“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!
“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?
“But you, beloved, remember the things that were foretold by the apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For they said to you, ‘In the end times there will be mockers chasing their own desires and impiety.’ It is these who cause divisions. Natural ones, they do not have the Spirit.”
A third time Jude uses the word beloved to refer to the people in this church. It is a reminder to us that Jude is not writing here as an angry schoolmaster reprimanding unruly children. Rather, Jude is writing as a faithful brother in Christ, seeking to preserve his family from the dangers that surround it. Jude reminds us that false teachers will abound, which should be a constant reminder to us today. And we should not be surprised by their arrival, but ever watchful to keep our fellowship pure. Then Jude offers us two kinds of exhortations: inward and outward.
It is important for us to remember all of the things that the Apostles and Prophets have said. All of scripture is God-breathed and profitable to prepare the believer for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is our only guide and standard for life and faith. It will keep us from error and a faithful study of it will prevent us from being seduced by the false teachers who fill the world. The problem is that though we have the Bible available to us in a different translation for every day of the month, we don’t take time to read it or to study it. We see that as the pastor’s job. Yet, who will police the pastor that he does not fall into error and lead others in the same direction? It must be the men and women sitting in the pews who are always seeking a clearer understanding of the truth. Recognize that mockers will come and that they will wreak havoc in the fellowship, but be prepared to deal with them when that happens. That preparation comes by the careful study of scripture.
“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.
The Three Woes:
“Woe to them who have traveled the way of Cain, and to them who have committed the error of Balaam, who have dedicated themselves to wages, and to those who perished in Korah’s rebellion.”
1) The way of Cain: Instead of taking the way of Christ, these false teachers are taking the way of Cain. Cain resented the purity of his brother’s sacrifice, and sought to destroy it. He perverted worship and he allowed pride to reign in his life.
2) Balaam’s Error: Instead of following the truth of Christ, Balaam sought to curse God’s anointed for his own gain and sought to mislead the Israelites into disobeying God’s law. He perverted the truth of doctrine for his own benefit. In addition, Balaam also taught Balak how to seduce the young Israelite men and bring them into sin (Revelation 2:14).
3) Korah’s rebellion: Instead of seeking to live as Christ, Korah sought to usurp rule and authority from Moses and the true priesthood. He perverted the life of the people of God, bringing disorder to the church.
These men are all apostate and brought destruction to the people who followed them. Woe to them, they are perverters of worship. Woe to them, they are perverters of the fellowship of God’s people. Woe to them, they are perverters of the leadership of Christ’s church. All of these men put their pride and personal desires ahead of the good of God’s people. Each of these men were destroyed for their sin.