The short but poignant letter of Jude, the next-to-last book of the Bible that takes up less than one page in most Bibles and has only one chapter, is profoundly relevant for today. Jude’s emphasis is on recognizing and resisting false teachers, and no small part of his little letter tells Christians specifically what they need to do in order to stand strong against false teaching and to contend for the faith.
In verse 19 Jude present three prominent characteristics of false teachers. Then, in verse 20, he makes a transition that begins with the words “But you….” Jude is now talking to the believer– specifically to those to whom he was writing but also just as directly to you and to me. “Here is what the false teachers believe and do,” he has said, “but you….” So what are we supposed to do? What is our role in the midst of this apostasy that Jude has warned about? There are four things.
First, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” That means in a faith in Christ. This is what Jude was referring to back in verse 3 when he wrote of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” How do we build ourselves up? Through prayer, through Bible study, through church attendance, through meditating on Scripture, through fasting, perhaps, if you feel led to do that. In many ways we build ourselves up in our faith through the exercise of spiritual disciplines, though I almost hate to use that term because it has been construed by some to mean some things that are not consistent with Scripture. But we must seek to walk close to God, to hear His voice, discern His will, and be obedient to His direction and leading in our lives. That is how we build ourselves up in faith.
Second, “praying in the Holy Spirit.” This means sincere prayer guided by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we are in a right relationship with God and are yielded to the Spirit’s working in our lives we will be led by the Spirit in prayer. This is a distinct contrast to what we saw in verse 19, where Jude said the false teachers do not have the Spirit. This is also a distinct contrast to mechanical or repetitious prayers.
Third, we must keep ourselves in the love of God. What does that mean? First, let me tell you what it does not mean. It does not at all suggest, imply or assert that we are somehow responsible for accomplishing or maintaining the security of our salvation. Jude is absolutely not saying here that we must do something in order to stay saved. James wrote about demonstrating our faith by our works but never did he assert that our works accomplish salvation and Jude is, likewise, not saying that our works either accomplish or maintain our salvation. Rather, what Jude is saying here is that we need to be very careful about the influences we allow into our lives, the kinds of people we surround ourselves with, how we use our time…. The Believer’s Bible Commentary uses a good illustration to demonstrate the point that Jude is making here. It says that this can be compared to sunshine. The sun is always shining, but we can put something between ourselves and the sun or allow something to come between us and the sun, and in these instances we are no longer in the sunshine. The sun is shining, the light and the warmth are there, but we may be shielding ourselves from it. Similarly, the love of God is always there, always “beaming down upon us,” if you will, but we can allow sin or ungodly influences to interfere with our being in God’s love.
Back in 1905 Charles Tindley wrote the hymn entitled “Nothing Between.” You may have heard it or sung it, and it very aptly makes this point about not allowing anything to interfere with us being in God’s love. Here are the words to that great hymn:
Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favor;
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.
Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
Habits of life, though harmless they seem,
Must not my heart from Him ever sever;
He is my all, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between, like pride or station;
Self or friends shall not intervene;
Though it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between, e’en many hard trials,
Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial,
I’ll triumph at last, there’s nothing between.
Fourth, and finally, Jude says we must be “waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” This is referring to the believer looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ. We believe that Christ’s return is imminent and could happen at any time. Since we do not know when it will be we are to look earnestly for His return. The word here translated “waiting” in the ESV is sometimes translated “looking” and it means, in the original language, “earnestly expecting.” This same encouragement is given in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 3:12. Here is what Warren Wiersbe writes about this verse: “It describes an attitude of life that is motivated by the promise of our Lord’s return. The apostates can only look for judgment, but God’s people are looking for mercy. Not only is our salvation from sin the gift of God’s mercy, but so also is the deliverance of His church from this evil world. In His mercy, He will come for us and take us to Himself.”
Believers have very real responsibilities in the midst of false teaching. The false teaching is not going to go away–we will never rid the world of false teaching or false teachers and trying to do so not only will not work but is not what God has called us to do. But God has called us to keep ourselves from being seduced or led astray by false teachers, and we can do that only by staying focused on Him. As we stay true to Him we will, through our words and actions, testify to the Truth.