From the Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 13

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude (Part 13)

Not only were Jude’s readers to remember what the apostles had said about the apostates, they were to give attention to themselves. Thus we come to Jude’s second major thrust relative to the responsibility of true believers midst the world’s increasing and intensifying apostasy, and this, in contrast to the scoffers cited in verses 18 and 19. His second emphasis focuses on:

The responsibilities of the present (vv. 20-23). The verses are as follows:

But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Having thoroughly addressed the subject of the apostates, Jude now turns to more positive teaching. For the third time he addresses his readers as “beloved” (cf. vv. 3, 17), and on this third and final occasion he proceeds directly into some highly concentrated Christian instruction which, if obeyed, would preserve them (and us) from defilement by the false teachers.

1. Building (v. 20a). The call to “building up yourselves” indicates the strong and stable character that should mark the life of every Christian (contr. vv. 12-13). There have been, and are today, many wreckers among God’s people. And granted, at times a certain amount of wrecking may be necessary, such as the cleansing of and removal from a local assembly of believers anything that is contrary to our Lord and His Word. Nevertheless, what is most needed today are true builders, those who evidence personal spiritual growth and who in turn contribute to the spiritual growth of the local assembly.

“Your most holy faith” is not a reference to the believer’s personal faith in Christ for salvation but to the foundation on which Christians are to continually build themselves up —namely, to what Jude has already referred to in verse 3 as “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (NASV). While it is appropriate to apply these words to the entire written Word of God, Jude specifically has in mind the teaching of the apostles now recorded in the Scriptures.

Having warned the Ephesian elders of the danger of apostasy, the Apostle Paul prayerfully bade them farewell on the beach at Miletus and, among other things, said: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Later, from a prison in Rome, he wrote to the Ephesian assembly reminding them (and all true believers) that “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20; see 1 Pet. 2:4-6).

Since the verb for “building up” is in the present tense, Jude is underscoring the absolute necessity of feeding on God’s Word that the soul may be nourished and edified (see 1 Pet. 2:2). It is through the reading and study of the Scriptures that the believer personally progresses in the knowledge of God’s revealed will (see 2 Tim. 2:15).

“Your faith” expresses possession of God’s Word, not only in the head and hand but, above all, in the heart. The Greek word translated “most holy” is a superlative, stressing the character of the Scriptures.

Among the readers and students of the Holy Scriptures in all ages have been some of the ablest leaders and most brilliant minds. Consider the following:

· George Washington: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. He is worse than an infidel who does not read his Bible and acknowledge his obligation to God.”

· John Quincy Adams: “My custom is to read four or five chapters of the Bible every morning immediately after rising. It seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. It is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.”

· John Wesley: “O give me that Book! At any price, give me that Book of God. Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one Book.”

· William Wilberforce: “Let no religious book take its place. People do not read the Bible enough.”

· Daniel Webster: “From the time that, at my mother’s feet or on my father’s knee, I first learned to lisp the verses from the sacred writings, they have been my daily study and vigilant contemplation.”

· George Mueller: “The vigour of our spiritual life will be in proportion to the place held by the Word in our life and thoughts.”

· David Livingstone: “All that I am I owe to Jesus Christ, revealed to me in His divine book.”

· Robert E. Lee: “The Bible is a book in comparison with which all others in my eyes are of minor importance; and which in all my perplexities and distresses has never failed to give me light and strength.”

· Charles H. Spurgeon: “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years.”

· F. B. Meyer: “Read the Bible, not as a newspaper, but as a home letter. If a cluster of heavenly fruit hangs within reach, gather it. If a promise lies upon a page as a blank check, cash it. If a prayer is recorded, appropriate it, and launch it as a feathered arrow from the bow of your desire. If an example of holiness gleams before you, ask God to do as much for you. If the truth is revealed in all its intrinsic splendor, entreat that its brilliance may ever irradiate the hemisphere of your life.”

(To be continued, D.V.)

Editor’s Note

Two respected brethren have questioned the editor face to face regarding some comments in Dr. S. Lewis Johnson’s expository study on “The healing of the Helpless Man”(John 5:1-18, Jan.-Feb. 1984 issue, pp. 9-14). I might add that there have been no written inquiries and/or criticisms from any of our readers.

The two brethren cited called attention to Dr. Johnson’s comments on page 10, the second column, and the first paragraph. The words in question are as follows:

“How our Lord knew of the condition of the impotent man is not stated in the text. It is possible that He knew of his condition supernaturally through the revelation of it by the Father. And it is possible that he acquired the knowledge by heresay. At any rate He knew of his condition.”

First of all, I would assure our readers that Dr. Johnson both upholds and is totally committed in his faith to the essential, foundational doctrine of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. This should be obvious to every reader of his article, for in his opening paragraph (p. 9) he states:

“In the healing of the impotent man the Apostle John gives his readers a miracle, or sign, that is a kind of parable of impotence and omnipotence. It is a story of the impotence of a man, and it is also a story of the omnipotence of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Second, when I thoroughly read and prepared the article for publication, I understood Dr. Johnson’s words on page 10 to have been penned with a view to emphasizing our Lord’s perfect humanity, as well as from the standpoint of the normal flow of the details in John’s account of the miracle.

As a further case in point, I am reminded of John 9:35. In the account of the man born blind, whom Christ had healed, we read concerning our Lord, “Jesus heard (emphasis mine) that they (i.e. the Jews) had cast him out …” From the standpoint of His deity, did Christ know all along that this dear man had been cast out of the synagogue? Of course He did! Nevertheless, from the details of John’s narrative, it is recorded that the Lord Jesus “heard” that the man had been cast out. Again, here is a detail which emphasizes the fact that our Lord was Very Man, and this, in the particular Gospel account that reveals Him as Very God.

Finally, it seems to me that some brethren who zealously and rightly uphold the deity of Christ — as I at all times most certainly seek to do —have a tendency to virtually efface or at least mask the real humanity of our Lord.

Who can fathom the mystery of the divine and human natures in Christ’s blessed Person? As by faith through the Scriptures I see my Saviour’s scars which tell me of His wounds, shed blood, sufferings and death at Calvary, I can only bow and worship, declaring with believing Thomas of old, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

As for Dr. Johnson’s decision not to treat the details of John 5:3b-4 (a matter brought up by one of the two brethren previously mentioned), he is perfectly within his rights to state —and correctly so — that “The textual evidence for the genuineness of the words is not strong, and we, therefore, will not consider them in the exposition.”

Even a cursory amount of research in available, conservative sources will indicate to the reader that the words of John 5:3b-4 appear to be a late insertion. Nowhere does the Bible teach this kind of superstition, which in itself would be a cruel contest for many ill people. Furthermore, no available Greek manuscript before 400 A.D. contains these words (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 289).

I would assure both my inquiring brethren, as well as all others of our readers, that there is absolutely no intent whatsoever on the part of Dr. Johnson to in any way detract from either the Son of God or the Holy Scriptures. On the contrary, having known him for thirty-four years, I esteem him as strong a defender of the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture as anyone I know, including the brethren who raised the questions to begin with.