Pre-Suppositions and Pre-Conceptions
Since the redemptive story of God’s people began, true followers of faith have been transformed by the supernatural and divine actions of God. The work and faith of the historical Church must be studied and recognized as a relative and proven template for both contending and preserving the faith, as well as preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ. Actions sovereignly planned to unite the Church and Christians from all over the world in faith and fellowship for an active participation in the work of His kingdom here in this present-day. Jude gives prominence to these kingdom actions emphasizing the divine origin of this community and the cooperative role of God and Christ in transforming lives and sustaining faith.
My struggle is quite similar to the millions of other Christians living life in western civilization where our pre-supposed and pre-determined ideas of what contending for the faith and preserving the truth really looks like is now jaded and in most cases has been de-emphasized by the Church. So much so that what it will ultimately cost and require of those resisting the push towards global darkness and extinguishing the light of Christianity is no longer part of the Gospel message or discipleship process. Far too many have reduced themselves to a social-christianity, baptized into the toxic cultural narcissism of western ideology.
When I read Jude, all of my bias towards a western ideology is downloaded into my mind and spirit - to the place where my human will resides. The download is simply this: the common belief that the great God of the Universe, and the almighty Jehovah God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is obligated to implement His every purpose, plan, and prosperous blessing through the convenience, comfort, and approval of American Evangelical Christianity.
If this is true, how then can I rightly interpret and receive a revelation of Jude when I have already pre-determined that his warnings of deception, self-gratifying pleasure, resistance to divine sovereignty, and the certain realities of what is to come keep me disconnected from His message of truth? My often-narcissistic insistence towards wanting my truth and not His, is a form of spiritual rebellion (verses 4-16), and that rebellion keeps me from right and righteous relationship with Him. I am not alone in this pre-supposition - the American Christian Church finds itself in much of the same deception that Jude addresses in his text. So it is spiritually healthy to the interpretive process to identify and address those pre-conceptions that we bring to any passage or text before we begin any process of interpreting and rightly dividing biblical text.
Pre-Supposition / Pre-Conception One:
Immersed in my westernized ideologies and cultural thinking I have too often read a text of the similitude of Jude as it is intended for and applies to others and not myself.
[Example:] Verses 16-23
¹⁶ These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.
¹⁷ But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, ¹⁸ that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” ¹⁹ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. ²⁰ But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, ²¹ keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. ²² And have mercy on some, who are doubting; ²³ save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Pre-Supposition / Pre-Conception Two:
Too often I have used my very cloistered and isolated interpretation of "common salvation" to exclude and not include those that I determined as not meeting my spiritual and moral standards - and yet I know there is indeed a shared "common salvation" that has made its biblical standards and expectations fully known - and those biblical standards and expectations are singularly judged by God, and God alone. It is appropriate then to ask the assessing question, "Has my contending for the faith always served God's purposes and kingdom or my own, thereby leaving my interpretation of the scripture to be self-serving, self-promoting (prideful), and even self-guided"?
[Example:] Verse 3
"Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."
When I read Jude verse three through the vanity of my self-love, self-guided thoughts, and selfish behavior bent towards the ungodly desires of my flesh, I push away any honest self-examination and the need for a biblical moral authority over my life and love. I shut out the voice of the Spirit and any and every call to reset myself and my behavior towards the righteousness of God. The only voice I hear is the one which feeds and fulfills the desire I am experiencing in the moment, and the impulses of my flesh and human will. I no longer want to hear about warnings, deceptions, and biblical certainties such as Jude's or any other for that matter. Under this determination and condition, I no longer want to hear the reasons why the same God who loves and died for me also says He will one day judge and reward me for how I have lived, how I have loved, and for what I have done with what He has given me. Conversely, by exposing my pre-suppositions and pre-conceptions I can be spiritually free to interpret, receive, and obey the text from Jude or any other as God inspired and as the author intended.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Why Jude's Text Must Transform Our Lives
The Holy Spirit will also reveal to us through Jude's message and meaning that despite how strong we may we think we are, we are all vulnerable to false teaching and systematic conformity to cultural trends.
[Example:] There exists a deception of darkness and a conformity to the ways of the world when the following takes place.
The lines between what is right to us - and what is righteous to God are continually erased.
The lines between what is fair to us - and what is just to God are redefined by the narrative of man rather than the biblical principles of God.
The lines between what is emotive truth to us - and revealed truth to God are determined by our preferred feelings.
The lines between rendering and surrendering are extraneous, rendering of our will to the human to the imagination and authority of man or surrendering of our will to the creative design and authority of God.
The lines are fluid and variable.
To effectively eliminate wrong or unrighteous presuppositions or pre-conceptions we start with fierce honesty: Is this biblical, or is this cultural? Is this cultural, or is this biblical? One may be right yet not be righteous. But if one is righteous, one will always be right. Unlike those who despise Christianity and mock the Gospel of Christ Jesus, we have the Word and the Spirit to guide us and other genuine followers to hold us accountable (Jude 17–19). We are not alone.
We must stay immersed in God’s love not only for our own sake, but also to expose the deception around us, so that others will not fall away. Jude is clear that judgment certainly awaits those who lead others astray in the church; we can have confidence in that. Our job is merely to expose falseness by contending for the faith—and offering the alternative of the authentic Jesus.
Jude’s letter shines light on the characteristics of heretical teaching and leaders who care only for themselves: Jude shows us that false teachers follow their own desires and show favoritism to gain advantages (Jude 12–16). Over and against these values, true followers of Jesus are characterized by the biblical moral virtues and ethics of mercy, peace, and love and honesty (Jude 2); true Christians serve first - helping to save others from falling away (Jude 22–23).
To review and preview; at the end of his letter, Jude will tell us all:
Adhere to a biblically sound Common Salvation and Contend for the Faith once Delivered to the Saints
Practice Sincere Obedience to the Gospel and Commands of Christ
Prioritize Righteous Living and Godly Morals
Pray in the Spirit - Extend Mercy to those who Doubt - Live Life in Love of God and God's Creation - Save those AT RISK - Despise the Garment of Flesh
True Christians do not live for themselves - we belong to God, and then to love and serve one another; we are “slaves (bought with a price) of Jesus Christ,” so that as many people as possible might be saved by the redemptive work of Jesus in those who have surrendered their lives to Him.
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