Jude 20-21, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”
Our Text – (Jude 17 – 25)
Theme – Believers in Christ are to live distinctive lives
Have you ever been driving along when you have noticed your car is pulling to the right or perhaps to the left? It’s an alarming experience, especially if you’re traveling the speed limit or faster. A bad tire, among other things, can make your car pull dangerously one way or another. Sometimes people have car problems and they get pulled to one side, and I think that’s a helpful metaphor for our experience of living the Christian life sometimes.
We’re going along as best we can, trying to make a straight course, trying to be obedient, but we keep drifting to one side or the other. We easily veer off course, don’t we? We have defects, inclinations of the heart, and deep structural sins of the mind that push us off course. In this study, Jude has a string of exhortations and are recorded to help us stay on course, to go straight ahead in the path of the Christian life.
- REMEMBER THE WARNING – (Jude 17-19)
The burden of Jude’s letter is to call the church to “contend for the faith” as recorded for us in Jude 3, because false teachers have been plaguing the assemblies of God’s people and wreaking havoc among them (just as they are doing today). The bulk of the letter is occupied with describing and warning the church about these false teachers. In verses 17-18, Jude brings his analysis of the problem confronting the church to a conclusion, by calling believers to remember that the apostle’s had predicted these false teachers would be a feature of life, in the last times. Please notice that according to our text, these false teachers are distinguished by the following three clear features”
(a) They are out to divide the church,
(b) They are worldly, that is, their priorities and ambitions do not reflect the Godward passion of a true child of God, and
(c) They are in fact completely devoid of the Spirit, no matter what they claim to the contrary.
Simply put, the church to which Jude is writing to (and today’s church) is facing real challenges, problems and difficulties. Jude is warning his readers that these false teachers will tempt them to veer off course from that which they know to be true.
- JUDE LABELS THEM AS LAST TIME SCOFFERS
Jude 17-18, “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires”
Jude’s readers are very dear to him. His “beloved” reference to them makes the transition from his burning denouncement of the false teachers to his exhortation on Christian living. Repetition is a good teaching tool. While Jude provides information on apostasy, his first readers have also the warning of the apostles. All of Jude’s readers do well to remember the words of Christ’s apostles. Peter gave attention to the threat of false teachers in his second letter (2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:3-4).
The apostles predicted that mockers of the truth would appear in the last time (Jude 18). The “last time” is the period of time between Christ’s two advents (Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:19-20). This time is upon us now. Apostates scoff at God’s truth and advocate a belief and lifestyle that is self-centered and sinful. They focus on satisfying their own ungodly cravings.
- THEY WILL CAUSE DIVISION
Jude 19, “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit”
These mockers promote division among God’s people. They make distinctions between their own views and the faith believers have been taught (Jude 3-4). They divide believers, drawing some to their point of view. In this way they separate themselves and their followers from others. A spirit of superiority and intellectual pride characterizes them as mockers of God’s truth.
The arrogance of the false teachers has a fatal flaw. They operate only by their natural instincts, for they are estranged from the Holy Spirit. In simple terms, they are counterfeit believers in Christ. Their human reasoning is unaided by God’s Spirit so that their thoughts are driven and controlled by their carnal appetites and desires. They cannot and do not think God’s thoughts.
B. EXHORTATIONS TO CHRISTIAN LIVING – (Jude 20-23)
- We Are To (BUILD UP)
Jude 20, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit”
Jude draws a crucial contrast between believers and these apostate mockers of God and His Word. His instructions will preserve believers from contamination by the false teachers. These instructions are also ways in which we contend earnestly for the faith. Jude presents five endeavors in which we must be engaged. This is Christian living that is distinctive of the faith and in sharp contrast to the destructive teaching of the false teachers.
The idea of “building up” is that of finishing a structure for which the foundation has already been laid. This is a lifelong activity, for “building up” is in the present tense, the tense of continuation. The faith upon which we grow has its foundation and source in the Scriptures. It is a holy faith because it has been set apart for our benefit through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).
It is unique in the message that it teaches and in the moral transformation it produces in those who embrace it by faith (Jude 20). We are building up ourselves as we mature spiritually through studying, believing, and obeying the Scriptures (Hebrews 5:12; 2 Timothy 2:15). A correct understanding of Biblical doctrine is the starting point. When our obedience and commitment to God’s truth follows, a godly character is under construction.
- We Are to (PRAY
Jude 20, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit”
Jude instructs believers to pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20). This is praying according to the Spirit’s direction and inner prompting (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18). The Holy Spirit’s guidance is always in accord with the Word of God, for the Spirit is God and knows God’s mind (Romans 8:27, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will”).
When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we are being “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and to be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit”. Drunkenness plagued first-century culture as it certainly does our society today. The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians believers to shun drunkenness. He wrote, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” The whole tenor of Biblical teaching indicates that believers should lead disciplined lives. We should take care of our bodies as well as our souls. Our bodies are, after all, temples of the Holy Spirit. We should be as unwilling to expose our bodies to the damaging effects of alcohol, as we are to expose our church building to a wrecking ball.
What does alcohol do to people who get drunk? They are deceived and do things they wouldn’t normally do. To illustrate this point consider the following? Mary, the wife of a Michigan pastor, waking up early one morning and going downstairs to prepare breakfast, found a large man she had never seen before sleeping on the couch in their living room. “Don’t be too alarmed,” she told her husband after making her way back to the bedroom, “but there’s a large man sleeping in our living room”? The police was summoned and the man was shaken out of his slumber. It was discovered, to everyone’s surprise, that he had once lived in the house, and because he was drunk, thought he had come home.
My beloved, where we go and what we do depends on what we allow to influence and control us. That intruder chose to be under the control of alcohol, which deceived him, and made him do something he would not otherwise normally do. Jesus before returning to heaven, promised to send the Holy Spirit to be our helper, comforter and to guide us into all truth (John 16:7). “We are to be filled with the Spirit” and is a continual process. We will never get more of Him or have less of Him indwelling us. The filling of the Spirit does not involve our getting more but rather with Him getting more of us. We can be certain that as we allow Him (the Holy Spirit) to control our lives:
(1) He will never lead us to the right or left, but will keep us on the straight and narrow path.
(2) He will change us wherein we will be different.
(3) He will give us new desires.
(4) He will change our motives and attitude.
(5) He will help us turn our love from ourselves toward Him and others.
- We are to be Obedient to the Spirit’s Leading
Jude 20, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit”
A believer’s prayer life can sometimes be mechanical and is often mundane. Jude’s exhortation calls us to actively involve ourselves in prayer. As we approach the living God in prayer, openness and dependence upon Him, the Holy Spirit will guide, prompt and speak to our heart. God’s Spirit never prompts us to request anything unimportant or improper for God’s purpose in our lives. The Holy Spirit prompts us only to obedience to God and involvement in His will, as illustrated by this true account of a young man:
Ruby Hamilton, a businesswoman in her fifties, was stunned at the loss of her husband of 32 years in a car accident. Her anger and disappointment went deeper than a more typical expression of grief. She had accepted Christ as Savior in her late twenties; however, her husband didn’t share her newfound interest in spiritual things. Nonetheless, she had set about praying for him feverishly and unceasingly that he would come to know the Lord. One day when she was praying, she felt a wave of peace come over her, and that still small voice assuring her that her husband would be okay. She eagerly awaited the day when her husband surrender his life to Jesus. And now this.
What do you do when faith doesn’t make sense? When God doesn’t seem to be answering or opening doors or being found? Ruby Hamilton stopped living for God. Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home. He would never forget the date – May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing the thumb to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped.
The passenger door swung open. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. “Going home for keeps?” “Sure am.” “Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago.” “Not quite that far – do you live in Chicago?” “I have a business there, the driver said. My name is Hamilton.” They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a believer, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful business man. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was now just 30 minutes from his home. It was now or never.
“Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord. The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand “You knew my husband?”
Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. “Can you tell me what day that was?” “Sure it was May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army.” “Anything special about that day,” she asked. He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. “Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband that day. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day.” Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, “I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him.” “Where is your husband, Ruby?” “He’s dead. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept his promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept his word!
- Obeying and Looking
(Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life”)
Jude urges believers to (CULTIVATE ) the love relationship that they have with Christ (Jude 21). This is also what Jesus is telling us to do in John 15:9-10, when He speaks of abiding in His love. He explains that this means obeying His commandments. He drew us to Himself so that we might abide in His love.
Jude isn’t instructing us on how to keep our personal salvation. Our salvation does not depend on personal effort. If that were true, Jude would be teaching legalism, which substitutes works for God’s grace. Jude assures believers of their security in Christ (Jude 24). Our obedience to Christ is an expression of our love to Him. We obey because we love Him Who first loved us and saved us (1 John 4:19).
Jude exhorts us to (LOOK) for Christ’s return (Jude 21). We expect His return in keeping with His promise (John 14:1-3). The hope of Christ’s return is a comforting and purifying hope (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 John 3:3). The fact that His coming for the church could occur at any moment makes Jude’s exhortation all the more imperative. The false teachers try to kill this hope by scoffing at the idea of God’s breaking into human history in a miraculous and dramatic way (2 Peter 3:4).
Christ’s return for us will be a merciful or compassionate act on His part (Jude 21). His return is part of His redemptive plan for us (Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:20-21). With the transformation of the bodies in which we now live, our redemption will be complete at last. We received God’s mercy when he saved us. But our need did not stop there. We need God’s mercy daily, for we simply cannot live without it. His mercy will be needed at the last, and Jude reassures us that we will receive it at Christ’s return.
Eternal life is also ours now (Jude 21). We have passed from spiritual death to eternal life (John 5:24). With our transfer from earth to Heaven at Christ’s return, we will begin to experience eternal life in His presence and in our transformed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Jude exhorts us with good reason to watch expectantly for Christ’s return.
- Rescuing Others
Jude 22-23, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to other show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh”
Jude exhorts us to become involved in the often painful work of (RESCUING) those who come under the devastating influence of false doctrine. The Christian life includes service to others as well as spiritual growth, prayer, obedience, and hope. The context of this exhortation for rescue operations is the existing threat of false teachers to the assembly of believers.
There are three groups of believers who need to have compassion of other believers (Jude 22-23). Jude begins with those who have serious doubts, moves to those who are about to fall into the devastating consequence of embracing false doctrine, and ends with those who have fallen into immorality. Jude’s admonition for believers to be involved in these three rescue missions fits with New Testament instructions elsewhere.
(a) Group One – Are those who doubt and waver in their trust of God’s Word.
The word “difference” means “to doubt.” The word suggests that a person is at odds with himself, for he is uncertain about what he has been taught. The false teachers’ teaching and lifestyle have resulted in uncertainty about the truths of the faith. When a believer flirts with false doctrine and begins to waver in his confidence in the faith, he needs help. He has begun to assent in his thinking to erroneous doctrine while questioning the true.
Those who doubt need the compassion of those who know God’s Word and are convinced of its truthfulness (Jude 22). The response, therefore, is not to cast out the doubter as a heretic. The zeal for purity in the assembly of believers should not be such that those who would have questions and misunderstandings could not express them. It should not be difficult for them to find a fellow-believer who will sit and listen and talk things through. The doubters are in a maze of confusion. They grope in the fog of doubt, and they need desperately to be rescued.
Compassion calls for us to be open and helpful to these distressed believers. We should be merciful to doubters as the objects of God’s mercy, even as we all are. We cannot be soft on Biblical doctrine, but to those who have questions we must always demonstrate patient understanding. Believers affected by false doctrine need the love and mercy of believers unaffected by the same teachings. They need our encouragement, not slander or criticism.
(b) Group Two – Are those who are about to fall from the truth.
These have gone further than doubt, for they have come to the edge of a cliff. They see no reason not to entertain false doctrine in their thinking and to engage in the lifestyle that accompanies it. This new lifestyle is quite comfortable, and it liberates from the old ways that restrict satisfying one’s own desires.
Those who conduct the rescue operation need to do so for fear of the erring person’s well-being (Jude 23). Jude implies the need for drastic action by stating that the rescuer needs to deliver the person from falling into the fire. False teachers are apostates, and apostates are unsaved (2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4). They are defectors from the faith who totally deny what they once professed to believe (Hebrews 10:28-29). The doubters who persist in following their erroneous doctrines and practices will end up with them in the dismal abyss of divine judgment. Their fall will evidence that they were unsaved, were only counterfeits. Jude calls us to snatch them from plunging into the flames of eternal judgment, like we would snatch brands (pieces of burning wood) from the fire.
(c) Group Three – Are those that are stained by the moral infection of false doctrine.
Believers who have fallen prey to the seductive doctrines of false teachers cannot be abandoned, for there is hope for them. Jude describes them as wearing clothing “spotted by the flesh.” This figure of speech means they are stained by immoral physical activities. They are polluted. However, our compassion is to be mixed with fear. We cannot let their moral infection spread to us. The rescue is to be carried out with a hatred of the contamination that sin brings. We are to hate the sin but love the sinner. While possible contamination is a risk for us, it is not a reason for refusing to be involved in the restoration.
Those who have fallen must, in their repentance, discard the corrupting effect of impurity (Jude 23). They must hate the stained garment even as we do. We must expect a complete change of attitude toward the truth and a reversal of their lifestyle. We will not lower God’s standards in the hope that people will repent with easier terms.
DOXOLOGY – Jude 24-25)
These last two verses are a beautiful doxology that gives hope to the believer and encourages a celebration of God as additional endeavors of distinctive Christian living in the face of false doctrine.
- Our God is Able
Jude 24, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”
Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” So, what is our God able to do?
(a) He is able to keep us from falling
(b) He is able to present us without fault
(c) He is able to receive all praise
(d) He is able to do all things
Believers live with the constant pressure to stumble into doctrinal and moral error. However, God is on guard. He keeps us standing up so that we can walk without stumbling into the abyss of apostate judgment. He protects us against the false teachers with all their doctrinal deceptions that produce deadly dangers and pitfalls to the believer. God uses His Word, such as Jude’s letter, with its insights and warnings to inform, alert, and steer us away from error and a fatal fall. The rescue missions in which believers are to be involved is another means by which God restores any of His people who would carelessly dabble in false teaching.
God will ultimately usher all of us into His immediate presence (Jude 24). We will be presented “faultless.” The word was used of sacrificial animals offered to God that bore no physical spot or blemish. We will be without blame because of Christ’s sacrificial death, which makes us acceptable before God (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 Peter 1:19). Since God is for us, there is no charge leveled against us that can bring us down (Romans 8:31-34). We give God the glory.
- God’s Attribute
Jude 25, “To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”
Jude praises God and recognizes four of His eternal attributes. (a) First is God’s glory (Jude 25). His glory is the sum of all that He is. (b) Second is His majesty, which is His transcendent greatness over all of His creation. (c)Third, Jude mentions His dominion, which is His absolute sovereignty over the universe. (d) Finally, His power, which is His total freedom to act according to His will.
There is serious deception in our world today and often among those called Christians. There are enemies of the gospel who have infiltrated the church. Yet despite the greatness of the threat, God is greater still. He wins, and if we will only stay with Him, we are guaranteed victory also. Jude is a book full of warnings; however, it closes with supreme confidence in God. Dangerous times should make every believer trust in a mighty God who is able to save us, cleanse us, change us, use us, and take us to heaven!
Our study is entitled Distinctive Christian Living and as such our testimony should be one that would bring or draw individuals to Christ Jesus. John 13:35 puts it this way, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. Throughout the year we receive catalogs in the mail. Every trip to the mailbox ends with at least one catalog. Each one that we receive claims to offer us something that we need – immediately. “Don’t wait!” “Limited offer!” “or Order now!”
The lure works. We open up the pages to discover what we didn’t know we needed. Sure enough, we see things that suddenly seem essential, even though a few minutes earlier we didn’t know they existed. Manufacturers use catalog illustrations to create desire for their products. In a way, Christians are God’s catalogs. We are His illustration to the world of what He has to offer. His work in our lives makes us a picture of qualities that people may not know they need or want until they see them at work in us.
Jesus prayed that His followers would be unified so the world would know that God sent Him and loved them as God loved Him (John 17:23). When Christ is above in us, we become examples of God’s love. We can’t manufacture love. God is the manufacturer, and we are His workmanship. As we browse through catalogs, consider what the “catalog” of your life says about God. Do people see qualities in you that make them long for God?
As a Christian, we are “God’s advertisement.” Do people want what they see in you?