Christianity and the Next Millennium
1 Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
2 Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3 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.
4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJ)
As Christianity begins a new millennium what is it that she is to do. Have we come to a new age or is this just the continuation of the old age?
I think that we can derive great benefit from looking at the challenges that faced the first century church as we face the first century of the new millennium. I many ways things are very much the same as they were then. Many of us over fifty have become used to a society in which Christian norms were generally held and accepted. Where people knew what the Bible said was wrong and although they might not follow it, they did not question the genuineness of its teaching.
Today we are quite a different community. A community where God has been regulated to the whim of the individual. What ever you think God is that is what He is.
We have elevated man above God and have as someone said made God in our own image. But the situation for the first century church was very similar. They faced a society where there was no right and wrong. What the emperor said was right and if you didn't agree you could pay with your life. This new group called Christianity was tolerated more than accepted and in places where they gained a hearing, they soon found opposition to what they taught.
The morality of the days of the New Testament was whatever people wanted it to be. Temple prostitution had combined the immoral scourge of prostitution with the worship of the Greek and Roman gods. Marriage meant nothing and mistresses were the accepted lifestyle for those who could afford them. Homosexual behavior was rampant being accepted by the Romans and the Greeks.
In 1 Pet 1:14-25 Barclay tells us of the state of the world into which the Christian Church was trust. "It is the life dominated by desire (1Pet.1:14). As we read the records of that world into which Christianity came we cannot but be appalled at the sheer fleshliness of life within it. There was desperate poverty at the lower end of the social scale; but at the top we read of banquets which cost thousands of pounds, where peacocks' brains and nightingales' tongues were served and where the Emperor Vitellius set on the table at one banquet two thousand fish and seven thousand birds. Chastity was forgotten. Martial speaks of a woman who had reached her tenth husband; Juvenal of a woman who had eight husbands in five years; and Jerome tells us that in Rome there was one woman who was married to her twenty-third husband, she herself being his twenty-first wife. Both in Greece and in Rome homosexual practices were so common that they had come to be looked on as natural. It was a world mastered by desire, whose aim was to find newer and wilder ways of gratifying its lusts."
1 Cor. 6:9-11 Barclay says, "We have left the most unnatural sin to the end--there were homosexuals. This sin had swept like a cancer through Greek life and from Greece, invaded Rome. We can scarcely realize how riddled the ancient world was with it. Even so great a man as Socrates practised it; Plato's dialogue The Symposium is always said to be one of the greatest works on love in the world, but its subject is not natural but unnatural love. Fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman Emperors practised unnatural vice. At this very time Nero was emperor. He had taken a boy called Sporus and had him castrated. He then married him with a full marriage ceremony and took him home in procession to his palace and lived with him as wife. With an incredible viciousness, Nero had himself married a man called Pythagoras and called him his husband. When Nero was eliminated and Otho came to the throne one of the first things he did was to take possession of Sporus.
Much later, the Emperor Hadrian's name was associated with a Bithynian youth called Antinous. He lived with him inseparably, arid, when he died, he deified him and covered the world with his statues and immortalised his sin by calling a star after him. In this particular vice, in the time of the Early Church, the world was lost to shame; and there can be little doubt that this was one of the main causes of its degeneracy and the final collapse of its civilization."
Again on Barclay says on Romans 1:26-27 "Society from top to bottom was riddled with unnatural vice. Fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman Emperors were homosexuals. So far from exaggerating the picture Paul drew it with restraint--and it was there that he was eager to preach the gospel, and it was there that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The world needed the power that would work salvation, and Paul knew that nowhere else than in Christ did that power exist."
- The Author of this Letter. Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
- It is commonly believed by conservative scholars that this Jude is the Lord's brother.
- In <Mk 6:3> are found the names of those of whom Jesus is said to be the brother, namely, James and Joses, and Judas and Simon. It is quite generally held by writers that the James and Judas here mentioned are the two whose epistles are found in the New Testament. (from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft)
- Mark 6:3 "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him. (NKJ)
- Others think that this was Judas, not Iscariot, who was one of the Apostles.
- Luke 6:15-16 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor. (NKJ)
- This would make Judas either the brother of James and John, sons of Zebedee or a brother of James the son of Alphaeus.
- It is much more probable that he was the brother of James, the first pastor of the Jerusalem Church, who was along with himself the brother of our Lord.
- Because of the Catholic Church teaching of the perpetual virginity of Mary, many like this latter view.
- Most importantly in Jude's view is that he is the bondservant of Jesus Christ.
- In a day and age when we make a big deal about titles, it might seem strange that he would not bring out this point.
- But as with the rest of the writers of the New Testament, Jude was humble, recognizing that it was by God's grace alone that he had such a blessed privilege.
- The Desired Purpose for the Letter. Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
- He wanted to write a letter concerning their common salvation.
- I too would like to always bring messages that would make us all feel good.
- But some times I must challenge you and myself.
- Some times I must warn.
- Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim 4:1-2 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (NKJ)
- This would have been a letter similar to the one Paul wrote to the Ephesians explaining to them the marvelous grace of God.
- It would be nice if all we had to preach was messages that were up beat and positive.
- But there are warnings to be heeded and rebuking to be done.
- Even in Paul's letter to the Ephesians the last half is given to instructional matters.
- How did the first century church meet the challenge of their millennium?
- They boldly proclaimed Jesus as the only Savior of people from their sins.
- They bold took the gospel into every facet of their lives.
- The uncompromisingly proclaimed that man is hopelessly doomed withou Jesus as Savior.
- They stood against the moral corruption of the society and changed it.
- They determined to obey God rather than man.
- They depended on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- They prayed and prayed and prayed.
- They grounded themselves on the Word of God, not on the philosophy of man.
Are you earnestly contending for the faith? Or are you standing on the sidelines?
You have to get in the race in order to win. My mother never attended church that I can remember when I was growing up. But when she got in her sixties and seventies she never missed a worship service or a Bible Study. She finally got in the race and contended for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
If you have never been saved you are not in the race.