the church

Jude-The Epistle of the Search and Rescue

 

The activity of Satan  in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is significant. The real heart and mind of Satan is revealed in his efforts to destroy Christ, whether by murder, or by deception and trickery, or by temptation. From the beginning of Satan’s fall to now, Satan has feverishly attempted to thwart God’s work, receive His worship, and ravage God’s people. He is busy. He is active. He is real. Yet, he is limited and under God’s omnipotent authority.

What is Satan doing now? Because Satan’s attempt to destroy God’s work by destroying His Son was turned on its head, Satan has now begun to hear the ticking of the clock. The time for his judgment is nearer than ever before. He has known since Genesis 3:15 that he would be ultimately destroyed by another Ruler, One who would deliver the crushing blow to Satan and all his works and inaugurate His kingdom. He now knows that Jesus Christ has been handed the kingdom of God by the Father, and the time is coming for Him to come and claim His realm. Satan will have no room in that kingdom. Satan knows that. Thus, now, he is doing what Satan does best-he destroys by deception. He will continue until the Lord banishes him.

Here is a very small sampling of Satan’s work in the church:

1. He is deceiving the church’s minds by introducing another gospel and thus clouding their sincere devotion to Jesus Christ – "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." -2 Corinthians 11:3
2. He tempts believers to immorality – "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 1 Corinthians 7:5.
3. He hinders the spread of the gospel – "For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us." 1 Thessalonians 2:18.
4. However, his greatest activity is the work of infiltration. He is the master of infiltrating error into truth. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-14

It is that last point that most concerns Jude. It is the fact that certain false teachers have infiltrated the church and have begun to introduce destructive heresies leading to lasciviousness and licentious living. Whereas the bride of Christ is to be pure and holy, Satan has as his target and goal to make her defiled and profane. And we know that he appears to be successful in our day as we see church after church adopt a profoundly worldly behavior that makes the beautiful bride of Christ violated and impure. We see, often, the influence of Satan by the lives of the leadership of the church. They exude impropriety and filthy living. They glory in their shame, and they call the church to follow their fables. These are men who are denying the lordship of Jesus Christ, who is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15), calling their denial “grace".” They refuse to call Him Master and bow their stubborn knees in order to acknowledge His right to rule over them. They are confined in their condition as rebellious subjects and will be treated as such when the Lord returns. Instead of bearing the image and likeness of a righteous God, who is orderly and beautiful, they bear the image and likeness of a world that is on the broad way to destruction. And what is their motive? What motivates these false leaders, whom God has not sent? Money. They seek the gain that comes from declaring themselves God’s man. And their victims are lulled into their scheme because they are, by-and-large, unsuspecting.


This is the tone of Jude. This little letter is polemical and contentious. It is a call to arms and is meant to stir the church to action and teach her how to maintain her post, until the Lord returns. Instead of being a soft and unsuspecting assembly of the redeemed, the church is to wise as a serpent and militant in her defense of the truth about her Husband. She is to be jealous for His glory and the good of His name. She is to contend for the truth, defend the gospel, and expose those who lead the church away from simple devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Peter wrote to us that in the last days, which began when Christ died and rose again and ascended to the Father, there would be false teachers just as there were false prophets among Israel. Israel was warned that there would be those who would enter into the life of the nation and introduce themselves as God’s spokesman. How would they know? What should they do with men like that? Moses told Israel very clearly how to identify these scam-artists and how to deal with them.

Israel is on the plains of Moab and they are poised to enter the land promised to them by God through the promise and covenant made to Abraham. It is the second generation of Israelites, and in order to keep the Law of their God preeminent, Moses expounds the Law to this new generation (Deuteronomy 1:5). Within that Law, he warns Israel about the false prophets.

        1      “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,
         2      and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’
         3      you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  Dt 13:1–3.

 

This is a very interesting thing for Moses to say. In short, Moses is teaching that there will be men who will come and perform signs and wonders which may well come true. And, if that prophet, by virtue of his tricks, entices you to adhere to a God other than the One revealed in Moses’ teaching, then that prophet is to be rejected and his words are to be ignored. In our day, we see a supposed miracle or hear stories of great crusades of miracles happening in another country, and we think surely God is in that. And yet, when you listen to the teaching of these men (and women) you quickly realize that their description of God simply does not square with Scripture. Thus, signs and wonders are subject to Scripture.

Even if that prophet is a dear family member, or your beloved spouse, they are to be rejected and identified for all to see. What would be their punishment? Death. Like a cancer that is removed from the body with radical surgery, so this man or woman should also be removed. The issue is separation. Thus, we are not to kill false teachers in the church, otherwise we might pull up the wheat with the tares (Matthew 13:24-20). Better to let the Lord deal with that at the final judgment.


In the church, we also have those who say they are from God and yet their teaching and their lives simply do not conform to sound doctrine and godliness. This is not difficult to comprehend. They preach another Jesus and another gospel. Notice I did not say, “They do not preach Jesus.” I said, “They preach another Jesus.” That is, they preach what they imagine in their minds and call that “Jesus.” They ascribe Christian language to their own thoughts, and we think that they are okay. There would be no deception if a man would deny the deity of Christ. However, to redefine deity is the goal. To flatly deny that Jesus Christ is Lord is clearly heresy. But, to redefine His lordship is the method of Satan. To deny the gospel is easy to spot. However, to use gospel terms and give it a different meaning is the modus operandi of teachers God has not sent. Paul warned Timothy in this way, “

   3      If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,
         4      he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,
         5      and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Timothy 6:3-5

Did you notice that Paul said that a true teacher teaches sound words? And what are those sound words? Sound words are the teachings of Jesus Christ. A pastor is to teach the words of Jesus Christ. It is true that the epistles are built on the foundation of the words of Jesus Christ. The epistles are a collection of expositions of truth from Christ. Thus, we do not make up our own doctrines, and we do not detract from these sound words either. Those who do are conceited and ignorant. Their minds are argumentative, morbid, and full of mischief. They generate envy, fighting, and promote profanity, and evil suspicions. They indulge the flesh and train others to do so as well, making them twice the “son of hell” as they are (Matthew 23:15).

But, we have the Word of God. This is why we must study it. This is why we must know it. This is why we must proclaim it. This is why we must suffer for it. For the glory of Jesus Christ, the safety of the saints, and the promotion of the kingdom of God, we must maintain sound words in the church, and thus rescue the unsuspecting from false teachers.

The Sufficiency and Finality of Jesus Christ.

If I had to identify one of the more deadly, and yet more popular, confusions in the church today, it would have to be the issue of what to do with the Mosaic Law. There are some who express the need to continue using the Law for everyday structure of their lives, or for use in the government, or their church. They would say that the Mosaic Law is a binding document and would generate a righteousness that is sorely needed in those arenas. Then there are others who have turned to Jesus Christ and therefore repudiate not only the Mosaic Law, but even Christ’s Law. In fact, they would rather have no commandment ruling over them whatsoever. They are free in Christ, and they plan to live that way. Those who believe that makes you wonder in which Christ did they believe?

However, both of these perspectives are erroneous and deadly. The one is an affront to Jesus Christ’s sufficiency, and the other to Jesus Christ’s authority. Either one will misrepresent Christ, destroy true holiness and godliness, and grieve the Holy Spirit.

What, then, would be the right way to perceive the use of the Law? What is that relationship between Jesus Christ and the Mosaic Law? Are there any clear-cut Scripture passages that teach us these things? Yes, there are.

Paul has a very clear teaching in the letter he wrote to the Colossians that will serve as a comprehensive passage for us. Paul wrote in chapter 2 verses 16-17,

         16      Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
         17      things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

This particular verse is comprehensive and powerful in what it states. Let’s remember of whom we are speaking. This is the Apostle Paul. His credentials were impressive, at least before man. He was a circumcised Jew at eight days old, according to Mosaic Law, of the nation of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Ph.D.-level Pharisee. He despised the church and persecuted it with vehemence. This was Paul. If anyone understood the Law and its demands, he would have. If anyone would have been deluded by “Pharisaism”, it would have been Paul (and he was). He knew and strictly followed the Mosaic Law. When he became a disciple, he then became a scribe who, like the head of the household, brings out of his treasure things new and old (see Matthew 13:52). Thus, when Paul speaks of the food, drink, festivals, or Sabbath observances, he is very capable of comprehending the import of those things. Yet, he still says, “They are shadows.”

What does “shadow” mean? Simply speaking, it is the image cast by an object. So, if the sun is to my front, behind me is my shadow. But is that the sense in Colossians 2:16-17? Some would argue that this shadow/substance, or type/antitype, are merely terms used to accommodate us literarily. That is, in their minds they do not see that the shadow/substance terminology goes beyond a nice way for the writer to refer to something. They do not see it as actual. But for Paul to call the festivals and new moons shadows is no literary figure.

In order to understand this we need to go to Exodus 25:8-9. This is the origination of the truth about shadow/substance. Understanding this clears the air, I think.

Both Moses and David were given instructions from the Lord concerning the construction of the Tabernacle and Temple respectively (Exodus 25:9; 1 Chronicles 28:19). Moses is given these instructions in our passage and it appears that Moses, when given these instructions, understood that he was not building the real Tabernacle. The verse states,

         8      “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
         9      “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

The key word here is “pattern.” This term is used Deuteronomy 4:16 to refer to an image of anything for the purpose of worship and veneration. It is also used in 2 Kings 16:10 to refer to a model of a idolatrous altar, but not the actual altar. It is used in Ezekiel 8:10 to refer to pictures carved on a wall. Finally, and more significantly, it is used in 1 Chronicles 28:19 in reference to the “pattern” of the Temple that David received from God. It was something of an architectural drawing of the Temple which God gave to David to give to Solomon to build. None of these instances indicate literary convenience. In other words, it is not simply for convenient literary accommodation that the writers refer to a pattern, or image, or plan. These things actually referred to something with mass; something real.

What is my point? My point is this. Moses was given the pattern of the Tabernacle and he understood, because his was only a pattern, that he was not actually building the actual Tabernacle of God. “There must, (I am sure he concluded), be an actual Tabernacle after which design I am building.” Thus, when God said, “I am showing you a pattern”, Moses comprehended that his was only that, a pattern. It was not the true Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-2; 9:11,12; 10:1). Therefore, all the regulations of divine worship accompanying the Tabernacle were also not the true regulations. That is, they were simply patterns as well. Therefore, the sacrifices, the cleansing, the offerings, the ritual, are all “shadows” cast by the true “substance” in heaven. This is how to conclude then, also, that the regulations of the Mosaic Law are also “shadows” in that they cannot commend us to God because the true Tabernacle has come (and is coming, to sound Johannine). The strictures of Mosaic economy serve their purpose, the revelation of sin. But, they cannot make us righteous. The Law of Moses can demonstrate to us the need for repentance and salvation, but it cannot give us eternal life. They are only shadows. They do not contradict the true Tabernacle and the true Law, the Law of Christ. However, they are not efficacious, that is they cannot do anything for us in actuality. It may be useful for regulating life in the church, as is demonstrated by Paul’s consistent use of the Mosaic regulations in church life (i.e. 1 Corinthians 5:13; 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18; not to mention the myriad of allusions to the teachings of Mosaic Law as in the use of Numbers 30 in 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 and 1 Timothy 5:11-12). But they cannot actually make us members of Christ.

So, when Paul says that the food, drink, festivals, new moon, and Sabbath day regulations are mere shadows, he means that according to Exodus 25:9, those regulations do not actually reach into heaven, where the true Tabernacle is. But, Christ did. His death, resurrection, His life, His priestly work, His prayers, etc. all are performed efficaciously and He has entered into the true Tabernacle and has sat down, not at the doorway of the Tabernacle, but at the actual right hand of the Father. Further, in fact, God the Father and the Lamb are the Temple (Revelation 21:22)!

So, please, don’t let anyone steal your devotion and love for the Lord Jesus Christ by putting you back in the shadows. Worship in the light, as He is in the light.

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