Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Word

The word of God is not a trifle; it is a matter of life and death. If you treat the Scriptures as a trifle or as empty words, you forfeit life.

John Piper

Sunday, September 22, 2019


Today we will do something you may well have never done before: study the Letter of Jude. I am not sure I have ever heard a sermon on Jude or been in a Bible Study on Jude, although I have read it several times. That may be because it is short. Or it may be because it has some different things in it, such as quotes from the book of 1 Enoch and a reference to a writing called The Assumption of Moses.


This is a letter rather than a book. Some call these letters epistles. This one has the classic Greek style, opening with the name of the writer, naming the recipients, and offering a blessing to the recipients.

The writer identified himself as Jude who was a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. Historically, he has been identified as one of the half brothers of Jesus and the brother of James. For example, Matthew 13:55 identifies the brothers of Jesus as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas.  Since James was the head of the Jerusalem church, as seen in Acts 15, Jude may have been trying to convey an additional sense of authority for his letter.

We do not know when Jude came to believe in Jesus. It appears from stories in that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him during Jesus’ lifetime. When his mothers and brothers appeared outside a house where Jesus was teaching, he said his mother and brothers were those who believe. In Mark 3:21, the family went out to seize Jesus, saying he was out of his mind.

However, 1 Corinthians 15:7 says Jesus appeared to James after his resurrection. Then, in Acts 1:14, we see that when the disciples were gathered in the upper room praying, Mary and Jesus’ brothers were with them. So, it is possible that James believed upon seeing Jesus resurrected, and then led his brothers and sisters, including Jude, to believe as well.  By the time he wrote this letter, about three decades after the resurrection, he considered himself a servant, or slave, of Jesus Christ. He had also been a missionary. (1 Corinthians 9:5)

Jude wrote the letter to a church, or as a letter to be circulated among many churches. He addressed his readers as those who are called, loved by the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.

Believers are members of the church and they were all called to to salvation. As Romans 8:28 says, they are those who are called by God according to his purpose.

Believers are loved by the Father. The are his beloved. Paul called the believers in Rome those who are loved by God and called to be saints. (Romans 1:7) He called the believers in Colassae God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. (Colossians 3:12)

And believers are kept by Christ. Nothing can take us away from him. Jesus said no one could snatch us out of his hand. (John 10:28)

The blessing in this greeting is that mercy, peace and love would be multiplied to them. He wanted God to give them mercy, peace and love in abundance.

False Teachers

As Jude transitioned to his purpose in writing, he again referred to them as “Beloved”. Given that he has just referred to them as “beloved in God the Father”, he is probably referring to that fact again. He was writing them as those whom God loved to give them instruction. The NIV translation of “dear friends” misses that point.

Although Jude wanted to write about salvation, he found in necessary to write to them to contend for the faith in the face of false teachers. Jude wanted them to strive intensely for the faith.

He called it “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. (3) “Faith” here means the traditional teaching of the apostles.

The gospel was complete when it was delivered by Jesus and the apostles. It is not supplemented or corrected. It does not change. (So, any religion that purports to correct the Bible, or write other books to add to it as Scripture, must be contested.)

But there are people who want to pervert the gospel. By the time Jude wrote this letter, people had come into the church who sought to pervert God’s word. Jude said they crept in, indicating a sort of sneakiness.

The people were designated for condemnation long ago. (4) God knew they would appear and decided they would face judgment for what they did. This is in line with Proverbs 16:4, which says “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble”.

They wanted two things: (1) to pervert God’s grace into sensuality and (2) to deny Christ as Lord.

There were those who taught that grace and forgiveness meant you had a license to sin. (4) This seems to involve sexual immorality since Jude mentioned sensuality. We know that, instead of a license to sin, we have a call to holy living.

These people also denied Jesus as our only Master (NIV says Sovereign) and Lord. They rejected his authority over their lives while still claiming to be Christians. They wanted to be free to make up their own rules for living.

Judgment on False Teachers

Jude wrote that there would be judgment for false teachers in verse 4, saying they were designated for condemnation long ago or that their condemnation was written about long ago. To prove his case, he referred to the Old Testament in three stories.

First, Jude reminded them that, after Jesus saved a people, Israel, from Egypt, he destroyed those who did not believe. He was referring to those who refused to enter the promised land and were condemned to wander in the wilderness until the whole generation died. (5) (Numbers 14)

This shows us that an initial decision to commit to Christ will not ensure salvation if one later rejects him and refuses to follow him. This would include the false teachers in Jude’s time. Commitment to Christ requires that we stand for him and we demonstrate genuine faith when we do so.  Perseverance in the faith is the sign of true faith and salvation, not saying magic words.

Second, Jude referred to angels who left their positions of authority and were kept in chains of gloomy darkness until the final judgment, when they would be cast into hell with Satan. This refers to the events of Genesis 6:1-4 when (fallen) angels took human women as wives.  God punished these angels for leaving their proper sphere and function. I do not think they are in literal chains, but they are confined and restricted, unable to enjoy god’s presence and experiencing everlasting torment.

This story is discussed in detail in the Book of Enoch, which is in the Apocrypha. Verses 14-15 also refer to this story in Enoch. Jude’s audience would have been aware of the Book of Enoch and this story, so the brief reference was enough for them to understand Jude’s point. Those who were once in God’s favor, lost it because they rebelled against him.

Third, God judged and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual immorality, their pride and lack of concern for the poor (Ezekiel 16:49). Their destruction is a type of punishment by eternal fire. (7) In other words, it was a type of hell.  This story is in Genesis 19.

Jude used these three examples to show that God will indeed judge and punish those who pervert his Word.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Third John is a letter, as was Second John. The writer identified himself as “the elder” which was also done in Second John. Again, we believe the writer of the letter was the apostle John.


The letter is written to a man named Gaius. John called him “beloved” and said he loved him in the truth. Therefore we know that Gaius was a Christian brother who had continued in the truth of the gospel as John had taught. And John loved him.

John prayed that things would go well for Gaius and that he would have good health, much the same as we might write to a friend today. I often begin emails with “I hope this finds you well” or “I hope you are well”. It was common in ancient letters.

John prayed for the physical well being of Gaius to go along with his good spiritual state (“as it goes well with your soul”). Gaius’ good deeds show that his spiritual life was good, that it was going well with his soul.

It appears that some brothers from John’s church in Ephesus had gone out on a preaching tour and had seen Gaius. They had reported back to John that Gaius was still walking in the truth. (3) This means Gaius was staying faithful to the truth taught by John and living accordingly.

This made John happy. He said he had no greater joy than to hear that his children were walking in the truth. “Children” would not mean young people here, but people John had led to Christ or had ministered to. Gaius was one of John’s children in this sense.

Supporting Missionaries\Providing Hospitality

John commended Gaius for extending hospitality to the brothers who had gone out preaching. He had done so much the brothers testified to it before John’s church. Evidently, Gaius had taken them in while they were in his city, and sent provisions with them for their journey when they left. He would also have vouched for them in his community.

John said it was good to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. This would mean generously and without holding back.

These brothers deserved this type of provision, because they went out for the sake of the name, meaning for Jesus, and they accepted nothing from the people who did not know Christ. John referred to them as Gentiles, meaning they were not part of the people of God. It also seems to mean that John saw the church as the new Israel, making all who were not part of the church Gentiles.

John also made the point that, when we support missionaries and evangelists, we become fellow workers. (8) We share in the work and can rejoice in the fruit of it.  Today, if we give to support the mission efforts of our church or denomination, we become fellow workers with them in proclaiming Christ to the world.


In contrast to the generosity and support of Gaius, was a man named Diotriphes. He wanted to be in charge and did not recognize John’s authority. He liked to “put himself first”. He told lies about John. (10) That is very bold, since John was one of the Twelve. John had even written a letter to the church about it. (9) And he intended to come there personally and address it. (10) He would almost be required to do this to restore his authority.

Diotriphes also refused to help the missionary brothers. (10) He may have done this because they came from John’s church. He even went so far as to put out of the church anyone who wanted to help the missionaries.

There are those who use church to satisfy their ambitions and desire for power. There are those who do not follow the teachings of the apostles that we have in the New Testament. We must watch out for those as they do not seek the mission of the church, but their own personal missions.

Instruction and Commendation

John’s instruction was to imitate good rather than evil. The implication is that Gaius should not imitate Diotriphes, who was doing evil, even to oppose him. Rather, he should imitate good by continuing to offer hospitality to the missionaries. This is a message from the Old Testament. Psalm 34:14 says “turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”. Because God is good, those who believe and obey him must be good. John said “whoever does good is from God. (12) Any time we use evil means, even to accomplish something good, we will bring evil into the church and it will cause harm. John said “whoever does evil has not seen God”, meaning he is not part of God’s family and in a relationship with him.

As an example, John touted the goodness of a man named Demetrius. Everyone testified to his goodness. Even John could testify to it. That is quite the commendation: everyone knows you are good.

Apparently, Demetrius was the bearer of the letter to Gaius, and this was John’s way of saying Gaius should extend hospitality to Demetrius, who was good, and who was vouched for by John himself.


As in 2nd John, John indicated he wanted to come and see them in person rather than communicate in writing. This is the same way he ended the letter of Second John.

He planned to come see them soon. They were friends of his and of those in his church.

Here are some things for you to think about this week:

  1. Are you walking in the truth? 
  2. Are you offering hospitality to your fellow believers?
  3. Are you supporting the work of missions and evangelism? 
  4. Are you obedient to the authority of your church? 

Godspeed as you think of these things, repent of any failures, and strive to love God and his church this week.

Sunday, September 08, 2019


The Greeting

This short letter is written in the form of the classic Greek letter. It begins with the identity of the sender, followed by the name of the receiver, and contains a blessing of grace mercy and peace. In contrast, 1 John begins with testimony to John’s first hand knowledge of Jesus and his message. It is more prologue than greeting and reflects the prologue of John’s gospel.

John does not name himself as the author, however. He refers to himself as “the elder”. This causes some to claim that the author is not the apostle, but another John who was an elder in one of the churches in Asia. However, John never names himself. He does not name himself in his gospel. He does not even include his calling as an apostle along with James, as Matthew does (Matthew 10:2). Instead he refers to “disciple whom Jesus loved”. Evidently John became humble over the three years he spent with Jesus.

John had evidently settled in Asia (modern Turkey), believed to be in Ephesus, and functioned as an elder, or the elder, in the church\es there. He, therefore, uses that title as one of authority. Peter also referred to himself as an elder in 1 Peter 5:1.

The church has historically attested to John’s authorship of the letter, so we will stick with that.

There is also difficulty in determining the recipient of the letter. John wrote to the “elect lady and her children”. The most common thought is that this is a metaphorical reference to a church, similar to the use of the word “bride”. Most of the usage of the word “you” are in the second person plural, which would fit the many members of the church.

The second view is that John wrote to a specific woman. This makes the use of the word “children” natural. But, John referred to “children” in 1 John to mean members of the churches. The end of the letter says that the “children of your elect sister” greet you, which also sounds personal rather than corporate. But, again, it could refer to a sister church and its members. Peter, for example, referred to the church in Rome as “she who is in Babylon”. (1 Peter 5:13)

Fortunately, neither view changes the meaning or theology of the letter. John wrote to warn his readers about receiving false teachers, or deceivers, who were itinerate preachers. Today he would warn against false TV preachers, and books teaching a false theology, as well as podcasts and videos.

In his greeting, John tells the readers that he loves them in truth as do all who know the truth, the believers. “Truth” here probably refers to Jesus, who called himself the truth (John 14:6), and who abides in us. (1)  It also previews John’s desire to insist on the truth they have been taught. That thought reminds us that, if Jesus is the truth, we need to be diligent to believe and teach only the truth, without error or speculation. John said the truth abides in believers forever.

John emphasized truth again in his blessing. (3) Grace, mercy, and peace be with us…in truth and love. Truth and love are not separated.

He inserted a point of theological truth by referring to Jesus Christ as “the Father’s Son”.

Walking In Truth

As Paul often did in his letters, John praises before he instructs. Here he rejoiced that some of her children walked in the truth. They held to the truth of the message of the gospel they originally received. So, some of the members of the church continued in the truth despite the existence and opposition of false teachers.

The instruction comes next, and it is similar to a major instruction in the first letter: love one another. (5) This likely means there was some lack of love in the congregation. This also may have been caused by the pressure of false teaching.

Also like the first letter, John tied loving one another to obeying the commandment (singular)  of the Lord. (6) John referred to the command they heard from the beginning, meaning the time they first heard and believed the gospel. This likely refers to same command referred to in 1 John 3:23: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us”.

Jesus’ commanded believers to love each other.  He said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.

We should obey this command to love each other. It should be our lifestyle. John wrote to walk in the commandments and to walk in this commandment. In the New Testament, “walk” is usually a metaphor for how we live in Christ. Even today we ask “how is your walk in Christ”, meaning how is your spiritual life, your life in Christ. Christians “walk” in obedience to Jesus’s commands. We walk in obedience to the command to love one another.

We need to walk in truth (4), obedience ((6), and love (6) because there are many deceivers who have left the church and gone out into the world to spread error. (7) They are those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh. The New Testament teaches that Jesus came in the flesh. John’s gospel was clear on this. He wrote “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. (John 1:14) He went on in his gospel to present Jesus as a flesh and blood man who lived, traveled, taught, suffered, died, and was resurrected in the flesh.

Deceiving and False Teaching

If you teach anything else, you are a deceiver because you are not teaching the truth. (7) You are also the antichrist, because you are teaching a doctrine that is against Christ, changing the truth about who he is and what he has done. Really, you are doing the work of the devil.

These ideas have consequences. If Jesus did not come and live in the flesh, his righteousness cannot be applied to you. If he did not die in the flesh, he could not pay the penalty of your sins. If he did not rise in the flesh, you are sentenced to live as a ghost for eternity.

So, we watch ourselves, to make sure we know, believe, and teach the truth. (8) If we wander from the truth, we risk losing some our reward in eternity. If we wander far enough, so that no longer actually abide in the teaching of God’s word, we are not abiding in God. This shows we are not saved, that we have chosen a version of Jesus that is an idol rather than the true one.

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is not an eternal being, but a created being. Thus, he cannot be divine. They also teach he is the same as the arch angel Michael, a created being, though Hebrews 1 distinguishes between the Son and angels.

Another example is the teaching of the United Pentecostal Church, which says Jesus was simply the earthly name of God. They do not believe in the Trinity.

Hugh Schonfield wrote a book in the 60s called the Passover Plot, where he asserted that Jesus was basically a con man who faked his death and resurrection. He had previously written a book defending the truth. He is one who went on ahead and did not abide in the teaching of Christ. (9)

All of this is deception and antichrist. But, those who abide in Christ’s teaching have the Father and Son. It is continuing in the faith that shows you are a believer.

Do Not Receive The Deceiver

John takes this issue so seriously that if anyone comes with different teaching, you should not let him into your house or even greet him, because, if you do, you take part in his wicked work. in their culture, receiving a person to stay in your house vouched for them to the community.

For us, it means we do not let false teachers into our pulpits, we do not teach or endorse their books, and we do not adopt their ideas.


This letter is short. Evidently John had much more to say, but he hoped to say it in person, face to face, and expected to be joyful in that meeting. (12) He also passed along the greeting of the “elect sister” he knew, which was likely the local church.

But the truth he stressed was too important to wait.

It has to be important to us also.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

A Song About Atonement


His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!

Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God's rage.

Draped in His righteousness, I'm justified.

In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

I cling to Christ, and marvel at the cost:

Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God.

Bought by such love, my life is not my own.

My praise-my all-shall be for Christ alone.

His robes for mine: what cause have I for dread?

God's daunting Law Christ mastered in my stead.

Faultless I stand with righteous works not mine,

Saved by my Lord's vicarious death and life.

His robes for mine: God's justice is appeased.

Jesus is crushed, and thus the Father's pleased.

Christ drank God's wrath on sin, then cried "‘Tis done!"

Sin's wage is paid; propitiation won.

His robes for mine: such anguish none can know.

Christ, God's beloved, condemned as though His foe.

He, as though I, accursed and left alone;

I, as though He, embraced and welcomed home!

(Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

Sunday, September 01, 2019


The Testimony to Eternal Life
1 John 5:11-12

God’s testimony to us, in addition to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, is that God gave us eternal life in his Son. That again is the message of John 3:16. Whoever has the Son has life. Those who do not have the Son do not have life.

When Martha confronted Jesus about the death of her brother, Lazarus, Jesus told her ““I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)

No other provision is made by God for eternal life!

Jesus said this clearly: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

Peter also said this clearly: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)


In conclusion, John said he wrote the letter to give assurance of salvation. He wrote so they would know they had eternal life, despite anything the false teachers might say.

In addition to eternal life, we have confidence toward God so that he will hear all of our prayers that are given in accordance with his will, and he will grant those requests.

There are those who teach that God will let a believer go astray, out of his will, even though the believer is earnestly seeking God. I do not agree with this. If we pray according to his will, he will grant our requests. He does not make that promise for things that are out of his will. He may not grant those.

As part of prayers, our asking, we should pray for those who commit sins that do not lead to death. He is speaking of believers whom we observe sinning. John says if we do, God will give them life. God will answer prayers for those in sin, granting repentance, cleansing, and resurrection on the last day.

But, God will not give life to those who reject Christ, believing and teaching falsely about him. A lack of saving faith cannot be forgiven. (16) He is likely referring to those who left the church and teach that Jesus did not come in the flesh and did not have to die for our sins.

A further confidence that those who are born of God do not live a life of continual sin, because God protects the believer from the evil one. (17) We, the believers, are born of God and receive this protection. Jesus is stronger that Satan and can protect us from him. Jesus prayed this for us also, in John 17:12-15, asking God to protect the disciples from the evil one.

There are those who believe the devil is responsible for our sin. Some will even claim they have a demon of lust or a demon of envy. But believers are protected from the evil one. So, you may be tempted, but you cannot be overcome by the devil.

James 4:7 says “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Jesus modeled this when he was tempted in the wilderness. Although he has fasted for 40 days, he resisted each of Satan’s temptations by believing and quoting the Scripture. And Satan fled from him. (Matthew 4)

But, believers can still be tempted and still sin. James placed the blame for sin squarely on the individual. He said “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth too sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:15-15)

But those in the world, who do not believe, do not have this protection, and are under the power and influence of the evil one. (19)

We can understand this things because we are in Christ, who gives us understanding. (20) He is true, he is the true God, and he is eternal life. He has given us the ability to understand this.

Since we know him who is true, we must keep ourselves from any belief, attitude, or practice that stands in the place of Jesus. Anything less than faith in him as the Son of God is idolatry. (21)