Jude has been writing this letter so that Christians would contend for the faith and stay within the lines that God had revealed through his word. Jude has emphasized through various examples that going outside the guardrails that God set in place will ruin your life and lead to eternal destruction. After warning and describing these who perverting the grace of God for immorality, Jude concludes his letter with a paragraph of hope. Jude is going to show us how to contend for the faith and hold on to the hope we have in Jesus. Jude begins by telling them some things that they need to do.
Your Personal Preparations (17-21)
Before he gets to the preparation that needs to be made, he tells them to remember what the apostles taught (17-19). The apostles predicted that there would be scoffers who follow their own ungodly passions. They said that there would be people who claim to be Christians who cause divisions, are worldly people, and are devoid of the Spirit. They have not been changed. They have not been transformed by God. They continue to follow their ungodly passions. In short, Jude is telling these Christians to not be surprised by this. People are going to be false. People are going to be fake. It is a sad reminder. So do not forget what you have learned from the apostles. Hold on to God’s word.
But there is a preparation that he wants these disciples to make. You can read it in verse 21. “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” This command makes sense from what we have seen in this book. Jude has recorded examples of people who did not keep themselves in God’s love. He reminded them of the people of Israel who were saved from Egypt but afterward were destroyed. He reminded them of angels who did not maintain their proper place and are now held in darkness until judgment day. He reminded them of Sodom and Gomorrah who did not stay in God’s love but went after sexual immorality and unnatural desires. Do not fail like them. Keep yourselves in the love of God. It is this command that is the reason for the name of this series. Stay in the lines. Stay in your lane. Don’t remove God’s guardrails. Keep yourselves in God’s love. But an important question might come to your mind at this moment. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? What does it look like to keep ourselves in God’s love? What does that mean? Jude explains how we are to keep in ourselves in God’s love. If you look at verses 20-21 you will see that there are three actions that surround the command to keep yourselves in God’s love.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.
In verse 20 Jude says, “But you.” You are going to do something different. You are not going to be like those that the apostles predicted. You must be building yourselves up in your most holy faith. I want us to think about that for a moment. Can we look at our lives and say that we are building ourselves up in our most holy faith? We might have expected Jude to say that we need to build each other up in the faith. Other scriptures do say that we need to do that. But Jude wants us to make an evaluation in our own lives. Are we building ourselves up in our most holy faith? Are we making an effort to build our lives deeper and stronger in the faith? Jesus illustrated this idea in Matthew 7 when he spoke about a foolish builder who built his house on sand and a wise builder who built his house on rock. Jesus said that everyone who hears his words and acts on them is building their lives on rock. Jude is making a similar point. Building yourselves up in your most holy faith is how to keep in God’s love. Knowing God’s teachings and applying those teachings to ourselves is necessary. This is why we as a church have such a heavy emphasis on knowing God’s word. We want to teach you God’s word because this is the way to be built up. This is the main path for keeping yourself in God’s love. You need to know God. You need to know his teachings. You need to know his ways. You need to listen and follow what he says.
Praying in the Holy Spirit.
Second, Jude also says that we will keep ourselves in God’s love by praying in the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul taught the exact same thing in Ephesians 6:18. This is not some kind of special prayer. This is what prayer is always supposed to look like. What does this mean? Your prayers are driven by the will of God. Your prayers are spiritually focused. Your prayers are for your spiritual welfare and spiritual strength. Build yourselves up in the faith and pray in the Spirit for your faith and strength. Since the apostles warned that there would be those who will follow their passions and since Jude warned that there are those who have crept in among them who are perverting the grace of God, then you need to build yourselves up in the faith and keep praying in the Spirit so that you can stay on God’s path. These are two guardrails that the Lord has given to us so that we can stay in the love of God. But there is another guardrail given to us in verse 21.
Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Our third guardrail is to keep our eyes on where we are going. Think about what you are waiting for in life. What are you looking for? What are you wanting? We keep ourselves in the love of God by keeping our eyes on where we are going and what we are waiting for. This makes perfect sense. You cannot stay on the road if you are not looking at the road. It is so dangerous to be near drivers who are on their phones rather than watching the road. They weave everywhere. They get into car accidents. They are dangerous. Look at where you are going. Keep your eyes on what you are waiting for: the mercy of Jesus that leads to eternal life.
Your To Do List (22-23)
Then Jude gives three things we need to do as we are building ourselves up in the faith, praying in the Spirit, and waiting for the mercy of Jesus. Three things we need to keep our focus on as we contend for the faith.
Have mercy on those who doubt.
I think this shows an important balance in our work as Christians. Jude has been telling us to watch out for those who have crept in and are distorting the teachings of Jesus. But this does not mean that we have no regard for where people are at in their walk with God. There are those who are actively rebelling against what God taught. Jude has warned them of this. But now Jude says that we need to have mercy on those who doubt. All of us deal with doubts from time to time. There is nothing wrong with having to deal with your doubts. But do not let your doubts pull you away from the Lord into rebellion. The times of doubt are a call for us to build ourselves up in the faith, pray in the Spirit, and wait for the mercy of Jesus so that we stay in God’s love. When we see others among us who doubt, we need to show compassion and mercy. If those among are legitimately struggling and not rebelling (as described concerning those earlier in the letter), we come to them with encouragement. We look to strengthen their faith.
Friends, this is one simple reason why attending worship is important. It is not because we want bodies in the pews. Rather, it is because we want to help each other out when we are wavering. We give encouragement and support to each other during those difficult times. Further, we need to be paying attention to who might need encouragement among us. Look at the directory and think about who you have not seen recently. Consider what you can do to show them mercy and compassion. Look to help those who are wavering.
Save others by snatching them out of the fire.
Second, Jude says we need to look to snatch others out of the fire. When we see people who have gone past God’s guardrails, we look to save them. We do not shrug our shoulders and not care. When we see people who are wandering away from the Lord, we try to save them. We do what we can to snatch them out of the fire. All of us play a role in saving others who have wandered away. We try to reach out. We offer our help. We point them back to Jesus. We do what we can on our end to give them the way back to the Lord.
Show mercy with fear.
Finally, Jude says to show mercy with fear to others. But notice that we do this while hating even the clothing that is stained by the flesh. Our mercy to those who have turned from the Lord does not include overlooking the sins committed. We are reaching out to rescue people. But our rescue message does not including suggesting that their sinning is approved. Repentance is part of our rescue effort. We are calling for them to return to the Lord, turning away from the life they have accepted. We are pointing out to them that their garments are defiled. This is an image to indicate that their lives are stained by sins. So we reach out to them to help them, but we do not allow ourselves to be entangled in their sins nor condone the sins they are committing.
Your Hope (24-25)
Now listen to this great, hopeful ending to this letter.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…. (Jude 24 ESV)
Your hope is that the Lord is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless in his presence. While Jude has emphasized our effort that we need to give to keep ourselves in God’s love, Jude also wants us to see that you have the Lord with you. The Lord is helping you and is able to keep you from stumbling. God is at work in your life to keep you from falling. Jude’s hope is similar to what the apostle Paul said to the Philippians.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13 ESV)
Both Paul and Jude say that you play a role in staying in God’s love and God plays a role in keeping you in his love. We cannot do nothing or else we will fall like Israel fell in the wilderness. But do not think that it is all on you. God is going to support you and give you the help you need to continue forward and not fall. This is why Jude tells us to build ourselves up in the faith, pray in the Spirit, and wait for the mercy of the Lord Jesus. God is at work in your life to keep you in his love.
Listen to the great hope we have as Jude proclaims it. God is able to present you blameless. It is hard for us to think about that picture. For all our sins and all our failures, God is able to keep you from permanently falling and is able to present you blameless in his sight. God has that power. Do not look at your life and think that you are too sinful or too much of a failure to be made clean and blameless. God says that he has the power to present you blameless. Your doubts have not permanently lost you from God’s hand. Being snatched out of the fire does not mean that you cannot be presented blameless before him. God is able to keep you and present you blameless. This hope is what motivates us to build our lives in the faith, pray in the Spirit, and keep our eyes on the mercy that is in Jesus. Have mercy on those who doubt, snatch people out of the fire, and condemn the sins as we go to each other with mercy and salvation.