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Exemplary Apostasy

Notes & Transcripts

“Exemplary Apostasy”

Jude 5-11

            I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the phrase “expository preaching.” And you may find it strange that I begin our sermon describing briefly what expository preaching is. But I was reminded of its importance again this week. And here’s why. If you have spent considerable time as part of this church, you have seen what it is, perhaps without understanding the phrase.

            In a nutshell, “expository preaching” is preaching the Bible book by book, verse by verse. This is based on our understanding of the Bible being the inspired Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” All of Scripture is profitable for us to become spiritually mature. And with this understanding, Paul can confidently declare that “he did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God.” 

            This is why you will find us preaching through Gospels, Paul’s epistles, and Revelation. But the Old Testament as also considered in this. So we preach through those books as well. The Old Testament points to Jesus Christ and it serves us well to spend time in them. We want to know the whole counsel of God.

            I do believe that there are times and occasions where topics should be addressed. But I also think that we, as Christians, need a steady diet of book by book preaching. There are lots of other reasons why expository preaching is vital for the church. But I will mention only one more. In topical preaching, there is often a great temptation to preach hobby horses. What I mean by this is that some may have a real passion for particular such as evangelism, or justification, or eschatology. And one can then spend an inordinate amount of time on issues and neglect teachings on holiness and discipleship. Or a preacher can be so fascinated with Jesus’ teachings that we neglect what Paul or Peter or John has to say.

            So it has been a priority for us that we try to explore the different authors of Scripture, different genres of the Bible (narrative, epistles, prophetic, etc) so that we don’t just zero in on certain topics or authors.

            What brought this to the forefront of my mind this week is the abundance of teachings on faithfulness and judgment, sound doctrine versus false teachings, warnings on sexual immorality, etc. So as we peruse the breadth of God’s word, it isn’t just Jude that delivers these strong words. We’ve heard similar things from Malachi, Jesus (in Mark’s Gospel), from John in Revelation, Paul in Ephesians, Amos, and so on.

            I find it interesting that some people build a theology or ministry around a obscure verse or point in Scripture and neglect the abundance of clear teaching in the Bible. People often say that we want to major on the majors and minor on the minor things of God’s Word. But the reality is we really need to nail down some of the majors. There is overwhelming teaching on living in holiness and holding to sound doctrine. And yet many will suggest that this is a pursuit on minors.

            So, as I looked at our text for this week, I was once again struck with more teaching regarding eternal punishment and sexual immorality and faithfulness and apostasy.  Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Jude. We will be covering verses 5-11 this morning. Please follow along as I read from verse 1.

            You probably would agree that there are some interesting things in this passage. Admittedly, there is a bit of ambiguity in some of these accounts that Jude refers to. He also refers to extrabiblical literature for some of his information. Though some of the details are unclear, there is a strong message that Jude communicates loud and clear.

            Last week, we saw that Jude had originally intended to write a letter regarding their common salvation but found it necessary to write a different letter. Apparently, false teachers were prominent and Jude needed a rallying cry for the believers. He exhorted his readers to contend for the faith that they had received and not to those who would pervert the grace of God by an ungodly lifestyle. By their behaviour, the false teachers had denied the only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The first point we will look at this morning is Don’t Stop Believin’. And with that, everyone my age has a song in their heads. We find this in verse 5. Jude moves on to provide his readers an important reminder – something that they had already known. In fact, he uses the same word for “once” to serve as a connection to the “once for all handed down to the saints faith” we looked at last week.

Jude reminded his readers of Israel’s history when they were delivered out of Egypt. I find it interesting that Jude attributes the act of saving Israel to Jesus. And when I started searching around, I found more of this language of how events are attributed to Jesus. If you remember when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God provided water from a rock for their sustenance. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul associates that Rock with Jesus Christ. He was their sustenance. A few verses later, Paul admonishes the Corinthians that they not put Christ to the test as the Israelites did in the wilderness. The apostle John also indicates that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus in John 10.41. We know from here and elsewhere that Jesus was active throughout the Old Testament. Many believe that references to the “angel of the Lord” would refer to Jesus. And here, Jude adds that Jesus was active in saving the Israelites out of Egypt.

And in the same sentence, Jude indicates that afterward these same people were destroyed – those who did not believe. And this begs the question, what happened? They were saved by Jesus. And then they were destroyed. I believe that this points back to the account of Joshua and Caleb. In Numbers 13, Joshua, Caleb and 10 other spies were sent into Canaan (the Promised Land) in order to investigate and bring back a report to Moses and Aaron.  

After spending forty days, they return with some of the fruit of the land. The report is that the land is flowing with milk and honey. But there are people in the land who are strong and they live in large, fortified cities. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Caleb steps up and immediately says, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” He trusted in God’s promises and wouldn’t allow obstacles to stand in the way. However, the people listened to the other spies who were concerned over the people and they rebelled. They complained and cried out wishing they had died in Egypt. And the Lord responded by saying, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

Moses pleaded with the Lord and begged on behalf of the people. If you remember, he was concerned over the reputation of the Lord and how he might be perceived among the nations. In the end, however, God promises judgment. In Numbers 14.27, he responds with “I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and all of your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb and Joshua.” And in verse 37, “the men who brought up a bad report about the land – died by plague before the Lord.”

Now, for Jude’s readers, they would have recalled these events. And when Jude refers to the salvation and destruction in this sentence, he refers to physical events. But the implication is clear for his audience. This, most certainly, has spiritual ramifications. He is speaking to believers in Jesus Christ who are showing signs of faltering. Jude has sensed this need for a ‘reminder’ though they once knew such things. Their actions were starting to betray their beliefs.

And so the reminder is for the people to keep on believing. They were in danger of apostasy. Turn to Hebrews 3 with me. READ vv. 16-18. So this sounds quite familiar. Now notice that these verses begin with a “for.” The author is explaining his previous point. What is the exhortation here? I believe it is the same. Look back at verse 12. READ vv. 12-15. Notice the verbs, commands. “Take care” brothers, “exhort” one another.

I mentioned last week that we need to be intentional unto spiritual maturity. It doesn't come naturally. When we are unintentional, we stray. It happens fairly easily. You miss a Sunday service (or two). You find other things to occupy your time. Hey, there are lots of fun things to do on weekends. But you convince yourself, that you are still a Christian. You said a prayer or raised a hand. And since you don't worry about waking up for church, you spend more time partying on Saturday night. To be sure, Sunday attendance doesn't make you a Christian, but it certainly helps you in your intentionality as you recall great truths and promises from God. The church gathers to pray together and worship together. It's sort of a rallying cry. You celebrate communion and declare that you are a Christian and proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

We mentioned some of the things that we do to “contend” – to remain intentional. The Scriptures seem to indicate that not all persevere to the end. The question emerges, “what do we make of those with whom we started this journey that are no longer joining in worship? And what is our responsibility to them? How do we prevent people from falling away? We “remind” them of Jesus who saved us… and warns of destruction for those who do not “believe.” We “exhort one another” as long as we still have opportunity. We “take care” to guard our hearts against unbelief and apostasy – falling away from the living God. For the author continues in Hebrews, “for we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

With these strong admonitions and warnings, can you see how important it is that we strive together? Why do the pastor and Growth Group leaders keep hounding us when we’re gone a little while? We’re fine. We are just taking a break from “church.”

We guard against such things by continually calling to mind God’s promises and continuing to trust him with our lives. I continue to look at my life and circumstances and I find too many areas where I do not trust him. This means that I must continue to dig in his word and pray and enjoy fellowship with other believers. I look for God’s hand at work and I marvel. And I remember what he has done. I repent of my unbelief and seek to trust him next time.

Thomas Schreiner notes here that “Israel’s apostasy stands as a warning to all those who think that an initial commitment secures their future destiny without ongoing obedience. Those who are God’s people demonstrate the genuineness of their salvation by responding to the warnings given. The warnings are one of the means by which God preserves his people until the end. Those who ignore such warnings neglect the very means God has appointed for obtaining eschatological salvation.”

Those who apostatize reveal that they were not truly members of God’s people. 1 John 2:19 “19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Let’s work together. Let’s make our perseverance a “community project.” The alternative is devastating!

 Look at Jude 6 with me. Our second point is Position and Passions. Some of the angels also rebelled against God. READ. It gets a bit involved what is going on here. I will try to deliver this in a nutshell of what I know. Angels have been given freedom to roam the earth. We know that this is true of both good and evil angels.

When Jude says that angels did not stay within their own position of authority, he is referring to a time when angels became men. We know in some biblical accounts that this has happened before. There were some who came to visit Abram and Sarah and Lot. And when they do this, they take on the form of men.

But this can also be abused as in this case. What I believe Jude is addressing is a time when the angels became men and had sexual relations with women. I think that this is what Genesis 6 speaks of when it is recorded that the sons of God “came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.” This is the time when God looked down on the earth and determined that he would judge the world with a flood.

And these angels, who were at one time free spirits, are now shackled and impotent. A sad tale of angels who at one time were basking in the glory of God himself, rebelled against him along with Satan were cast to the earth and even denigrated to the point of the heinous act of becoming men and cohabitating with women. They are now plunged into darkness. This is not the final punishment but they are being preserved until Judgment Day.

The third example that Jude provides is the well-known cities and account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude says that they, likewise, indulged in sexual immorality. Apparently, they degenerated to the point of homosexuality. It is referred to as unnatural desire.

Let me pause here momentarily because this is a cultural hot topic. I will make the statement and then seek to clarify some misconceptions. Scripture calls homosexuality a sin. You can check out Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 for further evidence. It also calls pride and lying and lust sins. However, Scripture also seems to indicate that there is something unique about sexual sins, most notably homosexuality. If you’ve spent time in God’s word, you know this to be true. It isn’t only here, but you see it in much of Paul’s writings and the Old Testament as well. I believe that homosexuality is targeted in Scripture because it seeks to hit at the heart of God’s design for sexuality. If the Bible begins and ends with marriages and gender differences, you would note that this is an emphasis throughout. To try to distort sexuality is an attempt to undermine God’s plan for his creation.

Now, I don’t believe homosexuals to be outside the grace of God. Regarding the depth and fullness of the grace of God, there is no difference from one sin to the next. It is a level playing field. The same grace that saves a church-goer, saves the homosexual, the drug addict, the murderer, the thief, etc. And so I think that the church has the same responsibility to share the gospel with the homosexual as the next person.

However, Sodom and Gomorrah takes their immorality to a new level. If you’re familiar with the story in Genesis 19, two angels (in the form of men) came to Sodom in order to see if there were any righteous in the city. When Lot sees the men sitting at the gate, he attempts to rescue them from certain danger by being in the open unprotected. But it was already too late because the men of Sodom took notice of the visitors and followed them to Lot’s house where they proceeded to surround his house and demand that the men be brought to them so that they can have sexual relations with them. I must admit that I don’t understand what Lot does next. But he offers his daughters instead. I don’t know. I would have preferred to go down guns “ablazin” than to offer my daughters to these wicked men.

In any event, the angels struck them with blindness and order Lot and his family to flee the city so that God can judge the city. When they leave, Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. So Lot is left with his two daughters. (I wonder if they lost any respect for dad after he had offered them up). God utterly destroys Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.

Jude is doing a couple of things by these examples. I think that they demonstrate a progression of wickedness. And he includes Sodom and Gomorrah as a type of the eternal punishment to come. If you were to read the apocryphal book of the wisdom of Solomon, you would see that the author indicates that this punishment by fire remained as a “continually smoking wastelend” perhaps to serve as a constant reminder that God will punish all wickedness. So whenever, you were to draw near to the city, you would continue to see it smolder and smell the burnt ash and to remember what God thinks of such behavior.

The progression shows what can happen if unbelief goes unchecked and one continues to follow sexual passion rather than to continue to submit to the authority of their Maker.

And Jude moves on in verse 8. Our third point is Animal Instincts and Human Responsibility. Jude begins with “in like manner.” He draws a comparison between the examples and the false teachers. Jude doesn’t launch immediately into judgment but first provides the basis for their judgment. In like manner, these false teachers were also involved in sexual immorality, rejecting the lordship of Christ, and reviling the angels. And they justified their actions by appealing to dreams.

A common practice of false teachers is to refer to a more subjective authority than the revealed word of God. They may claim to have received a vision and then justify themselves and manipulate others.

I know. I feel like I am beating the same drum time and again. But, I mentioned that there is a whole host of material under the banner of “Christian” that is available in our day. With book publishers cranking out words on pages without much discernment, social outlets like Facebook and Twitter that allows for communicating bad theology rampantly… I’ve seen stuff from my former church members quoting false religions and new age spirituality. And other friends “liking” this stuff.

Ok. Look. If this stuff contradicts God’s word, it’s wrong! You can claim a vision from God or an angel. But if it’s not jiving with this book, I’m not buying it. 1 Thessalonians 5 says “test everything; hold fast what is good.” To be clear, your lifestyle should confirm God’s Word, not the opposite.

            Verse 9 sets up a contrast between the false teachers and the archangel Michael. There is an account here that is not included in Scripture. Nowhere will you hear of this contention with the devil over the body of Moses. There is a bit of Jewish tradition that offers some assistance. I think the best understanding of this is that Satan probably frowned upon an honorable burial for Moses based on the fact that he had killed the Egyptian while Israel was in captivity. However, Michael never denied that Moses sinned but rather appealed to God’s rebuke. The devil then fled so that Michael could complete the burial. There is a similar situation found in Zechariah 3 where Satan accusing in the presence of God and the angel of the Lord.

            “But these people” blaspheme all that they do not understand. Your ESVSB notes summarize it like this: “All that they do not understand includes true biblical doctrine about God, angels and demons, and human sin and forgiveness through Christ. What they understand instinctively, like animals, is how to follow their bodily instincts and feelings, flouting God's moral standards. Following subjective feelings and desires, for someone whose conscience is not trained and governed by God's Word, will lead that person ultimately to be destroyed by his own sinful compulsions.”

            This shouldn’t be all the foreign to us. This is largely the pursuit of the world. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, are driven largely by sexual appetite. It’s pretty obvious when your are surrounded by sexual attraction in advertisements (that have nothing to do with the product), the pursuit of the perfect body, and sexual promiscuity. Some of the recent slogans that summarize such thinking is “If it feels good, do it” and “it can’t be wrong if it feels so right.” Really?

            What is the difference between human beings and animals? Human beings are made in the image of God and are to exercise some forms of restraint. We don’t haul off and kill everyone that makes us angry. We do not have sexual relations with everyone of the opposite sex. Animals act on instinct. People may not.

            But just like the fallen angels and Sodom and Gomorrah, these false teachers had claimed special dreams that allowed them to act like animals. They were being given over to their desires. Romans 1 puts it like this, “24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” Jude says that they acted like unreasoning animals and were being consumed and destroyed by their passions.

            Jude includes verse 11 as a summary of what is going on. Judgment is certain because they have walked in the way of Cain. They have abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. Cain was the prototypical model of one who departed from God’s truth. If you remember, Cain was consumed with anger because the Lord was not pleased with his sacrifice. The Lord had prescribed a proper sacrifice and Cain was unwilling to submit to God’s authority and wanted to worship on his own terms. Rather than controlling his anger, he lacked restraint and killed his brother Abel.

            Balaam gave into his greed and desire for money. And Korah, you recall was a cousin of Moses who rebelled against his leadership, grumbled, complained, and led others to revolt against Moses. Do you remember how God resolved the situation? He opened up the earth and swallowed them up. What is consistent between them all was that they were all characterized by their dissatisfaction with the place the occupied. So they engaged in rebellion against God and greedily sought selfish gain at any cost. 

            Listen. This may sound really obvious. We are not animals. We were created by God to live in a way that glorifies him. This is accomplished by living in willful submission to his authority and acting in obedience to the things that he requires of us. God has given us reasoning minds, the accessibility of asking him for wisdom in this pursuit. It is all too easy to pursue our own passions. Don’t be consumed by them but let’s discipline ourselves for godliness. Again, let us strive together to ensure that we will persevere to the end. Let’s enter the gates of heaven as Squamish Baptist Church and rejoice on the day that we can enjoy unhindered fellowship with our Savior and one another for all eternity. Let’s make this a community project. Let’s pray.

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