Lessons from Jude

“Keep yourself in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” —Jude 21

WE KNOW THAT we cannot measure up to the perfect standard that is held before us in the Scriptures—in the person of Jesus, the Lord. So we are thankful, as Jude reminds us (vs. 3), that through our Lord Jesus Christ “mercy” is shown toward us in our imperfections. This loving provision of divine mercy does not provide an excuse for us to relax in our efforts to know and do God’s will. But it does give us cause to rejoice in the realization that through Christ our imperfect works are reckoned acceptable, and that God will bless us, not according to how well we succeed, but in proportion to the sincere efforts we make in trying to come as closely as we can to follow his example of perfection.

In the second verse of his epistle, Jude admonishes us to contend earnestly “for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” and in verse 20 he speaks of building up ourselves in this “most holy faith.” It is in the next verse that he exhorts us to keep ourselves in the love of God. These verses emphasize the close relationship between the ‘most holy faith’ and divine love. Actually, it is through this ‘faith once delivered unto the saints’ that God has revealed his love to us, and it is by obedience to the glorious truth of the divine plan that we keep ourselves in divine favor.

Many speak in a general way of the love of God, but it is only through the truth of the divine plan that one can appreciate the length and breadth, and height and depth of that love. Those, for example, who read the text that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, and believe that the purpose of this gift was to rescue believing sinners from an eternity of torture certainly have not come very far in discerning God’s love. Associated with the grotesque and blasphemous dogma of eternal torture, is the distorted idea that God actually is his own Son, and the Son his own Father.

Only those who know the joyful sound of present truth, the ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’, and through the truth have glimpsed a more accurate vision of God, really know to any degree that love of God which, so far as its fullness is concerned, is quite beyond human understanding. So, if the ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’ has been revealed to us, and we have been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, let us rejoice and be willing at all times to contend earnestly for this divine revelation, and be diligent in building ourselves up in this blessed truth.

Contending for the faith (vs. 3) is by no means limited to upholding it against the attacks of its’ enemies. This ‘contending’ is in reality our good fight of faith—the Christian’s warfare against his fallen human nature. In this warfare we have three principal enemies with which to contend. These are the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Each of these enemies is formidable in its attacks against our hearts and minds; and when they work together—as frequently they do—we would be helpless before them but for the marvelous provisions of divine grace by which we are kept from falling.

One of these provisions is the truth itself, which Paul likens to an ancient soldier’s armor, with its helmet, shield, breastplate, girdle, sandals, and sword. Each of these articles, from one standpoint or another, is symbolic of the truth which is our shield and buckler. If we keep this armor on, and girded closely to us, we will be able to withstand all the “fiery darts” of the Adversary.—Ps. 91; Eph. 6:10-17

Prayer is also a bulwark of strength in the Christian life. In the parable of the importunate widow, Jesus’ lesson is that “they [Jesus’ disciples] ought always to pray and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1) Going to the throne of heavenly grace is the sure way of finding “grace to help” in every time of need. (Heb. 4:16) When the way is difficult, the storms are raging, enemies are pressing hard, and we can scarcely see the next step before us, instead of fainting and giving up, let us pray.

If we hold the truth both in our minds and in our hearts it will manifest itself in our lives. Since the truth reveals the love of God, to be built up in this most holy faith implies a development into the character-likeness of God, and being transformed into the image of his dear Son. Every influence exerted to prevent this growth of grace is something against which we should contend, whether it be from within—our own flesh being the enemy—or from without, emanating from Satan or the world.

Satan is a wily foe, and is quick to take advantage of every weakness of the flesh in his efforts to destroy us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. Jude knew this, and in his epistle used various illustrations and examples to help us to be on guard against the “wiles of the Devil.” (Eph. 6:11) He wrote, for example, of some in his day who had “gone in the way of Cain,” and of others going “greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” He writes also of the “gainsaying of Core.” (vs. 11) Perhaps most of us may feel that we are in no danger of committing such gross sins as Jude has suggested. But Jude has simply presented the ultimate to which various weakness of the flesh, with the wrong influence of Satan, might lead, if their early beginnings are not detected and the proper measures taken to cleanse ourselves from them.

The Prophet David prayed for help from the Lord to keep him from any small beginnings of sin which might lead to tragedy in the end. He said to the Lord, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.”—Ps. 19:12-14

Jude did not write his epistle to unbelievers or the worldly minded, but “to them that are sanctified by God the Father.” (vs. 1) So it must have been some of these who had ‘gone in the way of Cain’, This suggests the possibility of the Lord’s people taking the same wrong course if they are not diligent in keeping themselves in the love of God.

The ‘way of Cain’ was the sin of jealousy. In his case it became so deeply rooted that Cain was led to commit murder. Jealousy is, indeed, “cruel as the grave.” (Cant. 8:6) But jealousy, like every other sin, usually has a small—perhaps almost imperceptible—beginning. “Who can understand his errors?” David asked, and then prayed to the Lord to cleanse him from secret faults. We also should pray to be cleansed from secret faults. And in addition to praying, we should probe deeply into our own hearts in order to discover any possible small beginnings of jealousy that may be taking root in order that we may take action against them.

To begin with, jealousy may be but a passing thought. But Satan is quick to pick up such thoughts and urge us to develop them. And, before we know it, the passing thought can become a firm conviction. This can lead to bitterness of heart, and envious attacks upon those who are the objects of our jealousy. Then the evil roots of jealousy blind us to the real truth, making it impossible longer to reason correctly on any question coming before us in which these ones are involved. How timely are the words of the poet “My soul be on thy guard: ten thousand foes arise; The hosts of sin are pressing hard to draw thee from the prize.”

Prayer and a proper application of the Word of God will cleanse us from the possible beginnings of jealousy. To be jealous means that we consider ourselves more worthy of, and better qualified for certain blessings—even privileges of service—than those to whom they arc given. Paul gave us good advice in this connection, writing, “I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”—Rom. 12:3

Faith definitely enters into this matter, for if we lack faith we will fail to have confidence in the fact that God has set every member in the body as it has pleased him. (I Cor. 12:18) Perhaps God’s purpose, in permitting others to have a position which we think we could fill much better, is to test us. King Saul was the Lord’s anointed. Even though he lost God’s favor, David—who knew he had been anointed to take Saul’s place—patiently waited for the Lord to remove the disobedient Saul. He did not lift up his hand against “the Lord’s anointed.”—I Sam. 26:11

There is a good lesson here for all God’s people. It means that we should be content with what the Lord, through his providences and in his own time, sees best for us. If our lot does not seem as favorable as that of others, let us wait on the Lord to change things, rather than to be too hasty in taking matters into our own hands.

Jude spoke of others in his day who, being once in the “love of God,” did not keep themselves there, but instead “ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” (vs. 11) The example of Balaam is a very revealing one. He was asked by a heathen king—Balak, of the Moabites—to curse the people of God. Balaam was not a worshiper of Jehovah, but having heard of the many miracles accredited to Jehovah on behalf of the Israelites, he refused to curse them unless he could secure the permission of Israel’s God.

There is considerable detail to the story as presented in chapters 22 to 24 in the Book of Numbers. The point of the lesson for us is that Balaam really wanted to do the bidding of King Balak in order to get the reward that was offered, but refrained from doing so only because he feared what might happen to him. He ‘greedily’ desired the reward, and cared little or nothing about what the result of his curse might be upon the Israelites. Outwardly he conformed to the Lord’s will, but at heart he still wanted the offered reward. Various rewards could be suggested to us, either by the world, the flesh, or the Devil—or even by all three—which might lure us out of the love of God.

In this connection it should be helpful to consider what a priceless heritage we have in the church of God. Most people consider themselves fortunate if in a lifetime they can be assured of having made two or three real friends. But the Lord’s people have friends—loving, loyal, understanding friends—almost the world over. They have these friends because they are ‘in the love of God’, and the love of God is in them and in their brethren in Christ. It is a genuine and glorious fraternity of love. If we appreciate this as we should, we will gladly lay down life itself in helping to safeguard the interests of our friends, who are also the Lord’s friends, yea, his children.

It is well to remember that Jehovah consented to Balaam’s starting out to curse the Israelites—hindering him later, of course. So we might wrongly conclude that because the Lord seemingly does not interfere with what we are doing, it is his will that we continue. But in this delay the Lord may only be testing us. Those who keep themselves in the love of God are those who in their hearts are so loyal to the principles of righteousness that even the thought of saying or doing anything which might even remotely result to the disadvantage of one of the Lord’s little ones, would give them pain.

The name Core is a Greek form of Korah. He was one of the sons of Aaron who led a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. (Num. 16:13) The fact that Moses and Aaron had been appointed by the Lord for the service they rendered seemed to escape his reasoning. Korah concluded that he and his associates were just as qualified, and therefore should share the privileges and honors which, in their false reasoning, they concluded Moses and Aaron were selfishly holding for themselves.

We doubt if at the time Jude wrote his epistle and mentioned those who followed the ‘gainsaying of Core’ that there were any situations in the church which were exactly like the case of Korah. There were, of course, false apostles in the Early Church, and these might have been questioning the authority of the Lord’s true apostles, insisting that they had as much authority to speak for the Lord as anyone else. But the Lord’s supervision over his people at that time was not through any one or two of the apostles, as it was through Moses and Aaron.

And the same is true today. But the principle is important now, even as then, that principle being the recognition of the Lord’s supervision over his people, especially in our own individual affairs. It implies the humbling of ourselves under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt us in due time. It means the humble and thankful acceptance of the Lord’s providences in every aspect of our lives.

There are very few in the church today—perhaps not any—who find themselves in just this sort of situation. But this principle applies in all life’s affairs. In our work there may be those who are promoted ahead of us, when we feel that we are equally, or even better qualified. Usually there is little or nothing that can be done about situations of this kind, but we do need to guard against any rebellious spirit that could easily develop in our own hearts. This could well lead to bitterness of heart which, if allowed to develop, would eventually take us out of the love am) favor of God.

We might even become rebellious against the Lord’s providences in which others are not involved at all. Starting with the question, Why did this have to happen to me? the spirit of resentment against the Lord’s providences could easily become stronger, leading to bitterness that would hide the smiling face of our Heavenly Father from us, and therefore cause us the loss of his favor.

As we have already noted, sinful attitudes of this sort do not take possession of us suddenly. At first, as David said, they are ‘secret faults’. It is only through prayer and a day-by-day diligent searching of our hearts in the light of the principles of righteousness revealed through the most holy faith, that we are able to detect these small beginnings of sin. But when we do detect them, we should diligently wield the ‘sword of the spirit’ to destroy the enemy.

Keeping ourselves in the love of God means that the love of God fills and controls our lives—our thoughts and actions. One aspect of God’s love is his compassion. How truly thankful we should be that he has compassion for us! But he wants us to exercise a similar compassion toward others, particularly toward our brethren in the truth who may have deviated temporarily from the right way, or have stumbled and fallen.

In other words, as it has been so often stated, while we are to hate the sin, we are to love the sinner. We should not cease to endeavor to help those who have erred until it becomes unquestionably certain that it is no longer possible for them to be extricated from their sinful condition. The disposition of mind and heart which will prompt us thus to do all we can to help an erring brother is a powerful influence in keeping ourselves in the love of God.

Those who are keeping themselves in the love of God will, as Jude indicates (vs. 23), hate even the garments “spotted by the flesh.” Garments sometimes symbolize that by which one is identified. Garments spotted by the flesh would be professions and customs arising out of selfish, fleshly reasonings in which the instructions of the Lord are ignored, and the principles of divine righteousness and love are set aside or forgotten.

If we are keeping ourselves in the love of God we will hate ‘garments’ of this sort, and we will be especially on guard lest we be found wearing them. Fully realizing the imperfections of our fallen flesh, we will diligently endeavor to keep our bodies in subjection to the new mind, and rejoice to wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, which, because of what it means to us, becomes a ‘garment of praise’.

Let us, then, continue to rejoice in the love and favor of God. Let us contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, through which his love has been revealed to us. And may we be more and more emptied of self and filled with divine love which will spur us on to faithfulness in serving one another, bearing the burdens of the weak rather than pleasing ourselves, laying down our lives in helping to build one another up in the most holy faith.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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