But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
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, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Two weeks ago, I began a series here based on a small group study I wrote a year ago examining the epistle of Jude, by first examining “our common salvation” of which he was so eager to write, followed by an examination those of whom we contend against. This week concludes this look at Jude’s epistle with the call to persevere and how we should approach those that would cause division among us.
Do Not Be Surprised
We should not be surprised that there are a great many who would seek to lead God’s people astray. The serpent has been doing this since the beginning (see Genesis 3) and he is still hard at work today. Among those professing to be Christians today are fierce wolves who will not spare the flock (Acts 20:29). We have been warned throughout Scripture that this would be the case. And although it can be discouraging, we must not despair because it is a sign that Christ’s return is closer:
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Jesus warned us that the serpent’s preachers would rise up, men and women who, as Jude says, are scoffers who follow their own ungodly passions (Jude 18). “It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (v. 19). “But the one who endures to the end will be saved,” promises Jesus (Matt 24:13). Because we know this is true, we must persevere.
Keep Ourselves in the Love of God
As the only sure way to keep us from falling astray, Jude admonishes his readers to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). To guard our faith and “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7). Instead, through prayer and study, we “building [ourselves] up in [our] most holy faith” (Jude 20), or as Paul wrote, we “train [ourselves] for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7).
We keep ourselves in the Word of God, studying the Scriptures, seeking to better know the One to whom they testify and what He says. We seek to ground ourselves in sound doctrine. It’s essential that we understand this. While there are people out there who say silly things like “doctrine divides,” this is anything but the case. Sound doctrine unites believers, humbles us, & grows us in our love for Jesus. It causes us to become those upon whom God will look, “he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at [His] word” (Isaiah 66:2).
It is as we ground ourselves in the Scriptures that we begin to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
Showing Mercy to Others
But keeping a firm grasp on our doctrine isn’t enough. Jude tells us that we are to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). This is where things can get unpleasant because it means we have to apply our doctrine.
We are to have mercy for everyone, in all circumstances, even for people we don’t like. And very often, this means having some hard conversations.
We have to share our faith with people who aren’t Christians. This is not something I’m good at because I’m a chicken a lot of the time, but think about it—we don’t know when our time on this earth is up, but we do know that it is “appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Whose that person you’ve not shared the gospel with? What would happen if you shared the gospel with them today or tomorrow? It is possible that they will be one who is saved as though snatched out of the fire. Should we not then show this mercy to them?
We are also to show each other mercy with fear. Do you have people in your life who are willing to call you on a sinful pattern of behavior or a strange idea you might have picked up? Can someone come to you and say, “Hey, I see this in your life. What’s going on?”
If not, I would encourage you to find them, soon. And be willing to accept that what they say might be true. We do not want to shy away from truth, and we cannot tolerate sin in our lives and the lives of those we are in community with. Whether it’s gossip, pride, greed, sexual immorality, anger, harsh words… none of it is acceptable. God hates these things, and so must we. Showing mercy to others (and having mercy shown to you) is confronting these with love and fear.
This does not mean that people will listen when you speak, and you may be required to break fellowship with an unrepentant brother or sister in the hopes that they will be led to repentance.
He is Able to Keep Us from Stumbling
In the end, as in the beginning, Jude reminds us that it is God alone who keeps us from stumbling. Christ will save those who are His. We are “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 2).
It’s not because of our works. We couldn’t do enough to earn God’s favor even if we tried. We will sin, we will be confused, we will have errors in our doctrine… but God ” is able to keep [us] from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (v. 24). We will be saved and presented blameless to God because of the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ.
It’s because it brings Him great pleasure to do so.
And that is something worth contending for.
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