International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday April 10, 2011
Purpose: To discern how authentic worship of God heals divisions, promotes reconciliation, and builds up the body of Christ
Scripture Text: Jude 17-25 (NRSV)
(17)But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; (18)for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” (19)It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. (20)But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; (21) keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (22)And have mercy on some who are wavering; (23) save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies. (24)Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, (25)to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The Book of Jude offers some curious insights that are not found elsewhere, (verse 6,9,14) and is somewhat paralleled in Peters second epistle, especially in the second chapter. Both Peter and Jude address the problem of corruption within the first century church in Asia Minor. Jude introduces himself as the brother of James, and a servant of Jesus Christ, apparently he was not inclined to assert himself as a half brother of Jesus, but rather a servant of his. James of course was the half brother of Jesus and the leader of the first century church and was well known throughout all of the new Christian churches established by the apostles and Paul.
According to verse three, Jude was preparing to write to the churches about their “common/shared salvation.” But, apparently he was advised of a more serious problem that would require immediate attention and it needed to be addressed. It required some warnings and encouragement on how they could stop some of the practices that were taking place by leaders and others within that early church. The teaching of the original Apostles was being ignored and it was being replaced by orators, complainers and schemers that were abusing God's grace and ignoring God's call for holiness.
While acknowledging the redemption offered by Jesus' death and resurrection, the new teaching seemed to consider that Christianity was a license to commit all types of sin and live a lustful self-centered life without consequences. It was not unlike what some teach today, where being Christian enables us to do as we please and not face any judgment for our actions. Certainly not what Jesus meant when he said in, John 15.10: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” I fail to see how we can ignore His commandments and continue to abide in His grace and love.
When Jude refers to “the last time,” it possible refers to this current age of the church, maybe better said, the time we are in since the death, resurrection, ascension, and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost or awaiting Christ return and the final judgment of God at the end of our age. For this reason I think Jude's message is an important message for today's church, because we are living in the same environment that Jude addressed in this letter.
I like the way Jude addresses the problem and how he exhorts the believers, while condemning the worldliness of those that lack (“devoid of”) the Holy Spirit in their lives. There are many today that are teaching a new theology of grace that requires nothing from us, a universal salvation, without fear of judgment. Certainly not the teaching of the Apostles or Christ, and is not rooted in the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within each of us. Rather it teaches man himself creates his own heaven and hell, which is blasphemy of the highest order.
Jude is very adamant that we should not settle or accept without doing all we can do to persuade those that are teetering on the edge of this heresy, but we should do everything we can possible do through pray and persuasion, by “snatching them out of the fire.” The phrase quoted was especially dear to John Wesley’s heart because at a young age he was rescued or “snatched” from a fire that destroyed the Epworth rectory, and always considered that as God's claim on his life. Indeed all of us that believe have been snatched/rescued from the fire. That should create a desire within us to live lives that are obedient to God's claim on us, by abiding in Him.
Jude closes with a great benediction or doxology, the difference between the two is a benediction is a closing, offered to the hearers, while a doxology is offered as praise to God. I will let you decide, read it over and choose benediction or doxology?