“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude 1:5
We sin because we have a problem. We have the same problem as the Israelites slaves who crossed the Red Sea. We have the same problem as the church Jude wrote a letter to in AD 65: We forget that Jesus is Lord.
Is forgetting a sin? No, but here’s what happens when we forget that Jesus is Lord: we don’t see him as Lord and so we don’t worship him as Lord, and we end up worshiping other things as god—and that is sin. In particular, it’s a violation of the first and second commandments, which the Israelites would have known well.
When simple lies slip in
The problem escalates because when you forget that Jesus is Lord, you begin to try to figure out who is instead. Jude is writing about 30 years after Jesus’ death to a church that is a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles. The church is being torn apart by sexual immorality, and he writes to them and calls them out. He says,
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4
This church was starting to forget who God is because false teachers had slipped in to this church, acting like Christians and deceiving people by saying that Jesus Christ was not the Lord. It was a very simple lie; the ungodly only had to change that one detail. In the case of this church, not believing that Jesus is Lord led to massive sexual immorality and all kinds of other problems. Jude addresses this by telling them: I need to remind you that Jesus brought you out of Egypt.
What is Jude saying about Jesus here?
This is his rebuttal in verse 5 against the false teachers: he says, “You think Jesus is just a nice guy. A prophet. A teacher. An example of how to live. But Jesus is the one who brought you out Egypt. Jesus is the one who parted the Red Sea.” And when the Israelites crossed the sea out of slavery, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was there. Jude is saying that Jesus is God. Jude is reminding them that Jesus is Lord.
Why remembering leads to repentance
So why does Jude think that reminding them of Jesus’ lordship will stop them from sinning sexually? Well, if Jesus is not worshiped as Lord in your life, then he’s reduced to a moral teacher with good things to say—but not God, not the one through whom all of heaven and earth was made. Jesus, if he’s not Lord, is dismissible. And you don’t give your life to someone you can give or take. You give your life to the things you want to, the things you want to worship—and sexual immorality has always been one of the most readily available gods. If some guru is telling you to give up something you want, you don’t have a lot of trouble ignoring him. But if the one who created the earth—and you—is telling you to trust him in obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not, as Scripture says, be tempted to gratify the desires of the flesh—then you listen.
Jude’s hope is that reminding them of Jesus’ lordship will lead them to repentance. And he’s right. It reminds me of another passage.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1–3
When our Creator formed this earth, Jesus was there. When our Creator parted the Red Sea, Jesus was there. You’re starting to forget. You need to remember that Jesus is sovereign. You need to remember that Jesus is Lord. When we look at our Creator, we look at our sin, and we look at his love and kindness—the Christian can only, by the Spirit, be drawn to repentance.
So for you who are struggling, for you who are believing lies, for you who are starting to forget—I need to remind you that Jesus is Lord.
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.” Revelation 3:3