In looking at Jude again, I recognized the need for two things:
(a) In addition to correctly interpreting the text of Scripture we must above all allow it to interpret us! I learned this from some of the best Bible students in the world. So whether the text is easy or difficult, we submit to it and thereby to the loving lordship of Christ. He must reign over our minds, conscience and lives. [Rom. 1:18ff warns against the age-old idolatry of worshiping the creature rather than the Creator]
(b) We need to recognize how the world and the Church has been swamped, particularly in more recent centuries, by a subjectivism/relativism that leaves no/little room for any kind of ‘objective truth’ (‘objective’ being a swear-word in many circles today). Hence folk speak of ‘my truth’ and ‘your truth.’ The fact is, truth is both objective and subjective. Lost at sea in a little boat at night, it’s virtually impossible to navigate it to safety in the absence of a lighthouse or clear night sky! Key role-players in this existentialist drift over recent centuries have been people like Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Rudolf Bultmann, Jacques Derrida and their followers at many universities and seminaries today. They all promote an ‘inward Jesus’ apart from the historic, verifiable Christ and his unique resurrection from the dead (cf. 1 Cor. 15). The celebrated Australian theologian, Prof. Leon Morris (1914-2006), commenting on 1 Tim. 6, put it like this: ‘It is important that we take Christianity for what it is and not impose our own pattern on it, making it what we wish it to be. That is the way of pride (v. 4), the way which in effect means (whatever its exponents may say) that those who put it forth know better than Christ and His apostles. A concern for orthodox teaching does not come simply from an innate conservatism. It comes from a firm conviction that there is a finality about God’s sending of His Son. Men cannot improve on the teaching of the Son God or on that which he committed to his apostles. The apostles bore the definitive witness to Jesus and to reject this is to walk the way of pride and self-sufficiency…’
Back to our text, Jude v. 8-16. The thing that forcibly struck me was the pervasiveness of sin, i.e. humankind’s bias toward self-centredness, idolatry and moral licence since time began. Like a drop of black ink dropped into a tumbler of clear water, the water doesn’t turn midnight-black but has a greyish tinge to it, i.o.w. there is no area of the water where there is no ink. In the opening chapters of Genesis and Romans this pervasiveness is referred to as the ‘fall,’ i.e. from a place of grace and favour at the hand of a good God, revealed in creation, conscience and Jesus Christ.
As Jude points out in v. 8, those who drown themselves in sensual pleasures are ‘dreamers’ – i.e. they are not living in reality but are caught up in a life of worshiping their ego at the cost of moral authority. Thus the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, at the southern tip of the Dead Sea (1), were acting like irrational animals, insulting God’s heavenly messengers sent to his servant Lot, slandering what they did not understand. Note Gen. 19 where they beat Lot’s door down to fornicate with the angels over-nighting in his home (v. 8-10/CEB). And Lot, can you believe it, offered these lusting men his two virgin-daughters, as if the latter’s protection was not as important as that of his angelic visitors! Talk about confusion and twisted thinking. All these people obviously didn’t realize whom they were up against, viz. the deceiver of all humanity and father of lies (v. 9). Of course, many postmodern believers also don’t realize what/whom they are up against, viz a demonized world and the devil himself. Over the years in my ministry on different frontiers in Africa, South America and the Far East, I have encountered frightening occultic powers – I didn’t go looking for demons, they came looking for me! There are many undiscerning Christian leaders who try and take on this ‘evil supernaturalism’ (Michael Cassidy) without proper understanding of the Gospel and the war waged against us as described in Eph. 6:10ff. I’ve witnessed lives and even marriages torn apart as naive leaders have walked where angels fear to tread. I.o.w. beware of the populistic, showman-type ‘deliverance ministry’ we witness on so many platforms today!
Jude goes on to give 3 historical examples of ‘false leaders/shepherds’ misleading God’s people:
- Cain. Gen. 4 relates how he killed his brother because of a toxic jealousy, when he was supposed to be his younger brother’s ‘guardian.’
- Balaam. Num 22ff relate how this ‘man of God’ dialogued with a pagan king and lusted after his esteem.
- Korah. Num. 16:1-50 describe how he and his followers, despite God’s loving overtures, rejected the LORD’s instructions through Moses and succumbed to a violent earthquake.
- All three the above had to learn the hard way that no one can mess with the Holy One and get away with it!
These were the kinds of people secretly infiltrating the churches also in Jude’s and the apostles’ time. Just as Jesus in his day exposed the false ‘shepherds’ of legalism in Jn. 10, his brother exposed the false ‘shepherds’ of libertinism! V. 12, ‘These people who join your love feasts are dangerous. They care only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; fruitless autumn trees, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom the darkness of the underworld is reserved forever.’ In recent times we’ve seen the devastation of narcissistic leaders/’shepherds’ in politics (N. America; South Africa; etc) – there are more subtle narcissists manipulating mega-congregations through flattery, charm and empty promises, of which we must beware, dear Bride of Christ! A well-known N. American pastor recently said to his own and the congregation’s rapturous applause, ‘God is busy changing us back to ourselves.’ If only he had read again Jesus’ words in Mk. 8:34 about ‘denying ourselves,’ and the apostle Paul’s words in Rom. 6 about ‘dying to ourselves.’
In a recent dinner conversation, the topic turned to ‘heaven and hell.’ One party defined hell as ‘hell on earth.’ True, but only partially, for it is surely past, present and future, according to Jesus himself. What is sure is that there is a final day of restoration but also of judgment. V. 14-16, ‘See, the Lord comes with his countless holy ones, to execute judgment on everyone about every ungodly deed they have committed in their ungodliness as well as all the harsh things that sinful ungodly people have said against them. These are faultfinding grumblers, living according to their own desires. They speak arrogant words and they show partiality to people when they want a favor in return.’ Are you and I prepared to submit to this clear and present danger, written on virtually every page of the Bible and the pages of history? If not, we’ll have to face the inevitable.
(1) Archaeological evidence tends to place ancient Sodom beneath the shallow waters of the southern tip of the Dead Sea.
According to British theologian J.A. Motyer, many OT and NT scriptures concerning Sodom and Gomorrah became synonymous with brazen, public sins (Is. 3:9; Lam. 4:6; Jude 7). On the other hand Ezek. 16:49-50 lists their inward sins of pride, complacency and lack of compassion toward the poor.
Gen. 19 focuses on sexual perversion, particularly homosexuality. Lot’s vicious offer of his daughters indicates the demoralizing influence of Sodom’s society. Sadly the Church over the centuries has been almost totally insensitive to the issues facing ‘sincere’ LGBTQI+ folk. They face tremendous societal and personal challenges, e.g. their youth are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to heterosexual young people (recent study at University of Georgia). At the same time they are the targets of much brain-washing and lies and being absolved of all personal responsibility before their Creator. There is huge confusion re gay behaviour. In South Africa the LGBTIQ+ family has e.g. come out in criticism of an 18-year-old who has been living as a trans-woman since age 4, who now wants to undergo the rigorous traditional initiation into manhood, camping in the mountains for 4 weeks and undergoing circumcision at the hand of local bush surgeons (hundreds of initiates have died at their hands, due to unhygienic surgery, etc). One LG leader has commented, ‘I don’t understand how one can transition to be a woman and still want to undergo a ritual to become a man. I don’t see how this will help her. It’s complicated!’ (NEWS24) It certainly is! On this topic of homosexuality, I commend the materials of Ian Paul (https://www.psephizo.com) on the Church of England’s gay debate tearing it apart, ex-gay activist Prof. Rosaria Butterfield (YouTube), ex-gay Becket Cook (YouTube), apologist Sean McDowell, and Anna Waldherr’s blog (A Lawyer’s Prayers) headed by the moving testimony of an abuse victim (‘Abandoned Duty of Care to Transgender Youth,’ 23/10/22). I also mention respected Bible scholars who have taken a clear biblical stand on the gay issue, like Dr. John Stott, Dr. J.I. Packer, and in more recent years Dr. Tim Keller and Prof. Tom Wright. RC theologian Henri Nouwen admitted to a same sex attraction, but consciously chose to be celibate ‘for Jesus sake.’