“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on 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” (Jude 20-21). After rehearsing the problems of unbelief within the church, Jude turns to the positive, “But you, beloved … ” (Jude 17, 20). Jude approaches the church with the heart of a pastor. Remember his greeting in verse 1, “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.”
At the same time, Jude addresses an exhortation to the church, “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). The “you” implied in the verb, “keep,” is plural, as is the pronoun, “yourselves.” Members of the church must preserve and keep intact their loving relationships with each other and the love they experience with God. In other words, while salvation is a sovereign work, sanctification is cooperative. Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). That is, work out the implications of your salvation in day to day life. Jesus puts it this way, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If the Holy Spirit has changed your heart, indicate that this is the case. Live according to Christ’s commandments. “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
Jude also answers the question: how do you keep yourselves in the love of God? Two participles, “building” and “praying” begin two participle phrases, which modify “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 20). They answer the question, “How?” First, you keep yourselves in the love of God by “building (plural) yourselves up on your (plural) most holy faith.” The “faith” is the body of truth “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). As indicated in the first lesson, you and I must continually review and study this faith, the truth that God reveals in Scripture. God’s love is a beautiful many-sided gem. We must regularly review and analyze the various facets of God’s love. As we do so, we grow in our understanding of how God’s love embraces us and how God’s love works itself out in our lives, individually and corporately.
Second, you keep yourselves in the love of God by “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). God uses prayer to bring about His will. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15). And so, you and I must pray according to God’s will. How do you know God’s will? You find God’s will in Scripture. You must know the Scriptures. Of course, the Spirit inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21). Praying in the Spirit means praying according to the will of God revealed in the Spirit-inspired Word, the Scriptures. In addition, praying in the Spirit means you are united to the Spirit. The Spirit dwells in you (Romans 8:9). Thus you pray self-consciously in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), knowing God’s presence with you and in you.
The participles, building and praying are plurals, referencing the congregation. It is not so much individual prayer but corporate prayer that concerns Jude. Paul reminds the Church at Corinth, “We are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). The gathered church is the special dwelling place of God in the Spirit. “You (plural) also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). Yes, individually, you and I are temples of the Spirit (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 6:19). We must not profane the temples of our bodies by prostituting them (1 Corinthians 6:15). On the other hand, since the church is a temple having Christ as its foundation, “each man must be careful how he builds on it” (1 Corinthians 3:10). As his temple, in corporate worship, we gather in the special gracious presence of God. J. I Packer defines worship in this way.
Worship is not only an expression of gratitude, but also a means of grace whereby the hungry are fed, so that the empty are sent away rich. For ‘there is in worship an approach of God to man.’ ‘God’s presence in his ordinances’ is a reality; God is essentially present in the world, graciously present in his church (A Quest for Godliness, 252).
In worship, in singing praise, in hearing God’s word read and preached, in corporate fellowship, in corporate prayer, praying with and for one another, we learn and grow and keep ourselves in the love of God. Jude is not ignoring individual responsibility in prayer, study, and reading Scripture. Instead, he is emphasizing the importance of the corporate gathering of God’s people in worship.
As you keep yourselves in the love of God, your motive is the return of Christ. And so, your posture as God’s people is always to be forward-looking. You anxiously wait “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 21). The verb “to wait” carries with it the element of being anxious. You have a sense of expectancy. You receive and welcome Christ before He arrives. Your attitude is not passive but active. You are “looking for (same word) the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
Believers do not find their ultimate hope in the things of this world. Why? “The present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). Yes, “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Believers await the mercy and love and grace of God pronounced by Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life in the world to come. To believers, to those for whom He died, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
And so, “keep yourselves in the love of God.” Do so by “building yourselves up on your most holy faith,” and by “praying in the Holy Spirit.” Also, have your eye on the world to come. Wait “anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 20-21).