Thursday, June 11, 2015

The faith once delivered

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. 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 sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude 3-4

In preparation for leading a study of Jude Derek Rishmawy found that when it comes to heresy there is nothing new under the sun:
Apparently, false teachers and “believers” had stealthily snuck into the church and were threatening to lead people astray with their doctrines. What kind of doctrines are these? .... [I]t seems licentious antinomianism is probably the biggest issue. ....

.... There are about two or three arguments that I can spot Jude pointing to.

1. Abusing Grace. First, it appears that they were making a false appeal to Paul’s preaching of the gospel of grace. Mistaking grace for permission, they could be preaching “sin in order that grace may abound.”

Oh look, someone abusing the gospel of grace. How surprising.

2. False Appeals to “Visions”. Second, and the next two points are connected, they are appealing to “the strength of their dreams” (Jude 9). In other words, possibly some hyper-charismatic experience, or an appeal to a new, special experience of the Spirit that elevates or moves them beyond former moral norms given in the teaching of the Apostles or Scripture.

Oh look, someone abusing the claim of spiritual experience to downgrade Scripture. How surprising.

3. Assaulting the Law. Third, these “dreams” or visions taken to be superior to Old Testament moral law as given by lesser beings. ....

Oh look, someone is denigrating the revelation of the Scripture and the Apostles’ teaching as revealing God’s creative intent of Christian moral practice because we’ve moved past that. How surprising. ....

I know there are difficult issues involved with parsing the relationship with the OT and the NT, or contextualizing the preaching of the apostles in the 1st Century in the 21st Century. I have to say, though, when you begin to study the structure of heretical arguments made in the history of the church, there is a redundancy in form that becomes increasingly familiar. ....

Of course, that means that, despite the complexities, modern nuances, and varied ambiguities we need to manage, Jude’s call to “maintain the faith once for all delivered to the saints” remains the same. We haven’t “moved past” this, or progressed on to a fundamentally new stage in spiritual history. Yes, history moves on, but now, as then, we live between the comings of Christ. .... So, as difficult and tempting as it might be, we are called to keep ourselves from being drawn off into false teaching:
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
If you click through to Rishmawy's post you will find an interesting explanation of the context of Jude's letter.