The author of Jude’s epistle is generally thought to be a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, and was not considered an apostle. But let’s first consider what he wrote before looking at the apostle’s warning.
Jude 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
At the time of Jude there were godless men who through their teaching changed the grace of God into a license for immorality. According to Jude, this was equivalent to denying Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord. The Greek word for “deny” isarneomai and also carries the meaning “to contradict.” These godless men contradicted what Jesus Christ taught. By corrupting the grace of God through their teaching, they presented a different gospel and a different Jesus. Even though they still “believed” in Jesus, they effectively denied Him—ouronly Sovereign and Lord.
Now for the apostle’s exhortation
Let’s keep in mind Jude’s words above as we now consider the exhortation from Peter, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Through our knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, we have been given everything we need for life and godliness. We can become partakers in God’s nature and holiness and escape from the world’s corruption.
2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
We are to add to our faith the qualities of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Why is it necessary to make every effort to develop these qualities?
Qualities as the outward evidence of our salvation
2 Peter 1:8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By possessing these qualities in increasing measure, we can become effective and produce good fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this fruit, we will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Luke 3:9; John 15:5-6). In order to be saved, it is necessary that we produce good fruit.
2 Peter 1:9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Any Christian who does not have the listed qualities is blind, and has effectively forgotten that his sins have been forgiven. This does not bode well for that Christian.
2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The apostle urges us to make our calling and election sure by possessing the listed qualities in increasing measure, ensuring that we will never fall. Conversely, if we do not possess them, our calling and election might not be sure and there is the possibility that we could fall. Whatever “falling” might mean here, it is definitely not good—regardless of our position on the issue of “eternal security.”
False teachers among us
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.
What destructive heresies will these false teachers introduce? The apostle says that they will deny the sovereign Lord who bought them. According to Jude’s teaching above, godless men had slipped in among the believers and changed the grace of our God into a license for immorality and denied Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Peter is therefore referring here to the destructive heresy of changing the grace of God into a license for sin and immorality. He prophesies that such false teachers will also be among us to introduce the same destructive heresy. They will deny and contradict what Jesus Christ taught. In Matthew 5:29, Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” And in Matthew 5:48 he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Peter himself quoted the Lord’s words in 1 Peter 1:16—“for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
Today there are many who essentially teach that because of God’s “unconditional” love and grace through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, believers can sin at will and be forgiven by God as long as they confess their sins. They do not need to live holy lives. There will be no eternal consequence at all for their practice of sin. Because of God’s grace, they can effectively sin with impunity. In this way these false teachers effectively change the grace of God into a license for sin and immorality.
2 Peter 2:2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
Many Christians today believe these false teachers, and live lives little different from unbelievers in the world. They have brought the Way into disrepute. As just one example, the divorce rate in the Church is similar to the divorce rate in the world. We might also add unmarried “Christian” couples who live together in sin. “Christianity” is seen to be just one of many different religions, having a form of godliness but lacking any real power to transform sinners.
Greed and “spiritual warfare”
2 Peter 2:3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.
One identifying mark of some of these false teachers is greed. They exploit us by teaching that by grace God will bless us in every way and make us millionaires. And this will happen especially when we learn to sow generously—especially into their ministries and enable them to enjoy lavish personal lifestyles.
2 Peter 2:10a This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.
Even though some of these false teachers may appear outwardly successful and even appear on Christian TV, there is sin and darkness in their personal lives.
2 Peter 2:10b Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12 But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand.
Some of these false teachers today may be bold and arrogant and not afraid to slander celestial beings in the heavenlies. The Greek word tolmetes translated “bold” here in the NIV means literally “presumptuous.” The Greek word authades translated “arrogant” here means “self-willed.” The word “slander” in the Greek is blasphemeo, and means to speak impiously of or to revile. Could it be that some of these false teachers also promote the presumptuous and unscriptural practice of “spiritual warfare” in which we are to rebuke and drive out powers, principalities, and territorial spirits from geographical regions? Could such a practice actually approach blasphemy?
Jude echoes Peter in his eponymous epistle: “In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” (Jude 8-11)
Jude likens these presumptuous and self-willed teachers to Korah and his followers in Numbers 16 who presumed to take the priesthood upon themselves in their rebellion against Moses and Aaron in the desert, and were destroyed. We also must take care not to go beyond what is written in God’s word.
Friendship with the World
2 Peter 2:14a With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable;
The word adultery here is essentially the same word used in James 4:4 to refer to people who are friends of the world: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” These hypocritical teachers love the world. They seduce unstable and gullible Christians into giving offerings and financing their ministries and celebrity lifestyles.
2 Peter 2:14b …they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
Balaam, the hired gun (prophet)
Balaam of course was the Old Testament prophet for hire. Similarly, false teachers will be delighted to minister for a hefty fee. If you invite them to minister in your church, you will generally find their financial requirements exorbitant, including first-class airfare plus luxury hotel accommodations. (But if they can bring the crowds along with their offerings into your church, why not? You will still come out ahead.) They are experts in greed.
2 Peter 2:17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.
The false teachers entice new or unstable Christians with promises of blessings and financial freedom. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Unfortunately, here in Luke 6:38 Jesus is not referring to finances, but rather to forgiving others.
All of it will be burned up
2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
In view of the upcoming great and dreadful day of the Lord, we are not to love the world and the things in it (1 John 2:15). Rather, we are to live holy and godly lives in this present life. We are to put our hope in our reward in the age to come where we will dwell in the new heaven and the new earth.
2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
Actual righteousness, not just imputed righteousness
2 Peter 3:14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
Since we are looking forward to our home in the new heaven and new earth, we are to make every effort to be found spotless and blameless. This does not refer only to the “imputed righteousness” which comes by faith in Christ at the outset of one’s walk with the Lord, but also to the actual and practical righteousness which comes by growing in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
2 Peter 3:15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Paul was given much revelation about the grace of God. This is most evident in his epistle to the Galatians. However, ignorant and unstable people distort his writings to their own destruction. The word unstable here also means “vacillating”, as in vacillating between obeying the Lord and loving the world. The teachers who distort Paul’s teaching on grace will change the true grace of our God into a license for immorality and loving the things of the world. This will bring destruction to them and to those who accept their teaching.
Instead, we are to bear in mind that our Lord’s patience in delaying His Coming (so to speak) means salvation. We have time to repent of loving the world and to obey God’s holy commandment. We still have opportunity to get our lives in order before the great and dreadful Day of the Lord.
Falling from your secure position?
2 Peter 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.
The apostle urges us to be on our guard against the error of false teachers who take advantage of God’s grace and do not obey His commandment to live in holiness. If we are not on our guard, we can “fall from our secure position.” Here is an apparent oxymoron. If our position is secure, how is it that we can fall? The answer is that we are secure only if we continue to grow in the qualities of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. The true grace of God enables us to possess these qualities in increasing measure and to walk in holiness. This is true regardless of our particular understanding of the meaning of “falling from our secure position.”
Whatever our position on the question of “eternal security”, it is clear that the outward evidence of our salvation consists of these qualities and of the visible fruit which they produce in our lives.
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
When we grow in the true grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will have everything we need for life and godliness. We will be able to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. We will increase in those qualities emphasized by Peter, and become like the Lord.
Wrapping up, back again to Jude
Jude 24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Yes, God is able to keep us from falling. There is of course a condition—we must do our part. We must grow in the true grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who follow false teachers will be left with “cheap” grace which cannot save and which will leave them in the mire of sin and immorality. Since they have essentially denied and contradicted Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord, they will be left with another, pale imitation “Jesus” who cannot save them.