“Now, to him who has the power to keep you free from stumbling, and to set you before his glory, blameless and with a shout of joy, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Lord—be glory, majesty, power and authority, before all the ages, now, and into all eternity! Amen.
Personally, I think that this is the best benediction found within all of scripture. It is a reminder that at the end of the day, everything points to Jesus. He is our keeper and he will present us before God’s throne glorified and without compromise. The picture given in verse 24 is worth its weight in gold. Jude tells us that when we will be presented before God the father it will be with shouts of joy. The term that he uses here is the Greek word aÓgalli÷asiß (agalliasis), which literally refers to a “piercing exclamation.” This term is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament 19 times (18 times in the Psalms plus Isaiah 51:11) and in each case, the word is used in connection with worship. When we approach the throne in heaven, it will be with great shouts of worship and praise, if this is so, I wonder why we tend to be so quiet in our worship here. This is also an act which brings God great joy. The Puritan, Thomas Watson once said, “When God calls a man to himself, it is an act that he never repents of.” God rejoices in the completion of his work—in bringing lost sinners to himself, and heaven rejoices with him (Luke 15:10). Friends, love the God that has offered salvation to you. Cling to him. Immerse yourself in his word. To God be the glory, forever and ever!
“Now, show mercy to those who doubt; save others, snatching them from the fire; show mercy mixed with fear, hating even the garment stained by corrupted flesh.”
Jude’s guide for evangelism: Jude moves on to exhort us to make our faith active with an outward expression of faith. Now, there are some who suggest that these exhortations are directed to the faithful in addressing believers who are in various stages of drifting away. While this may be the case, I suggest that in the context of the mission of the Church, these exhortations are a guide for bringing converts into the fold. The church to which Jude is writing has fallen into error because of these false teachers. Error usually is a gradual process, so there are probably quite a few within the congregation that are not saved. Jude is providing this as a tool to deal with these people that are in their midst.
First, we are to be merciful to those who doubt. As God has shown us mercy in our sin, so we need to show mercy toward others. This does not mean that everyone can believe whatever they want, but it means that we also cannot shove our beliefs down someone else’s throat. If change needs to take place, and their conversion is genuine, then the Holy Spirit will do his work in their life. Note that the word that we translate as “doubt” is the Greek word diakri÷nw (diakrino), which means “to consider, evaluate, or doubt.” Jude is making a contrast between the thoughtful doubter who is still wrestling through the question of faith and the mockers who think and speak like unreasoning animals.
Second, we are to snatch others from the fire. When warnings do not work, sometimes a lifeguard is needed. People are saved through hearing the Gospel read and preached, we are to be actively at work in the field of evangelism. The real work is done by the Holy Spirit, but God has blessed us with the privilege of taking part in the process. Thus preachers are commended to faithfully preach the word and believers are commended to faithfully live out that word in the presence of others. Friends, if you are a born again believer, you have a witness or a testimony that can be used by God to draw others near to himself. The question we must ask is whether we are willing to share that testimony with others.
Third, we are to show mercy mixed with fear. Remembering that Godly fear is a humble awe and reverence toward him. We are to always remember from where God has lifted us up as we deal with people where they are, but to be on our guard lest we fall into their pit. Remember once again that God has shown you great mercy. Mercy is best defined as doing for someone else what they cannot do for themselves and what you have no obligation to do for them. That describes what Jesus did for us while we were still sinners, will you demonstrate that kind of mercy to a dying world?
Fourth, we are to hate even the clothing stained by sin. Clothing, in the Biblical mindset, represented status and position. Believers are given Christ’s righteousness to wear as a robe. Unbelievers wear the stained garments of their sinful life. When we evangelize, we are to hate the sin, not the sinner, but must never be tempted to put on the clothes of a sinful life. We are to be holy as God is holy. In turn, it is not only sin that we are to hate, but also the lustful desires that lead to sin. These desires often clothe the blackest sins with fleshly finery. We are to separate ourselves from the corruption that leads to these sins.
“But you, beloved, yourselves being built up in the most holy faith, praying by the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, receiving the mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ—eternal life.”
He begins the exhortations with guides for spiritual health within the congregation. We are to build ourselves up in the faith. This is different than the puffing up that the false teachers were doing. But building up is done through teaching, Bible study, fellowship, worship, and prayer. It is the laying of a sure foundation upon which our faith can be solidly built.
Secondly, we are to pray by the Holy Spirit. It is a reminder of what Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit is a guide to our prayers and it is a reminder the Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity and an integral part of our salvation, actively working in our lives through the process of sanctification.
Thirdly, we are to keep ourselves in God’s love. Jude is not trying to replace God’s grace, but is linking grace and love together as one goes hand in hand with the other. And he is not suggesting that those who are truly saved can lose their salvation, rather he is saying that when we walk in disobedience, we earn God’s rebuke; we are to walk faithfully, striving for a “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
And Fourthly, we are to rest in the final salvation that Jesus Christ has assured. The judgment of God against unrighteousness means salvation for those who have been saved. What does the mercy of God look like when it is applied to a person’s life? It fully manifests itself in eternal salvation—eternal life in the presence of God himself. What more could we hope to ask?
“And Enoch, the seventh son from Adam, prophesied these things saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with his holy myriads with him to bring judgment against all, to convict all human life of all their works of impiety, which they did impiously, and concerning all the cruelty that impious sinners spoke against Him. These are grumblers and complainers, walking according to their cravings and their mouths speaking boasts, flattering to gain advantage.”
This is the second time that Jude quotes from non-canonical literature. Here he quotes from the Apocalypse of Enoch, pointing to the second coming of Christ with his angels to judge the wicked (if you want a picture of those myriads of angels take a peek at Revelation 5:11). Do you notice a theme in this section? Impious, impious, impious… Sin is impious and sin brings death. It is only by being born again in Jesus Christ that we can be saved from the wrath that is to come. Woe, Woe, Woe. Revelation also contains three woes (Revelation 8:13). Three is a number of completion or fullness. Here we find the fullness of the woes of sinful man. These men have made full and complete their ungodliness and impiety and their judgment to come will be equally full and complete.
Make careful note of verse 15. When Christ comes again, he will execute judgment against all mankind, not just the evil ones. The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 20 that God will judge all mankind according to their works, and all whose names are not written on the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his minions. No one can stand upon his own works, it simply cannot be done because of indwelling sin. Only Jesus Christ has earned salvation by his works and he alone offers a way to paradise, being clothed in his righteousness. That comes through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. There is no other way to avoid the punishment that we deserve.
The elect, those whose names are written on the Lamb’s book of life and were written there from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), are the ones who will escape judgment, but all else will face eternal damnation. These, Jude reminds us again, are grumblers and complainers who chase after their own cravings. The word that we translate as “cravings” is the Greek word e˙piqumi÷a (epithumia), which refers to cravings or lusts, more times than not, for things that are forbidden. Also Jude points to judgment for the flatterers. This is the word qauma¿zw (thaumazo) in Greek, which literally means “to marvel” or “to be amazed.” This is not subtle flattery, but loud, boisterous flattery designed to inflate the ego of the listeners.
This is not to categorically state that all that are guilty of grumbling or flatterers are going to Hell, what it reflects is the idea that these things should not reflect the heart of the believer. God forgives us when we stumble and repent of our sins, yet if we remain hardened and unrepentant, we will face eternal punishment.
All of Jude’s warnings can begin to weigh on you. He warns you from the past, the present, and the future. But there is a reason that we are given warnings—they often keep us from harming ourselves. When I was in the Boy Scouts, I took Life-Saving Merit Badge. A great deal of the badge dealt with water rescues. But one of the things that the instructor impressed upon us was the value of preventive measures. Those measures begin with clearly posted warning signs. The letter of Jude is one of those signs.
Before we shift gears into Jude’s exhortation to the faithful of the church, I want to drive home the need to beware. There are spiritual predators who seek to fill your pulpits and they will seek to guide you down a false path. Watch closely through the eyes of scripture and prayer, not being impressed by flash or new ideas but holding true to the faith that was taught by the Apostles and handed down through the ages.
“They are a stain to your love feasts, eating without fear, shepherding themselves; they are waterless clouds, blown by the wind—unfruitful trees in late autumn—twice dead and uprooted. They are wild waves at sea, foaming up their own shame, wandering stars for whom the dark gloom of eternity has been kept.”
Eating without fear: These men have fully engaged in the “love feasts” or the aÓga¿ph (agape), which given its context both here and in historical literature, is most likely what we call Holy Communion today. Paul writes a stern warning against those who would approach the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner and goes as far as to say that those who do eat and drink judgment upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Unbelievers sometimes balk when we fence the communion table, preventing them from participating, but we do that not to exclude them, but to save them from imminent judgment. To the unbeliever, the communion cup is a cup of poison and judgment, it should be understood that it is a blessing that we withhold communion from those who would take it wrongly.
But this warning is important for believers to here as well as unbelievers. This is because those who would come to the communion table still holding sins or hatred against a brother, being unrepentant, also heap judgment upon themselves. We need to come to the table with great joy at the privilege that has been offered to us, but at the same time, we should approach God with fear and trembling, trusting in his grace and not taking that privilege and gift for granted.
Shepherding Themselves: These men have assumed the role of pastor without any concern or care for the sheep—they just want a paycheck to satisfy their own lusts. If a shepherd is not vigilant, the sheep will soon be devoured. These men are reckless with the flock that they tend and are more interested in the condition of their bellies than the spiritual condition of their flock.
One of my fears is that when we ordain men to the Gospel ministry, we pay more attention to the facts they know than to the man’s character. This is a recipe for disaster. Robert Murray M’Cheyene once stated that the greatest need of his congregation was his personal holiness. How true that is!
Waterless clouds: A cloud that is without rain may look pretty from a distance, but when up close you will quickly realize that they have no substance. They are valueless and will drift along with the winds of change. Oh, how this speaks of many American pastors today! How many ministers of the Gospel really cherish the Gospel they have been called to preach? How many would lay down their life to preserve the truth of the Gospel? How many pastors have the spiritual depth and density to truly feed their congregations? When sermons are filled with fluff, it is likely that the preacher is filled with the same. Jesus said that those who would come to him in faith would become fountains of water (John 7:38). As the Holy Spirit waters the believer in abundance, the believer’s cup runneth over with rivers of living water. To use the language of 2 Peter, these men are dry wells.
Fruitless trees: Not only do these trees bear no fruit, making them useless, but it is late in autumn and they have no sap in their veins to nourish growth and they are uprooted, never to see growth again. These men are twice dead, they are dead to sin here on earth and they are dead spiritually, an enemy of the giver of life. As Jesus said, the branches that do not bear fruit will be cut off, and they will wither and die being separated from the sap, and then, they will be thrown into the fire (John 15:1-8). Friends, our Lord has told us that we are to judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), these men are not only bearing no fruit, but there is no hope for them to bear fruit—they are twice dead. Be alert to those who would come in your midst in a like manner.
Wild waves: The ocean waves are loud and chaotic. Their shame and immorality is like the foam at the top of a breaker. They rage wildly in their sin without trying to hide it. They crash to the shore and they toss everything and everyone caught in their breakers around wildly. There is no safety to be found in these waters, only destruction. Remember that even in Jude’s day the sea was a place of danger and mystery, and so too are these false teachers.
Wandering stars: The language of stars is often used of angels, and in the context of verse 6, this implies that the false teachers will share the same fate as the fallen angels. They will be lost in darkness and damned forever. The believer will spend eternity with Christ, the unbeliever will spend eternity separated from Christ. Christ is true light and apart from him there is no light at all. Flames, weeping, gnashing of teeth, the worm consuming, separation from all that is good and right, and darkness—not a pretty image.
And none of this paints a pretty picture of the people who have become leaders in the church to which Jude is writing. This is a dark time for them. These men are destined for Hell in more ways than one and the church has fallen into their trap. Yet, these descriptions are sadly contemporary. Many churches, as well as whole denominations, have been seduced by men like this. We must be ever vigilant that we do not allow anyone to lead us or our congregation down such roads. We need to be keenly aware of who we ask to lead us. We need to watch to see whether these men are ones who will build up Christ’s body or only their own. We need to see whether they will bring unity or discord. We need to see whose agenda they are working toward. And most importantly, we need to see whether their life is pointing toward Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. These are not only questions that should be asked of pastors, but should be asked of all the members of Christ’s visible church. And, we absolutely must be asking them about our own lives.
“As Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, in like manner committing sexual sin and going after each other’s flesh, they are set before you as an example of suffering justice and eternal fire.”
Thirdly, Jude deals with the sin of sexual immorality by pointing to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This destruction is only a shadow of the destruction that will come on the ungodly in final judgment, for at that time the fire of judgment will be eternal.
Friends, we live in a culture that glorifies sexual immorality, not unlike the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Our culture has rejected the idea that sexuality is meant to be enjoyed within the confines of a marriage relationship. To understand why this is, we must understand what sexuality represents. Sexual relations between a husband and his wife represent the sealing of their marriage covenant, which is why we say that a marriage is not consummated until after sexual relations have occurred. Covenants, both in Biblical language and in the larger ancient world, were confirmed by the shedding of blood. The shedding of blood when a husband takes his wife in sexual relations and her hymen is broken is representative of the confirmation of this covenant. Afterwards, when a husband and a wife come together to the marriage bed, they are renewing the covenant which they made with each other before God.
This is why marital infidelity is so heinous in the eyes of God. For not only does it break the emotional and spiritual trust that is to be held within a family relationship, but it is a breaking of the covenant which was made by bringing someone who is not a member of the covenant into the covenant relationship. This is also why pre-marital sex is considered a sin, for it pretends to confirm a covenant that has never been made.
Throughout scripture, God uses the illustration of marriage to represent his covenant with his people. He is the faithful husband and Israel is the wife who falls repeatedly into sin. When the church worships idols, she brings an outsider into the marriage bed. To confirm the covenant with his people, God shed his own blood—the blood of Christ on the cross—thus, when God’s people fall into idolatry, they are simply playing at a covenant that does not exist.
Just as God uses the illustration of marriage to represent his relationship to the church, his faithfulness in his marriage to the church is to be modeled in the marriages of his people. Given that we live in a culture where the divorce rate amongst believers is as high as it is in the culture, it would seem that we don’t tend to take this very seriously. Friends, the faithfulness that you demonstrate within your marriage sends a message to the world about what you think of God’s faithfulness. If you want to send a message to the world that we must take our covenant with God seriously, then you must do so by demonstrating to the world how you take your covenant with your spouse seriously.
The sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah and the sexual immorality of our culture today mocks the covenant relationship that God has with his people. It makes light of the blood that was shed to confirm such a covenant. And, it downplays the idea of the covenant itself. The penalty for these two wicked cities and for all of the surrounding cities was for God to rain down fire upon them, wiping them from the face of the earth. And, this is the same judgment that faces those in our own culture that chase after sexual immorality—in the day of judgment. Our culture has exchanged the truth of God for a lie. We have adopted the idea that momentary pleasure is better than lasting pleasure and physical pleasure is better than spiritual pleasure. The pleasure that God offers in himself is eternal and infinitely satisfying. The pleasures of the flesh are fleeting and leave you unsatisfied and with a guilty conscience. Which will you chose?
“And the angels who did not hold to their own office, but deserted their own dwelling place to enter judgment on that great day, are kept, chained eternally in gloom.”
Secondly, Jude describes the pride of the fallen angels, who looked to increase their own power and authority above the position that they had been set to by God himself. They have been cast out of their original place, which is heaven, and have been kept chained in darkness for judgment. This is a verse that has brought many a misinterpretation because we know that demons, which are fallen angels, travel the earth seeking to destroy. Two things that we must remember. First, while Satan and his minions are working to attack us, they are like a lion on a tether. They are chained and can only go as far as God allows them to go. God allows them to roam for many reasons (judgment on unbelievers, testing the faith of believers, restraining the pride of believers, etc…), but they can never go further than God allows. Secondly, these fallen angels once lived in Heaven in the very presence of God. When you have seen the glory of God face to face, even the brightest day on earth is as black as pitch.
We don’t know a lot about the fall of the angels, for scripture does not tell us much. We know of Satan’s fall from Revelation 12 and how he took one-third of the stars (a symbol regularly used to describe angels) with him. These are his minions. And, there is no forgiveness for fallen angels. You see, the angels understood the full glory of God and chose to reject it. Our rejection is a rejection based on sin and ignorance, not full knowledge of the truth. Even Adam, who walked with God, did not quite understand the fullness of God’s glory—that would be revealed in Christ’s work. As Augustine wrote, “more is gained in Christ than was lost in the fall.”
If we understand Ezekiel 28:11-19 as a statement of the fall of Satan, as many hold, then we understand that reason that was underlying the fall of Satan and his angels was pride. Jude builds on this when he says that the angels “did not hold to their own office…” The word that we translate as “hold” is the Greek word, thre÷w (tereo), which means “to keep”, “to hold”, “to guard”, or even “to cherish.” The word that we translate as “office” is the Greek word aÓrch\n (archan), which refers to a sphere of influence (note that the word also can mean “from the beginning” and is the word we get “arcane” from).
These angels demonstrate for us what pride looks like. They were unsatisfied with the place in the created order that God had given them, thus they despised that place, and sought to elevate themselves above God. This was also the sin of Adam and Eve. And, as Paul writes, it is the pride of a debased mind that leads to unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, mean-spiritedness, gossip, slander, God hating, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, inventions of evil, disobedience to parents, covenant breaking, lacking of affection, and lacking the ability to show mercy (Romans 1:29-31). Friends, pride gives birth to this. This is the result of the fall and these things reflect the general disposition of the Devil. When we chase after sin, choosing it over righteousness, we chase after these things. Christian, seek the righteousness of God and the fruit of the Spirit; reflect God in your daily living and not the devil.
“Now I want to remind you, though you have known all these things, that the Lord once saved a people from the land of Egypt and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
(Jude 5-7, ESV)
Within this section that offers warnings from the history of Israel, we find three sins that are being addressed: Idolatry, Pride, and Sexual Perversion. In the context of the letter of Jude, these sins are likely the sins that these false teachers have brought with them. Jude wants the church of his day, and by extension, the church of all ages to understand just how dangerous these sins are and that God will not permit these sins to flourish in the life of his people. These are sins of the world and Christians are not to be of the world.
These are also extraordinarily dangerous sins. The medieval church developed what they called the “Seven Deadly Sins” which were wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lechery, envy, gluttony. One pastor friend of mine argues that all sins stem from the sin of pride—as pride was at the heart of the first sin. I would argue that Jude is laying out a trio of sins that God deals most harshly against. There are certainly some sins that God is a bit more lenient towards when you read the ancient law, for example, but these three sins are sins against which God’s heaviest wrath is poured out. And, I would suggest that the reason for this is two-fold. First, these three sins will surely and rapidly take you out of fellowship with God. Second, these sins produce other sins in a person’s life.
Remember well the Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans 1. The reality of God can be seen in his natural revelation—Creation itself—but people chose to chase after their own desires, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Their punishment for their denial of God was to be left to their sin. Sin destroys—it corrodes our souls. But Paul emphasizes three sins in particular: Idolatry (vs. 25), Sexual Perversion (vss. 26-27), and Pride (vs. 28). These are the same three sins that Jude is bringing out, and from these three sins, flow all other sinful living (Romans 1:29-32).
The greatest problem that the Israelites had in their wilderness wanderings was Idolatry. Over and over again, the people are contending with Moses about how things were so much better in Egypt. They made the golden calf, and as they approached the promised land, they also engaged in idolatry with the pagans of the region. Because of this, God kept them in the wilderness for forty years so that none of the original people who left Egypt would enter the Promised Land. Many of these were even killed directly with sickness, war, or natural disaster. Yet, even in the midst of such idolatry, God preserved a faithful remnant for himself.
We may be tempted to wonder about what God was doing, rescuing his people and then killing off those who were unfaithful. Yet, what happened in the wilderness is a picture of what will happen in judgment. There are many who have entered into fellowship with the visible church, but not all of these people are born again believers. There will come a time when we will all stand before God’s throne of judgment and whether we are redeemed or condemned will have nothing to do with which membership card we held in life. It will have everything to do with whether we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Anything that has captured our hearts other than Jesus—whether that be our money, our careers, our families, our accomplishments, etc…–this is idolatry. And idolatry is not something that God tolerates in his body.