Jude calls us to clean out the Church’s closet

Cleaning out the Church closet

Let’s talk about some skeletons in our closet shall we? Jude helps us “clean” them out!

This is an abridged version of my exegetical assignment on the book of Jude. I’ve take out the geeky college bits and added more application words. I’m posting this after hours of work on my assignment because I think the message from Jude is so applicable and relevant to Churches these days that I’m willing to spend another 30 minutes editing this post to put it on.

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This letter (Jude 1:1-25) is short and sharp yet packed with strong, harsh, raw and real words. The purpose? Jude is “appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (v3). Why? “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people” (v4). These two verses spell out the setting for the entire letter. He then uses twelve verses (vv5-16) to expand on the judgement and character of those who have “crept in unnoticed”. Lastly, he exhorts his readers to “build up themselves in the most Holy Faith” (v20) and to show mercy and save people if possible (vv22-23).

Let’s begin, the purpose cannot be any clearer than in verses 3 and 4. Instead of writing about “our common salvation”, he had to shift his focus to a more pressing matter (v3). He urges his readers to “contend for the faith” as if it is under attack and a “call to arms” is required. What are they to contend? There were people who has “crept in unnoticed”. Presumably, since this letter is for Christians, there were people who “crept” into the Church unnoticed! Jude’s warning can’t be clearer. These infiltrators were designated for condemnation, ungodly, perverts the grace of our God into sensuality and denies Jesus. With these four characteristics, Jude begins his twelve-verses-long expansion into the judgement consequence of these people are and how we are to identify them from a true believer.

In these next twelve verses, Jude applies a level of passion and aggression to his writing. This section of twelve can be general divided into three subsections of judgement and characteristics pairs.

The first subsection uses three references for judgement. The first, a familiar story of how God destroyed Pharaoh and his army in judgement of them in the great Exodus. Next is a story about fallen angels who did not escape God’s wrath either. Jude uses this to show his readers that even celestial beings face judgement. Lastly, he uses another prominent story of the defiance of the sinful city of Sodom and Gomorrah. All three examples show open defiance against the grace of God. Jude pairs this off with his first set if “these” (Greek, houtoi) people. He says “in like manner these people” are marked by relying on dreams, defiling the flesh, rejecting authority and blaspheming against God (v8).  Jude found it necessary to spend the next two verses expanding on what is not blasphemy and what is. He says there is a proper way to use the Lord’s name in rebuke but in contrast with “these” people, there is a blasphemous way. They use God’s name without any understanding (v10) and are like “unreasoning animals”.

The second subsection starts with three examples of judgement again. This time, he equates them to three known sinful characters that faced judgement. Cain with his pride and anger, Balaam in his greed and Korah in his rebelliousness (v11). This again is paired with a long set of characteristics of “these” people. This time he highlights how insidious, fruitless and condemned they are. He writes down these characteristics. They are hidden, but hiding in plain sight as they “feast without fear”. They are self-serving like shepherds who feed themselves. They are fruitless like waterless clouds and trees with no fruit. They are condemn like worthless foam above the sea and wandering stars.

The third and last subsection uses a prophesy of judgement. This prophesy again talks of God’s judgement on the ungodly. Yet again, he concludes with the characteristics of these people. They are people who grumble all the time, always not contented, follow sinful desires, loud-mouthed boasters and show favouritism for selfish gain (v16).

The letter pivots here with Jude’s exhortation to remember the “predictions of the apostles” (v17). Since “in the last time” usually means the period between the time of Jesus’ death and before his coming again, Jude is saying that the apostles had already predicted that this would happen. There would be scoffers and people who follow ungodly passions (v18). However, he calls us to build ourselves up and pray (v20). He says that the only way to guard ourselves is to “in the love of God” as we wait for Christ’s return that would lead to eternal life (v21). Not only does Jude asks us as believers to perseverance, he also says there is a chance to save others from among us who doubt from the fire of judgement (v23). Moreover, to these people we are to show mercy (v22).

In many sense, the letter of Jude has been called “the most neglected book” in the New Testament. I think this is because people do not like to talk about the negatives and judge people within the Church. However, Jude’s entire letter was written as a clear warning for all Christians and this includes us.. To Judge the people in Church! We need to take these “skeletons in our Church’s closet” and measure them against Jude’s character references. Using his references to “these” people, we can sort out those “designated for condemnation” from those who doubt that we can “snatch out of the fire” in and among us. In other words, Jude is essentially saying that the most loving thing to do for any these people in the Church is to call them out and either save them with love, grace and mercy or to cut them out as those designated for condemnation.

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To help you, I’ve made their characteristics italic and bold in this post. Read the post again, just the highlighted words as a measure. Do you see them? Remember, these are people in our Churches! The “skeletons in our closets” we leave there and not deal with. Jude is calling us to judge.

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