirit, promoting sensuality and “following their own sinful desires” (Jude 16), yet they had somehow managed to creep in among God’s people. Jude describes them as “hidden reefs” (v 12), which lie just far enough below the water’s surface to go undetected and yet are capable of wreaking absolute havoc if any vessel runs into them. Indeed, those reefs are capable of sinking that vessel.
In response to these charlatans, Jude urged his fellow believers not to forget “the predictions of the apostles,” who had warned that “in the last time”—the time between the ascension and the return of the Lord—there would be those who scoffed at the teaching of Christ and His chosen apostles and who tolerated or even promoted behavior driven by our desires. In God’s providence, the early church was forewarned so as not to be caught off guard by those who in this way would cause divisions—and so, indeed, are we.
Yet God’s word doesn’t just call us to be on the lookout for those who create discord and division; it also directs us to deal mercifully with those struggling with genuine doubt. We are to “have mercy on those who doubt” and “save others by snatching them out of the fire” of error and sin (Jude 22-23), even as we resist the teaching and aims of false teachers. Maintaining such a balance is quite a challenge! And yet Jude does not shy away from the exhortation. Believers who are secure in their faith and doctrine are called to restore the fallen in a spirit of gentleness (see Galatians 6:1) and to intervene in the lives of those who are playing with fire.
Since God has saved and kept you, you are called to be alert to danger and pull others out of the flame, boldly but gently. And you are called to keep yourself in the love of God and to pray diligently (Jude 20), that you would be able to spot error and resist those who would divide God’s church. Then you will be able to stand with your brothers and sisters and say with Jude, “To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (v 25).
1Jude, a servant1 of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for2 Jesus Christ:
2May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Judgment on False Teachers
3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved3 a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,4 serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. 12These are hidden reefs5 at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
14It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
A Call to Persevere
17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They6 said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment7 stained by the flesh.
24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
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