Jude 17-25 - a call to fight back

Welcome to Part Three of our in-depth study of the book of Jude. We've covered Jude's call to vigilance (in Part One) and his call to discernment (in Part Two) - now, we learn how to respond, how to fight back against the threat of the enemy and the deceptions of "these men."

A study in Jude - part three

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
— Jude 18-25

Our battle plan

In the beginning of his letter, Jude urgently called the Church to vigilance, because deception was creeping in and going unaddressed. Godless men disguised as believers - wolves in sheep's clothing - were perverting God's grace and denying Christ's mastery in a way that imperiled souls.

Then he told the Church what traits to watch for in order to pick these men out from the crowd: they would be revealed by their disdain for authority, their reckless reliance on feelings above the truth, and their ultimate fruitlessness for the kingdom of God.

This letter is no less important for us today than it was for the churches of Jude's era. It may even be more so, because the wolves we are dealing with now have the ability to take their deception to a far higher platform - a worldwide audience. They are turning the grace of God into licentiousness by misusing sacred words like love, grace, and judgment; they are teaching, more loudly every day, that "it doesn't matter" what you do or what name you use for God or how you choose to identify yourself.

Now we know we must be watchful. We know what to be watching for. But what's the battle plan?

Remember the truth

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

If we are to have victory in this war, if we are to fight the good fight of the faith in a way that honors our Lord and Master, then a firm knowledge of and reliance on the truth of His Word is a nonnegotiable. If we have that, then we will not be surprised by the brutality of the fight, by the shrewdness of the enemy, or by the vileness of the worldly and Spiritless. We'll see it coming and we'll be able to make ourselves ready.

The truth will also help us to come into the battle from a right perspective, knowing that it is the mockers who cause the divisions, not we who fight back. So many times we back down from the battle in the name of preserving unity, but all we achieve is unification around the wrong thing. Going to war for the truth is not what divides us - the deceivers are already doing that. Yes, the call to war will inevitably divide the disciples from the deceivers, but that is the nature of truth - that's truth doing its job, and we can't be afraid of it.

Remember the truth. Remember who you are. Remember who you were. And remember who He is.  That's the battle plan. That's the strategy that has already changed the world, and will continue to do so until the day that the King Himself returns to claim the victory.

Remember who you are

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Jude started his letter with a reminder of our true identities if we are followers of Christ, and he makes it part of his concluding call, too - because this matters. It is vitally important that we remember who we are, and our rightful role in the war.

But you, beloved: Jude just finished describing the mockers as those who are "devoid of the Spirit," and then says the word but. But you, beloved. Some are Spiritless, but we are loved - there is something different about who we are because we are in Christ, and beloved. That is powerful.

Building yourselves up on your most holy faith: Our foundation is faith - but it's not static. We are building on it. If we're good soldiers, we are growing, day in and day out, in our faith - in the ability to see things (including ourselves) the way God says they are, not the way our eyes see them.

Praying in the Holy Spirit: We have a weapon in hand that the Spirit-devoid mockers do not: access to God Himself in prayer. When the war is overwhelming and we are weak, do we remember that we are those with the unique privilege of access to God's throne?

Keep yourselves in the love of God: In verse one, Jude called us "the called, beloved, and kept." Here it is again: We have the opportunity to be kept (watched over, guarded) in God's love. Regardless of what is going on around us, we are safe.

Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life: I love that phrase "waiting anxiously." In the Greek it communicates not just of waiting, but of expecting, and of opening oneself to eagerly receive. We have already benefited so much from God's grace, but there is more to come - and we are the recipients of mercy as vast as eternity!

We're loved, firmly founded, privileged with God's presence. We are carefully guarded by God's love and we are still waiting for the rest of His mercy to be showered on us. When we remember that this is who we are, and that this is how He has transformed us, we can do battle well - not because we need the affirmation or revel in the bloodshed, but because we see the value of what we have in Christ, and feel honored to contend earnestly for it.

Remember who you were

And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

But we were not always whole in Christ. We were once lost just as these deceivers and their prey are lost, and we don't fight them ruthlessly, but compassionately - because we know what it is to stand exactly where they are. We need to remember who we were, and thereby remember who to look out for:

The doubting: Those who doubt don't need to be bludgeoned by our sense of certainty or self-righteousness, they need our mercy. Doubt is a very desperate place, because it becomes difficult to tell what is true from what is false, and our fears often muddy the waters and leave us feeling alone, unsure, and terrified. As we do battle compassionately, we need to reach out to the doubting not with a stack of Scripture verses to convince them of the truth, but with a mercy that actively demonstrates the truth of God's mercy toward us.

The lost: The lost, meanwhile, need straight-up saving. They are already in hell's clutches and it is imperative that we have the boldness and courage to run into the burning building and rescue them. It's dangerous and it's not pretty, but it is a crisis. These people don't need to be sermonized on how much better their lives will be with Jesus, they need to be snatched from the sinking talons of hell itself! 

The unwise: These are the people who play perilously close to the cobra's den. They indulge the flesh and make poor choices, and every day they become more vulnerable and more deeply entrenched in the bondage of sin. Like the doubters, these souls need our mercy - but with fear, which is actually closer to the word "terror," and with a hatred for the flesh. Why? Because they are not the only ones who are tempted by the flesh. We all are. Even we who are new creations carry around the "old man" with us, and if we don't tread carefully as we offer mercy to the unwise, we too can get trapped in its grip. When we try to strip the "garment polluted by the flesh" away from someone else, we must hate it so much - and fear our God even more - that we fling it away before it can defile us, too.

If we want to fight this fight with the compassion it demands, we have to remember where we came from. We need to be able to empathize with the doubting. We need to recognize what's really at stake for the lost. And we need to know ourselves and our weaknesses, so that we don't track the same muck we were saved from back into the Church after trying to pull out someone else.

The book of Jude - a three-part study

Remember who our God is

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Finally, and most importantly, Jude's battle plan against deception ends with a simple picture: This is who God is. This is who we have on our side, fighting with us and for us.

He is able. When we don't have the strength to carry on, He can keep us from stumbling and make us stand firm. When we keep screwing up and feel lost in our shame, He still welcomes us into His presence, sees us as blameless, and offers us His joy. When we forget who we are in Him, we can look to who He is, because He is always the same - the only God, our Savior.

To Him be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.

He will be glorified. He will be King. He will dominate and rule over everything we are battling against - we cannot lose this war, because He is on our side. We need only to contend earnestly for the faith.

Remember the truth. Remember who you are. Remember who you were. And remember who He is.

That's the battle plan. That's the strategy that has already changed the world, and will continue to do so until the day that the King Himself returns to claim the victory.

Are you ready?

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Hallie Liening

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.

Jude 1-7 - a call to vigilance

We're coming to the end of Bible180 for another year (although now's a great time to start if you haven't yet - you will finish right at the end of 2018, and how exciting it would be to get that whole picture of God's amazing story in the months leading up to Christmas!) and so I am mulling over some of the prescriptive writings of the very end of the New Testament. Jude is always one of my favorites - its two pages in my Bible are heavily annotated in three different colors of ink - and its wisdom seems to become more and more relevant to the daily reality of the Church as our culture continues to shift away from Christian values.

And so this is the first of three short but in-depth studies I will be sharing on the book of Jude, starting with the first seven verses.

A study in Jude, part one

Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,

To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
— Jude 1-7
A study in Jude, part one: A call to vigilance

Our foundational identity

I always begin my study of an epistle by reading it straight through, preferably aloud, sometimes more than once. I think we are used to taking in Scripture in bite-size pieces, but the reality is that these letters are just that - letters, written to a specific group with a specific goal in mind that can't be fully expressed in just a couple of verses. Reading the whole thing is the only way to get an accurate feel for what the author was really trying to get at.

My reading of Jude left me with one highly potent feeling: a sense of urgency.

He names his recipients in the first verse as follows: "The called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ." Perhaps he could just as easily have said "Christians" or "believers," but there's a purposefulness to his choice of phrasing, as if he wants to remind them right away of who they are. They have been called. They are loved. They are kept.

We have been called. We are loved. We are kept.

A solid rooting in this identity is vital if we are to effectively follow Jude's call to vigilance - and all the hard and ugly stuff that it entails.

Our call to vigilance

But Jude wasn't even planning to write this letter. He had an entirely different one in mind - one "about our common salvation." What might that letter have been like?

But this is the one God put on his heart - an appeal for these brethren, whoever they were, to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."

God inspired Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, to urge "the called, beloved, and kept" to struggle for their faith - and not a faith that they themselves thought up, defined, or manufactured, but one that had long preceded them and was faithfully passed down from one disciple to the next. This faith isn't something fluid that flexes with changing times or shifting standards. No, it is a firm and solid thing - a thing worth fighting for, even when the fight is bitter indeed.

Jude a call to war part one.jpg

And why is the fight necessary? Not because we strive to dissent and divide, but because others do, and idleness and ignorance are both unacceptable responses to this threat. "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

This should sound familiar. It is the same battle we face today - no, not a battle, a war, and one that is raging more fiercely with every passing year.

There are people coming into our churches who operate under a guise of false righteousness while preaching an "almost-right" brand of grace that is actually nothing short of heresy. They call out "Come as you are!" and then let everyone leave as they came. They preach grace's freedom with no thought for grace's cost.

They deny our Master, Jesus Christ, whose own blood was that cost.

We are called, first, to be vigilant - to notice the lies, because we are so firmly rooted in our identity in the truth - and then, to struggle on behalf of the integrity of our faith in the face of these deceptions.

Our call to remember

And in all this, Jude reminds us: heed history. Remember the high price of deception, disobedience, and heresy.

God saves the believing, but for the rest, there is punishment. This is what makes our vigilance so necessary and so urgent. If we can keep watch over ourselves and our communities, if we can guard the sheepfold from the wolves and thieves, if even one more soul can be protected from deception because we contended earnestly for our faith - then all the struggle and hardship and discomfort of the fight will have been worth it.

I think many Christians and many churches are so keen to avoid the possibility of division that when unsound doctrine enters our sanctuaries, we try to ignore it or "understand" it rather than confront it and kill it. But what we forget is that not all division is bad division: Truth is naturally a dividing line, between what's true and what's false. That is a beautiful and uncomfortable thing. That is the line we're called to defend.

And it's the difference between saving a soul and losing it forever.

We are held safely in the protective hand of Christ. We are called to struggle hard to protect the faith. And we are asked to remember that the stakes are high.

It won't be easy, it won't be comfortable, and it likely won't make us a whole lot of friends. But it will be worth it.


Check back for parts 2 & 3 in the coming weeks!

Meanwhile, you might also like....

2 Comments

Hallie Liening

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.

be strong in the Lord

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:10-18

I once thought that the different components of the "armor of God" were just Paul's creative way of saying Christians need truth, righteousness, faith, et cetera in their lives - that these are the things a person possesses if he is going to do well in his Christian walk, and that the specific pieces of armor are just a handy little allegory to make us really think about "putting on" these characteristics.

But if there is one thing I have learned in the past five years I've spent poring over the Scriptures, it's that I am too apt to give the Biblical writers far less credit for their genius than they deserve. What I spent many years passing off as a nice illustration is truly one of the mightiest metaphors in the Bible - a call to battle that has proved true and sure again and again as I both observe and participate in this bloody spiritual war.

And Paul knows it is bloody. He knows the violence and the trickery and the brokenness we must face - even though much of it will be invisible, "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

These opponents are far too much for us, unless we follow Paul's blueprint to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might," which is a twofold process. The first piece is to clad ourselves with God's specially-fitted and supernaturally-strengthened protective armor. The second? To stand firm.

Put on the full armor of God

Our very first step is to put on the armor God has given us. But most of us aren't used to putting on armor every day, and maybe we don't know which pieces go where. Will our armor be effective if we put it on completely wrong? Likely not.

That's why, contrary to my long-held belief, it does matter which piece of armor correlates with truth, and which with righteousness, and which with the gospel, and so forth. The breastplate can't do its job if you're using it as a shoe.

Be strong in the Lord.jpg
  • Having girded your loins with truth: I don't think it's a coincidence that the very first piece of armor Paul lists is the one meant to protect your most sensitive area, nor that this protective belt is labeled truth. We all have a weak spot. We all have that place in our lives that the enemy aims right for, because he knows if he hits you right there, the next piece of the equation - standing firm - will become impossible. But a belt of righteousness can't cover that spot adequately - we are simply not strong enough to "out-good" our deepest weaknesses. A belt of faith won't work, either, because no matter how hard you try to believe, that soft spot isn't just going to evaporate away. The only thing that can properly protect our weakest point is the truth - that is, truthfulNESS. Just like I wrote last week, darkness dies in the presence of light, so when we are truthful enough to expose our darkest weaknesses, ironically we do the one thing that can shield them from the shots of Satan.
  • Having put on the breastplate of righteousness: Next, once we've taken a reality check of our weak spots, we are to put on righteousness as a protector of our vital organs. In our bodies, the health of our vital organs - heart, liver, digestive system, etc. - can be a good indicator of our future wellbeing, and the choices we make now can have a profound impact on our health later. Spiritually we are no different. The breastplate of righteousness isn't about following the rules or being a good Christian - rather, it's about making right choices according to the standard of God Himself, as a way of protecting ourselves from future sin and pain and anything else the enemy might want to use against us.
  • Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace: The word "preparation" is a rather poor translation for this verse - a better one would be "foundation" or "footing." This is not so much about being prepared to share the Gospel (which is what it has always sounded like to me) as it is about being firmly founded in our identities as people made whole through the Gospel. My pastor said something on Sunday that I found so deeply relevant: "Sometimes before God shares the Gospel through you, He needs to work the Gospel in you." So often, in my experience, we leap to evangelism long before we ourselves have become rooted in the same truth we try to preach. It's like running into the battle without being properly shod - we're slowed down and tripped up and ineffective, because we haven't let God fully teach His Good News to us.
  • Taking up the shield of faith: I love this one because it comes with the guarantee: "with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." However, to have that kind of success, we have to use it properly. The Roman shields Paul would be thinking of were huge, curved rectangles almost as big as the soldier himself. What made them so special was that they were meant to be used as a team - the whole front line would press together with their shields forward, creating a seamless wall to hide behind, while those behind them might add even more protection by raising their shields like a roof. The enemy couldn't penetrate that kind of stronghold unless somehow they managed to break the line. Likewise, in our spiritual war, faith is a defensive strategy intended to be used as a team. We can certainly try to protect ourselves on our own, but with flaming arrows coming from every side, we'll ultimately be sitting ducks unless we band together with our community as an impenetrable wall of faith.
shield_t.jpg
  • And take the helmet of salvation: Having protected our weakest points and our futures, and having grounded ourselves in the identity Christ has given us and the safety of the community of the faith, we come to the last defensive piece of armor prescribed by Paul: the "helmet of salvation" - the thing which we must depend on to protect perhaps our most important body part, the one that governs all our senses, all our motor skills, all our emotions, all our actions. It is also the piece of equipment that would be used to identify soldiers by rank, often plumed so that the leader(s) could be easily identified over the crowd. The soldiers could keep their eyes on that plume for direction even in the chaos of battle. Likewise, the hope of our salvation and the guarantee of our ultimate victory must be what we fix our attention on in the midst of this war - otherwise we open ourselves to the hopelessness and defeat that would render us useless in battle. 
  • And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Paul ends with the one and only offensive weapon he recommends for this war. Everything else has been intended to protect us from Satan's strategies, but in case the line breaks and the enemy manages to penetrate our defenses, we are each equipped with one all-important blade: God's Word, the very voice of the Holy Spirit. And we have to be ready - we have to know how to use it when the time comes, how to charge forward boldly, fearless of the bloodshed, stabbing with the precision of someone who knows exactly which verses of truth can silence the lies of Satan.

Stand firm

And the second step is just two small words, with little explanation and yet wholly dependent on our success with step one: Stand firm.

We can stand as firm as a 100-year-old oak, but if we're spiritually naked, Satan will have little trouble sending a piercing arrow through our hearts. We need the armor first - truth covering our weaknesses, righteousness covering our choices, the Gospel empowering our every move, and the victory of salvation as our prize. Then we need to get in formation with our team, shields of faith in line, and stand firm.

It will not be easy. Whatever our tools, whatever our defenses, the "spiritual forces of wickedness" are bigger and mightier than we. They know more and they see more and they have been in the fight far, far longer - they are lifelong soldiers and murderers whose careers have spanned millennia. But Paul says that we will be able to resist, if we put on the armor and stand firm.

And he gives one final word of encouragement as we stand here, trembling in the midst of a bloody war against an enemy unseen: "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints."

The war is horrific and the trauma is real and there are days, for all of us, when we are sure that we're losing. But we do have one more weapon that is always at our disposal, that should be in constant use: Prayer. Because God is on our side.

I've been especially convicted about this as the battles in my own life have raged in recent weeks. It's clearly intentional that Paul calls for prayer and vigilance in the very same sentence - because vigilance always inspires prayer. Even in those moments of strange calm when it feels like the battle has ceased, when it feels like we can breathe again, we must be vigilant. We must be on the alert. We must pray. We must beg God's intervention on behalf of our fellow soldiers, lest the line break and we all be overrun.

The war is bloody, but God is on our side, and it's in His strength that we are made strong. That is the only reason we will win this war against the spiritual forces of wickedness. But win it, we will.

a practical approach to the Armor of God