Today we are going to finish our study of Jude. This short letter was written by Jude who was the brother of James. What he does not mention is that he is also the half brother of Jesus Christ. They had the same mother -Mary, but different fathers, Joseph being the father of James and Jude, and the Holy Spirit being the father of Jesus.
Jude wrote this letter to the churches, having first desired to elaborate on their common salvation, but he was urged by the Holy Spirit to write something else instead – a warning that certain ungodly persons had crept into the church unawares, and their false doctrine was a stumbling block to these true believers to whom he was writing. He says in vs 1 that he writes then to “those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”
In other words, the true believer is called by God with an effectual call to salvation, he is loved by God to the extent that God provided the way of salvation, and he is kept for Jesus Christ in the sense that they have been brought into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. That idea of being kept by God is an important concept in this letter. He restates it again at the conclusion of this letter in vs 24, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” What that speaks of is salvation is from God. Both the beginning, the present and the future aspects of our salvation is from God.
As Paul says in Rom. 8:30 “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” In salvation, there are three stages, justification, sanctification, and glorification. All three stages are necessary.
And that second stage, sanctification, in particular is the concern of Jude’s letter. Because as he says in vs 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Because of their false testimony, these certain persons were in danger of depriving the church of their prize by abusing the grace of God in saying that you could live ungodly lives and still be acceptable to God. That you could disregard the aspect of our salvation which is sanctification, which is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, to be holy, even as He is holy, to live righteous, godly lives.
Make no mistake, to live godly lives in the midst of an ungodly world is our mandate as Christians. To confess Jesus as Lord, to live for Him, to do His will. Grace isn’t a license to sin, but a mandate to live holy lives. As Paul says in Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
Do you see in that passage how the three aspects of salvation are expressed? Salvation is by grace, our justification is by grace, but that very grace instructs us to live godly lives, which is sanctification. And then looking for the blessed hope of the appearing of Jesus Christ is our glorification, when we are raised up to meet the Lord to live with Him forever in a new glorified body.
But Jude’s warning in this letter is that these certain ungodly persons were putting a stumbling block before the church, encouraging them to live ungodly lives, to deny the lordship of Jesus Christ, that we don’t have to live godly lives to be a Christian. And what that meant was that the sanctification of the saint was in jeopardy, and even the salvation of those who were seeking to enter the kingdom of God was being prevented.
As Jesus Himself said of the false teachers of His day, in Matt. 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” They were a stumbling block which caused those who were entering to fall, and those who were seeking to enter to not find it.
So Jude gave several examples from biblical history of false teachers and pretenders whom God judged and brought condemnation upon because they were living ungodly lives and putting a stumbling block before others. We are not going to review all of them, but I encourage you to review that section for yourself. Because as Jude tells us here, it’s important to remember. Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. If we are wise we will learn from these historical examples that Jude gives us in the middle section of this letter. Rom. 15:4 “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Now as we enter into this last section of the letter, Jude reminds us again to remember. He says in vs17 “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”
The apostles had echoed the warnings of Jesus Himself, warning that in the last days that false teachers would arise from within the ranks of the church to lead people astray. Paul, for example, said in 2Tim. 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Peter warned about the same in 2Peter 2:1-2 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.”
So Jude reminds us that the apostles had warned about these false teachers who mocked the imperatives of the gospel, and now he gives one last summary description of these certain persons so that the church might recognize them. He says in vs 19 “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” What does he mean by they cause divisions? I think he might be referring to the same sort of people that Paul spoke of in “1Cor. 1:12 “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” In other words, they cherry pick from the teachers of the gospel to serve their own desires. Even worse, they accumulate certain teachers that tickle their ears as Paul had said in 2 Timothy 4 which we read awhile a go.
Paul had told Timothy in 2Tim. 2:15 to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” But these men do not rightly divide the word of truth, but they give preference to one scripture above the others for the sake of giving license to their ungodly desires.
Secondly, he says they are worldly minded. The Greek word there means natural. They are not interested in spiritual things, but are all consumed with the natural man. Instead of being focused on the spiritual things of God, they are fixated on the flesh, on the natural world, the things which appeal to the flesh. How to live your best life now. How to get God to do whatever you want Him to do. How to have health, wealth and prosperity in this life. Name it and claim it. These are people whose minds are set on things of this world, worldly minded.
And lastly, he says they are devoid of the Spirit. That simply means that they are not even saved. Rom 8:9 says “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Jude is not criticizing the fact that they work in the flesh and not by the Spirit. Thats a possibility as a Christian, as Paul warned the Galatians. But that’s not the case with these certain persons. He says they are devoid of the Spirit. They are not really Christians. They are pretenders who claim to be spirit filled, but in fact are operating under the influence of evil spirits who have maligned the truth, and seek to destroy the faith.
So we know who these certain people are who have crept into the church unnoticed. We know how to recognize them. But we were told by Jude that we are to contend for the faith. How do we do that? How do we resist the damning influence that these certain people have on the church? How do we avoid the stumbling blocks that they put in the way?
Jude answers those questions by giving us four injunctions starting in vs 20; “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
The first thing we do when we contend for the faith in response to the false teaching of these certain persons, is we edify our own faith. To edify is to build up, to instruct, to teach, to improve. We edify our own faith. Notice Jude describes it as your most holy faith. This is building up a holy faith. Holiness is the process of sanctification. It is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It is living according to the Spirit and not according to the desires of the flesh.
You do that by keeping the commands of God, by keeping the ordinances of God. As Peter quoted God as saying, “you shall be holy for I am holy.” To be holy is to be the opposite of natural, as fleshly. It’s patterning your life after Christ. Peter spoke of that as walking in the footsteps of Christ. 1Peter 2:21-22 “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH.”
Jude says build up your faith first. A good analogy of that principle is when you are traveling in an airplane, they give you these directions about how to put on an oxygen mask in the event that the plane loses oxygen. And they always say, put your own mask on first before helping others to put on theirs. The point being that if you are unconscious, you won’t be able to help others. So in regards to contending for the faith, make sure to build up your own faith first, founded on sound doctrine and practice, and then you will be able to instruct others.
To build up your faith then is to exercise your faith. Live by faith and not by sight. Walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Secondly Jude says we are to pray in the Holy Spirit. I”m sorry to have to offend any charismatics out there, but this is not talking about speaking in tongues in some sort of prayer language. It simply means praying according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Praying in the Holy Spirit means praying in the power of the Holy Spirit, in alignment with the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the will of God. We need to pray scripture, we need to pray God’s promises which He has given us in scripture. We need to pray according to the will of God, not our will, and that is how we pray in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:26-27 says, “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 according to [the will of] God.” Notice something very important – the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. That’s the secret to successful prayer, praying in the will of God. Not praying some magic incantation which gets God to do our will, but when we pray in the will of God and we can know that we have the things which we ask of.
One of the famous texts that we often turn to in regards to prayer is found in James 5:16. It says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”
Let me try to explain some things about this passage that are often not fully appreciated. First of all, Elijah did not decide on his own after it did not rain for three years, and then he prayed that it would rain and God answered his prayer. No, actually, in 1 Kings 18 we have record of God telling Elijah that He was going to send rain on the earth again. Elijah then in the strength of that promise went back to Ahab and then prayed three times that it would rain. And since it was God’s will that it would rain, and since God said it was going to rain, it did rain. But Elijah prayed three times before God sent the rain He had already promised He would send. That’s called praying in the will of God.
Another important aspect of prayer that is taught in that passage speaks to the earlier principle Jude gave about building up your own holy faith first. And that is that James says, the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. When you pray in the will of God, and when you are right with God, built up in your holy faith, when you are living righteously, then that makes your prayer effective with God.
And the object of our prayer is to contend for the faith. We pray for one another. We pray for the pastor. We pray for the church. We pray for our unsaved loved ones. If we are called to fight for the faith, we can be certain that a great part of the battle will be won on our knees.
Another injunction Jude gives us is to keep ourselves in the love of God. That means we love the things that God loves, and we hate the things that God hates. We need to have a holy hatred for sin. I’m sorry to have to say this, but as Christians I’m afraid we love sin, and hate to have to go without it. Sin is like a forbidden love affair that we keep giving in to. We may try to avoid it, but we still love it. We miss it so much, and consequently we struggle with those sins over and over. The reason is that we have not learned to hate the sin. To have a holy horror of sin because we recognize that it’s an affront to God. We don’t recognize that sin brings death. If we love God, then we will hate sin because we hate that it is an affront to God. Sin insults God. Sin offends God. And so if we love Him, we will hate sin. I didn’t say hate the sinner, but we hate sin.
The next thing Jude tells us we must do in our fight for the faith, is “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” I think that means that we wait anxiously for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having a heavenly hope is the key to living a godly life here on earth. The opposite of a heavenly hope is to mount up treasure on earth. It’s to live for what this world has to offer. It’s living for the moment, rather than for eternity. It’s living for the flesh, rather than living by the Spirit. We need to live in expectation of Christ’s imminent return.
We need to get our perspective up above the horizon of this world. Like the faithful of old who are spoken of in Hebrews 11, they were looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
So those are things that Jude says we need to be concerned about in regards to our own selves. But we don’t stop there. We need to love our neighbor as ourselves. So how do we do that? Especially those that may have stumbled over the stumbling blocks that these certain persons have put in their path?
Jude tells us how we are to help them in vs22 “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
Have mercy on some who are doubting, that speaks of those who have listened to the false teaching and now doubt the truth of the gospel. So speaking the truth in love might be to rebuke them in their sin. To correct their false doctrine. Jude says save others, snatching them out of the fire. These would be to present the gospel to those who are not yet saved. In effect, snatch them from hell. Do every thing you can to bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. You know, I”m sure there are many, many people here today that would rush into a burning house to save your loved one. We may not be trained firefighters, but if we saw our loved ones in a situation that could mean death, most of us would run and jump into the burning house, if we thought there was any possible chance we could save them.
And yet, many of us are guilty of watching our loved ones drift steadily towards certain death, knowing full well that the Bible says that those who die without Christ will be cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer torment eternally. That’s a reality though that we have somehow convinced ourselves to not think too seriously about. But if we really believe what the Bible says, then we would have mercy and snatch them out of the fire.
I think that’s what he means when he says, “On some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” If we hate sin, if we have a horror for sin, then we will show mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Sometimes the sin is something that we fear to come close to, because we recognize how dangerous it is. And so we hate every vestige of it. We fear for their soul.
But the good news is that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is able to cleanse us from the stain of sin, so that we may live in righteousness. Salvation offers us forgiveness from the penalty of sin, deliverance from the power of sin, and one day eradication of the presence of sin. Right now, we should be living in the power over sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us.
Our job, if we really love our neighbor as ourselves, is to go to those who need to hear the gospel and compel them to come into the kingdom of God. But thankfully, it’s not all up to us. Jude closes this message with what may be the best benediction in the entire Bible. In this benediction he states what God will do. And that is where we find the power to win the battle for the faith. That’s where we find the victory.
Notice he says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” What a great blessing that is, to realize that though Jude told us we are to keep building up our faith, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God, yet we find it’s the Lord who is keeping us, who is keeping us from stumbling, who is able to make you stand in His presence blameless, with great joy. That’s tremendous, it really is. It’s not dependent on the man who who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
It’s like I always told my kids to hold daddy’s hand when crossing the road. I wanted them to hold my hand tight. I wanted them to walk right beside me. But I was not depending on their strength to hold on to me. I knew that I would never let them go. I was going to hold onto them. And our God keeps us. He is the Great Shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture, if we truly know the Lord as our Savior.
Jude concludes his benediction by saying, “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.” We do not give glory, majesty, dominion and authority to God. He already possesses those things. We just acknowledge that they belong to Him. We bow to HIs authority, we bow to His dominion, to His majesty, to His glory. And we bow not just in eternity, but we bow now. Before all time, now and forever. Let us be sure that we recognize and bow before the sovereignty of God now, in this life. Jesus is Lord, now… and forever. Amen.