Jude reminds the church that there are “ungodly people” who have “slipped in among you” (v.4). This should be no surprise to us – there are always wolves in sheep’s clothing in our midst. Even Jesus had to rebuke one of his closest disciples as a pawn of Satan (cf. Matthew 16:23 – “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”)
Jude doesn’t mince words in describing those who would seek to plant seeds of disunity and destruction in the church – he identifies them as those who “reject authority” (v.8); they are “blemishes at your love feasts” and “shepherds who feed only themselves” (v.12). They are “clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted – twice dead” (v.12). These people are “grumblers and faultfindersl they follow their own evil desires” (v.16). They are “scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires” (v.18).
Jude makes it very clear that these are the people we need if we want to divide a church because they are the ones who “follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” (v.19). Harsh words, to the point of suggesting that the Holy Spirit is not even present in hearts and minds of these people.
So, if you want to split a church, Jude has the recipe:
– listen to those who are ungodly
– listen to those who follow their own desires
– listen to those who do are not growing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5 – “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.)
However, if you want to pursue unity in the church, Jude has the receipe for that as well:
“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourseves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (v.20-21).
Jude echoes the words of Paul in Ephesians 4: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”