DIG: What concerning the godless people described here, is so godless? What did Paul say about thinking that people could take advantage of God’s grace to continue in their immoral ways? What has ADONAI given the Body of Christ, or the righteous of the TaNaKh, to detect these apostate evil ones?
REFLECT: How can you detect these “wolves in sheep’s clothing?” How can you be sure? Once you know who they are, what should you do about it? There is more than one way to deny Yeshua the Messiah. They can deny Jesus in times of persecution; they can deny Messiah for the sake of convenience; they can deny Yeshua by their lives and conduct; and they can deny Christ by developing false ideas about Him. Can you detect these types of apostasy around you today? How can you combat them in your own life?
For certain people whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Yeshua Messiah our only Master and Lord (Jude 4).
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping (Second Peter 2:1 and 3b).
Why was Jude compelled to write this strange letter that bears his name? Why was it necessary for us to contend earnestly for the faith of our fathers? Here is the answer. Apostates had secretly slipped in among the true believers. The Adversary had sown his weeds among the wheat (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ev – The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds). False teachers had poisoned their messianic synagogues, threatening the righteous of the TaNaKh.
Sound doctrine is under siege today. In fact, it has always been. It began in the garden of Eden, when Satan twisted God’s word and convinced Eve to disobey her Creator (see my commentary on Genesis Ba – The Woman Saw the Fruit of the Tree and Ate It). Ever since, the father of lies (John 8:44) has tirelessly continued his bitter offensive against divine truth (Acts 20:29-30; Ephesians 6:10-18). His goal is simple, to resist the advancement of the Lord’s Kingdom at any cost.
Jude certainly understood what was at stake; he knew wolves in sheep’s clothing were infiltrating the messianic synagogues. He recognized that a battle was brewing – a conflict that marked the devil’s latest campaign in his long war against the truth. That is why Jude wrote this letter. To alert his readers to the doctrinal dangers they faced from the Adversary’s covert agents. Like a general briefing his troops about the enemy, Jude describes these apostates for his readers.23 The situation began with Cain; it was full blown in Jude’s day, and continues to get even worse today. The apostasy will reach its climax when in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (First Timothy 4:1).
Certain men have secretly slipped in among you (Jude 4b). The Greek word for have secretly slipped in means to get in by the back door, or to creep in subtly. In other words, false teachers have snuck in the assembly of believers. Paul gives us a good description of their tactics: For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness (Second Corinthians 11:13-15a). The Greek word of most importance here is metaschematizo, which means masquerade. It refers to someone changing their outward appearance that does not reflect their true inner character. Lucifer did that after he rebelled and became a fallen angel, Satan. But the Adversary knew he could not attract humans as the epitome of evil. He must impersonate ADONAI if he expected to be worshiped as ADONAI. Consequently, he masquerades as an angel of light, as do the godless men who secretly slip in among believers. In this third triad, Jude observes three things about those false teachers.24
First, their condemnation that was written from long ago has been hanging over them. Their judgment has not been sleeping, their end will be what their actions deserve (Jude 4a; Second Peter 2:3b; Second Corinthians 11:15b). Although false teachers will not face their eternal judgment until death, God decreed their sentence from long ago. Throughout history, from the first pronouncement of judgment on the serpent in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:13-15), ADONAI has condemned all those who distort divine truth. There were oral prophets like Enoch (see At – Enoch, the Seventh from Adam Prophesied About These Men), and written prophets (Isaiah 8:19-21, 28:15; Jeremiah 9:6-9; 14:14-15; Zephaniah 3:1-8; Revelation 21:8 and 27), but whether oral or written, the apostates that they prophesied against were doomed (see my commentary on Revelation Fo – The Great White Throne Judgment).
Second, they are godless people (Jude 4c). We must not think that open immorality or other wickedness is necessarily the only characteristics of apostasy, but rather a lack of what is repeatedly referred to in the TaNaKh as the fear of ADONAI, and those who despise wisdom and discipline are fools (Proverbs 1:7). The Greek word used of them is asebes, meaning to be without reverence. The apostates appear to be lovers of God, but they have no reverence of the LORD, having a form of godliness but denying its power (Second Timothy 3:5), they deny the Gospel of the Messiah as the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), and they also deny the transforming power of Christ that enables a true believer to live the supernatural life called for in the New Covenant (Philippians 3:10).
These ungodly apostates may seem good in the eyes of others. They may not seem overtly wicked, criminal, or corrupt. Nevertheless, the Bible calls them godless because they lack the fear of ADONAI. Jude is not speaking of outward appearances, but of the heart (First Samuel 16:7). When their hearts do not accept all the Word as given by our LORD, the Holy Spirit labels them as godless. Apostasy always begins with the rejection of the Word of God. When something is placed above the Word, whether tradition, custom, creed, loyalty to an organization, or anything else, no matter how good it seems in itself, it leads to apostasy.25 Thus the Word itself levels the finger of guilt against them.
There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves (Second Peter 2:1). What Peter said about the coming false teachers beforehand is the same thing that Jude now says about them who have already arrived. These godless men pervert, or turn the grace of our God into a license for debauchery (Jude 4d). Debauchery means to seduce, or lead someone astray sexually. They perverted the grace of God into an excuse for aselgeia, or the Greek word translated shameless immorality. Most people want to hide their sin; they have enough decency not to want to be found out. But the apostates are so lost to decency that they don’t care who sees their sin. We see this all the time toady.
Not only that, the verb turn is in the masculine present participle. They continuously perverted the grace of God. There was no stopping them. It was their pressing, persistent mode of operation. They did not stop their constant practice of changing the grace of God into blatant immorality. It became a habit. Like brute beasts, that’s all they knew what to do.
These false teachers were undoubtedly tinged with Gnosticism and its belief that, since the grace of God was wide enough to cover any sin, they could sin as they liked! The more they sinned, the greater the grace; therefore, they thought “why worry about sin” (Romans 6:1-2; Galatians 5:13; First Peter 2:16; Second Peter 2:19)? Thus, grace was perverted into shameless immorality.26
And third, they denied, or disowned our only Master and our Lord Yeshua Messiah (Jude 4e CJB). They deny both His Person and His ministry because the apostate false teachers viewed themselves as their own masters. As a result, they refused to honestly acknowledge the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ (Psalm 89:27; Acts 7:55-56; Romans 5:1, 6:23; Ephesians 1:21-22; Philippians 2:11; Colossians 1:18, 2:10; First Timothy 6:15; Revelation 5:12, 19:16). They would not submit to Yeshua as divine Master and Lord, nor would they give Him the honor He singularly requires as God the Son and the Savior of sinners. Consequently, they deny Christ His rightful position as God (John 5:23) as King (Matthew 25:34; John 1:49-51, 12:13, 18:37), and as the Messiah (Matthew 2:4-6; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 2:25-35; John 4:25-26). In doing so, they confirm that they are counterfeit because they claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good (Titus 1:16).27
If those people were Gnostics, they would have two misconceptions about Jesus. First, the common Gnostic theory was that “the aeon Christ” (see Ac - The Book of Jude from a Jewish Perspective: Purpose), descended upon the man Yeshua at His baptism and left Him before His death. They believed that since the body was evil, Jesus only seemed to have a body and was a kind of spirit ghost in the apparent shape of a man. The Greek word for to seem is dokein, and these people were called Docetists. They would deny the real humanity of Yeshua. Secondly, they would deny His uniqueness. They believed there were many stages between the evil matter of this world and the perfect spirit of God, and they believed that Jesus was only one of the many stages on the way.28 The title of our only Master and our Lord Yeshua Messiah would refute both of those destructive heresies.
And this is what our Lord said of them: Whoever disowns Me before others, I will disown before My Father in heaven (Matthew 10:31). Another inspired writer said: If we deny Him, He will also deny us (Second Timothy 2:12). The Ruach HaKodesh rebukes anyone who refuses to acknowledge the truth about these apostates: Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist - denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; however, whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23).
John writes: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Yeshua is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (First John 4:1-3).
No wonder Jude was alarmed. He was faced with a situation in which false teachers had secretly slipped into the messianic synagogues, and were perverting the grace of God into a justification, even a reason, for practicing shameless immorality.