Jude’s “owner’s manual” for living in the truth consists of seven simple instructions that form a practical strategy for living in the face of spiritual pressure and false teaching.
Remember the Words of the Apostles
But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. (v.17)
Jude commanded his readers to remember the apostles’ words, which repeatedly predicted the apostasy of false teaching (acts 20:29; 1 tim. 4:1; 2 tim. 3:9, 4:3-4; 1 jn. 2:18). These warnings have been left to all believers for our understanding and protection.
Recognize the False Teachers
How they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. (vv.18-19)
Jude took painstaking measures to help the church recognize false teachers and spiritual impostors. Here he synthesizes the biblical information to give a final inspired portrait of them.
These counterfeit messengers are “mockers” who use ridicule as a weapon. “Mockers” describes those who are not just unbiblical but decidedly antibiblical. They “walk according to their own ungodly lusts.” Instead of being spiritually minded, they are deceptive, self-centered, and manipulative. Their priority is to satisfy themselves at all costs.
Continuing his description of false teachers, Jude indicated that they are “sensual persons.” The word translated “sensual” describes unspiritual behavior or something not of the spirit, and is a profound contrast to true believers, described in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” False teachers are wholly given over to self, but true believers are to be wholly given over to Christ.
In addition, they “cause divisions.”
• Romans 16:17 warns us to take note of divisive people in the church.
• First Corinthians 3:3-4 shows a church divided by “personality cults.”
• Philippians 4:2 addresses a division between individuals within a church.
This is why the Bible says we are to “[endeavor] to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (eph. 4:3). The result of that kind of unity is that the world sees Christ as the Son of God, the church as the beloved of God, and the gospel as the message of salvation.
Jude’s last statement in verse 19 summarizes the false teachers by revealing them as “not having the Spirit.” They are spiritually lost. This is made clear in Romans 8:9, where Paul wrote: If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (niv).
Once again, the true character of these false teachers is exposed for all to see. Now we are challenged to respond.
Build Yourselves Up
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith . . . (v.20a)
First of all, Christians are to “[build] yourselves up on your most holy faith.” Jude’s words mirror Paul’s challenge in Acts 20:32, “I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up.”
Pray in the Holy Spirit
. . . praying in the Holy Spirit . . . (v.20b)
We pray this way because of the futility of trying to function in our own strength. This is especially true here, because prayer is the response of the heart that realizes its need of God’s power.
Even our prayers are dependent on Him. Paul wrote: The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (rom. 8:26-27)
Abide in the Love of God
. . . keep yourselves in the love of God . . . (v.21a)
In John 15:4, Jesus described Himself as the vine and believers as the branches connected to the vine. We are instructed to “abide” in His love.
We must be careful not to follow the example of the church at Ephesus who left their first love (rev. 2:4). Christ’s love for us deserves a response that is abiding, faithful, and obedient.
Look for Christ’s Return
. . . looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (v.21b)
This seems to be a reference to the any-moment return of Christ for His church (see ti. 2:13). When we live in anticipation of Christ’s return, we will long for and live in the light of Christ’s promised return. As John wrote, “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 jn. 3:3).
Reach out to those in Spiritual Danger
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (vv.22-23)
Our response is not only personal. We are also called to reach out to others, balancing compassion with the need for caution. The following categories help us understand those we are to reach out to.
Sincere Doubters. The phrase “making a distinction” in verse 22 is better translated “those who doubt.” Such people may be Christians who are weak in their faith and easily swayed by false teaching.
Unbelievers in Danger. The people in this group are already committed to false teaching and in danger of becoming even more entrenched.
Defiled and Persistent Sinners. This group is the most dangerous. It includes those who are flagrant in their sinful lifestyle or who are false teachers themselves. Those who reach out to people in this group should be spiritually mature and aware of the potential dangers (see vv. 8-10).