Summary: How does a pastor confront growing sin in his church?
How does a pastor confront growing sin in his church? How does he arrest the sin’s spread and kill the virus? Jude presents a case study of one pastor’s effort. He has revealed the sin – perverting grace into sensuality and denying Christ’s lordship. He has warned of judgment that such sinners will receive. We will see now how he enables his flock to withstand sin. He will do it through doctrine – reminding them who they are and who God is; and he will do it through exhortation and counsel – instructing them what to do. Be thinking, as we study Jude’s letter, about your own struggles with sin and how his words to believers 2,000 years ago can apply to you today.
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Note how the believers are addressed. First, they are “beloved in God the Father.” (In the Greek text, “called” comes last.) They are in the Father’s love. Think of Jesus’ image in John 10:29 of us being in the hand of his Father. He has us in his grasp – in his loving grasp, which leads to the second reality to understand about themselves: they are “kept for Jesus Christ.”
Jude could mean they are kept to belong to Jesus or kept until the return of Jesus when he comes in judgment. He could mean they are kept by Jesus. Whatever the case, the point is that they are kept, preserved, watched over. In verse 6, keeping their watch is what the angels failed to do; also in verse 6, keeping in chains is what God is doing to those same angels. So also in verse 13, what is translated as “reserved” forever is the same Greek term. God is keeping the reservations made for sinners. The only difference between the keeping of the saints and of the sinners is that the saints are kept in the love of God, while the sinners are kept in his just wrath.
Finally, they are “called.” They are in Christ, they are believers/saints because God called them, as Peter says “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Now note the common element of these three adjectives of Jude’s readers. He addresses them not as people who have done something for God, but who have had something done to them by God the Father and Jesus Christ. God has placed them in his love; God and Christ keep them; God and Christ have called them.
Do you see what Jude is doing for his flock? Before he alerts them to danger – sin and judgment – he ministers to them, reminding them of their security and responsibility. Because their coming to God is the result of his calling; because their remaining faithful rests on his keeping; because God loves them and does not merely tolerate them – their eternal status is safe. Furthermore, because God first loved them, because he remains faithful to them; because he has called them out of their miserable estate into his kingdom, they have responsibility to keep the faith and glorify him. Because their salvation is not of their doing nor initiated from their will, they do not have to fret over God bringing his work to completion in them; however, for the same reasons they do not have the liberty to go their own way. God has a claim on them.
I don’t know if Jude intended for his following greeting to correspond with the address, but we can see the correlation: Out of mercy God called them; his keeping them is the peace they experience; and, of course the love is the love they have in him. Jude wants this mercy, peace, and love to take hold of them.
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Consider what Jude is exhorting his hearers to do – they are to contend for the faith. This exhortation is the purpose of the letter and everything else is written to help the hearers carry it out. He is not calling on them to struggle with their faith but to struggle against others on its behalf. He is not exhorting them to hold on to their faith but to protect the faith, i.e. the Gospel, “that was once for all delivered to the saints,” the unchanging Good News. They are to protect the faith, not from unbelievers outside the church, but from apostates and perverters of God’s grace who are inside the church. Whatever hazards there may be outside, the danger which can really undermine the Gospel is inside through those who affiliate themselves with the church. Against these persons, they are to contend for the faith.