Jude 1:16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
The false teachers were experts at dividing congregations. Their methods of grumbling, self-promotion and flattery are still used today. No congregation is perfect, but instead of living in harmony as the Bible commands (Romans 12:16), some complain about everything. In doing so, they undermine the existing leadership and promote themselves as better alternatives. They may even create problems in order to become the solution.
They also flatter others for their own advantage. Flattery is saying something to a person’s face that you would not say behind their back. Everyone needs honest affirmation, but these people were using dishonest affirmation to win people’s support.
By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people (Romans 16:8), wrote Paul. And May the Lord silence all flattering lips (Psalm 12:3), wrote David. Honest affirmation is helpful and encouraging, but we ought to be suspicious of anyone who is overly complimentary.
Jude 1:17-18 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.
Jude’s readers may have been surprised that false teachers crept into the church, so he reminded them that this was foretold by the apostles. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (Acts 20:29-31), said Paul.
A guest preacher was invited to give a sermon while the pastor was on vacation, and he used the opportunity to make terrible accusations. He also announced that he would be starting a new church the following Sunday. About half the people followed him, and the original church was never the same. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions (Romans 16:17), wrote Paul.
Jude 1:20-21 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love.
God’s love for us is constant, but we must keep ourselves in a loving relationship with him. A father may love his child deeply, but the relationship will be strained if the child does not return his father’s love. Instead of ignoring our relationship with God, or taking it for granted, we should try to strengthen it every day.
Many years ago I began a weight training program, and nearly doubled my strength in nine months. Then I took the summer off, and lost most of what I had gained. The only way to grow strong spiritually is to exercise daily. Prayer, Bible study, service and obedience are a few of the disciplines of spiritual fitness. Jude reminds us to [build ourselves up in our] most holy faith.
Jude 1:22 Be merciful to those who doubt.
Some of the early Christians found it difficult to believe in a crucified Savior they could not see. Their lives were often difficult, and some even wondered if they had made a mistake. Faith and doubt coexist in all God’s earthly people, and it’s still hard to believe in a crucified Savior we cannot see. This is why we should Be merciful to those who doubt.
But Christians are not the only ones who doubt. Even atheists doubt, because in order not to believe in God, they have to believe that the world just happened—which is doubtful. And in order to reject Jesus Christ, they have to believe that the most credible person in history was a fraud—which is also doubtful. When it comes to faith and doubt, everyone should ask three questions. What should I believe? What should I doubt? And, How can I be ready for the hour of my death?
Jude 1:23 [S]ave others by snatching them from the fire.
Jude may be referring to those who sided with the false teachers. By believing things that were false, and engaging in immorality, they imperiled their souls. Jude did not want faithful believers to reject their wandering brothers and sisters prematurely, but to rescue them by snatching them from the fire of hell.
Jude is drawing on something God said about Joshua, the high priest. Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire? (Zechariah 3:2). God also said to the nation of Israel, You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire (Amos 4:11).
John Wesley was one of the greatest preachers of the seventeen hundreds, but nearly died as a child. When he was five years old, his house caught fire, late one evening. Everyone escaped but John, who was stranded on the second floor. The house was ablaze, and the roof was about to collapse, when he was lifted out a window by a man who was standing on another man’s shoulders.
John came to see himself as a burning stick snatched from the fire, in order to serve God. When we consider the lake of fire, to which we were headed, this applies to every Christian. It should make us thankful to God, and spiritually productive.
Jude 1:24-25 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Jude concluded his letter with one of the most beautiful doxologies in the Bible. The terrible problems the church was facing would not be the last word. God would present them before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. This will not happen because we are faultless in ourselves, but because our forgiveness is so complete that we are faultless in Christ Jesus. Judgment Day will not be a terror to us, but a day of rejoicing that will never end.
Reflection and Review
Is it wrong to complain about church?
How can we overcome doubt?
When do you want Jesus to return?