Jude - Thirteenth in a series
In Jude 20 and 21 we are given three ways to build ourselves up in the faith: 1. Pray in the Spirit, 2. Keep yourself in the love of God, and 3. Look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Prayer is an expression of the heart not limited to words; we know that the Holy Spirit prays for us in groans too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Prayer is communication with God, yet there are aspects of it that do not fit that description. Without question, if we pray in the Spirit, prayer is not fully predictable nor definable, except that we have been promised by Jesus:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)
God hears and accepts many prayers that do not conform to his guidance on how to pray. However, in the goal to be built up in the faith, we must follow that guide. Study the Lord's prayer; read all that the Bible teaches about prayer. Then, pray respectfully and carefully. Like all other work in the life of faith, we can do nothing without Him. (John 15:5)
The second need is to stay in God's love. Life can be very cold and dark. The Christian walk is often a lonely one. How can we keep from shriveling up or hardening to bitterness? Only by being refreshed by the heart of God in Christ. Just as the life of prayer is a twosome even when praying silently, so the walk with God is with a friend who loves us. Even when following at some distance, we are not alone. Faith is needed to believe all these things. Have faith. When your faith is waning, pray in the Spirit. (Eph 6:18)
There are various translations of the third instruction:
- keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (ESV, NIV)
- Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (KJV, ASV)
- keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (NASB)
There seems to be a choice between keeping a lookout and doing so with desire or exuberant expectation, but in either case the object of our hope is God's mercy in Christ who died so that we may have eternal life. When possible, keep your hopes high!
Jude 22 and 23 give three tactics for rescuing souls from the cult that lured them from the faith, though at first glance there seem to be only two ways, and this is open to interpretation. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 22, 23, KJV)
Compassion and aggressive action are obvious methods, so where is the third way? To understand, we need to look at the Greek. The phrase in verse 22, "making a difference," is diakrinomenouv or "to separate, make a distinction; to learn by discrimination, give judgment" by its initial definitions (Strong's No. 1252). In other words, as you evaluate your friend who has gone astray, decide whether to approach him with sympathy, or instead, fearfully, as you "carry him off by force," (Strong's No. 726) even as you literally hold your nose because of his filthy undergarments. Discerning and choosing which method to employ is in itself a tactic.
If you prefer, with regard to the first way, it may also be possible to interpret this phrase as having compassion while at the same time opposing him; to show love and patience even while contending against his deceived spirit.
It is important to take the right approach with friends. We all wither under rebuke, and some may become dangerously crushed in spirit. A wounded spirit, who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14) Therefore, compassion is essential in all cases. However, with some friends, no amount of loving expressions will soften the heart; if you would assist them to be delivered from evil, you must drag them or wrest them from it. Bold deprogramming measures are difficult to enforce. Perhaps fasting in advance will help, and needless to say, prayer.
Jude would have you to choose a way, should your church be under such attack with members falling away. If you have prayed in the Spirit, kept yourself in the love of God, and are looking for the mercy of Christ unto eternal life, you will know what to do.