Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The New Testament is set up really well. First a reader is presented with the Gospels, which tell about the life and teachings of Jesus. Next, the book of Acts presents a history of the early church to give an idea of Christianity’s history. If a person had not already given their heart to Christ after those five books, Paul follows up with his book of Romans, which helps to clearly explain what salvation is and should answer most questions a soon-to-be or recently saved person might have. What follows are letters that speak a mix of salvation (for the non-believer), theology, and advice on growing more holy. By time someone gets to Jude (if they’re still reading), one is likely already saved; which is good, as the book is written precisely for those already in Christ. We read at the start,
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance (Jude1:1-2).
Now I will admit that specifically it does not say “to Christians,” instead, it invokes a concept that is not often discussed in church at length anymore: the elect. Jude is reaching out to those who have been called by Christ; this is what we could call the election process. Paul explains about his place in Christendom by saying,
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).
It is a hard concept to explain, but from the way Paul writes, we can assume that those who are saved are saved because they were called by God, the Lord brought them to salvation. Whether or not all people actually have this call on their life or just those who end up coming to Christ is up for debate; and I don’t’ want to waste any more pixels on a topic I can’t properly answer myself yet. Anyway, Jude is designed for people who are saved so when Jude is handing out his varied rebukes, they’re not aimed at non-believers; they’re aimed at those already saved- which may be why he uses such harsh language.
Alright, with that established, we find that Jude has some very strong words for the church. Specifically, this letter is designed to address people in the church who are either false in their ways or have been misled by the world. This letter rings true in today’s church just as much as in Jude’s time. Some false and misled brothers have slipped into our ranks and their ideas about God can be damaging (even if they don’t know it). Take for example Christians who compromise with the world on theological issues like creation. We’re told not to compromise with the world and its ways. Check out Judges 2:1-3,
The angel of the Lord went up from Gigal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers, I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”
The Lord had called the Israelites to be separate from the world around them, and though he remains faithful, God is angered that the Israelites made treaties and compromised with the surrounding nations. The Lord holds us in Christ to this same standard; by conforming to the world, we’re put into a snare by said worldly ideas. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This was not a process that took millions of years either, for the Bible tells us,
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”And there was evening, and there was morning- the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:20-25).
I love the way the creation account is written because it absolutely defies natural logic. Light was created for the sun, defeating celestial body worship. Water animals and birds were created on the same day and then on the next day came land animals, defeating any sort of evolutionary logic. And the crown of it is that God actually counts off the days of creation. The book of Hebrews tells us that our ability to believe the creation account given in Genesis over what secular science is trying to tell us is a mark of faith, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Compromising with the world’s view on things is not what we’re called to do. In fact, Jude says that such thinking is very dangerous. He writes, “Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals- these are the very things that destroy them” (Jude 1:10). Such people who believe only what their two eyes tell them are in a very dangerous place. Jude writes, “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion” (Jude 1:11). All of these people; Cain, Balaam, and Korah were people who actually spoke with God and yet because they trusted more in the riches of the world or in titles or pride, things of the world, they were cursed by the Lord. We’re called to not put any weight on what the world has to offer, and yet many people do. We are told, “These men are grumblers and fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage” (Jude 1:16). Christians who support anti-scriptural ideas like evolution fall into this category. They find fault in the scripture, they follow what their eyes tell them, and then they try to buddy up with the largely secular world in order to be accepted. Notice, I can write it and make it sound not too terrible, but Jude whips out the term “evil” in describing not some person of the world, not some pagan, but a misguided believer. Why? Because when you align with the world, you serve your own flesh, elevating what you think over what God says; and that’s straight up idolatry.
Compromisers and misguided churchgoers are not only hurting themselves though, they’re hurting the people around them. We read,
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (Jude 1:17-19).
When a member of the church claims that there are errors in the Word of God, they not only bring into question their own faith, but they divide the church. Some people think that believers who come off as dogmatic and unable to adjust to the world turn people off of the church, but what really turns people off church is when foundational teachings are thrown to the wayside. If God didn’t create the world in six day and then shortly after man sinned, then that would suggest death had been prevalent before man, if death was not the curse of man that needed to be lifted through atonement, then Jesus had no reason to come to earth and die on a cross. If Jesus’ death was pointless, then so is your faith. Christian’s who compromise with the world’s teachings are not bringing people closer to God but are instead taking the same stance on issues that anti-Christs do. Woe indeed.
So what can we do? The world says our book is antiquated. Secular science says our Bible is inaccurate. Even members of our churches say that the Word of God is not without flaws, mistakes, and errors, citing that it was written for a simple people long ago. It is easy for one to lose faith in the face of overwhelming odds. What is a Christian, who desperately wants to believe, to do? Jude answers this as well,
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude 1:20-21).
Take shelter in your faith, brothers and sisters. Read your Bible; listen to the pastors as though they were teachers (because they are). Check out some websites that support your faith rather than bring it down. For example, I have two creation websites that I frequently surf, one of which posts articles written largely by scientists that help to explain how quite a bit of what science is discovering points better to a creator (God) rather than conflicting with Biblical accounts. The other site finds neat things in nature that bring to question of “How could this have occurred without God?” I’ve learned awesome things and have found that I can still think dinosaurs are cool even while rocking out with Jesus. Jude also recommends that we pray. I’ve had so many of my questions of faith quickly answered just by bringing it up while in prayer. I’ve even had times when I’ve questioned the doctrine of a pastor, so I brought it up to the Lord in prayer and quickly thereafter the Lord has either told me that I was right or wrong in my second guessing of the pastor. And never forget this: Jesus died to save you, and in proof of his saving grace, the Lord raised him from the dead. The world will tell you that a person cannot come back to life after being dead for three days; but Paul tells us,
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians15:16-20).
So hold on to your faith and be prepared, because the Lord will be coming soon. For it says in Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
That’s not all though, Jude also calls us to help other believers come to a better understanding of the Scriptures. He writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 1:22-23). We’re called to love everyone, even people who are doing great damage to the church. Hate what they think, hate what evil people do, but love them. And lastly: save them. Some pastors will go out as far as to say that half-believers are the same as non-believers. I’m just some guy on the internet, so it’s not my place to make such statements, but I will say this: there are people in the church who aren’t saved, and they need you just as much as the rest of the world does. Please, hold to your convictions; shelter yourself in the faith, and help build up your brothers and sisters in theirs.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.