“Such a short book of only 25 verses! A whole semester to study this little epistle? Will the lessons not get draggy?” These were my initial thoughts when I enrolled for the online course on the book of Jude. However, as I dutifully listened to the lectures, took notes and answered the required questions, my apprehensions melted away. There was so much to learn concerning the very real dangers that threatened the church of the end times.
I agree with our lecturer, Rev (Dr) Jeffrey Khoo, that this little epistle can be compared to “chilli padi” – small in size but powerful in effect! I found myself looking forward to each new lesson.
o Writer of the epistle
I was glad to be able to firmly identify the writer of the epistle as the apostle Jude – “Judas, the brother of James” (Lk. 6: 16) who was also called Lebbeaus, and surnamed Thaddaeus (Matt. 10: 3). This is a very logical conclusion as the Lord had chosen His 12 disciples for a special purpose – not only to serve with Him in the ministry, but also to be given the commission to write the New Testament (as in the case of Matthew, Peter and John).
o The need to contend for the faith
The first lesson held some surprises for me. I learnt that as early as 1924, the Presbyterian Church of USA had already fallen away. In the so-called Auburn Affirmation, the Church denied the five fundamentals of the faith, namely, the Virgin birth of Christ, the inerrancy of Scriptures, the miracles of Christ, substitutionary atonement and the resurrection of Christ.
Truly, apostasy has invaded our churches. The Lutheran World Federation declared on 31st October 1999 that the 16th Century Reformation (initiated by German Reformer Martin Luther) was a mistake, and called for a return to Rome!
With the falling away even of fundamental churches, there is an urgent need to defend the faith in these last days. The epistle of Jude prepares believers for the Lord’s coming by warning us of the signs of the perilous end times. Right at the beginning of the epistle, Jude speaks of the need to contend for the faith (v. 3) and warns of false teachers who “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” (v. 4). Such profess to be Christians but they are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing; they appear friendly and harmless; they even speak Christian jargon to impress and deceive; they blend in, “sink in their roots” and even become leaders of the church.
The apostle Paul had these wicked infiltrators in mind when he warned the Ephesian elders: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20: 28-30).
In the second lesson, the doctrine of separation was clearly taught so that there would be no doubt as to where to draw the line. Our lecturer gave the illustration of the lighthouse to warn people of treacherous waters and unseen dangers. It is important that we stand separate from our surroundings in order to shine forth the light of God’s truth.
o Divine sovereignty and human responsibility
I have often struggled with the “mystery” of the doctrine of divine sovereignty and human responsibility but Rev Tow’s famous “banana skin story” makes it plain. Those who are lost, are lost because of their sins (Rom. 1: 18-32; 3: 10-12). Like the apostate Judas Iscariot who, by his own evil intention and wicked heart, was liable, false teachers and false believers are predestined to eternal condemnation. God had foreordained their destruction: “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born” (Mk. 14: 21). We are responsible for our own sin and cannot blame God for our lost estate.
o Lessons from Lucifer’s pride
We were exhorted to learn from the negative example of Lucifer who fell because of his pride. It is easy to fall into the sin of pride because it is part of our depraved nature. Galatians 2: 20 with the five selfless “I’s” is a good reminder to check our pride: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (… to be concluded)
(Assignment submitted by Mrs Helen Wee for the Epistle of Jude online course on 19th April 2010.)