As covered a few weeks ago, the book of Jude contains three cryptic references to ancient non-biblical texts. In addition, Jude also includes references to biblical accounts.
The first is in verse 6, where Jude mentions angels who abandoned their role and their home. This is likely a nod to Genesis 6:1-4, which talks about the son’s of God marrying the daughters of man. That is a bit perplexing itself, but at least it is the Bible. (Alternately, some scholars think Jude is referring to an ancient non-biblical text, The Book of Enoch. I opt for Genesis 6.)
Another non-biblical reference is found in verse 17-18. Here Jude cites other apostles who warn that in the last days there will be scoffers who follow ungodly desires. Although the New Testament of the Bible did not exist at the time of Jude’s writing, he may have been privy to Paul’s and Peter’s letters or more likely, he simply heard them — or heard of them — issuing this warning. Jude’s words are recorded almost verbatim by Peter in 2 Peter 3:3, as well as being alluded to in 2 Peter 2:1-3. Likewise, Paul, in his letters to Timothy, covers this theme in 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
Last, and perhaps most significant, is references to Cain, Balaam, and, Korah, which I will address in future posts.
Jude was certainly well read and well-informed, peppering his letters with many references and illustrations. Though they would have been helpful to his audience then, that is not so much the case today. Even so, Jude’s central warning to guard against ungodly people in the church is well founded — and timeless.
[Jude 1:6, Genesis 6:1-4, Jude 1:17-18, 2 Peter 3:3, 2 Peter 2:1-3, Timothy references]
The apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia about being “crucified with Christ.” In his letter to the church in Corinth, he states, “You are in Christ.”
That is a hard concept for me to grasp, yet, the phrase “in Christ” occurs some 90 times in the Bible. It appears in about half of the New Testament books, from Acts to 1 Peter, encompassing the writings of Luke, Paul, and Peter.
What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ” and to be “in Christ?”
Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand, offers a most helpful illustration. He says, “If I put a dollar bill between the pages of a magazine, and then burn the magazine, where is the dollar bill?”
It is turned to ashes, along with the magazine. What happens to the magazine also happens to the dollar. “Their history has become one.”
“Just as effectively,” he continues, “God has put us in Christ. What happened to him happened also to us. All the experiences he met, we too have met in him.”
“Our history,” he concludes, was “written in Christ before we were born.” We were crucified with him.
A person who keeps resurfacing in the Bible is a man with two names. Sometimes he is Mark and sometimes he is John. For clarity, Luke often refers to him as “John, also called Mark”; John-Mark for short.
John-Mark’s story begins in Acts. When Peter is miraculously released from prison he heads to the home of John-Mark’s mom, Mary. They are praying for Peter at that time; John-Mark is likely a part of that prayer meeting.
Later, Barnabas (John-Mark’s cousin) and Paul take him on a missionary journey, but John-Mark bales on them early on and returns home, to Jerusalem. Later, Barnabas wants to give his cousin a second chance, but Paul adamantly disagrees and the two-part company over John-Mark’s failure.
However, the story doesn’t end there. John-Mark makes a comeback and wins Paul over. In Paul’s various letters, he affirms their relationship, calls John-Mark a coworker, and asks the church to accept and welcome him. John-Mark is also affirmed by Peter.
John Mark rushed into ministry before he was ready — he didn’t “count the cost” — and did not prove to be faithful. Despite his poor start, he turned things around and finished well, helping both Paul and Peter. He is likely the author of the gospel of Mark.
[Acts 12:12, 25, Acts 13:5, 13, Acts 15:37-40, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:10, 1 Peter 5:13, Luke 14:28]
Many passages in the New Testament of the Bible quote parts of the Old Testament, which was written hundreds of years before. In some versions of the Bible, footnotes — added by the translators — refer us to the original text.
One verse, however, cites the source from the text. It is in the book of Acts, where Peter directly references what the prophet Joel said. Here’s what happened:
Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to them to help and guide them. The Holy Spirit shows up and things get crazy: there’s the sound of a strong wind, the appearance of flames of fire, and the disciples start preaching in other languages.
The people freak out and blame it on too much wine.
Peter sets things straight by showing that this was foretold by the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
Joel says it would happen, Peter and his buddies experience it, and things are forever changed: the Holy Spirit is given to all. Yes, all. That means them and it means us — you and me; all. As a result crazy things can happen for us, too!
[Acts 2:1-13, Acts 2:16-18, Joel 2:28-29]
Amos was a shepherd, called by God to be a prophet. His story is found in the book of Amos in the Bible.
Amos says what God tells him, but after a while, the people of Israel — the primary target of his God-given proclamations — get tired of Amos and what he says, telling him to be quiet and go back home. Interestingly, Peter, the disciple of Jesus, is given a similar warning by the authorities. Both Amos and Peter decline, insisting that they must do what God tells them to do.
At first Amos has no qualms about sharing God’s judgments regarding other nations, but he does eventually object. God shows Amos what will happen and Amos protests — and God relents. (Similar things happen when both Moses and Abraham plead with God.)
God then gives Amos another stinging word. Amos protests and God again relents.
Then God gives Amos a third oracle. This time Amos says nothing.
I wonder if Amos gave up too soon. I wonder if we sometimes make the same mistake.
[Amos 1:1, Amos 7:10-15, Acts 4:18-20, Numbers 14:11-20, Genesis 18:16-33, Amos 7:1-9]
It’s interesting that we tend to equate writing prolificacy with profundity.
- As such, the numerous writings of Paul, which account for about one third of the New Testament, are highly esteemed.
- The two books of Dr. Luke (Luke and Acts) account for about 25% and are also highly valued.
- Then there is John, whose five contributions make up another 20%. His gospel is frequently praised, while his “revelation” sends our imaginations soaring.
After these three, the reminding New Testament authors, especially those of shorter letters, fade into obscurity and are barely noticed by most readers of the Bible. Such is the case of Peter, whose two short letters comprise but 2.5% of New Testament content.
However, consider Peter’s stellar credentials:
- One of only 12 disciples of Jesus, having spent three years with him and an eyewitness of his ministry.
- Part of Jesus’ inner circle of three (comprised of Peter, James, and John).
- The first leader of the movement after Jesus died.
As such, Peter has a special vantage from which to write.
This is not to diminish the other writers of Biblical text, but rather to elevate Peter’s writings to the place they deserve.
If you’ve never read First and Second Peter — or if its been awhile — check them out; he has much to say that is worthy of careful consideration.
Peter cried when he realized that he had denied even knowing Jesus. [Mark 14:72]
What makes this even more ironic is that earlier that same day he pledged his support to Jesus, claiming to be willing to die with him. [Mark 14:31]
For most people, admitting that we “know” Jesus is a relatively easy thing to do, yet Peter was confronted with a seemingly life and death situation: say “yes” and he too could be crucified with Jesus; say “no” and he could avoid further scrutiny, thereby saving his skin. In the life-in-the-balance pressure of the moment, Peter caved in and said “no.”
In some parts of the world, admitting that you followed Jesus could easily result in death or at least suffering. How well would we fare in such a test? Would we cave in or be bold regardless of the consequences?
However, beyond the literal, natural meaning of this story there is a more profound supernatural perspective. In the spiritual sense, we can say “yes” we know Jesus and live — forever; saying “no” is what leads to death.