Today’s passages: Isaiah, chapters 4-5; Psalms 115-116; Jude
Scripture: Jude 3-4, 17-25 (NRSV) – Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…
But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.’ It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Observations: This short letter from Jude “to those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ,” has a great deal of meat for us to chew on. First, it’s interesting that even in the early days of the church, he found it necessary to urge them “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” because people had worked their way into the fellowship of the church who were now “perverting the grace of God into licentiousness.” In other words, the problem was that people were using God’s grace as an excuse to live however they wanted to live. Paul dealt with the same problem, as did Peter and John. Now, nearly two thousand years later, we face the same problem – people who use God’s grace as an excuse to ignore the clear call to live holy lives.
In the latter part of the letter – the second portion set forth above – he notes that the apostles had warned that “in the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” As I’ve probably mentioned before, “the last time” began with Jesus’ return to his Father’s side, and will continue until he returns. We too are living in “the last time,” and it should be plain that there are large segments of the Church who have chosen to ignore the Biblical standards for holy living and have come up with their own definitions of what is “right.” Jude gives us some practical advice for avoiding being drawn into this sort of error: “build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.” I view these warnings within the broad teaching of Scripture: “be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.” We are to strive to live in ways that honor God and reflect the truth of his Word, rather than indulging ourselves and excusing sin as though God’s mercy makes obedience irrelevant.
But it’s also interesting to me that Jude tells us that it is those who are “devoid of the Spirit” who cause divisions in the Church. It is not those who are striving to be holy as God has commanded us who cause divisions; it is those who use God’s grace as an excuse for indulgence. The clear call of Scripture is for God’s people to be holy, and those who strive to be holy and encourage others to do so are the true guardians of the unity of the Body of Christ.
That brings us to the last two verses of Jude’s letter, which is one of the greatest benedictions in Scripture (in my opinion): Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. He is able to keep us from falling; he has not made “falling” irrelevant. He is able to make us stand without blemish in the presence of his glory; he has not declared that he will just ignore our blemishes. Jude challenges us to build ourselves up, to pray in the Holy Spirit, and to keep ourselves in the love of God. All of these exhortations remind us that what we do matters!
Applications: God is reminding me how important it is to strive for faithfulness and obedience, and to challenge each other to do the same. In a world where the bar seems to be lowered more and more each day, God’s people should hold to a standard of purity and integrity which reflects the power of his Spirit which is at work in us. The message of the gospel is not to “dumb down” morality; it is to proclaim that Christ makes us able to be holy as God has commanded.
Prayer: Father, I praise you that you are able to keep us from falling, and to make us stand without blemish in your presence. Help me to live today in ways that reflect your holiness, and your power to make us holy. Help me to reflect your holiness in love; your love is reflected in your holiness, and you call us to be models and sharers of your holy love. May your holiness in us never deteriorate into self-righteousness, but may it always be a reflection of your mercy and your grace. Amen.