These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
As Jude begins to wrap up his indictment of the false teachers in the church, he uses a battery of metaphors to describe them, beginning with “blemishes at your love feasts.” This is the only place in the New Testament where the expression “love feast” is used, but the practice is discussed in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. In the first century many congregations observed communion in the context of a larger meal where fellowship among believers was expressed and the poor were fed. Indications are that in the second century, these meals were separated from communion into two different occasions.
Other than that, I think Jude’s metaphors are pretty self-explanatory, and we easily can see his disdain for false teachers. In the next short paragraph, things get interesting…
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
This is one of Jude’s uses of extra-Biblical source I mentioned earlier; it might help you with this section to go back to it if you don’t remember it. Here Jude uses this quote from 1 Enoch, and in so doing, he is summing up his case against the false teachers. That these people have run well afoul of the Lord is made abundantly clear with the reminder that they are headed for a fiery judgment.
That there is false teaching in the world around us should come as no surprise. Since “the world around us” is generally understood to mean that which is apart from Christ and the community of believers is clear enough, so apart from Him what kind of teaching would we expect to find? The thing that has Jude writing a letter of this sort is that these false teachers are within the Body of believers, passing themselves off as followers of Christ, while teaching people to rebel against Him. Ah yes, this is a different matter entirely.
Do we have such people within the larger Christian community today? Before you answer that one, please keep in mind that Jude isn’t accusing them of making mistakes, being confused or being in error unintentionally. His whole premise is that they are deliberately trying to pry people away from the truth for the purpose of deceiving them into turning their backs on their relationship with Christ; serious indeed, the devil’s work. So, do we have this problem today? If so, how will we respond to it?
Something to carefully consider.
In the next section, Jude moves into his closing in a wonderful way.
It’s interesting…this is one of those passages that reveals to me that I’ve let the “ohh the church is so harsh and judgmental these days” crowd cow me into adopting softer tones towards everything. Jude is a good reminder that I’m not accountable to them and that plain language is warranted to keep God’s truth clear.
Jude certainly reflects Jesus. It’s always interesting to look at the difference between how Jesus treated garden-variety sinners and hypocrites. He never hesitated to call the latter out, but was never openly critical of the former. This passage is pointed, but the language is pure poetry, perhaps of the sort that could be used at a slam. 🙂
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