Ever since the earliest days of the church, she has faced the threat of false teachers who love to see God’s people deviate into error. The short, one-chapter book of Jude addresses this problem in the first century, and there are abiding principles we need to grasp and practice in the twenty-first century.
Contemporary American Christianity is living in a feel-good, make-me-happy dream world. Many go to their church services expecting to be entertained by musical and dramatic presentations. They expect the preaching and Bible studies to be positive, uplifting, and encouraging. They would rather have read what Jude originally intended to write about—the “common salvation” (v. 3)—because of its “feel-good” impact.
What he actually wrote about is largely ignored today.
A contending faith? Doesn’t that imply negativism, fighting, judgmentalism, and the like? Yes, and with good reason.
In every age are ungodly people—teachers, leader-type people—who creep into the church and threaten its doctrinal purity and loyalty to the Lord Jesus and His Word. Jude minces no words as he describes their character:
- filthy dreamers (v. 8)
- brute beasts (v. 10)
- spots (blemishes, v. 12)
- empty clouds (v. 12)
- fruitless trees (v. 12)
- raging waves (v. 13)
- ungodly sinners (v. 15)
- murmurers, and complainers (v. 16)
He describes their actions as defiling the flesh (that is, encouraging behavior that feeds carnal desires, v. 8), despising dominion and speaking evil of dignities (that is, having a jaundiced view toward anyone in authority, v. 8), serving in “ministry” for some kind of personal benefit (v. 11), engaging in ungodly behavior (v. 15), pursuing their own desires, vaunting themselves, and fostering celebrity-ism (v. 16).
On the one hand, such individuals are to be noted, identified, and rejected.
On the other hand, God’s people are to be inoculated against them through an ongoing process of growth in the faith (v. 20). This requires preaching and teaching all of Scripture, not merely the parts that make us feel good!
At the same time, we need to guard our love for God as the supreme love of our lives.
I fear sometimes that contemporary Christianity is more in love with the world’s entertainment media (witness the readiness with which it’s accepted and even promoted in the church!), our own pleasure, and perhaps the building of our empires than we are with our God. Consequently, our churches are so reluctant to speak against anything or anyone that identifies itself as “Christian.”
Such an attitude, to summarize Jude’s theme, is a huge, spiritually deadly mistake.