Are you an impostor? Are there impostors in your church?
In part 1 of this series on Jude 1-16, we talked about impostors, and in this next post we’re going to learn a whole lot more about them.
In verse 2 Jude gives the Christians a customary short blessing featuring mercy, peace and love, all important rich terms, but we have studied them in recent weeks, so let’s move on to verse 3. There we read that Jude wanted to write them about the salvation that Christians share, but something became more important. It seems he wished he could write an encouraging letter, but now he can’t.
Instead he felt he had to write and urge them to contend for the faith. In that phrase we have Jude’s purpose for writing: to encourage the church to contend for the faith. That word “contend” is defined as “to exert intense effort on behalf of something—to struggle for.” He is saying, “Church, you have some work to do, and it might be really hard. But no worries. You can do it – you are called, loved, and kept. God is with you.”
So Jude’s purpose for writing them is to point out some issues. He wanted to write an encouraging letter, but instead he realized he needs to confront them. Why? What happened? In verse 4 he tells them. The issue that has Jude concerned is that there is a secret crisis in the church.
He says that certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago secretly slipped in among them. So there was an infiltration in the church. It almost sounds like a spy novel, a CIA story. Like an FBI agent who goes undercover and becomes part of a mob family for a couple years. But in this case, it’s not good guys secretly infiltrating the bad guys to take them down. It is bad guys entering the church. Impostors.
These people who secretly entered the church are godless, Jude says. That’s a serious charge. People in the church that are godless? You might ask, but don’t we want godless people to become part of a church family, because then they can get to know God? Yes, but that’s not what these godless people were doing. They were secretly malicious.
How do you enter a church secretly? Not through a back door, because at that time there were no church buildings. Jude is not speaking literally about entering a building. He is talking figuratively about people becoming part of church family, and the primary way you do this secretly is to lie about who you really are. It is to say that you are a Christian, when in fact you are not. It is to be an impostor.
How do we know this? Because Jude says they are godless. And he says the impostors have an agenda. They change the grace of God into a license to sin. That means they are giving false teaching. To exchange the grace of God into a license to sin works like this: It is a person who says, “Well, God is a gracious God who forgives all our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross and victory over sin in his resurrection. That means every sin I ever committed and every sin I will commit is forgiven. So therefore, let’s live it up and sin, because it’s all forgiven!” That’s how you turn God’s grace into a license to sin. You remember Paul’s letter to his friend Titus? Go back to Titus 2:11, and Paul directly counters this idea when he says, “The grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness and live holy and upright lives.”
Jude is right. The impostors are wrong. True Christians, when they receive God’s grace, they are so sorrowful for their sin, so thankful for what God has done that their response is to pursue godly living. A life like we read about the past few weeks, walking in love, and walking in truth. But these impostors in the church, Jude says in verse 4, “They deny Jesus Christ.” And there you have it. They’re not Christians. And they don’t want to be. They are in outright denial of and disobedience to Jesus.
As we continue studying what Jude says about the impostors, you might consider asking yourself if there are impostors in your church? And in what ways might you be an impostor? If you think, “Well I’m not denying Jesus or changing grace into a license to sin,” are there other ways that you might be an impostor? Jude has a lot more to say about the impostors. Check back in to the next post to learn more.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 495.