The Power of Parables

2020-01-11T09:16:24-05:00 January 13th, 2020|

“The biblical parable is a very specific literary form. As it was developed in the biblical tradition, a parable was a device used by preachers to epitomize a sermon. A whole sermon could be packed up into a parable and put away in the memory and then later brought out again when the occasion arose and unpacked by a process of explanation and elaboration” (Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, 1:145).

Parables are pithy, to the point, and forcefully expressive. Their power lies in their being compact. “As it was developed in the biblical tradition, a parable was a device used by preachers [and teachers] to epitomize a sermon [or teaching]. A whole sermon [or teaching] could be packed up into a parable and put away in the memory and then later brought out again when the occasion arose and unpacked by a process of explanation and elaboration” (Ibid.).

But parables pack power for a more fundamental reason. “It is the parabolic nature of life which points to the parabolic nature of preaching [and teaching]. Meaning is conveyed by similitude, by analogy, by example” (Ibid., 146). The seeds for these similitudes, analogies, and examples are woven into creation.

The sowing of seed, its growth, fruition, and harvest is one of those signs, as is the beauty of a pearl. The sharing of a meal is a powerful sign. The relation of sheep to a shepherd, the relation between mother and child, the marriage relationship, and by all means the marriage feast—all are signs of the fundamental realities of existence. They are not only fundamental but ultimate realities (Ibid., 145).

What this truth means is that parables are not invented but found, if we have eyes to see and hearts to understand. As Hughes Oliphant Old aptly puts it,

[O]ne of the tasks of the Christian preacher [or teacher] is to interpret these fundamental similitudes of life. We must interpret them as Jesus interpreted them, to be sure. It is not our job to discover new similitudes or invent new parables any more than it is our job to invent new sacraments. The parables are there, built into life. They are discovered, not invented, but it takes the gospel to recognize them (Ibid., 146).

If we have eyes to see and hearts to understand powerful, parables are all around us.

Denny Prutow

God’s Gift in the Ten Commandments

2019-12-23T21:41:09-05:00 December 30th, 2019|

We were stopped at a traffic light while driving through Colorado Springs, Colorado. The bumper sticker on the back of the car in front of us asked a simple question. “What would happen if everyone told the truth?” With a laugh, I repeated the question, “What would happen if everyone told the truth?” I turned to my wife and said, “The whole political establishment in Washington, D.C. would collapse instantly!” Our nation and the nations of the world need a huge infusion of basic biblical morality. The standards of this morality come to us in God’s moral law.

But even in Christian circles, we fail to have a proper perspective on the Ten Commandments. The law smacks of legalism. And the Bible tells us that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). In this article and those that follow, it is my plan to review the Ten Commandments and offer some needed perspective.

Let’s begin with the preface to the Ten Commandments. “Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’” (Exodus 20:1-2). It is clear that God gives the Ten Commandments to the people He redeems. The answer to question 44 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism affirms that this is the case. “The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.” Because the Lord God redeems us, we ought to keep His commandments.

This answers the criticism raised by way of Romans 6:14. Paul does not contradict the words of Moses in Exodus 20:1-2. There is not a bifurcation between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the assessments of the moral law. There is harmony. Romans 6:14 means that we are not under the law as a means of gaining right-standing with God. Salvation is not by works. Salvation is by grace. Paul actually has a high view of the law. “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12).

But what of the motive to follow God’s moral law. The motive is love. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3). The apostle John defines love in terms of the law. We express love for God and for those around us by means of the law. Jesus tells us essentially the same thing. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). In other words, God is gracious to us in giving us the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments provide you and me the means for showing love to God and toward others.

Think of it in terms of athletics. Football has a rule book and officials. You play the game on a properly marked field with prescribed measurements and goal posts of exact dimensions. To play the game, you must wear prescribed equipment in a given position with explicit duties. You follow all the rules and procedures in order to participate in the game. Without these rules and procedures, there is no game.

The same is true with the Christian life. God’s Ten Commandments amount to the rules of the game. When you follow them from the heart, you reach the goal. You express love.

Denny Prutow

Doxology (Jude 24-25)

2019-12-04T10:51:26-05:00 December 23rd, 2019|

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

Jude rehearses the great difficulties that arise in the church by hearkening back to early Scriptures and the experience of Israel (Jude 3-16). Paul had already warned the elders at Ephesus of such dangers. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). Jude sees this reality now setting in among those whom he loves. At the same time, he urges his readers to rest in the gospel. Jude reminds them that they are “beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). He exhorts them to realize that the challenges they face are neither unusual nor unforeseen (Jude 17-19). Having already prayed for them: “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you” (Jude 2), Jude beseeches the church, “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). Since all these activities “were long beforehand marked out” by God (Jude 4) for his glory, he ends his letter with a doxology, words of praise to God (Jude 24-25).

Such doxologies are common; they divert our attention away from ourselves and back to the Triune God of the Bible. After detailing the crisis of fallen humanity, God’s salvation of the Gentiles, and the question of the future of the Jews, Paul breaks out into doxology

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has given to him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

Such doxologies are also a common feature of “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). See Romans 6:27, Ephesians 3:21, Philippians 4:20, 1 Timothy 1:17, 2 Timothy 4:18, 1 Peter 4:11 and 5:11, and Revelation 1:6, 5:13 and 7:12. The common thread in all these doxologies is the glory of God. Also, each of the five books of the Book of the Psalms ends with a doxology: Psalm 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48, and 150:1-6. Psalm 150 is a doxology completing the Psalter. The first definition in the range of meanings for the Hebrew word glory is weight or burden. The idea is that God should carry weight, ultimate weight, in your life. If He does, you will do His bidding.

In Jude’s doxology, note that the only God is our Savior through Jesus Christ, our Lord (Jude 25). There is only one God. “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5). It pleases God to act in this world and to communicate with you and me, His creatures, through Jesus Christ. For example, Christ was with the children of Israel in the wilderness. A spiritual rock followed them, “and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). God acted through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to bring about the salvation of His people. Jude adds that Jesus Christ is our Lord. He is Jehovah in the flesh. It is to him we bow. It is Him we confess. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

The doxology begins with this affirmation, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24). Remember, Jesus Christ is “a living stone which has been rejected by men” (1 Peter 2:4). When unbelievers reject the Savior, “they stumble because they are disobedient to the word” (1 Peter 2:8). As believers, what has God done to keep you and me from stumbling? He has “has caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3). God uses His Word, written and proclaimed, as the primary means of bringing about this new birth. “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Having been made alive (Ephesians 2:4), you received the gift of faith you trust in Jesus. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Jude now skips over the inter-advent period he has thoroughly described (Jude 17-19). He notes that having saved you by His grace, God Himself will “make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). After the resurrection of the dead, you will stand acquitted, blameless, before the face of God. And you will not be alone. With great joy, you will join the assembly in heaven described in Revelation 5:11. “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.” Then there is doxology. “And every created thing which is in heaven … I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever’” (Revelation 5:13).

You and I will experience more fully and completely the “glory, majesty, dominion and authority” of our great God and Savior. Yes, this praise pertains to the all-glorious God “before all time and now and forever” (Jude 25). Before time was, He is worthy. Even now, our praise prepares us for the life to come. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). Then, we will delight in the splendor of His beauty. We will gasp in wonder at His dignity and grace. We will be astonished at the broad extent of His sovereignty and His directive power over all the intimate details of His creation. Then, we will sing praise in doxology “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever” (Jude 25). And with the heavenly choir of thousands upon thousands, we will add with great joy a hearty affirmation, “Amen!”

Denny Prutow

Snatched Out of the Fire (Jude 22-23)

2019-12-01T18:06:11-05:00 December 16th, 2019|

Jude continues his positive approach toward his readers. After urging them to keep themselves in the love of God and to look with anticipation for the revealed mercy of Christ (Jude 20-21), he encourages his readers to extend mercy to others. “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). The foundation for this outreach is the teaching of Christ, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). If you are the blessed recipient of mercy, your response is to extend mercy to others.

Jude 22-23 presents two questions. First, should we follow the two-clause Greek text or the three-clause text? Second, what is the proper rendering of the word the New American Standard translates as “doubting”? The KJV follows the two-clause text: (1) And of some have compassion, making a difference: (2) And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Not surprising, Calvin and Matthew Henry follow this shorter reading as do the modern commentators J. B. Mayor, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, and Richard Bauckham, Word Biblical Commentary.

The NASB and ESV follow the three-clause text. (1) And have mercy on some, who are doubting; (2) save others, snatching them out of the fire; (3) and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). This position is in keeping with Jude’s liking of triads. Jude 11: (1) For they have gone the way of Cain, (2) and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, (3) and perished in the rebellion of Korah. See also Jude 1, 2, 6, and 19.

The KJV translates the participle διακρινομένους as “making a difference.” NASB translates the same word as “doubting.” In the middle/passive voice, this verb translates to wavering, hesitating, or doubting. James 1:6 uses this participle twice, “But he must ask in faith without any doubting (διακρινόμενος), for the one who doubts (διακρινόμενος) is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” Part of the difficulty goes back to Jude 9. “But when the archangel Michael, contending (διακρινόμενος) with the devil … ” (ESV). Michael was weighing his position before the devil and before God. We might even say that he doubted his capacity to pass judgment upon the devil. He rightly hesitated to pronounce judgment in God’s stead.

Turning to the three clauses, Jude first exhorts, “have mercy on some, who are doubting.” The imperative, “have mercy” is second person plural. The translation could be, “You have mercy.” Again, Jude has in mind a corporate activity. Members of the congregation ought to feed and guide those who have misgivings about the content of the faith. If we know the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 21), we readily extend mercy to those who are struggling. We have compassion for them, desiring to lift them and encourage them. They may struggle with the assurance of faith or assurance of salvation. They may struggle with the sovereignty of God and the biblical teachings on divine election and reprobation.

Then too, some doubt certain ethical standards and requirements of the faith. They may have doubts concerning end-of-life issues, God’s command, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), and the recommendations of a doctor. The young soldier who fires his rifle and for the first time kills another human being is in torment. He wonders, “Have I committed murder.” Finally, how we carry out our responsibilities in Christ is essential. Remember, the ungodly commit ungodly deeds in an ungodly way (Jude 15). The opposite must be true for believers. You and I must keep the Ninth Commandment; we must tell the truth. But Scripture also requires us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). In dealing with our children or our co-workers, we ought not to speak the truth in anger. Some may doubt the propriety of these things. Your response and my response ought to be to show mercy.

Second, Jude urges, “Save others, snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23). Here, the situation is more urgent and pressing. The salvation about which Jude speaks is redemption in Christ. To partake of this salvation, you must trust in the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10). However, this faith is not something you conjure up. It is a gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). Scripture also testifies that faith comes by way of hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Such hearing may take place in the private reading of Scripture. This hearing may occur during one-on-one encounters. We must also remember God’s commitment to graciously meet with us in worship to apply His covenant Word to us (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

Of course, you do not save others. God saves them using you and using preaching in the context of corporate worship as instruments of His grace. By grace, through Jesus Christ, God snatches men and women from the grip of the eternal fire of hell. John 12:10 uses the same word to describe a wolf snatching sheep. When Satan accused Joshua, the high priest, the Lord saw him as “a brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). If the gospel plucks men and women from the burnings of hellfire, it must be direct. When I walked into a chaplain’s office in South Korea, the chaplain asked me immediately and directly, “Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.” At that moment, the Lord snatched me from a dismal future leading to well-deserved hellfire.

Finally, “on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 23). Yes, others live in the dark world of the deeds of the flesh, “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing” (Galatians 5:19-21). Their “deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Although you and I must hate this life on the dark side, we must compassionately publish the bad news of God’s judgment. Men and women must learn to fear God and the reality of a future life where “their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched (Isaiah 66:24). Only then will these harder cases soften to the Good News of Christ’s death for sin and His resurrection for life. And so, “have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).

Denny Prutow

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God (Jude 20-21)

2019-11-29T11:44:36-05:00 December 9th, 2019|

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 20-21). After rehearsing the problems of unbelief within the church, Jude turns to the positive, “But you, beloved … ” (Jude 17, 20). Jude approaches the church with the heart of a pastor. Remember his greeting in verse 1, “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.”

At the same time, Jude addresses an exhortation to the church, “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). The “you” implied in the verb, “keep,” is plural, as is the pronoun, “yourselves.” Members of the church must preserve and keep intact their loving relationships with each other and the love they experience with God. In other words, while salvation is a sovereign work, sanctification is cooperative. Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). That is, work out the implications of your salvation in day to day life. Jesus puts it this way, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If the Holy Spirit has changed your heart, indicate that this is the case. Live according to Christ’s commandments. “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”

Jude also answers the question: how do you keep yourselves in the love of God? Two participles, “building” and “praying” begin two participle phrases, which modify “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 20). They answer the question, “How?” First, you keep yourselves in the love of God by “building (plural) yourselves up on your (plural) most holy faith.” The “faith” is the body of truth “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). As indicated in the first lesson, you and I must continually review and study this faith, the truth that God reveals in Scripture. God’s love is a beautiful many-sided gem. We must regularly review and analyze the various facets of God’s love. As we do so, we grow in our understanding of how God’s love embraces us and how God’s love works itself out in our lives, individually and corporately.

Second, you keep yourselves in the love of God by “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). God uses prayer to bring about His will. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15). And so, you and I must pray according to God’s will. How do you know God’s will? You find God’s will in Scripture. You must know the Scriptures. Of course, the Spirit inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21). Praying in the Spirit means praying according to the will of God revealed in the Spirit-inspired Word, the Scriptures. In addition, praying in the Spirit means you are united to the Spirit. The Spirit dwells in you (Romans 8:9). Thus you pray self-consciously in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), knowing God’s presence with you and in you.

The participles, building and praying are plurals, referencing the congregation. It is not so much individual prayer but corporate prayer that concerns Jude. Paul reminds the Church at Corinth, “We are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). The gathered church is the special dwelling place of God in the Spirit. “You (plural) also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). Yes, individually, you and I are temples of the Spirit (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 6:19). We must not profane the temples of our bodies by prostituting them (1 Corinthians 6:15). On the other hand, since the church is a temple having Christ as its foundation, “each man must be careful how he builds on it” (1 Corinthians 3:10). As his temple, in corporate worship, we gather in the special gracious presence of God. J. I Packer defines worship in this way.

Worship is not only an expression of gratitude, but also a means of grace whereby the hungry are fed, so that the empty are sent away rich. For ‘there is in worship an approach of God to man.’ ‘God’s presence in his ordinances’ is a reality; God is essentially present in the world, graciously present in his church (A Quest for Godliness, 252).

In worship, in singing praise, in hearing God’s word read and preached, in corporate fellowship, in corporate prayer, praying with and for one another, we learn and grow and keep ourselves in the love of God. Jude is not ignoring individual responsibility in prayer, study, and reading Scripture. Instead, he is emphasizing the importance of the corporate gathering of God’s people in worship.

As you keep yourselves in the love of God, your motive is the return of Christ. And so, your posture as God’s people is always to be forward-looking. You anxiously wait “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 21). The verb “to wait” carries with it the element of being anxious. You have a sense of expectancy. You receive and welcome Christ before He arrives. Your attitude is not passive but active. You are “looking for (same word) the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

Believers do not find their ultimate hope in the things of this world. Why? “The present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). Yes, “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Believers await the mercy and love and grace of God pronounced by Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life in the world to come. To believers, to those for whom He died, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

And so, “keep yourselves in the love of God.” Do so by “building yourselves up on your most holy faith,” and by “praying in the Holy Spirit.” Also, have your eye on the world to come. Wait “anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 20-21).

Denny Prutow

The Inter-Advent Life (Jude 17-19)

2019-11-25T16:43:42-05:00 December 2nd, 2019|

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Wherever the church or churches are to which Jude is writing, and there is much speculation, apostolic ministry planted them. The apostles had been there and taught there earlier. Now, Jude calls this fact back to the memory of God’s people. Jude is contrasting his readers with the ungodly (Jude 15) and malcontents (Jude 16), who have crept into the assembly (Jude 4). “But you must remember, beloved” (Jude 17). Yes, remember what the apostles taught about the “last time.” The last time began at the first coming of Christ at the first advent. The last time ends with Christ’s second coming at His second advent. The last days is the period between the two advents (Hebrews 1:2). It is the present age, the inter-advent period.

Jude describes this period, quoting apostolic teaching. “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts” (Jude 18). The Apostle Peter says almost the same thing. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3). The teachings of the Apostle Paul are similar.

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Our Lord Jesus Christ laid the foundation for this teaching. John Murray comments on Matthew 24. “In verses 1-14, Jesus deals with the certain outstanding features of the interadventual period. We are reminded in verse 6 that the end is not immediately … and that wars, famines, and earthquakes are but the beginnings of sorrows” (Collected Writings, 2:388). Note Matthew 24:4-8.

See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Matthew 24:9-14 gives us a further assessment of Christ concerning this present age. As Murray puts it, “At verse 14, the more auspicious aspect of the inter-adventual history is promised, the worldwide preaching of the gospel” (Ibid.). At this point, our Lord makes this pronouncement, “Then the end will come.” Here is Matthew 24:9-14,

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

I agree with Murray’s appraisal of Matthew 24. “We are compelled to construe verses 4-14 as, in brief outline, a forecast of interadventual history” (Ibid.). And so, Jude is giving us a view of life in the inter-advent period. He is giving us a heads up. “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts’” (Jude 17-18).

You and I ought not to be surprised to see and experience first-hand “mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” The mocker is one who points the finger laughing and scoffing and making fun of others. As self-centered, he feeds on his pride and arrogance. He follows his own ungodly cravings and passions.

Jude 19 continues, “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” They form cliques and sit only with themselves at fellowship meals (Jude 12). They are worldly, worldly-minded, sensual, soulish (ψυχικοί). Jude judges further that these people do not have the Spirit. Compare again, Jude 4. For this reason, their cliques develop into divisions and factions within the church.

But even these factions have a purpose. “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). The KJV reads, “For there must be also heresies (αἱρέσεις) among you.” The presence of a party spirit or faction raises a sharp distinction with those who speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This latter group of Spirit-filled followers of Christ shares a common salvation; Jude is appealing to them to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

Years ago, God called me to contend for the faith against a divisive faction within a congregation. Before my arrival, the congregation elected several men as elders and deacons who held biblical and theological views contrary to the Standards of the local church and denomination. As a result, they refused to take the vows required for entrance upon office. When asked to step aside so the church could elect others to office, they steadfastly refused. The only answer was to begin the process of formal discipline. The result was two full-length church trials, after which the church was able to move forward. Under such circumstances, the words of Jude 17-19 ring true and give guidance.

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Denny Prutow

Enoch’s Prophecy, Jesus’ Judgment (Jude 14-16)

2019-11-21T10:50:26-05:00 November 25th, 2019|

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

Jude 14 refers back to Jude 4, which says that “certain persons have crept in unnoticed … ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 8 refers to “these people,” as does Jude 10. Verse 11 tells us that “they walked in the way of Cain.” Now, Jude 14 and 17 indicate that “it was about these men that Enoch … prophesied.”

Enoch was a prominent figure. Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:22). He did not taste death but was translated directly to heaven (Genesis 5:24). The genealogy of Genesis 5 validates the claim that he was the seventh generation from Adam. The words attributed to Enoch come from the apocalyptic book of 1 Enoch, perhaps dating back to mid-second century B.C. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jude takes the quoted words as accurate and prophetic. In doing so, he does not necessarily regard 1 Enoch as canonical Scripture. However, Jude applies the prophecy of Enoch to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the earth. His quotation constitutes a warning to all the ungodly in Jude’s time and in our time.

The prophecy begins with these words, “Behold, the Lord came.” This translation from the New American Standard accurately reflects the past tense. Prophetic words about future events stated in the past tense, as though they have already occurred, indicate the certainty of these future events. In Hebrew, this tense is the prophetic perfect. In 1 Enoch, the subject of the sentence is God. Jude interprets the sentence as referring to Christ, the Lord. Such an interpretive move is not uncommon in the New Testament. For example, take Isaiah 45:22-23, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” The Apostle Paul applies these words to Christ. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow. And every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

Christ will come again “with many thousands of His holy ones.” Matthew 25:31 describes the scene “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him.” Since holy ones (ἁγίαις) can refer to saints, Calvin indicates that these words include “both men of faith, and the angels” (Commentary on Jude, 332). Christ and his entourage come for judgment. He will “execute judgment upon all,” believers and unbelievers alike. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:32-33). To His sheep, Christ will say, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

But our Lord will convict and sentence “all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 17). The ungodly include all those who died in the wilderness, lacking faith in the promised savior (Jude 5). The ungodly are those who, like Sodom and Gomorrah, engage in gross immorality (Jude 7). The ungodly are people like Cain who are ruled by anger, people like Balaam who appear to speak for God but do so only for financial gain, and rebels like Korah, who impudently challenge the authority of Christ (Jude 4, 11).

Jude 17 describes the ungodly further. They are grumblers; they have nothing good to say about anything; they cast a negative shadow on all of life. The dark side of life consumes them. Think of Israel in the wilderness longing to return to the slave pits of Egypt. They are malcontents and complainers who find fault with their food, clothing, homes, work, and families. At the same time, “they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage” (Jude 16, ESV).

They commit their “ungodly deeds in an ungodly way” (Jude 17). On the one hand, the deeds of the ungodly violate God’s standards in the Ten Commandments. On the other side, their manner stands athwart the fruit of the Spirit and comports more with the deeds of the flesh. They take the Name of Jesus lightly and often use His title, the Christ, as an expletive. But Jesus warns, “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). And in the end, He will sentence all the ungodly to a terrifying everlasting judgment, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). No wonder Jude 11 exclaims, “Woe to them!”

The prophet Nahum asks, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?” (Nahum 1:6). The prophet Malachi likewise, “Who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap” (Malachi 3:2). Who indeed! We are all helpless sinners.

Yes, who indeed? Romans 5:6 sounds the note of grace and salvation. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:8 adds, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Yes, “Christ died for the ungodly … Christ died for us.” That is, He took the punishment due to us. He stood in our place. He died in our stead. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Denny Prutow

Trust Christ; Pursue Christ; Serve Christ (Jude 12-13)

2019-11-21T10:49:52-05:00 November 18th, 2019|

Jude 12-13 continues to describe the Jude 4 people. Taking the two texts together, they read as follows.

Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ . . . 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.

That these folks go unnoticed within the congregation calls for further comment. In teaching on effectual calling, Westminster Confession of Faith 10:4 speaks of the common operations of the Spirit. “Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved.” Chad Van Dixhhoorn makes this observation:

Here we are reminded that there are some who are able to hear the ministry of God’s Word but not the true call of God. Our Lord sums this up by saying, ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt. 22:14). They may joyfully hear preaching and decide to change their lives (Matt. 13:20, 21). Incredibly, they might be permitted to prophesy, cast out demons, do wonderful works, and even have a taste of the work of the Spirit (Matt. 7:22; Heb. 6:4, 5). And yet they might not genuinely love Christ at all . . . There are some who appear to come to Christ, but while their feet carry them down an aisle, or the confession of their mouths brings them into the visible church, their hearts have never been moved by the gospel. They did not really come to Christ at all (Confessing the Faith, 156-157).

Robert Shaw further explains, “That there are’ common operations of the Spirit,’ which produce convictions of sin, by means of the law in the conscience; and joyous emotions, by means of the gospel, in the affections of men in their natural state; which do not issue in conversion” (An Exposition of the Confession of Faith, 123). Individuals within the congregation may enjoy these common operations of the Spirit, receive real conviction of sin, and receive actual tastes of the Spirit yet never enjoy. This fact goes unnoticed, as Jude 4 indicates.

Jude 4 also stipulates that such people “long ago were designated” for this condemnation. Verse 11 pronounces a curse, “Woe to them!” Jude 13 declares that these are people “for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” True believers, on the other hand, have a reservation in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). These truths declare what we call double predestination. Westminster Confession 3:8 teaches us how we ought to handle these solemn truths. “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.” Therefore, our exposition of Jude should lead us into the light of grace and assurance.

With all of the above in mind, Jude 12-13 uses several metaphors to describe the people of verse 4: hidden reefs, clouds without water, trees without fruit, waves of the sea, wandering stars. Hidden reefs are outcroppings of coral and rock just below the surface of the water. Love feasts are congregational gatherings for meals culminating in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Fellowship meals and celebrations of the Lord’s Supper should testify to God’s love for His people and the people’s mutual love for one another. The presence of individuals “caring only for themselves” alters this testimony. Shipwreck may be inevitable.

Clouds on the horizon offer the confidence of rain. Clouds without water provide no hope for refreshment. Apparent conversions furnish an expectation of new life within the congregation but are bitterly disappointing. They are like trees that bear no fruit and must be uprooted and destroyed. They are doubly dead, totally depraved, and reserved for outer darkness. The powerful waves of the sea present a picture of pride. Yet when they crash on the beach, they are full of foam and mud and sludge. Pride too often leads to embarrassment and a catastrophic fall.

Jesus Christ appears in the Book of Revelation with seven stars in His right hand, which are the seven angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:16, 20). John the Baptist was God’s messenger or angel (ἄγγελόν). The angels of the seven churches are their pastors. It could be that the people of Jude 4 include stars, pastors and teachers, who do not hew the line of true doctrine but wander off course and lead God’s people astray. Outer darkness is their final awful destination.

The opposite is true of you when you “make certain of God’s calling you and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). How so? Second Peter 1:5-8 answers.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The most important thing to know in all of life is that you belong to Christ by faith in Him. You validate your faith in Christ by how you live (James 2:24). And so, trust Christ; pursue Christ; serve Christ!

Denny Prutow

Cain, Balaam, Korah, You, and Me (Jude 11)

2019-11-11T11:35:15-05:00 November 11th, 2019|

If you profess faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, live by this profession of faith. This exhortation is always appropriate for members of the church to whom Jude is speaking (Jude 3). How so? On two counts. First, none of us have reached perfection. We sin daily in thought, word, and deed. This truth from Scripture and the Catechism is not theoretical. It is actual. Second, the visible church is always a mixed multitude.

Some children in the church have not yet made a profession of faith. Some make a profession of faith but do so only on an outward and intellectual basis. And some are temporary. They receive the word with joy, and when difficulties arise, they fall away (Mark 4:16-17).

How can this situation come to pass? The elders and leaders of the church do not have spiritual x-ray vision. They cannot look into hearts to see if expressed faith springs from the new birth. As a result, we come to the truth of Jude 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Verses 9-10 give three examples of the people Jude describes in verse 4. Jude 11 continues with three more Old Testament examples. First, “they have gone the way of Cain.” This example goes back to Genesis 4:3-8.

It came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell . . . And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

In verse 4, Jude speaks of people who were long marked out for condemnation. Cain was certainly a marked man. God gave him a sign or distinguishing mark (Genesis 4:15). Cain was also full of anger leading to murder (Genesis 4:5). Jesus indicates that standing alone, such anger incurs the same guilt as murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Such anger is a deed of the flesh (Galatians 5:20). It is a mark of the unholy spirit (Ephesians 2:1-3) rather than the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30).

A fellow in the church once told me that his primary motivation in life was anger. I responded that such a motivation disqualified him from the eldership. I reminded him that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

The people Jude describes in verse 4 are also like Balaam; “they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam” (Jude 11). The story of Balaam is quite remarkable. He was paid to curse Israel (Numbers 22:7). He advised Midian to lure Israel into whoredom in the cult of Baal (Numbers 31:16). Peter describes such people, “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15).

Balaam represents unbelievers “who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary” (Mark 4:16-17). The Spirit grants them illumination but not new birth (WCF 10:4 with proof texts). With light from God, Balaam blesses Israel. “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!” (Numbers 24:3-5). Although having great gifts, these people, like Balaam, turn out to be “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4). You and I must remember the words of Jesus, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). It is not spectacular gifts but abundant fruit, which is the most important Christian characteristic.

Finally, the people Jude describes in verse 4 are like Korah and his followers. “They have gone the way [of those who] perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11). Korah and his followers rebelled against the duly constituted authority in Israel. In doing so, they rebelled against God. “They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?’” (Numbers 16:3).

Why? God organizes the congregation. God appoints elders and leaders. Furthermore, the Word of God exhorts, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him” (1 Peter 2:13-14). By “human institutions,” Peter indicates institutions established for human welfare such as the church and family and government. Any opposition here is to “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

Finally, Jude issues this indictment. “Woe to them!” (Jude 11). People within the visible church can be like Cain, or Balaam, or Korah. You and I must examine our hearts. Paul urges the Corinthians, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The KJV translates this text, “Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.” In terms of Jude 4, Jesus Christ is in you, except you be marked out for condemnation. If you are born again and profess faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, live by this profession of faith. Remember, “we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone” (James 2:24 NLT).

Denny Prutow

Respect for the Enemy (Jude 8-10)

2019-10-30T08:16:26-05:00 November 4th, 2019|

After exhorting you and me to defend the faith (verse 3), Jude urges us to respect the enemy. How so? We must know his cunning ways, avoid deception, and serve Christ. To assist us, Jude continues his description of ungodly persons who have crept into our midst undetected. They are tares sown in God’s field, imposters, who deceive and are being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).

Verse 8 refers back to those whom Jude mentions in verse 4 and his examples in verses 5-7. Verse 8 reads, “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.” Again, “these men” refers back to verse 4. “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Those who perished in the wilderness after the Exodus, the fallen angels, and the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7) exemplify “these men.”

Further described, “these men” are dreamers. They think they receive revelations from God by way of dreams and visions. They believe the Lord speaks to them directly. He directs them to buy such and such a house or such and such a car. They insist on immediate and present special revelation. At the same time, they defile the flesh by all sorts of improper behavior. Thus they reject the lordship of Christ over all of life. They make this excuse: God loves the sinner but hates his sin. The problem is that God casts sinners into eternal torment in hell, not just their sin. The cunning deception of the devil overcomes these men.

“Angelic majesties” is an interpretation of the underlying Greek text. The word may refer to reviling angels. It may also refer to earthly dignitaries ordained by God (Romans 13:1). Or it may refer to the God-ordained church authorities, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). In the latter case, “these men” revile their pastors and teachers, cater to lusts, and refuse to submit to the teachings of the Word of God.

In a presentation on a college campus, a student reviled and challenged the late Dr. John Gerstner. “I am regularly sleeping with my girlfriend. You cannot tell me I am not a Christian.” In his well-known gravelly voice, Dr. Gerstner responded with a quotation from Galatians 5:21, “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Contrary to those mentioned in verse 4, exemplified in verses 5-7, and further described in verse 8, you must preserve the vessel of your body and respect God-ordained authority.

Along this same line, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reminds us, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Verse 11 goes on to teach, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” That is, although you may have earlier lived contrary to the Word of God, now that you have been born again, you are no longer the same person you once were. You were cleansed from your sin and set right with God. Now, you must live your life according to the will of your Savior.

To emphasize the seriousness of rebellion against authority, Jude cites the case of Michael. “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9). Jude’s illustration may come from an apocryphal source. This fact should not give you pause. Jude writes under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should take his words to be as authoritative as any other portion of God’s inerrant Word. Jude takes us back to Deuteronomy 34:4 and God’s burial of Moses. It may be that God delegates the actual task of burial to Michael, the archangel, and general of God’s angelic hosts (Revelation 12:7). The body of Moses should not be an object of veneration and idolatrous worship. But Satan would have it so. He disputes with Michael. The lesson that Jude draws from this confrontation is the respect and humility of Michael. Although of high rank and power, Michael does not dare to assume the place of God and level a curse against Satan. He defers to the Almighty, “The Lord rebuke you.” Michael understood, and we should understand, that it is blasphemy to take God’s prerogatives and condemn the devil to hell ourselves.

You and I must take care. We must respect the enemy; we must know his cunning ways; we must avoid deception; we must properly serve Christ. Again, Jude 10 gives the contrast, “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.” Deep down, all men and women know the truth. “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:19). But sadly, “they suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). When cycles of self-destruction emerge, Galatians 5:15 warns, “If you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

To serve Christ as Lord is the only proper response. Yes, you and I must respect the enemy, know his cunning ways, avoid deception, and serve Christ.

Denny Prutow