AN EXPOSITION OF THE LETTER OF JUDE PART 9
by Frank Parrino
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EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON JUDE
Part 9 – Riveting Remembrances and Appalling Apostates Continued
Jude continues in verse 12 to portray the enemies of the truth, the godless men referred to in verse four, with a serious of very striking metaphors.
First metaphor is hidden reefs or rocks in your love feasts. A reef is a ridge made of coral or rock that lies just below the top of the water. Some translations have ‘blemishes.’ In line with the parallel passage in 2 Peter which uses a different Greek word meaning ‘spots,’ most prefer “blemishes.” Yet Jude’s choice of word means reef or rock. When you think of it, is not a ‘hidden reef’ a blemish in its own right? A hidden reef is a hazard to any ship which could seriously damage – even sink a boat if it runs over one. Back in Oct 2004 a 546 ft. ship went aground when it struck a reef off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Remember when Paul was shipwrecked on the way to Rome? The ship struck a reef just below the water’s edge off the island of Malta. The ships bow stuck fast causing the stern to be smashed up by the waves.
Lying just below the surface of their superficial Christianity, these false professors were in reality a ‘dangerous rocky blemish.’ Their purpose was to make shipwreck of the faith of others.
The love feast in the early church was a shared meal meant to encourage fellowship and mutual love. These false brethren mingled about satisfying their physical appetites – wearing phony smiles and gaining people’s confidence. They had no fear of exposure as they perused their selfish purpose to wreck the harmony of the church. Love feasts were occasions for teaching as Acts 20:7, 11 suggests. These shared meals may have afforded evils doers such an occasion to promote their erroneous views and lifestyle.
Next we read that they are caring for them-selves. This translates the word used for shepherding as some translations have it. The thought here is that of someone who cares for and is responsible for a group of people. The pastor is required to ‘shepherd the flock of God who the Holy Spirit has made them overseers’. Like the wayward spiritual shepherds of Israel we read about in Ezekiel, these self servers only further their own ends and fail to serve others for their good. These are users and takers. These are not givers or personally responsible for their actions. The Wall St. debacle that has the world’s economies in big trouble is a prime example of this greedy and irresponsible attitude.
Next Jude uses four salient scenes from nature.
First reference is from the sky. These Christ-less people are like water-less clouds, driven by the wind. There is a paradox here. Clouds are made of tiny droplets of water and ice. That is their essence. Yet they are water-less and thus deceptive in appearance. In an agrarian society such as that which surrounded the peoples of the Bible, farmers depended on the coming spring and fall rains to water their crops. As the farmer anxiously awaits the rain – he sees clouds approach – but the winds keep pushing them along and soon disappear. There is no rain. That which was to water the crops and refresh the parched ground proved just an outward show. The poor farmer had been deceived.
These godless people put on an outward show. They are tossed to and fro by the winds of deceit. They are not like a godly Philemon. He was known for his sincere love by which he refreshed the hearts of the brethren. Despite all outward appearances the impostors provided nothing that was helpful, refreshing, and positive for the Christian community.
Second reference is from the land. These Spirit-empty-souls are like autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted. Autumn is harvest time. It is time for apple and pear picking. The farmer’s orchid has some trees which bear no fruit. Such trees cease to fulfill their function. They are useless to him as a source of nutrition and a cash crop. They are twice dead by virtue of having been dried out. They are dug up so new trees may take their place. In their barren uprooted condition they are fit only to be burned.
Jesus likens people to good and bad trees. The tree is known by its fruit. His true followers are known by fruit bearing. These men are fruitless. They fail to produce a harvest of spiritual fruit in their lives. They are spiritually dead because they deny Jesus Christ as Master and Lord. They were in the church but not in Christ. They will be uprooted in the judgment says Jesus, for every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up (Matt 15:13). Their life is marked by bareness in the things of the Lord.
Third reference is from the ocean. These castaways are like wild waves of the sea. If you visit Block Island don’t miss the awesome vista from atop the Mohegan Bluffs. These cliffs rise up from the southern end of the island about 150 feet or so. You can watch the restless ocean release its wild waves upon shoreline. Strong waves stir up the sand, seaweed, pebbles, empty seashells, drift wood. With a roar they spread their watery substance unto the shore. They leave sudsy white foam in wake of its advance and retreat only to re group and do it again and again and again. Jude’s contrast concerns the moral side of these castaways. He likens the wild waves to the ungodly(s) forceful, picky, uncontrollable, and obstinate ways. He likens the sea foam to their shameful words and deeds. These the believers must avoid.
Fourth reference is from the heavens or celestial sphere. These wayward trekkers are like wandering stars. Jude is most likely referring to the planets not meteors (shooting stars) or comets. Ancient stargazers noticed several “stars” moved over time relative to the fixed stars. These were called by the ancient Greeks ‘planetoi’ or ‘wanderers.’ From this we get our English word for planet. From a practical purpose the stars were used for navigational purposes. To keen sky watchers these ‘wandering stars’ could not be relied on for that purpose.
Likewise Jude is saying these wayward people could not be relied on for proper guidance. These teachers have set themselves up as guides but in reality are lost guides. They chart a course of life that is unreliable – unsteady – erratic – untrustworthy – they are off course. Jude again alludes to 1 Enoch where stars (angels) transgress and are bound in prison. The thought here is summed up by Jesus in Luke 6:39 where the blind leads the blind only to fall into a pit.
Jude closes these vivid metaphors with a sentence of condemnation. This applies to the godless men of verse four to which he has been relentless thus far in bringing out their evil nature and dangerous intent to destroy the Faith.
There is no doubt a parallel to the judgment experienced by the angels of verse 6 and Peter’s remarks in his letter. Darkness is further enhanced by the chilling thought that it is blackest darkness. Words could not be more terrible to convey the sobering reality that awaits the godless. They have no hope in an eternity of utter darkness.
Hidden rocks spell danger– fruitless trees spell barrenness – waterless clouds spell uselessness – wandering stars spell lost-ness. O may God give us much grace and mercy that we will not fall prey to the error of those who would deceive us about our Faith and promote ‘other voices’ which only lead to further ungodliness. May God stirs us up to walk in truth, love, and obedience. That we tell others that there is absolute truth – that real hope exists – that it is still the day of salvation – that Jesus Christ receives sinners and makes them a new creation when in repentance and faith they turn to Him and become united to Him by faith. The Lord alone gives life its stamp of true meaning and purpose.
Jude begins to draw his frightful description of the apostates to a close and confirms their condemnation with another direct reference to the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch. Again we must keep in mind two things: 1) 1 Enoch was a well known and respected religious writing in Jude’s day. Even though held in high regard Jude is not saying it is to be equated with Holy Scripture. 2) It is the Holy Spirit who is the primary author of Holy Scripture. He is free to choose whatever He sees fit and puts His approval on that material as Holy Scripture.
We learn of Enoch from Genesis 5:1-18. He was seventh in the genealogical line from Adam. We can call rightly call him a rare pre-flood believer. Scripture tells us he walked with God in a day of great and increasing wickedness. Enoch lived an exemplary life – pleasing the Lord as the writer to the Hebrews testified.
Enoch’s personal relationship with the Lord involved an experience of special revelation which Jude relates for us.
This source that Jude uses about Enoch prophesying is intended to confirm Jude’s theme on coming Divine judgment on the ungodly. Jude is applying this Biblical theme to his present situation.
The Lord – God – came with a multitude of His holy ones – His holy angels – which Scripture is absolutely clear accompany and assist the Lord at His coming to judge the world in righteousness. He is coming (vs. 15) to “execute judgment upon all.” No one will be able to hide. Everyone will stand before the bar of God to give an account of themselves – thoughts, words, and deeds. All will hear the verdict rendered for or against them and enter into an eternity of bane or bliss. This is confirmed by our Lord Himself in Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Farther with His angels, and will render to every man according to His deeds.” Matthew 25 is a most telling description of the judgment of the great day.
The righteous will be acquitted through the atoning work of Christ. The unrighteous will be found wanting and receive their just recompense. On that great day when history on this side of eternity ceases the lost won’t be able to claim ignorance. God has warned them throughout history – given us that record in the Holy Scriptures and sends warning judgments throughout our lifetime. Mediate on the trumpet series in Revelation 8 thru 11 – the trumpet blast and its accompanying action is God’s warning judgment on ungodliness till His return on the clouds of heaven.
No excuse will deliver them from the wrath of a holy God. They repeatedly and deliberately turned a deaf ear to the exhortations of God and kept right on sinning day in and day out.
Jude goes on about the prophecy, “and to convict all the ungodly…” He has been calling attention to the character and behavior of the ungodly: indulging in immorality, rejecting authority, reviling God’s appointed ministers. They are full of jealousy, greed, and pride. He further adds to their pile of sins in verse 16, 18: grumblers, braggers, flatterers, and mockers all motivated by selfishness and love-less-ness.
As Jude applies the prophecy to ungodly sinners, each will be convicted of all the evil things they have done and all the evil words that fell from their ungracious lips. Nothing will escape the watchful eye or sharp ear of the Lord. Their evil thoughts, words, and deeds will be the irrefutable evidence against them in God’s courtroom. Jude’s repeated use of “all” and “ungodly” is used as a ‘triple exclamation point.’
Sin is serious. We need to look to ourselves and be sure we take sin seriously. Like Jude’s day - ours also is a day marked by the defiance, the taunting, the dishonoring, and the mocking of God, His Word, and His people.
Jude continues to apply the prophecy to the godless men of verse 4. We see two prime examples of their evil deeds and harsh words. Notice again Jude’s fondness for groups of three: grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts.
Grumblers: There are times when a legitimate complaint can and should be made. I have used had a particular credit card for 9 years. I never missed a payment and never exceeded the credit line. I have been in good standing because they are constantly offering me more credit! But recently I discovered several charges that I never made and worse, my rate went from 14 to 25% with no notice or explanation! Did I have a right to complain? Yep! Let’s just say the matter was taken care of. The book of Acts tells us of the complaint of the Hellenistic Jews concerning the neglect of their widows. They raised a legit complaint and the matter taken care of. We can call this a positive complaint.
Here in Jude we have the very opposite. These complainers are always negative…they grumble…they gripe…they are discontented with God and His ways. As a result they spit out harsh words against the Lord.
Their grumbling is like that of the Israelites in the Exodus and the disciples who wouldn’t accept the teaching of Jesus in John 6 and walked no more with Him. The religious leaders who grumbled at Jesus even called Him a Samaritan and insane. Harsh words indeed.
Grumbling leads to fault finding. The terms are synonymous. These godless men are not happy with their lot – they grumble against God. They pin the blame on Him for anything negative that befalls them. My ears ring with hurt when I hear people take the Lord’s name in vain when something unpleasant happens to them. These grumblers find fault with God because His things – His ways stand in the way of their ungodly agenda.
Thus in totally disregard for God they follow after their own lusts. They set up their own standards and follow the way of that leads to destruction.
This unsightly behavior consists of arrogant speaking and flattery for gaining an advantage at the expense of others.
Arrogance is one of the seven sins that the Lord hates as spelled out in Proverbs 6:17. God hates all sin for sure but when He names a specific sin – like arrogance He wants us to take notice. He says in Proverbs 17:4 that haughty eyes and a proud heart is the lamp of the wicked – arrogance carries many sinful connotations. The lamp of the wicked illuminates their self-importance, snobbishness, and vain overconfidence. They make great claims about themselves but when you get at the bare bones of the matter their arrogant speaking is baseless and has no substance to it.
They flatter – butter people up with their smooth talking – they pay attention to and make many compliments yet are totally insincere. All the while their motive is to take care of themselves and their selfish ends. They have a way of manipulating people so that they can move into certain positions of influence in church and community in order to profit themselves, not to serve the Lord or others. Nothing is worse than someone who in a station of life – be it clergy – politics – banking – any profession that is falsely motivated and uses people and position for their own profit. Personal responsibility and integrity…where have they gone? How contrary to the ways of God’s truth and justice are the godless people Jude has been relentlessly attacking.
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