But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.—Jude 17-19
As I type this, my father-in-law is busy upstairs, spackling some holes in our walls. He likes to keep busy with projects while at our house…and we never lack for projects. Anyway…a few years back they came out with a new type of spackling for those that weren’t quite sure they would know when the wall was ready to sand and paint. The spackling was pink…but slowly turned white as it dried. This neat little trick gave countless home improvement amateurs the confidence they needed to paint their newly-patched walls at the right time.
It’s nice to have alarm clocks to wake us up. It’s convenient to have timers that tell us when the pizza is cooked. It’s handy to have a battery charger that blinks red while it’s charging and turns green when it’s charged. Such things give us the confidence that we will not oversleep, burn/undercook our food, or worry whether our battery is fully charged for the job at hand. These “indicators” tell us that something is ready or that a certain time has arrived or that something must now happen.
One of the most difficult things about confrontation (something I spoke of in the previous post) is knowing when to actually confront. Knowing when to confront is not a perfect science, but the Bible is not silent on the matter. Jude feels the obligation to confront these “certain people” (v 4). What kind of criteria is Jude using? While I doubt that Jude is meaning to be exhaustive in his comments, he does give us some very general parameters for the kind of behavior he considers confrontation-worthy.
It is these who cause divisions..
There will always be disagreements. There will always be hurt feelings. There will always be misunderstandings. However, most of these things don’t cause division on their own. Divisions are caused when someone willfully fights to establish, encourage or participate in “sides” that do not exist under the Gospel. In other words, any disagreement that is about anything other than the Gospel itself is a false and harmful division. Apparently, these scoffers were causing divisions that were based in something other than the Gospel—their own passions or preferences (v 18).
…worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
In the most basic of ways, one would find it hard to argue with being “worldly”. After all…we LIVE in the world…so how can we NOT be worldly to some extent? Fortunately, Jude gives us more to work with—these certain people are also devoid of the Spirit. In other words, they’re living a half-life. They live, think and act in the world…just like everyone does…but they divorce themselves from the very nature of life—that life is spiritual and can only be seen clearly and lived well when guided and empowered by the Spirit. One’s passions and preferences are a poor substitute.
Jude doesn’t really give any more details regarding his criteria for confronting these men. So while we might have a little more insight as to who needs to be confronted, we aren’t really given a fool-proof method for confronting the right people at the right time. Perhaps there’s a more basic teaching in these verses.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, we shouldn’t be caught off guard by scoffers, grumblers, etc. that follow their own preferences and passions because the apostles of Jesus had already predicted that such people would be a part of the “last time”. In light of Jude’s comment, he at least considered the “last time” to include the time in which he wrote this letter. Therefore, the same must be true for us today. We live in the “last time”.
Unfortunately, we’re a people that tend to waver between extremes. Sometimes we’re like Jude’s readers and we get lulled into a sense of false-peace, believing everyone’s our friend, acting surprised when others have other-than-good motives and designs. Jude’s letter calls us out of this lull and reminds us to stay alert. For the most part, that was the subject of my last post.
For this post, I would like to address the fact that sometimes we go the other direction. We label people that disagree with us as grumblers. We sometimes see a scoffer when someone simply has some pressing intellectual questions that they legitimately want answered. We see heretics around every corner and look for fights, simply because we know that somewhere there’s a fight to be had!
Fortunately, Jude doesn’t allow us room to take this approach. Jude makes a clear distinction between being alert and ready to confront vs. jumping the gun. In other words, we must clearly think through whether someone is actually seeking to divide or simply being an inquisitive disciple. We must be sure as to whether someone is really devoid of the Spirit or simply working out the beliefs of their heart.
In giving us the end-result of these “certain people”, Jude gives us an example of how he has measuring the fruit of these men’s shepherding. Jude has clearly articulated the harm that was being done to God’s Church and to the Gospel’s witness. When we confront someone, we should do likewise.
Father God…please give us the wisdom to clearly see and measure the end results of people’s actions. Give us the grace and courage to know when to confront men of division…men devoid of the Spirit. Also, give us great mercy with those that are simply trying to figure things out as they progress under the Gospel. Help us see the difference when it isn’t always clear to us by the end-results. Finally, let us be spiritual men and women that do not allow our own preferences and passions to usurp your Gospel. To You be the glory. We pray all these things in the grace-giving name of Jesus. Amen.