Note: This post is part three in a six-part series on how the book of Jude demonstrates qualities of a good sermon.
Jude’s Variety of Illustrations—Biblical Examples
Jude writes his letter to appeal for others to contend for the faith. Why is this necessary? Because “ungodly people” who pervert the grace of God have crept in unnoticed.
4 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. (ESV)
After clearly stating the main idea and informing the reader of its importance for them, Jude begins to illustrate his point. Illustrations serve as open windows allowing light to clarify the text and a breeze of fresh air to refresh the listener’s attention to the main idea of the sermon. Illustrations should help view the main idea from a different perspective and not bring in an entirely new idea or overshadow the main idea of the text.
In order to illustrate the idea that over and over ungodly people have crept in to pervert the grace of God and that they must be defeated, Jude uses biblical examples. In verses 5-7, Jude references the Israelites whom God destroyed because, being freed, they did not believe; the angels who rejected authority and did not stay in their proper dwelling; and Sodom and Gomorrah, where men indulged in fleshly desires.
5 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. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, (ESV)
After using some non-biblical illustrations, Jude returns to his fondness of threes in verse 11 by mentioning the biblical examples of Cain, Balaam, and Korah’s rebellion. Cain’s improper offering to God incited jealousy and anger that led to murder. Balaam committed the error of greed, and Korah rebelled against authority just as the angels who did not remain in their proper dwelling. Jude provides a variety of quick examples to bring to mind what “ungodly people” look like.
11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. (ESV)
Jude’s use of biblical examples should set a model for modern day preachers as well. By pulling from various biblical examples in preaching, the congregation will develop a more thorough understanding of the Bible sooner. The New Testament establishes a pattern of referencing Old Testament examples over and over, but not exclusively. As preachers, we should have the proper biblical literacy to pull from these examples, which will increase the biblical literacy of the congregation.
In the next post, I will look at how Jude also uses non-biblical material and natural analogies for illustrations.