Jude 17-23 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Jude, the brother of James and probable brother of Jesus was deeply concerned about his fellow believers. He called them “beloved”! He then calls on them to remember what the apostles of the Lord Jesus said with regard to the things that will happen in the last days. We do not know who the recipients of this letter was but we do know that Jude had a tremendous concern for them. He wanted to teach them about the faith we share in common but he found he had to warn them about the wolves who would come in and decimate the flock. Jesus had said that these false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they would be ravenous wolves. When Paul was on his last trip to Jerusalem he told the people of Ephesus that after he departed fierce wolves would come in among them decimating the flock. Let’s look at Jude’s take and consider what will happen…
In the last time. Turn with me to 2 Peter 3:1-4. This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
The last days began with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The last days will continue until he returns again! The predictions of the apostles and prophets have been fulfilled over and over again. Peter agrees with Jude that scoffers had come in their day. We are certainly surrounded by scoffers today. Jude describes them as people who are “following their own ungodly passions”. Peter tells us that these scoffers will ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?”. No doubt the scoffers of our day are involved in the same conditions and questions.
Jude tells us that these people will always be…
Creating division. Paul warns us about the same kind of people. Turn with me to Romans 16:17-18. I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.
We need to focus on the positive teachings of the word of God and avoid those who cause divisions and create obstacles. They are among those that Paul had told the Ephesians about. These “fierce wolves” come into the churches to destroy the flock. (Acts 20:29) They do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ no matter how much they claim to. They have an appetite for power and money and with smooth talk and flattery they will deceive, if possible, the very elect. They invade through the Internet, television and radio. If they are allowed to they invade the very church itself by becoming part of the flock as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. (Matthew 7:15) We must be very careful of these people. No matter how smooth they present themselves they are…
Without the Spirit. Turn with me to 1 John 4:1-6 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
No matter how persuasive a person is there will always be evidence whether he/she is of God or the enemy. Jude and John agree that we are to be very careful to avoid those who do not have the Spirit. Those who cause division and do not follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus and his apostles prophesied that such people would come into the churches in an attempt of the enemy to destroy the church. We are to determine who these people are and avoid them.
However, we do not just guard against these enemies we need to be in the process of…
Building ourselves up. Turn with me to Colossians 2:6-7. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
When Jude says that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God he first says that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and we are to be praying in the Holy Spirit. Now, let’s look at what is meant by building ourselves up.
“Building up” is part of the process of sanctification leading to spiritual maturity. While it is true that God does the work of spiritual growth in us we have an active role to play. Remember that Paul told the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. This is not earning our salvation, this is allowing salvation to flow into all parts of our life.
There are many things that lend themselves to the Christian “building up” his/her life. We are to strive for holiness; and abstain from immorality; we are to purify our self as Christ is pure; we are to cleanse ourselves and make every effort to grow godly character traits. We are to continually build up patterns and habits of holiness. The writer of Hebrews tells us that mature Christians “have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). There are no shortcuts to building ourselves up we are to focus on the old-fashioned time-honored means of Bible reading and meditation, prayer, worship, witnessing, Christian fellowship and self-discipline. We are to continue to grow both in our trust in God to sanctify us and our active striving for greater obedience in our lives. Jude also said we are to be…
Praying in the Holy Spirit. Turn with me to Ephesians 6:18. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
Jude and Paul are both in agreement that we are to pray “in the Spirit”. Now, what does this mean? Is this some kind of spiritual gift like speaking in tongues? After all Romans eight tells us that “the Spirit” helps us pray with sighs too deep for words. The word for help here is the same word that Martha used when she wanted Mary to help her with the housework. The word does not indicate that the Holy Spirit prays instead of us but that the Holy Spirit takes part with us and makes our weak prayers effective.
In order to truly understand what Paul and Jude are telling us we need to realize that the New Testament speaks of many activities that can be done “in the Holy Spirit”. It’s possible to be “in the Spirit” as John was on the Lord’s day when he received the Revelation. It’s possible, as Jesus did, to rejoice in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21). We can decide something in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:21). We can love in the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:8). To pray “in the Holy Spirit” is to pray with the conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayers.
We are to live lives strengthened by the Holy Spirit enabling us to keep ourselves in the love of God while we are…
Waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me to 2 Peter 3:11-13. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Jude says that we are to wait for the “mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”. Peter, strengthens that admonition. He has reminded his readers that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise to return for them. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief and all the material things surrounding us are to be dissolved! Since that is true we ought to focus our lives on being ready when he comes.
Jesus often spoke about his return. When he ascended into heaven after his resurrection and having spent 40 days with his disciples two angels told his disciples, “This Jesus… will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Paul taught that, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The writer of Hebrews and James the Lord’s brother along with Peter and John were all expecting his return “soon”! The book of Revelation closes with, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Christ’s return is the dominant hope of the New Testament church. They believed that he would soon return and that his return would be dramatic and visible. His appearing will not be a mere spiritual coming to dwell within people’s hearts, but will be a personal and bodily return just as he went into heaven he will come back again.
While we are waiting on him we are to…
Have mercy on doubters. Let’s look at Jesus’ concluding statement found in Matthew 28:16-20. Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jude has told us that, “while we are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads eternal life”, we are to “have mercy on those who doubt”. I’m afraid that we treat doubters with more disrespect than we should.
Look at what Matthew said about those that stood and watched Jesus ascend into heaven. They worshiped him, “but some doubted”. These were people who had seen him crucified. They had recognized him as having been resurrected from the dead into a perfect resurrection body. They had walked and talked with him after his resurrection. They had every reason to believe but “some doubted”. How could they doubt? I think the question is really why would they not doubt? They had seen many miracles performed by Jesus but now they were seeing him ascending into the clouds. Seeing the impossible being done before your very eyes is what doubt is fed by.
Jude says that we are to have mercy on those who doubt. I wonder, was he one of those who stood there seeing Jesus ascend into heaven who doubted? There is no question that, during Jesus ministry, his brothers in the flesh doubted who he was. Today, with all the anti-Christian activity around us, the temptation to doubt is very strong.
Today we live among many ravenous wolves who were able to come into the flock in sheep’s clothing. We see many who build up a following in the church and then lead them astray. It is very important that each of us test the spirits and see if they are from God. John the apostle spoke of the fact that many false prophets have gone out into the world in his day. Today the false prophets have the advantage of the Internet, television and radio. The standard by which they are to be measured is the whole counsel of God found in the Bible.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.