2 Peter and both of John’s first two letters have been concerned with the infiltration of false teachers into the church – “antichrists,” as John calls them. There’s a feeling that, as the distance from those first Witnesses grows, the danger of heresy gaining a foothold has grown as well. It’s hard to imagine that any teacher who denies “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” would ever have gained a hearing while Paul and James were within a letter’s reach; but such was the concern of Peter and John as they watched the second and third post-resurrection generations.
This final letter from John is addressed to his friend Gaius, whom John refers to as one of his “children.” The purposes are twofold: to commend Gaius on his faithfulness, and to warn him against a certain Diotrephes, “who likes to put himself first…” Pay attention to both John’s charges against him, and the appeals he makes to Gaius.
The second epistle we’ll read today is from “a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” named Jude. As “Jude” was a form of “Judas,” a name that appears along with James’s among Jesus’ brothers, it’s possible that this author is, like James, a brother (or half-brother, if you will), of Jesus.
He too is concerned about “certain people [who] have crept in unnoticed” and warns that they are “designated for this condemnation,” just as God destroyed those whom He rescued out of Egypt for their unbelief… as He condemned the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority… and as He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for pursuing sexual immorality and unnatural desire… Notice how Jude refers to these people as blemishes on your love feasts and warns that Jesus Himself had predicted their appearance.
There are interesting allusions to Cain and Enoch, Korah and Balaam, and to an otherwise unrecorded battle between Michael and the devil. Pay close attention to the connection of Jesus’ name with the Exodus generation – how Jude affirms John’s revelation that Jesus was with God, and was God. Consider how this subtle assertion – and others like it – restate his belief of who Jesus is to those who might be wavering.
Jude’s closing instructions are a fitting conclusion to these letters about false teachers. Reminding his readers of their higher calling, he explains, “you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the Apostles: [that] in the last days there will be scoffers…who cause divisions.” However, “You… keep yourselves in the love of God… and have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 15:11: For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
The Epistles of 3 John and Jude. Now let’s read them!
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’