As Christ followers we are kept by the power of God and God is able to keep us from stumbling. Yet Jude makes it clear that there are obligations for the Christian about their own relationship with God. In Verses 20-23 he gave his second plea to the faithful by referring to them as “But you beloved, building yourselves up in 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 garments polluted by the flesh.”
Often in the different letters from Paul, Peter and John we are encouraged to “build up one another.” In I Corinthians 14 Paul noted that the primary purpose of our gatherings as a church was to build up one another. What we plan on doing in the assembly should be tested by the standard of whether or not it would edify or build up one another. Jude adds to that a personal obligation that we build up ourselves. We can’t just depend on the brethren to keep us faithful to the Lord. All too often I’ve visited with people that have become unfaithful in the work of God blame the church for their failures. I have no doubt that the church fails often to do and be all God intends it to be. On the human side of the church it is weak and often fails in its mission. But I can’t use the failures of others to excuse my own lack of effort or devotion to God. We must build our own selves up all along as well.
We can become so involved in trying to build up the other person in the church or in the family that we become completely drained ourselves and start running on empty. We become burnt out and of little value to the other person or ourselves. To avoid burn out or running on empty we must continually build ourselves up in the Most Holy Faith. We accomplish the building up of ourselves in the faith by regularly feeding on the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews told us that for us to grow up in the faith and be able to determine good from evil we must not only take of the milk of the word but eat of the solid food. Instead of remaining focused on the basic matters we are to go on to perfection (Hebrews 5:11-6:2). We need regular growth that comes from worshiping God along with others so that we exhort each other to provoke to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Jude list other things that are vital to building up ourselves. We need to pray in the Holy Spirit. This phrase reminds us of the statement made by John in Revelation 1:10 when he said “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Also Paul told the Philippians to “Worship in the Spirit.” To pray in the Spirit is to pray as the Spirit directs or teaches us to pray. It is to live in the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit in daily life. Even Jesus needed time with God the Father in prayer. He prayed all night. He arose early in the morning to go out into a deserted area to pray. He even prayed in the midst of the crowd. Every important event in the life of Christ is tied to prayer.
Jude continued that to build ourselves up in the Most Holy Faith, we must keep ourselves in the love of God. In Romans 8:35-39 Paul asked, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No outside force can pull us out of the love of God. But we can separate ourselves from Christ where God’s love is poured out. In John 15:1-8 described Himself as the vine, the Father as the gardener and disciples of Christ as the branches. He said if a branch abides in Me it will produce much fruit but if it does not abide in Me it is cut off and burned. He tied abiding in Him to His word abiding in us.
The next thing Jude tied to building ourselves up in the Most Holy Faith is “Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” God’s grace leads to His treating us according to our needs instead of what we deserve. His mercy is the action that comes from His grace. By His mercy we can be forgiven and live in a relationship with Him all the time. As His disciples we wait for His return with anxiousness because His coming brings the fullness of His presence and leads to our going home with Him forevermore. He brings us eternal life in that the life with Him doesn’t end and it is full to the point of overflowing.
Since we are saved by the mercy and grace of the Lord we must be ones that extend mercy to others. Part of keeping ourselves in the love of God and building up ourselves in the Most Holy Faith involves our reaching out to others to help them come to Christ or come back to Him if they have strayed.
Notice the applications that Jude made. Have mercy on some who are doubting. I suspect that every person goes through some times of doubt in their lives. It isn’t uncommon for our children or grandchildren to express some doubt about God or His word at some points in their life. Instead of being frustrated or angry with them our place is to reach out with mercy as Jesus did to John the Baptist when he expressed doubt while in prison awaiting execution.
Others need urgency in bringing them to salvation or back to salvation. We are to save them, snatching them out of fire. The point is that we can’t wait for the right moment or just the right mood every time. If we see a neighbors house on fire we don’t worry about waking them up or disturbing them in some way. We rush to bring aid to save their lives by getting them out of the fire. Some are close to the fires of hell because of their lifestyles. In such cases we must reach out quickly, urgently, pointedly to bring them home. Think of Peter when confronting Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. Simon wanted to purchase the power to lay his hands on people and give them miraculous power. Peter declared, “Your money perish with you. You have no part in this matter. Your heart is not right with God. You are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. You need to repent and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.” Simon repented and asked Peter to pray for him.
On some we need to have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. We should always love the sinner, but hate the sin that has taken control of their lives. Think of the loving Father in the story Jesus told in Luke 15. When the son came to himself and started home realizing how far he had fallen, the Father saw him a long way off and ran to meet him. He threw His arms around him and kissed him. He welcomed him home as his son and treated him royally. Our place is to show that same kind of mercy while hating the sin in their life.
So, we must build ourselves up in the Most Holy Faith and God has given us a clear path to follow in doing so. Our actions can’t be selfish but must be thoughtful for the souls of others as well as our own.