The General Epistle of Jude: as taught by Reverend Daniel G. Caram, *M. Div., at ZMI (Feb 12-13, 2009).
The following transcript was taken from a six-hour recording. This transcript has been edited in order
to make it more palatable for the reader. (The class discussion has been edited out.)
Note: You will find redundancy in this study: There is purposeful repetition as the accepted maxim states that the student must hear something three times before it is retained.
Please feel free to copy or promulgate
Lesson 1 – Introduction
The general epistle means that it is a letter to the church at large. Jude is writing a general epistle to the corporate church, whereas James (for example) writes to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. James is more specifically writing to Israel, or we could say that James is addressing the problems that are more relative to the Jews.
Jude’s main thrust or exhortation concerns the present tense apostasy, "the falling away." We must understand that God ordains the false prophet and heresy. God allows heresy in order to purge His church. God allows, or ordains the false prophet, yes, even the anti-Christ. It is all part of the trial of the saint.
God allows these elements to come into the church to draw out the dross. They are like a magnetic force coming through the church and all the inferior metals are attracted to the magnet and taken out – only the silver and gold remains. It is very important to realize that these implements of judgment do not just make their appearance of their own volition – God ordains them. In fact, in Matthew 13:37-42, we have the parable of the tares and the wheat. We are told in this parable that God sends forth his angels first to collect the tares. The angels can be interpreted messengers. The false prophet or the false teacher attracts all of those who do not love righteousness. Likes attract likes. Those who love a lie gravitate in one direction and those who love the truth gravitate in another direction.
In John’s epistles, you see the polarization of light and darkness – those who love truth and those who love error. Each one is drawn to his own poling station. Those who love the lies go to the false and those who love the truth polarize to the true message. It is amazing to see how certain messages draw certain types of people. We find churches full of people who love a message that is not true. Some are duped into it; some are there in simplicity, they’ve never been taught the difference, but others are there because they just love the message.
Somebody once said that the New Testament begins with the Acts of the Apostles and ends with the acts of the apostates. The end of the first century is drawing to a close and God is beginning to separate those who haven’t walked uprightly. In Jude 1:4, it says: "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." What is lasciviousness? It is loose-living or lustful living. That is the way that I remember some of these words. Lasciviousness is loose living! The false minister turns grace into loose living – turns grace into tolerance over sin. Notice here: "ordained" of old. These men were ordained before the foundation of the world to this ministry. "Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." That is their ministry. The false minister is ordained by God’s foreknowledge. God knows what man will do under given circumstances. In fact, God chose Judas (who was an apostate) because he knew what Judas would do. Judas was predestined by God’s foreknowledge.
In the book of Romans, Paul clearly tells us that God predestines us - not just to exercise his sovereignty; not just because of some whim where He says; "Well, I’ll just send the left side to hell and the right side to heaven." He predestines people according to His foreknowledge of that person. He knows what they are going to do if given the opportunity, as it says in John 6:70: "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" Judas was ordained. Jesus purposely chose Judas because he knew what he would do, he knew his capacity. He knew what Judas would do. Christ knows in advance who is who and he chose Judas because he was a hypocrite – he was a phony. He knew that he would be the man to betray Him.
That is why we have to be whole-hearted. In these last days there is no room for grey area. The hot have to become hotter, and the cold become colder. Jesus said, either be "zestos" – boiling hot, or I will spew you out. If there is one thing that Christ does not like it is lukewarmness. We are living in a time when we are going to have to get serious with God or else go with the drift. The drift is to take people out of the church. There is coming a test the likes of which have never been. The last days predict a storm against the church, beyond what other generations have ever experienced.
The purpose of this epistle is to keep people from losing their salvation. There are people who say we can’t lose our salvation. If that is your thinking, then there is no sense in even taking this course or being warned or being instructed by it. Jude is warning us again and again that people do loose their salvation. The people that were once saved out of Egypt were later destroyed in the desert. However, God is able to keep us from falling. Amen! He is able to keep us from falling; but, we do play a part in our election as well. "Make your calling and election sure." "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." We play a part in our election.
Some of the hyper-Calvinist view is that God does it all, however, that is incorrect, yes, there is God’s part, and then there is our part. We play a part in our own election – by obedience. If God tells us to do something and we don’t do it, we can’t blame that on God – can we? In verse 3 of this epistle: "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Does that sound like passivity to you? Contend for the faith. In fact, the word, "contend" (Gr.) actually has the sense of agonizing. Agonizing is not passivity; agonizing has the sense of extreme exercise and discipline.
God has not called us to go out and fight error. However, God wants us to be fully equipped with the truth. When you are girded with the truth, error cannot deceive you, you immediately spot error. Pastor Bailey has promoted this for years: in a bank, tellers do not study the counterfeit, they study the real. If you study the real, then immediately you can spot the phony. I think this carries into many fields. I am sure that a gemologist, (somebody who studies metals) studies the real gem and can immediately spot the bogus.
If you study the true gospel, you do not need an in depth study of all of the false doctrines or religions. In fact, studying the false can be a real side track and it can confuse the novice. Just study the truth and when something false comes along you will say, "Where is this coming from?"
The early church had a certain disadvantage in this respect; they did not have the whole canon of scripture. It wasn’t until the end of the fourth century – AD 397, that the whole canon of the New Testament was accepted and even then it was only held by exclusive people. The church possessed the scriptures, yet they really didn’t teach the scriptures. To complicate matters, the Scriptures were then translated into Latin and as time progressed, it was only the educated sectors of society that understood Latin (5% of the population).
I think this is one of the reasons for some of the early creeds. Christians memorized all of these different creeds because they didn’t have the canon of scripture to refer to. Of course, the NT was still being written until the end of the first century and then there was much debate as to which books were actually canonical. At the end of the fourth century, the sixty-six books were put together and it was actually a bishop by the name of Athanasius who influenced the final decision on the 66 books. Athanasius is remembered for his saying: "When the world goes against the truth, Athanasius will go against the world."
So, Jude is telling us that God is able to keep us, yet, we play a part – we have to contend for the faith. For example, verses 21 and 24a say, "keep yourselves in the love of God. He is able to keep us…." How do we reconcile the two? We keep ourselves in the love of God by keeping his commandments. "If you love me, keep my commandments, and you will abide in my love." This really is not difficult, it is not complicated.
The doctrine of Christ (as it says in the book of Isaiah), is so plan that even a fool does not need to err. (Isa. 35:8) "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." There are several ways to interpret this verse; but at face value it is saying that the way shall be so plain that even a fool does need to mess-up.
We keep ourselves in the love of God by obedience. God is able to keep us, yet, God does not keep those who flagrantly disobey Him. Let us consider another verse, in Hebrews 5:9; this verse is referring to Christ. It says: "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." That’s a nice verse to underline. He became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey him. Here is something that is not preached today, that we must continue in the faith! He that endures to the end shall be saved.
Christians can go half the distance and then fall out and backslide. There is hope for backsliders, but not all backsliders come back. The prodigal son came back, but not all backsliders come back. It is really God’s mercy. The hyper-Calvinists say that if a person is really saved, he doesn’t return to the life of sin. Well, how do account for the backslider then? What constitutes a backslider? Was he saved or wasn’t he saved? Do you follow what I’m saying here? Was he ever saved, or was he not saved? The Calvinist says that if a man was really serious with God he would not go back into sin. They purport that he wasn’t really saved to begin with. However, the very word "backslider" denotes somebody who leaves the good path and goes back. One has to reconcile a lot of Scripture to embrace the "no backslider" theory. The Scripture is filled with warnings about the backslider.
Proverbs 2:13, "Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;"
God did not save the angels – He did not spare the angels that sinned. He sentenced them. Jude tells us that God did not spare those that rebelled in the wilderness – they died in the wilderness. In fact, God did not spare his own Son as He took upon him the sins of the world. If God did not spare his own Son because of sin, why would He spare those who continue to practice sin and disregard His commandments? Christ became sin for us: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor 5:21).
Romans chapter 8 says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. God loves us in spite of tribulation, peril, nakedness, and sword, and everything that could possibly come. Sometimes we think that God doesn’t love us because we are going through a terrible trial. Listen! Do you think God loved Job when he was going through that trial? He surely did. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
When the Christian goes through trial and tribulation they are tempted to think that God has rejected them. No, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. He allows these things to come to test our faith. He subjects us to certain evils. He allows them to come – it is a part of the trial of our faith. Let us look at these verses in Romans 8:35-39: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Well, let us rephrase this a little bit. What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall fornication, adultery, perversion, lying, drunkenness, theft and etc., separate us from the love of Christ? Yes! God loves us; He allows us to go through certain trials; He is with us in the trial; however, what separates us from the love of God is disobedience and sin.
Does God love the apostate? (An apostate is distinguished from the backslider.) An apostate is somebody who turns from Christ, not because of sin or weakness or temptation; he is somebody that has been enlightened by the truth and then later rejects the very truth that he once embraced. When you think of Judas, there was hardly a man that ever lived that saw what Judas saw. He bore witness to the Son of God, the One who was the co-creator of the universe. He witnessed the miracles; he saw things that people can only imagine seeing. Can you imagine being in a boat with some one who commands the waters to be still, and the winds to calm? Seeing all of this and then betraying the Son of God. He rejected truth. The thing about rejecting truth is that it is not just an ideology. Truth is not just an ideology. Truth is a person. Jesus said I am the truth. Judas saw this; he tasted of the power of God. He bore witness to all of this and then he turns and rejects the Son of God. Now, this is an apostate – and there is no coming back for an apostate.
Hebrews 6 gives us an example of an apostate. It says in verse 4-5: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance;" It is impossible to renew them to repentance. Somebody who falls away, having tasted of the power of God as Judas did: "Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:6). It’s impossible to restore an apostate; that is, somebody that fits the scenario stated in Hebrews six.
It’s one thing to fall because of sin or weakness or temptation. Peter was a backslider, he even denied the Lord. However, he did it out of fear; it wasn’t because he was rejecting the truth. If someone puts a gun to somebody’s head and says recant; and out of fear the victim says; "Ok, I recant." That is hardly a picture of a true apostate. Peter had an innate love for Christ. He denied Christ out of weakness. Peter had to be tested because he had contradicted the Lord. It wasn’t because he really wanted to deny him… he did it out of fear.
There was a persecution during the mid-third century – (during the reign of the Emperor Decius) where many Christians recanted their faith. Anybody who remained a Christian was going to forfeit their property to the state, thus, many of them recanted. It was just a short persecution; it lasted about six months. After the whole ordeal was over, one of the prominent bishops, Cyprian by name, wanted to receive back many of the repentant Christians. They were very sorry about there compromise. Cyprian said that they should be reinstated. However, there was another group – the Novatianists; who considered themselves purest; and they said: "Absolutely not." "We are not accepting these people back into the fellowship."
It wasn’t just Peter who denied the Lord that night – all of the disciples chimed in with Peter that they would stay true to the Lord; yet they all denied him that night. Did the Lord write them off? No. In fact, even after his resurrection, Christ said: "Tell the other disciples and Peter…. The Lord wanted Peter to be reinstated. Peter was a backslider, Judas was apostate.
If you want to get a picture of a modern day apostate; there was a man who was a very popular evangelist back in the late 40’s early 50’s. He was one of the major influences in Billy Graham’s life. His name was Charles Templeton. In fact, he out-shined Billy Graham in the beginning. (Templeton was kind of a mentor to Billy Graham.) Templeton and Graham and a few others formed kind of team. However, the time came when Charles Templeton felt he should go to Princeton… he wanted his colleagues to join him. Perhaps he thought that some university degree would give them more credibility. Well, Billy Graham did not think that was a good idea. He did not go to Princeton with Charles Templeton. To make a long story short, Templeton lost his faith at Princeton. He became apostate, he denied the Lord there. In fact, he wrote a few books to affirm his new position; one was entitled: "Why I Said Farewell to God." Here is a man who totally rejected the gospel. This man was an apostate. He totally rejected the truth that he once preached. That is an apostate. Do you see the difference?
Is it always obvious to believers when someone is an apostate or a backslider? No, not always; how many people in the inner circle recognized Judas as an apostate…no one. In fact, at the last supper, John had to ask Jesus who the betrayer was. When Jesus said, one of you is going to betray me, they all were saying: "Lord is it I?" They were honest hearts saying: "Is it I?" Even the big hypocrite himself came up saying: "Lord, is it I?" Jesus said, "You know." There are backsliders who are never granted repentance. However, there is hope for a backslider, whereas there is no hope for an apostate. Once a man has known the truth, experienced the truth, tasted of its redeeming power and then rejects the truth – (denies its validity); he has just disinherited himself from eternal life.
Concerning unrepentant backsliders? Christ makes His doctrine very clear in Revelation 21:8, that all liars, fornicators, adulterers, perverts, and so on, would have their part in the lake of fire. So, what separates us from the love of Christ? Sin does. Trials do not, but sin does. One of the big lies promulgated by Satan’s ambassadors (his ministers), is that grace covers sin or that grace tolerates sin. This is what we call damnable heresy. When a minister is teaching that grace tolerates sin or that sin may infringe upon your reward but you can never lose your salvation; he is teaching a heresy that could damn your soul.
Grace convicts men of sin, and leads men to repent of sin. Grace does not cover unrepentant sin. Grace gives us the power to live victoriously over sin. Grace does not tolerate sin. Grace gives us the power to live a victorious life. That is "true grace." False grace says: "Oh, you are weak and God understands and you’re ok and I’m ok and everybody is in the same struggle and we can’t really live it anyway."
The Romans 7 scenario is often inserted here to prove the point. Romans 7 describes the human struggle of the man trying to keep the law. What is generally overlooked is the fact that Paul is describing the struggle of one living in the Old Covenant. He summarizes the struggle as a life of defeat – who shall deliver me from this body of death? Paul then rejoices in the Crucified One, who made it possible to have victory over sin.
The apostle Jude is exposing the heretic within the church – those who once knew. In fact, every name that you come across in the book are people that once knew the Lord. Even the one who was the apostate of all apostates – Lucifer himself knew God. He was very close to the throne of God. Yet, knowing what he knew he exalted himself and deceived one-third of heaven. Can you imagine the deception? He was deluded and that delusion was so strong in his own mind that he deluded one-third of the angels in heaven. That is the kind of poison that comes from this man’s mouth and from his ambassadors also. If you listen to some of them, they sound very righteous and good.
I have been preparing a seminar for India and one of the emphases that seems to keep surfacing is that a minister is going to give an account for his flock. We have to teach the left and the right of things. I’ve listened to some popular ministers and you cannot really fault what they are saying because what they are saying in itself could be true. The problem is in what they are not saying. They are proclaiming the left of it and they are not proclaiming the right of it. If we only preach half the truth; if we are just preaching heaven and not hell we are responsible and will have to give an answer for the state of our congregation.
If we have a congregation that is living in sin: promiscuity, homosexuality, or any defiling sin, and we never touch it – knowing that it is going on; we are going to have to answer for it. If we do not sound the trumpet and warn people that this road is going to take them to hell; we will answer for it. When we stand at the judgment with our flock, their blood is on our hands because we didn’t warn them. If the watchman doesn’t warn the congregation concerning the consequences of sin, he is going to give an account for them at the judgment. Their blood is going to be on his hands.
This is a very serious thing. You may listen to some of these flowery ministers who never preach on sin – and some of them boast that they never preach on sin. However, I would never want to be a part of such a flock. In fact, if you go back into the Puritan days, the Puritans demanded that their preachers preached on the things that convicted them of sin. They wanted to know; they wanted to be clean.
The deeper work, the deeper circumcision of God can only be accomplished by preaching a deeper message. If we just stay at the surface and deal with surface issues and never deal with the sins of the spirit, there will be a lot of blemishes in our congregation. This is why we must plunge deeper into the Word – that we might expose the sins of the spirit. The deeper cleansing will come through the deeper expose’ of the Word. "The washing of the water by the word" – the word convicts and people are cleansed as they take heed to it.
Let us look at a verse over in 1 John 2:18: "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." John is the only one who uses the word antichrist. I think he uses it about five times in his epistles. Now, look at verse 19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
Where do the antichrists really come from? Most of them have had a background in the church. They are people who knew the truth and rejected it. When a man rejects light, it turns to darkness (Matt. 6:23). Some of them are in pulpits; they are ministers who stand behind pulpits legitimizing sin and telling us there is another way. John said: "If they had been of us they would have continued with us… but they went out from us." (This can be in the spiritual sense – they did not continue to walk in the light.) Look at Lucifer, he was an angel of light, he was called: morning star. He stood in the presence of God and led worship in heaven and then he became an opponent of Christ, an anti-Christ.
What does anti-Christ mean…one that he opposes Christ… in opposition to Christ. He fights against the truth of the gospel. That is an anti-Christ. John mentions different kinds of antichrists: We see them especially in his epistles because he is contending with these sects at the time that he wrote his epistles. By the end of the first century, these heretical winds had already infiltrated the church. In fact, by the end of the second century, one of the more renowned bishops of the time (Irenaeus), said that there were 217 prevalent heresies that existed and this was around AD 170. He lists some of them.
Let us look at another verse here in Philippians 3:17-18: "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" Paul is talking about those who were once with him, some were even ministers. They were people that flowed with Paul. But now they are enemies of the cross – they are antichrists. An enemy of the cross is an anti-Christ. They are in opposition to the truth of the cross. They were once with us, but not now.
There has to be something in a person’s heart that refuses to be corrected that would cause him to be an opponent to Christ. To fight against the Gospel which they once preached…? Satan must have accused God of some major injustice; he must have felt that he was being deprived, that God was unfair or unmerciful. Perhaps he thought that he deserved a greater recognition; perhaps he thought that he was equal to Christ. What ever his offence was, he still poisons others of like prideful nature with the same resentment against the Creator.
Heresy is something that is necessary. You may think; well, why would God allow heresy? Let me use a little illustration here: going back to my profession in the meat business. We used an expression about "culling the herd." Diseases cull the herd. They take out all the weak ones. The strong ones survive. God allows sickness, as it were, in the line of heresy to come through to take out people that aren’t real. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:19: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." Why must there be heresies among you…. to manifest the real. God allows the false to come to take out the false.
I shall share a story with you: There was a good minister; he was a man who heard from God. And the Lord said to him: "I want you to invite a minister from down the street to speak in your pulpit." The man said to the Lord, "I know this man and he is not upright." The Lord answered him: "I know that man too, but I want to do a new thing in your church and I want you to invite him down here and have him speak in your pulpit." The minister agreed and invited this person down the street to come and preach in his pulpit. At the conclusion of the message the minister left and he took about a dozen of his congregation out with him. The good minister then says to the Lord; "You wanted to do something new in my church, you asked me to invite this man to come and speak in my pulpit, what was the purpose in all of this?" The Lord said: "I wanted to remove all the tares from your church."
That is how awesome the whole thing is. God allows the heretic and the heresy to cleanse the church. To remove (and especially in the last days), those who are not real. Those who are not living uprightly get taken out by the false prophet. Christians look at the great tribulation and they think that the church is not going to be here. No, the church is will be here. The purpose of the great tribulation; the anti-Christ and the false prophet is to purge the church – that is, to purge the church of those who have not been walking uprightly. In the end, it shall be a glorious church without any spot or blemishes in it. Those spots and blemishes are removed by virtue of heresy and heretic.