From the Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 14

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude (Part 14)

2. Praying (v. 20b) . A key means to building yourselves up on your most holy faith is by “praying in the Holy Spirit.” This is an essential daily exercise if spiritual growth is to be a reality. Martin Luther once said, “I have so much business to do today that I shall not be able to get through it with less than three hours’ prayer.” And well do I recall Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer saying to us in a classroom at Dallas Theological Seminary, “Men, prayer is hard work and we are inherently lazy.”

Jude is not speaking about a perfunctory saying of our prayers. Rather, he is underscoring the need for true spiritual communion with the Lord and the necessity of our praying being guided by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2, 12). This is possible only as we “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), and please note, there is no exhortation here — or anywhere else in the New Testament — to pray to the Holy Spirit. Thus the question naturally arises, “Is it ever proper to pray directly to the Holy Spirit?” In answering this question it should be stressed that the normal way of approach is, according to Ephesians 2:18, to the Father, through the Lord Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit. This, however, is not the only way of approach, even though it is true that most prayers in the Bible are addressed to God the Father (Matt. 6:9; John 16:23; Eph. 3:14). There are several examples in the New Testament when the Lord Jesus is addressed directly in prayer (Luke 24:51-52; Acts 1:24; 7:59; 9:5-6; 10:14; Rev. 22:20). While having already indicated that there is no Biblical precedent for directly addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer, Lehman Strauss has helpfully commented on this matter as follows:

Each member of the Trinity performs a unique ministry. Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus (Acts 7:59). It is a perfectly natural and normal thing for any Christian to thank Jesus for dying for his sins. I have done this frequently in my own prayers. And why not? It was not the first nor the third Person in the Trinity who died on the cross. When I thank Jesus for shedding His blood for me, I address Him personally and directly.

It is the function of the Holy Spirit to teach the Christian (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Col. 2:9-11). When I come to study the Bible, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide and teach me. I do not ask the Father or Jesus to do that for me which is the prescribed ministry of the Holy Spirit. For many years I have prayed in this way to the Holy Spirit, and the requests have been granted. I cannot conceive of God refusing to answer such a prayer. The members of the Godhead are co-equal; each can be addressed in prayer.1

What does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? Coder has explained it this way: “Prayer in the Spirit is prayer which issues from a heart indwelt, illuminated, and controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. It is petition, praise, and thanksgiving which are indited by the Spirit. The outstanding inspired commentary upon it is found in Romans 8:26, 27. By ourselves, we know not how to pray as we ought, but there dwells within us One who makes intercession for us with unutterable groanings, intercession which is in accordance with the will of God.”2

3. Keeping (v. 21a). Jude’s third practical exhortation in this section is: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” MacArthur considers “keep” (tereo) the key verb in verses 20-21, pointing out that the other three verbs — “building,” “praying,” and “looking” — are participles which describe or clarify the “keeping.” In the Greek grammatical construction, this “keeping” relates to sphere, place or location “in the love of God,” where we can be the recipients of His blessings. MacArthur cites our Lord’s “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” wherein the father never changed in his attitude toward the son, but the son for a season removed himself from the place in which the father could bless him.3

A further point of Greek grammar, and one often overlooked by preachers, Bible teachers and commentators, is that the verb for “keep” is aorist active imperative. This means that Jude’s words are not only a command but also represent a decisive, once for all action on the part of the believer to keep himself in the love of God.

To keep yourself in the love of God does not mean that we are somehow to contribute to our own individual salvation in Christ, for this would be contrary to the teaching of many Scriptures (e.g., Eph. 2:8-9; Jude 24). Nor are we to understand this exhortation to mean that we are to “Keep on loving God.” Most assuredly we are to continue loving Him, but the emphasis here is on His love to us, not on ours to Him (see John 15:9).

What, then, does this command mean?

Ironside helpfully defined it by saying, “It is as though I say to my child, ‘Keep in the sunshine.’ The sun shines whether we enjoy it or not. And so God’s love abides unchanging. But we need to keep in the conscious enjoyment of it. Let nothing make the tried soul doubt that love. Circumstances cannot alter it. Difficulties cannot strain it, nor can our own failures. The soul needs to rely upon it, and thus be borne in triumph above the conflict and the discouraging episodes incident to the life of faith.”4

The secret of keeping oneself in the love of God is obeying the two preceding exhortations. If we are habitually feeding on the Scriptures and praying in the Holy Spirit, then we shall indeed remain in the sphere of God’s wonderful love and thus be in the place of divine blessing.

Demas is a sobering, real life example of a believer who failed to keep himself in the love of God. The Apostle Paul described his former fellow worker as one who “hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). What was it that led to Demas’ spiritual demise? Well, there may have been numerous contributing factors of which we are not aware. Nevertheless, we can be sure he failed to daily build himself up by means of the Word of God and to pray in the Holy Spirit.

4. Looking (v. 21b). Jude’s fourth exhortation directs the believer to be “looking expectantly” (prosdechomenoi) for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is precisely what he means by his words: “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,” or as the New American Standard Version translates it: “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” The verb variously translated “looking,” “looking expectantly” or “waiting anxiously” is the same one used in Titus 2:13, where we read: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

While it is true that the believer has eternal life from the moment of his salvation (John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24), Jude is reminding all true Christians that some day, when Christ returns, we are going to enter fully into the reality, realm and reign of the eternal life which we possess in Christ, which life is presently communicated by the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:5, 9, 13). It is in that day and moment when our physical bodies shall be redeemed and our salvation in Christ shall be completed. Thus the coming of the Lord to the air for His saints represents one of the greatest consummating acts of divine mercy in the history of God’s universe.

From this statement of verse 21b and its context, it is important to learn that Christ is the source of mercy, the setting of the exercise of His mercy is in the midst of judgment, and the significance of it is unto eternal life, that is, an experiential entering into the full possession and enjoyment of that never-ending life in His blessed presence (John 14:1-3) .

Observe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are prominent in this section (vv. 20-21), even as Jude also strikes the practical notes of personal edification, supplication, sanctification and expectation.

Building and praying may be said to speak of the believer’s Work of

Faith; keeping suggests his Labor of Love; and looking speaks of his Patience of Hope (see 1 Thess. 1:3).

“These wonderful verses,” says Coder, “begin with an inward look at the developing of Christian character; we are to be building. They continue with an outward look at everything and everyone for whom we should intercede; we are to be praying. Then they look upward at the One who loves us and who has made us His children; we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. They conclude with a forward look at the return of our Saviour and the dawn of eternal life in His presence; we are to be looking and awaiting for the final great manifestation of His mercy.”5

(To be continued, D.V.)

1 Lehman Strauss, Sense and Nonsense about Prayer, p. 121.

2 S. Maxwell Coder, Jude: The Acts of the Apostates, p. 110.

3 John F. MacArthur, Jr., Beware the Pretenders, pp. 89-90.

4 Harry A. Ironside, Exposition of the Epistle of Jude, p. 54.

5 Coder, op. cit., p. 112.