Published August 13, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"A Message for Today's Church"

Look at what was happening. The government was becoming more and more anti-Christian (not just un-Christian, but anti-Christian). Widespread societal persecution of Christians was increasing. Many Christians were paying for their beliefs with their lives.

If you think that sounds like today, that would be an appropriate conclusion. Unfortunately. But it was also true in the first century. In fact, that's what the short but powerful book of Jude is all about. Jude, who was a half-brother of Christ, was writing to encourage Christians who were suffering increased persecution by Rome.

The interesting thing is that Jude seemed to take all of this persecution for granted. He was apparently not surprised that the world – represented by secular government – would persecute Christians.

But Jude had something much more urgent on his mind – something else he was seeing that was even more dangerous for the faith. That "something else" was increasing apostasy within the church itself. That, he believed, was a much bigger threat to Christianity. It was then, indeed, and it is today. The threats from outside are not as bad as the threats within the church.

What was Jude seeing? "...certain men have crept in unnoticed ... ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4). These false teachers were spreading false doctrine. And the worst part is that it was going "unnoticed" by the church. People didn't realize it was happening.

That, too, sounds like today, as many of these columns have recently chronicled. Jesus warned about false teachers: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15). That's the same passage where Christ reminds us, " their fruits you will know them" (v. 20).

Paul, in his letter to young Pastor Timothy (1 Timothy 4:1-2) says, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron..."

Paul was telling Timothy that there would be those in the church – including leaders – who would abandon the truth of the Gospel in favor of the lies of the devil – and, astonishingly, it wouldn't bother them a bit!

Recently I reported here findings by Lifeway Research that even many Christians just don't have a grip on fundamental doctrines of the faith. And perhaps this is not entirely their fault – because their church leaders simply have failed or even refused to provide the firm foundation of doctrine to equip these believers to defend the faith. You can't defend the faith if you don't know what you're talking about – it's as simple as that.

Many liberal theologians are discarding what they consider "outdated" parts of the Bible so they can "update" the Scripture. Some discard entire passages, simply because they disagree with what's said. They're not "politically collect." That's reminiscent of Satan's words in the Garden when he questioned Eve with, "Has God indeed said..." (Gen. 3:1). Satan is still busy casting doubt on God's clear words. It's his most-used strategy.

Paul had some stern words for such apostate mis-leaders: "...if we, or [even] an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). There's not a lot of "wiggle-room" in that condemnation. God's Word is God's Word! And He means what He says!

Jude's letter is both a warning – about those things above – but also an encouragement to Christians. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 20-21).

Jude is telling how to avoid the traps of the apostates. "Build yourself up on your most holy faith..." If you're going to defend the faith – as I said earlier – you have to understand it. How? As Paul told Timothy, " to show yourself approved to God....rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Let's all commit to dig into the Bible more than ever before.

How else? By praying. You must ask God for direction. You must ask Him to point you to the truth – to instruct you through His word regarding things you will need to know.

How else? By keeping yourselves in the love of God. Do you love God? How do you show that you love God? Christ, recorded in Matt. 1:15, gives a simple test: "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Stay in the love of God. Keep His commandments.

And why does Jude say we need to study and build our faith? So we can win others (see verses 22-23). People around us (including, unfortunately, some we may see in church) are bound for hell – unless they change course. How can we serve the Lord in this? By lovingly telling those people – everyone we can – the truth of the Gospel.

The late singer and evangelist Sammy Hall once said, "I believe if you love someone who is dying of a dread disease and you have the cure for it, you will no doubt tell him about it. There is no deadlier disease than sin."

Sharing that "cure" has always been urgent, but never more so than it is today.

- Paul

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