Studies in Jude: The Call to Persevere (v. 17-25)

jude-part-1-1-728Following Jesus is about perseverance. The Christian life is arduous and frustrating, sometimes even disappointing. Following Jesus requires of us the ability to persevere in the face of trial, discouragement, and challenge. So, as Jude rounds out his letter warning the church of false teachers, he encourages them to persevere in the faith. True believers persevere in the Scriptures, in communion with God, and with each other.

A clear transition is evident in verse 17. He is making a contrast now, moving from the false teachers to the true believers; “But you,” he says. He calls the recipients of this letter “beloved” or “my dear friends.” As he concludes he wants to shift focus to them and their own lifestyle. He petitions them to persevere in the faith. They are not like the false teachers; the false teachers abandoned the true faith, but they are to “build” themselves up “in the most holy faith” (v.20). The contrast oozes for in these few verses as Jude calls on them to persevere in the three aforementioned specific ways.

Perseverance begins with a commitment to the Scriptures. Jude has been reminding his readers of the Old Testament, and the examples of its text. Here he shifts their focus to the New Testament as he references the letters of the apostles. He writes:

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.”

The apostles, both Paul and Peter in particular, had predicted that in the last days scoffers would come who would mock and deride the very message of the gospel. They would pervert holiness to serve their own ungodly ends. Tom Schreiner notes that like his reference to Enoch, Jude believes that these apostolic prophecies are being fulfilled in that very moment for this very church (1, 2 Peter, Jude, 477). The church needed to remind themselves of these words, cling to them, live by them. Schreiner adds:

What the readers must do is “remember” the words that the apostles previously spoke to them. Remembering in the Scriptures does not involve mere mental recollection, as when we remember a person’s name that we had temporarily forgotten. Remembering means that one takes to heart the words spoken, so that they are imprinted upon one’s life (cf. v. 5). (477)

True believers persevere in the writings of the apostles. To abandon the Word of God, to depart from it, to displace it as the authority of our faith and life is to fall off into sin, heresy, and eventually apostasy.

But it is not enough just to know the Word and recall it. We must use that Word to drive us into deeper communion with God. Jude follows a familiar paraenetic structure in verses 20-21. Christians persevere in communion with God by means of “building,” “praying,” keeping (the only imperative in this group of participles), and “waiting.” The pattern likely follows the familiar faith, love and hope, here expanded to include prayer. It is also worth noting that the pattern is Trinitarian in its expression: Spirit, God, and Christ. He is likely borrowing from early catechism of the church used for training new disciples. He implements them here to urge again that true believers, unlike the false teachers, keep an intense interest in communion with God.

We may read, study theology, listen to good sermons, defend the faith, etc. but if we do not also seek to maintain a deep intimacy with God himself it will amount to nothing. Many an intelligent theologian will find themselves far from the faith in years to come because they have slacked in their relationship with God. Jude’s command that they “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” begins with contending in their own hearts. You cannot contend for a faith that you aren’t yourself growing in, so he reminds them to maintain communion with God.

Finally, Jude directs them to persevere with one another. The false teachers had no patience or interest in caring for the church. They only cared about themselves. Jude describes all the selfish pursuits they engage in. In this little pericope he notes simply that they cause division, that they are worldly people devoid of the Spirit (v. 19). But, Jude says true believers persevere with one another. They have compassion on those who doubt, bearing with them in love. Verses 22-23 read:

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.

True believers are marked by different interaction with one another.

The doxology rounds the whole letter off with the encouraging news that ultimately their perseverance is not up to them alone, but rather the God of love and mercy will “keep” them “from stumbling” and “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (v. 24). Such news can only call forth praise from the apostle, as it should those who read such good news.

The false teachers that crept in unnoticed must be addressed, Jude says. But the good news is that there is always a way to tell the difference between them and true believers. True believers persevere. Jude’s letter, then, is not just for the early church it is for us too. We must persevere. Gauge your own life and heart. Where do you find yourself today? If you are not persevering be forewarned that you are headed in the same direction as these false teachers were in Jude’s day. Their warnings are our warnings. Likewise his encouragement to true believers can be our encouragement. Persevere, friends.

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