In This Issue
- “Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance: Thoughts from the book of Philemon,” written by Hannah Clark
- Overcoming The Apostates: Thoughts from the book of Jude,” written by Dillon Jarrett
Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance
Thoughts from the book of Philemon, written by Hannah Clark
The book of Philemon is a letter from Paul to a fellow brother in Christ, Philemon. It is very short and was broken down into 25 verses so it’s one of Paul’s shorter letters. Despite its length, it holds a powerful message about forgiveness and accepting those that have come to Christ.
Verses 1-3 convey Paul’s appreciation of Philemon as a “fellow laborer” in Christ and the church that is in his house. Philemon is described in verses 5-7 as showing love and faith to the saints he encounters and sharing his faith with others. Paul mentions that the “saints have been refreshed by you” (vs. 7).
This description is one that should be commonly applied to those that are followers of Christ. In having traveled a lot in my life, I know of many I could apply this description to and it fills my heart with gladness. Knowing that there are Christians near and far is very encouraging.
Verses 8-16 reveal Paul’s main reason for writing the letter to Philemon. Paul is appealing to Philemon for the sake of Onesimus, a slave of Philemon. It is not revealed why Onesimus left Philemon but is assumed that Onesimus did not leave on good terms. After leaving Philemon, Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a fellow brother in Christ. Paul likens Onesimus as a son to him but is sending him back to Philemon and appealing to Philemon to take him back. Paul states that Philemon is receiving back more than a slave, but a brother as well.
It is sometimes hard for people to accept those that they felt have done them wrong or that they may not get along with. There is no room for this in the church and when there are those have decided to follow Christ, it is our job to welcome them as fellow brethren; to love and encourage them.
Paul concludes his letter in verses 17-25 by offering to repay Philemon for whatever/however Onesimus had wronged him. Paul has “confidence in [Philemon’s] obedience” that he will accept Onesimus and asks that Philemon prepare a room for him in the hopes that Paul will be able to visit. Paul lists his fellow workers that offer greetings to Philemon and closes his letter.
We don’t have a follow-up account of what happens when Onesimus returns to Philemon, but I would like to think (based on Paul’s account of Philemon’s character) that he welcomed Onesimus back as a brother in Christ and that he worshiped with the church that was in Philemon’s house.
Overcoming The Apostates
Thoughts from the book of Jude, written by Dillon Jarrett
Jude should become one of your favorite letters if it isn’t already. The depth and breadth of topics included in this divine rhetoric is full of spiritual nuggets. Please take a few moments with me to review Jude in the eyes of our topic, “Overcoming the Apostates.”
It isn’t coincidence that Judas, most likely the half brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), uses a different name to not have any semblance of the infamous Judas Iscariot. One of the most well known apostates, in accordance with prophecy and his own selfish ambitions (Matthew 26: 14-16), Judas fulfills the definition of apostate, “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.” This is the very problem that Jude will address throughout the letter.
From the outset, it is clear his intentions were to write about the glory of the Kingdom of God and our salvation, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). Defending the faith (THE GOSPEL) is a common theme in the epistles (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Cor. 10:5; Psalm 94:16); Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 4:2; Philippians 1:16; Ephesians 5:11). Yet, Jude felt rather compelled to dive into the discussion that he does. Rightfully so. The Gospel message is something that many had already given their lives for, namely Christ. Allowing others to contentiously, selfishly and inaccurately portray the word of truth was not something acceptable to Jude in his writings. It should not be for us, either. “The faith” doesn’t mean our own personal belief, or faith in the sense of our trust in God. The phrase the faith means “The essential truths of the gospel that all true Christians hold in common.” The faith is used in this sense repeatedly in the New Testament (Acts 6:7, 13:8, 14:22, 16:5, 24:24; Romans 1:5 and 16:26; Colossians 2:7, and 1 Timothy 1:2 are just some of the examples). We must contend earnestly for the truth. “The faith is the body of truth that very early in the church’s history took on a definite form (Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Galatians 1:23).”
Let’s notice how he addresses this problem. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 4-7). The apostates were predicted (Isaiah 8:19–22; 2 Thessalonians 2:6–10; 1 Timothy 4:1–2; 2 Timothy 3:1– 9; 2 Peter 2:1–9). This is the first part of Jude’s sermon: Sin Separates and can Sets One’s Fate. One of the scariest notations in this discourse is the idea that these men secretly slipped in among you. That is the danger with ungodly people or those who once with good intentions, abandon the truth for their own desires. They pervert the grace of our God into a license of immorality…deny(ing) Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord. This isn’t something his audience didn’t already know, but it needed reminding. He speaks of the Exodus and those who failed to believe after being relieved from bondage. Even the angels are bound to the Lord’s authority and were susceptible to condemnation. He finally points to Sodom and Gomorrah, specifically noting the immorality and perversion. Much could be said about the triplet representation above, but his point is simple: they serve as an example of those who suffer punishment of eternal fire. When we willfully sin and continue in that sin without desire to make our lives write with God, it should not be a surprise what one’s fate will be with those.
This way of thinking is dangerous. It is toxic. It is ungodly and not fitting for Christians to partake in or EVEN ENTERTAIN. One of the dangers we see today that is prevalent in all avenues of communication (news, government, social media, radio, etc.) is this: on the strength of their dreams, these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. It is rather important to note the point he makes next about Michael the Archangel. Much could be said about this angel’s power and history, but the point is clear. Even he understood sometimes it is necessary to engage in spiritual warfare, but also with who’s authority he was in subjection to. As powerful and glorious as Michael is referenced in the Testaments, he would not dare to rebuke with the devil upon his own authority. It was only through God the Father that he engaged. He knew his place. The danger of these individuals addressed in Jude is that, more than anything, they have no respect for authority, especially the one true Lord. Notice how he references them with another rebuke: Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain (Genesis 4:8-9); they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error (Numbers 22-25, 31); they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11). Jude’s points about these three are a pinnacle point in his argument. The most dangerous aspect of Cain’s attitude was unbelief and empty religion. We fear many attacks on the faith today, but none are more striking and detrimental than vain, empty worship and living. A Christian who is lukewarm or engaging in apostasy is just as dangerous to the congregations of God’s people as the dangers we often label outside our walls. Jude’s second point in this section is: Don’t Sell Your Soul for Materialism. The danger of Balaam’s decisions were that he based them in greed. He was willing to compromise everything for money. Think that is happening today? Selling a message that tickles the people’s ears to fill congregations to the brim? Those individuals spiritually feed their congregations empty plates while trying to convince those people (and themselves) they’re filled (2 Timothy 4:3). Too many individuals are lost in these messages that are sweet to ears, but sour to the soul. To conclude this point, certain men live out the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16). You could say this is the final straw in some ways. Korah’s problem with Moses was that he had this crazy idea that Moses was attempting to exalt himself about the congregation of the Lord.” (Numbers 16:3). He wanted the authority and ministry of Moses. That was ultimately his problem with Moses: he wanted the spotlight and needed to remove Moses in order to get it. The problem with his intention was that he forgot that Moses didn’t put himself in that position, God did. Korah needed to learn this essential lesson: we should work hard to fulfill everything God has called us to be. At the same time, we should never try to be what God has not called us to be. (Guzik). The most important principle from Jude’s final point would be this: Apostasy Can Come from Anyone and Any Walk of Life. Cain was a farmer. Balaam was a prophet. Korah was a leader within the nation of Israel. Problems can come from the pulpit, the pews, and anywhere else in the population. The future held for people that choose this path are sad existences. Spots in your love feast. They serve only themselves. Clouds without water. Trees that should bloom, who bear no fruit, not dead once but twice, pulled up from the roots (their perceived foundations.) Like streaking stars, their brightness is brief and always swallowed up in the blackness of the sky, a description of their destiny. A darkness forever that is never ending. He concludes with what Enoch says in prophecy about these types of individuals, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon