Remembering the Spoken Word

November 29, 2015 / No. 3804

Dear Radio Friends,
In the verses we have been considering up to this point in our study of Jude we find that he hammers on ungodly men who had crept into the church unawares. His whole epistle is leveled against these men, warning the faithful against their errors, and without fear castigating these unfaithful members of the church. Jude categorizes these men among those unbelievers who of old perished in their unbelief and ungodliness. Then, in conclusion, Jude warns of the judgment of Christ on these men when Christ returns.
But Christ had not returned. Where was this return of Christ? Where was this supposed judgment of which the apostles had forewarned? These ungodly men who had no fear of God were even now scoffing, that is, denouncing the doctrines of the apostles and those who maintained that Christ was indeed coming in judgment. And, as we all so well know, their criticism was intimidating. The faithful in the church cowered beneath the accusations of these wicked men in the church. Is it true? Is Christ coming again in judgment? Are these men wrong? How easy it was for the saints to begin doubting.
And if it was easy for them to doubt then, how much more so for us to doubt today! Have things changed? Christ has not come. The final judgment has been delayed for over 2,000 years now. There still are those in the church of today—in fact, their number has increased a thousandfold—who deny that Christ comes swiftly to judge ungodly men. It is loudly proclaimed today that God will not judge anyone to condemnation. He is a loving God. Why would Christ come to cast men into hell? Is there even a hell? Perhaps our hell is only what we create on earth? Remember! Remember! Do not forget what the prophets of old warned of, even from Enoch. Do not forget what the apostles of Jesus Christ have spoken! And do not be deceived by scoffers. Christ comes in judgment! Just because Christ’s sentence against evil men is not executed speedily does not mean He will not come to execute that sentence. That is what we consider today in verses 17-19 of Jude’s epistle. Let me read those verses. “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Today we are called to remember and believe that warning given us by the prophets and apostles concerning the second coming of Christ.

I. Divisive Mockers
How easy it is to become discouraged as believers in this world. We stand against such overwhelming odds, it seems. The faithful church that remains true to God’s Word is so small in comparison to the false church that today embraces the ways of these ungodly men of Jude’s day. Faithful churches are often ignored, labeled, and despised. The cause of Jesus Christ seems to languish in our society. And that can be so discouraging for believers. This is why Jude speaks words of encouragement to us in the last verses of his letter. In the last days, Jude explains, there will be mockers—those who spurn the cause of the Christ of the Scriptures and will ridicule, make fun of, deride those who would maintain the truth of Scripture. So…how is this an encouragement to God’s saints? Because these things must take place in order that Christ might come. Jesus Himself teaches His church this in Matthew 24. Those who attack the cause of Christ are themselves a sign that Christ comes in judgment. Well, these evil men who have crept into the church are just such men. They walk after their ungodly lusts.
They have no fear of God’s retribution. They only seek to fulfill their own desires. Whatever makes them feel good. This is also the idea behind the word “sensual” used in verse 19. It refers to the base desires of our flesh—the animal desires, the desires of sin-guided senses.
This describes the very day and age in which we live. The wicked of this world do what makes them happy. Even much of Christianity is based on a feel-good mentality. People seek a God and a Christ that make them feel good about themselves while allowing them to do what they desire to do. A life of holiness and discipline is not a part of the picture. There is no denying oneself, taking up the cross, and following Jesus. Our society is filled with self-centered, self-seeking, selfish people who are into self-gratification. This results in ungodly lusts. Desires to fulfill—not what God wants—but what will make us feel good about ourselves.
These men, we are told, are mockers. We have already referred to the content of their mocking. The church preaches the return of Jesus Christ and with it the final judgment. These men mock the church for teaching this. They view those saints as odd, strange, who with uplifted eyes look for that coming of Jesus Christ. The mockery of ungodly men who have crept into the church even goes beyond this. Such men denounce those saints who would lead holy lives in the midst of a world gone wild in its sins! They attempt to find fault with that church that remains faithful. “You are not culturally relevant anymore,” they accuse. “Your worship lacks feeling! Your doctrines are so old, antiquated! You oppose the good of society when you oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.” And so the criticism goes on. Today there are countless leaders of churches guilty of hawking the gospel in order to get rich. Obey God and get rich, says the prosperity religion. And those who would maintain holiness in all of these areas and a host more areas in life are not just ignored. They are openly criticized and ridiculed by the wicked world, yes, but also by many in the church world. These mockers have made their way into the church.
They had made their way into the church of Jude’s day too. But then they did so on a smaller scale. These men, though loud and influential, nevertheless had not taken over the church as we see in so many churches today. But they were of influence. Of course! They were vocal and sure of themselves. New believers especially, but even seasoned believers, can be quite intimidated by them and influenced by them. I mean, these men sounded so sure of themselves. They put forth their arguments! We are no longer under law! Christ has set us free from the law! We do what we feel is right by means of the guidance of the Spirit! The Spirit in us alone tells what we may or may not do. The result in the church is that many were following after them in their ungodly ways. A little leaven leavens the whole lump!
Jude reminds the saints that these men “separate themselves.” I suppose that this translation of the Greek here can be properly understood. These men were separating themselves from the faithful in the church. They had not left the church. But they were dividing themselves from the faithful. I believe a better translation is: they were creating division in the church. They were guilty of creating schism and strife in the church. They were separating themselves and forming their own little click in the church itself. They should have been excommunicated from the church, but this was not happening. Jude therefore explains that these ungodly men were dividing the church and in so doing were destroying its blessed unity.
And then, too, Jude reminds the saints that these men were not led by the Spirit! Notice verse 19 once again: “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” They did not have the Spirit as they claimed to have. They were devoid of the Spirit.
How can we know that? You see, when the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, He cleanses us. He makes us holy. To be holy means that we are consecrated to God and God’s service in our lives. It means that we are now willing to deny ourselves and the lusts of the flesh. We are willing and ready to satisfy God rather than our base desires. We eschew sin and love the right! This is true because the Spirit works in us sanctification. By means of the Spirit we become committed to the Word of God of which the Spirit is the author.
This simply means that the Word of God is now inscribed in our hearts. And since that Word of God is in us, so also is the law of God. Obviously, we do not try to earn God’s favor or merit anything in the sight of God by keeping His law. Then we would be under the curse. But that law becomes part and parcel of our lives! We love God’s commandments. They are the desire of our hearts! And when all of this is true of us, then we will walk in those commandments. We will enjoy keeping God’s Word. That is the fruit of the work of the Spirit in us. And if this is not seen in us, the Spirit is not working in us! Plain and simple! These ungodly men were devoid of the Spirit and their fruits showed it. One cannot be saved in the blood of Christ and continue on in his sin unrepentantly as if he is not doing anything wrong in God’s sight.
II. A Sure Defense
How could the faithful saints in the churches withstand such evil men? Jude gives them one sure defense. We read in verse 17, “Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The child of God defends himself from those who seem so convincing by remembering. And what must be remembered are the words that were spoken before by the apostles of Christ. That is to say, the saints must remember what the apostles preached and taught in the past. For example, Peter had warned that these mockers would come. Jude now points out that they had come just as Peter had written. But Peter was not the only one who had given warning. Paul did too in much of his preaching and writing. And obviously, all the apostles had done so when speaking to the early churches. The saints had heard the apostles of Christ. They knew that these apostles had spoken authoritatively and even infallibly. They were apostles, after all, those appointed by Jesus Christ Himself to preach and record the Word of God. Jesus Christ as the Lord of the church gave to His church the special office of the apostles. The words that they spoke and recorded in Scripture are the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ in this world. What the Spirit says to the churches was spoken and recorded by the apostles.
Jude calls attention in particular to the words they spoke to the churches. Notice in verse 17: “Remember ye the words that were spoken by the apostles.” Or again in verse 18: “How that they told you there should be mockers.” That is significant because it directs our attention to the blessed truth of the preaching of the gospel. Yes, the apostles recorded objectively in the Scriptures the Word of God. But these Scriptures were not yet available to the very early church. The letters of Paul and Peter and John had not yet been collected and compiled into what we have today in our Bibles. But the apostles had imparted the same truths to God’s people then through the spoken Word. They preached the gospel. And in the gospel that they preached was included a strong warning to the church of those mockers that would arise in the church to plague her. Not only did the apostles preach that Christ was going to return in judgment at the end of time, but they also warned the church to stand fast against those who would oppose the truth in doctrine and life.
Now, here is the important part: remember these words! Commit them to memory and never forget the words of the apostles. That admonition is all important to the church of Jesus Christ today if she is going to remain faithful to Christ. Do not be intimidated, do not be made to doubt, do not get lured away by these mockers. But remember the words of the apostles spoken to you.
To remember these words, fellow believers, takes a work of God’s grace. This recalling or remembering is an act of faith and belongs therefore only to those who are indeed saved in the blood of Christ. Faith is knowledge. It is not a blind following after one’s lusts or feelings as if these are the voice of the Holy Spirit. Faith is knowledge—a knowledge of everything that is taught us in the holy gospel as recorded for us in the Word of God. Faith has as its objective content everything written by the prophets and apostles in the Scriptures. Remembering these words is not merely an intellectual exercise, although it is highly important that we commit the Scriptures to memory. But this is a spiritual exercise as well. It is the exercise of a Spirit-guided mind so that, as we read and memorize the Bible, that Word of God takes root in our hearts and becomes part and parcel of our lives. In order to defend ourselves from the onslaughts of the critics in the evil days in which we live, we need to know our Bibles!
The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit! How much time do you spend with your Bible? How often we say this from the pulpit! We are so adept at making up excuses for ourselves! “We try to do it as often as we can but you know how life gets in the way. I am busy with work. I am away at the time we have our family devotions. I want to do it more, but I do not have the time.” How are we going to remember what the apostles say if we do not read the Word of God? How are we going to be guided by the Spirit into a holy life if we are not found in the Bible? How are we going to defend ourselves against wicked men if we do not spend time with God’s Word? A failure to read our Bible and to pray results in an unholy and ungodly life.
But there is something more yet in this admonition Jude gives us. The apostles first of all preached the Word. They spoke it. Today too the preaching of the gospel is still heard. And in that preaching we hear over and over again the warning the Bible gives us against mockers who would pollute the church of Jesus Christ. The church through her preachers heralds the return of Jesus Christ in judgment, and warns that this will not come to pass without the coming of ungodly men who would choke out the flame of the gospel in our midst. We live in the last times. We live at the end of the last time. Christ comes swiftly. The closer He comes the more those who scorn the faithful will appear and attempt to silence the witness of the church. When they do, will you remember the words of the apostles? We must make use of the preaching of the gospel to commit to our hearts and souls the Word of God! How precious is the exposition of God’s Word! What a sure defense is ours when we make use of the Word of God.
III. A Beloved Church
God gives us this Word because He loves us so much! There are those in the church whom God will destroy, but He will never allow His true church to be destroyed. He loves us! Jude points this out in one word that he uses in the beginning of verse 17. The word is “beloved.” This word simply means “loved ones.” We, saints of God, are God’s loved ones. We are His children and the sheep of His pasture. He knows our discouragements. He knows we can grow weary in our work. He knows that the church is always assailed. So He assures us that we are His loved ones and that He will preserve us as we remember His Word. How sweet the sound of that is—especially when we are down and almost ready to give up in our battles against error.
God loves His church. We are the apple of His eye, His cherished possession. And He will preserve us. He will give grace to those who are busy in His Word. They will remember.
And in this way we will be preserved. God grant us that assurance that we might be the more diligent in His Word.