Hoping for Mercy

Jude - Fourth in a series

The opening of Jude's letter finishes with these words: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. (Jude 1:2)

Love and peace are among the first gifts of the Spirit enumerated by Paul: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness… (Gal 5:22,23) Each of us knows experientially that we cannot love from the heart nor be free of anxiety and worry except by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Mercy, however, is God's encompassing salvation for man (in the sense of all people, women included).

When Paul wrote to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and other groups, he bid them grace and peace, (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2) but when he wrote to Timothy and Titus, his own sons in the faith, he went further, to include mercy with grace and peace. (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4) He wanted his special sons in Christ to be drawn to reflect on their root need of Christ. They were likely to come under the same intense trials he himself had known. They would never survive without crying out for God's mercy.

Paul wished for Philemon God's grace and peace (Philemon 1:3) Philemon was not a close son even though Paul stated he owed him his life, that is, his salvation.

As Peter wrote to fellow believers in various places, he wished them grace and peace (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2) with the mention of mercy not far behind (1 Pet 1:3) and the need to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10) urged, for he warned about false prophets in the church.

When the apostle John wrote to warn about deceivers, he wrote from his heart, "Grace be with you, mercy and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ…" (2 John 1:3) Mercy for lambs can protect them from wolves.

Therefore, when Jude's greeting includes mercy, we know he is reaching out to brothers and sisters in dangerous circumstances. There were and are powers that can only be confronted with God's merciful help, not by might, (Zech 4:6) and we sheep are not good at self preservation in any sense.

What is the difference between grace and mercy? A good expression of grace is in 2 Corinthians: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. 2 Cor 5:19a Grace is God's good will and favor toward men. Mercy shifts the focus to our helpless state. It is good will toward destitute, imperiled and afflicted people. We welcome God's grace, but we cry out for his mercy.

We should enter into Jude's arena where evil men are spotlighted and exposed, realizing we, too, are susceptible to their designs. Christ alone can protect us, and he will, but we should stop to reflect on our helpless state without Him. We need God's mercy.

A coveted stature

Jude - Third in a series

Jude warns his brothers and sisters about so-called Christians who have infiltrated their church to pollute and overthrow it, and urges them to contend for the faith.

To ready them for this alarm, he begins by reminding them of their stature as members of the body. It is this stature that the Evil One wildly despises. Believers are:

  • sanctified, loved of God,
  • preserved in Jesus Christ, and
  • called. (Jude 1:1)

As we saw in the previous post, the love of God that sanctifies is welcoming and faithful though all others forsake us, not permissive or short-sighted, but forgiving, upbuilding, and it is unending.

The second concept, that of being preserved in Christ, is, like the first, expressed in the Greek "perfect tense" which as in English, "describes an action… having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated." (ref, studylight.org Interlinear Bible)

Some Bible translations read kept for Christ and others, preserved in Jesus Christ. If I am kept for Christ, it is the Father who works, but if by him, then it is Christ working— so which is it?

Here is a reply from the "Divines" who joined together in the 17th century to ruminate all of Scripture and distill the essential doctrines of the Christian faith in what we now call The Westminster Confession. Our preservation is assured because it is based on:

  • The unchangeable mind of our loving God: Those whom he predestined he also called, and those who are called he has justified, and those who are justified are glorified. (Rom 8:30)
  • The merit and intercession of Christ. (John 3:16; Heb 7:25)
  • The abiding of God's Holy Spirit in our hearts. (John 14:26) (See Westminster Confession, Chapter XVII, www.reformed.org)

The summary statements in a good Confession and their attendant scriptures are helpful as a defense against those who would overturn the church in any century whether they be humans or rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12).

A good illustration in Scripture of a believer who was preserved by and for Christ is Peter. Though he denied Christ at the critical moment, he was forgiven and became a church leader. Preservation does not equal continually abiding but God is faithful.

Jude's third word for believers in the KJV is Called, however it precedes the other two in practice as well as in many Bible translations. The Christian's heart is awakened by God's Spirit calling him or her to come near and to follow closely. This call must provoke a certain fear and result in a thirst for finding out what is in God's Word. It will engender a desire to pray and to hear more from God. Eventually, it will lead to a hunger for friendship and community with other believers.

Of course, this last phase is often disturbed by the situation Jude describes, where certain people creep in to spoil the fellowship as we will see. This is why studying Jude’s letter is as relevant now as it was in the first century, for our security in Christ will be menaced and can be eroded when we are off guard.

Welcoming Love

Jude - Second in a series

Jude's letter was written somewhere between 64 and 80 AD, to Christians of an unknown congregation or area: "to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, called"… (Jude 1)

Of the many translations of the Bible, from the King James to the New International and beyond, some say, To them that are sanctified or called, and some say, To those who are loved by God the Father (Jude 1). There is a Greek word that denotes "purification" and "separation" for sanctified (see 1 Cor 7:14, 1 Tim 4:5, 2 Tim 2:21, Heb 2:11, others) or, for called, "invited" or "appointed," but in Jude 1 "God's welcoming love"* is more in view. Let’s combine the language insights and say, "the welcoming love of God that sanctifies."

So, what is the welcoming love of the Lord that sanctifies? Some examples are seen in the life of Sarah, "who gave us birth" (Isa 51:2), the mother of the faithful.

When her husband, Abraham, was called by God to go to a new land, he went out "not knowing where he was going." (Heb 11:8) Sarah faithfully accompanied him, and her biggest problem turned out to be her beauty.

After arriving in the promised land, it became necessary to travel to Egypt to water their flocks. Knowing Sarah was an object of desire, Abraham entreated her, "I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee." (Gen 12:11-13)

She was in fact taken into Pharaoh's house, which was quickly overrun with plagues (Gen 12:17) and Pharaoh understood he had taken a man's wife. Yet he had not touched her, as he said to Abraham, "Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way." (Gen 12:19)

The welcoming love of God that sanctifies is expressed in his protection and help when others forsake us. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Ps 27:10)

You may ask, Why didn't God keep Pharaoh from taking Sarah and she could have avoided the situation altogether? But recall, her beauty was very great so that Pharaoh desired her for his harem. Is it better to have no gift? We, too, have gifts coveted by controlling types, but the Lord is with us. Again and again in Scripture, God rescues his own from the attacks and strongholds of their enemies, and as we read the Bible, we begin to believe in our hearts that God will show us welcoming love in our worst straits. If we are His then we are Sarah's daughters, and must not be afraid of any fear (1 Pet 3:6): If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).

It appears that Sarah was given a maid as a gift for her time in Pharaoh's harem, Hagar the Egyptian (Gen 16:1). In her mid-70s Sarah still had not had children, so she offered Hagar to Abraham as a means of securing an heir. Thus was Ishmael, Abraham's first son, born.

But Sarah remained barren till she was 90 years old and then gave birth to Isaac. In time she demanded that Hagar, whose life she had upset considerably, be cast out with Ishmael, and God agreed with her judgment (Gen 21:10-12). He understood that she needed the conflict between Hagar's son and hers to be resolved. (Gen 21:9)

God’s special love for his called and kept people does not coddle them in human sin and failure. Sarah was required to live with Hagar till Ishmael was old enough to become a man on his own; yet the Lord agreed that Isaac should not grow up taunted by an adversary, even despite her being the root cause of the problem. Welcoming love does not imprison its children by guilt, shame and conflict, but rather sets us free and resolves confusion.

Before Isaac's birth, Abraham again gave Sarah into the arms of a foreign king to save his own life, and this was in the time frame of Sarah's conception! Yet, once again God protected her: And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night… (Gen 20:4) and he sent her back to Abraham.

Sarah remained faithful throughout the years and the insults. She welcomed the welcoming love of God. [Many of these insights are found in the God Remembered Abraham Bible Study on SistersSite.]

In comparison, what do those outside of God's family have that is of any comfort? Why does it take some people so long to enter his gates? Why are hard-hearted souls so slow to embrace the better land where the welcoming love of God sanctifies?

Perhaps they do not feel quite ready to forego the self serving enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, and dreaming that they are in control of their personal agendas, like those whom Jude exposes. But as humans we all serve a higher power, whether the Lord or Satan, and there is no middle ground. We may think we have our own place in the sun, but we do reside in one territory or the other, in the Welcoming Love or the despising of it.

*My sources are the Interlinear Bible on Studylight.org and The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English by Alfred Marshall.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

Hochosterwitz 01052004 04

Search