Last time we considered the circumstances which caused Jude to write to the Christian community. Originally Jude intended to write on the theme of salvation but changed his mind. From the subject of ‘our common salvation’ – the faith all true Christians posses and share together – the infiltration of ‘godless people’ into the churches moved Jude to change the topic and address a new pressing danger. We called this a compelling contention. Jude exhorts the brethren to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints’.
We saw that the faith is the ‘fully recognized body of teaching’ which came from God the Father to Jesus Christ – from the Lord Jesus to the apostles – from the apostles to the church – and the church in turn proclaims the gospel in the word. This faith is both authoritative and final in which nothing is to be added or taken away. We are commanded to fight – guard – defend – the Faith - sparing no pains – against those who would strike at its very foundations in order to weaken, alter, or destroy it.
We began to examine the ‘faith and practice’ of these godless men who wormed their way unchecked into the churches. 1) We looked at the fact that they are ‘marked out for condemnation.’ God keeps a book – a record of their godless deeds. 2) They are true to their nature – godless – what they think affects how they act. 3) They turn God’s grace – His favor which for its recipients results in forgiving love and a grateful heart – these apostates turn into a license to sin – immorality being at the top of their list.
Today we begin by considering the last part of verse 4. Jude describes these debasers of the gospel as those who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. What do they deny about Jesus Christ? Jude doesn’t give us a specific answer but we can glean what this denial entails from the description of the One they deny.
Consider with me the phrase, our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. First we note there is a close affinity between these two descriptions of Christ.
The Greek word translated Master is despotes. We get from this Greek word the term despot. A despot is a powerful ruler. Over time it had come to be cast in a negative light and associated with one who was a tyrant or dictator. Here in Jude, Master means someone who has absolute ownership of a person. As servants of Jesus Christ He is our only and true Master. Jesus is to His own a most excellent and loving Master. In the gospel Jesus is clear that we cannot serve two masters. There is God and there is the idol of riches or material possessions. To attempt to serve both is doomed to failure. Our loyalty will be divided because one will be loved, cherished, or esteemed above the other. We either serve our Master Jesus Christ faithfully and consistently or we do not.
Jesus Christ is not a tyrant or dictator – a despot as we find in numerous personages scattered along the corridors of time in this sinful world. Think of the despots of Assyria and Babylon in Biblical times or Stalin, Hitler, and Sadam Husain in modern times.
Jesus Christ alone is the Righteous One – the Blessed and Only Sovereign – the King of kings and Lord of lords. He the Master of masters is not a Master in any evil way. He is a good and benevolent Master, demanding yes because of who He is. He has claims on us as our Creator and Lawgiver and Judge. But none the less, the best master we can belong too. He loves us and cares for us and has our best interest at heart.
Let us then examine ourselves honestly: Are we are His servants…doing His will… obeying His commandments? Do we serve Him with reverential awe, selfless duty, and adoring love? It is a good thing to examine our hearts and confess and forsake any sin that would rob us of complete devotion to our good Master Jesus Christ.
Kurios – Lord – means one who exercises power and who has authority. It is almost a synonym for Master. Our Lord has all power and authority and rules over every aspect of the cosmos – both in the physical and spiritual realm. A popular TV sitcom about a kid growing up in the ‘average family of four’ has this refrain in its ‘theme song’, “…you’re not the boss of me now.” We must not be surprised in our anti-authoritarian age that sinners young, old, and in between - don’t want Christ to be in charge of their lives.
No. Jesus Christ is our only Lord. No other Being in the universe can qualify for this position and be a consistently precise and perfect Master and Lord. If I may use the term reverently, Jesus Christ is the Boss! He is in charge of everything and of everyone at all times including the devil and his angels. The ultimate question is “Do we trust Jesus Christ? Do we listen to Him attentively? Do we serve Him faithfully?
Consider the name - Jesus Christ. Jesus refers to the historical person born in the fullness of time…born of the Virgin Mary…made like us in all things but without sin…who did the will of the Father and lived a life of unselfish service and went about doing good…who kept the Law of God perfectly…died a sacrificial death in which He made perfect atonement for the sin of those He came to save. Rose again for our justification and restored our broken relationship with God when we turned to Him in repentance and faith as Lord and Savior.
Christ refers to the Anointed One – the Messiah – the Promised Redeemer- who came to save His people from their sins and cloth them in His perfect righteousness and give them life abundantly. Jesus Christ is the only Savior -Master and Lord – who we must serve and obey - who alone is the true God and eternal life.
Such a foundational truth of the faith - the Person of Jesus Christ – this primary truth is the spiritual blue print to guard us from falling prey to error. Any builder knows that if the foundation is constructed with inferior material there will eventually be problems with the structure erected upon it. Think of the Leaning Tower of Piza. It is tilted to the southwest because of a faulty foundation built upon loose substrate. After 30 million dollars spent to stabilize it – the 200 ft. tower reopened in Nov. 2001 – despite the massive effort at stabilization only about 25 people at a time can ascend its steps and it is expected to be safe for 300 more years before it has to be tended to again.
How much more permanently safe and stable is the foundation and chief corner stone, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 6:19 which referred to Jesus as our forerunner and high priest says: “This hope (in the Person of Christ) we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” Building our lives on Jesus Christ is something we must take seriously in a day and age offering faulty foundations about life.
Some churches have a foundational verse that defines and motivates their ministry. The church I was part of in my early Christian life had Romans 11:36 as its theme verse: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
In my studies of church history, I call to your attention the Anabaptist (re-baptizers) movement which arose during the 16th century Protestant Reformation. One of the few earlier leaders who was not martyred was a converted Catholic priest - Menno Simons from which the Mennonites take their name. Menno Simons kept 1 Corinthians 3:11 always before him in all he believed and lived: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Christ is the One we must always look to. He must be at the center of our family and church life – the center of our teaching – the center of our preaching – the center of our witnessing - the center of our serving. When we take our eyes off Jesus Christ we give the devil his opening. If the evil one can steal but a little of our minds and hearts away from Christ he can create what I call the “Laodicean Affect” - a lukewarm spirit which grieves the Spirit of God.
Jesus rebukes lukewarm-ness in that sickening picture of spiting those who are tepid out of His mouth! O how we need to be sizzling for Christ! As John Newton observed if we are to be right in anything we must first be right about Jesus. I urge us all then to be certain of the foundation on which we build our lives.
Not so for these apostates. What do they deny about Jesus Christ? Denying the Master and Lord suggests they reject the Divine authority of Christ. That authority relates to His Person, Word, and Work. They want to be captains of their own ship, masters of their own domain, and lords of their own life. They refuse to accept who Jesus Christ is, what He says, and what He does.
As rebels against the King of kings, and Lord of Lords they reject His Sacred Person. They cast aside Jesus Christ as the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5). They snub Jesus Christ as the author and perfect-or of faith (Heb 12:2). In addition to Jude 4, Peter adds in 2 Peter 2:1, “…even denying the Master who bought them.” Peter is describing the apostates in terms of their own profession of faith – they made a profession of faith not according to the Faith but according to their own devises. O they knew facts about the Christian faith, They even claimed Jesus was their savior but Titus 1:16 states the reality of their false claim, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him…” They were ‘hearers not doers’ of the word. An old saying puts the matter very bluntly: Christian names are everywhere; Christian men are very rare.
Furthermore, they reject His Word of authority. John 14:24, “He who does not love me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” John 6:63, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 8:31, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” Consider the closing words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “He who hears these words of mine and does them…” is like one who builds his house on a solid foundation and weathers whatever storms life will throw at it. When we are shrouded by the clouds of anti-authoritarian voices pertaining to the instruction and direction of God in His Word, we need to heed and only heed the voice of the Majestic Glory, “This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him!” – (Luke 9:35)
Lastly, they reject His Work of salvation. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” John 14: 6, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me. Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”
John Bunyan in his timeless Pilgrim’s Progress presents the meeting between Christian and two characters’s called Formalist (one who places emphasis on outward appearance rather than content and meaning) and Hypocrisy (one who acts a part – that makes a false claim concerning belief, feeling, or principle). These two Christian sees tumble over the wall and unto the path to the Celestial city. Christian enters into conversation asking why they didn’t enter by the gate at the beginning of the way and if they realized by not doing so they violated the revealed will of God. Formalist and Hypocrisy present a wide range of excuses to try to vindicate their actions. Christian says in response: I walk by the rule of my Master. You walk by the rude workings of your fancies. You are counted thieves already by the Lord of the Way. Therefore I doubt you will not be found true men at the end of the way. You come in by yourselves without His direction and shall go out by yourselves, without His mercy.
Bunyan in his straight talking manner goes to tell us that as Christian kept pressing the issue these two pretenders gave him no further answer and looked at each other and laughed. Moreover, when all three came to the hill difficulty - Christian stayed on the path and found a spring from which he refreshed himself. Formalist and Hypocrisy, seeing the hill was steep and high noticed two other paths called Danger and Destruction. One took danger which led him into a great wood (forest) and the other destruction which led him into a wide field of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more.
Only Jesus Christ is the Way and only He can bring us into right relationship with God for He alone is the door of salvation. Any other entrance makes you a ‘thief and robber’ in the eyes of the Lord.
The great historic confessions of faith such as the 1646 Westminster and 1689 London confessions that were forged from the fires of the Protestant Reformation, are in my humble opinion still the best human documents that define the “faith once for delivered to the saints”. Concerning the Person of Jesus Christ they present a solid Biblical view of Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
We can summarize what these confessions teach as follows: As our Prophet, Jesus Christ reveals by His Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation and how we are to live before Him. Is He your authoritative prophet?
As our Priest, Jesus Christ, once offered Himself up for us as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, reconcile us to God, and makes continual intercession for us. Is He your great high priest?
As our King, Jesus Christ subdues us to Himself, rules and protects us, and restrains and conquers all our and His enemies. Is He your Blessed Master and Sovereign Lord?