Staying True to God in the Midst of Apostasy and Compromise
Scripture: Jude 1:20-21
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”
Jude’s letter was written to believers who were living in spiritually perilous times. In the Christian community there were many false teachers and religious professors who had accepted and who were actively propagating a false gospel. The recipients of Jude’s letter were urged to detect and to reject the false teaching.
Further, they were exhorted to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3) and to “keep themselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). The focus of this message is the command, “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21).
Accompanying this command are three practices that Christians must follow. We keep ourselves in the love of God
- by building ourselves up by our most holy faith;
- by praying in the Holy Spirit, and
- by waiting expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will grant us eternal life at His Second Coming.
I. The Command to Keep Ourselves in the Love of God (Jude 1:21)
This command is addressed to Christians who “are sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ and called” (Jude 1:1). It is interesting to note that even Christians who are “preserved in Jesus Christ” must not be passive in their faith. They must be actively engaged in keeping themselves in God’s love.
Most commentators take the phrase “the love of God” to mean God’s love for us, rather than our love for God. Our Lord made a similar statement recounted in John 15:9: “Continue ye in my love.” Jesus explained, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10).
The same truth is taught in 1 John 2:5, “But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.” Jude is telling us that there are some things that God requires Christians to do if they would keep themselves in the love of God.
Christians keep themselves in God’s love by reading God’s Word, incorporating its teachings into their lives, and ensuring that they are constantly obeying God. They keep themselves in God’s love by living lives of holiness and godliness.
If we want to know what happens to those who do not keep themselves in God’s love, we need look no further than the examples of the Israelites, who although saved by God out of the land of Egypt, afterward were destroyed by God for their unbelief (Jude 1:5).
Is it possible for a Christian to walk away from God and sever his relationship and ultimately be lost?
Long before Jude wrote his letter of warning, the prophet Ezekiel was given a message from God about this very danger. God warns that it is possible for the righteous to depart from righteous living, die in sin, and be eternally lost. Ezekiel 3:20 says,
“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die;
since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered;
but his blood I will require at your hand.”
Ezekiel 3:21 adds,
“However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning;
and you have delivered yourself.”
This clearly contradicts the “once saved, always saved no matter how you live,” teaching that is prevalent in many evangelical churches. Ezekiel 18:24 repeats the warning.
“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live?
All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed;
for them he will die.”
Ezekiel 18:26 says,
“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die.”
Ezekiel is not talking about physical death; he is speaking of spiritual death which involves eternal separation from God. A third warning comes in Ezekiel 33:12-13:
“And you, son of man, say to your fellow citizens,
‘The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he turns from his wickedness;
whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin.’
When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered;
but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die.”
Ezekiel is being inspired by the Holy Spirit to talk about spiritual life and spiritual death and to warn the righteous not to turn back into a life of sin.
In like manner, Jude tells us we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. This is not salvation by works; this is called “walking in the Spirit” and cooperating with God’s grace.
II. The Specified Means for Keeping Ourselves in the Love of God (Jude 1:20-21)
Jude tells us three things we must do in order to keep ourselves in the love of God. The first of these is to build ourselves up in the most holy faith.
A. “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith” (Jude 1:20a)
The phrase, “your most holy faith,” speaks of the revelation of truth God has given His church through inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the entirety of God’s Word (Old Testament and New Testament) which forms the core beliefs of the Church.
It is “most holy” because it comes from our thrice-holy God, and it has the power to make those who believe it to be “holy ones” themselves (“sanctified by God the Father” —Jude 1:1). How do we do this?
In Acts 2:42, after the day of Pentecost, we see that the early Christians built themselves up in the love of God by devoting themselves daily to the apostles’ teaching (the study of Scripture), and to Christian fellowship, and to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
In other words, the only way to build up ourselves on our most holy faith is to read, study, learn, and remember God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:12). We must become doctrinally strong if we would recognize error and effectively fight the battle for truth, thereby saving our own souls and helping other Christians to understand and live by God’s Word.
The second practice a Christian must cultivate in order to keep himself in the love of God is to learn to pray in the Holy Spirit.
B. “Praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20b)
The battle against false teaching is not won simply by superior Biblical knowledge and argument. Prayer is also a vital and necessary ingredient. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 teaches we must learn to be mighty “through God” to the pulling down of strongholds.
Prayer provides the spiritual power and strength a Christian needs. To pray “in the Holy Spirit” means to pray under the submission, direction, and leadership of the Spirit. When we pray in the Holy Spirit we submit ourselves to Him, rest on His wisdom, seek His will, and trust in His power (cf. John 14:14-17; 1 John 5:14-15).
Do we realize that the Holy Spirit is a person? If we ask, He will show us how to pray. He will help us, direct us, and prompt us. However, we must learn to be submissive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our prayer life.
If we keep submissive to the Holy Spirit, He will keep us from spiritual defeat in our areas of weakness.
Thirdly, we keep ourselves in the love of God by “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
C. “Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 1:21)
We are to live with eternity in view as we eagerly anticipate the Lord’s return (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:12-13; cf. 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:11-13).
The phrase “looking for” implies a waiting with anticipation. We could translate it “earnestly expecting.” This phrase is used to describe
- our expectation of the resurrection (Acts 24:15),
- the prospect of eternal glory (Titus 2:13), and
- servants who await the return of their master (Luke 12:36).
On that great future day, all of us who have trusted in Him will experience Christ’s final mercy and enjoy the fullness of eternal life (cf. Rom. 2:7; 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 John 5:13) as we experience the resurrection and glorification of our bodies (John 5:24; 17:3; Rom. 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 John 5:20; cf. Dan. 7:18).
Even if Jesus doesn’t come in our lifetime, when we die and go into the presence of the Lord, we will receive His mercy and eternal life.
That promise should be enough to motivate us to resist false teachers and to keep ourselves in the love of God by building ourselves up in the most holy faith through study of God’s Word, by praying in the Holy Spirit, and eagerly awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.