Today we read the short letter of Jude. It is believed to be written by the brother of James as identified in Matthew and Mark and he identifies himself as such. Earliest dates put the writing of the letter as early as A.D. 65. The letter appears to be written almost as an emergency plea or warning when some people and practices that are inconsistent with the faith had spread widely. There are three main things to take way from the letter.
First, Jude identifies faith:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
As often with our study we can see here a simple phrase “delivered to the saints” that we might pass over without a second thought. However, if we focus on it for a moment we see that it has logical and important implications. “Faith” is not just your subjective belief in God. It is also what we believe about God. It is the truths that we hold intellectually that from the basis our beliefs and feelings. This faith was “delivered to the saints” and Jude is writing this letter because some people are trying to corrupt these teachings and deviate from the truth. Jude warns that we must not deviate from the truths that have been delivered to us through the teaching of the Apostles. This remains as true today as ever. If you want to know what the true faith is you must learn what the Apostles taught. Some of it is recorded in the Scripture. However, scripture can be difficult to interpret. How it was interpreted and what the first Christians understood the scriptures to mean is recorded in the writings of the Church fathers and can be still be helpful to us today to enlighten our understanding.
Next, Jude gives several examples of faithful people who fell away and were ultimately punished by God. He names the Israelites at the Exodus, angels from heaven, and Sodom and Gomorrah. The point is clear, don’t be fooled into thinking that because you are a Christian you are once saved always saved. If you participate in immoral practices, you too can be judged by God and lost.
Finally, Jude reminds them of a warning from the Apostles.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
When I read this verse I could not help but think of our modern times. If it fashionable now to scoff at people of faith and the idea of God. It is fashionable now not just to follow ungodly passion but to praise and glorify participation in them. As this has developed divisions in our society have grown. There is an ever widening gulf of those defined as traditionalist and those labeled progressives.
It is important to understand that this is and isn’t a sign of the end times. In the Old Testament we saw this cycle repeat about a dozen times. Israel has faith, Israel falls away and destruction comes to Israel as a result, they repent and are reconciled. Even a cursory look at history since the beginning of the Christian era shows this same pattern. These end times come to every society in every generation in an ever widening cycle that one day will encompass the entire world. Whether our current end times are part of the final end times we cannot say. However, we should take notice of what is happening in our society as a sign to personally repent and reform our lives. As our society moves ever further away from traditional Christian values we are called to ever more “in the world but not of the world”. We must simultaneously separate ourselves and walk the faithful path while at the same time engage the world and try to rescue as many as we can.