Guardrails serve an important function in life. Guardrails are used to keep us from catastrophic accidents. They are used to keep us from falling off the edge and ending our lives prematurely. If you have ever been on winding roads, you have seen such guardrails. When the 540 freeway opened from Fort Smith to Fayetteville, Arkansas, there was a section going north where the road curved after going through a tunnel. These seemed like no big deal except when you drove in the winter time. There were many occasions where you would come through the other side of the tunnel, hit the exposed road which was black ice, which left you without control of your car as you approached this important curve in the freeway. The other side of the curve is a huge canyon and you could see how easy it would be to hit the ice and just fly straight off the road into the canyon, a crash that would be unlikely to survive. After a few years the state finally put up guardrails because of the danger of this spot in the road. Guardrails are a protection for us. No one looks at a guardrail and gets mad because the state is trying to take away our freedom to drive off the road and end our lives in a catastrophic crash. The guardrails are there as a protection to keep us on the road.
Jude writes a short letter in which he is placing guardrails on our faith. In verse 21 Jude proclaimed that part of his purpose is so that these Christians will keep themselves in the love of God. He does not want them to experience spiritual disaster and he does not want us to experience that outcome either. So I would like for you to open your copies of God’s word to the short book of Jude. It is found at the end of your Bibles. It is the book just before the book of Revelation. Open to Jude and we are going to read the first four verses.
A Change of Plans (1-3)
Jude proclaims that he is a servant of Jesus and a brother of James. This means that he would be the brother of James who we read about in Acts 15 who is one of the spiritual pillars. James is the brother of Jesus and therefore Jude is also the brother of Jesus. The name Jude can also be translated Judah or Judas. In Matthew 13:55 we see four named brothers of Jesus: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. Verse 1 also contains a beautiful picture of the recipients. They are those who are called, loved by God, and kept for Jesus. This will play into the teaching that Jude will give in this book. But we are called, beloved, kept by our God.
Verse 3 tells us that Jude had plans to write this letter about their common salvation. It sounds like that he had plans to write an encouraging letter about our salvation that we share in Christ. But he says that he could not do this. Instead, he is compelled to write to these Christians to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
The Problem: Perversion (4)
What has happened that Jude needs to change his authorial plans? What is going on that would require him to write a letter to give these Christians some guardrails for their faith? Look at verse 4. There are certain people who have crept in unnoticed in their assemblies. These are ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. What are they doing? They are saying that the grace of God allows us to live according to the desires of the flesh. This is the idea of sensuality. It is not merely sexual immorality. It refers to worldly and fleshly behaviors. In essence, they are perverting the grace of God as a license for a lack of self-restraint. They are indicating that we can live according to the desires of our flesh and still be in the grace and the love of God.
Not only this, we read that they are denying Jesus as our Master and Lord. Now I do not think that they were coming into the assemblies denying Jesus. I believe it is their actions that are denying Jesus as Master and Lord. Following Jesus means that we are called to a complete and full submission to Jesus. Jesus controls how we live our lives. Jesus controls how we act in our marriage, how we act in the world, how we act on the job, how we act in our homes, and how we act in the church. We are denying the lordship of Jesus and denying him as our master when we think that we can live outside what the scriptures tell us. We are making ourselves master and lord and deny Jesus as our Master and Lord.
I want us to notice another aspect of the problem. They have crept in unnoticed. That is, these people do not come in and proclaim themselves to be false, resisting full submission to Jesus, and telling people is okay to sin because we are under God’s grace. They are not that obvious. But there is always the warning of people who will think they are followers of Jesus who live their lives in this way. You will notice in verse 4 that Jude says that these ungodly people were designated long ago. They have been written about in the scriptures before. The prophets spoke about these things happening. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that the false would come in among them in sheep’s clothing but were actually ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). The apostle Paul would warn Timothy that in later days that people would depart from the faith and depend on false teachings (1 Timothy 4:1-5). This is a constant problem that will never go away. People will be among us who look like sheep but are actually wolves. So Jude must write this letter to warn these Christians about the ungodly among them who proclaim to be followers of Jesus but are actually false. They seem like sheep but actually are not.
So it is an internal problem, not an external problem. But what are you supposed to do with this situation? I do not think it is going to be effective to go around the room and ask everyone if they are a sheep or a wolf. Everyone thinks that they are sheep. That is why you are here. No one thinks that they are false. So what will be Jude’s prescription for handling this age old problem?
The Solution: Contend For The Faith (3)
Jude’s overall point is that there is a need to contend for the faith. The Greek word translated “contend” in most translations is a word that means to intensely struggle and fight. There is a necessity to struggle for the faith that has been once for all delivered. I want us to think about how Jude words this. There is such a thing as “the faith.” Jude says that we are to contend for the faith. He is not talking about our personal belief system. He is talking about the faith that has been delivered through Jesus and the apostles. There is a set of truths that must be believed and defended, and never distorted. There is a set of beliefs and teachings that have been given to us to be believe and obey. This is what Jude is calling for Christians to do. You must struggle earnestly for that delivered faith. You must defend that body of beliefs that are found in God’s word. We all cannot read it and just make what we want to out of it. There is a right and a wrong. There is a standard. There are teachings that we are to believe. There are actions that are commanded to take and commanded to avoid. The word of God says something. The word of God teaches something and we must believe it, submit to it, and defend it. There is a body of truth in God’s word that we are to know and follow.
Now contending for the faith is something we do not have a taste for. I think there are a number of reasons for this. Our culture has strongly pushed that it does not matter what we believe. Your faith and values belong to you and you alone so no one can evaluate or pass judgment on them. It is easy for us to think the same way. We will all just have our own beliefs and it really does not matter what we believe. We will all just do our own thing and it will all be fine. But Jude says that this is not possible. We must earnestly fight for the faith that has been given. There is an engaging of the faith with other people. Paul told Christians that we are to come to a unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13).
Another reason we have lost a taste for contending for the faith might also be because of how we saw others do this work. If you grew up in the pews you might have seen people claim to be contending for the faith but do so in a very non-Christian ugly way. You might have seen physical fights break out over the scriptures. You might have seen yelling. You might have seen arguing and division. You might have seen hatred and a loss of self-control. You might have seen these things turn personal where feelings are hurt and relationships are destroyed. In seeing this failure we might be tempted to think that we do not want to contend for the faith. But just because we might have seen people do this wrong and sinfully does not mean that we are not charged to know and hold on to the faith that is given to us in God’s word.
One more reason we might have lost a taste for contending for the faith is because you might have grown up in the pews and that is all you heard. All you heard is why other groups are wrong and how we are right. All you heard were all the doctrinal rules but you never knew the whole of the scriptures or even really knew the character of God. You were simply told what to believe and what to do. This also is a mistake because this point of view misses so much about who God is. This is what Jesus was condemning the religious leaders for doing. They knew all the doctrinal rules and were keeping them. But they missed love, mercy, justice, and faithfulness. Reading for the rules is just as much as a mistake and never talking about a defined set of beliefs. If you grew up and all your exposure to God was just rules and why we are right, you might be completely jaded about Christianity and Jesus. I am sympathetic to where you are and understand how you feel. But we cannot swing the pendulum to the other extreme and proclaim that it all really does not matter what we believe or what we do. We need to find the biblical ground that Jude is speaking about so that we properly contend for the faith. There is a God delivered set of beliefs that must be held on to because Jude is writing for Christians to do that very thing.
You will also notice that Jude says that the faith was delivered once for all. This is a very important truth for us to consider. Jude does not say that the faith is a growing body of knowledge that later revelations would offer. There is the decisive revelation of the gospel. It is complete and delivered once for all time. This eliminates self-proclaimed prophets who came later declaring that they had revelations from God. People like Mohammed and Joseph Smith are not to be believed because they proclaimed different teachings that what was revealed in God’s word once for all. The faith has been delivered and we are not allowed to be editors of it. We do not get to change it to fit our needs and wishes. This is what Jude is concerned about. There were those among them who thought they could be editors and change the grace of God into a license to live how they wanted to live. They were ultimately denying the lordship of Christ and their need to submit to him.
Why do we have to struggle for the faith as Jude declares? Because people are going to distort the scriptures and distort the faith so that sensual living is excused and acceptable. This is where we are in the religious world today. Living together is okay. Remaining unmarried but having sexual relations is okay. Getting divorced and remarried is okay. Sexual sins are okay. Adultery is okay. Homosexuality is okay. Sex outside of marriage is okay. Selfishness is okay. Living with your heart as your truth and your moral compass is okay. Living without self-restraint or self-control is okay. Believe what you want to believe about God and salvation is okay. Just about everything is okay and God approves it.
Jude comes along and says that this is not true. Friends, there is nothing new under the sun. Jude was dealing with the same thinking then as we deal with today. It is not enough to say that we are Christians and say we believe in Jesus and leave it at that. One writer said it so well, “Freedom in Jesus is not the liberty to do what I want but the power to do what I should.” Friends, grace is not that my sinning is okay. Grace is that I have another day to step into holiness and leave my old self of sin behind. We do not need a new revelation. We do not need to change the revelation we have. We need a new heart that wants to submit to the revelation that has been delivered once for all. We need guardrails. We should want guardrails. We should not be trying to remove the guardrails to our own eternal peril. Rather we want to protect the guardrails that God has given to us once for all in his word so that we all can safely keep ourselves in God’s love as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life (Jude 21).