A Faith Worth Fighting For - Part 3
We’re coming to the end of this brief but powerful letter. Jude started on a positive note reminding believers that they are called, loved, and kept. And he wanted to write a letter celebrating the salvation they all have in common, but he was compelled to change the tone of his letter in view of a dangerous situation he saw. There were false teachers – ungodly, rebellious, immoral teachers - who were threatening the church. Jude urges the believers to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The gospel you heard can’t be improved upon. The false teachers are selling a knock-off gospel that has no power. They are following in the footsteps of godless people like Cain and Balaam and Korah and cities like Sodom and Gomorrah – all who suffered the punishment of disobedience. This is a scary world they live in. Sound familiar?
Today we will look at the conclusion of the letter – vv 20-25. And now Jude will turn to a more positive teaching. In these last verses he will give some strategies on how to protect themselves from these false teachings.
Let’s get to the text – First, vv 20-21 Jude offers advice, a strategy for the fight they are in. One interesting note as we read these verses. When we think of triads, the implicit Trinitarianism of the text should be observed. Jude referred to praying in the Holy Spirit, the love of God, presumably the Father, and the mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Second
Jude 20–21 (NIV) — 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
You, dear friends, keep yourselves in God’s love - that’s the command. Then he describes ways to do that – building, praying, waiting. Interestingly enough, he does not instruct his readers to do anything about the teachers at this point, but rather focuses on what they should do about themselves.
Jude cares about these people - he calls them beloved. All these warnings are generated from a heart of love and concern.
He adds that we carry some of the responsibility – we must be active – the best offense is a good defense
That is, divine action and human responsibility are both clearly stated by this single author within one short letter.
A number of passages indicate a need for active involvement in maintaining that love relationship. For instance, in John 15:9–10 we read, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Here in John as in Jude we have a situation in which the believers are already loved but still need to remain in that love. Paul will say in Philippians 2:12–13 (NIV) — 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Keep yourselves in God’s love. Never can forget that God loves us – he has our best interest at heart – even in our weaknesses God loves us - false teachers love themselves.
Now Jude is going to give us three strategies:
(1) Building yourselves up in your most holy faith
What is clear is that the building is collective. It is not that the individual follower of Jesus is to build himself or herself up, but that the follower(s) of Jesus (individually or together) is (are) to build the community of Jesus up.
(2) Praying in the Holy Spirit
Praying in the Spirit means we will pray for God’s will to be done, not our will.
Believers cannot keep themselves in God’s love without depending on him by petitioning him in prayer. Love for God cannot be sustained without a relationship with him, and such a relationship is nurtured by prayer.
(3) Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life
One of the means by which we continue in our love for God is if we continue to long for the day when Jesus Christ will show us his mercy, when he will grant us the gift of eternal life, and we will be perfected forever.
What are you doing to build yourself up? Are you in community with others building them up?
Are you praying for God’s discernment in your life? Praying for his peace?
Are you waiting with anticipation for the life to come?
Too often we spend more time and energy complaining abut the situation of the world and less time actually preparing ourselves for the spiritual battles we face.
After we make sure we are making preparations Jude now gives us advice on how to handle those who are being affected by the false teachers.
Jude 22–23 (NIV) — 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
How should his readers treat these people?
There seems to be three groups of people Jude is talking about (much in line with his preference for triads)
(1) First, those who were wavering under the influence of the false teachers should not be rejected or ignored. By showing mercy to them, as they struggle with doubts, such people could be reclaimed. Just as God has been merciful to us we should be merciful to those who doubt.
It is tempting to dismiss those struggling with doubts, to lose patience with them and move on to something else. Jude encouraged those who were strong to show mercy and kindness to those wavering with doubts, to reclaim them with gentleness. Parents, this may be especially needed when our kids begin to ask questions about faith. Rather than just scold them for doubt, be merciful to them as they work their way through things.
(2) Second, others were close to being captured by the teaching and behavior of the opponents. Believers must not give up on them. Their lives could still be salvaged, and they could be snatched from the fire that threatened to destroy them. Jude may be suggesting a little more serve action in this case. They are getting too close. The goal is always to bring them back, never to simply shame. Our motive is not to shame but to restore. This takes a great deal of wisdom and prayer.
(3) Third, others had already been defiled by the false teachers. Perhaps Jude even spoke here about the false teachers themselves. Even in this case mercy should still be extended. Mercy mixed with fear. What does he mean by “fear”?
Some commentators think the fear here refers to the fear of God instead of the fear of contamination. But contamination seems to be more fitting since Jude proceeded to speak of detesting even the garment defiled by the flesh. If one gets too close, even the clothing will defile those attempting to show mercy.
Believers are to beware lest their mercy is transposed into acceptance, and they themselves become defiled by the sin of those they are trying to help.
Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 489). Broadman & Holman Publishers.
That is, in showing mercy to those who are sinning it is quite possible to get drawn into their sin. Thus Jude advises showing mercy in fear. One is working on the edge of the fire, so to speak. Not only are those being rescued at risk, but the rescuers are also endangering themselves. Sin is deceitful enough that those trying to help others could themselves get trapped. That is no reason not to “show mercy,” but every reason to have fear.
Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 103–104). William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
One cannot rescue people without personal contact, but one must also be cautious that what seduced them does not seduce you. It is quite possible to remain in positive contact and accept a person without at the same time condoning or accepting the person’s sin. This appears to be Jude’s position, a merciful one indeed.
Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (p. 106). William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
We are living in a culture when any disagreement with one’s behavior is often interpreted as hating that person. Now, some of that is on Christians who act hateful; who act without mercy. So first, let’s repent of that. On the other hand, we cannot turn a blind eye to blatant and brazen sin and false teaching in the church.
In many churches today, it is considered worse to judge evil than to do evil.
Let me add that this is advice for people in the church – not outsiders. Paul makes an important distinction in his letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 5:9–13 (NIV) — 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
The church needs to be a group of people who hold themselves accountable to one another. And oh, this is so difficult but, again, the goal is to save people from the fire.
This has all been very heavy stuff. There are false teachers among us. There are false gospels being preached. God judges those false teachers. We need to contend for the faith. It can almost be overwhelming. It can lead us to fear and insecurity. I think Jude can sense this and that is why he ends with this beautiful doxology – this word of praise.
A reminder that God is on our side. He will always be there to keep us faithful. He has made the promise that one day we will stand before him not in guilt but in glory. As powerful and convincing that these teachers appear to be God is the only God! He is our savior. He is the majestic one. He has all power and authority. Not just now but before all ages and into eternity. One commentator writes, “This thrilling doxology reminds us of the power of God (Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 218). InterVarsity Press.)
Jude 24–25 (NIV) — 24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—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.
Receive this blessing from Jude. Please stand and let me read this one more time and after the “forevermore” I will say “and the congregation said” and you all say enthusiastically and confidently “Amen.” And then Basil will lead us in a song of praise to the alone true God!