Nancy Guthrie will be recording a live session of Help Me Teach the Bible at our 2020 Women’s Conference, June 11 to 13 in Indianapolis, as well as speaking twice on the book of James. You can browse the complete list of topics and speakers. Register soon!
According to David Helm—lead pastor of the Hyde Park congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and chairman of the Charles Simeon Trust board—every book of the Bible is like a piece of music that has a recognizable melody unique to it. David encourages Bible teachers to spend time seeking to identify the “melodic line” of the book we’re preparing to teach, that we might better get to the heart of its message.
In our conversation, David demonstrates how to find the melodic line of any book by walking through the process of identifying the melodic line of the little book of Jude. The melodic line then serves as a guard or guide as we relate various parts of the book to it. He also helps us as teachers with the references Jude makes to extrabiblical writings and to Old Testament characters and events.
Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible.
Recommended Print Resources
- 1–2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings in the Preaching the Word Commentary series by David Helm
- 1, 2 Peter, Jude New American Commentary by Thomas R. Schreiner
Recommended Audio Resources
- Sermons on Jude by Dick Lucas
- Sermon series on Jude by Mark Dever
- Sermon on Jude by Sinclair Ferguson
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
David Helm: What’s Jude trying to say? Jude is trying to say that those who are kept for Christ are those who keep themselves in the love of God, and that is in contrast to those who will not keep themselves and therefore are kept for judgment.
Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to, “Help me Teach the Bible.” I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help me Teach the Bible” is a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the book of Jude. And it may be short, it may be limited to one chapter and 25 verses, but it has a very significant message. And I get to talk today to David Helm about the book of Jude.
Helm: Hey, good morning, Nancy. It’s great to be here.
Guthrie: David, thank you for being willing to talk to me about this book, and of course David has written on the book of Jude. He’s written the 1st and 2nd Peter and Jude contribution to the preaching the word commentary series that was published by Crossway.
Helm: This book is power-packed and I’m actually really looking forward to digging back in it again with you today.
Guthrie: Well, when I have heard you talk about Jude, it’s often been at a Simeon Trust workshop. And you take the book of Jude and you use the book to train those you’re teaching on how to find a book’s melodic line. So maybe before we dive into the book, although this is really diving into the book to do this, you can give us a little mini workshop on what is melodic line and then show us how you find the melodic line of Jude.
Helm: So the melodic line is a principle that helps Bible teachers get a handle on the melody of a book, best used long before you begin teaching it. I know you’ve got a lot of Bible teachers that listen to the podcast. Basically every piece of music, every songwriter, every composer lays down a melody. And when they lay down that melody, it becomes the unique contribution of what makes that piece, that piece. Just as that’s true in music, it’s also true of the Bible. We have 66 books. They all play their part within the symphony of the death and resurrection of Christ, but they have a unique contribution to make and they have their own song to sing as it were. And so if you think of a musical stuff with a variety of notes, Bible writers have words that in a sense hang together in different ways to create a certain sound. So if you’re gonna teach the book of Jude, say six months from now, it would be a great time to start reading the letter as a whole, even early on, to just get a sense of what is it on about. The practical takeaway/s simply that we’re gonna handle any texts better within a book if we know how it fits within the melody of the whole.
And so we’d just do a few exercises in Jude to kind of get working on that. One of the things is the beginning and the end of a book. What do they say at the beginning? What do they say at the end? Songwriters usually lay down their melody early and they plant it in their conclusion.
Guthrie: You hear just the first few notes of some songs and we immediately know what that song is.
Helm: You know what it is. You know what it is.
Guthrie: And is that the same with a book of the Bible that we hear a few notes, maybe even a few, is it maybe those notes come in words that we immediately recognize, “Oh, that’s that book of the Bible?”
Helm: Yeah, I think that’s generally true, but then you have to test it. In fact, watch how that works with Jude. I mean, take the very beginning. If we read just the first two verses and the last two verses and we listened for particular notes, something clearly is going to emerge. That’s part of the melody of this book. I’ll read one and two, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James to those who are called beloved in God the father and kept for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Just pay attention to that little phrase, “Kept for Jesus Christ.” Now, take a look at the end, 24 and 25.
Guthrie: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy to the only God our savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Helm: So there are some notes that emerge on the beginning and the end “kept for” on the front side. “Now to him who is able to keep you from,” on the back side. This idea of Jesus Christ being a dominant note twice mentioned in the opening two verses and then mentioned by way of implication and directly twice in the last two verses, something about being kept for Jesus Christ.
Now, the words kept and keep are synonyms in the original language. So you’re not always just looking for a particular word, but words that are in a group that speak to the same thing or concepts, or many of the illustrations in books are actually illustrating the words that are used. And they all form a melodic line. So if we were just thinking, okay, I’m gonna preach Jude or teach through Jude in six months and I’ve got a half an hour on an early morning, maybe this book is about being kept for Christ or the one who was able to keep us and present us to Christ. That would be something then that you would wanna test. And the beginning and the end isn’t the only way to listen to a piece of music. You listen to the whole thing. So let’s take another exercise. Let’s just take that word kept. Does it appear anywhere else in the letter? I mean, is it emerging? Does it support our thought that Jude is about being kept for Christ?
Guthrie: Well, I see it arise in verse 6. It’s talking about rebellious angels who left their proper dwelling that now he has kept in eternal chains.
Helm: Yeah, there it is. And it’s actually there twice. So the word and the angels who did not stay, in other words, they did not keep, it’s the same word there. They did not keep within their position. Those are being kept for judgment. So there it is, it’s appearing in the body of the letter. It also appears in a couple of other places as well.
Guthrie: Yeah. Verse 13 is talking about for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. So there you have that idea you mentioned.
Guthrie: It’s not necessarily the word, it’s the concept.
Helm: Yeah. So the translators use the word “reserved” here, but you’re right, the word is actually “kept,” so twice now in the middle. And this kind of jars us a little bit. We thought the whole letter was about being kept for Jesus Christ, but now we’ve seen three uses of the word in the body of the letter that indicate others, angels and then other people who are kept for judgment, which is a flip side of the coin. In other words, hearing the melody of Jude just got a little more complex. And then there’s one more use of the word as well, which is really the main imperative when you get down to what we’re to be doing. I think it’s down there in verse 21. Yeah. “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
Guthrie: Now this is interesting for a Bible teacher because it raises the tension, doesn’t it? Because everyone wants everything to be so black and white, it’s like, is he gonna keep me or am I supposed to keep myself?
Helm: Yeah. So what does Jude…what is Jude doing? And so all of a sudden now I’m sitting in my study and I’m working hard to move from a provisional early understanding that Jude is a wonderful, simple letter about being kept for Christ to the reality that, no, it’s not merely about being kept by God for Christ, but there are others who are being kept by God for judgment. And now I have to get out in my own musical stuff of words and try to write a new provisional melodic line on what Jude is on about.
Guthrie: So is your goal that you’re gonna actually write one complete sentence that you can say, I believe, at least for today, until it begins to be at the next time, that this is what the melodic line is?
Helm: Yeah. And I think it’s always being reshaped, refashioned. I’m never working for precision. A lot of Bible teachers get caught up thinking, “Oh my gosh, now I have to get the absolute precise message of the book.” No, you’re just learning and reshaping and refashioning.
Guthrie: But in general, that statement, it’s going to be populated with words from the text?
Helm: Yeah, that’s right. And they’re gonna be repeated. You’re gonna find it in the beginning and the end. And I’ll give you another tool, not just the beginning and the end or the repetition of it throughout so that you can confirm or test it. But another way to think about this melodic line is, what is the purpose statement of the book? Does the author tell me what they are trying to accomplish and what role does that have in the melody? Here you really got this incredible line in verse 3, “Beloved, I was eager to write to you about the common salvation, but I found it necessary to write appealing to you.” There’s a sense of appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the Saints. So the theme of the letter in Jude’s mind also involves another note that we haven’t even thought about yet, this idea of contending. So I’m gonna wanna add that word somehow or idea, and he’s appealing to us to contend.
Guthrie: We have a mood.
Helm: Yeah, we have a mood. That’s exactly right. So the purpose statement often gives you the tonal quality of the letter. So whatever I’m gonna end up with on Jude, this is a staccato like strong urgent piece of music. This is not a slow beginning romantic love song. This is out of the gate at you, percussion involved, and it’s going to create a sense of urgency and all of that’s gonna help the Bible teacher.
Guthrie: So I have written on the bottom of my page in the Bible, Jude. Evidently, I’m guessing what this was, was my stab at a melodic line at some semi interests women’s workshop when somebody was working through Jude. So here’s what I came up with. You can critique it [crosstalk 00:11:31] on it.
Helm: No, I’m not gonna critique it.
Guthrie: You can. “I have having been called by God, contend for faith knowing you are kept by Christ even as the ungodly are kept for judgment.”
Helm: Okay, so, now you’re at work. Now you’re moving. Now, what do you not like about it?
Guthrie: Oh, I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I guess what I’m trying to communicate is there’s not just one. I think sometimes…
Helm: No, well, yeah.
Helm: Yeah, you’re not going to get it perfect.
Guthrie: So you might have one that sounds a little bit different. And it doesn’t mean right or wrong, and like we said, you might come back later and change yours. Something jumps out at you and it didn’t…
Helm: And as you’re teaching through the letter, it matures. Maybe that’s the way to think about it. Think of it in terms of maturation, not in terms of end product.
Guthrie: Yeah. So this is gonna help me though as I’m getting ready to teach Jude, it’s gonna be kind of a controlling. It’s gonna set some guardrails for me. As I work on teaching Jude, if somehow this truth doesn’t come out when I’m teaching then maybe I’ve gone off course. Maybe I have emphasized, I’ve put the emphasis on the wrong syllable of the book. Maybe I just picked out something that was interesting to me that I wanted to talk about. And maybe it was all true and good and helpful, but I’m not really doing my job unless I’m communicating what the original author, the divine author intended for me to communicate from Jude. And this is gonna be a guide to me.
Helm: And I think a guide is the right word. Guardrails are the right word because the point of every teaching unit isn’t simply to reiterate the complete melodic line. It’s to know how to handle what’s happening in your text in relationship to the melodic line. So somewhere in the middle here, the idea of being kept for God and my role in keeping myself actually emerges with a dissonant chord or it’s played in a minor key. There’s nothing in my text about God keeping me. It’s God keeping others in judgment. So you want the fullness of the text in front of you to be emerging, but you want that in light of the melodic line.
Guthrie: I kind of think I am not ready to teach until I am moved. Until I am personally moved by the truth of the passage and what I’ve put together to present it. And if it doesn’t…and it’s not that I’m trying…it’s not that my goal is to offer an emotional message or to manipulate people emotionally. I never wanna manipulate people emotionally. But I’m saying if the beauty and truth of what I’m seeing in the scriptures doesn’t move me, then, you know, my goal often when I teach is to cause people to adore Christ. And I tell you when I look at this and I look for the melodic line and this idea of being kept for Jesus Christ, and then it gives me these marching orders of keep myself in him and I begin to feel a passion, and then I get really excited about trying to figure out how I’m gonna communicate this book.
Helm: Yeah. I’m really glad you’re raising that because to this point in our conversation, we’ve been doing exegetical work, but now we’re moving to the preparation is also the preparation of our own soul. And this word, can’t just, “Oh, I’m so excited that I see what a letter is doing and I want everyone else to see it,” it’s, have those truths been impressed on our own heart. John Stott puts it this way. He says that the Bible teacher will need two special qualifications, experience, and humility. Now, listen to what he says by experience, “By experience I mean a personal experience of Jesus Christ himself.” Right, that’s what we’re getting at. It’s one thing to say, wow, here’s a letter about being kept for Christ and being presented to Christ, but it’s another thing to have a personal experience of Jesus Christ himself. Stott says, “This is the first and indispensable mark of Christian witness. We must be able to speak,” he says, “From our own personal experience.” And that is critical. In fact, then if that’s true, then if we’re preparing to teach Jude, probably the most important work is the work it does on our own soul even more so than the interesting tidbits we’ve come up to make a sermon.
Guthrie: Well, let’s dive into finding some tidbits though. Shall we? Let’s get on with it. Let’s just talk our way through the books. And perhaps you can hand us as teachers a few insights and tools that are gonna help us along the way because I think there are a couple of things in this book that are really challenging actually. There’s great opportunities, there’s great challenges. Of course, it begins with Jude just introducing himself, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. And honestly, just that line fascinates me that this is the way he chooses to introduce himself.
Helm: Yeah. “As a servant, as we all should of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And yet he’s also connected to his relationship within the body of Christ. You already see his experience in Christ and his humility within the body emerging.
Guthrie: And we believe that Jude was likely a half brother of Jesus, was he not?
Guthrie: But it’s just fascinating to me. He doesn’t introduce himself that way. You and I were talking earlier about establishing credibility, and it’s just fascinating to me that that’s…he doesn’t say a half brother of Jesus Christ, so you’ll be really impressed, right? No, I am a servant.
Helm: He lays it down on the bottom side rather than the top side.
Guthrie: Fascinating. There’s such a richness of the rest of this verse in verse 1. I mean, it seems like to me, if you were dividing up Jude, if you were gonna do it in more than one lesson, you could almost do a whole lesson on 1 and 2, especially where he tells who he’s writing to, to those who are called beloved in God the father and kept for Jesus Christ.
Helm: Yeah. Yeah. So you have the author, you have the audience, and you have his prayer for what he desires regarding those who are gonna read it. And while he lays himself down as a servant, he elevates. Notice how he elevates the identity of all those to whom he’s writing. So he becomes merely a servant and a brother of one who others will know is connected. But you are the called the beloved and the father and kept for Christ. So if you’re reading this, you are bullied. You are strengthened. You are listening to someone who’s humble and who thinks much of you. And the question is, why does he think so much of them? And that comes really in regard to what he’s gonna write next.
Guthrie: As we move into verse 3, he says, “I was eager to write to you about our common salvation. I find it necessary to write appealing to you, to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” So tell me if I’m right, as I read this, I get the sense I had this thing that I wanted to talk to you about, but something maybe a little more urgent has come up that really I must talk to you about. I don’t know if he’s gonna set aside what he’s talking about or maybe he’s gonna get back to it.
Helm: Right. Well, let me hit that early. I kind of love that, what you’re just raising there. He wants to write about common salvation. In other words, he wants to come to your dinner table. He wants a break. He wants to sit with the family of God and speak about all the things that the Lord has done for us, all the things that the Lord is going to do for us, all the things that the Lord ought to be receiving from us. And he says, “I can’t do that. I’m running through town. I’ve got something fast I’ve gotta get to you. And then I’m gonna be on my way.” Truth be told though, and we’ll get to it at the end. I think he in verses 24 and 25 that great doxological close, he kind of throws what he wanted to do it at the end, because 24 and 25 are the truths of our common salvation. Verse 24 “What God will do for us.” Verse 25, “What God should receive from us.” And so he’s gonna get it in. He’s gonna get it in, but he’s not gonna unpack it because he’s got something more important he’s gotta get done.
Guthrie: Why does he want us to contend for the faith? What is the problem that has arisen that he’s about to speak to us about?
Helm: Yeah, so great question. Contending if you just take the word, it’s where we get the word agony, or agonizo, or a lot of sweat. It’s a gym. It’s somebody who is ag… So he’s appealing to them for vigorous exertion effort, strenuous activity. I mean, so this is a full word. He wants the church completely engaged. And so that’s gonna be his aim in the letter. Now, the question would really be asked, you know, what would occasion such exertion? I don’t know about you, but I mean, who really wants to go to the gym every day? Not me, but he’s asking the church to get active.
One personal anecdote here, my father-in-law passed away, you know, years and years and years ago, decades ago. And he gave me his pocket watch. And on the inside he had engraved before he gave it to me. I was very young and it was just engraved, Jude 3, which is, “Contend for the faith.” And as his time on earth had run out, he hands me this and says, get after it. You know, in a sense that’s what he wants.
That’s Jude. Jude is looking at the body of Christ and saying it is an hour, now is an hour where we must be active and exert all influence for the faith that was once delivered. And the reason of course comes in verse 4.
Guthrie: Yes, in verse 4 we read, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation.” That’s interesting. “Ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only master and Lord Jesus Christ.”
Helm: Yeah. So if the theme is to contend, the occasion is that that faith is being challenged for. That’s the way that verse starts, for, and so how is it being cha…why do we need to contend? “For that faith is being challenged by,” notice, “certain people,” verse 4, look down at verse 8, “Yet in like manner these people,” or verse 10, “but these people,” all the way through verse 12, “these are hidden reefs at your love feast,” or verse 16 even, “these are,” and then he begins to describe them. Finally, even in verse 19 it is these who cause divisions. So you actually get a, you can build a portrait of the individuals that require the church to contend and notice, notice where he places them. These are people in the church. The reason the church has to rise up and contend isn’t because we’re being overrun by the culture. The reason we have to rise up and contend is because they’re already in the house. And from within the Christian Church, the faith delivered once to all the saints is being unwound.
Now, so how far do you got to go to get from Jude’s day to our day? I mean, not very far. The church must be vigorous and active because the church is filled with people who are destroying the faith. And he actually goes on and says how they go about it. You know, as you read, turning the grace of God into sensuality and denying the central figure of our Lord Jesus Christ. They’re undermining the name of Christ and they’re presuming that they can sin and still have grace through Christ without any consequence for essential living. But welcome to today, right?
Guthrie: Exactly. Verses 5 through 7, he seems to be looking back, he’s gonna use several examples of people, groups of people who experienced judgment. And I really liked the way you wrote about this in the 1 and 2 Peter and Jude commentary that you wrote in the “Preaching the Word Series,” because you drew out the fact, first, we’ve got a picture of the Egyptians who get destroyed and you call that a picture of apostasy because they did not believe. And then it talks about angels who didn’t stay in their own position, so rebellious angels, and you call that a picture of autonomy. And then we go to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who experienced judgment, you called it a picture of immorality.
Helm: Yeah. So you’re into the body of the letter now, aren’t you? And this is the part that causes Bible teachers time awake at night. What am I supposed to do with verses 5 through 16? Let me just state this and then hit your comment directly. It seems to me that in 5 to 16 you are getting a defense from Jude concerning why he thinks the church is being challenged. So he’s basically said there’s challenges in the church, 5 to 16, “Let me defend that.” And then it isn’t until verse 17 that he begins to unfold. How do we contend in the midst of that? Does that make sense?
Guthrie: I think so. So you’re saying verses 5 through 16 he’s building the case for why these people deserve the judgment of God. Is that another way to put them or am I not completely getting it?
Helm: No. Yeah, so he said for these certain people have crept in, and now 5 to 16, let me defend what I just said. And then he finally gets to verse 17 and he’s finally able to pick up, now, let me tell you how to contend. And so your first thing there, I would think there’s really two sermons. I think in 5 to 16, the first one, and really since 5 to 10 you’ve picked up on, there are three Old Testament events. And what he’s basically saying is that these people today remind him of those people then. It’s, like, it’s archetypal history in a sense. He’s like, do you remember unbelieving Israel in the wilderness? God judged them. Do you remember the angels didn’t place themselves under God’s authority? God judged them. Do you remember Sodom and Gomorrah? God judged them. Those scenes of autonomy, of sensuality, those scenes are present today because that’s what he says in like manner, these people are relying on their things.
So it was Thomas Mann who…he’s my favorite writer. He writes…he’s a German guy who writes this book called, “Joseph and his Brothers.” And he has this view of history that kind of like the people from the ancient days rise up and are still present with us. That’s kind of what Jude is doing here. He’s saying, do you wanna know whether or not certain people have come in? Yeah, well, let me remind you, let me remind you of the kind of people who did come in. And these kind of people back then while they’re back, they’re still here today. And so those three Old Testament events, it’s almost like three Bible readings. You know, he had three Bible readings and he’s now preaching a sermon and he’s even got this incredible illustration about the archangel Michael contending with the devil.
Guthrie: Yes. Let’s talk about that a little bit because there are a couple of things in this section that I think if you’re reading through it and trying to figuring, you know somebody is gonna raise their hand and ask a question about some of these and that kind of terrifies you. So we’re in verse 9, but when the archangel Michael contending with the devil was disputing about the body of Moses, and we think to ourselves, I don’t think I’ve ever read about that in the Bible. What’s an Old Testament reference for that? And then, and we discover he’s actually referring to a book that’s not in our cannon that describes the scene.
Helm: Yeah. So having laid down three Old Testament scenes, he illustrates it and he illustrates it with contemporary Jewish literature. So from what we would know today as the Testament of Moses, extra canonical literature, he’s illustrating to hammer home his point. And so the Michael and Moses story here is drawn from outside the Bible just as you would quote Shakespeare or somebody else, and you are confirming the things that you’ve just been saying. And so what is he confirming? What he’s confirming is that the Lord is the one who rebukes, that the Lord will judge, that the Lord will be capable of saving His own Moses, but of judging those at the end who will dispute with Him and claim victory over them. So it’s an illustration…
Guthrie: Of his point.
Helm: Yeah. So he had a three-point message and now he’s illustrated it with contemporary literature that his readers would have been aware of to prove the point that it’s not that we do these, we’re not judging these things, but the Lord is gonna rebuke you.
Guthrie: Yes, exactly. And verse 9, “The Lord rebuke you.” Yeah, it’s not up to us. Something similar happens again in verse 14 we read, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam prophesied saying ‘behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of his Holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all the deeds…” And we think to ourselves, “I don’t remember reading that in the Old Testament.”
Helm: And we’re lost. Yeah. So and we didn’t, it’s not there. You have figures like Enoch in Genesis, but you have extra canonical material. This one’s coming from 1st Enoch. And within that outside of the Bible book, which would have been common to Qumran communities in the early church days, because we know that that’s where these copies of this book rest, that there’s a part of that book that actually deals with Genesis 6 and the angels and the Nephilim. And the marriage between all this odd thing that we have difficulty figuring out there.
And so he’s now again drawing on contemporary Jewish literature that would have been on the bookshelves of their day to illustrate the point that he’s been making. And here’s the funny thing, since we jumped forward to that in verse 14, here’s the way I see it. There are three Old Testament events in 5 to 7 that are illustrated through Jewish contemporary literature, 8 and 9. And then there are three Old Testament persons, verse 11, and following that are illustrated in that verse 14.
Guthrie: Oh, you’ve got Cain.
Helm: You’ve got Cain.
Guthrie: And Korah, the people of Korah.
Helm: And Korah. So what are these people doing? What he’s saying is, do you guys remember Cain? He had received a word from the Lord and didn’t take it to heart. So too, we have people in the church today who have been taught, they know the word of the Lord and they’re rebelling against it. Or, what about Balaam? Numbers, of course, the Book of Numbers. Balaam knew the word of the Lord, actually stayed on the line as a preacher. Preached the Word of the Lord, but underhandedly was an illegitimate inauthentic article because he was out for greed and he was permissive in areas of sexuality that he said, these areas of sexuality don’t matter in regard to your standing within the community of faith.
And then you’ve got Korah, which massively abuses the priesthood of all believers’ doctrine and tells Moses, “I don’t have to listen to your word. We all got God’s Word here. You think you’re the Holy one. You’re the Holy man in the church. No, we all are equal interpreters and are all equally in charge.” And of course the earth swallows him up. So what Jude is saying is, I’m telling you there are certain people in the church today who are rising up again, just like they were in the Old Testament. You’ve got teachers like this going on, and they are the ones for whom all of the wandering stars and gloom will be reserved forever.
Guthrie: In those next few verses, it’s interesting the vivid is vivid words providing pictures of what these people are like. I mean, this is such skillful writing the way he describes them. They’re shepherds who are feeding themselves. They’re waterless clouds. I mean, what’s with a waterless cloud? They’re fruitless trees.
Helm: It’s all promise, no fulfillment.
Guthrie: Exactly. They’re fruitless trees. So they’re uprooted, wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame, wandering stars. They’re aimless. They’re not accomplishing what they’re intended for.
Helm: Yeah. The metaphors here are beautiful, awesome in the right sense of the term, in the sense that this is a terrifying description of the persons in the church who are out for themselves, unable to deliver, changing with every latest doctrine, never bearing fruit, twice dead, uprooted, ready to be carried off. It’s a frightening image when you think about it as a Bible teacher. As a Bible teacher perverts the faith once delivered for all the saints. As a Bible teacher gets lax on sexuality either in their own person or in regard to our standing before God. As the Bible teacher is really under their skin, out for themselves and their own gain. They are increasingly becoming and perhaps already have placed themselves into the camp of those who are being kept by God for judgment on the final day.
Guthrie: Important warning to take to heart, important thing to do. Evaluate ourselves against, don’t you think?
Helm: Yeah. Frightening.
Guthrie: All right, let’s move into 17 because it’s always had this big section explaining what these people are like, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and making it clear they’re going to experience judgment. They are being reserved, kept for judgment instead of salvation. And then he moves into what becomes, more telling us now what we need to do. He began by telling us that we needed to contend for the faith. And it seems to be now he gets a little bit more specific about what we’re going to do.
Helm: Yeah, so you’re exactly right. So he says, “I want you to contend,” and now he tells you how to do it. So 17 through 23 is a manual, a discipleship manual for contending. This is what exertion looks like within the body of Christ. And what’s fascinating about this list is there’s one controlling command as far as the grammar. It looks as if there are just a number of commands about how to contend, but there’s really only one, and it’s verse 21, unsurprisingly, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” That’s the command. That’s how you contend. So you’re kept for Christ. You’re kept for Christ. You need to contend. How do I contend? Keep yourself in the love of God. By what means do I keep myself in the love of God? And then the whole verses 17 to 23 unpacks that, by the means of remembering, by the means of building yourself up, by the means of prayer, by the means of having mercy on others, by the means of evangelism, by the means of godly behavior. I mean, this is discipleship 101 for Jude. As the church gives herself to this activity, it is contending. As we are not doing these things, we’re not, not only not contending, we’re not keeping ourselves and we’re in danger.
Guthrie: Can I go back to the tension that I mentioned earlier?
Helm: Yes, sure.
Guthrie: That at the beginning and end we’re told that we are being kept and we’re about to come to the doxology at the end and he is able to keep you. How do we communicate as Bible teachers the sense, yes, you are being kept and yet clearly you have a role. There is something you are to do when it says keep yourselves. How do you articulate that?
Helm: Yeah, and it’s a command, right? So this is our effort. Well, I am a Calvinist, so it would be easy for me to explain this away by holding firm on the beginning and the end of Jude. But actually the beginning and the end of Jude, that which I am kept is to settle my mind and is in no means there to allow me to not be active. So I have no problem saying this is what you have to do, that the gospel that is saving us is a gospel that is making demands of us. And these are the demands. These are things we have to get involved in. Now, you might say, but of course we all know that it’s the Lord’s spirit that even enables us to do all this. But he doesn’t say it here, and if he doesn’t say it here, I’m under no compulsion to have to say it. I’m gonna full throated preaching of 17 to 23 that is gonna call the people of God to that which they must do.
Guthrie: Keep yourself.
Helm: Yep, in an unqualified sense, because this is now the core of the letter. So you almost might get to the melodic line this way. What’s Jude trying to say? Jude is trying to say that those who are kept for Christ are those who keep themselves in the love of God. And that is in contrast to those who will not keep themselves and therefore are kept for judgment.
Guthrie: Can we talk about verse 22?
Guthrie: And this is part of the, are keeping ourselves, which I find interesting. I’m trying to figure out as a teacher how I’m gonna relate this to keeping yourself in the love of God. “And have mercy on those who doubt.” Now, it continues, “Save others by snatching them out of the fire.” I assume those things are related or, what would you say that he’s trying to communicate here?
Helm: Well, I love this verse. I’m glad you stopped on it. Not everyone who doubts in our church or who is struggling with their belief is a heretic. You know, I work in a university context and there’s a time in life where one’s faith becomes one’s own. And I think sometimes we can jump too quickly on, “Oh, we’re not supposed to have any doubts. And people who have doubts, they must be morally deficient,” or, “I’m worried that they’re leaving the faith.” No, we need to be praying, but this idea is have mercy. It’s from Elliot. You know, we call ourselves evangelicals. We’re hard on the truth, but maybe sometimes we ought to call ourselves the Ellioticals, we ought to be big on mercy. And people in our church need mercy and we need to be patient with their questions and help them through their doubts and help conform them into the likeness of Christ by stabilizing their faith.
And yet there are others, like it says there, save others by snatching them out of the fire. I mean, this puts you like, you know, C. T. Studd who once said, you know, “I wanna live in a sense, not under the sound of chapel bells, but within a yard or two of the Gates of hell,” or whatever his line was. There are people who are wandering off into a wrong direction. And we need to be doing the work of evangelism. So we need to be doing the work of evangelism, of merciful care, of saving others, and showing that mercy with fear because when you get close to the fire you can get burned. And he says you need to hate the garment that’s stained by the flesh. So as we have friends, family, congregants who are abandoned in the faith on sensuality and others…
Guthrie: Playing with sin.
Helm: Playing with sin, we’ve got to go in, but we’ve gotta be careful. And that’s how you contend. And if you’re not doing it, you’re not contending.
Guthrie: So we’ve been studying this book, which is so much about these false teachers who have crept in in the church, and we’ve seen the marks of them that it’s for selfish gain, their sexual immorality. David, you and I live in a time where like if you’re…especially if you’re on Twitter or on social media, there’s always someone who would say they’re in the…perhaps the larger evangelical camp. And they’re preaching, writing, saying something that we look at and we just say that is a distortion of the gospel. And it gets to a certain point that we wanna say, are they even talking about the Jesus I read about the Bible? At some point, we just think, “Okay, they have a different Christ.”
But I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s hard for me to figure out where that line is. Where is a brother or sister who sees something differently or puts the emphasis somewhere else? And where is that line where they cross the line into, okay, they have created a God in their own image that is not the God, the Christ of the Bible. I just wonder how you personally draw those lines, make those distinctions, because if we’re called to contend against that, we’ve gotta develop a sense of where’s that line?
Helm: Yeah. So first of all then, the greatest danger in the world is not external, it’s internal. So we need to guard our own soul. Second of all, if that’s true, that the greatest threats to the Christian faith are not coming from the culture, but within the church, then we need to pay attention to the believing communities, and in particular to those who are teaching. Third, the line seems to be what the whole letter falls out of in verse 4, “Those who pervert the grace of God into sensuality,” that’s one “and deny our only master and Lord Jesus Christ.” So there are two fountain heads of dangerous twisting of doctrine. One is to take the grace of God and to twist it, to twist it in ways that allow permissive life, in particular here, sensuality, sexual ethic that is inconsistent with the image of God. So one of the great problems in the evangelical church today is the church is not prepared to know why certain sexual sins are actually sinful.
Why can’t I love anyone as long as I’m loving them? Well, we’ve forgotten that some loves are better than other loves, that not every love is to be loved equally. That there are things that we’re prone to love, that we shouldn’t love, and that our love of God should require us to love only what he loves. And so in Genesis, he creates man, male and female. In other words, there’s something in the creation of even gender that is emblematic of the image of God, “We’ll create them in our image.” God is a plurality of persons. There is something about the relationship sexually between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife that exhibits the image of God as plural, that a same sex union cannot exhibit. It’s not that they can’t love one another. Of course, they love one another, but it’s that love is deficient in its ability to reflect God’s very image.
And the sexual union and marriage itself was built from the beginning to be a reflection of Christ in the church. This plurality of persons, but we need some work on that. So when people begin to downgrade the sexual ethic, they do so I think out of a concern for love, but we need a greater thought in regard to the image of God and what’s the actual problem with these things. So the twisting of God and sensuality…and it’s not just same sex union, it’s men who would denigrate same sex union but themselves have other sexual fallenness because we’re all fallen. Every Christian sexual identity is compromised, but you can’t twist it. You can’t. You have to be conformed back into what God originally intended. Or, the second one here, they’re denying the master and Lord Jesus Christ. So how much within evangelicalism are we playing with the idea that Jesus isn’t necessarily the only way, and other mediating forces actually get us to God equally? Those are the two fountain heads, at least according to this letter. In the book of Jude, those are the fountain heads that you’re gonna be dealing with.
Guthrie: That’s helpful. We talked a little bit earlier about this doxology at the end but maybe we’d wanna touch on it again before we bring this episode to a close. It is so glorious. When you’re teaching this doxology, give us a sense of what you do with it.
Helm: Well, it is glorious, and it’s almost like very few of us have it memorized. But when we hear it from the front in a church service, we know exactly where it’s from.
Guthrie: : In the Benediction?
Helm: Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy. I mean that is what God will do for us. And it could be unpacked with such…well, it says here with great joy, but it could be unpacked in ways that just we bask it all that God is doing for us.
Guthrie: If you don’t exalt at the idea that he’s gonna present you blameless before the presence of his glory makes me wonder if you have ever been given eyes truly to see your sin, because then you feel such joy that this is really true.
Helm: Yeah. So this is what he’s gonna do for you. He’s gonna keep you. And so then verse 25, well, then what is he to receive from you? Back to this, keep yourself in the love of God. Well, what is he gonna receive from you, to only God our savior through Jesus Christ, our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion, authority before all time and now and forever. Amen. That’s what he ought to be receiving from us. And that’s the word that Jude goes out on.
Guthrie: So when we finished teaching the book of Jude, David, what do we hope the impact has been on those we’re teaching?
Helm: I have a sober sense even from our conversation. Again, looking at it today, being under the word of my responsibility, my responsibility to keep myself.
Guthrie: So not just your responsibility as a teacher or preacher but as a believer.
Helm: Yeah. I used to tell my kids when they were little, I would tell them about areas of self-control. I’d say, if you don’t control yourself, nobody else will. And I need that message again from Jude. “Hey, David, control yourself. Keep yourself in the love of God. Are you remembering all that the apostles have said to us, are you building yourself up in your faith? Are you praying in the Holy Spirit? Are you waiting for His return that will lead to life? Are you having mercy on those who doubt?” I mean, this is a personal thing. And I would hope that our congregation would feel, “Wow, what a glorious, vigorous work the church is called to do, to exert ourselves for the faith that was for once delivered to all the saints.”
Guthrie: Thank you so much, David, for helping us teach the book of Jude.
Helm: Great to be here.
Guthrie: You’ve been listening to “Help me Teach the Bible” with Nancy Guthrie, a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracks. Learn more about Crossway’s gospel-centered resources at crossway.org.