Build Yourself Up – Jude 20-25

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Most of this epistle focuses on the negatives: the characteristics of the false teachers and the certainty of their judgment in time. We know they are unsaved because they are called ungodly numerous times, a term that refers only to unbelievers. They are “soulish” [psuchikos] because they haven’t been regenerated. All of this up to verse 19 is about the unbelieving false teachers and the certainty of their judgment. When the face that situation the question is: Well what do I do now?  So now in verse 20 Jude addresses the positive aspect of how the believer should respond: in grace and love.

Jude 1:20 NASB “But you ..” In contrast to the unbeliever, the natural man who does not have a human spirit, the believer is different. “… beloved …” They have a command. What is interesting here is that it starts off by saying, “building yourselves up…” This is a participle in the Greek, and the participle here is adverbial, it modifies a verb. The sentence, even in the English, goes down through verse 21. The main idea, the main verb, the main command is in verse 21. We need to understand that because everything that is said in verse 20 is telling us something about how to execute the command in verse 21 which says, “keep yourselves,” the Greek verb tereo which means to keep, protect, or sometimes it has the idea of guarding or watching over. Grammatically it is an aorist tense, which usually summarizes action. When it is an aorist imperative what it is doing is emphasizing a priority item: make this a priority, this is one of the most significant things you need to do as a believer—keep, watch, guard over yourselves. You do that by building yourselves up.

How do you keep yourself, watch yourself, guard yourself? The first way you do it is by “building yourself up.” This is a present active participle. The participle has a sort of instrumental sense to it. It is the word epoikodomeo [oikos = house; oikodomeo = constructing something]. “But you beloved build/construct something spiritually …”

1 Corinthians 3:10 NASB “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation [the gospel], and another is building [epoikodomeo] on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” How do you build? There is a right way and a wrong way to build your spiritual life. Just because it feels right to you doesn’t mean it is right. Colossians 2:7 uses this word to refer to the construction of the spiritual life.

Jude says that the way we keep ourselves, first and foremost, is we have to build ourselves up. How? The reason it says “build yourselves up” is because a pastor can teach all day long but your volition has to be engaged. You have to make a decision to concentrate, to pay attention, and to take what you learn from the Word of God and apply it in your life. Until you apply these things in your life you are not growing, you are not getting anywhere, you are not building anything; you are just accumulating information. We have to learn it, apply it, and under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit then it transforms our lives and our character.

“… on your most holy faith” is a phrase that is in the dative case. A dative case usually expresses the indirect object or sometimes it speaks of means or instrumentality. In other words, how you do something. So when the command is something like “guard yourselves” then the dative is going to tell us something about how we guard ourselves. We have an instrumental sense to the participle by “building ourselves up”; the way in which we build ourselves up is expressed by this dative case: “with reference to our most holy faith.” Holy [hagios] has the idea of that which is set apart, distinct. Our faith is a unique, distinct faith. Faith here doesn’t mean the act of believing but what we believe. It is just as in the third verse: we were to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. So we are to contend for this set body of truth. Here what we are supposed to do is build ourselves up with reference to our most holy faith. If we don’t know what we believe we can’t contend for it.

So what he is saying is that every single believer has the responsibility to learn and learn and learn what they are to believe as Christians. They have to study the Word of God and this is something they need to do every single day. We build ourselves up with reference to studying and learning this unique body of doctrine that has been given to us, this distinct set of beliefs. So we mature, we grow up, we construct something in our soul with reference to the body of beliefs, the unique, distinct body of beliefs of Christianity.

Along with that we are “praying in the Holy Spirit.” This again is another instrumental participle of the verb for prayer, proseuchomai, which just means prayer—praying to God while we are studying His Word. It is a spiritual activity. It is not divorced from our dependence and our walk by means of God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God always works with the Word of God. When you have the Spirit of God without the Word of God you have mysticism, and that is the evil thinking of the devil. When it is the Word of God without the Spirit of God it is just academic learning, intellectualization, and in some cases legalism, but it has no spiritual value. It is the Word of God working with the Spirit of God.

So the command is to keep ourselves. First of all, we keep ourselves by building ourselves up with reference to our distinct body of beliefs. We do this in the context of praying by means of the Holy Spirit—dative of means, en, plus the dative of pneumatic hagioi. We grow by means of the Holy Spirit; we pray by means of the Holy Spirit.

We that that main command is clearly stated in Jude 21: “keep yourselves in the love of God …” What does that mean? We keep ourselves first of all by growing, growing with reference to the content of faith, by praying by the Holy Spirit. Second, we keep ourselves in the love of God. What in the world does that mean? This is the phrase in the Greek beginning with the preposition en,  usually translated instrumental, but it can also mean in the sphere of something. Here it has that idea—in the sphere of God’s love. What this means is we stay in fellowship.

John 14:9 NASB “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip?'” Philip doesn’t really know Jesus. That tells us that knowing Jesus and knowing God isn’t the same as being saved. You can trust in Christ as savior and not really know Him. That is a part of spiritual growth.

John 14:19, 20 NASB “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you {will} see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” That is being in that relationship with the Father and with the Son. [21] “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me …” This is not talking about getting saved, it is talking about the life of the saved believer. The person who is saved and wants to know Christ is going to keep His commandments, and that shows love for the Father. So there is a connection here. Walking in obedience equals staying in the Father’s love. It is related, then, to abiding in Christ in the next chapter. [23] “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” This is fellowship terminology. Staying in the Father’s love has to do with walking in obedience to the Father, walking in obedience to His Word, and that is how fellowship with the Father is built.

This is the same thing Jesus talks about in the next chapter where there is this analogy with the vine. John 15:1 NASB “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. [2] Every branch in Me [i.e. every believer] that does not bear fruit, He takes away [lifts up] …” In the ancient world the vine dresser would come in and tie up the new, young, immature branches and shoots that are coming out so that they could get more aeration and sunlight so that they can grow to become a thicker branch and bear fruit the next year. Every branch that does not bear fruit [the young ones] he lifts up. “… and every {branch} that bears fruit [maturity has taken place], He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” That is, He gets rid of the distractions in our life and through divine punishment for disobedience and just general discipline to teach us to focus on our Christian life. That is what pruning is, so that in the coming years we can bear even more fruit.

Then He address the disciples. John 15:3 NASB “You are [all] already clean [positional sanctification; already saved] because of the word which I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither {can} you unless you abide in Me.” This concept of abiding in the Lord is a picture of that fellowship where we draw our sustenance from the Father.

John 15:9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” There we have something very similar to what we have in Jude. We are to keep ourselves in the love of God. [10] “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” So to abide in Christ means to walk in fellowship, to walk by means of the Holy Spirit.

1 John 1:7 NASB “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another” … because we have fellowship with God, because we are walking in the light.

1 John 2:3 NASB “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” If we keep His commandments we know Him, we are walking in the light, we abide in Him, we abide in the love of the Father and the love of the Son. [4] “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; [5] but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected [matured]. By this we know that we are in Him.”

So when we combine all of these verses together we realize that this phrase “to keep ourselves in the love of God” just basically means to stay in fellowship. Stay in fellowship, walk by the Holy Spirit, study the Word, and let the Holy Spirit bring maturity into your life because you are studying the Word. But it has to be a priority. You can’t contend for the faith if you don’t know what the faith is. The only way that we can know what the faith is is to go to Bible class regularly, study the Word, listen online, study, study, study.

2 Timothy 2:15 NASB “Be diligent [study] to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

So we keep ourselves in the love of God by staying in fellowship, “in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Why if they are saved should they be looking for eternal life? This is because we often have a wrong view of eternal life. Jesus said in John 10:10 NASB “I came that they may have life, and have {it} abundantly.” Often this concept of eternal life doesn’t just mean life without end but it means fullness of life, realizing all of the blessing that God has for us. “…waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Because of the mercy and compassion of God we can grow to maturity and experience the reality of the fullness of life that God has for us. This is that second meaning of eternal life.

Romans 6:23 NASB “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That passage at the end of Romans chapter six isn’t really focusing on eternal life in terms of what we get at justification, it is talking about realizing the benefits of salvation, having been baptized by the Holy Spirit so that we are free from the tyranny of the sin nature, and now we can pursue spiritual growth and eternal life. But if we stay in sin and carnality and go back to living like a slave to the sin nature, then the wages of sin in the life of the believer is going to be a death-like experience. But the free gift of God is eternal life.

So we are to keep ourselves by growing, building our spiritual life by studying the Word of God, by praying by means of God the Holy Spirit. That is how we grow; that is the priority. And as a result we are to stay in fellowship towards the goal of eternal life.

So an enhanced translation of verses 21: “Keep yourself in the love from God [stay in fellowship] by building yourselves up with reference to your most holy faith [what you believe] by praying by the Holy Spirit, while you are looking for the mercy of our Lord..” As we continue to exploit the grace of God, the mercy of God in our life, we will have that eternal life.

Next he comes back to a practical admonition in relation to these false teachers, these unbelievers, who have sneaked into the congregation for the purpose of doing that which is evil: to disrupt, divide, and destroy the witness of this congregation. Jude 1:22NASB ” And have mercy on some, who are doubting.” NKJV “And on some have compassion, making a distinction.” There is a textual variant here which means reprove or rebuke. It is doubtful that support for that is enough although a number of scholars take it that way. It doesn’t fit the context. Remember we are supposed to be exploiting the mercy of God (v. 21) and so he is going to show the application of this mercy upon even these false teachers.

The translation here for “compassion” is the Greek eleeo and it is a present active imperative and it means to always characterize your life—to be merciful, to show mercy on others. It is the application of the mercy he spoke of in the previous verse. Then he says, “making a distinction.” This is the Greek verb diakrino which means to evaluate something or consider something. To paraphrase this is a sort of modern idiom: “Have mercy on those who are still trying to figure things out.”

What is meant by that is there is this context of probably charismatic (not in the technical theological modern sense) people with really great personalities who seem to know a lot about what they are teaching, and they get everybody’s minds all twisted up. These false teachers come in and create division. And what happens in most church controversies is that about three per cent understand the truth, about three per cent understand the error, and the rest don’t have a clue and it takes them a long time to figure it out. Mostly because they are living their lives and doing other things, so they are not mature enough to understand the issues yet. And that is who this group is referring to. Have mercy on those in the congregation who haven’t figured it out yet. They don’t realize that these people who come in are false teachers who are disrupting the congregation and are source of the problem and difficulty.

So you have to treat those people with mercy. Don’t be impatient with them, don’t be angry with them; deal with them in mercy and give them time to figure it out. Not everybody figures things out at the same rate. Some people are very bright and very quick and figure things out in a half a second. Other people take a bit longer. We need to treat them in grace and in kindness.

Then there are others. Jude 1:23 NASB “save others …” These are those who aren’t saved yet, they are spiritually dead. And we need to have this fear. Remember, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is a healthy respect and a realization that these people need the gospel. “… snatching them out of the fire…” The Greek word harpazo, and it is where we get our word “rapture.” It means to snatch something from something, pull it out of the way. Here it is the idea of snatching them out of the fire. The fire here is an allusion to the lake of fire and eternal judgment, eternal condemnation. “… and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” We are to snatch them out of the fire, hating even the appearance that is there, the garments defiled by the flesh. The only solution to that is to try to get them saved, it is not to try to straighten them out morally.

This brings us to the conclusion of this epistle, and in this conclusion we see one of the great benedictions in the Bible. The Latin word “benediction” means a good word. Often this is stated at the end of an epistle or something, and sometimes they could be the product of a hymn or some well-known saying within the church. In v. 24 it is addressed to God the Father.

Jude 1:24 NASB “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling …” A lot of times in Scripture we when have the English word “keep” we have the word tereo. Here we have the Greek word phulasso. It has the idea of establishing a guard, to keep or protect someone from danger. It is an important word and it shows that it is God who keeps us. There is a dual aspect to this, as there is in many things in the Christian life. God has a responsibility. He keeps us from stumbling. But we also have a responsibility and that is emphasized in other passages. It is God who ultimately preserves us for salvation. What we see here is that Scripture says it is not the individual who keeps himself; it is God who keeps us from stumbling.

We see this also stated in passages like 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NASB “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil {one.}” This is God’s responsibility, not ours. He keeps us saved. He is the one who perseveres, it is not us. Another passage is 2 Timothy 1:12 NASB “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

The human side is expressed in 2 Timothy 1:14 NASB “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to {you.}” This is talking about human responsibility in terms of growing and maturing as a spiritual life, not keeping our salvation. The same thing in 1 Timothy 6:20 NASB “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you [spiritual gift], avoiding worldly {and} empty chatter {and} the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’—” God keeps us to the end but we have to involve our volition as well and maintain that Christian walk and focus. If we don’t it doesn’t mean we weren’t saved, it just means that we have failed to fulfill the responsibility that God has given us but we are still members of the family, even if we become black sheep of the family.

“and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” – to keep us from stumbling means to keep us from losing our salvation. Stumbling involves losing our salvation. He keeps us and He presents us faultless, i.e. sinless before the throne because we have received the perfect righteousness of Christ, our sins were paid for. When we die physically and are face to face with the Lord the only thing we leave behind other than all of our comforts is our sin nature. “Great joy” – every sinner that is saved brings joy to the myriads and myriads of angels in heaven.

Finally in a great statement related to the character of God: Jude 1:25 NASB “to the only God our Savior …” The NKJV has it “who is alone wise.” Some translations don’t have this. It is not stated in some of the MSS. It is in the Majority Text, so there is support for “To God alone our savior who is wise.” “…{be} glory, majesty …” Because of who He is, the creator God who will ultimately bring all things to judgment. But He is the one who oversees history today in light of the message Jude, and He will bring judgment to those who are disobedient and rebellious.  “…dominion and authority …” Emphasizes His sovereignty over human history. He has the authority and the power, the omnipotence for ruling and reigning over history.” “… before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

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