This is a new section and, except for a short doxology, the last section. The body of the letter began with the word “beloved” and this closing section does also. The exhortation has a triad. First, Jude reminded his readers of the predictions of the apostles regarding false teachers. Second, Believers should remain in the love of God. Third, Jude teaches his readers how to treat those who have been influenced by the false teachers.
Jude wanted his readers to remember that God was not caught by surprise when false teachers arose. He called them “scoffers”, those who scoff at the truth of God’s word. And, they follow their own ungodly passions. Since they want to follow their sinful passions, they scoff at those portions of scripture that condemn their actions.
But, God does not update his word or his standards to fit the mood of the times.
The Lord is righteous. (Psalm 11:7) He is the standard of what is right. He always acts in accordance with what is right. He does not change. (Malachi 3:6 - For I the LORD do not change.)
God knew false teachers and scoffers would come and he revealed that fact to the apostles so they could warn the church. (17) We are God’s “beloved”, those whom he loves. He does not leave his loved ones in ignorance. Rather, he prepared them, and us, with warnings. When we are worried about things going on in our time, we look to the predictions of the apostles and remember that the Lord knew this would happen and warned us through the apostles. It does not make us happy about what is going on, but it makes us secure in God’s knowledge and sovereignty.
These warnings could certainly have been oral warnings that were passed down. But at least some were also written down. Matthew recorded Jesus’ warning of false prophets. (Matthew 7:15-20) He said they were ravenous wolves who dressed in sheep’s clothing. In other words, they worked to look like believing teachers, but they were out for their own gain. He instructed us that we could know them by their fruits.
For example, Rick Warren, the California pastor, gives 90 percent of his income to the church. It would be hard to claim he is in ministry to make money for himself. The IRS once challenged his tax exemption for the house he lived in because the exemption exceeded the value of his house. The exemption was for $80,000. In contrast, you get research on the Internet and find the homes of television evangelists worth millions and who have net worths of many millions. You can know them by their fruits.
Paul warned the Ephesian elders of savage wolves that would attack the flock, distorting the truth in order to draw away disciples from the truth. (Acts 20:29-30)
Paul also gave warnings to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Since Jude was the brother of James, he likely heard the apostles speak and teach.
They caused divisions, as in the church at Corinth. They do not have the Spirit, so they act like lost, worldly, people. We expect sinners to sin. But when those who claim to be believers act like those who do not believe, we need to be careful around them.
The “but you” at the beginning of verse 20 is an emphatic contrast. In contrast to the false teachers, the “beloved” are to keep themselves in the love of God. There are three things listed there to do, but the only imperative (essential instruction) word is “keep”. The others are participles: building, praying, and waiting. (20) The participles tell us how to accomplish the imperative. We accomplish the instruction to keep ourselves in the love of God by building ourselves up in our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and waiting for the return of Christ. (21)
Notice that it is another Triad. Notice also a reference to the Trinity. We keep ourselves in the love of God the Father. We wait for the return of the Son. We pray in the Spirit.
You cannot continue strongly in the faith just by contending against false teachers. You will burn out. You must keep yourself in the love of God.
You build yourself up in the faith by continuing to grow in understanding of God’s word through study and being taught. You also grow by worshipping, participating in the Lord’s Supper, and gathering together with other believers.
You also keep yourself in the love of God by praying in the Holy Spirit. Paul similarly told us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. (Ephesians 6:18) We pray for God’s will to be done as Jesus did in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray for God’s protection and strength to resist the attacks of the devil.
You also keep yourself in the love of God by waiting for the return of Jesus, delivering eternal life to us in his mercy. “Waiting” here has an eschatological sense. It means we live expectantly and longing for his return. As Peter showed us, living in light of the return of Jesus motivates us to stay in fellowship with him, kept in his love. In motivates us to resist the temptation to conform to the world.
Although we resist the false teachers, we show mercy to their victims, those who doubt because of what they have heard. (22) it is easy get frustrated with those who doubt, or even to be harsh with them, or to cast them aside. But Jude said we are to show them mercy, dealing with them gently to restore them to confidence in their faith.
Those who do not have mature knowledge of the Word can be led astray or pushed into doubt by those with good arguing skills. Those who are experiencing difficulties may doubt because of their suffering. These we console, nurture, and instruct in mercy.
Others are in greater danger, so much so that they need to be snatched from the fire. (23) They are in danger of judgment because they are walking away from the faith and renouncing Christ. There may be another reference here to Zechariah 3, where the high priest, Joshua, is called a burning stick snatched from the fire. (Zechariah 3:2) His sin was leading him to judgment, but the Lord removed his sin, symbolized by his dirty clothes, and forgave him, shown by giving him clean clothes. God, in his mercy, snatched Joshua from the fire of judgment by cleansing him of his sin. We, in mercy, may snatch some from the fire by showing them their error and its consequences so that they will not continue to fall under the influence of false teachers.
In showing mercy and trying to rescue those who are falling into error, we must be careful to avoid falling into their sin. Jude said we hate even the garment stained by the flesh. This again reflects Joshua and his stained robes.
We must hate sin and resist it even when dealing in mercy with those in its snare. We must remember that we are human and not impervious to temptation. We call sin “sin” and do not dilute it even while trying to rescue the sinner. And we must remain strong enough to avoid joining them in their sin and their doubt.
Jude closed his letter with praise to God, a praise to God, praising him for his glory, majesty, dominion, and authority for all eternity. He was praising God by recognizing that all glory, majesty, and power belong to God. He had glory, power and majesty before the ages of creation even began, and will have them forevermore. We will praise him forever, now on earth and later in heaven and in the new earth.
God, whom we praise, is able to keep us from falling from the faith because of false teaching. “Stumbling” here does not mean to sin, but to fall irrevocably from the faith. He keeps our salvation for us so that we may stand before him without fault, which has been borne by Jesus, and with joy rather than fear. (25) We will be blameless. There is nothing left to blame us for.
The word translated here as “present” literally means “make you stand”. We will stand before God, secure in the faith, vindicated rather than judged, because he has kept our salvation secure.
It would be a good praise for you to add to your prayers.
And, this concludes our study of Jude!