Summary: The intent of this message is to encourage the community of Christ to ensure that the house of God is place of grace and a place of righteousness.
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ: 2May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance. 3Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1-4; NRSV)
If you are familiar with the nascent Under Armour commercials, you will remember the ones in which the pre-game pep talk included the statement ‘We must protect this house!’. That is a declaration that inspires and creates a common purpose.
But long before the Under Armour commercials, that same declaration was made in Jude’s epistle. The readers of the letter were informed that they would have to contend for the faith; the welfare of the church would not roll in on the wheels of inevitability. The text suggests that there were people among the believers who had hidden agendas; these agendas would result in derailing the growth and credibility of Christianity. Interestingly, these intruders were not looking for spouses or access to the offering plate. Rather the object was two-fold: (1) to pervert God’s grace and (2) to deny Christ as Master and Lord.
We may look at this text and say ‘That was a long time ago; people don’t do that anymore’. Especially in the United States – we have a constitutional right to practice our faith and most churches are open every Sunday. Hence it is well with our souls. However, if we think carefully about the two problems mentioned, I think we will see that this ancient text is still applicable today.
Let’s work our way through the text. As the author expresses an eagerness to write about a shared salvation, he first issues a warning. There are people who are in the fellowship of forgiven sinners that want to exploit God’s grace for their own purposes. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that our salvation is a gift from God. But there were persons who wanted to pervert this grace. There are a couple of ways that could happen. First, one could say that we can continue in sin, that grace may abound - licentiousness; do what you want – give in to your desires – think, say and do whatever you want because it is all under the blood of Christ. As second way is to attach some ‘house rules’ – the things that people must do be accepted by the fellowship beyond having faith in Christ. In either case, to pervert God’s grace cannot be done without ignoring the letter or the spirit of the scriptures. In those areas of life that the scriptures do not explicitly address, there is enough from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament to give us a sense of how we should relate to God and each other. To love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves means that the grace of God is fine ‘as-is’ – straight- no chaser.
The author also mentions a desire to deny Jesus Christ, described as Master and Lord. Please note that ‘Christ as Savior’ is different from ‘Christ as Lord’. The title of Savior speaks to His death for us, but the title of Lord speaks to our death for Him. Colossians 3:5-11 puts it this way: 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.
Hence to deny Jesus as Master and Lord means that we will accept His sacrifice but not return the favor. It means that we want to live on our own terms but not make the effort to conform to His expectations of righteousness. The expectation of righteousness is not a prepayment for salvation (for we are saved by grace through faith) but rather a response to the salvation that we freely received.