The Antidote to Apostasy, Jude 1-3; 17-23
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
In these verses we have seven safeguards and seven exhortations to help us. There is a threefold call in Jude 17-23; adhere to apostolic teaching, vv. 17-19; advance in the separated life, vv. 20, 21 ; be active and compassionate in service, vv. 22, 23.
From the gloom and darkness of apostasy, we turn to the light and warmth of apostolic teaching, and learn that there is no cause for despair.
The Appreciation of Position,
vv. 1, 2. We are called, beloved and kept, telling of the work of the Trinity for our salvation. Our calling is the work of the Spirit, and God has called us to holiness, Rom. 1. 7; 1 Cor. 1. 2. Sanctification is something God has given us and which He expects us to exhibit in character and express in conduct. We respond to the call of the gospel by the Holy Spirit, 2 Thess. 2. 13, 14. We are "beloved" of God as He loves His own Son, John 16. 27; 17.21-23. We are the permanent objects of divine love, here and throughout eternity. "Kept" or preserved; kept guarded by God the Father, ever under His watchful care, 1 Pet. 1. 5; John 17. 11. This teaching has a prominent place in the later epistles.
This position with election and preservation assures us of provision, v. 2,—an abundance of mercy, peace and love. "Mercy" usually occurs against a background of false teaching. Mercy is God for us, peace is God in us, and love is God with us.
The Avoidance of Perils, vv. 4-13.
The results of the deflection and disaster of apostates have been described in a previous paper. Undesirable agents, that creep into the circle of Christian fellowship secretly and undetected, prove detrimental to the company by both their teaching and practice. The past, as our teacher, warns us to avoid the infidelity of Israel, the anarchy of angels, the sensuality of Sodom, the indecency of Gomorrah, the animosity of Cain, the hypocrisy of Balaam and the knavery of Korah. Their failure led to wilful and wanton sin and wickedness, and since God could not compromise the principles of divine justice and judgment, so judgment was executed upon them. May we not fail as they did through lack of fidelity, integrity, purity, sanctity, piety, reality and humility.
The Acceptance of Prophecy, vv. 14-19. God had His servants to speak His prophetic messages in both the Old and New Testament times. These testimonies are complementary and corroborative. Prophecy is reliable; the revelation of God is sure, vv. 14, 15.
The coming of the Lord is sure. Enoch was given a vision of the future. John beheld the same coming, Rev. 19. 11-16. Coming with "holy myriads" is also mentioned in Zechariah 14. 5. He comes to execute judgment upon the nations, Psa. 96. 13; Joel 3. 12; 2 Thess. 1.7-9; Matt. 25. 31-46. The coming will not only be revealing, as the Son of man coming in His glory, it will be retributive, Jude 15.
The apostles confirm this teaching, and identify these false teachers, v. 19. John says the same thing, 1 John 2. 18, 19. In the light of these things we need:—
The Allegiance of Prayer, v. 20.
The battle against false teachers is not won by argument but by prayer, 2 Cor. 10. 3-5. False teachers had given up prayer, but we must live in communion with God daily; "Lord, teach us to pray", Luke 11.1. It is a sacred duty, it is not optional; remember the importance of prayer in the Holy Spirit.
The Assurance of Promise, v. 21.
Look for the mercy of God. Awaiting our Lord's return fills us with hope, since we will be delivered from this corrupt scene. We need mercy daily and at the last, 2 Tim. 1.18, in the consummation of eternal life; cling to the promises of God in times of trial and depression.
The Abundance of Power, vv.
24, 25. Thus we are kept safe, for our God "is able". As He kept Daniel when surrounded by lions, so will He keep us in the midst of apostasy and anarchy. What a thrilling doxology on the power of God !
We cannot live for Christ in an atmosphere of false teaching and seductive morals apart from divine power to establish us, Rom. 16. 25; to energize us, Eph. 1. 19-20, and to encourage us, Phil. 4. 13.
God will keep us from stumbling, and later we shall stand in the presence of His own glory, being brought into His presence exultant. In the light of such a prospect the letter ends with:
An Ascription of Praise, v. 25,
to our "Saviour God". He is the Eternal One, who is Himself God over all, blessed forever. This is one of the messages of Isaiah 43. 11 ; 45. 21 -23 ; 1 Tim. 1. 1 ; 2. 3; Titus 3. 4-6.
Victory in the war against false teaching can be won only through our great Saviour and Lord. We rejoice in His displayed excellence—"glory", His regal splendour—"majesty", His perfect rule and absolute authority— "dominion and power".
SEVEN EXHORTATIONS, vv. 3, 20-23
v. 3. Jude intended to write about "salvation" but necessity was laid upon him to write about Christian belief, "the faith" or body of belief of the universal Church. The verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is here affirmed. It is the noble deposit, the truths of the gospel, the complete revelation of God in His Word, 1 Cor. 15. 1-3. Its purity "most holy", v. 20; its finality, "once delivered". No other revelation of the faith is needed, for it is complete and final. We believe in:
F—finality and fulness of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3. 16.
A—authority and atonement of Christ, Rom. 3. 25.
I— incarnation, immaculate conception of Christ, Luke 1. 35.
T—teaching of the apostles, Acts 2. 42; 2 Tim. 3. 16.
H—hope of the coming of Christ, Jude21.
Like Nehemiah we must battle as well as build; verse 3 reminds of the sword of Nehemiah 4. 17, 18 and verse 20 of the trowel. Today we need to contend strenuously for the faith. Its defence will be costly and agonizing; we cannot get behind the New Testament teaching nor can we get beyond it, 2 John 9, 10. The test of progress is faithfulness to the apostolic preaching about Christ, 1 Tim. 6. 20; 2 Tim. 1. 13, 14.
Living a sanctified life in all its simplicity and sincerity is the finest safeguard to the testimony of Scripture and the truth of salvation that we can possibly render.
Healthy Work—"Building", v. 20.
Build a holy life; this is the superstructure built on the foundation of Christ by means of faith. It is necessary to sit down and count the cost of the enterprise on hand. Paul reminds us to look well to the materials we use in building up the assembly of God, 1 Cor. 3. 13.
Each of us is building an edifice, and we need the Spirit of instruction and edification to direct our energies in this good work. The blue prints and specifications are provided, and we are expected to work to a definite design and pattern, and the structural plan is embodied in "the faith".
We build on the foundation of all that God has done for us in salvation. He has given us the Holy Spirit and made us partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. 1.4. "The faith" is different, set apart from all others. It is unique in its teaching and the moral transformation it produces.
Verse 20 is personal work, 1 Corinthians 14 assembly work, and Acts 20. 32 is pastoral work.
Holy Work—"Praying", v. 20.
Building is character-forming by applying the truth to heart and life. Praying is communion with God and dependence upon God. It has been said, "Prayer is love in need appealing to love in power". We need a Spirit-energized prayer life, praying in the Spirit not for the Spirit or for the gift of tongues. It implies praying intelligently, reverently, and discerningly by virtue of realized intimacy with God. Here is prayer indited and controlled by the Spirit, and when we know not how to pray, the Spirit makes intercession in accordance with the will of God, Rom. 8. 26, 27.
Prayer cultivates an aptitude for spiritual tastes, and increases our appetite for spiritual truth. Like Abraham, may we have a right attitude toward heaven and toward human relationships, and remain in communion with God, Gen. 18.
Happy Work—"Keeping", 21. We
are "beloved", v. 1,—the divine side; we are to remain in the sphere of God's love—the human side. Cultivate a love relationship with God, John 15. 9, 10. In the old covenant relationship in Exodus 24. 1 -8, God promised to be their God but that relationship depended upon them obeying the law which God gave them. As we live in this sphere of safety, we will keep ourselves in the place of blessing. Living in the love of God—there is nothing higher, nobler or better than this.
We should delight in God's love, for love is the active character of God's nature. Walk in the light, and live in the love into which grace has brought us through the death of our Lord Jesus. The manifestation of this love is in our Lord, John 316; its demonstration is at Calvary, 1 John 4. 10; its impartation is made by the Spirit, Rom. 5. 5; its production comes through the influence of the Spirit, Gal. 5. 22; and its final realization will be ours when we are presented in heaven to the Father, Jude 24.
HabitualWork—"Looking", v. 21.
We are to live in eager anticipation of the coming of our Lord, keeping alive the fire of Christian hope. Trace this word "looking" in your New Testament.
It suggests our attitude as we await the return of our Lord, and the appearing of the kingdom, Luke 23. 51 ; or waiting for the consolation of Israel, like Simeon in Luke 2. 25; wanting to see the realization of redemption, Luke 2. 38; welcoming the radiant prospect of the coming, Luke 12. 36, and living in wonderful anticipation of that blessed hope, Titus 2. 13.
Note the teaching linked with the return of our Lord Jesus in the closing Epistles of the New Testament. Glorification in Thessalonians; the manifestation in Timothy and Titus; salvation in Hebrews; vindication in James; reservation of the inheritance in Peter; perfect resemblance and reflection in John's writing; our preservation in Jude, and the realization of all things with perfection stamped on all our Lord's work in Revelation. We await the Sovereign Lord.
Thank God apostasy has not diminished the rights and reach of His Lordship. He is the Sustainer of His people, the Supervisor of the ages, and the end is eternal life.
Heart Work—"Plucking", v. 23.
We need an inward look, "building"; the outward look, "praying"; the upward look for the coming Lord; the forward look to "eternal life", and now the sympathetic look, leading to action, showing mercy and snatching out of the fire, Zech. 3. 2.
Mercy is to be shown to those who have been bewitched and bewildered by false teachers. Rebuking, snatching and pitying relate to those who are in doubt, in danger and in definite sin.
Honest Work—Noting, v. 23.
The garment here is the inner tunic worn next to the body, Matt. 5. 40; 10. 10. Study the law of leprosy in Leviticus 13. 45-47, for sin contaminates. Garments indicate a nature, mentality, and condition, and we are to love the sinner but hate his sin lest we become defiled.
The leper's garment had to be burned, and like Joshua we need a change of raiment, Zech. 3. 3; Isa. 61. 10. Like those in Sardis, may we keep ourselves in unspotted loyalty and live in undeviating devotion to our Lord, Rev. 3. 4. The book closes with
vv. 24, 25. Jude means "praise" and he closes this brief, brave book on the brightest note, triumph, testimony and thanksgiving to God. The God of power—He "is able"; He is the preserver—"keep"; the God of purpose— "to present". He is determined on our perfection—"faultless"; He will have pleasure in His own, "joy"; He alone is worthy of praise, v. 25; "glory and majesty, dominion and power" express the aggregate of the divine Omnipotence in its full eternal character.