You’ll be glad to know 2 and 3 John and Jude are 3 of the 5 shortest books in the bible (the other 2 are Obediah and Philemon). So our last day of reading these seemingly interminable epistles shouldn’t take too long.
Nothing much in this little book, and nothing new, so I don’t need to spend any time on it. Basically it says to love one another (but of course, that applies to believers only; if in doubt read v 10-11). And beware of all those false preachers and ‘deceivers’ out there – anyone who doesn’t accept Jesus is a liar and an ‘Anti-Christ’. (And that makes the fifth and final time that this word appears in the bible.) This letter sounds like love but it’s just hatred in disguise.
Even shorter – the shortest book in the whole bible! Mainly it’s a personal letter written to another church member, bitching about some guy names Diotrephes, who John obviously detests. As far as I can see, that’s just dirty laundry, and more evidence of disputes within the early church. John makes malicious comments about the guy without really explaining the source of their disagreements, and we never hear the other side. I looked up this Diotrephes in Wikipedia. It says that nothing much is known about him, not even the location of his church, and that “It is debatable whether the antipathy expressed in 3 John is based on “a theological dispute, a clash of competing ecclesiastical authorities, a disagreement about financial responsibilities for the mission, or personal dislike”.” So there.
Like a number of previous epistles, Jude warns against false doctrines, but this is a little different in v 4, and I snickered. In modern translations, the verse reads“some ungodly people … [are] saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives” (NLT) or “They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (NIV), and I’m thinking – well, why wouldn’t they? Isn’t that a reasonable interpretation of what most of the epistles say? That’s certainly the basis of the ‘salvation by faith’ argument – true believers will be forgiven no matter what! Jude follows this admonition in v 4 with examples of divine punishment from the OT. (The angels referred to in v 6 are those who had sex with human females to form a race of giants in Genesis 6.)
V 8-11 rail against those who challenge authority and scoff at supernatural beings. (Me!) More examples of divine punishment for such sins follow, but the example in v 9 is not from the OT; it’s from a non-canonical book called The Assumption of Moses. And v 12-13 get to the point of Jude’s message: people like this are a harmful influence – don’t associate with them. As if I needed that to be spelled out!
V 14-15 – another example intended as a warning against having anything to do with non-believers. This time Jude claims that Enoch prophesied divine judgment against them. Enoch appears in the bible as the father of Methuselah in Genesis 5, but this quote is again not from the bible; it’s from another non-canonical book, the Book of Enoch 1:9. (And in the bible – in Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1, and Luke 3 – Enoch was the 6th generation after Adam, not the 7th.)
The last section is a fitting conclusion to the Epistles. V 17-23 offer a nice little summary of all the admonitions used to keep believers inside the faith
•Expect scoffers and don’t associate with them. They are just following their own ungodly desires. (v 18)
• People who (gasp!) question authority are just trying to create division. They don’t toe the line because they don’t have god’s spirit. (v 19)
• Keep reinforcing each other’s belief through praying together (v 20-21)
• If someone’s faith is wavering, do everything you can to bring them back to the fold (v 22)
• If they are too far gone to bring back, proceed with caution. Better to let them go than risk yourself becoming corrupted by their ideas. (v 23)
This last point is key. It’s fine to try to bring believers into the fold, or bring wavering souls back into the fold. But once someone becomes an outspoken apostate, better to leave them alone. Too much contact with someone like that, and there is a risk that the believer who goes to try to bring them back might end up being persuaded and leaving, too. We all know how this happens!
And there’s a nice bit of stereotypical Christianese to close… “All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” Amen is right – I am SO DONE!
PS I couldn’t even find any inspiring or interesting images for today’s readings – that’s how bland they are. And on that note – we move on to the final book of the bible tomorrow – Revelation. Are you ready for a wild ride?