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A Study of Jude

Spiritual Steroids: Beefing Up One’s Faith (Jude 17-23)

“A strange plant needs more care than a native of the soil. Worldly desires, like a nettle {or we could use the word “dandelion”), breed of their own accord, but spiritual desires need a great deal of cultivating.” ~ Thomas Manton

I. Introduction

Shifting attention from the false teachers to his readers, Jude identifies three ways in which believers are to navigate the presence of false teachers in their midst. First, the brother of James calls for his readers to have an awareness of what the apostles stated concerning the end times (vv. 17-19). Such a reminder reiterates that their present situation comes as no surprise. Second, Jude notes the means of how to strengthen their faith in the midst of apostasy (vv. 20-21). And finally, after addressing the importance of sound teaching and the need to “work out” their salvation, Jude notes how they are to engage those individuals who have been contaminated by the false teachers (vv. 22-23).

II. The Content (vv. 17-23)

A. Remember the Teaching of the Apostles (vv. 17-19)

v. 17 – The call to “remember” echoes verse 5. Together these verses form an inclusio around these verses. As aptly noted by one commentator, “‘Remembering’ in the Scriptures does not involve mere mental recollection, as when we remember a person’s name that we had temporarily forgotten. Remembering means that one takes to heart the words spoken, so that they are imprinted upon one’s life” (Schreiner, 1, 2, Peter, Jude, 477).

“predictions foretold by the apostles” – Commissioned representatives of the Gospel delivered a prophetic message that was familiar to Jude’s audience.

v. 18 – Similar to 2 Peter 3:2-3, the era of prophetic fulfillment—our present age!—will be marked by individuals who despise morality and religion (see Pss 1:1; 35:16; Prov 1:22; 9:7-8). Their hubris is seen in desire to live life for themselves rather than for God!

v. 19 – Jude then provides three descriptors of these individuals:

  • Divisive. Throughout the New Testament, false teaching always leads to division or separation (see 1 Tim 4:1; 1 John 2:18-19).
  • Worldly. This term relates to “the life of the natural world and whatever belongs to it, in contrast to the supernatural world” (BAGD, 902). In other words, they are not followers of Jesus, but unregenerates.
  • Devoid of the Spirit. The presence of the Spirit indicates one is a genuine believer (see Rom 8:9). ‘Nothing worse can be said of a man who desires to be esteemed a Christian than that he wants [lacks] the Holy Spirit” (Huther, James, Peter, John, and Jude, 10:696).

 

B. Recognize the Importance of Their Faith (vv. 20-21)

Jude uses one imperative or command (i.e., “to keep”) in these two verses. The remaining three verbs are all participles which explain how one is “to remain in the love of God”: building up yourselves, pray, and wait (see John 15:9-10). Observe the following three participles:

  • Build up. The believers are to build on the foundation of their faith in order to remain in God’s love (see 1 Cor 3:10-15; Eph 2:20; 1 Peter 2:5). In other words, spiritual growth is an ongoing process in the life of the believer. This command serves as a great contrast with the false teachers who sought to undermine and destroy. Observe that this building is upon their “holy” faith. This term speaks to that which is dedicated to God for His service.

 

  • Pray. Unlike the false teachers who are “devoid of the Spirit” (v. 19), these believers are to “tap” into the Spirit’s presence and assistance (Rom 8:15-16, 26-27; Gal 4:6; Eph 6:18). In Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan French makes the following important observations concerning praying in the Spirit (pp. 98-99):
    • Prayer that is inspired and directed by the Spirit will always be prayer according to the will of God, because the Spirit knows perfectly what that will is (Rom 8:27).
    • Prayer that is inspired and directed by the Spirit will always result in an answer that will glorify Christ (John 16:14), and therefore, will be prayer that pleases the Father.
    • Prayer in the Spirit will always be in harmony with the written Word of God.
    • The Spirit’s guidance in prayer complements Christ’s advocacy in heaven (John 14:16; 1 John 2:1).

How does the Spirit help us in prayer?

  • Wait. This call to rest with a hopeful expectation in the coming of the Lord is always linked with ethics in the New Testament. “Jude reminds the Church of the end so that they may live godly lives in the present. Having a lively expectation of final consummation is not escapist but frames and informs life in the present age” (Green, Jude and 2 Peter, 123).

In summarizing these two verses, one commentator observes, “The Christian life is viewed as having an inward look relating to the development of character, an upward look relating to communion with God, and a forward look being consummated in final glorification” (Hiebert, “An Exposition of Jude 17-23,” BibSac [1985], 362).

C. Reach Out to Those Wavering in the Faith (vv. 22-23)
While the exact reading of the Greek is difficult, it would seem that Jude identifies the following three groups:

    • Those who need compassion (v. 22). The term “waver” could also be rendered “doubting”. The first group of individuals are those who are confused and cannot make a decision concerning the rhetoric of the false teachers.
    • Those who demand urgent effort (v. 23a). The second group of individuals are those who are in imminent danger. Echoing Zechariah 3:2, Jude calls for drastic and sudden measures. Errant members should not be dismissed, but rather they should be sought out and delivered (see Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:1-5; 1 Thess 5:14; 2 Thess 3:6-15). Love for others is never convenient or easy.
    • Those who require pity (v. 23b). The final group of individuals require great caution lest one also becomes tainted. Well entrenched in the teachings of the heretics, these individuals appear to be unregenerate. The zeal to win these folks to Christ requires great wisdom. Compassion can easily give way to compromise. We are to exhort and encourage; we are not to become enmeshed. It also should be noted that one’s hatred needs to be directed towards the sin, not the sinner.

 

III. Intersect

A.  We must be aware of what is being taught in our pulpits, in our Christian schools and colleges, and in our seminaries. Jude reminds us of the grave danger that lurks in our midst!

2 Timothy 4:1-5 –

B.  “Showing mercy” to others requires time, energy, and resources. Rather than providing a quick solution, we need to listen and seek to understand as we point these individuals to Christ.

1 John 3:16-18 –

C.  We must always be aware of the danger of sin and never presume that we are immune from false teaching.

Luke 21:34-36 –

 

“The delay of your mercies is really to your advantage . . . the foolish child would pluck the apple while it is green, but when it is ripe, it drops of its own accord, and it is more pleasant and wholesome.”
~ John Flavel

For further thought . . .
Based upon our study this morning, I invite you to spend some additional time this week reflecting on the following:

1. Examine the following verses and observe how the Spirit helps us in prayer:

Ephesians 2:18 –

Zechariah 12:10 –

Romans 8:15 –

Romans 8:26-27 –

Daniel 9:2-3 –

2. Take some time each day this week thanking the Lord for the role of the Holy Spirit in your life.