Jude, Part 6

How To Survive With Your Faith Intact

Jude 17—23

With the exception of one more brief warning, Jude is finished with the issue of false teachers or apostates. The remaining verses of this brief and powerful letter contain a series of exhortations designed to encourage the believers to remain faithful and Jude even gives them some practical advice, which we would do well to take to heart.

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.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

1. Remember the Gospel, verses 17, 18

Like Ezekiel, Jude sees himself a watchman on the walls of Zion; times are dangerous for the House of God, and so he tells his readers to remember. The words “but” and “but you” in these verses are in the emphatic position, showing what Jude thought of his readers. He holds them in high esteem, especially in contrast to the false teachers. Jude expects much from them.

Jude again addresses his readers as agapetoi, “my beloved.” Because he loved his friends so much, Jude has spent considerable time on this issue. They face struggles, and in the face of what is to come, the first piece of advice given is to remember the teachings of the apostles. The Twelves, as they were known, and Paul, had a far reaching ministry, most of which we know nothing of. Edwin Blum makes a wonderful comment:

[T]heir preaching was part of the oral deposit of faith for the early churches.

The readers must be able to recall the message of the Gospel so that they can defend themselves against the pernicious attacks of the apostates. This is a powerful bit of advice for it places the emphasis of defense on the Word of God, not on the words of man. False teachers can be beaten, but not by clever arguments based on man’s doctrines, but on the plain teachings of the Word.

The teaching that Jude quotes is not found anywhere in the New Testament in those exact words; this has led most scholars to conclude that Jude paraphrased the overall teaching of the apostles. For example, Paul wrote this in Acts 20:29,

I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.

The Greek suggests that the idea of this teaching, that there would be selfish scoffers in the last days, was something taught repeatedly by the apostles. Through their sermons, they drilled this into the hearts and heads of the congregations of the early church. The term “last days” as used throughout the New Testament refers to their present time and a time in the future. The apostles never relaxed their vigilance, even during relative good times they were conscious that the believer is an enemy to the world in which he lives. This is surely a message for today, as we see the Church compromising itself time and time again, making friends with the world instead of fighting against it.

And so, Jude advises his friends that the best defense against false teaching is to know the Word of God. Believers have been warned of perilous times, they should not be surprised when they come, but they should know how to defend and contend for the faith.

2. Avoid false teachers, verse 19

For just a moment, Jude returns to the subject of false teachers. He merely reminds them that they:

  • “divide you.” The Greek word is extremely rare and may be “they make distinctions” between believers. Rather than accepting a brother or sister as a brother or sister, these false teachers put people into classes.
  • “follow mere natural instincts.” The Greek is psychikoi, from which we get our word “psychic,” but really means “soulish” or “unspiritual.” The church today seems plagued by teachers and preachers who claim special knowledge or “revelation” based on some kind of mystical experience, yet their lives don’t stand up under scrutiny.
  • “do not have the Spirit.” Despite their grand words, they are void of the Holy Spirit.

These kind of people do not have a place in the Church. Believers are not even to associate with heretics like this. Jesus spoke of not casting our peals before swine; in other words, some people are best avoided because of the damage they can cause to the Body of Christ.

3. Persevere and pray, verses 20, 21

The repetition of agapetoi serves to personalize the remaining few verses and points back to Jude’s friends. He gives his readers a series of four admonitions dealing with faith, prayer, love, and hope.

  • Believers should “build themselves up” in their “most holy faith.” The Greek suggests this “building up” is a continuous process that never ends. The “most holy faith” refers to the objective faith that came through the apostles; it includes all their teachings and practices. Today, we would say that believers need to study the Word of God, apply its teachings to the practices of everyday life and in that way, we are built up, fortified. Christians are also built up by fellowshipping together and worshiping together.
  • Believers are to be praying in the Holy Spirit. Once again, the Greek indicates a continuous, never ending activity. Praying in the Holy Spirit is not “praying in tongues” as some teach. Since all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, all believers should pray according to His will. That will is made known through the Word of God, through inner promptings and through the preaching of the gospel. Paul wrote a similar things in Ephesians 6:8. The wonderful thing about being filled with the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit takes our feeble prayers and prefects and presents them to God the Father (Kistemaker). See also Romans 8:26. This is in sharp contrast to the apostates, who don’t have the Holy Spirit in them.
  • Believers are to keep themselves in the love of God. The Greek for “keep” is teresate, an aorist imperative, stressing urgency. Robert Shank succinctly observed, The burden of Jude is that his readers continue to fight the good fight of faith. Charles Spurgeon is known to have placed a plaque over the doorway to his London Pastor’s College that read: Holding I am held. What an amazing truth! Neither clause can stand alone, they are both necessary for together they summarize the essence of Christ’s words, “Remain in me, and I in you.”
  • Finally, believers are to be focused on the “mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” because that is what gives them “eternal life.” Literally, the last half of verse 20 reads, “As you are waiting with expectation.” Elsewhere in the NT, believers are live their lives in anticipation of: the resurrection (Acts 24:15); their eternal glory (Titus 2:13); and the return of Christ (Luke 12:36). We can see that the life of the believer should be lived in expectation of great and positive things! In the context of Jude, believers are to eagerly anticipate the day of judgment for they will be acquitted as all believers experience the fullness of the mercy of Christ, but the wicked will be punished.

4. Show mercy, verses 22, 23

These verses contain some minor textual problems, which serve only as distractions because they don’t add or take away from anything Jude is trying to say. Basically, Jude is telling believers that there are three groups of people who need to shown mercy: those who are hesitating in questioning their faith, those who need to be saved from the fire, and those who need pity because they have been contaminated by the false teachers.

In view of the mercy we have been shown in Christ, we ought to show as much to those who need it. Stephen Grellet is thought to have said:

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to my fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

  1. The first command to show mercy to those who are doubting (hesitating). The NEB has a translated this phrase in a striking way: “There are some doubting souls who need your pity.” Perhaps these false teachers have caused some to question their faith, these folk need to be reassured, not criticized. They need to shown patience, love, and mercy.
  2. The second group to whom mercy must be shown involves those who have been scotched by the flames of sin. Jude likely has in mind Amos 4:11, where God says to Israel, “You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire.” Those who are so influenced by sin are in danger of losing their very souls and time is short for them. To these who are on the verse of perishing, we are the instruments of their salvation. Calvin comments, “The word ‘save’ is transferred to men, not that they are the authors, but they are the ministers of salvation.”
  3. The final group needing mercy is a group tainted or corrupted by sin. These have likely been involved in the immorality of the false teachers. But the imagery is powerful. The picture Jude paints is of undergarments soiled by discharges from the body. Jude wants his readers to feel intense repulsion at that thought. Those who are covered in such filth desperately need help. What a marvelous picture of the length and breadth of God’s mercy and grace: He is able to exchange the excrement-covered garments for festive garments of righteousness. There is not one sinner—even the most defiled sinner—who is beyond salvation through faith in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work.

5. Concluding words of praise, verses 24, 25

In a stunning ascription of adoration, Jude turns to God. Interestingly, he has come full circle. He opened his letter attributing love and protection to God the Father and Jesus Christ. He concludes it by praising God and His Son for their protection.

First, after reading about these false teachers, one gets the impression that just getting to heaven is almost impossible. In the face of the constant struggles to maintain our faith, how can we do it? The answer lies in the keeping power of God the Father. This doxology, the most powerful in the NT, reminds us of God’s ability to bring every one of His own safely to Himself. God is able to guard His own as “the apple of His eye” (Deut. 32:10), for we are His precious possession.

Second, not only does God protect us, He will present us to God His Father. We are utterly unable to enter into heaven on our own merit. But glory be to God, through the effort of His Son, we are protected from falling away and made able to enter Heaven’s gate. Not only that, we are presented to the Father without fault! That is a statement made even more stunning by the fact that the singular Greek word, amomos, is used here of believers and in 1 Peter 1:19 of Jesus Christ!

Finally, and I think most remarkably, the phrase “with great joy.” To whom does this apply? To believer most assuredly. The final completion of our great salvation will fill us with unbelievable joy. But imagine the joy that will fill heaven when believers stand complete before their heavenly Father will be shared with all the saints of glory and with the Father and the Son.

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