For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 4
Jude introduces us to how the division within the church occurred. These false teachers “crept in,” literally “wormed their way in” to the church. Notice the phrase, “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation.” Let’s look at this for a minute. Jude is not saying that these men were somehow ordained to become apostates. To say that would mean that God was responsible for their sins. Instead, they become apostates because they willingly turned away from the truth. However, God ordained that such people would be judged and condemned. Old Testament prophets denounced false teachers of their day, and Jesus and His apostles pronounced judgment on them in their day. Why the judgment? They had denied the Son of God and taught that God’s grace permitted them to practice sin. All of this was done under the banner of religion and made the effects of their sin even greater. If you study your New Testament closely, you will see that Jesus offered His harshest criticism for those who used religion to isolate and promote themselves and to hinder others from coming to know the Father personally. Jude provides the progression of the apostate’s development: ungodliness – immorality – denial. Deviation from sound doctrine precedes, accompanies, and justifies ethical and moral sin. In v.5-7, Jude cites three examples of failure from the past to warn his readers of the danger involved in departing from God’s truth.
Example #1: Israel
5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.Jude 5
‘Though…this.” – Israel was very aware of how God dealt with them. It has been said that preaching is not designed to teach us something new in every sermon but to remind us of things we may have forgotten. For example, God redeemed Israel and liberated the nation from bondage in Egypt; but the people failed to continue to believe God’s promises to trust Him. Remember, Jude is using this historical event as an illustration. The entire nation was delivered, but it does not mean that every single person to the Promise Land. When Israel came to Kadesh-Barnea, they refused to enter the Promised Land. Of the twelve spies who were sent to look over the land God had promised them, only two believed God would give it to them. They departed from the fundamental basis on which they left Egypt. God had given them a promise:
Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ‘Exodus 3:16-17
Israel’s unbelief pushed them back into the wilderness, and an entire generation died – except two. The point is that God could not simply wink and nod at their sin. If Jude’s readers were to follow the false teachers, they too would face God’s discipline.
Example #2: Angels
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.Jude 6
Some angels did not remain in their privileged position near God (“did not keep their…authority”) but left that sphere (“abandoned their proper dwelling”) and so incurred God’s wrath. Some interpreters believe Jude alluded here to Genesis 6:1-4. Others believe he was referring to the rebellion of some angels that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. I agree with the latter – it is not a reference to Genesis 6. Jude’s point in this illustration was that the apostates in his day had also abandoned a position of great privilege and blessing, namely, the opportunity to serve and glorify God. Peter gave us another reference to the judgment of angels in his previous letter:
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.2 Peter 2:4
His “chains of darkness” are not references to the chains or handcuffs we know today. The rebellious “angels” he referred to are now in bondage (“in eternal bonds under darkness”) and await (“for”) God’s “judgment” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4). These appear to be different “fallen angels” from Satan’s agents who are at work in the world today, namely, the demons—who have considerable freedom. If the highest beings known in creation were subject to judgment, how much more is man?
Example #3: Sodom and Gomorrah
As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.Jude 7
The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are well documented. This example demonstrates God’s judgment on those who practice immorality and sexual perversion, which characterized the apostates of Jude’s day. Sodom and Gomorrah were “set forth as an example.” The verb means “to expose openly to the public.” It is the same word phrasing for a body lying in state. These cities are not physically in view, but they are viewed openly through the Word of God. We cannot read Genesis 18-19 without seeing God’s hatred of sin. In summary, Jude highlights the error of the false teachers that brought God’s judgment:
- The Sin of Israel (rebellion)
- The Sin of the Angels (irreverence)
- The Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (lust)
There is a close connection between false doctrine and immorality:
Unholy ways always accompany, and indeed spring from, unholy teachings. Hence we can easily understand the readiness with which apostates from the truth give themselves up to what is defiling and abominable.Henry A. Ironside