A Letter from Jude
December 20- Nº 354 Jude 1
It had been about 35 years since Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Gospel message had spread across the Roman Empire, and believers everywhere were facing great persecution. Peter had just written two letters to the churches in northern Asia Minor warning them to stay away from false teaching and urging them not to give up on their faith (see #346 - December 12, #347 - December 13, and #348 - December 14). An unnamed author had written a similar letter called Hebrews to a group of Jewish believers who were struggling (see #350 - December 16, #351 - December 17, #352 - December 18, and #353 - December 19). At this same time, another letter was written by an apostle named Jude (also called Judas). He was the brother of James and a half-brother of Jesus (see Matthew 13:55). Although they had been hesitant to accept that Jesus was God’s son while he was on the earth, Jude and his brothers had become strong believers and leaders in the early Christian church following his resurrection (see Acts 1:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:5). Jude intended to write an uplifting letter about the gift of salvation that all believers share. But as he started to write, he felt compelled to send a warning instead. Like so many others, the church he was addressing had recently been infiltrated by false teachers. On the outside these teachers seemed good, but on the inside they were not. They perverted God’s grace and mishandled the fact that believers were no longer bound by Old Testament laws. This promoted an immoral lifestyle. Jude reminded his readers that many times in the Old Testament God had punished people severely for choosing to follow their own sinful desires. This was true of the angels who had rebelled in heaven (see #1 - January 1), the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (#14 - January 14), and the Israelites God had rescued from Egypt (see #49 - February 18). All of them had challenged God’s authority, distorted His message, and perverted His grace. And that is exactly what these false teachers were doing. Instead of trusting God, they were relying on their own instincts and emotions. Jude compared their actions to three notorious criminals in the Old Testament: Cain who angrily killed his own brother instead of listening to God (see #5 - January 5), Korah who started a rebellion in order to gain power and prestige (see #55 - February 24), and Balaam who distorted God’s truth (see #59 - February 28). He described the false teachers as shepherds who fed themselves while starving their flocks; empty clouds that were pointlessly being blown across the sky; trees in an orchard that never had any fruit; wild waves that stirred up trouble; wandering stars that were of no help to travelers who were counting on them for direction. Jude promised that these false teachers would be judged for their evil actions. He reminded the believers that Jesus and the apostles had said, “In the last times people will mock God and follow their own desires. They will try to turn Christians against each other.” He instructed the believers to fight hard for their faith, to stay close to God’s love (which meant obeying His commands), and to pray in the Holy Spirit! He urged them to show mercy to doubters and restore them without becoming doubters themselves. Their goal should be to rescue unbelievers! Jude promised these persecuted believers that one day they would stand in God’s glorious presence with pure hearts that were filled with great joy!
Our culture teaches us to follow our hearts—which is another way of advising us to pay attention to our instincts and trust our emotions. But God tells us this is wrong. Following our hearts will just lead us astray! We need to follow Him and obey His commands.