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Last week we got ready to rumble when Jude shifted from Plan A to Plan B. He wanted to write about the common salvation we share with one another, but was compelled to write urging us to fight for the faith that was entrusted to us. This morning we learn why Jude shifted the purpose of his letter as we find out what is going on and why he is so insistent with his letter.
Jude 4 says, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Don’t worry, Jude offers an explanation. The first thing he says is, “for.” Let’s not underestimate the importance of this little word. Jude is setting up the reason that we need to, “contend earnestly for the faith.” Fight or contend for the faith, “For certain persons crept in unnoticed.” Jude does not name them specifically, but they didn’t go in the front door so to speak. These people Jude is talking about crept in. The word literally means sneak in. They hid their true identity and true agenda. They were not misguided, misinformed, confused or ignorant. These people were worse than bad teachers, worse than casual Christians, worse than mean people. These people were crafty and devious pretending to be something they were not. This is not the first time something like this happened. Paul fought against Judaizers in Galatians 2 that taught you had to keep the Law in addition to having saving faith. In 2 Pet. 2:1 Peter said, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
That’s all bad enough, but here’s the worst part. They snuck in and nobody noticed. Where did they sneak in? They snuck into the church and passed themselves off as something they were not . . . and nobody recognized it! They were wolves dressed up as sheep. In Matt. 7:15 Jesus said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The people did not heed Jesus’ warning and were duped by these unscrupulous wolves. If you’re thinking, come on, that only happened back then, we don’t need to worry about that today. Remember Jude is writing to the church at large, the universal church, Christians all over the world so it definitely applies to today. When you evaluate what some churches and some preachers are teaching, it should sicken us to the core. On the extreme side, we have Westboro Baptist and the hatred they spread. On the more subtle side, we have Ray Boltz saying, “This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be – I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.” More recently we have the TV show Snake Salvation. As we move through this letter, we’ll identify the specific problem Jude addresses and how that affects the church today.
What do the creepers look like? Jude describes them. He says they, “Were long ago marked out for this condemnation.” The creepers didn’t catch God by surprise. He knew they were coming and the condemnation results from God’s perfect judgment. Pro. 16:4 says, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Be cautious with this; Jude is not saying that God sent these people with the goal of creating deception or heresy. James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God, in eternities past, determined that sin would always be judged. Condemnation means sentence to a punishment. The actions of these creepers determined that they would be judged.
Jude gives three reasons why the judgment of the creepers is right. Jude declares they are, “Ungodly persons.” This doesn’t mean they didn’t have a chance to turn their lives to God. At this point, we don’t know where the people came from, but we do know they are in the church. They’re ungodly because of what they do. The next phrase is one you’ve heard me quote on frequent occasions and we learned Peter used it as well. These creepers, “turn the grace of God into licentiousness.” They had a fundamental misunderstanding of grace. Grace is unmerited favor so you can’t earn it – it is freely given to us by God. They use God’s grace as a license to sin. License here most likely refers to sexual sin as we’ll see when we get to vs. 6-7. This mishandling of Scripture is very prevalent in the church today. When you proclaim God’s grace as being on a higher plane than holy living, you’ve missed the mark. Tit. 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age.” This is totally consistent with what Peter said in 2 Pet. 1:5-7. It’s consistent with Paul’s writings. It’s consistent with the N.T. What is not consistent is the teaching that since I’m saved by grace I can live any way I want and do whatever I want and I’m covered by grace. Instead of calling sin sin: we call our sin errors in judgment, bad decisions, or mistakes and we fall into the same category that Jude is talking about. Is your attitude, “Oh well, everyone sins and I’m no different.” That’s a dangerous and ungodly attitude. I encourage you to read 1 Jo. 1:8-2:5. John talks about sin as individual points in time as well as a lifestyle of sin. We should not take an, “I know God will forgive me” attitude.
Jude’s final descriptive phrase of the creepers is that they, “Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” This makes sense since they use grace as license. The parallel verse is found in 2 Pet. 2:1 where Peter says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” So Jude tells us three reasons why the judgment of the creepers is right. There is no conversion, no transformation, no holiness, no godliness, and no evidence of Jesus Christ in their lives. Even though we see the same thing today, we ignore that because someone says, “I am a Christian.” As we go through this letter, please remember that these creepers are in the church and are intentionally leading others away from the path of holiness God expects of us.
This kind of behavior is not new. Paul warned Titus of this very thing in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” We can talk all we want, but the proof is in our lives. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15)