International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Jude 17-25Lesson Title: Praise Builds Us Up
The Epistle of Jude deals with apostasy. Simply defined, apostasy is a turning away from the truth. Apostates are people who have received the light of truth but not life. Apostates know the truth but do not act upon it. Apostates know the written word of God but not the living word of God. Judas Iscariot is a classic example of an apostate. For three years or more he walked with Jesus but never knew the life Christ had to offer. The more light he witnessed the darker his heart became.
Jude, the author of this epistle was most likely the half-brother of Jesus Christ, since he was the “brother of James” (Jude 1; Galatians 1:19). James identifies his readers at “beloved” (Jude 3, 17, 20) but no particular church or individual are mentioned. “Beloved” means “those who are loved by God.” Jude obviously intended to write this short epistle on the subject of “the common salvation” (Jude 3) which refers to the shared blessings of being saved. However, Jude realized “it was needful” to write and “exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith…” (Jude 3). Jude wanted believers to know that in spite of the presence of apostates and the apostasy of the last days, they were secure in Jesus Christ. So, he began and ended his epistle with words of assurance written for every believer of every age.
Just as the book of Acts describes the beginning of the church age, Jude describes the end of the church age. Someone has suggested that just as the book of Acts describes the Acts of the Apostles, Jude describes the Acts of the Apostates. But in the midst of all the apostasy, Jude reminds, exhorts and calls upon believers to worship and praise the Lord. No matter how difficult the days God’s children can grow spiritually and magnify the Lord in all we do.
Praise and Education (Jude 17-19)
As Jude concludes his epistle the obvious question arises as to how believers can continue to contend for the faith, grow, and worship the Lord in the midst of all this apostasy and falling away from the truth? What should be the response of the believer?
First, Jude places a high premium on education. “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You cannot survive these last days of apostasy and error on emotional praise and worship. In spite of what you may have heard you cannot “praise” your way through these last days! “Remember” is a call to educate yourself based on “the words which were spoken before of the apostles.” What were these “words?” These are the words of warning given to Jude’s readers by the apostles and to us by the completed word of God. Specifically, Jude may have been referring to 2 Peter 3:3-4, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
It is certainly true that not many teachers and preachers are proclaiming the truth, especially in regard to the soon coming of Jesus Christ for His own and to bring eternal judgment upon the ungodly. Our praise is rooted in our knowing the Scripture and heeding the warnings given by God’s prophets and preachers.
The apostles had preached that “there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” “The last time” refers to the period between Christ’s first and second coming (Acts 2:17; Galatians 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2). Apostates are “mockers,” people who don’t want you to tell them how to live and who take lightly the warnings of coming judgment and the return of Christ. Jude has already mentioned how the “ungodly” live and pursue “their own ungodly lusts” (Jude 4, 15-16). Since these people are not saved, their entire life is consumed with fulfilling their sinful desires.
“These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” “These” are the same apostates and false teachers referred to as “they” in verse 18. Apostates “separate themselves” or cause division by operating totally in the realm of the flesh. In fact, they have no capacity to discern spiritual matters. Therefore, their teaching and living cause a division and strife within the body of Christ. They are “sensual.” That means “they are worldly minded.” An apostate and false teacher are to the body of Christ what a terrorist is the security and peace of a nation. A terrorist thinks he is justified in his actions because he convinces himself or allows himself to be convinced that what he is doing is justified. A false teacher is a religious terrorist, “having not the Spirit.” Titus said, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
Praise and Construction (Jude 20-21)
“But ye, beloved…” are words that reveal there is a difference between the true believer and the apostate or false teacher. There is a difference and Jude emphasizes that. The true believer does not travel the road of the apostate. “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith” is a call to become doctrinally strong. It refers to personal edification and spiritual growth. This is not optional! This is essential! If we are to survive these days of apostasy and spiritual deception we must be strong in the faith.
“Your most holy faith” is not referring to your believing harder, if that is even possible. The “holy faith” in this verse is talking about the content of the gospel. It is absolutely essential that you be built up in your “most holy faith,” that you be strong in your understanding of Christian truth. This is part of the reason our so called “praise and worship” is so emotional and shallow. It is built on “quartet theology” instead of the Scripture. “Quartet theology” refers to singing that has an emotional appeal without any Scriptural basis. People hear the songs, like them, get the rhythm and beat in their minds and before you know it they actually think what they are singing is true. It is just as bad to sing a lie as it is to teach or preach one! Again, in spite of what you may have heard, you cannot “sing” your way through these last days.
“Praying in the Holy Ghost” has nothing to do with the gift of tongues which is no longer in operation in this church age. No individual has the gift of tongues and no individual has the gift of interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 13:8). Those temporary spiritual gifts ceased with the completion of the word of God. “Praying in the Holy Ghost” has nothing to do with how loud or how long you pray. “Praying in the Holy Ghost” is responding to God’s initiative in your heart to talk to Him. It is praying for that which is consistent with God’s will. Although the will of God is revealed in Scripture, we as believers do not always know how to properly apply it to the changing issues of our lives. Therefore, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us before the throne of God on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). When we “pray in the Holy Ghost” we submit ourselves to Him and trust Him to do what is best in our lives. We desperately need this type of praying in these last days. You can “build up yourselves” by “praying in the Holy Ghost.”
Illus. “We often say our prayers, But do we really pray? And do the wishes of our hearts, Go with the things we say? We might as well bow down, And worship gods of stone, As offer to the Living God, A prayer of words alones.” (Source Unknown)
“Keep yourselves in the love of God” is not a reference to our love for God, but to His love for us (Romans 5:5). It does not suggest that God would ever stop loving us. What Jude is saying is the same as what Jesus spoke in John 15:9. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” Believers must keep ourselves in the constant consciousness of God’s love for us. Our worship and praise is based on the unchanging love of God for us. The best way to do that is to obey His commandments (John 15:10).
Illus. The father of the Prodigal Son never stopped loving him. However, the son put himself in a position where he wasn’t conscious of his father’s love. You and I cannot afford to put ourselves in that position in these last days.
“Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” means we are to live in great expectancy as we await our Lord’s return (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:12-13). The apostates can only look for judgment at the return of Christ; we look for “mercy.” It was God’s “mercy” that saved us (Titus 3:5) and it will be His “mercy” that removes us from this sinful world. Our worship and praise can look backward in appreciation for the cross and what Christ did for us there. Our worship and praise should also look forward in anticipation of Christ’s return for us here. It is not enough build on the word of God and pray in the Spirit. Looking for our Lord’s return is equally important. This is difficult in a world and atmosphere where everything focuses on the here and now. Much of the “praise and worship” is void of any mention, reference or thought to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Praise and Dedication (Jude 22-23)
“And of some have compassion, making a difference” is a reminder that those who are apostates and false teachers are also those to whom we should love and reach out to in love with the gospel. There is a desperate need in these last days for God’s people to love lost people.
“Compassion” means “to put oneself in the place of another; to suffer with that person.” Jesus was quick to expose the error of the Pharisees (Luke 7:40-50) but He also reached out in love to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee who sought the truth (John 3:1-21). We must be dedicated to loving and reaching out to the unsaved.
The “some” in verse 22 may refer to those individuals who are deceived by the false teachers and they are confused as to what to believe. Jude says we must be dedicated to “have compassion” or “show mercy” to those individual. If we do, we can “make a difference.” It means God will honor our dedication to show those who are confused the true gospel and love of God.
“And others” probably refers to those who have already bought into the false teaching and deception of the apostates. We are to “save with fear” these individuals by “pulling them out of the fire.” “Save with fear” means we should be cautious as we attempt to help them lest we be overtaken with their error. “Pulling them out of the fire” means it takes courage on the part of believers to help these individuals receive the truth. “Save” does not mean you and I are the source of salvation, but we are the means God uses to reach sinners (Acts 2:37-41; 8:26-38; James 5:19-20). “Pulling” refers to taking someone or something by force. “Fire” speaks of those who are under the influence of the false teaching or those who getting burned by error. The only way to rescue someone in a “fire” is to take them out by force. How do we “pull them out of the fire?” We considerately crush their false ideologies and challenge their false theology with the truth of God’s Word before it is too late (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
“Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” is a statement of warning that is much more intense than Jude’s previous reference to “fear.” There is more than caution emphasized here by Jude as we attempt to help people from error to truth. The “garment” is a reference to the undergarment worn in biblical times. “Spotted” means “stained or polluted.” The thought is that no one wants to handle someone else’s dirty underwear and be defiled by it. Applied to our dedication to help lost men and women be set free from sins deception, we must be extremely careful of getting too close to false doctrine and lifestyles that corrupt and defile (Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:17-18).
Praise and Preservation (Jude 24-25)
Some commentators have rightly entitled the last two verses of Jude’s epistle as “The Saint’s Guarantee” or “The Security of the Believer.” Indeed, our praise is inseparably linked to the truth of eternal security, or as known in other words as the perseverance of the saints. In spite of all the false teaching and apostasy in the world, nothing can rob the child of God of his security in Jesus Christ. Our salvation is based on the work of Christ, not on our works as believers. That truth should be expressed in our praise.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling” are words that magnify the sovereignty of God. Jude’s words “now unto him” would remind his readers of a king who is able to do what he pleases and is always pleased with what he does. Jude’s praise is directed “unto him” which of course is a reference to God. God’s ability is emphasized numerous places throughout Scripture (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 3:21; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 2:18; 11:19). Our God is not a god of by gone days. He is “able” today!
“To keep” is the Greek word phulasso, meaning “to guard,” or “to watch over.” The believer is secure because he is being guarded and watched by God. “Keep you from falling” is applicable to this present life. “And to present you faultless before the presence of his glory” is applicable to our future life in heaven. “Present” means “to make you stand,” “to set or establish.” Presently, believers stand in God’s grace (Romans 5:1-4), but in the future we will stand in “glory” (Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 5:10). “Faultless” is the Greek word amonos. The word is used five other times in the New Testament: Ephesians 1:4 (without blame); Colossians 1:22 (unblamable); Ephesians 5:17 (without blemish); Hebrews 9:14 (without spot); and Revelation 14:5 (without fault). “This word is usually used in the sense of a sacrifice, an animal without spot or any blemish, which is fit to be offered to God. The amazing thing is that when we really submit ourselves to God, the grace of God can change our lives and make them sacrifices fit to offer to Him” (Messages from Jude: Doctor B. Gray Allison, p.67, par.2).
Jude is reminding us that while one would normally fear and dread the thought of entering into the “presence of his glory,” believers will one day enter “with exceeding joy.” When believers arrive in heaven we will know nothing of the shame and disgrace of sin. Instead we will experience “exceeding joy,” which will characterize every aspect of our heavenly life (Revelation 7:16-17; 22:3-5). It is one thing to for God to “keep you from falling.” It is quiet another for Christ “to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
As Jude closes his epistle, he again magnifies the sovereignty of God and directs his praise “to the only wise God our Saviour…” Our limited vocabulary cannot fully describe all that Jude meant in the words “glory, majesty, dominion and power.” Who can describe or even comprehend the “glory, majesty, dominion and power” of God?
God is omniscient. He is “the only wise God.” Paul concluded his letter to the Romans with almost the exact same words in Romans 16:27. There are many false teachers and apostates in the world today who claim to be wise and know many things. God alone is wise (James 1:15). “Majesty” speaks of His incomparable royal presence and also relates to His omniscience. God is omnipresent. He has “dominion” everywhere (Psalm 103:19). He is everywhere present now and forever with His influence and strong rule. God is omnipotent. He has “power” which speaks of His authority. The word “power” in this verse is the Greek word exousia which means the right or authority. “Glory” is the sum total of everything He is. Jude is magnifying the greatness of our God! Jude is saying that after all of the terrible apostasy, false teaching and ungodliness, the Christian still has reason to praise and worship the Lord.
Our God is not only the God who saved us; He is also the God who keeps us. He is worthy of our praise and worship. As we live in days of apathy and disregard for truth it is important that we understand our security is in Jesus Christ. And while we face the apostasy of our day we must continue to love sinners and give them the truth they often deny. How is all of this possible? It is possible because of Jesus Christ.
Jude said best when he said, “Now unto him…” This great God who sent His only begotten Son to die for us at Calvary, saves us, keeps us, and will one day present us faultless before the presence of His glory. To Him be “glory, and majesty, dominion, and power, both now and ever. Amen.” So be it!
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