SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Key Verse: Keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering.
n Jude 21-22
Our view of the Holy Scriptures is most important. There are several options.
Some consider the Bible just another book. While interesting, its value is not greater than the “holy” books of other major religions of the world. One may read it to gain a better understanding of Jews and Christians. The Bible then, for these persons, is simply a hodgepodge of history, poetry, stories, letters, and prophecies.
Others view the Bible as a sacred book worthy of a place on the coffee table or on the bookshelves. They do not read it daily as though hungry for a fresh word from God. They “respect” the Bible and believe that it “contains” the Word of God. Those scholars who embrace the conclusions of the “higher criticism” of the Scriptures can understand this Word of God best, they believe. Out of their great wisdom, they enlighten the common people, thus saving them from taking the Bible too seriously.
The view, which I commend to you, is that of believing that the Bible is the Word of God. By reading it as God’s Word, and trusting its truth, we allow it to nourish our souls as we “inwardly digest” it. There is no more important “soul food” for growing Christians.
Casting aside doubt and speculation, I am comfortable believing that when Jude says he is a brother of James, he means the James who was a son of Joseph and Mary. We know that both Jude and James were half-brothers of Jesus, and that both of them became disciples of Jesus after his resurrection. I can see no helpful value in the constant assertion of commentators that “we cannot be sure” that Jude was the author of the Letter of Jude or that James was the author of the Letter of James. By faith, I accept it, and delight in it.
What does this mean as we study the Letter of Jude? It means that we are free to take seriously what God says to us today through the letter of his servant Jude. Jude believed that “the faith,” or essential Christian doctrine, had been delivered by the apostles. All that was taught by the apostles, then (and preserved for us in the Scriptures), is true, and faithful Christians must “contend” for this truth and defend it against false teachers and scoffers. What Jesus said, we can believe. We are not at the mercy of those “Jesus Scholars” who would have us believe that Jesus actually said very little of the words attributed to him in the Scriptures.
Jude warns against phony Christians, ungodly men, who twist biblical doctrines to confirm their own ideas. These men value their own opinions more than God’s Word, thus denying the truth of God and refusing to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jude offers a chilling description of these phony Christians. They are, he says, like clouds without water, trees without fruit or roots, raging waves of the sea, and wandering stars. For such persons God has reserved “the blackness of darkness forever.” This is our fate, to become like fruitless and rootless trees, unless we do whatever it takes to maintain steadfast faith.
Jude offers more than warning and criticism. He offers solid instruction as to how faithful Christians should respond to the faith given us by the apostles. Pastors could preach for an hour on this outline from Jude’s teaching: 1) Build up yourselves on this most holy faith; 2) Pray in the Holy Spirit; 3) Keep yourselves in the love of God;
4) Have compassion on those who are wavering.
When Jude urges us to contend for the faith, he means that we should “fight” for it, defeating the scoffers in the power of the Spirit. We must not allow our children, or our grandchildren, to be led astray by those who believe more in their own opinions than in the precious Word of God.
One final word: the study of this little letter will not be complete without our giving some attention to the word “keep.” Jude says that we must take the initiative to “keep” ourselves “in the love of God.” We must take responsibility for keeping ourselves securely wrapped up in the will and love of God.
On the other hand, Jude says, God has “keeping” power. He is able, thanks be to God, to “keep” us from falling, and to present us finally to God “without blemish.” What a magnificent promise!
Do not, beloved, conclude your study of Jude without celebrating the great promise of the final two verses. This, over many years, has become my favorite benediction for worship. What a powerful proclamation of truth this is. May it give you fresh hope as your realize that our God is able to keep us from falling and remain forever in his great love! + + + (Walter may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)