Dear Radio Friends,
If you recall, there were a few verses at the end of Jude’s letter we have not yet considered. We took a little break from our consideration of this letter for the month of December. In the next two broadcasts we are going to conclude our study of Jude.
The battle God’s people wage against unbelief is a difficult one. To stand opposed to sin, Satan, and the wicked world is a battle of the fiercest sort. Our enemies are relentless always attempting to pull us down into spiritual ruin and despair. It would be less difficult to fight if the battle lines were more clearly defined. For example, if in the church were to be found only believers, while outside the church were found unbelievers. We would know then where we stand: the church against the world. But Jude points out that Satan sends his forces into the very confines of the church itself. Unbelievers creep into the church unawares and oftentimes God’s saints must battle the enemy within the confines of the church. This is the purpose of this epistle of Jude. Jude admonishes us to “contend for the faith.”
In the verses we consider today Jude issues no more warning against these ungodly men that had crept into the church unawares. Jude has reached that part in his letter where he now instructs God’s people how they are to live in order to overcome such men. We read in Jude 20-23, “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. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” In these verses we are called to keep ourselves in the love of God. We do that by building ourselves up on our faith and by prayer.
But there is something additional we find in the verses. God’s people have a calling toward one another. Because we are members of one another in the church of Christ we are called to extend ourselves to those who are struggling in the church too. For that reason, Jude exhorts the church to extend a helping hand to those who were becoming spotted with the lusts of these wicked men. Now, that is a task we seldom hear of! That we are to lend a helping hand; we are to show our love for those stumbling into the way of sin by having compassion on them. Such we also consider today.
KEEP YOURSELVES IN LOVE
I. A Confident Command
Jude makes an assumption in these verses that we consider. He is confident that the saints whom he addresses love God. Notice the command: keep yourselves in the love of God. There may have been ungodly men who crept into the church and were spreading their error. There may have been some in the church who were giving in to the lusts and lasciviousness of these men. But this was not true of the church as a whole. It was not true of her officebearers. Neither can we say it was true of the majority of the members of the church. The saints loved God. This is also why Jude could confidently call them “beloved” in verse 20. They loved God because they were God’s beloved. He first loved them. And that is where all true love begins—in God. God is love. He does not simply possess love, but God is love. Love is one of God’s attributes. And it is the love of God that defines for us what true love is as opposed to the lust that is far too often passed off as love in our society today. The term for love in the Hebrew speaks of a strong, an intense, longing after another. So strong is that desire, that the person possessed of such love is unwilling to part with that person he loves. It is so strong a longing that a person is willing to devote his life entirely to that person for his happiness and welfare.
It is a love that seeks to know more and more of that other person—to spend a lifetime in the pursuit of knowing that other person better. The term for love in Greek reflects this idea: so intimately do we know others that we prize them above all else. We are unwilling to abandon or to do without them. In this way love becomes a bond—an inseparable bond between two or more individuals.
Such is God’s love. As the triune God He loves Himself perfectly. The three Persons within the Trinity long after the fellowship and life of one another. In that love they seek each other, they are unwilling to live without each other. They are bound together in one within the very being of God Himself. That is the love that characterizes believers: God’s love. It is a love that must enter into the various relationships of life. It the love that binds believing husbands with their wives, and wives with their husbands. The binding love that parents show to their children, and children to their parents; or that members of the church reveal toward one another. And so on. We love with this sort of love because the love of God has been imparted to us with our salvation. So much did God love us that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to die for us. So much did Christ love us that He gave His very life for us. Through His work on the cross Christ also bestowed on us such love. It has been shed abroad in our hearts! We live in and out of God’s love.
That is on the foreground here in our text: the love we have for God. We are God’s beloved; and because we are, God is our beloved too! God has become the ultimate object of our love. And it is in that love that we have for God that we are enjoined by Jude to live. We are to keep ourselves in that love.
Now, the act of keeping may seem simple enough. It means to guard or to attend to carefully, or to hold firmly. But this task of keeping is not so easy a matter. It implies Christian warfare. It implies an intense struggle. It is as if a few people are called upon to defend a city against a hoard of merciless mercenaries who are attacking us. The city is our love for God and we have to defend ourselves in that love against a host of unbelief. We must keep or guard ourselves in our love for God against overwhelming odds. There is a strong leader at the head of our enemy, Satan. There is a relentless world of unbelief that seeks to draw us away from our love for God. And then, to add to the intensity of the battle, there are those within the church itself that ally themselves with the world and Satan and would destroy our love for God. In the battle that we are called to keep, we are called to hold firmly and unwaveringly our love for God, Christ, and Their cause in this world. It is true that God preserves us in His love. But that does not make our battle to keep God’s love at the center of our lives any easier. Let us face it, sometimes in our battle we can grow weary.
Sometimes, because of the weakness of our faith and our sin, we can begin to waver in our love for God. How easy it is to give in to the lusts of this present life or to doubt the coming of our Lord. How often we can become so lax in our own personal battles with sin and Satan and we find that we do not burn in our love for God. Our love begins to wane, and we are apt to follow in the ungodly lusts of unbelievers or to cower beneath their mocking. Though God preserves us, nevertheless we are called by God to guard ourselves from the evil pursuits of this world. Jude instructs us that there are two distinct ways in which we must keep ourselves, beloved saints.
The first is by building up ourselves on our most holy faith. To understand what Jude teaches us here, we need to know what is meant by the most holy faith. Jude does not refer so much to faith itself as he does to the objective content of faith. He refers to a body of knowledge set forth in the Bible, all of which is the object of our faith, of our believing. And Jude calls it the most holy faith because that which we know and have confidence in is the Word of God itself. Even as God is most holy, holy above all else, so also is His Word. God’s Word is worthy of our veneration. It is sacred. It is worthy of to be heeded reverently and in awe just as God is.
To build ourselves on our most holy faith means, then, that we must constantly be building ourselves upon the Word of God. To keep ourselves in our love for God, therefore, we must be found in the Scriptures. We must be building up our faith in God, our knowledge of God and our confidence in Him, by the study of His Word. This is not an abstract exercise. It is very concrete. There are certain ways that we can build ourselves on God’s Word. First of all, we must read it and study it. Secondly, we must sit under the preaching of the Word, to have a steady diet of that Word. In the third place, we must discuss that Word in our families and with our fellow saints. To build ourselves up on the faith means we must immerse ourselves in the Bible. It is not an ordinary book. It the Word of the God whom we love!
The second way we are to keep ourselves in God’s love is by means of prayer. Jude writes in verse 20, “praying in the Holy Ghost.” Ah yes, never must we underestimate the power of prayer in our lives as God’s people. Scripture reading and prayer go hand in hand. One cannot be had without the other. Prayer places us in living contact with God. When we pray we talk with God. We enter into His presence and we pour out our hearts before Him. We praise Him, we thank Him, we place our needs before Him. We ask of Him for strength to remain faithful to His cause in this world. We draw from Him the strength needed to guard ourselves in His love. And yes, we pray in the Holy Spirit. No doubt about it! Our prayers are not merely formal, well-worded, nice sounding petitions meant to impress men or God. It is speaking to God from the heart—a heart in which the Holy Spirit has taken up His abode. We pray in the Spirit. We pray being led by that Spirit into a prayer that is both proper and sanctified by Him. God answers these prayers. He keeps us in His love. He answers us with strength to do so.
II. A Mutual Command
There is something that may elude us if we read this passage superficially. Jude does not address only certain individuals in the church. He does not say, Keep yourself in the love of God. He does not say in the singular, build yourself up on your most holy faith. In other words, Jude is not simply encouraging us individually to perform these activities. He speaks in the plural. Members of the church together must keep each other in the love of God. Together the members of the church must build themselves up on the Word of God and prayer. This is a command that is to be fulfilled communally, cooperatively, by the saints. It is a command God’s people must fulfill together with one another. And that, of course, forms the basis for the following verses of our text.
God’s people are always called upon to help one another in their walk of life. It is an integral part of the communion of saints. This is why Jude states here, keep yourselves. Help one another to guard each other in your love. Help one another together, building yourselves up on your most holy faith. Pray together. And as we mentioned, this forms the basis for the verses following. If we are to do all of these things together, we must be ready and willing to help those in the church who stumble along the way. How willing are we to encourage, visit with, and push along those who are floundering in their walk and life? Notice what Jude writes in verses 22, 23: “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
In these verses we find three categories of people that were falling into the sins of those ungodly teachers who committed ungodly deeds in an ungodly way. Each category is worse than the one before it. Jude teaches the faithful of the church how they are to react to these. Not by ignoring them and hoping they go away. Not by acting as if everything is ok when this was far from true. But here is the way those who love God must deal with troubles in the church—a way that every church does well to learn. There are some, Jude says,to whom we must show compassion, making a difference. Very simply put, this sentence means that there are those in the church to whom we need to bring help in a compassionate, yet discriminating way. There were those who were new to the faith and in ignorance lacked discernment. They were easily drawn away by such false teachers. Stronger believers were enjoined to help them: to visit with them, pray with them, instruct them patiently and compassionately. This must be done “making a difference,” or by determining what manner of person we deal with. Some of those given to temptation were tender and soft and must be dealt with in that way. Others were stubborn and contentious and these had to be dealt with in that way. Such was the first group of people prone to give in to the errors of the false teachers in the church.
The second group of saints who need the help of stronger believers in the church were those who needed to be saved by pulling them out of the fire. The idea here is that these needed to be rescued by snatching them out of the lasciviousness of ungodly men and their ungodly deeds. Some saints in the church of Jude’s day were just beginning to walk into the fire of lust—just beginning to take on the attitude of those who despised the rule of Christ and the elders. Jude says, in love reach into the fire in an attempt to save these from destruction. Do this without fear, in order to save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins. That is something that very few believers, even when faithful, seem to be willing to do. We are so apt at this point to turn away and give them over to the flames of sin.
The third set of people are those who for all intents and purposes are already gone, already lured into the sin and following the heretics in the church. Jude says in verse 23, “some help while hating or detesting the very garment spotted by the flesh.” There were those in the church who had given in to the lust of their sinful flesh. Their souls were spotted with the filth of their sin already. The garment mentioned here was that of a tunic, that piece of clothing worn closest to the body. This word is used to show that lust had now conceived itself within them, they were wearing it close to them. Jude instructs God’s people that, out of their love for the saints, they must even be willing to speak with these contentious members, using strong warnings and admonitions. The elders must exercise Christian discipline. Those strong in faith must stand fast. Such behavior is also an aspect of keeping ourselves in the love of God.
III. An Urgent Command
The urgency of this command cannot be overlooked either. Dear friends, we live in the last days. Jude warns those who lived then to stand fast against evil men. Can you imagine how much more that is the case today? How often the sins of this postmodern world threaten the church. A failure to discern between what is right and wrong prevails. People are more concerned with pleasing themselves than they are with pleasing God. There is so little conviction in our world. People do not stay the course anymore. Oh, how we need to live in love in the midst of the church! How we need to build ourselves together on the most holy faith. How we need to pray together and to look out for one another’s spiritual welfare. So many are drawn away from the truth. So many walk in the desires of the flesh. It is urgent that we keep before our hearts the second coming of Christ and the final judgment.
The incentive to keep this command is found at the end of verse 21, where we are told to look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. This speaks of the coming of Christ at the end of time, when He will come to destroy this present world and to usher in eternal life. God’s people look for that time, because then the mercy of Jesus Christ will be revealed to us. Mercy is God’s willingness to deliver you and me out of our present distress and to give us joy and peace. This has been accomplished already at the cross of Christ in principle. That is where Christ’s mercy first appeared. But that mercy of Christ will finally be revealed at the end of time when Christ will deliver us from all our enemies. There will be no more struggles in our lives and in the lives of our fellow saints. Keep yourselves in the love of God by looking for the mercy that will be shown when Christ comes again. Then rejoice that God preserves us unto that day of the mercy of Christ.
Dear Radio Friends,