The Defense Against Apostates

Jude 17-23

    Jude is known for his condemnation of apostate teachers. As a result, many people instantly think of his letter as basically having a negative message – and one not very applicable to believers who are not involved in any false teaching. That is understandable because Jude 5-16 does nothing but criticize and condemn people who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, teaching false doctrine and leading ungodly lives.

    But Jude does much more than this. We should not forget that his letter was not written to apostate teachers – it was written to faithful believers. They were faced with a tsunami of false teaching in the congregations of God, and needed reassurance and instruction. This is exactly what Jude provided for them. As a result, the long central, negative section of the letter (Jude 5-16), must be seen as serving the bigger picture of Jude 3-4 and 17-23.

    These two above passages have much in common. Both begin with the address: God’s Beloved ones. Both talk about godless people (Jude 4 and 18-19). Both appeal to past teaching to make their points: The condemnation of the apostates was written about long ago (Jude 4), and the coming of the false teachers was foretold by the apostles (Jude 17). And just as Jude urged believers to contend for the faith that was once for all passed on to God’s people (Jude 3), he now encourages them to build yourselves up in your most holy faith (Jude 20a). By these means, Jude demonstrates that he is now returning to the topic that he had started at the beginning of his letter: the way believers should respond to false teaching.

    Specifically, Jude tells his original readers to do three things: (1) They are to remember that the apostles themselves had predicted the kind of false teaching they were experiencing (Jude 17-19). From a strictly human viewpoint, those false teachers had secretly slipped in to the congregations of God (Jude 4). But ADONAI knew all along that they were coming. It was no surprise to Him. He was still in control. Therefore, this reminder would reassure Jude’s readers that the LORD knew what was happening in their midst. (2) Jude’s original readers were to devote themselves to their own spiritual growth (Jude 20-21). They must not allow the apostates to sidetrack them from their own development in the faith. (3) Jude’s original readers were to reach out to those infected by the false teaching (Jude 22-23). Withdrawal into their own spiritual cave was not enough, his readers needed to do what they could to reclaim those people before it was too late.100


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