This is the last of our studies on Jude, but stick around, there will be a few more posts this week on the theology of Jude and on Jude commentaries.
Finally in Jude 20-23, Jude tells his readers how to contend for the faith. As we will find out, though, it does not take the exact shape that we might expect.
Vs. 20: The first and most important thing Jude exhorts his readers to do is to build themselves up in the holy faith. This is not a command given to the members of the church as individuals, but to them corporately. They are to build up the corporate body of Christ, which is God's temple (c.f., 2 Cor. 6:16). Being in a strong community of faith lessens the allurement of false teaching and sinful lifestyles. Secondly, Jude implores them to pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude probably does not mean speaking in tongues). As a church they are to develop a life constantly in communion with the Spirit through prayer. This intimacy with the Spirit will guard them from error.
Vs. 21: In verse 1, Jude calls them, '...those...kept by Jesus Christ.' Here he tells them to keep themselves in the love of God. Thus, the ethical command is grounded in the indicative statement. We are kept by Christ, and that is what enables us and motivates us to keep ourselves in the love of God. The second half of this verse provides hope. While the false teachers and those who follow them will face certain judgment, salvation awaits those who keep themselves in the love of God.
Vs. 22-23: These verses outline the general approach that the church was to have towards those who had followed, or were tempted to follow the false teachers. We are agents through whom God works out salvation. Salvation is a process, and included in that process is persevering in the faith. We are to help those who waver so that they may avoid having shipwrecked faith. While we pursue them, we must be very careful, for the sin and/or errant teaching that seduced them, may very easily ensnare us. While we must have love for wandering saints, we must have passionate hatred for anything sinful.
So what does it mean to contend for the faith? It means that we need vibrant, loving community grounded in the word of God and filled with the Holy Spirit that hates sin, but pursues wandering sheep.
Vs. 24-25: Jude closes with a doxology that grounds the church in the person and work of Jesus and applies it in a way relevant to their situation. The most important thing the church needed to hear was that God was able to help them persevere. They were seeing friends in the church being drawn away from the faith. Thus, they needed to be reminded that God can and will keep them from falling away because of the work of Christ on the cross, and for that work of salvation he is to be praised. For through it his glory, majesty, power, and authority are displayed. Our roll is to respond through what we say and do with a hearty, Amen!
Briefly we should note what Jude doesn't say. He never says to disassociate with erring Christians. Too often we read texts about church discipline and we think of them as the path you need to take to kick someone out of the church. That really should be a last resort, an extreme measure. The response Jude suggests is one filled with love and hope that they will return to God.