AN EXPOSITION OF THE LETTER OF JUDE PART 11
by Frank Parrino
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EXPOSITIORY THOUGHTS ON JUDE
PART 11 – A Biblical Building Plan Concluded
Jude has ended his gloomy portrayal of the godless people bent on demolishing the foundations of the Faith. Earlier he called upon the believers in light of these impostors to contend earnestly for the Faith. He made abundantly clear who the evil doers are and what they believe and practice. Having put these rebels in their proper place, Jude exhorted the Christian community to stick to the teachings of the apostles.
Now he repeats for emphasis - the phrase in verse 17: “But you, beloved.” This is to show his confidence in them, God’s love and his (Jude’s) love for them, and to counsel them.
Over against the heretics who sought to cause division, Jude gives the faithful proper material to build their spiritual house. Jude presents us with four building blocks: faith, prayer, love, and hope. All houses – even spiritual ones - start with a solid foundation. That foundation is faith. Faith’s foundation consists of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.
Again let us remember Jude is calling attention here to the ‘words of the apostles.’ Paul in particular instructs pastors and teachers to equip the people of God for the work of service and the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11). He also exhorts believers in their walk to be built up in Christ and established in their faith (Col 2:7) and to encourage and build one another up (1Thess. 5:11).
But you, beloved building yourselves up on your most holy faith…” Jude is referring back to verse three about the Faith. Remember this is objective faith. This Faith is the ‘established authoritative body of Christian teaching’ to which nothing is to be added or taken away and shared by all Christians. Jude adds its distinctive character. It is your most ‘holy faith.’
Our holy faith has God as its originator. It comes to us from the hand of God as the Psalmist describes the “Law of the Lord” (the entire Word of God) in Psalm 19: perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. By virtue of its God centered essence our holy faith makes for unity, harmony, and fellowship with God and one another. It can never deceive or steer us in the wrong direction. Holy Faith is consecrated – set apart - for the purpose of promoting a holy life. Our faith is a most precious gift that we need to guard, cherish, share, and cultivate in our lives.
To prevent the spiritual havoc intended by false teachers we need build our thoughts, words, and deeds on our holy faith…to strengthen and encourage one another in purpose, unity, and service. May it be true of us as it was of the Thessalonians that we who have received the Word of God, our Holy Faith, we accept it not as the word of men but for what it really is, the Word of God which also performs its work in us who believe (1Thess 2:13).
The second building block prayer: Praying in the Holy Spirit. When we pray immediately we think about the fact we offer our prayers to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. Here we have a not so familiar expression “praying in the Holy Spirit.” What does this mean?
First we find nearly the same expression used by Paul in Ephesians 6:18, “With all prayer and petition, pray in the Spirit…” The core-meaning of the preposition “in” conveys the idea of something or somebody within or inside something. John was in the Spirit – under the special influence and control of the Spirit as the Lord prepared him for receiving the Revelation. All Christians are in the Spirit by virtue of their saving union with Christ. The person in Christ – is united to Christ and in turn they are in the Spirit – indwelt by the Spirit – filled with the Spirit.
To be united to, indwelt by, filled with, and in the Spirit are virtually synonymous and interrelated realities experienced by all believers. We see this in Paul’s words to the Galatians “If we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit”. Living and walking means to be controlled by the Spirit for service and sanctification. The use of our gifts (service) and our being conformed to the image of Christ (sanctification) comes under the work of the Spirit and our dependence upon the Spirit of God to those ends. So must our pray life come under the control of the Spirit. Prayer is one of the means of grace to enable us to serve the Lord properly and to pursue holiness of life.
The Holy Spirit is our Paracletos. This Greek word used by Jesus of the Spirit means “one called along side to help”. Thus He is our Helper – Counselor – our Advocate as it is translated in our English Bible.
Of His many functions in the economy of the Godhead, He is the Author of Prayer – our Intercessor in prayer. Paul talks about being in the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, living by the Spirit, led by the Spirit, having the testimony of the Spirit, and the work of the Spirit in prayer: Romans 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints (true believers)according to the will of God.”
Praying in the Spirit means that we are conscious of our weaknesses. Because of our human imperfections and shortcomings, we are prone to go amiss in our prayers. We can make wrong requests. We may make a good and wise request but in a wrong way. We may come with a wrong attitude – lack humility or sincerity. Aware of our weaknesses leads to our reliance on the Holy Spirit in our prayers.
Praying in the Spirit means we are conscious of our dependence on the Holy Spirit. We pray with the awareness that the Holy Spirit is present in us to encourage and strengthen us in our state of weakness. He gives utterance to our inarticulate sighs and longings. The Holy Spirit takes our feeble and misguided prayers and perfects and presents them to the Father. Even in our prayer life the Christian abides in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
The third building block: keep yourselves in the love of God. God surrounds His people with His love. His is a perfect and active love. When we realize that we are unworthy objects of the love of God – debtors to grace alone - that God has set His love upon us in Jesus Christ then we will respond in love. To keep here means to remain in a particular condition and continue in a particular way. Jesus tells us in John 15: 5-6: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
In response to God’s love we have a responsibility to love God. God’s love is our motivation to obey Him – to keep His commandments and our challenge to love others selflessly as He loved us. In order to abide in love – to taste the sweetness of its joy - the harmony of its fellowship - the peace of its assurance we must walk in obedience to the Lord’s commandments and keep ourselves in the very atmosphere of God’s love.
The fourth building block for our spiritual house is that of hope: waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Hope is not in the text but is implied in the context. It is said that hope is a good anchor but it needs something to grip. Jude is referring to the Christian’s Blessed Hope, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to complete our salvation. He is putting the Lord’s return and all its implications as an antidote against the errors being propagated by false teachers. Jude wants us to grip – take hold of – the reality of the Lord’s coming. Remember one of the things the false teachers mocked was the doctrine of the Lord’s return. Don’t let them rob you of that certainty and joy says Jude.
The text literally means: “As you are waiting with anticipation.” We are anxiously waiting as the NASB has it – not with feelings of nervousness, fright, or worry – but we are eagerly waiting with hopeful hearts and holy living for that great day when the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will be fully realized when he comes to raise the dead, judge the world, and restore all things.
Mercy is God’s compassion in forgiving and relieving us of the misery caused by sin. We received mercy at the time of our salvation – we receive it daily as Jude intimated in his desire that this blessing of salvation would inundate us as we walk with the Lord. As Jeremiah says, His mercies are new everyday. We will receive mercy in full at the return of the Lord Jesus.
At the second coming which marks the day of final judgment - all our lifelong yet finite trials, tribulations, sorrows, struggles with temptation and sin and error will be swallowed up in the infinite of eternal bliss when we experience the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. On that great day we will by Christ’s mercy be acquitted but the wicked – sinners – ungodly will not and receive their just reward.
In his great collection of proverbs and quaint sayings, Spurgeon has this entry on mercy: Mercy is from everlasting, to contrive thy salvation, and to everlasting to perfect it.
Salvation which was planned in eternity past is ours now in time present. Salvation will at the second coming be made complete forever. Eternal life which we have now in union with Christ - will then be fully experienced in our forever reunion with Christ. May our eager waiting for the return of our Lord be marked by an equally eager faithfulness in serving our Lord Jesus Christ in the cause of the gospel.
Jude goes on to mention mercy a second and third time in verses 22 -23. Just as God is merciful to us so we must be merciful to others. Jude here is addressing the problems caused by false teachers and how to deal with sin in the lives of others.
In keeping with Jude’s fondness for groups of three these verses address three groups. There are the doubters, the scorched, and the pitiable.
Vs. 22 – have mercy on those who doubt. The doubters are those troubled by false teachers. They are confused about an aspect of Christian teaching – they come as it were to a fork in the road not knowing whether to go to the right or the left. Yogi Berra’s famous witticism: when you come to a fork in the road, take it - doesn’t work here. There is no neutral ground – no compromising - when it comes to the things of God. There is a right road and a wrong road. These doubters are wavering in their faith. The false teachers have caused them to be of two minds.
We are to show them mercy. We do that by sitting them down and inviting them to reason together. We must not be harsh with them – not critical – but gentle and patient and understanding in our efforts to steer them back on the right road of our holy Faith.
The second group consists of those Christians trapped in the fire of sin. Jude counsels: save others, snatching them out of the fire. Think of a burning building. The person is on the roof. The flames are rising – perhaps slowly – perhaps quickly yet the flame is steadily approaching and close to engulfing them. Time is of the essence to rescue them.
We are to save them. But how do we save them? Isn’t it true we can’t save people from their sin because only God can? Yes but Jude is not saying we have the power to save from sin as God does. John Calvin helps us here. He comments, “The word to save is transferred to men, not that they are the authors but they are the ministers of salvation.” We minister salvation by preaching, teaching, counseling, and example.
When sin is harbored in our hearts it has a progressively destructive effect. It hinders our fellowship, disrupts our relationship, and robs us of peace with God and one another. Therefore, let us watch and pray that we enter not into temptation and get trapped in the fire of a sin.
Along the lines of Matthew 18 we are to confront them in the hope of plucking them out of the fire of their sinful behavior before it destroys them. Jesus says in verse 5, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private, if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Then our Lord says if that fails take one or two more with you and confront your brother. If that fails we are to take them before the congregation in hopes of bringing the person to repentance. Otherwise they must be shunned or ex-communicated.
These are not easy things to do – confronting an erring brother or sister. Worse yet is when they refuse to repent and must be put out of the church. I witnessed one and heard of another incident of church discipline with differing results. One young woman was snatched out of the fire and it brought her healing and joy and the resolve to live a holy life. One young man remained in the burning building – didn’t take the offered ladder to safety - and brought shame and heartache as with tears his poor mother was wailing as she ran from her pew to the vestibule. Not a pleasant experience for the pastor nor for the congregation.
Jude’s admonition is tempered with mercy. We are called to try to save them in a spirit of compassion and gentleness yet firmness for the good of the individual and the harmony of the body of Christ.
The third group is the pitiable. These are the ones found deep in the pit of sin. Jude writes: on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. These are the ones who stink of sin. They know its wrong but their hearts have become calloused to the point of justifying their actions as they openly engage in sin.
There was a Christian couple married for ten years. One spouse became unfaithful. Her affair was going on for several years before the guilt finally caused her to slip up and her concealment of sin exposed. When confronted she said, I know adultery is a sin but I can’t change the way I feel. She kept on sinning and eventually left the church before she was brought before the congregation. She left her husband after a half-hearted effort at dealing with the issue. Hardened in her sin, she refused to even try at further attempts for reconcilement. She was a pitiable figure indeed.
When we deal with those so deeply entrenched in a besetting sin we are to exercise mercy with fear. It means we show them kindness but with the utmost of caution. We don’t want to become lured or ensnared by their sin.
We are to hate even the garment polluted by the flesh. Jude uses a gross metaphor simply because sin is as serious as it is gross. Polluted garments are a symbol of sin as we learn from Zech. 3:4 – Joshua’s filthy garments and Rev 3:4 - the soiled garments of the Sardians.
We are meant to think of polluted garments soiled with human bodily excretion. It is a most repulsive thought. That is Jude’s point about sin. We are to have an intense loathing for sin to the point of hating it with all our might. Jude is saying avoid all contact with sin – love the sinner but hate their sin - don’t get contaminated by it. Again we must exercise extreme caution – patient love – gentle yet firm compassion in dealing with these three groups: the doubters, the scorched, and the pitiable.
Jude has laid bare the belief and practice of the ungodly infiltrators and has provided a Biblical building plan based on faith, prayer, love and hope. He now ends on a most positive and glorious note – with a doxology of striking proportions.
It is very possible that this doxology was sung by the early Christians. There is a balance and cadence here in verses 24-25 which lends itself to singing.
Jude’s paean of praise to God is full of absolute certainty and assurance because God is the God of faithfulness. His ascription of praise begins with a positive affirmation of God’s work of salvation. He points to the author of salvation and the Perfect-er and Finisher of our faith. He points to the God who will bring us to glory. Verse 24 - Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blamelessly with great joy…”
The danger of falling into error or temptation and sin are real but God is with us and active in the salvation of His people. His work of salvation began in eternity past – is carried on in time present and made complete when we enter into eternity future. Writes the apostle, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren, and these whom He predestined , He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:29-31).
Here we have the most comforting of all Christian truth – the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. As one writer puts it briefly, this is a doctrine which states that the saints (those who God has saved) will remain in God’s hand until they are glorified and brought to abide in Him in heaven. Romans 8:28-29 (which I just quoted) makes it clear that once a person has been truly regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead.
God will see His people through. He will sanctify, preserve, and complete us till the day of Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass (1 Thess. 5:2-23). How wonderful! How comforting! God is with us till then end!
He is able because God is Sovereign – no one can thwart His purposes. He is able because God is Almighty – the Rock and Fortress of His people. He is able to keep you – His people – His elect - His sheep – His precious possession. To keep means God protects us and gives us the means of defense against error and sin. Concerning the later the Psalmist asks, “How can a young man – how shall anyone who belongs to Christ keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word” (Ps 119:9).
Concerning the former we look to Jesus. Hear the words of the Savior - “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29). He is able to keep you from stumbling. The Greek word here conveys the image of being “tripped up.”
Jesus said stumbling blocks are inevitable. James says we stumble in many ways. We are to watch and pray and guard our hearts. But God will keep us from stumbling – from falling away - in our spiritual course. This is the ‘big picture’ – God will preserve us till the day of Christ. In a sermon on Philippians 1:6 – Confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus – Spurgeon says, A good old minister was once asked whether he believed in the final perseverance of the saints, “Well”, said he, “I do not know much about that, but I firmly believe in the final perseverance of God, that where He has begun a good work he will carry it on until it is complete.” Spurgeon adds, To my mind, that truth includes the final perseverance of the saints. They persevere in the way of salvation because God keeps them in it.
Here we have that delicate line between God’s sovereignty in making us persevere and our responsibility in persevering. God preserved – protected – kept Noah from perishing in the flood but Noah had to build the Ark. The Psalmist declared that unless God builds the house they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city the watchman keeps awake in vain Ps 127:1). Again the point is: God is active in the salvation of His people. He will save His people. God will bring them to glory yet His people must build themselves up in their holy faith, pray in the Spirit, keep themselves in God’s love, walk in truth and so forth. We stand by the grace of God and stand in the strength that God supplies because He is our strength.
Jude goes on - God - will make us stand in the presence of His glory – we are unable of our own accord – our own efforts – to get to heaven and into the presence of the Lord. It is because of God’s great mercy and love that He protects us and prevents us from falling away and ushers us into the glories of heaven. Peter puts it this way: through the great mercy of God in Jesus Christ we obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet 1:4,5).
We stand blameless in the assembly of the righteous. Jesus Christ died to save His people from their sins and to make them holy. Paul points to the work of Christ and the purpose and goal of salvation this way: in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col 1:22). Eph 5:27: That He might present to Himself the church (His people) in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless. God not only cleanses us from every jot and title of sin but fills us with joy. We have no fear when we enter God’s presence but joy with continuous joy for such a great salvation.
So don’t lose heart or faith as you contend for the faith…as you battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Make use of all the means of grace for if God is with us who can be against us. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God. What a blessed promise…what a blessed motivation to press forward in confidence because our God is an able God who does great things for his people.
The second half of the doxology states…verse 25…to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord…He who is the Blessed and Only Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of Lords. This call to mind Isaiah 43:11: I, even I am the Lord and there is no savior besides Me. God is a complete savior – the Father purposes – the Son accomplishes – the Holy Spirit applies salvation. God in the fullness of time sent His Son Jesus Christ to be our redeemer…what a blessing to know the One True Living and Triune God…to belong to Him...to have a personal and practical relationship with Him…to have fellowship with Him and to experience His grace, mercy, love, and peace now and forever.
Jude next gives four divine attributes: 1) Glory – This means the awesome splendor of God in all His attributes. Just as God is light - God in His essence is Glory. Here on our earthly pilgrimage, the people of God are to reflect the glory of God – such as His holiness – in word and deed. When we dwell with Him in the new heavens and earth we will be glorified and share His glory.
2) Majesty – this is God’s magnificent dignity – worthiness – honor in all He is and does. It is the name for God in Hebrews 1:3 and 8:1 – the Majesty on high – the Majesty in the heavens. His Person, Word, and Work are all full of glorious majesty.
3) Dominion – essential the same meaning as the fourth attribute - authority. I believe it means God’s ability to rule over all spheres – material and spiritual.
4) Authority – God, the one who has called all things into existence according to His sovereign will and purpose, has the absolute right to rule.
The close proximity of God – Savior – Lord Jesus Christ show
that glory and majesty belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. That dominion and authority is exercised by Jesus Christ – our Final Prophet, Great high Priest, and Sovereign King.
Jude closes his wonderful doxology with reference to the totality of time – past/present/future – these glorious attributes of God always belonged to him and always will be His. He has revealed His glory in creation – in His Word – in His Son.
He ends with a great word of affirmation that every confident child of God should have on their lips concerning this, their great God and Savior in all He is and does as He brings us to glory – Amen – Let it be so!
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