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The Contradiction of Ungodliness

Series: Jude

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on May 23, 2004

Jude 1:5-16

If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Jude, the little book right at the end of the New Testament, just before the book of Revelation. We’re in the third of five studies in this book, and we come now to the heart of the book's pastoral concern. From Jude 5 down to about Jude 23, Jude gives us both a negative and a positive pastoral assessment of the situation.

Last week when we were looking at the introduction of his main thesis and concern in Jude 3 and 4, we saw Jude stress that truth matters, what a Christian believes matters greatly. And he showed great concern over the false teaching of some in the Christian church. It was leading some astray, and he wanted these Christians to hold fast to the truth of God's word. He wanted them to have a sound theology based upon the teaching of Jesus, based upon the teaching of the apostles, based upon biblical truth. It's interesting…The very next day in our newspaper there was a letter to the editor expressing appreciation for a false teacher who had just been in town denigrating the truthfulness of the authoritative Scriptures and questioning facts that the Christian church has long assented to. And this person wrote in appreciatively saying that “Christianity has little to do with doctrines and much to do with how one perceives God in his or her heart.” And Jude's response to that would've been, of course, ‘Wrong! Truth matters. Doctrine matters.’ And Jude is pressing that home.

Now in this section from verse 5 all the way down to verse 16, Jude is dealing with the main characteristics of the false teachers who are troubling this local congregation to whom he is writing. And you can detect four distinct movements in this section. First of all, in verses 5-7, he reminds us of three Old Testament examples of God's judgment against the sins of the ungodly. Now he does this, first, to diagnose the problem of the false teachers and to distance us from them. He wants us to see in the false teachers some of the very characteristics of these three, Old Testament people whom God had judged. Then, in verses 8-10, we see the second movement in this section. There Jude summarizes the heart-attitude of these false prophets, and he contrasts it to the behavior of Michael the archangel. Then, thirdly, in verses 11-13–though you can also see this again in verse 16–he pronounces a woe against the false prophets, and he characterizes their character with nine, colorful illustrations. And then in verses 14 and 15 he intimates the certainty of God's final judgment against all the wicked, but expressly against these false prophets. So before we read the word of God, let's pray for God's Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts and minds as we hear the word. Let's pray.

O Lord, You call us in the Bible to believe and live Your word, to trust and obey, to embrace You and Your truth by faith, to live out that faith in a life of consecration and holiness. So as we hear Your word this morning, help us to hear it not as skeptics or Pharisees or disinterested bystanders, but as those who hear in order to believe and live. We would be hearers and doers of Your word. Grant this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jude 5-16: This is God's word.

5Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. 6And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. 8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. 9But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ 10But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. 11Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. 14It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’ 16These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

We've said several times now that Jude is writing this letter out of a concern about the influence of certain false teachers. These false teachers, he tells us in verses 3 and 4, are on the one hand teaching cheap grace. They’re teaching that a person can be a Christian and live in immorality. The two are perfectly compatible. They may even be fostering it with their teaching and certainly by their example. Secondly, he says they’re denying their Master and Lord. We don't know exactly how they were denying their Lord and Master. If it was anything like the false teachers in I, II, and III John, they were perhaps denying essential Christian truths about the person and work of Jesus Christ. But the fact that they are teaching a grace that does not lead to a changed life and that they are denigrating Jesus, our Master and Lord, lets us know how incredibly timely this letter is for today. Jude is writing to problems 2,000 years ago which are still rife around us. There are many professing Christian teachers, preachers, and scholars who see it as their business to disabuse you Christians of the truthfulness of the Bible, of the deity of Christ, of the claims of the gospel, of the absoluteness of the truth of God's word. And Jude is speaking precisely to that kind of thing.

There are many people today who are very happy to convince you of the safety and security of your spiritual condition and yet encourage you in immorality and loose living. We live in a day and age of license and antinomianism. People want God without rules, without responsibilities, without obligations. They want Christianity without commitment. They want the benefits of Christ and salvation without the cost of discipleship. Did you see the article in The Clarion Ledger yesterday about spirituality? The fastest growing group in America are those who see themselves as spiritual, who believe in God, but are affiliated with no particular religious group, organization, or church. They want to pick and choose their spirituality. A little bit from here, a little bit from there. It's “salad bar style Christianity.” Create your own. They want spirituality without commitment. They don't want to be bound down by rules and obligations, doctrines, and teachings. They want to be able to put it together themselves. They want spirituality without the constraints of commitment. Well, Jude is speaking precisely to this kind of thing in this little letter. There are three things that I want you to see that Jude teaches us today in this little book.

I. God will deal with the ungodly, whether they claim to be godly/spiritual or not! (5-10) [Three negative OT examples of sin and God's judgment, and the godly, humble example of Michael]
First of all, in verses 5 to 10, I want you to see that Jude stresses that grace leads to faith, humility, and holiness. Grace believes, grace humbles, grace leads to a new life in Christ. And I want you to see that negatively because Jude makes it clear through these three, negative, Old Testament examples of sin and of God's judgment against sin…and then the positive example of Michael, what happens in the life of a person who has experienced God's grace.

Jude is expanding his comments in verse 4, and in verse 5 he tells us again why he's writing, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude says, ‘Now look. What I'm getting ready to tell you, you already know. I'm not telling you something that you haven't heard before from Jesus. I'm not telling you something that you haven't heard before from Paul. I'm not telling you something that you haven't heard from Peter. I'm not telling you something that you haven't heard from the other apostles. I may not even be telling you something that you haven't heard from me. I'm telling you something you already know and this stands in direct contrast to the false teachers.’ Because what are the false teachers saying? ‘We've got something new to tell you.’ And Jude wants to say, ‘No, I've got something old to tell you.’ He's contrasting his teaching…‘You can find my teaching,’ he says, ‘in the Bible. You can find my teaching in Jesus’ teaching, in Paul's teaching, in Peter. I'm not here to tell you something new. I'm here to remind you of something that you've already heard.’

And I want to stop and say right there that good preaching doesn't always tell you something new about the Bible. There are those glorious occasions in Sunday school classes and Bible studies and in sermons where you are brought to awareness of a biblical truth that's always been there but you've just never quite seen it like that before, and it explodes in your heart and it's a great joy to learn it, and that's good…but that doesn't happen in every sermon or Bible study or Sunday school class. No, oftentimes what God's servants are doing is they are reminding you of the truth of God's word that you already knew. They’re putting you into remembrance of it. They’re calling to your mind things that you had forgotten. They’re helping you to relearn the truth of God's word. They’re convincing you to accept things that you've accepted but which are hard to grasp and live in the trials of life. And so preaching is not designed always to teach us something new in every sermon but very often to reinforce the truth which we have already learned.

Well, Jude proceeds to give three Old Testament examples of God's judgment against sin. And Jude does this as a warning against those who falsely profess the faith, who change the content of the gospel, who reject apostolic truth, who use grace as an excuse for immorality. Jude is telling you these examples to convince you that God will bring judgment against them and these are the three examples: It's the Israelites in the wilderness, the fallen angels who followed Satan, and the situation of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember the Israelites in the wilderness? A people are brought out of Egypt but many of those same people did not believe and they died in the wilderness. Their unbelief and disobedience led to their destruction, and so Jude says, “[He] destroyed those who did not believe.” What was their sin? Unbelief. Then his second example, the fallen angels. How are they described? Very interestingly…”[They] did not keep their own domain. [They] abandoned their proper abode.” They sought a station and a position which God had not given to them, even as Satan sought to be exalted in a way that God had not designed for him to be exalted, and therefore they are bound for judgment, awaiting God's final judgment. What was their sin? Pride, arrogance. Then he mentions Sodom and Gomorrah in verse 7, their immorality, their unnatural immorality was wanton and so God reigned down fire from heaven. And Jude says that was a picture of the judgment which is awaiting all those who are immoral. What was their sin? –Immorality, sexual immorality in particular. And so notice that Jude has given three examples from the Old Testament–one of unbelief, one of pride, one of immorality–and then he says, ‘And that is exactly how these false teachers are.’ You see, he's setting up this congregation to be able to see that “by their fruits you shall know them.”

And then he contrasts this judgment of God and this immoral behavior of the false prophets with Michael the archangel. Listen to what he says about the false prophets and then listen to what he says about Michael. In verse 8 he describes these false prophets in this local congregation this way, “In the same way,” in the same way as these Old Testament examples. “Yet in the same manner these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.” Apparently these false prophets claimed to be having dreams and vision in which they were being told this new truth that they were bringing to this congregation, but he says, ‘Look at what happens. When they teach, what do they do? They defile the flesh. That is, their teaching leads to or promotes immorality.’ One of the three illustrations that he used is Sodom and Gomorrah. Secondly, it rejects authority. One of the illustrations that he used was the fallen angels who rejected the authority of God and left their proper abode and place and thus were judged. And what else? They “revile angelic majesties.” They speak flippantly and revile these celestial powers.

And in contrast to this, he says (look in verse 9), “Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ But these men…” verse 10, “these men revile the things which they do not understand.” These dreamers, these visionaries, these prophets were claiming to teach new things and in the process were promoting immorality. They were rejecting authority, certainly Jude's authority and whoever else was a spiritual authority over this local congregation. They were rejecting that authority and they were claiming to have such spiritual power that they could revile angelic majesties, celestial spirits. They could just speak them down.

A few years ago I saw a television preacher claiming to recount an experience of the demonic. And it went like this: He said, “I was present in this room and the demonic force came in and the temperatures of this room dropped to sub-arctic levels. Everything began to frost over and then the furniture began to levitate. And I addressed that spirit and I told him to get out, and he fled through the window. And the furniture fell to the floor and the temperature returned to its norm. But then I leaned out the window and I said, ‘You come back here! I haven't finished with you yet. You put that furniture right back where you found it.’”

Now he thought that was very clever, I'm sure, and I'm sure that was very impressive to some of his followers. All it told me is he knew nothing about the demonic. You want to know something about the demonic? You talk to Paul Long or Doug Kelly sometime. Jude is saying, ‘These men revile angelic majesties while Michael the archangel didn't even do that. He said, “The Lord rebuke you!”’

The point is that God's grace produces trust and humility and holiness; and the lives of these false teachers showed not trust, humility, and holiness but unbelief, pride, and immorality. That shows us that their teaching and these teachers are not from God. And Jude is telling us and he's telling this congregation this so that we can be discerning about those who teach. There are many who claim to be true Christians and faithful teachers of the Bible who do not know God. How will you know them? “By their fruits you will know them.” But Jude also tells us this because as we examine ourselves we ought to recognize that grace produces faith and humility and holiness.

II. False prophets can be identified by their character, attitudes, and actions (11-13)
Now the second thing that Jude teaches us in verses 11 through 13 is very simple: Life shows the heart. A person's life shows a person's heart. And so Jude's point is that false prophets can be identified by their character, their attitudes, their actions. And he uses nine illustrations over the course of these three, small verses (from verse 11 to verse 13) to describe these false teachers. First of all, he says, they've gone the way of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. You remember Cain, that unloving and unfaithful man who killed a man more righteous than himself? He says, ‘Well, these false teachers have slandered those who are more righteous than themselves. They’re like Balaam.’ You remember the prophet that the enemies of Israel tried to hire against Israel to curse Israel? He was hired for pay to apply his prophetic trade. You see Jude is saying, ‘These men are in it for the buck. They’re teaching what they’re teaching because they’re in it for the buck. By the way that's a good thing by which to judge. If you’re on television and somebody asks you for money in the name of Christ, nine times out of ten it's a heretic. Just bear that in mind. If they ask for money, they’re probably a heretic. Thirdly, Korah, the rebel against Moses’ authority who is eventually judged by God–again someone who rejects divinely appointed authority. This is what they’re like but he's not done yet.

He gives six metaphors in verses 12 and 13 for what these people are like. They’re stains in your love feasts. They've interjected impurity into church life. They’re shepherds who feed themselves. They’re self-serving. They’re looking out for number one and you’re way down the list. They’re clouds without water. They look full. They look like they’re bringing needed rain, but the rain never comes. They don't produce. They promise but they don't produce. They’re trees without fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is not there in their lives. They’re raging waves of the sea. Ever been on the seashore after a great storm and all the stuff from the bottom is swirling around now on the top and it comes out onto the sand? Well, these false prophets, they crash like waves and all they do is stir up moral filth. They’re wandering stars. They blaze with light like a shooting star but they’re destined to burn out in oblivion.

The point is their life shows their hearts. Mrs. Porter was telling the first grade parents just this past Friday morning that your children will learn what you live before them. “It's important to teach them but they will learn from you,” she said to the parents. “They will learn from you what you live before them.” And no matter how loudly you teach, you will never be able to live down what you live before them. That's what they will learn more than anything else. Well, Jude is just saying, ‘A life shows the heart, and that's the same case with these false prophets.’

III. The most dire punishment is reserved for and awaits the ungodly (14-16)
And then he says in verses 14 to 16 that there is judgment to come. The most dire punishment is reserved for and awaits those who are ungodly. He's telling us about the certainty of the Lord's judgment against false prophets. Divine punishment is reserved for the ungodly.

And in verses 14 and 15 he quotes from an interesting book, the book of Enoch. This book is what scholars call “a pseudopigraphical book.” It's a book written in the name of somebody who didn't write. It's a book attributed to someone who didn't write it. This book is not, by the way, part of the Apocrypha, that part of literature that was written between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament which is found in Catholic and in Eastern Orthodox Bibles. This is a part of writings from around the time of the sub-apostolic era that was very popular. It was read in many places, but it's never been part of any Christian canon. But it may well have been literature that these false prophets appeal to, and so Jude may be quoting from a book that they liked in order to emphasize a point that he could have supported from dozens of passages in the Old Testament: that is, that God is going to judge and He is going to judge the ungodly. There is a universal judgment to come and God is going to bring to account every evil deed.

And how does he characterize these false teachers? Well, you see at the beginning of verse 16, “They are grumblers, faultfinders, following after their own lusts; [they speak] arrogant(ly), flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” ‘God is going to judge them,’ he says. Isn't it interesting that Jude would end this section of the book saying that God was going to judge false teachers, and so often, what is it precisely that false teachers deny? –that God is going to judge. And Jude is saying, ‘Oh, no. God will judge and He will set things right. So believe the truth, be discerning, look at the lives of teachers when they make these strange and outlandish claims, and remember God's grace always produces faith, humility, and holiness. Let's pray.

Lord God, we need the very armor of God to survive this fallen world and to resist the arrows of the evil one and the false teaching of those who would lead astray. Grant us that armor and then help us to wear it and to use it, for Christ's sake. Amen.

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A Guide to the Morning Service

The Sacrament of Baptism
The Words of Institution
Our Lord Jesus Christ, after His resurrection and before His ascension, commanded His apostles, and us through them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Baptism is, therefore, personally instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sign (that is, a visible representation of God's word of promise, and an outward token of inward spiritual realities). It is also a seal (that is, a mark or visible confirmation of God's promises in the Covenant of Grace, all of which are received by faith). Baptism is a picture of our union with Christ, and thus a perpetual reminder of the forgiveness of sins, regeneration, adoption, and eternal life, by grace, through Christ.

In baptism, the covenant promise of God is made visible to believers and their children. All Christians agree that baptism is to be applied to believers. This is obvious. Additionally, most Christians, today and in history, have also believed that Scripture teaches that the children of believing parents should be baptized, because of the unity of the covenant of grace, and because the children of believers have been part of the household of God since Old Testament times.

This is seen in Genesis 17:7 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” God tells Abraham in 17:10-12 that the covenant sign is to be applied to Abraham, his descendants and even the Gentiles of his household. This threefold covenant formula (you, your children, and Gentiles brought within the covenant family) is repeated and expanded by Peter in Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

Hence, because the children of believers are part of the covenant community, the visible church, in the New Covenant as well as the Old Covenant, they are to receive baptism, and have a special access to the outward privileges of the church.

Water baptism does not regenerate children (any more than it regenerates an adult!), rather, by baptism, children of believers are solemnly acknowledged as members of the visible Church, distinguished from the world, and brought into blessed company with believers.

An obligation comes with baptism: All who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce Satan, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Let me reiterate, children are baptized because they are in the covenant, not in the covenant by virtue of their baptism. Water baptism does not regenerate children, but the fruit of this means of grace (like the other ordinary means of grace) reaches to the whole course of our life.

Covenant children, by virtue of being children of believing parents, are members of the church, which is signified in baptism, but this is not sufficient to make them continue members of the Church. We look for them to exercise faith and repentance, and to make public confession and profession of their faith in Christ.

The Biblical Promise
For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to himself. And God will establish his covenant with you, and your seed after you, throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you. Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household. (Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7; Acts 16:31)

The Baptism

______________________, child of the covenant, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Baptismal Benediction

The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face to shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

This guide to worship is written by the minister and provided to the congregation and our visitors in order (1) to assist them in their worship by explaining why we do what we do in worship and (2) to provide them background on the various elements of the service.

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