Notes (NET Translation)
1:20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, 1:21 maintain yourselves in the love of God, while anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings eternal life.
Jude now transitions to giving a positive exhortation to his readers. The only imperative in verses 20-21 is to maintain yourselves in the love of God. The three other verbs (building yourselves up, praying, anticipating) act as instrumental participles describing how the readers are to keep themselves in God’s love (Schreiner 481). The building up in view is that of the community, not merely the individual (Bauckham 113). The “most holy faith” is the gospel of Jesus Christ to which the readers are to be obedient.
So the first way believers remain in God’s love is by continuing to grow in their understanding of the gospel, the teachings that were handed down to them at their conversion. This faith is “most holy” because it comes from the holy God, and Christian growth occurs through the mind, as believers grow in their understanding of God’s word and of Christian truth. Jude did not think that growth occurred mystically or mysteriously. Instead, believers experience God’s love as their understanding of the faith increases. Affection for God increases not through bypassing the mind but by means of it. (Schreiner 482-483)
Praying “in the Holy Spirit” means praying for the furtherance of God’s will.
Some have suggested that Jude may have in mind speaking in tongues, an interpretation of the text that is especially well known in Pentecostal/charismatic circles. In this section, however, Jude’s concern is with the corporate life of the church in their struggle against heresy, and given the problems within the Corinthian church regarding speaking in tongues, it is hard to imagine how such a call would contribute to the church’s corporate life (see 1 Cor. 14:4). Moreover, Jude places this exhortation over against the claim that the heretics do not have the Spirit. The exhortation implies that the members of the church are the true Christians. (G. Green 121)
In verse 1 Jude tells his readers that they are kept by Jesus Christ. In this verse he tells his readers to keep themselves in God’s love. “Jude represented well the biblical tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. On the one hand, believers only avoid apostasy because of the grace of God. On the other hand, the grace of God does not cancel out the need for believers to exert all their energy to remain in God’s love” (Schreiner 484). The “mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to the second coming, which results in eternal life. It is the counterpoint to the judgment faced by the heretics (4, 6-7, 11, 13, 15). Anticipation is not merely a passive attitude, “but an orientation of the whole life toward the eschatological hope” (Bauckham 114).
1:22 And have mercy on those who waver; 1:23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; have mercy on others, coupled with a fear of God, hating even the clothes stained by the flesh.
Determining the original Greek text of verses 22-23 is difficult but the NET translation is reasonable. The most likely alternative, given by Bauckham, reads: “Snatch some from the fire, but on those who dispute have mercy with fear, hating even the clothing that has been soiled by the flesh” (Bauckham 108-111; Schreiner 485-487).
Jude tells the readers how to react to those effected by the teaching of the heretics. They are to show mercy and kindness (cf. 2 Tim 2:25) to those wavering (or disputing) between the teaching given by the apostles and the teaching of the opponents. Those to be snatched from the fire are in danger of future judgment (7), perhaps because they have started to embrace the libertine lifestyle taught by the opponents. The faithful readers are to save them from future judgment by bringing them back into a right relationship with God. While the readers should show mercy to the wayward, Jude tells them to be extra careful and proceed with fear (the NET adds the phrase “of God” which is a possible interpretation; fear of God’s judgment keeps one from sinning). They must hate the sins committed by the heretics. “It is quite possible to remain in positive contact and accept a person without at the same time condoning or accepting the person’s sin” (Davids 106).
[I]n showing mercy to those who are sinning it is quite possible to get drawn into their sin. Thus Jude advises showing mercy in fear. One is working on the edge of the fire, so to speak. Not only are those being rescued at risk, but the rescuers are also endangering themselves. Sin is deceitful enough that those trying to help others could themselves get trapped. That is no reason not to “show mercy,” but every reason to have fear. (Davids 103-104)
1:24 Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence, 1:25 to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity. Amen.
The letter of Jude closes with a doxology. “The hope that pervades the doxology is astounding in light of the grave situation that Jude faced as he tried to extract the church from the jaws of the heretics” (G. Green 131).
When Jude spoke of God’s ability to keep believers from falling, he did not merely mean that believers might be kept from falling. The idea is that God will keep them from falling by his grace. The word for “keep” (phylaxai) is not the same term that has been used earlier in the letter (cf. tereo, vv. 1, 6, 13, 21), but the concept is the same. The promise that God will preserve believers from apostasy does not cancel out the exhortation of v. 21, “keep yourselves in God’s love.” Ultimately, however, believers obey this admonition because God will strengthen them to do so. He gives us the grace so that we desire to keep ourselves in God’s love. (Schreiner 490-491)
In this context, “falling” (ptaio) refers to apostasy, not sin in general. To stand before God means to be vindicated. The “rejoicing” is a kind of public joy. “The picture is that of a festival in the presence of God, a sea of people singing, praising, and dancing in joyous celebration in the very presence of the God they had served on earth” (Davids 111). Believers will not be without blemish because they lived perfectly in this life. Rather, they will be without blemish because of Christ’s sacrifice (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22; 1 Thess 3:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Pet 1:19).
The phrase “through Jesus Christ our Lord” could mean either that God is the Savior through Christ or that glory is given to God through Christ. The latter interpretation fits the meaning found in other NT passages (Rom 16:27; Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 2:5). “Glory” is the essential glory of God’s being. “Majesty” denotes his greatness and how worthy he is of honor. “Power” and “authority” indicate that God is sovereign and in control. Glory, majesty, power, and authority have always and will always belong to God.
To this the assembled church listening to this letter being read can have only one response, the response of agreement, “Amen.” “Amen” is not simply a rote liturgical response, nor the way a person indicated that a prayer or other liturgical piece was ending, but the response by which the congregation made a prayer or doxology their own. It would be equivalent to modern readers shouting, “Yes!” It ends the other doxologies to which we have referred to, and so here it ends Jude, not as something read aloud by the messenger but as a response of the congregation, affirming the honor of the God whom they served in Jesus Christ. (Davids 116)
Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter. Word Books, 1983.
Davids, Peter H. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006.
Green, Gene. Jude & 2 Peter. Baker Academic, 2008.
Green, Michael. 2 Peter & Jude. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.
Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Holman Reference, 2003.