JUDE 16-25 (ESV)
These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (17) But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. (18) They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” (19) It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (20) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, (21) keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (22) And have mercy on those who doubt; (23) save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (24) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, (25) to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
TRUTH IN FOCUS
While grumblers and malcontents follow their own sinful desires in trying to pursue a righteousness apart from Christ, God’s people rest in the completed Gospel work, being persuaded by the testimony of Scripture that God is able to keep His people, presenting us blameless through Jesus Christ our Lord. The keeping power of God in the person and work of Christ serves as proof positive that the redemptive work is truly complete. True Christians rejoice in the power of God to keep His people. And one day, God will present us faultless before the presence of His glory in, by, and through the work of Christ.
The Gospel truly is good news! We know from Scripture that Christ came to die in place of His people, on their behalf, his blood shed for their iniquities. The prophet Isaiah wrote long ago of the Messiah who would be “pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). As far back as the very Garden of Eden, the Lord promises to send a savior who would destroy the works of darkness, bruising the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
The angels testified to the truth of Christ’s mission when they announced to Joseph, “and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Yes! Christ will save His people from their sins! We rejoice in the marvelous light and warmth of this truth. Christ Jesus is the Savior who delivers His people from their sin and shame! Praise God forevermore!
While you’ll hear much of the aforementioned truth declared by many who wear the title ‘Christian,’ there is a vast portion of the Gospel which goes undeclared in way too many pulpits! And, beloved, failing to preach the whole counsel of God is tantamount to not preaching the Gospel at all!
So, which part of the blessed Good News of Christ goes unsaid in the typical pulpit? What doctrine could possibly be so controversial that even the mere mention of it would cause certain individuals to cry out in protest, others to sigh in disgust, and still others to wonder why anything more needs to be said about the Gospel.
What is this most controversial doctrine? Everyone is happy to preach about a Christ who saves sinners. But only preach a word or two on the keeping power of Christ to hold His people fast until the end and then watch the dead religionists writhe in protest!
It is the keeping power of Christ, rooted in the bedrock of God’s eternal electing grace, that gives real and lasting teeth to the Gospel message! Of what use is any salvation if it cannot guarantee the work to be truly and finally complete?
The religious world merely pays lip service to Christ’s work, while actually trusting in self-righteous deeds. To preach a Christ who actually keeps His own people safe and secure would thwart their whole works-based system! Ultimately, the Christ of the Bible, the Christ who came to save His people from their sins and keep them until the day of redemption, has no place in their church meeting halls, no place in their man-centered preaching, and no place in their cold and dead hearts.
It is the keeping power of Christ which makes a finished work possible in the first place! Without the doctrine of Christ’s keeping power, without the absolute guarantee that Christ will keep His people no matter what, we are left with nothing but a celestial cruelty, God hinging final salvation on the feeble will and workings of fallen man. Saved by Christ but kept by works is a doctrine of devils devised by conceited religionists who hate the true and saving Gospel. It is no better a message than no Gospel at all!
Oh, but what the world counts as foolish and even vile, the beloved elect of God in awestruck wonder behold the Gospel of Christ as a blessing more precious than gold! Christ the Lord be praised forever! He loved His people before their was time. He came with a righteous mandate from heaven to truly and fully save His people, all of His people, from their sin. He became sin for us, His elect, taking our sin debt by imputation and drinking damnation dry on behalf of the elect, fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law for all time! Christ is the “end of the law for righteousness to them that believe!” He is the absolute surety of God’s elect, the ransom price paid in full! Now, clothed in His imputed righteousness, we rejoice that “he who began a good work in us shall be faithful to complete it until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)! Christ saves to the uttermost. And, beloved, Christ powerfully keeps His people saved!
Beloved, When life is coming up roses, He is able to keep you! When life’s trials rush in on you like a flood, He is able to keep you! When personal failures stack up like cordword, He is able to keep you! Through life and death, Praise God forevermore, Christ will keep you! Hallelujah.
v. 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
A. “grumblers, malcontents…” – False professors have no rest, no peace or contentment in their false gospel. These are those described in Holy Scripture as “ever learning, but unable to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Because they deny the truth of Christ’s Gospel, every conclusion at which they arrive concerning righteousness before God is wrong-headed and works-based. Self-righteous religion inevitably begets more and more self-righteous religion!
B. “showing favoritism to gain advantage” – Jude writes of certain false teachers who have used their positions of authority, having infiltrated certain congregations, for their own personal advantage. The language used here is the language used to describe a crooked judge or ruler. In the end, a crooked theology produces crooks!
v. 17-19 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. (18) They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” (19) It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
A. “But you must remember..the predictions..” – Christ warned the church about false prophets, bogus teachers, and self-serving false professors on several occasions, as did the Apostle Paul:
Acts 20:28-30 – “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
B. “It is these who cause divisions…” – The worldly people of false religion are malcontents, having no peace. They exist to stir up controversy and strife among God’s people, tempting them to follow after their own personal lusts rather than the Christ of Scripture.
v.20,21 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, (21) keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.(20) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, (21) keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
A. “keep yourselves in the love of God…” – Jude admonishes God’s people to build themselves up in the most holy faith by “waiting for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Trusting in Christ’s finished work, believing the Gospel as the Spirit gives faith, is the present reality afforded to each and every believer. The call to “keep yourself in the love of God” is not to somehow add to Christ’s work. As believers, the call to keep ourselves in Christ’s love is sounded as a way of directing us away from the false doctrine of the heretic and toward the sweet promises of the life-giving Gospel of Christ. It is the love of Christ which compelled Him to reach down in saving mercy, becoming sin for us that we might become of the righteousness of God in Him! It is a love that cannot fail, a love that will not let us go, a love that transcends any human measurement!
B. “the mercy of Jesus Christ leads to eternal life” – We are called to follow after the things of the Lord, to shun false doctrine by “keeping ourselves in the love of Christ.” It is reassuring, however, to remember that the it is the mercy of Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. It is His mercy! It’s always been his mercy! The mercy of Christ know no bounds. We are saved by His mercy and grace!
v. 22,23 And have mercy on those who doubt; (23) save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
A. “have mercy on those who doubt” – Those who sin through infirmity and weakness, wavering brothers in Christ are in view here. Consider Paul’s teaching concerning restoring erring brothers found in Galatians 6:1-3:
Galatians 6:1-3 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
B. “show mercy with fear” – there is a time when the theological gloves should come off. Those who participate in rank heresy contrary to their professed faith would find themselves in a position wherein to receive the stern rebuke of the brothers who still profess the truth of the Gospel.
Paul demonstrated this very approach when he confronted Peter concerning his mishandling of the Gospel:
Galatians 2:11 – But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
C. “Hating even the garment stained by the flesh” – Jude leaves absolutely no room in his theology for any fleshly work, no matter how insignificant it may appear. There is no room, no leeway for the addition of human works in God’s plan of redemption. From first to last, Christ is all in all.
Christians should be on the lookout against any doctrine which could lead to a watering down of Christ-alone preaching and teaching.
v. 24,25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, (25) to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
A. “Now to him…” – The opening lines of Jude’s closing words of praise to God capture the essence of the saving Gospel. Jude calls attention, not to our works, worth, place of birth, sincerity, or anything found in sinful humanity. He draws the readers attention to the only source of salvation: Him! “Now to Him (God)!” declares Jude with the entire weight of divine Scripture backing up his claim! Look to Him for what? For everything!
B. “who is able to keep you from stumbling” – As Newton so aptly penned, “through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come.” Yet, through it all, Christ will keep us!
Romans 8:37-39 – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The keeping power of Christ is bound up in salvation itself. For how can He promise eternal life to anyone unless He can guarantee the outcome?
(John Gill) “The people of God are liable to falling into temptation, into sin, into errors and mistakes, from an exercise of grace, or from a degree of steadfastness in Gospel truths, and even into a final and total apostasy, were it not for divine power; and they are not able to keep themselves. Adam, in his state of innocence, could not keep himself from falling; nor could the angels, many of whom fell, and the rest are preserved by the grace of God; wherefore, much less can imperfect sinful men keep themselves, they want both skill and power to do it; nor can any, short of Christ, keep them, and it is his work and office to preserve them; they were given to him with this view, and he undertook to do it; and sensible sinners commit themselves to him, as being appointed for that purpose; and this is a work Christ has been, and is, employed in, and he is every way qualified for it: he is “able” to do it, for he is the mighty God, the Creator and upholder of all things; and as Mediator, he has all power in heaven and in earth; instances of persons kept by him prove it; and there is such evidence of it, that believers may be, and are persuaded of it: and he is as willing as he is able; it is his Father’s will he should keep them, and in that he delights; and as he has undertook to keep them, he is accountable for them; besides, he has an interest in them, and the greatest love and affection for them; to which may be added, that the glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit, in man’s salvation, depends on the keeping of them: and what he keeps them from is, from falling by temptations, not from being tempted by Satan, but from sinking under his temptations, and from being devoured by him; and from falling by sin, not from the being or commission of sin, but from the dominion of it, and from the falling into it, so as to perish by it; and from falling into damnable heresies; and from the true grace of God, and into final impenitence, unbelief, and total apostasy.”
C. “glory, majesty, dominion, and authority” – Our only reply to such a wondrous love, an infinitely deep and wide love, is to throw our hands and our hearts open in praise to His the Blessed Name of our God and His Christ! Praise the Lord for the keeping power of God in Christ! He is worthy to be praised! He alone is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, assurance, and glorification! Thanks be to God!
The words of the hymn ring so true! “When I fear my faith will fail, He will hold me fast!” False professors and deceitful teachers can be found on every corner of the so-called Christian world. Yet, through it all, Christ will keep and hold me fast!
Beloved, He will keep His people in perfect peace! Of this there can be no doubt. Jude declares that God in Christ will keep us from stumbling, presenting us faultless before His own presence! Who else but God alone could arrange such a mighty salvation? This is no work of human hands! This, the saving and keeping of Christ’s church, is the very work of God!
And, for His blessed keeping power, let the church say, Amen!
Jason K. Boothe is pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information about the ministries of Horizons Baptist Church, please visit: www.horizonsbaptist.org.