This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for April 10) is written by David Ray who serves with Christ’s Church at Mason (Ohio).
Remember the Warnings (Jude 17-25)
By David Ray
Jude advised his readers to remember what the apostles predicted (v. 17). But the core of the problem was people were forgetting (or ignoring) both the apostles’ authoritative word and their clear warning. The apostles had said, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires” (v. 18). Peter warned, just as Israel had its “lying prophets,” so “there will be lying religious teachers among you” (2 Peter 2:1, The Message).
The church’s greatest risk might not come from outside, but from within. Its most insidious threat may not be unbelief but misbelief. External challenge can more readily be resisted, but if Satan gets us to self-destruct through distorting the faith, that’s a far more subtle ploy. And if in the process we become divided, all the better for God’s enemy (v. 19).
In the end, these misleaders have the self-centered goal of satisfying their basest pleasure. Rather than living lives prompted by the Spirit, they choose to follow their “natural instincts” (v. 19). They fashion a faith and theology of their own choosing, creating a religion that conveniently justifies their sin.
“But you, dear friends,” says Jude, as he turns from harsh warning to high hope. “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (vv. 20, 21). The Greek verb points to a superstructure being raised from an existing foundation. Its present tense also speaks of ongoing attention to the construction process.
Jude earlier wrote of the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (v. 3). This authoritative message, fixed in Scripture, must not be altered. Changing the base imperils the whole house of faith. There may be some differences in how the above-ground structure appears, but we dare not change the foundation.
This building process, Jude says, is aided through three key means: (1) “pray in the Holy Spirit” (2) as you “keep yourselves in God’s love” and (3) “as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us to eternal life.” Spiritual maturity is tied to the practice of prayer. Someone said, “Real religion means dependence.” It’s not about us. John Piper describes prayer as “the breathing of the Christian life.”1 As critical as air is to life, prayer is to the soul. And this breathing is not left for us to do alone, but is aided by the Holy Spirit.
Among Jesus’ last words to his disciples were, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. . . . As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:4, 9). The challenge is not only coming to Christ’s love, but keeping in it as we wait.for “eternal life” (v. 21). The moment must not blind us to the forever.
Despite the early verses’ stern denunciation of error, Jude closes with strong encouragement toward redemption: “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (vv. 22, 23). John’s Gospel says Jesus came to us from the Father, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Too many souls are big on truth, but small on grace. Jesus held hope for the vilest of sinners, and his grace always tempered his truth. When was the last time you tried to counsel someone out of doubt, risked rescuing the Hell-bent, or extended mercy to the undeserving? Jude does not suggest indifference to sin, and he warns us to avoid its dangerous “stain.” But we can love the sinner while still hating the sin.
Jude ends with his most eloquent and memorable words. While most of his short letter may seem obscure, Jude’s majestic benediction grabs any heart. “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (vv. 24, 25).
Kept is a key word for Jude. I like how one commentator puts it: “Faith needs a keeper.”2 Though we are prone to stumbling in ways that can be fatal, God is able to keep us.
The words Jude chose often describe the sure-footed horse. An ancient psalm captures a similar confidence: “My strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble . . . Not on your life!” (Psalm 121:1-4, The Message). My feeble, aging mother’s greatest risk is in falling. So is mine, without the Keeper!
A skilled photographer is able to take a great picture, but also to brush out all the blemishes. You pay a price for that transformation. So did God, through Christ, toward whom Jude’s benediction swells toward grand conclusion: “Without fault and with great joy” (v. 24). All who share this amazing confidence should add their “Amen,” too!
1 Via www.soundofgrace.com
2 Elmer Homrighausen, Interpreter’s Bible, out of print.
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|April 4: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12|
|April 5: Jeremiah 31:2-9|
|April 6: 1 Corinthians 10:23-31|
|April 7: Acts 20:28-35|
|April 8: John 17:6-19|
|April 9: 1 Samuel 12:19-25|
|April 10: Jude 17-25|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: David Ray serves as executive minister at Christ’s Church at Mason (Ohio). He is thankful for being kept by Jesus Christ through more than three decades of ministry.