Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude
Who was Jude?
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.
Who Was Jude?
That is a great question to ask at the start of this journey. Just who is Jude?
Let me start by giving you what we know and what we don’t know about Jude. Just the facts. Academic. Plain and sterile.
First, there are eight men named Judas, or Jude, in the New Testament. Like Bob and Frank and Jim and Sam of the last generation or Liam and Noah and Ethan and Logan of this generation, Judas was an incredibly popular name during the first century. Why? Probably because of Judas Maccabee, the third son of Mattathias and the hero of the Maccabean Revolt of the Jews against their Syrian oppressors that resulted in the restoration of Temple worship and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the rededication of the Temple, which occurred on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in 165 BC, usually in December, is celebrated to this day during the Jewish festival of lights— Hanukah.
As we name our children in honor of others we admire, respect or highly esteem, so did the Jews at the time of Christ.
Second, just so you won’t get confused, the English form of the Greek word “Judas” is Jude. In Hebrew, it is Judah. Nothing strange in that. My name, for example is Stephen— from the Greek, Stephanous, which means “crown” or “crowned one.” Jude means “confessor of Jehovah” or “praise of Jehovah” and, for those of you who are interested, was the 162nd most popular baby name in the US in 2013.
It is also noteworthy that Jude, who obviously shared the same name as the greatest apostate who ever lived, Judas Iscariot— wrote the sharpest and most direct, point-blank, in your face, condemnation of apostates found in all of Scripture and he wrote that scathing condemnation in vivid, frightening, no-holds-barred language. This may help to explain why most English versions of the New Testament use Jude and not his Greek name, Judas, as the title of the letter. Don’t want to confuse the good with the bad— and aren’t we glad?
Third, Jude begins his letter by identifying himself as the “brother of James” (Jude 1:1). So when we look at the eight people named Judas or Jude in the New Testament, only two of them are associated with anyone named James.
The first is Judas (or, Jude), the son of James, who was an Apostle, one of the Twelve (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13) and was also known by his nickname as “Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus” (Matt. 10:3). Don’t confuse this Judas with the one who went down in infamy for betraying the Lord for a bag of junk silver (John 6:71). That was Judas Iscariot.
The other is Judas (or, Jude), the brother of James (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) who was also the half-brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19).
So we’ve now got two men named Judas (Jude) who were associated with a James: one is Judas the son of James and the other is Judas the brother of James. It doesn’t take an IQ of 180 to see that our man Jude is not the Apostle, whose father is named James, but the brother of James who became the leader of the church at Jerusalem and who happens to be the half-brother of the Lord (Gal. 1:19) which, obviously, would make Jude the half-brother of the Lord also. But, don’t worry, we will spend more time talking about James a couple of chapters from now.
Fourth, very little is known about Jude apart from the 25 short verses that bear his name. We see that he, along with his other brothers: James, Joses and Simon (Matt. 13:55), did not believe Jesus’ claims about being the Messiah, the Promised One, the Son of God until sometime after the resurrection (John 7:5). It is possible that during the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension Jesus personally appeared to Jude, as He did to his brother James, in one of His post-resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:7). He may have said, much like He did to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:25).
But even if He didn’t, by the time we see Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), Jude, along with his mother and brothers, were now counted among the 120 who met in the upper room faithfully waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit that would give birth to the church (Acts 1:14).
And since he was part of the original 120, Jude was most likely with Peter when he preached his powerful, but short, twenty-two verse sermon, that resulted in over 3,000 people coming to faith in Christ (Acts 2:41). Jude was probably one of those who “sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:45) and one “who continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47).
For Jude, the long journey was over. The eternal transaction had taken place. Jude had now come full circle, from unbelieving skeptic to committed follower of Jesus. Jesus was no longer his sibling, his older half-brother.
He was now his Lord and Master.
There is one last thing about Jude’s life that we can surmise from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. According to 1 Corinthians 9:5, it appears that Jude spent his time on earth serving the Lord as an itinerant evangelist. The passage reads: “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas (or Peter)?”
So, in the middle of a defense of his own apostleship, Paul cites the fact that Peter (Cephas), along with other unnamed apostles, and the “brothers of the Lord” can have their wives accompany them on their itinerant ministry. And when Paul says “brothers of the Lord” there is no reason to assume that Jude was not included in that group. So as the others were itinerant evangelists, so was Jude.
Finally, Jude was given some profound insight by the Holy Spirit not found anywhere else in Scripture, in either the Old or New Testament. He was blessed with an insight that the likes of Paul and John were not. Let me give you just one example of such hidden knowledge that was revealed to Jude, and to Jude alone.
Consider the following from Jude 1:14-15:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
Whoa, where did that come from? Jude tells us about the content of the sermons that Enoch preached in the days before the Flood. How did he know that?
Plus, there’s not a whole lot written on the pages of Scripture about Enoch anyway, yet— he is a major prophetic type and figure.
To recap what we know: from Genesis 5 we learn that when Enoch was sixty-five years old something happened to him that caused him to “walk with God” for the rest of his life (Gen. 5:23). What exactly happened? Simply this, he had a son and prophetically named him Methuselah, which means, by the way, “his death shall bring.” Really? What will Methuselah’s death bring? What will happen when he dies? If you follow the timeline in Genesis 5, you will quickly see that the death of Methuselah brought on the Flood, the great judgment of God on all mankind. And, just so you won’t miss the point, Methuselah lived longer than anyone else recorded in Scripture, an amazing 969 years (Gen. 5:27). Why? To show us the grace and mercy of God in the face of impending and certain judgment. Seems like something we might want to think about today, doesn’t it?
In addition to this, after walking with God for 300 years the Lord decides to remove him from the earth, to rapture him, to snatch him away, to “translate him” without Enoch seeing physical death (Gen. 5:24). Poof! Here today, gone tomorrow. Why? What is God trying to teach us with this fact about Enoch? Much. But you will have to wait until later for us to look at all that is behind this move of God.
Genesis 5:24 states: “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Just like that, Enoch was gone.
It also says that Enoch was 365 years old when God took him. That’s one year for every day in our calendar. Do you think that’s a coincidence or could God be trying to tell us something else? Something to think about, isn’t it?
But what was Enoch’s life like during the 300 years he walked hand in hand with the Lord? What did he think? What did he talk about? What was the content of his life and the message of his sermons?
That is where the incredible revelations given to Jude come into play. Go back and read Jude 1:14-15 again. Do you see anything peculiar about the message of Enoch?
Jude tells us that Enoch preached about a time when the Lord would return with ten thousand of His saints (or, holy ones) to execute judgment on ungodly men for the ungodly things that they do.
When does that take place? At the Second Coming of Christ!
So Jude has such a special relationship with Jesus that the Holy Spirit decided, in his short, 25 verse letter, to reveal to him, and to us, the fact that Enoch preached about the Second Coming of Christ even before the Flood of Noah, the call of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the deportation to Babylon or the birth of the Church. And it was Jude, and Jude alone, that received this prophetic message.
I don’t know about you, but I want to hang with a guy like Jude and learn all I can from Him.
Do you feel the same way? Good.
Then let’s continue this journey together.
Coming next – Chapter Two: The Acts of the Apostates
Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude
On the Backside of the Bible
No one sets out to become an apostate, it’s never the result of one abrupt, drastic turn away from the Lord. Instead, apostasy is most often the product of a pattern of sinful compromises that harden and gradually steer a professing believer away from the truth.
It was actually years later that I discovered a book in the Bible by that very name.
Ok, I knew it was there all the time. I mean, who didn’t? After growing up with Bible sword drills and verse memorizations every week in Sunday school, we all knew— everybody knew there was a book in the Bible named Jude. We just didn’t know anything about it.
And why should we?
Our preachers never preached about it. Our Sunday school teachers never talked about it. And most of us got bogged down and quit our One Year Bible reading program back in the middle of the book of Numbers, in early March. There was no way we would ever make it even close to the book of Jude, which began on December 8th.
Plus, it’s only one chapter long— just 25 short and confusing verses. And I’m talking about some strange and confusing verses.
Think about it. We’re usually pretty comfortable with verses that are easy to understand and easy to memorize. I guess that’s why we’re naturally drawn to the short ones— the classics.
“Jesus wept. Yep, got that one memorized. It’s John 11:35”
“For God so loved the world, yada, yada, yada… yeah, I know that one too.”
“All things work together for good for those who are called according to…uh, to…er, to something. I forgot how that one ends.”
“And God helps those who help themselves.” Oh yeah, feelin’ pretty good, thumbs in suspenders, smirk on the face, chest puffed out.
Come to think of it, the only verse in Jude that is even included on Bible memorization cards is Jude 3. And usually only the last half of the verse makes it past the censors. It reads:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
That verse isn’t for a novice, either. You’ve got to be a Bible memory veteran to talk about anyone earnestly contending for anything in the church— unless it has to do with change, the pastor’s salary, King James, the way we did things before, hymns, choir robes, Easter cantatas, or the annual church budget meeting. Then people will earnestly contend for their wants, opinions, rights and desires.
And they’ll contend for it to the death.
Let’s face it, most in the church of today are so Biblically illiterate or apathetic in their understanding of Scripture that they don’t even know what the faith is that was handed down, once for all, to the saints.
“I didn’t think our church had saints? Do we? I thought that was just some sort of Catholic thing. What does the word, saints, mean anyway?”
To make matters worse, Jude is located right at the end of the Bible, on the backside of the New Testament. How important is a one chapter, backsided book in the Bible anyway? What can 25 verses really say to us today?
No, that’s not exactly true. I guess I’m going to have to reign in my poetic license a bit. It’s not actually at the end of the Bible— but its pretty close.
Jude is the last book before we enter into the dark, mysterious waters of the Revelation. Jude seems like nothing more than the flyleaf to the Revelation. Just some blah, blah, blah print on the left side of the page.
Oh, and the Revelation. Well, we were never to read the Revelation. Never!
Because it’s mystical, cryptic, puzzling and kind of scary. In fact, as kids we were all warned by our Sunday school teachers, an old, solemn man with a Vincent Price look about him, to never read the Revelation alone, or at night, or on the third Tuesday of May every other leap year. If we did, we could go blind or crazy or even worse— we could end up watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island forever.
That thought still keeps me up late at night.
Play it Again, Sam
But, as to my nature, I disregarded the warnings of those who had my best interest at heart, and read the book of Jude anyway.
And, wow! It was fantastic!
Can I say that again? Only this time in all CAPS?
And WOW! It was FANTASTIC!
We know that Luke penned his gospel account of the ministry of Jesus and then moved into what is known as the Acts of the Apostles in order to give us a clear, accurate and chronological account of the life of Jesus and the ministry of the early church. If we call the fifth book of the New Testament the Acts of the Apostles, then we could probably call the next to the last book of the New Testament the Acts of the Apostates. Why? Because it deals almost entirely with those in the church who have defected from the true faith, are the “tares among wheat” Jesus warned about or are simply a Satanic terrorist cell grafted into the Body to wreak havoc, much like a cancer cell in the human body.
“What exactly is an apostate?” you ask. Good question.
The formal, academic, dictionary definition is as follows:
One who has abandoned one’s religious faith, one’s principles, or a cause. A disloyal person who betrays or deserts his cause or religion or political party or friend, etc.
But that doesn’t do the term justice for me. An apostate is a loser with a capital L. They are the scum of the earth, a modern day Judas, Benedict Arnold, OJ Simpson, or Bill Clinton with his, “I never had sexual relations with that woman.” They are like Obama’s Press Secretary that will come out and lie to your face knowing full well that everyone in the room knows they are lying.
An apostate is one who will smile at your face, say “Amen” to your prayers, raise their hands with you during your praise and worship sets, and then, when you turn your back on them, like Brutus of old who led the assassination of Julius Caesar, they will sink their dagger deep between your shoulder blades, up to the hilt, twisting it, driving it deep, sneering all the while, longing to watch you die. And they do it again and again and again.
“Et tu Brutus.”
One final thought before we jump right into the murky waters of the text.
You need to understand, before we go any further, that the apostates are everywhere— like kudzu. They’re in your church. They break bread with you whenever you come together to celebrate Communion with what you think are fellow believers. They, like Judas at the Last Supper with Christ, are at the very table with you, taking from your hand the bread of fellowship.
They smile, they nod in agreement, they clasp hands with you in committed ministry— but they do so with malice and deceit.
They are the ones that are quick with gossip and always seem to be close to everything evil in your church.
They are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” Jesus warned us about. They are the Hymenaeus and Alexander that Paul warned Timothy about. They have some of the largest churches in America and are seen more often on Christian television than reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. They may sit next to you during choir practice. They may serve with you as an Elder or a Deacon in your church. They may be your Sunday school teacher, your Youth Pastor, your Discipleship Director. They may even be the man behind the pulpit, the guy with the backwards collar, the supposed Man of God who serves a god with a little “g”.
Believe me, they are everywhere. Jesus said we would know them by their fruits—and by nothing else.
But don’t take my word for it.
Listen, for just a moment, to what Jude says about them in just a couple verses:
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.
Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.
hese are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
Sobering, isn’t it.
Well, are you ready?
Are you ready to begin a journey into one of the most neglected books of the Bible that deals specifically with what makes the church of today less than it was in the past— a mere shell of its former glory?
Well? What sayeth ye?
Coming next – Chapter One: Who Was Jude?
Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude
Seven Minutes and Eleven Seconds of Coolness
“Na, na, na, na… na, na, na, na…na, na, na, na, hey Jude”
The Beatles, Hey Jude
When I was a kid, I was a big music fan.
I loved it. I identified with it. I listened to it all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the kind of music fans that we have today. I never walked around the mall with headphones sticking out of my beanie in mid-July with this glazed-over, brain-dead, “Dude, where’s my car?” kind of blank stare on my face. And I’ve never broken into an air-guitar solo while jamming on my iPod in the Household aisle of Wal-Mart— looking more like a dying fish flopping around on a dry dock than a music lover.
No, when I was a teenager, the people who loved music collected music. They talked about music, they shared music— they were consumed with music. Music became our release, a catharsis, a way for us to communicate with, and make sense of, a very confusing world.
Music was much more than just entertainment.
For us, music made a statement— our statement. It was the chosen vehicle of our generation to collectively make our voices heard. It shaped our feelings, values and emotions. We allowed our music to define our morals and our politics and to determine, for us, the very nature of our cultural struggle.
Music was more to us than a song about such deep and moving social themes as, “My humps, my humps, My lovely lady lumps.”
But not all music was equal.
In the crowd I ran with, my peers, there was a definite pecking order in music styles and tastes— and no deviations were ever allowed.
Simply put, to be cool, to be in the “know” with my friends, you had to be into the Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. The Fab Four. The Mop Tops. Sergeant Pepper and the Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Our guides on the Magical Mystery Tour.
They were our answer to crew cuts, parental authority, puberty, and the Vietnam War.
If you were into the Beatles, you were super cool, admired, popular, and accepted. You were on the “A” list of people to know and to be seen with. If, on the other hand, you owned vinyl from the likes of the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons or the Hollies— well, you were ugly, had bad breath and would someday grow up to work at McDonalds.
Well, after all, the Beatles were cool.
We watched them evolve, album after album, from four young men from Liverpool, with their strange “Moe of the Three Stooges” type hair cuts to living icons of our culture and heroes of our generation. We saw them embrace and experience life in ways we never could, and then we eagerly listened as they told us about those experiences in the songs they wrote. They were the proverbial Pied Pipers and we, it seemed, were just a bunch of willing mice.
Whatever they were into, we were into. They set the standards for our young lives.
As their sweet, boyish, innocence faded with time— so did ours.
We were with them when they seemed to find such joy in the simple things of life— like having a girlfriend, or the thrill of singing, “I wanna hold your hand.” And, years later, we were still with them when their lyrics became darker and more sinister:
Yellow matter custard
Dripping from a dead dog’s eye
Boy, you’ve been a naughty girl
you let your knickers down
I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’ joob
Looks like somebody was on drugs. And it wasn’t me.
They, like everything else in the 60’s, changed right before our eyes. What started out as good, clean fun soon digressed into Eastern mysticism, LSD and, in 1966, crystallized with the infamous, and quite stupid, quote by John Lennon:
“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus.”
Living in the Bible belt, you can imagine what happened.
Preachers began to rant and wail, Sunday after Sunday, about the evils of these four young men from the abyss and the very doom they would bring to the purity of our young people. Some called them agents of Satan, playing the Devil’s music. I remember some preachers even called them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
There was a swell, a grass-roots church movement of sorts to burn all our Beatle records because, as the preachers would say, “Jee-zus will not take second place to a bunch of long haired hippies!” True.
But personally, I resisted the urge to burn my records and foolishly dump years of allowances down the drain because some preacher told me I needed to. Who were they to tell me what to do? It wasn’t even Sunday. Plus, I figured if Jesus was God, He could pretty much take care of Himself.
A couple of years later even Charles Manson, during his trial for the Tate and LaBianca murders, prophesied about the coming race wars, the Helter Skelter as he called it, and claimed the Beatles, as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, spoke to him secretly through their music. Charlie claimed to be Christ and said the song, “Revolution 9” was his call to arms to end the world.
Really? Pretty stupid sounding stuff, even for a teenager.
All Charlie got for his troubles were multiple life terms in an 8 x 12 cell and a swastika carved in the center of his forehead— and a crude looking swastika at that. It looked like he carved it himself, left-handed, with a Bic pen, — while driving in rush hour traffic.
So much for the Manson family and the coming Helter Skelter.
The Pre-iPod Era
Back then, way before iPods and music downloads and iTunes, you had to buy the Beatles albums, like “Abbey Road” or “Let it Be” just to be able to hear the songs you liked. But to do this, you’d also have to shell out seven or eight bucks— which was a whole lotta jack back then. Especially when we would have to mow, that’s push mow, our neighbors’ football field size yard all Saturday afternoon for about $2.50.
So relatively speaking, Beatle albums were a major investment. Several Saturdays worth of work for 13, three-minute songs— nine of which you didn’t even want.
So most of us just collected 45’s. Do you remember them?
A 45 record was a simple, seven-inch, single, vinyl disk with the song we wanted on one side and a lame, utterly forgettable tune on the other. It was like the record company put the best and the worst songs on the album on the 45’s to cover both extremes, I guess. It was like they were saying, “If you turn the 45 over, you can rest assured that no song on this $8 album we want you to buy will sound any worse than what you’re listening to right now. So, buy with confidence.”
It was also like the artist really didn’t care about side B of the 45’s either. All they wanted was another hit off their bongs.
For example, and this is true, when I purchased the 45 of “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner, that’s before Ike took batting practice on Tina’s face and she dumped him for a solo life and a solo career— the song on the other side was the classic, “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter.” No lie. That was the name. I think I listened to half the song, one time.
Anyway, my prized possession during the fall of 1968 was the vinyl 45 from Apple Records, the one with the big, green apple picture on the front that was the recording of the greatest of all Beatle songs, Hey Jude. It was great. Amazing.
For me, it represented the pinnacle of their career.
And that particular song was different from all the others they had previously released. How?
First, it was not recorded on any album that was released that year by the Beatles. That fact alone made the song something of a novelty. Game show trivia sort of stuff. And second, it was long. Really long.
Seven minutes and eleven seconds long.
By radio play standards, it was as long as two Three Dog Night songs and a radio spot about a car dealership. And the Beatles, at this point in their musical life, simply refused to cut it down for radio play. It was kinda their way to “stick it to the man.” Whoever the “man” was.
Billy Joel, years later, sang about the same problem in his song, The Entertainer:
It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long
If you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05
But, Hey, Jude— wow, seven minutes and eleven seconds long! Incredible.
Just sticking it to the man.
And, if you listen to that song today, there’s about four minutes of just, “na, na, na…” junk in the end. It’s not like there were any profound lyrics that communicated the meaning of life, the virtues of love or told us where the lost city of Atlantis was located. It’s just, “na, na, na…” kind of stuff.
I listened to that song, day in and day out, until the needle on my record player grew dull. In 1968, it was this one song that set me apart from all my other friends. It was my own way to “stick it to the man.”
None of my friends liked the song— it was too long, not enough Zeppelin style guitar, it was impossible to dance to and you couldn’t even buy the album with the song on it in the record store.
“Like, what’s with that?”
But for me, ah— it was the song that made me cool in my own eyes.
I memorized every nuance of the song, all seven minutes and change of it. I knew, as Jesus would say, every “jot and tittle” of the song. And I mean I memorized everything! It was almost like I had written the song along with John and Paul.
I knew every, “yeah, yeah” in the background or the “Jude, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, ow, wahow!” stuff towards the end. When I was with my friends and the song would play on the radio, we would all sing together the first part and, as they dropped out one by one because they didn’t know the last four minutes of the song, I would sing louder and louder, proud, center stage, until it was just me and Paul “na, na, na-ing” along together.
I know it sounds strange, but I felt empowered, like maybe Paul McCartney and I were close, personal friends, like maybe we were somehow connected by this song, like maybe some of his coolness rubbed off on me because I could sing the “na, na’s” like he did.
I don’t know… it just felt like it made me matter to someone. Like we were kin or something.
Like… well, whatever.
Why am I telling you all this? Simple.
That was the first time in my life that I had ever heard the name Jude— way back when in 1968. In fact, that song made the name Jude cool to me, important, something that made my insides feel good and the corner of my mouth turn up when I said the name.
I like the way that name sounded.
Coming next – Introduction: On the Backside of the Bible