This was a tough passage for me. Standing up for Jesus is exactly what I do, and it’s how I roll. But it wasn’t always the case. I was often deceived by those in church who “sounded good” but weren’t living a godly life. These folks didn’t have God’s seal of approval, but because they were in church, I thought they could be trusted. Jude is putting us on alert to be careful about these people. His opening lines welcome “all who have been called by God the Father,” and the message is timely for us today as well.
It takes more than going to church to make a person holy or in tune with God’s direction for their life. Over the past couple years, I’ve taken a much deeper look into what my faith means to me, what my relationship with God looks like, and how I’m sharing the gifts God has given me. It’s been a process. I’m the first to admit I’m a work in progress! We need to listen up to Jude’s warning here. It’s my prayer for you, as well, to be building a deeper relationship with God.
Have you ever been overwhelmed, unsure of what you should be doing? Maybe it was for a task as simple as changing a lightbulb. If you’ve never done it before, it might seem like a daunting task. I’m guessing Titus was a little in over his head in Crete. He and Paul had been together in Crete initially setting up churches. Despite the fact that Paul had appointed elders in some of those churches, those elders needed to be led.
If you’ve ever been involved with a new church plant, you know there is a ton of work that goes into it. Raising up faithful leaders is one of the key parts necessary to having a healthy church community. Paul reminds Titus here what qualities to look for in elders and church leaders. I wasn’t clear whether or not we were talking about two different levels of leadership or not. Either way, church leadership should be carefully chosen and live according to these standards.
Isaiah calls it out plain as day. “Look, a righteous king is coming!” Having suffered under power hungry kings who were not focused on God’s will, the idea of a righteous king must sound amazing. Bad things will befall Judah, but they can look forward to the day when God sends Jesus, a king unlike any other king. One who promises to rule with justice.
“In that day” we hear some remarkable things will happen. Evil will be exposed as evil. We can look around today and see how evil is infiltrating our world on many levels. It’s like people are blind to it and even attracted to it. It’s alarming really. Yet this phenomenon is nothing new. Even when Jesus came the first time, the people didn’t recognize him, and evil was allowed to play a role in his death. While we don’t understand, we know God has it under his control.
Paul is getting personal here with the Galatians. He knows they are struggling in their faith walk because of the agitators trying to confuse them and cause them to feel unworthy. Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? What do you do? Perhaps you’ve tried to do something to get people to like you, accept you, allow you into the “in-crowd.” Paul is not only acting as their pastor but as their friend.
When we get off track, we often need someone to pull us back up. Paul is doing that by taking them back to the beginning. “Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News.” Paul doesn’t need to go into the details of his illness, because that statement alone will take the believers in Galatia back to their first encounter with Paul. We may be curious as to what was afflicting him, but it doesn’t matter. Paul reconnects with them by having them remember.
Who better to teach on the law than Paul? After all, he was so zealous in upholding it and enforcing it prior to his conversion experience. There is also the promise of God to Abraham we can’t overlook. The promise came first, and the law didn’t abolish it or change it. “For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.” We read yesterday about how that promise of God now extends to us because of Jesus.
Paul asks a question we are probably all asking, “Why, then, was the law given?” We could probably all give our answer to this question, and scholars across the ages have wrestled with it, too. Simply put, God knew we needed it. I love how Paul gives us the picture of the law being our guardian as we waited for Jesus. As a guardian, the law gave us a measuring stick of our sinfulness. It protected us by giving us rules to live by. It also allowed the mediators and judges to have a basis to rule on “legal” matters. God knew his people would need to have these boundaries to keep them safe from their sinful tendencies and from being weak in the face of temptation.