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Lessons From Jude Pt.2: Gospel Centrality in Theological Teaching

 

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you exhorting that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Jude 1:3-4

As relatively new parents, my wife and I quickly become overwhelmed when we consider the weighty task of educating our sons in theology. After all, the Bible is a large book and church history is a long time. With a subject that contains thousands of topics, categories, key figures, ideas, movements, and so forth, what should be prioritized?

If you teach the Scriptures in any capacity or pastor a church, this is a feeling with which you also may be all too familiar. With so much to teach, what should you teach? While the answer to that question, of course, is contextual, Jude provides us with a helpful framework.

Jude indicates that he made “every effort” to write to his audience about common salvation, but subsequently shifted to exhorting them to contend for the faith. One wonders how Jude’s intention became diverted. Had Jude always wanted to write an epistle to these individuals and, shortly before doing so, he was alerted that theological charlatans had crept into the church and threatened to disrupt their spiritual homeostasis? Or did he know about these false teachers for some time and, when he sat down to pen the church an epistle about common salvation, he felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to instead write about contending for the faith?

The text does not tell us when or how Jude’s intention became diverted, but we can agree that he made the right decision in redirecting his approach. If the Gospel was indeed being misrepresented in the assembly to which he was writing, then nothing was of more importance than addressing that misrepresentation. Jude’s approach teaches us two lessons, one practical and one theological.

From a practical perspective, Jude teaches us the value of prioritization, which is a skill anyone must master if they wish to be high achievers in a particular field, including the fields of theology, pastoring, church planting, and so on.

To accomplish multiple goals or tasks throughout the day, you must prioritize only the tasks that are relevant to the overall goals you wish to achieve. By prioritizing those items and ignoring items that are not relevant to your goals, you are ensuring that none of your valuable time is spent on tasks that do not matter. This is, in one sense, what Jude is doing here.

He at this time can only write one epistle. Consequently, he wants the epistle to be as effective as possible in edifying the kingdom of God. While writing about salvation and the affiliated spiritual riches may certainly be an edifying topic, if that same salvation is under attack due to the influence of false teachers, then he would be ineffectual in writing on the topic before combatting the lies that the false teachers have spread.

In other words, one cannot teach salvation effectively without first teaching and clarifying the Gospel, since the Gospel is the foundation of salvation. To talk about salvation while the Gospel is being misrepresented would be like building a second story on a house that has no foundation.

Therefore Jude wisely prioritizes contending for the faith. He prioritizes protecting, proclaiming, and preaching the theological foundation of the church, which is the Gospel. He calls out the false teachers in their midst, which serves to reroute his audience’s attention to the true Gospel that they have already been told. Once that foundation has been laid once again, only then can he move on to other topics such as common salvation.

On the other hand, from a theological perspective, we learn that if the Gospel is in jeopardy, then salvation is in jeopardy. If the Gospel did not impact salvation, then Jude would not have changed topical direction. This teaches Christians what to be more concerned with, and in what order.

The Gospel must be preached, and preached accurately and truthfully, at all costs. If the Gospel is misrepresented, then the pastor, the elder, the teacher, or the parent must drop whatever they are doing, scrap whatever lesson plan or sermon series they had, and recalibrate their audience on Gospel truth. You can always deal with secondary and tertiary issues later, but if the Gospel is at stake, then salvation itself is at stake.

When we apply these two lessons to our overall question of “With so much to teach, what should you teach?” we see clearly that the Gospel must take a centralized role in whatever topic we decide to discuss. Since our goal in teaching theology, regardless of whether our audience is a congregation, colleagues, friends, or our own children, is to lead someone to salvation or to lead them further in progressive sanctification, then we must point them to the source of that salvation and sanctification, which is Christ’s work told in the Gospel.

This may not make deciding on what to teach any less overwhelming; however, as long as we point the topic back to the Gospel, then we can take comfort in the fact that our hearers have been pointed to Christ, the One Who saves and sanctifies, and Whose power is made strong in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

For further reading
Effective Bible Teaching by James C. Wilhoit and Leland Ryken
Rediscovering Expository Preaching by John MacArthur
Getting The Gospel Right by R.C. Sproul
Gospel Assurances and Warnings by Paul Washer
Elijah Cisneros

Elijah Cisneros

Elijah is a member of Faith Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, where he teaches Sunday school. He and his wife, Taylor, have one son, Ezra, and two cats, Calvin and Luther. Elijah graduated summa cum laude from Liberty School of Divinity with a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies and Theology with a minor in psychology. He currently works in the mortgage industry and has a passion for systematic theology and historical theology.

February 26, 2024

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How can one with dirty hands become clean by scrubbing himself with those same hands? There is only one solution: he must be the object of cleansing and not the worker of cleansing. Consequently, to be “called” identifies the Christian as one who has been appointed to be the object of God’s affections, mercy, and saving grace, to be chosen to be part of the royal priesthood, someone for Christ’s own possession (1 Pet. 2:9).

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