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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Grow and persevere in the true faith
Text:Jude 1: 20 - 25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2017-04-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps. 100: 1 – 4

Ps. 130: 1 – 4

Ps. 119: 4 – 6

Ps. 119: 22 – 24

Ps. 138: 1, 4

 

Scripture reading:       Jude 1: 1 – 25

Text:                            Jude 1: 20 – 25

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Grow and persevere in the true faith    

Ps. 100: 1 – 4

Ps. 130: 1 – 4

Ps. 119: 4 – 6

Ps. 119: 22 – 24

Ps. 138: 1, 4

 

Scripture reading:       Jude 1: 1 – 25

Text:                           Jude 1: 20 – 25

 

Beloved congregation, saints in Jesus Christ,

 

This morning the Lord proclaimed and sealed His covenant promise to little Havana.  

Yes, even before she is able to understand.  

And so the Lord also did for each of us.   He sought us, while we were not seeking Him.  

He called us.   He sent preachers of the gospel to preach the gospel to us.   He also gave us faith, when we had no faith.   He gave us faith, and therefore we believe.

It is all His work of grace.

By His grace, we are gathered here as His congregation, and as heirs of His kingdom.

It is also He who preserves us.  

 

Now, in all of this, the Lord does make use of means.   The means of grace by which He gives us faith, is the preaching of His Word.   And by this means He also preserves us in the faith.

He preserves us by the continued preaching of His Word.

And by this means we are build up, and grow in faith.

 

We surely do need this means of grace in order to grow and persevere, for our faith is constantly under attack.   Our faith is tested and tried in many ways.  

As long as we remain in this body our whole life will remain a struggle to keep the faith, and to flee from the temptations of this world.  

In this struggle, we will need to make use of the means of grace by which God has promised to preserve us.  

And we know what these means are, as we confess in the Canons of Dort:

 

Just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the preaching of the gospel, so He also maintains, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of His Word, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and by the use of the sacraments.” – Canons of Dort chapter 5, art. 14.

 

The means of grace by which God has promised to work faith, and to build us up in the faith, and to preserve us in the faith, is by the exhortations, threats, and promises of His Word.

And then He also strengthens our faith by the use of the sacraments.

 

Dear congregation, by this means the Lord gave us faith, and by this means He preserves us in the faith, and by this means He also perfects our faith.   That He perfects our faith means that He brings it to full growth, to maturity and fruitfulness.

 

So then, we need, with absolute necessity, to hear and to heed the exhortations, the threats and the promises of God’s Word.  

 

That is also the purpose of this epistle.   This epistle of Jude, short as it is, is filled with exhortations, threats and promises.   It is indeed packed with the means of grace which we need so much, in order to be build up in our most holy faith, as we read here in our text.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

Grow and persevere in the true faith

 

We will note…

1.      That we are to build ourselves up in the true faith

2.      That we are to keep ourselves in the love of God

3.      That to God, our Keeper and Saviour, belongs all glory

In the first place we note that…

We are to build ourselves up in the true faith

 

The purpose of the letter is stated in verse 3:

 

“…I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

 

The whole letter is an urgent exhortation to contend earnestly for the faith.   

Dear congregation, this exhortation to contend earnestly for the faith, is a reminder that we are engaged in a serious struggle; a struggle in which we have to contend with all our might.

The Greek word for contend, is here in the present infinite: keep on contending.   It is a lifelong struggle to hold on to the true faith, and to keep it undistorted.

It is a struggle common to all the saints.   It’s the struggle of the church throughout the ages: the struggle to keep, and to hold on to, the truth of God’s Word.

 

Brothers and sisters, it can so easily happen that we forget this.   It can so easily happen that we start to live our lives in a relaxed manner, as if we, the church, are not really engaged in a spiritual war.

Therefore, we need this exhortation.  

We need to keep on contending for the one true faith that has been delivered to the church once for all.  

 

Note that it is “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” – verse 3.

The faith” singular.    There is only one true faith: the doctrine of Scripture, which we all believe together.

And this faith, the doctrine of Scripture, has been given to the church only once.   Once for all.   We may not look for a different doctrine in the future.   This faith, this doctrine, which has been delivered to us by the Lord Himself, has been given to the saints of all times – once for all.  

That is how Jude starts this epistle.

 

There is no other faith, and there will never be another faith.    This one true faith has been delivered to the church “once for all”, and all the saints in all the ages have to contend earnestly to keep this faith.   The contest is to hold on to it without deviation.

 

That is the serious exhortation of this epistle.

Keep the faith!   Hold on to the faith, this faith, which has been delivered to the church once for all.

 

Beloved brothers and sisters, we are very much in need to hear this.

The postmodern relativism of our day denies the existence of absolute, unchanging, eternal truth.   According to postmodern man truth is a man-made concept, and is determined by time and culture.   Man’s conception of truth changes with time and circumstance.   Each man determines for himself what he thinks is true, but each man’s concept of the truth is also influenced by his time, culture and circumstance.   There is then no objective unchanging truth for all times.

But, hear the Word of the Lord!   We need to content earnestly for the one faith which was given to the church of all times once for all.

Hold on to it!

 

Jude also gives the reason why this exhortation is so necessary:    

 

“For certain men have crept in unnoticed…ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness…” – verse 4

 

Dear congregation, the reason why you have to contend earnestly for the one faith which was given once for all, is because ungodly men will try to twist the faith.    They turn the grace of God into lawlessness.   They twist the gospel of grace, in such a way, that it allows men to live according to their own desires.   They interpret Scripture in such a way that Scripture has to say what they want it to say.   They come with their own interpretation of God’s word and adjust the meaning of God’s words until it suits their own desires, and match the opinions of the day. 

 

Also the apostle Peter speaks about this, warning the churches that there will be false prophets in the New Testament, just as there were false prophets in the Old Testament.   These false teachers in the New Testament era will secretly bring in destructive heresies.   By these destructive heresies they will bring swift destruction upon themselves; and certain destruction to those who listen to them.  

They boast about the grace in Jesus Christ, and they boast about Christian liberty, while they themselves are slaves of sin.   Yes, they do not deny Jesus with the mouth, they even boast about the gospel of God’s grace, but they deny Him by living a worldly life.   They do not subject themselves to God’s law and commandments.   They turn the grace of God into lewdness; lawlessness.   Then you serve the Lord your own way, as you see fit, and not according to His commandments.   It then becomes a lawless gospel!  

We read all of this in 2 Peter chapter 2 – which is very similar to the description here in Jude.

 

Jude gives the same description of these false teachers.   He describes them as ungodly men who turn the grace of God into lawlessness.  

 

Such corrupt theology will characterise the last days, he says.   Remember that our Lord Jesus and also the apostles warned us beforehand that this is going to happen and that such teaching will characterise the last days.   Remember…

 

“…how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.” – Jude, verse 18

 

He describes these false teachers as mockers, or scoffers.   Scripture uses this word, scoffer, for men who do not fear the Lord.   There is no fear, or reverence, that constrains them.   They have also no fear for the coming judgment.   They do not regard anything as holy or sacred.   They do not subject themselves to authority; not even to the Lord’s own instruction in Scripture.   When they are exhorted, they mock.  When they are disciplined, they rebel and scoff.

 

Dear congregation, this is a description of what will happen in the church.   These ungodly men, mockers, will turn the grace of God into lewdness.   They do not deny Jesus Christ with their mouth.   In fact, they boast of Christian liberty, and they praise the grace of God which was given to us in Jesus Christ.   They confess that they believe in Jesus, and they praise Him for salvation by grace alone, but they deny Him with their life.  

They live according to their own desires.   They turn the doctrine of God’s grace into an excuse for living a worldly life – according to the time and culture of our day.  

They live as they want, which happens to be the same as the world around them.   And then they try to justify their style of living by a twisting of the gospel.
 

That is the context which makes the apostle’s exhortation so urgent.   The context is the last days – that is the time in which we are living!

The context is that of false teachers, ungodly men and mockers, who invents a gospel that suits the desires of sinful man, and adjust Scripture to our own time and culture – the culture of this world.

 

It is now in this context that we read the words of our text:

 

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God…”

 

But you, beloved – he makes a contrast between those who turn God’s grace into lewdness, who live ungodly and sensual lives, and those, on the other hand, who build themselves up on the most holy faith which was delivered to the church only once.

 

We may not remain children in the faith.  In order to stand firm, we need to grow up to maturity in faith.   

We have not yet arrived.

We need to grow in the knowledge of God and of His holy will for our lives, and increase in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in godliness.

 

And for this, Jude uses the image of a building that is being build up on a solid foundation.    The foundation is the “most holy faith” which was once for all given to the church.   He calls it holy, in contrast to the unholy doctrine of unholy men who twist the gospel.

 

We have a holy and solid foundation on which we have to build ourselves up.   That is: on the unchanging doctrine of Scripture which was delivered to us once for all.  

 

In another place the apostle Paul says that we must not remain children in the faith, for if we do not grow to maturity in faith, to the full stature of Christ, then we will easily be tossed to and fro, and easily be carried away by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting – Eph. 4: 14.

We should not remain infants in the faith, but grow up to be well trained soldiers in this battle, earnestly contending for the faith.

 

In order to stand, we need to grow.   In order to hold on to the faith, we need to build ourselves up on it.

 

Congregation, we are not able to do this by ourselves, or in our own power.   And so, Jude adds here, in verse 20, that we have to build ourselves up on this most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.

We cannot build ourselves up by our own power.   We need to do so in total dependence on the Lord, praying.   Praying in the Spirit.   That is: filled with the Spirit, in communion with the Spirit, and driven by the Spirit.   It is the Holy Spirit who joins us to the Lord by a true faith, so that we live in intimate and holy communion with the Lord, in dependence on the Lord, seeking our help from Him.

 

Now, as we said, this exhortation stands in contrast to those ungodly teachers, those scoffers, who turn the grace of God into lewdness.   The word holy stands here in contrast to lewdness and ungodliness.   The true faith is holy, and leads to holiness; while all twisting of the faith leads to sin.

A holy life flows from holy doctrine.  

Yes, whether people want to know it or not, the building which we build on our most holy faith rest on the foundation of holy and pure doctrine.   There is no holy living without holy doctrine; no sound faith without the solid foundation of sound doctrine.

 

The holy doctrine of God’s Word is the only foundation for our faith; and on this foundation only, which was laid once for all, we have to build ourselves up – confessing one faith with one mouth together with God’s church of all ages.

 

And then follows the main sentence:  “…keep yourselves in the love of God…”.

We note that in the second place; the exhortation that…

We are to keep ourselves in the love of God

 

The “love of God” refers here to God’s love.   Keep yourselves in His love.

This command to keep ourselves in the love of God is repeated several times by the apostle John.    We read for example in John 15 where our Lord Jesus said to His disciples:

 

“…abide in My love.   If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” – John 15: 9, 10

 

The apostle John also says:

 

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.   He who says, ‘I know Him’, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.   But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.   By this we know that we are in Him.”

 

This is the proof that we know God: if we keep His commandments.

God’s love is perfected in us when we obey His commandments and keep His Word.

 

Jude now places this over against the distorted gospel of those scoffers who glory in God’s grace while they despise His commandments.  

 

Our Lord Jesus said the same thing, just in other words, when He said to His disciples:

 

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.   And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” – John 14: 21

 

Do not be deceived by false teachers who speak great swelling words of emptiness, who boast in Christian liberty while they themselves are slaves of sin – 2 Peter 2: 18, 19.

 

Jude is now saying the same.   He calls the false teachers scoffers, men who do not know the fear of the Lord.  These mockers walk according to their own ungodly desires.    They do as they please; they live according to their own desires.  Yes, they say that they believe in Jesus Christ and they confess with their mouth the grace of God; they even extol His grace and emphasise that we live by grace alone!   But with their walk of life they deny the Lord.   They do not keep His commandments.

In fact, they despise the commandments of the Lord, and seek ways to justify their own style of living, and adjust God’s Word to suite the culture of this world. 

In short: they turn the grace of God into lawlessness.

 

But you, beloved, keep yourselves in the love of God.   Do not be deceived by these ungodly mockers, no matter how learned these scoffers may be and no matter how much air they blow into their great swelling words of emptiness.   Do not be deceived by a false gospel, a lawless gospel, that proclaims a false Christian liberty to do as you please, and to adjust yourself to this world.

But build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith – that one faith which was once for all delivered to the saints – the holy doctrine of God’s Word that leads to holiness.

 

Do this, while you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life – verse 21.

That means: Keep your eyes fixed on the riches of His mercy by which He gives us eternal life.   We must not place our hope in the temporary things of this world and the temporary enjoyments of this life, but lift our eyes up to heaven to the Lord, and reach out to the eternal riches of His grace, which will be revealed in glory on the day of Christ’s coming.  

That is our hope.   That is what drives us as we go about our daily life.  That is the hope of our confession: the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life!  And in this hope we press on.

 

 

Now, brothers and sisters, we are not called to grow in faith each one on his own, but in close-knit covenant communion.    We are also responsible for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.   If we see that a brother or sister deviates from this one true faith, if anyone starts to listen to these false teachers who try to make room for the desires of the flesh, or adjust God’s Word to suite the culture of this world, then we have to act swiftly.   There are two ways in which we have to exhort one another.  

He says:

 

“And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire…” – verse 22, 23

 

We have to exhort one another.   And when we exhort those who are deviating from the truth, we need to make a distinction.   When someone who is weak in the faith starts to waver, correct him with compassion and patience.  

But, there are times when you have to act swiftly and forcefully.   When someone is not only wavering, but has actually started to follow the destructive doctrine of ungodly teachers and scoffers, which leads to an ungodly life, then he has, so to speak, already fallen into the fire.   Then you do not start a moderate conversation with him debating whether he should come out of the fire, or not.

No, what will you do if your own child falls into the fire?

Will you not swiftly grab him and pluck him out of the fire?

 

When the flames of hell are already enfolding someone, when someone is already becoming comfortable with the lifestyle of this world, swift and drastic action needs to be taken.

Our translation says: pull him out of the fire.   We should rather translate the Greek text: pluck him out of the fire.

Don’t beckon him to come out, pluck him out – before it is too late.

Do not play with false doctrine; do not allow it for one moment to take root, for it will bring swift destruction in the church.

 

Do so with fear.   Fear, lest you also fall into the fire.   While you save others, be careful that you yourself are not drawn into the fire.  

The fear that we need to have, is further explained when he adds that we, when we pluck others out of the fire, must hate even the garment defiled by the flesh.    While we save others, we ourselves must fear any defilement, lest we ourselves are drawn into the fire.

He uses the image of a “garment defiled by the flesh”.   It is an image taken from the law, where not only your body can become unclean, but also the clothes that come in contact with your flesh (for example Lev. 15: 17).      

While you pluck others out of the fire, you yourself must fear defilement.    You must hate anything that even smells of defilement.   Do not touch what is unclean.

Do not partake in the sins of others, and while you warn them, stay clear from it yourself.

 

Don’t twist the words of the apostle Paul, and say: for the sinner I will become a sinner in order to save him!   You won’t save anyone by joining him in the fire.

Do not join your brother when he goes to a drinking party.   You won’t save him by partaking in his sin.   Pluck him out of the fire, and fear the flames while you do so, lest you yourself are drawn in by his ways.

That is the meaning of our text.

 

Dear congregation, these exhortations to hold on to the one faith, which is for all the saints of all times, and to build ourselves up on this most holy doctrine, as it has been delivered to us once for all – these exhortations are now followed by a doxology in which our eyes are fixed on our almighty and faithful God, our Keeper and Saviour.

To Him alone be the glory.

We note that in the third place…

To God, our Keeper and Saviour, belongs all glory

 

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever…”

 

Brothers and sisters, we do not stand in our own strength, neither do we grow or persevere in faith by the powers of our own ability.   Without God we can do nothing.  

And thus our eyes are now fixed on our almighty God.  

He is able to keep us from stumbling.

No one can snatch us from His almighty hand. 

God, by His power and grace, will present us to Himself: a new creation in Christ, without fault and blameless.

It is all His doing.  

As we sang this morning:

 

“It is He who made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

 

Our salvation is from beginning to end God’s work of grace.

He has promised us complete salvation in His Son Jesus Christ.   It is preached to you – the same promise which has also been signified and sealed by the sacrament of baptism this morning.

Those who believe God’s promises shall receive the fulfilment of all that God has promised us in Christ: eternal life in the presence of God’s glory.

 

He promised it at your baptism.   He promises it to you this morning by the preaching of His Word.

 

What, then, shall we say to these promises?

The church says: Amen!

The saints of all times and places, believe with one heart and confess with one mouth the one true faith which was given once for all to the church: the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Brothers and sisters, let us keep this faith undistorted, and undefiled.   Let us not turn the grace of God into lawlessness to live according to our own desires, and to adjust our life to the culture of this world.

Let us make use of the means of grace and build ourselves up on the holy foundation which God has laid: our most holy faith as it was delivered to us in holy Scripture.  

And God will preserve us.   He will keep us from stumbling, and present us faultless before Him in the glory of His holy presence with exceeding joy.

 

To our covenant God and Saviour, be all glory, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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