Jude is a turbulent little book. He begins by exhorting “those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude closes his letter by encouraging his hearers/readers to build themselves up on their most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep themselves in the love of God, and look for the mercy of their Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
But in between these exhortations to faith, from verse 4 to verse 19, Jude urges his audience to be on the watch for ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 4). He really gets rolling in verse 12, when he calls such people “spots in your love feasts,” “clouds without water,” “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots,” “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame,” and “wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Shakespeare had nothing on Jude when it comes to name-calling: tell us how you really feel about such people, Jude!
Although Jude spends most of his letter talking about such ungodly people, his real focus is on “those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This is to be their focus. Yes, they are to watch out for those who have crept in unnoticed and who deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Precisely because there are such evil men, the faith once delivered to the saints must be contended for in each generation.
As I gazed intently at Anglicanism and the Church of England while I was working on my Ph.D., I noticed something striking about church history. Whether I was looking at the period of the English Reformation, or the eighteenth century, or the Oxford Movement, or at contemporary Anglicanism, the Church always seemed to be in trouble. There was always a threat to the holiness and unity of the Church, and ungodly people had forced their way into the Kingdom.
It dawned on me that there was no Golden Age of the Church, whether the early church, the early medieval church, the Reformation, or any other place and time. There is no Golden Age of the Church, for the evil will always be among us.
This is a long way of saying that I think Jude is talking about The Episcopal Church in the 21st century, and many other churches as well. Some in that church have turned the grace of our God into lewdness and toleration of all, and some in that church deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 4). They defile the flesh and reject authority (verse 8), speak evil of whatever they do not know, and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves (verse 10), and cause divisions (verse 19).
Woe to them! Jude says.
But on the other hand, every age is also the Golden Age of the Church, for though God’s people might be tempted or grow weak in one place, new life is born in another. Often, the necessary work of pruning or of tilling looks as if things are going backwards and no fruit is being produced. And yet, invisibly, Christ sits on His throne with all glory and majesty, blessing His people.
Every time heresy rears its ugly head, saints are raised up to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Who are these saints? The ones who will be ready to contend for Christ and the faith are those who have been actively living the faith in the presence of Christ.
Our real job is build ourselves upon our most holy faith. We must pray in the Holy Spirit, if we want our lives to be sustained and to be led to God. We must keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
It’s not by looking at our enemies that they will be vanquished, and it’s not by looking at ourselves that we will be built up on the faith. The answer to how we can both be built up in faith ourselves and contend for it against the enemies of God is to turn to God and sing His praises. If we spend too much of our time looking at either the enemies of God or at ourselves, we will fall. Looking at the enemy, he might appear as giants while we look like grasshoppers. Looking at ourselves, we might feel like giants but actually be grasshoppers.
The one who will keep us in the faith is God, and the one who will defend the faith is God. But most important of all, God isn’t just the means to protect something valuable: He is the valuable treasure that we seek. So let’s not get distracted by either God’s enemies or ourselves.
What better way to be built up on the faith and defend it than by turning to the One who is the object of that faith? Why not turn to the One who has called us and sanctified us and preserved us in Jesus Christ, and the One who is perfect and incorruptible? This is the very faith we seek to uphold, that Jesus Christ is Lord. What better way to live this faith than to sing it as a praise?
Jude is rightly concerned about those who might stumble and those who might cause us to stumble. But let’s give praise to the One who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Isn’t that what each of us really wants?
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Prayer: “To you, O God, who are able to keep me from stumbling, and to present me faultless before the presence of Your glory with exceeding joy; to You, God my Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”
Points for Meditation:
- When things look down today, remember to give praise to God, who can present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
- How might God be calling you to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints?
Resolution: I resolve to spend time today praising God.