Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
The letter of Jude was written to a particular group of people to address a very particular situation: ‘certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.’ There were false teachers in the midst of this community, and Jude felt compelled to warn his Christian friends of the dangers they posed.
Jude pulls no punches throughout his letter, writing in no uncertain terms about those who had wormed their way into the community with their false teaching. It sounds as though people were teaching that the gospel message of freedom and forgiveness of sins meant that followers of Jesus were able to do whatever they wanted, because forgiveness was guaranteed. They were refusing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of their whole lives – words, worship, and works.
Jude is clear that these people are teaching lies, and must not be listened to: the foundational truths of Christianity are non-negotiable. To depend on anything other than the gospel of Christ crucified is to base our lives on a lie. When we follow Jesus, our whole life changes, and to use God’s grace and forgiveness as a licence to live and do as we like is to have not fully grasped the meaning of the gospel, or, perhaps in this case, to be deliberately distorting it.
Today, we may or may not encounter false teaching of the sort Jude’s readers had to contend with, though there will be other issues vying for our attention and allegiance, both inside and outside our Christian communities. As we engage with them, we do so as those who acknowledge Jesus as ‘our only sovereign and Lord’, the one who reigns over every aspect of our lives – our words, our worship, and our works.
As we go into this week, Jude’s letter encourages us to keep God’s forgiveness and grace at the forefront of our minds and hearts – not as a reason to do as we please, but as a reminder of his kindness towards us as we live for, work for, and worship him and him alone.