Jude has brought us along on a short, but powerful journey. Sharing with his audience, as well as us, what following Christ really is like. We are not just someone in an audience, listening to a pastor on a Sunday morning. We are being called to “save others by snatching them from the fire” and to show mercy to them, all while keeping ourselves in the love of Christ (Jude 23 CSB). This is the powerful, yet short message of Jude’s epistle. Join me as we look at the end of Jude’s epistle together.
Warning and an Exhortation
Jude’s last portion of his letter is structured as so—he calls for his audience to contend for the faith just as he requested them to in his opening. There are three sections—there is the call to remember the teaching of the Apostles regarding the eschaton (a fancy word for the end time), that there would be those who would live ungodly lives. Then, Jude breaks out his exhortation with verses 21-23. Jude then ends with his benediction.
With this section, the words hymeis de (But you) begins both the sentences in verse 17 and 20. What is most interesting about this section is that Jude makes mention that his audience had heard what the Apostles said, which leads to the notion that either Jude is reminding his audience of what the Apostles said, of which he himself quoted, or, and more probable, is that Jude’s audience actually heard the literal words of all 11 of the Apostles, which would make this letter earlier than believed (Faithlife Study Bible note). As well, we have access to this teaching, in Mark 13:22; Acts 20:30; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Pet 3:3 (CSB). This has to do with eschatology (the study of the end times). During the time period of Jude’s letter, the notion of the end time was that it began with Jesus’ resurrection and would come to fruition upon His second coming (Brooks 2016). Jude uses the word elegon which in the Greek is parsed as a third person plural verb in the imperfect active indicative. I know that is a long phrase to say “they said.” What it means, though, is that the wording connotes that the Apostles continuously predicted of these false teachers (NIV Study Bible). Jude calls these false teachers, empaiktai, scoffers. Jude, again, tells his audience that these men are out for nothing except what fulfills their desires. He tells us that we can know who they are because they “create divisions and are worldly, not having the Spirit” (Jude 19 CSB).
Now we turn to Jude’s exhortation. Again, Jude begins his sentence with the words, hymeis de (But you). Jude uses several words, which all tie into the theme of contending for the faith. First, Jude tells his audience that they need to “pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20 CSB). Followed by waiting on the eternal life in the mercy of Jesus Christ (Jude 21 CSB). After this, Jude wants us to “[h]ave mercy on those who waver” (Jude 22 CSB); save others from hell, show mercy without fear, and to hate corruption (Jude 23 CSB). This second to the last paragraph in Jude’s letter is loaded with such wonderful and, yet, powerful words.
Jude begins this exhortation with the desire for his audience to pray in the Spirit. Jude believes that praying in the Spirit will build up the members of the Church. The word for build up in Greek is epoikodomountes. This word is a long Greek word for “up” in English. The word build is connoted with it or joined with it through context. Here, Jude uses the word proseuchomenoi which is translated as praying. The lexical, or root word, for this, is proseuchomai which means to pray. It is the most common, or general, Greek word used for the actual act of conversing with God. Prayer was a very important part of the early Church, one that flowed over from Judaism (Hardin 2016). Early Judaism, of which the early Church came from, had several types of prayers—eg., liturgical, personal, and spontaneous ones (Ibid.). However, the early Christians did have their own take on the prayers, of which are—Abba Father, Thanksgiving, In Jesus Name, and Intercessions in the Spirit (Ibid.). Jude, here, is requesting his audience to pray in the power and spontaneousness of the Spirit (NIV Study Bible, Keener and Walton 2016; MacArthur 2017). Jude believes, that by praying in the Spirit, his audience will be able to keep themselves in the love of God. We can identify this by the simple fact that Jude’s only command is the word keep, in Greek is tērēsate. Helm (2008) in his commentary of Jude says,
It is a matter of Greek grammar. In the list of things Jude calls us to do in verses 20, 21, the word “keep” is the only one that appears as an imperative. In other words, it is Jude’s only command. The other items in Jude’s how-to list are what are called participles, which means that grammatically speaking they are dependent on the phrase “keep yourselves.” In essence, Jude’s call in verse 21 to keep ourselves is the center of gravity for everything else being said.
What Jude is getting at here, with verses 20 and 21 is that the good Christ followers will pray in the Spirit, unlike those false teachers who will be worldly, seeking any ways possible to fulfill their own desires.
Between verses 22 and 23, Jude uses the word mercy twice. The Greek word, eleate, translated as mercy is used by Mounce (2006) and he defines the root word, eleeō, as an “emotional response and resulting action after encountering the suffering or affliction of another.” Basically, Jude uses this word here, as well as in 23, in a way that is to have pity on those who are suffering. Jude then makes a strange request in verse 23, he seeks us to snatch people from Hell! The Greek word, harpazontes, means snatching. Once again, Mounce (2008) describes the lexical form of the word, harpazō, as a violent or forceful grasp. Mounce (2008) believes that Jude uses this word to teach “the forceful proclamation of sound doctrine.” In verse 22, again, who are those who waver? Jude chose the Greek word diakrinomenous, which translates as waver in the CSB, NAB, and the NLT, and the ESV, LEB, and the NIV translate the word as doubt. I believe that Jude is seeking for his audience to show pity on those who were affected by the false teachers and having doubt in the correct doctrinal teachings of the Church.
In verse 23, Jude then exhorts his audience to “save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (CSB). Jude uses the Greek word, sozete, which means to save. Since Jude’s audience was mostly Jewish, one can understand the meaning of this word in its Jewish context. The translators of the LXX (Septuigent—Greek version of the Old Testament) used sozo, the lexical form of sozete, roughly 15 times and mostly for the Hebrew verb yāša’ which means “to deliver and save;” as well as for mālaṭ meaning “to slip away, escape, or (piel) to deliver, save” (Verbrugge 2000). There were two main meanings of this word in the LXX for sozo which were by human deliverance, meaning from a king to “the poor, needy, and oppressed within the nation”; while the other meaning comes from God (Ibid.). Many Old Testament warnings were in regards to not being sucked into a false notion of salvation from things not of God (Ibid.). Jude, being the good Jew that he was trained up to be, uses these many warnings (as we have seen in his letter so far) to say to his audience that they are to be part of the deliverance of God to those who are led astray.
Jude uses the weirdest statement in his whole letter when he exhorts his audience to “show mercy with fear” (Jude 23 CSB). What does he mean by fear? The word in Greek is phobo. Jude’s use of the word phobo is nothing short of simply being mindful. What that means, in a way, has to be seen with the rest of the sentence of which this statement comes from “hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 23 CSB). What does Jude mean, though, in regards to “the garment?” Jude uses the Greek word chitona which is translated as either garment or tunic. The tunic, as used in this verse, was the garment worn under the outer one, or as William Mounce, in his New Testament Dictionary, states, “the article of clothing worn next to the skin by both men and women” (Mounce 2006). What needs to be understood here, then, is that what is the closest to the person is easily corruptible. In other words, as the translators of the NET state, “the things close to the sinners are contaminated by them, presumably during the process of sinning” (Harris 2017). All of verse 23 is taken from Zechariah 3:1-5 (CSB). God rebukes Satan for accusing the high priest Joshua in front of the Lord. God asks Satan, “[i]sn’t this man [high priest Joshua] a burning stick snatched from the fire?” After this, God takes Joshua’s clothes, which were filthy, and replaces them with clean ones (Zech 3:4-5 CSB). Jude wants his audience, who would have had this verse from Zechariah in their thoughts, to see that this was how God wants them (as well as us) to treat those who have strayed.
Now we come to the portion of the letter known as the doxology or the benediction. This is Jude’s final closing to his audience. Most Jewish services would end on a praise through a doxology (Keener 2014, 722). Jude is now going to tie everything back to his theme of salvation that he briefly spoke of at the beginning of his letter (Jude 1-3 CSB; MacArthur 2017, 1988n). Jude is able to do this with his song of praise to God.
Jude opens is doxology expressing one of the most important truths in all of the Bible—”to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy” (Jude 24 CBS). To begin, Jude uses the Greek word phylaxai which comes from the lexical form phylassō which can mean to guard, preserve, and/or keep. The Greeks had a form of this word for a guard or sentry (phylax). In Jude’s use, it can be translated as protect. Only the CSB states this word as protect in English where the ESV, GNB, NJB, NIV, and NLT all interpret it as keep. For Jude, protect or keep can mean the same thing, which in theology is known as the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.” It is best explained in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647, 17.1) as ” [t]hey, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” The notion is that if we are truly regenerated, saved, by the work of Jesus, then we will never fall away. There is also an understanding, here, that in verse 21 Jude tells us to keep in the love of Christ, which now he tells us that it is in God that we are kept. In other words, God’s grace keeps us, which causes us to stay in Christ’s love. By doing this, it brings glory to God.
Jude’s Epistle was written to show his audience, as well as us, to stay holy, persevering in the love of Christ. We are to contend for the faith, saving those along the way who have lost their way. We are only able to do this through the perseverance of God. It was God who created this world and everything in it, calling it good. From the beginning, God made a covenant with Adam, that was to be carried along by the rest of humanity, to expand His kingdom (the Garden of Eden). However, it was man who broke that covenant. Then, God made more covenants (eg., Noah, Abraham, Jacob, the people of Israel) knowing full well that we would never be able to uphold our end of the contract. Therefore, God had to do what we could not, he made a covenant with Himself through the person of Jesus the Christ, for us. Through that covenant, God was able to keep/protect us, which in turn allows us to stay in the love of Christ. This is the message of Jude, in a nutshell. “Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25 CSB)!
Brooks, Page. 2016. “Eschatology.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Hardin, Leslie T. 2016. “Prayer.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Harris, W. Hall III ed. 2017. New English Translation. Biblical Studies Press, LLC.
Helm, David R. 1-2 Peter and Jude. Preaching the Word Commentary Series. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Keener, Craig S. 2014. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Keener, Craig S. and John H. Walton. 2016. Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
MacArthur, John. 2017. MacArthur Study Bible: Aniversary Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Mounce, William D. 2008. “(Have) Mercy.” In Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Verbrugge, Verlyn ed. “G5392 σῴζω.” In New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.