Lessons in the Book of Jude
by Bob Burridge ©2013, 2016
Lesson 6: Maintaining During the Struggle Jude 20-23
One of the sermons I heard at a General Assembly of our denomination started with a funny story. I’d heard it before and it is well worth repeating since it makes such a good point.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were out camping. In the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up from his sleep and asked him to look up and tell him what he sees. Watson, still trying to wake up, blinked a few times and scanned overhead and said, I see hundreds, no maybe thousands, of beautiful stars.
Holmes then asked him, “So what does that mean to you Dr. Watson?”
The Dr. thought a moment then began to expound upon the wonders of Creation, the vastness of space, the many theories about what powers the stars, how they had been the guide of sailors and wanderers for millennia, and how they had inspired poets all through the ages.
After some long minutes of dissertation he looked over at Holmes and noticed a rather disturbed look on his face and asked, “Was there something I missed?” Holmes looked him in the eye and said, “Someone has stolen our tent you idiot!”
The point? Sometimes we get so involved in details, that we miss the main issue.
Jude’s warning is along the same line. His epistle warned that infiltrators had come into the churches. Evil is not content to simply compete with God openly. It has always tried to get in among his people to destroy them from within. Jude gave several examples from Israel’s ancient history.
To gain the people’s confidence these deceivers appear to be very religious and well informed. They work by confusing the church about what God has said is true and moral. They appeal to men’s weaknesses and arrogantly offend God in ways they don’t even understand. It is important that we recognize these infiltrators and avoid their influence. The main thrust of this brief book is the duty given in the 3rd verse. “… contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
As we get involved in the battle we better not forget what we are fighting for. If we neglect our own spiritual health, we lose the war while we busy ourselves with each little battle.
Armies need to keep the morale and health of their soldiers in mind, not just their armaments and strategies. They need to remember what they are fighting for, why they are laying their lives on the line.
In our spiritual battle, we need to remember the wonder of our own salvation, and the promises of God to us as his children. It would be disaster if we just kept our focus upon arguing the faults of every error that came along, but forgot why we promote God’s word.
While contending with infiltrators never forget your own spiritual health.
Jude 20-21, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
Jude turns the attention back to his readers. He had just explained the infiltration problem they had to deal with. Meanwhile, they should not forget the most important matter of personal growth. A cautious church is not always the strongest one. You might have a doctor who can diagnose every illness, but have very poor skills in healing the patients stricken with them. It is not only correct information that we need, not that it is unimportant, we also need to be using the Means of Grace God has given us so that we can be strong as we deal with the problems.
Commentators divide this section up very differently.
To cut through all the technical complexities I like to look at the verbs. There are 4 of them here.
1. The first is that believers need to be building themselves up.
Jude 20a, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, …”
By “faith” in this verse, Jude is not writing about the act of believing. He uses it as a noun referring to the truths in which we trust. It is the Christian Faith. We need to keep our focus upon the truths God has revealed to us in his word. This is the most holy faith, the absolutely most special set of facts a person could know and believe.
This building up must always include the reading, study, and thinking about God’s word. A Christian who gives little time to his Bible every day will be weak spiritually, uninformed, and vulnerable to the confusion of the enemy.
All the writings of the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New are crucial for our growth in the Christian Faith. In Ephesians 2:20-22 Paul writes, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Paul encouraged Timothy to remember God’s word in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, “… from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Growth in the content of what God has said is fundamental to our spiritual health.
2. The second action is that we need to be praying.
Jude 20b, “… praying in the Holy Spirit”
Another means of God’s grace is prayer, Holy Spirit led prayer. It is the Spirit at work in us that stirs our hearts to come to the Father for his strength. Ephesians 6:18, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
When the Holy Spirit and his work is absent in the heart, the focus of life is upon satisfying our own desires as if we were animals with no concern for the principles by which God told us to live. This is how Jude described the ungodly in verse 10, “But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.”
When the Spirit is at work we pray. This is one of the evidences of a truly redeemed believer. Galatians 5:16-17 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Unlike the ungodly infiltrators, the believer comes to God in Spirit directed prayer, confident he will be helped.
3. The third verb tells us there is something to be keeping.
Jude 21a, “keep yourselves in the love of God …”
Some argue that this is the love we are to have toward God rather than the love he has for us. The Greek words can be translated either way. However, it is impossible and artificial to divide those as if they are independent of one another. Certainly our love for God begins with his love toward us. Otherwise we would be like the ungodly and could not really love the true God at all. 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
Just as certainly it is God’s love toward us that stirs this love in us. That is his promise. His special love to his redeemed children transforms them by replacing love for self with a deep love for God first and for others as themselves. We grow in our love for God by keeping our allegiance and subjection directed to our Creator above all else. We are called to treasure his word which reminds us of his covenant promises.
4. The fourth verb is something they should be attending upon.
Jude 21b, “… looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
We should be expecting, looking for, waiting for the mercy and compassion of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That work of the Savior alone ensures our entry into eternal life. This unwavering hope keeps the Christian soldier on track, focused upon his mission.
Knowing that we are redeemed by grace, the undeserved blessing earned by our Savior, protects us from the foolish theories and deceptions the deceivers promote. It keeps us strong for the battle.
God calls us to changed lives. If we speak of the Gospel, but neglect its duties and promises for ourselves, we have abandoned our mission, even if we impress or please those who hear us. When contending against unbelief, it is the transformation of our own souls that makes the best evidence and argument that God’s message is true, and that the infiltrators are wrong. This is the method Jesus promoted for his disciples to follow. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Then in John 14:15 he said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Treat those taken in by deceit with care.
Jude 22-23, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
In these verses Jude first tells us to deal well with those who fall prey to the deceivers.
Jude 22, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction;”
In situations where we deal with errors being introduced into the church we need to handle the matter showing compassion, mercy, kindness toward those who are in need of help.
The object of our compassion is “making a distinction”. It’s translates the Greek word “diakrino” (διακρίνω). It had several uses at that time so translators have to decide what fits best with the point Jude is making. Literally it is a compound word. The main part is the word “krino” (κρίνω) which means “making a judgment about something”. The word here is in the form of a participle (accusative plural). It is a verb used as a substantive (noun). It would refer to those making some kind of judgment.
The prefix “dia-” (δια-) is a preposition meaning “through, on account of, across, by means of, and a few other minor uses. There are five long columns of meanings in a major Greek lexicon defining that preposition.
There are two ways this is generally interpreted. Most see it referring to our being compassionate toward those doubting God’s truth (making a judgment against it). They make a distinction seeing a difference between some particular teaching, and what God says plainly in his word. Others make the word apply to the readers who should make a careful distinction between those being deceived and the deceivers themselves.
Regardless of how we settle that minor difference the lesson centers on the verb. We should approach the matter with mercy, showing kindness toward those taken in by unbiblical teachings or methods brought into the church. We should always approach erring brothers with a sense of deep pity and compassion.
We also need to compassionately correct and convince those taken in by the infiltrators. When we properly help those who are troubled, God blesses our work and it makes a difference.
There is a danger when we deal with error in the church.
Jude 23a, “but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, …”
While those being deceived are approached with compassion to correct them, the deceivers and those taken in by them should be dealt with cautiously and with much prayer to caution against our own temptation. It is as if we are snatching a victim out of a fire. This is dangerous work for the rescuer, yet their heroic efforts can be used by God to save a life.
The fear and danger is explained in the last part of verse 23,
Jude 23b, “… hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
The lives of some influenced by the infiltrators have become so polluted with unbridled passions that they have many issues to overcome. If we are not careful, we might let our compassion become perverted. It is not love when we receive a person into the fellowship of the church while allowing him to continue in dangerous beliefs or evil practices.
These dangers must be dealt with cautiously lest we compromise our Lord’s ways. We should not become cruel and impatient, giving in to our base human emotions. We should not become unkind, use harsh language, or forget that we are no better than the infiltators if it was not for God’s grace. Galatians 6:1 is important, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
On the other hand we should never become tolerant of sinful behaviors and attitudes by overlooking them to receive the rebellious back into full fellowship while they remain in their sins. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:11, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.” John wrote in 2 John 1:10-11, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. ”
Socially, they are to be treated as a non-Christian regardless of their claim to be a believer. It should be made clear that you consider them an enemy of the true church.
Our goal is to restore them to a proper fellowship with God. It might be hard to hold them responsible to honor God, but we do them no favors to pretend that error and sin do not matter.
This is where verses 22 and 23 follow 20 and 21.
To engage in this kind of carefully balanced rescue work we need to be strong in the Lord ourselves, and to keep focused on the main issues. It is easy to be so concerned about little errors that we forget what our duty is before God. We should not become just debaters instead of obedient and humble disciples of the Lord. Just arguing could make the church appear to be an exclusive club of arrogantly proud Pharisees.
It is also easy to be so concerned about unity that we overlook holding others responsible for their sins before God. This makes the church a dishonor to Christ and a haven for error and blasphemy. It becomes a synagogue of Satan disguised by wearing the banner of Jesus Christ.
Errors in dealing with attacks are the symptom of unhealthy soldiers of Christ.
We need to keep our focus. Be strong in our most holy faith, knowing God’s word well. Pray fervently as the Holy Spirit stirs your heart with confidence before God. Rest in God’s love and nurture the love he puts in your heart as you expectantly await the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ to gather his people to himself for all eternity in the presence of God.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)