During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.
Saturday, 19 December 2020 Jude 17-25
17. But you, beloved, must remember the words which have been spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Messiah.
18. Because they kept saying to you that at the end of time there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.
19. These people who are creating divisions are materialists only, having no spirit.
20. But you, beloved, build up yourselves in the holiest of faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.
21. You must keep yourselves in the love of God while waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Messiah [to take you] into eternal life.
22. And you must have mercy on some of these who are doubting.
23. You must save those people, snatching them from the fire, showing mercy, yet still hating the flesh as a stained shirt.
24. And the one who is able to keep guard over you, to stand surefooted in his presence, in gladness, without blemish.
25. To God our only savior through our Lord Jesus Messiah – glory, majesty, might, and authority before all time and throughout eternity. Amen.
They told us it would be this way.
That is basically what Jude tells us here. The apostles predicted it. There would be ‘scoffers’. And what is the primary activity of scoffers? Scoffing, of course. Scoffers come scoffing. Scoffing is a word we don’t use a whole lot today. It means to mock or to scorn. Better words might be to ridicule or to bully. Scoffers bully you into submission by using words and social exclusion to make you conform.
Jude says these scoffers, who mock us and deride us, are materialists that do not think about the spiritual implications of life. For them it is only what they can get, what they hold, what and who they can exploit, and who they can manipulate. Scoffers do not live on the spiritual plane.
Textually, verses 22 and 23 cause problems for me. Most English renderings see these lines as being about different groups — doubters to whom we must show mercy, the lost whom we must save, and those on fire whom we must snatch. It could be read that way, but the more I cogitated on it and prayed through it, I think Jude is talking about the same thing to the same group of people — the doubters who are lost and must be snatched out of the fire. This teaches us the work of discipleship and of ministry is to answer the questions of the doubters with gentleness, seek out those who have turned astray, and actively remove dangerous situations. It is a lot like raising children.
The benediction here is beautiful and is a tradition for some at funerals. It is easy to see why.
Questions For Application
- Mocking is not always bad. Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal. How can you tell when mocking is okay and when it is a symptom of unbelief?
- Divisions are bad in the church. Those people who force or create these divisions are materialists who rejecting the spiritual reality of unity and fellowship. Why do you think the church allows itself to be divided the way it does?
- Who snatched you from the fire? Whom have you snatched?
- If you are able, rewrite the benediction (24-25) in your own words using modern language.