By Richard Boone
It is by not means uncommon to hear people speak of various times when God has supposedly spoken to them directly. In fact, if you were to listen to just about any preacher today, he would probably say, “Allow me to tell you what the Lord has laid on my heart” or at least words to that effect. You may hear an honest and sincere person mention that the Lord directed him to do or say this or that. Even hardened criminals who are serving prison sentences for the crimes they committed may claim that God directed them to do whatever crimes they committed. Many religious groups are founded upon the idea that God revealed teachings to an individual that were not written in the Bible. Based upon these “revelations, ” groups are formed and practices begin. On the surface that all seems fine, because, after all, a person is free in this country to practice what he chooses to practice in religion. However, there is one verse in the New Testament that presents a roadblock to the idea that God speaks to people directly today. That verse is Jude 3 which reads “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” “What does Jude 3 have to do with God speaking to people now?” you may ask. That is what we will find out as we study this subject.
In order to understand Jude 3, we need to understand the purpose of the book of Jude. Jude was written primarily as a warning to first-century Christians. False teachers were secretly corrupting Christians, both individually and congregationally. Because of that, Jude writes to exhort them of examples that you and I can read about in the Old Testament of those who were not faithful to God and, as a result, were punished. It is ‘in this context that he writes about the faith that they were to contend for.
By inspiration, Jude tells the Christians to contend for the faith which was “once delivered unto the saints.” This phrase is of particular interest as we consider it in light of the fact that many today are saying that God still speaks to them directly. The word “once” in this passage means “once for all, of what is of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, p. 137). Therefore, when Jude writes that the faith has been “once delivered,” he means that it is final. There will be no more revelation given by God. Other translations also confirm the same idea. In the American Standard Version, this part of Jude 3 reads, “. . the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (emphasis mine – rb). The New Kings James Version says, “. . the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (emphasis mine – rb). It does not take a genius to understand from Jude 3 that when God, through agency of the Holy Spirit, completely revealed the Scriptures, that revelation was final! There would be no more revelation after the close of the book of Revelation. To further show the use of the word “once,” let us look at some other passages where it is used.
Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” The word “once” in each of these verses is the same as is found in Jude 3. In the original language, Koine Greek, the word is hapax in each of these verses. Now, two logical questions: How many times will we die? How many times was Christ offered for the sins of the world? The answer – once! And each of these times was final! Likewise, Jude 3 teaches that when God’s Word was revealed, it was complete and final. God does not reveal his Word to people today because he already has!
1 Peter 3:8 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive – rb) by the Spirit.” Again, how many times was Christ offered – the just for the unjust? Once! And that sacrifice was final. Jude 3 uses the same word. How many times did God reveal his Word to man? Once! And it was his final revelation!
Finally, one commentator makes an interesting observation on Jude 3: “‘The meaning is that the truth is delivered for all time; it is a permanent deposit, it will never be superseded, amended, or modified. As it now stands it is a perfect, adequate, complete, and inviolable deposit of truth, providing the means with which to confute the gainsayer, and resist the advocate of false doctrine. This deposit of truth was infallibly delivered, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:21), and no part of it is superfluous or unnecessary” (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, by Guy N. Woods, p. 385). Since this is the meaning of this passage, we all need to understand that the idea of God speaking to people directly today is one that is foreign to the Scriptures. When a clear passage like Jude 3 teaches that God has already delivered his Word, how can you or I accept the teaching that God directs each individual directly? I can not and if you are, you should not. The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It is the revealed Word of God that is “quick (living) and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 22, p. 677
November 17, 1988