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Jude: "Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness" - a much relevant warning

Jude is a very short epistle, just 25 verses all in all. But it is both powerful and with an evident urgency. Verse 3 starts right away on the subject:

Jude 3
"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

The "faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" was in danger and the believers had to fight, to contend, for it. What was wrong, what was happening? The next verse says it:

Jude 4
"For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into lasciviousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

These people were doing two things:

1. They were perverting the grace of our God into lasciviousness.

2. They were denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.

But how did they do that? As Jude says: they had crept in unnoticed. This then indicates that they were not explicitly and loudly saying that "Jesus Christ is neither our Lord nor our Master". Else they would immediately be noticed. Instead they "crept in unnoticed", perhaps by transforming themselves the same way Paul says that the servants of Satan transform themselves into ministers of righteousness:

2 Corinthians 11:13-15
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."

Satan’s workers are not coming, presenting themselves as wolves, because then they would be noticed. Instead they come camouflaged as sheep. They appear as "ministers of righteousness", but their very works show that they are not.

The fruit, the life that somebody lives, what he is practicing is the clearest and I would say the only true indicator of whether he is a real sheep or a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Lord said this very clearly in Matthew 7:15-20:

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. "

Despite the camouflage, the fruit, the works of these people – and not the sheep’s clothing they are wearing - is the unmistakable indicator of whose servants they truly are.

In addition , as Jude 12 says: "these are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear". In other words these people were taking part in the common meals – the love feasts - the believers were having as a church.

Now let’s summarize:

i) These people had crept in unnoticed. This indicates that they had camouflaged themselves to look like sheep while in fact they were ravenous wolves.

ii) They were participating together with the true believers in the common meals they were having as a church.

iii) the believers had no idea that these were really wolves and the danger they posed. If they knew the danger, they would already be contending for the true faith once delivered to the saints and there would be no need for Jude to urgently ask them to do so.

I believe these facts tell us that these false teachers were presenting themselves as Christians. In fact Jude is very similar to 2 Peter 2, which also speaks about false teachers who, before they turned away becoming false teachers, were indeed of the family of the believers. I do not know whether they both speak about exactly the same situation but the only way I see that these people got unnoticed, despite the corruption they were spreading, is by posing themselves as Christians.

Turning into what they were doing, they were: perverting the grace of God into lasciviousness and denying our only Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Let’s now get into each of these.

"Perverting the grace of God into lasciviousness"

Concerning the word lasciviousness, this is a translation of the Greek word "aselgeia". This word is used 10 times in the New Testament and shows up in the related lists of the works of the flesh (see Mark 7:21-22, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-21). According to Vine’s dictionary it denotes:

"excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness;"

Perhaps the NIV has the best translation of Jude 1:4 when it says:

"They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality".

These people had perverted the grace of God into a license for immorality. But how did they do this? I believe through perverted teaching, in word and in deed. In the "grace" they were teaching there was also a place for living in lasciviousness and sin. Was somebody living in sin? Well, not such of a problem. Their "grace" covered also this. It is difficult to understand what was happening exactly and I do not want to read more into the text than what it really says, but it is a fact and written in the text that they were indeed perverting the grace into a license for immorality, sin.

"Denying our only Lord and Master Jesus Christ"

Furthermore, it is written in the text that these people were denying our only Lord and Master Jesus Christ. The word translated as "Master" is the Greek word "Despotes", from which the English word "Despot" derives. It means absolute Lord. In other words, Jude is using two very similar words, one of them very strong, to point out the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ, which these people were denying.

But can it really be? Can such people creep into the church, fellowship with the believers, practically deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ, pervert the grace of God into a license for immorality and yet get unnoticed? Unfortunately it can happen. In fact I believe it happens today. Many are those today who teach a message of cheap grace. A grace according to which Jesus is more our servant than Lord. A grace in which somebody is saved once and for all the minute he believed and what he will do after that minute, whether he will stay in the faith, whether he will stay in the vine, in Christ, is not that relevant. What is relevant is that moment of faith. The beginning rather than the end. Do you want to live according to the world? It would be good not to do it, they may tell you, but if you do it, it is not that of a problem! The grace is grace! To summarize it in one phrase: you can, according to them, to be the following oxymoron: a Christian but not a disciple of Christ. But as Acts 11:26 tells us:

"and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians"

It is the disciples that were called Christians. To tell it differently: there is no such thing as Christians who are not disciples of Christians. Whoever is not a disciple, a follower of Christ, is not a Christian.

As the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer summarized it:

"cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."

Unfortunately such is the grace that many teach and their teaching has been very popular. It is however a fake grace, a distortion of the true grace of God and we should be alerted so that we do not fall victims of it. And as Peter closes his second epistle:

2 Peter 3:17-18
"You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

Chapter 6: Do we lose our salvation every time we sin?

 

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou