"But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life."
These verses will probably be best understood if we first look at them backwards. I take Jude's goal to be the same as it has been throughout this letter. To keep his readers in the most holy faith, that they might contend for and preserve this blessed gospel; preserved in their own lives and for the generations to come. But, how will they "keep [themselves] in the love of God"? What hope do they have in waiting for the Jesus to give them mercy and lead them into eternal life? It will be because they have built themselves up in the gospel and have prayed in the Spirit. These two things are vitally important for our battle to persevere in the faith. These exhortations are in sharp contrast to the false teachers that will not inherit eternal life. Therefore, if we are to have eternal life then we must follow the way of the gospel and not the way of the false teachers.
Whereas the false teachers have crept into the church and have perverted the gospel and are causing divisions, the believers are to do just the opposite--build one another up in this most holy faith. "Faith" is the same "faith" that was mentioned in verse 3. It is a reference to the body of doctrine--to the gospel. Jude is urging his readers to build their lives upon the gospel. Certainly this is held in contrast to the false teachers who built their lives upon their dreams and visions and their ungodly passions. But it also serves as a sharp rebuke for those of us today who consider the gospel no more than the elementary aspect of our faith and that from there we move on to deeper things. What Jude is saying is the same thing that Paul said--Jesus Christ and His Gospel is the foundation of all Christian living and ministry. (1 Corinthians 3:11) As Martin Luther said, "The gospel cannot be preached and heard enough, for it cannot be grasped enough...Moreover, our greatest task is to keep you faithful to this article and to bequeath this treasure to you when we die." This is precisely what Jude is saying. Do not leave the gospel to go on to some special knowledge. Do not leave the gospel ever. It is your foundation and everything must spring from the gospel roots going deep in your life.
Next, Jude wants his readers to "pray in the Holy Spirit". This is in contrast to the false teachers who proclaim to have prophetic utterance but they are obviously not Spirit-led believers. Christians should pray under the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This type of prayer is the means that God uses to bring about our perseverance. Even though as we will see in a couple of days it is the Lord who is our keeper, the means that he uses to keep us is prayer. If we are not a praying people then it is quite likely that we will not persevere. Perhaps we could go into a discussion of what it means precisely to pray in the Spirit. We will not do that here. It will suffice for now to say that it does not mean speaking in tongues because Paul uses the same language in Ephesians 6:18 and says to do so "always". We are not commanded to speak in tongues constantly. So it means something different. But it does mean to pray in such a way that the Spirit Himself is moving us to pray and guiding our prayer. This is where Christ-exalting, God-glorifying prayer comes from. Therefore, let us pray in the Spirit, who searches all things, and intercedes for us, and is passionately consumed with glorifying the Godhead.
And the last thing that we will see today is that we must continue to fight and fight and wait and wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ to be revealed to us. We must keep ourselves in the love of God. This is not saying that you will lose your salvation--it is simply saying that the Christian life is a battle and we must cling to Jesus and hope in His precious salvation daily! Let us do just that today. Today you are exhorted to:
- Cling to the gospel
- Pray in the Spirit
- Allow your gospel roots to go deep
- Fight the fight of faith