Keep Yourself in the Love of God

Jude 20-25

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2011

This is our final week studying this little book written by the half brother of Christ.  What was the historical setting of the book?  In Jude’s day unbelievers secretly snuck into the church and worked their way into leadership.  They became shepherds and then began teaching false doctrine in the church.  Jude describes what these false teachers are like and what will happen to them ultimately.

How should we respond to false teaching?  One response is to contend for the faith (Jude 3).  We talked about how we do that.  We should know what we believe.  We should be able to give reasons for what we believe and we should oppose false teaching.  We should not just be passive and sit back and do nothing, we should fight for the faith.  John Calvin said in 1545 (almost five hundred years ago), “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

Meaning of the Command

There is something else we are to do and it is found in Jude 21.  We are to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).  That is a rather strange passage.  It is a command in Greek.  As you read these verses, you might get the impression that there are four commands there (build yourselves up in your faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourself in the love of God and wait for the mercy of Christ).  In Greek there is only ONE COMMAND there and three participles that modify this one command.  What is the one command?  The only command in the sentence in Greek is to “Keep yourself in the love of God” (τηρησατε, an aorist imperative). We keep OURSELVES in this love.  I can’t do it for you.  You can’t do it for me.

Does God keep us or do we keep ourselves?  The answer is BOTH.  The Bible teaches divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  God is the one who keeps us.  We are kept by his power.  We don’t have the strength to keep ourselves in God’s love but God is able to keep us (Jude 24).  Yet there is a sense in which we keep ourselves (cf. I Peter 1:5).  Notice that we are kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH.

What does that mean?  How do we do that? I believe this is one of the most important commands in the NT for Christians to keep ourselves in the love of God.  Jude 2 says that we are in the love of God.  Jude 21 says that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God?  What does it mean?  The simple answer is to continue in the faith, to avoid apostasy.  The Book of Jude deals with the acts of the apostates (e.g., the angels who sinned).  People who commit apostasy do not keep themselves in the love of God.

How do we do it?  Jude says that there are three ways to keep yourself in the love of God.  There are three ways to avoid apostasy.  What are they?  The first way is to build ourselves up in our faith.  The second way is to pray in the Holy Spirit.  The third way is to wait for the mercy of Christ.  As we look at these thing things, I want you to analyze your life.  What is the one area that you need to work on?

Build Yourselves up in your Most Holy Faith

You have to do some spiritual bodybuilding to “build yourselves up”.  Some of us are in great shape physically but terrible shape spiritually.  We can’t lift all kids of weights and have all kinds of muscles when what we need to do is to develop some spiritual muscles and the way to do that is to build yourself up in your faith, the faith that Jude said was “once for all delivered to the saints”.  What are you doing to build yourself up?  What can we do to build ourselves up in our faith?

  • Read the Bible every day.  The Bible is one of the main things that will build us up (Acts 20:32).  One old Chinese motto was “No Bible study, no breakfast”.
  • Read other books that will build up your faith (books about the Bible, as well as biographies).  One way to strengthen your faith is through testimonies.
  • Memorize Scripture.  It is one thing to read the word.  It is another thing to take the time to memorize the Word.  That is one of the best ways to learn it.
  • Join a small group (Bible study or an accountability group).  A accountability group can be with one person or a small group of people.  Anne is part of a group of women that meet every week.
  • Fellowship with other believers is another way to build yourself up.  Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise”.  If you hang around godly people, you will be encouraged to be godly.  If you hang around people who pray for four hours a day, you will want to be like them.  You hang around people who have a passion for the Word and you will develop a passion for the Word.  You spend time with people who have a passion for evangelism and you will develop a passion for evangelism.
  • Take a class to go more in-depth on a topic or even get a degree from a seminary or Bible college.  You can even take online Bible courses for free.
  • Listen to some gifted teachers on the radio or online (John MacArthur, James MacDonald, John Piper, Chuck Swindoll).
  • Attend a conference (e.g., Bible, Men’s, Women’s).  For example, you could attend the National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte on October 28-29.  It will have speakers like Josh McDowell, Frank Turek, William Lane Craig and others.

Pray in the Holy Spirit

Some of us build ourselves up in our faith but we don’t pray very much or at all.  Here prayer is seen as a means of grace.  It helps keep you in the love of God.  What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?  Charismatics and Pentecostals use the phrase “praying in the spirit” to refer to praying in tongues.   In Jude’s time, people did pray in tongues.  We know that from I Corinthians 14 but even if that is one way to pray in the Spirit, it is not the only way to do it.  We know that from Ephesians 6:18 which says, “Pray AT ALL TIMES with all manner of prayer in the Spirit”.  Every time we pray, we should pray in the Spirit, not just when we are praying in tongues.

What Praying in the Holy Spirit Means

What exactly is praying in the Spirit and how is it different from praying in the flesh?  As I thought about this, three things came to my mind.

Spirit-Prompted Prayers

Praying in the Spirit are prayers initiated by the Holy Spirit.  You pray because you are filled with the Spirit and you feel prompted to pray.  Sometimes this happens mysteriously.  All of the sudden you get an urge to pray for someone who may be in danger.  Some get prompted to pray in the middle of the night.  Remember, that is what happened to Jim Cymbala who was woken up in the middle of the night and felt the urge to pray in the early morning hours of September 11.

Spirit-Inspired Prayers

What you pray about comes from the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit directs and leads people to pray about certain things.  It is amazing how, sometimes in prayer, the Lord brings things to our minds to pray about. Praying in the Holy Spirit is praying in conformity with the Holy Spirit.  It is praying according to God’s will.

Spirit-Empowered Prayers

How you do it comes from the Holy Spirit.  If prayer is empowered by the Spirit, it will not be cold, mechanical and lifeless, like ritual prayers.  It will be fervent and passionate, the kind of prayer that Jesus prayed at Gethsemane.  The Book of Hebrews says that he prayed with loud cries and tears (5:7). Luke tells us that when he prayed in Gethsemane, he sweat so much it was like drops of blood (22:44).  Most of us do not work up a sweat when we pray.  Many are ready to fall asleep when they pray.  As much as we want to make fun of Peter, James and John, we are more like the disciples than like Jesus.

In conclusion, praying in the Holy Spirit involves the time, manner and content of our prayers.  It takes place when we are prompted to pray by the Holy Spirit AT a certain time or IN a certain way or FOR a certain thing.  We don’t know how to pray right on our own.  The only way we can pray correctly is if the Holy Spirit helps us to pray.

Wait for the Mercy of Christ

All Bible scholars take this as a reference to the Second Coming (Titus 2:13).  The Second Coming involves waiting.  Most of us hate to wait for things.  Most of us want instant gratification.  We hate to wait in long lines at the grocery store.  We hate to wait in traffic.  Some hate to wait for marriage.  We hate to wait for God to answer our prayers.  Abraham and Sarah couldn’t have a child.  Sarah had two problems.  She was too old to have a child (past menopause) and even when she was younger she was infertile.  God said that one day they would have a son but Abraham and Sarah do not have one until twenty years later.

Jesus promised that one day he would return.  The angels said that the same Jesus who went up into the clouds will one day come back from the clouds (Acts 1:11) but over two thousand years have passed and Jesus hasn’t returned yet.  Jesus will return but we have to wait for his return.  We should wait eagerly (I Corinthians 1:7), longing for his return.  You are looking for his return (Jude 21).

Keep in mind that people had to wait a few thousand years for the First Coming.  God promised a Messiah (the Son of David).  He was clearly promised in the OT.  By the time he arrived, some clearly had stopped waiting for him and did not want him.  He came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11).  Why is it important for us to wait for Jesus to return?  Some false teachers were claiming that it would NOT happen (II Peter 3:3-4).

In Jude 22-23 he says how to deal with three groups of people.  I am taking John MacArthur’s outline here.

The first group is the CONFUSED (Jude 22).These are doubters.  These are people who are not sure what to believe.  They do not know which side is right.  Jude says to be merciful to them.  Show them kindness.  Help them.  Don’t mock them for having doubts.  Don’t judge or condemn them.  Help them.  Give them answers to their questions.

The second group is the CONVINCED (Jude 23a).This second group believes some of the teachings of the false teachers.  They do not believe everything they teach but think that some of their ideas actually make some sense.  Jude says that you have to save them by snatching them from the fire.  The fire is a reference to Hell.  His point is that this group is on the brink of Hell.  Saving them is like saving someone from a burning building and snatching them from a literal fire.  We do not actually save anyone.  We are just the means God uses.

The third group is the COMMITTED (Jude 23b).This group does not just believe some of the lies.  They are died in the wool hard-core followers.  They will tell you that not only do they believe in the cult, they will go to their death believing in the cult.  Jude says that we should reach out to them as well.  Show mercy to them but be very careful and very cautious so you are not deceived.  As William Barclay says, “There is a danger to the sinner, but there is also a danger to the rescuer.  He who would cure an infectious disease runs the risk of infection”[1]  We need to minister to people with discernment.

Jude ends the book with a doxology (Jude 24-25).  A doxology is a little different from a benediction.  A benediction is when you pray for God’s blessing to come down.  The most famous one is the Aaronic Benediction in Numbers 6.  A doxology is word of praise going up to God.  Most of the Book of Jude has been negative but he ends on a positive note of praise.

 


[1] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, 205.

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