Jude began his letter with the desire to write about the greatness of our “common salvation” (Jd. 3). However, it was painfully obvious that the common salvation could not be enjoyed to the fullest by the Christians because of the incredible sins which were prevalent among God’s people. Christians are aware that the sinfulness of the world can be deflating to our spiritual aspirations, but the most damaging shots to our faith are fired from people who at least claim to be of the faith.
Jude had to write this letter encouraging the saints to “contend earnestly for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jd. 3) because “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” (Jd. 4). “crept in” is defined as, “ to join surreptitiously with evil intent—‘to slip into a group unnoticed, to join unnoticed.’ The word “crept in” (ESV) is παρεισέρχομαι. It is used in Galatians 2:4 ‘who slipped into our group in order to spy on our freedom.” Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, define the word as meaning, “probably radical Jewish Christians who appeared in Antioch (cf. Acts 15:1ff.), and perhaps also in the assembly in Jerusalem and in the Galatian churches, in opposition to the Pauline message of freedom (cf. J. Becker, Gal [NTD] ad loc.).
These individuals were “Christians”. They were not outsiders, they were members of God’s family who had “left home” but hadn’t “left the house”. Paul dealt with a similar problem in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5. There the congregation had accepted and promoted a couple living an immoral lifestyle in public view. This is a prevalent problem in the New Testament, and continues to be a problem today.
There is a distinction which now needs to be made. The Bible is not addressing Christians who are struggling to overcome sin. Here in Jude and in 1 Corinthians 5, the Holy Spirit is teaching us about Christians who have yielded to sin and are still trying to reap the benefits of fellowship with both God and God’s family. All Christians will struggle with sin. However, Christians cannot yield to sin and expect the Christian community to accept their new found lifestyle. This is a time for elders to shepherd their flock, and for spiritual people to restore those who have been overtaken (Gal. 6:1).
So, while Christians are trying to restore the spiritual sinners around them, what are they to do in order to keep from falling themselves? What are Christians to do in order to promote evangelism and church growth while their Christian family has decided to live in sin?
“But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jd. 17 NASBU). To remember doesn’t necessarily mean that something had been forgotten, it does mean that we must call certain things to mind in different circumstances. When faced with trials stemming from apostasy, we are to remember that apostasy was foretold. We should expect it to occur. Christians do not accept the apostasy, but we do accept that apostasy will happen.
Jude spoke at length about these false teachers who were prevalent in his time so that they would be recognized and so that the Christians would see the folly and fruitlessness of their actions. They will not be saved (Jd. 5-7). They are suffering from their pride (Jd. 8-11). They are dangerous to the church family (Jd. 12-13). They will be punished (Jd. 14-15).
Notice the warnings concerning false teachers in the New Testament.
- Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things draw away disciples after them.”
- 1 Timothy 4:1-3, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.
This reality of false doctrine being present does not mean that the church or the Faith has failed. Rather, apostasy demonstrates that God’s Word holds true, there is a truth which can be forsaken, and we must hold to that truth in order to be saved.
Build Yourselves Up—Jude 20
Jude says we are to be “building yourselves up in the most holy faith”. The word for “build up” is ἐποικοδομοῦντες and is a present active participle which means that this what we are ourselves to be active in doing. The word is defined as, “increase the potential of someone or something, with focus upon the process involved.” “To build upon it, and to build again, cf. οἰκοδομή, 1 Cor. 3:9. Faith in God and Christ is the foundation on which we must build ourselves up, ever more firmly in all directions, and into which we must ever root ourselves deeper and deeper. The term implies both strengthening and growth, cf. Heb. 12:28; Col. 2:6. 7; 2 Pet. 1:5; 3:18; 1 Pet. 2:5.”
While we may be tempted to be distracted and depressed in faith because of the actions of others, Christians are challenged to build themselves up. It is impossible to help another, if you do not first care for self. Our Lord understood the importance of finding times of quiet repose for refreshment in prayer. He repeatedly seeks to be alone. So the servant should be like his Master. Let us build ourselves up so that we will be able to withstand trials.
One of the chief ways in which the Spirit teaches us to build ourselves up is by prayer. While spending time talking about a problem may seem as worthless, every moment spent in prayer to God is powerful beyond our imaginations. How unfortunate we make ourselves by neglecting prayer and forsaking God’s richest blessings! This power of prayer is amplified by the aid of the Spirit (Romans 8:26).
Keep Yourselves in the Love of God—Jude 21
Next, the Spirit of God teaches us, “keep yourselves in the love of God”. These verses state “in what manner and spirit the divine faith or truth is to be used so as truly to build up the readers. Your most holy faith is to be the one means; the Holy Spirit is to be the great helper; praying is to be the devout attitude and frame of mind and heart.”
This is not an abstract idea, but a reality of position of relationship. Just as 1 John 1:7 exhorts Christians to walk in the light in order to be continually cleansed, we must continually nurture our relationship to God by walking in his light.
“Compare here the repeated exhortations of our Lord to abiding in His love, Jno. 15:4. 9. While it is true that nothing but the power of God can preserve us unto salvation, cf. 1 Pet. 1:5; 2 Thess. 3:3; Jno. 17:5, it is equally true that we must do our part in this great work of God, and make faithful and good use of our gifts and graces for our sanctification. Hence John says (1 Jno. 5:18),“He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” “Man also, by exercising himself in the word of God, may strengthen his love to God, and thereby more richly enjoy the love which God has to us.” John 14:21. Rieger.
The Christian has the responsibility of maintaining his privileged position. It is not enough to be saved and rely upon grace (Rom. 6:1). Christians are compelled to greater holiness because of God’s graciousness.
Waiting is among the most difficult tasks for many. The Greek word used here is προσδεχόμενοι. The usage of this word has do to with expectation Christians have of the eternal reward.
The meaning expect (or wait / look for) dominates in the NT. Three times this expectation is messianic: Simeon waits for Israel’s consolation (Luke 2:25); Anna speaks of Jesus to all who are looking for Jerusalem’s redemption (2:38). Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, is looking for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43 par. Luke 23:51). Jesus exhorts his disciples to be attentive and ready; they should be “like servants waiting for their master (Luke 12:36). More than forty men who have conspired against Paul keep ready and await word from the tribune to kill Paul (Acts 23:21). Paul confesses before the Roman governor that he expects the resurrection of both the just and the unjust (24:15). Titus 2:13 speaks of awaiting the blessed hope, the epiphany of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Jude 21 exhorts the readers to persevere in the love of God and wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
To expectantly wait is necessary because the reward is in Heaven, not on earth.
Christians are often discouraged by the trials and tribulations of life. Many leave their faith completely, and others seek to change the truth in order to fit their desires. However, Jesus promised an abundant life for His people even in the midst of sorrow. The greatness of the Christian life is that it offers a great life even when “things aren’t going well.” Tom Schreiner says:
It is interesting to note that in v. 1 believers are said to be “loved and kept by God.” There God’s love for believers receives the emphasis, the love by which he called us to be his people. What is remarkable is that Jude exhorted believers here to keep themselves in God’s love. They must keep themselves in God’s love to avoid apostasy, so as not to be corrupted by the opponents. We have already seen that being preserved in God’s love will only be a reality if believers continue to grow in their understanding of the Christian faith and if they regularly pray.
The Christian is not to be overwhelmed by the sin around him. Neither is he to become complacent toward it. “No man is an island unto himself” we must answer not only for how we live, but also for how we utilize our influence upon others (Acts 20:26; Ezekiel 33:6). Therefore, the Spirit here teaches us to make every attempt to save those who are lost using truth, wisdom, and love. Jude 22 says, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
Paul also wrote that Christians are to restore the fallen—Galatians 6:1. Today, it is far too easy to grow complacent toward sin, sinners, and unfaithful Christians. However, our zeal for the lost must be stirred by focusing upon their eternal destiny if they remain as such, focusing upon the heart of Christ who suffered to save sinners, focusing on the lives of great preachers like Paul who though he was the “chief of sinner” “did everything for the sake of the Gospel”. The Pulpit Commentary offers the following apt summary and application:
There is a duty to all, but the duty is not the same to each. Christian wisdom must decide how to distinguish between cases, and to act in each so as at once to seek the good of others and to keep ourselves pure. “Different courses are to be pursued according to their different circumstances, characters, and dispositions. Some must be dealt with sternly, even as that Hymeneus and Alexander, whom St. Paul ‘delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.’ Some may be saved by promptness and decision even from the extremity of danger. Some, while they awaken compassion, must yet be dealt with tremblingly, lest he who seeks to save them himself suffer from the contact. Such is obviously the part of wisdom. An insight into character, and a ready tact in adapting one’s efforts to its various phases, is an important qualification in those who would win souls from the error of their ways. All souls are to be cared for; but not all by the same methods” (Gardiner).
Despite evils surrounding us, there is always God above us and with us. Therefore, there is always reason to rejoice in worship. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Christian, never be overwhelmed with evil. God is always God. His will is that you will be saved. He requires perseverance in order for the reward to be given. Repeated exhortations in the Scripture call us to rejoice in the certain confidence we have in Christ (Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:22; Eph. 3:20, 1:4, 5:27;
1 Peter 4:12-13 reminds us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
To neglect the private or public worship of our great God is to condemn oneself to spiritual sickness and death (1 Cor. 11:30-32). Let God’s people maintain and develop their spiritual life by continual worship.
Never give up! Discouragement is easily found and is a worthy foe. God’s way and God’s grace is far greater. Romans 12:21 teaches us: “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” “Do not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not loose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Remember the great admonition of Paul, “my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).