Keep Yourselves in God’s Love––An Exposition of Jude’s Epistle (12): Remember to Remember

Despite all this, beloved, you must remember the words foretold by our Lord Jesus Christ’s apostles, 18 since they said to you, “In the last time, there will be mockers, pursuers of ungodliness according to their own desires. 19 These are the ones causing divisions, natural people, not having the Spirit.
Jude 17–19 (author’s translation)

Where I grew up, there are a lot of windy country roads with numerous surprise turns. When someone gives a long set of driving directions that involve one of these country roads, it is not uncommon to throw in advice like, “You need to remember when you pass the big oak tree on the left, there is a nasty curve just ahead.” So, even with a lengthy list of details, which indeed are important and necessary in themselves, at the end of these details, there is a prominent warning that must be remembered.

Jude wrote a long description of the false teachers that crept into the church which he addressed. As we have seen throughout our series, he began his letter with the purpose of writing a general letter about the salvation that Christians share in common, but had to redirect his thoughts in order to exhort this church to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The reason for this redirect was that false teachers had snuck into this congregation and were teaching so as to distort grace, reject Christ, and lead Christ’s people astray from the truth. In verse 5, Jude began his warning about how God had already revealed what these false teachers would be like through the Old Testament types and examples. Throughout verses 5–16, the whole set of examples and descriptions about the false teachers served Jude’s purpose, as stated in verse 5, to remind them of what they once fully knew. That section in verses 5–16 was then the long reminder that they had been instructed from God’s revealed Word about what false teachers would be like.

As we come to Jude 17–19, just like after the long details of directions down the winding country road, attention must be drawn back to that one warning about the nasty curve after the oak tree, so too after reminding this church of the details about false teachers, Jude had to draw attention to that one specific reminder that the apostles had forewarned about the coming of false teachers. This installment of our series on Jude argues that Jude reminds us to remember warnings about dangerous teachers.

A Reminder

As he pulled together everything that he had said about how the false teachers were corrupt and tied it to the direct situation of this church, Jude claimed that the false teachers in this church fulfilled what the apostles already said would happen. Jude’s use of this apostolic prophecy summarizes everything he was trying to get across since verse 5. He started a long reminder there: “Now I want to remind you . . .” and so carried through his various points from the Old Testament examples that this church should have known about the nature of false teachers.

As it comes time to pull his thoughts together, Jude returns in verse 17 to emphasize that what he wrote is a reminder: “Despite all this, beloved, you must remember the words foretold by our Lord Jesus Christ’s apostles . . .” That opening concession has the sense of drawing toward a summary point: despite all those details that have been recounted, the thing we really must remember is that Christ’s apostles told you this would happen. In terms of our opening illustration, Jude gave a long list of directions but paid special attention to this summary warning reminder.

The specific reminder which Christ’s apostles issued was that, “In the last time, there will be mockers, pursuers of ungodliness according to their own desires.” This foretold problem is why this church must contend for the faith once for all delivered. They must contend because we are all to remember that Christ revealed through his apostles that ungodly people will be present.

Here is the catch: this prediction is actually more loaded than it appears. Notice that the little phrase “In the last time” obviously refers to the time in which Jude’s readers lived. Why would Jude note that time reference? Because history changed with the coming of Christ. What Adam destroyed with his sin, God, from even the moments after the Fall, promised to overcome this calamity through the seed of the woman. As the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate erupted from heaven into history and split the ages apart so that everything that God had formerly promised has now been performed. Christ will return to complete what he began, but the end of the ages has started.

When I was a teenager, the big anticipation was about getting a driver’s license. The first step though was getting a learner’s permit. So, you took the written test and obtained this permit. You still had to drive with a licensed driver supervising, but everything had changed because you could drive. The countdown was on to when the full culmination of driving would come. My life changed with a learner’s permit because, even though the completion had not yet arrived, I could drive.

The point of that illustration is that, even though the end of the ages has not yet fully come, it has begun. With Christ’s coming, the beginning of the end has started. His first appearing on earth was the starter’s gun firing the signal that God’s history was boiling towards its high point when Christ would judge the world and free his people entirely. We live in this last time. We live in the tension between when Christ secured redemption and when he will complete it. During this last time, the apostles said that scoffers will be notably present, ones who chase after their own ungodly passions. Jude highlights how the false teachers who had infiltrated this church to whom he wrote are the ones who fulfill this prophecy.

With his typical reference to the false teachers as “these people,” verse 19 says, “These are the ones causing divisions, natural people, not having the Spirit.” The ones the apostles predicted, at least some of them, are in the midst of that church and are splitting up the church by defending godless practices, since they in fact entirely lack the presence of the Spirit. Jude redirected his discussion to a reminder by warning the church that these false teachers are those ungodly people whom Christians need to remember are a threat if we let them teach.

A Remembering People

Jude highlighted that these false teachers were the kind of people whom the apostles’ testimony said would come. His emphasis was on how his first readers should know it already. So, we have an exhortation that Christians must be remembering people.

This letter’s context is a very difficult situation for this church. They were plagued with teachers, those who are supposed to lead and guide them, who have abused their power in order to achieve their own gain. They are likely confused by how what they are being told they must do conflicts with what they know they have been told by Christ’s apostles. They are likely tempted to adopt this message that would take away so many of the burdens of the Christian life in fighting against sin and striving after godliness. So, the context for these believers was that they are in a hard spot, troubled, confused, overwhelmed, and tempted. Maybe that sort of context sounds familiar to you?

As Jude draws together his address to this situation, he says, “Christian, remember what you have been told.” Likely, we cannot underscore that summons enough even today. Christian, when you are troubled, when you are confused, when you are overwhelmed, when you are tempted, is your default question to ask, “What do I need to remember?” If I were to guess, I would think that is not the case for many of us. Our default is to think about how we can fix our problems, we think about who to blame for our troubles, or we think about all the reasons that our temptations are understandable and probably justifiable. We lock onto the present and sifting through the present, rather than summoning ourselves to remember. Whatever our trial, we are meant to be a remembering people.

A Remembrance

If we are to be a remembering people, what are we to remember? Whatever trouble, whatever sin, whatever temptation confronts you today, we ultimately must remember Christ. We must remember that he came to earth not simply to distribute new truth, although he did, but to overcome those who would lie to us. Whether those lies are that God does not exist, that God has no expectations for holiness in our lives, or that Christ has not dealt with our sin, Christ disproves them all.

We remember how he came for sinners, those condemned by what we have done against God’s holy law. We remember how he lived the perfect life by taking on a body, a full human nature, so that in our nature he might fulfill the law as we were supposed to do as the condition to enter heaven. We remember how in our nature, he let his body be broken for us. The body he used to earn our everlasting life he gave to be crushed to endure the wrath owed to us. He shed his blood so that all our sins might be washed away. For all who place their trust in him, we receive full pardon and full guarantee of life. This is not some disconnected life in the future though. Christ grants us full fellowship with him here and now.

Does that not bring us to the most amazing point? The foremost thing we need to know is not that we need to remember Christ. Rather, we foremost need to know that Christ remembers us. He went to the cross knowing your name. He stands in heaven remembering your name now, bringing you before his Father’s throne in his intercession. He remembers us as he sends his Spirit to equip us for whatever he may give us to do in this life. We remember Christ because he first remembers us. And when we are on Christ’s own mind, we have the strongest support imaginable in every situation we face.

©Harrison Perkins. All Rights Reserved.

Here is the entire series so far.


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