Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 1

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 1

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By Dr. Jim Barnette
Professor, Samford University, Senior Pastor, Brookwood Baptist Church

Do We Need to Defend Our Faith?
Jude 1–4, 20–25

Contend for the faith when it is challenged. (1–4)

Jude is a servant who is content with standing behind his more prominent brother, James, who is the leader of the church in Jerusalem. A feature of Jude’s letter is the grouping of three words that together offer powerful messages. “Called,” “beloved” and “kept” drive home the reality that salvation is entirely of God. It is the result of His sovereignty, His love and His power. The very next sentence offers a threefold blessing of “mercy,” “peace” and “love.” 

Originally Jude intended his letter to celebrate the blessing of the salvation he shares with the church to whom he is writing. However, he has found it necessary to petition the church to contend for the faith. The word “contending” means “agonizing” and is borrowed from the terminology of Greek athletic events. The challenge of living a moral Christian life is likened to competition against formidable opponents.

“Entrust” is a technical term for passing on tradition. Indeed the literal Greek of “the faith … entrusted” is “the faith … traditioned.” Tradition was highly valued in both the Greco-Roman world and Judaism. The early Christians carried on this value for their faith which was “once for all” delivered to them. God’s action in Christ is once for all (see Rom. 6:10; Heb. 9:12 and 10:10) and cannot be presented in any other fashion like that of the false teachers about whom Jude now writes. 

Very likely these intruders are itinerant preachers and teachers who were often the source of doctrinal and ethical confusion for congregations. These false teachers were perverting the grace of God into immoral sexual excess. 

They were denying the sovereignty and lordship of Christ by their libertine theology and conduct. Jude notes that these heretics were designated for condemnation long ago. God is neither surprised nor threatened as they were prophesied about long before their appearance. 

As you defend the faith act with mercy and love. (20–23)

The themes of mercy and love mentioned in verse 2 reappear in this passage. Given the crisis created by these intruders one might expect a final word of judgment or perhaps of damage control. Instead Jude offers words of restraint and Christian love. His comments are not for the intruders but for the church. In these verses are seven phrases of pastoral exhortation. 

The first four address the believers’ own spiritual welfare, focusing on faith, hope and love. The final three statements address appropriate behavior towards those who are “wavering,” that is, those in danger of being drawn away from the faith and the faithful. The faithful are to offer those who have followed the false teachers the same mercy they themselves expect to receive at the Lord’s return with the hope of saving the waverers from judgment. The “tunic” or “garment” indicts the false teachers of the contaminating effect of their sin. Like the lepers whose clothing was polluted by their disease, these heretics are to be perceived as a source of pollution and therefore to be shunned.

Rely on God as you stand for Him. (24–25)

Having completed his exhortations regarding how to handle the troublemakers Jude concludes by bursting into a doxology. These words of praise are often used as a benediction in worship services. The chosen phrases also are quite appropriate to what Jude has addressed in his letter. 

The Lord is able to “keep from falling” those who could be swayed by heretics and naysayers. The ascription of glory, majesty, power and authority recalls the doxology added to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13. Many biblical scholars suggest Jude’s benediction had become a common liturgical feature during his lifetime. These words of adoration remain in our worship today as we exalt the One who has invited us into His realm of glory, both now and forever.