The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the beginning of Chapter 16: Doxology: To the Only God Our Savior.
Previously: Under the Spell of False Teachers
Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25 HCSB)
The epistle of Jude is rich with graphic imagery and stark warnings. It is an urgent message, a wake-up call to the saints, imploring them to wrestle vigorously in defense of the core doctrines that define the Christian faith.
False teachers have crept into the church. They are ungodly, promiscuous, arrogant, immoral, disrespectful, blasphemous, beastly, selfish, fearless, grumbling, flattering, scoffing, and devoid of the Spirit. Their judgment has been marked out long ago. They have passed the point of no return. Their goal is to take as many people as possible to hell with them in a stretch limousine.
Israel’s history shows that their ilk goes down for the count beneath the judgment of God, yet they persist in their wickedness. They are dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves of the sea, and wandering stars.
It seems overwhelming to contend with such foes. Equally frightening is the nagging fear that no doubt runs through the minds of Jude’s readers, including us: If the apostates were immersed in Christianity and still walked away, could the same thing happen to us? And then, the unthinkable: Did they lose their salvation – and could we?
But Jude’s warning comes with an ironclad guarantee. Yes, God judges the wicked, but He also remains faithful to His own. And, in the end, He keeps them secure. No one is able to pry them from His loving arms.
If true followers of Jesus are elect, they are eternally secure. These are inseparable guarantees – forming an unbroken chain from eternity past to eternity future. Everything in between – regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, glorification, and much more – is anchored in the bedrock of election and perseverance of the saints. This is not due to any intrinsic goodness in the redeemed; rather, it rests totally in the sovereign hands of the triune God.
The closing verses of Jude, then, offer up a marvelous doxology to the glory of God, who does all the work:
- He is able to protect you (v. 24).
- He is able to keep you from stumbling (v. 24).
- He is able to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy (v. 24).
- He is the only God our Savior, and Jesus Christ is our Lord (v. 25).
- To Him belongs glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever (v. 25).
Though the days grow dark in the long shadows of deception, we may rest assured that the Bright Morning Star shines with eternal light (Rev. 22:16). In the end, we are simply … safe.
How does God protect us from stumbling?
A question arises, unexpressed, in the minds of Jude’s readers as they near the end of this short epistle. The author anticipates it – and answers it. The question is: Who will deliver us from these false teachers and protect us from the apostasy that has swept them away? Jude’s response assures them that God is able to preserve His people, and to present them in good standing before the Father.
Specifically, Jude writes, “Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever” (24-25).
We know that God is willing to save. The Hebrew Scriptures reveal God’s desire for people everywhere to repent and receive Him. “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,” He declares. “For I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:22). The Lord’s invitation to enjoy fellowship with Him is extended again a few chapters later: “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!” (Isa. 55:1).
Further, God’s reluctance to punish the wicked is made clear through the prophet Ezekiel: “‘Do I take pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ This is the declaration of the Lord God. ‘Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives?’” (Ezek. 18:23). He continues, “For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death…. So repent and live!” (Ezek. 18:32). Later, He says again, “‘Tell them: As I live’ – the declaration of the Lord God – ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11).
New Testament passages repeat the willingness of God to save. Jesus concludes the parable of the wedding banquet for the king’s son with these words, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). The invited guest who appears without proper attire – a simple linen robe offered to and required of all attendees – has just been bound hand and foot, and thrown into outer darkness. Jesus’ summarizing statement maintains a tension, seen elsewhere in Scripture, between the sovereignty of God and the ability of people to make choices for which they are held accountable. Every person is invited, and the King has ample white linens in which to clothe them (the righteousness of Christ). But their refusal to honor the King, and to accept the garment of righteousness freely offered them, exposes their self-righteousness, as well as their rejection of the Son.
The apostle Paul echoes God’s willingness to save. In 1 Tim. 2:1-4, he encourages believers to offer “petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for everyone, “for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Peter offers a similar message, although this one is in the context of judgment and is meant to assure Christians that God’s delay in coming is to make sure that all the elect are brought in: “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Regardless of your view on the doctrine of election, it is biblically faithful to say that only God knows the full list of names on the kingdom’s registry. He commands His followers to cast the net of evangelism broadly, until all of the elect are gathered safely to shore. Truly, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19a; cf. Num. 16:5).
Willing … and able?
No doubt, Jude’s readers know that God is willing to save. But, is He able? Can He truly prevent His fragile people from falling away from the faith, especially in light of the onslaught of demonic doctrines permeating the church? Jude offers gentle, and confident, assurance that the Lord indeed is “able to protect you from stumbling …”
Consider just a few places in Scripture where the Holy Spirit, speaking through divinely selected writers, establishes God’s sovereign ability. God is able to:
- Deliver three Hebrew men from Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace of blazing fire, and from the king’s power (Dan. 3:17)
- Raise up children for Abraham from mere stones (Matt. 3:9)
- Build us up in grace and give us an inheritance (Acts 20:32)
- Fulfill His promises (Rom. 4:21)
- Provide us with an avenue of escape from temptation (1 Cor. 10:13)
- Comfort the afflicted (2 Cor. 1:4)
- Supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19)
- Guard the gospel entrusted to us (2 Tim. 1:12-14)
- Help us when we are tested (Heb. 2:18)
- Save to the uttermost those who come to Him through Christ (Heb. 7:25)
There is nothing too difficult for God (Jer. 32:17b). There is nothing impossible for Him (Gen. 18:14; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37). He sustains all things by His powerful word (Heb. 1:3). And He keeps our inheritance secure by His power (1 Peter 1:5).
Each of these assurances about God’s sovereign power is another brick in the protective wall God places around His own. If He is able to do all these marvelous deeds, surely He is able to protect us from stumbling. Jude uses the Greek word aptaistos, translated “from stumbling” in the HCSB. It is the only time this Greek word appears in the New Testament, and Jude means for it to make a lasting impression. God is both willing and able to keep His own from falling into apostasy, where the false teachers have landed.
Approaching the threshold
While Jude’s false teachers approach the threshold of God’s kingdom, they never enter, and they never will. John captures the essence of the apostate’s heart in his first epistle, referring to them as “antichrists.” The Amplified Bible renders John’s description this way: “They went out from us [seeming at first to be Christians], but they were not really of us [because they were not truly born again and spiritually transformed]; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out [teaching false doctrine], so that it would be clearly shown that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19 – emphasis in translation).
In contrast, the elect, who are in the kingdom, are kept there securely. They may be enticed to venture toward the kingdom’s gates by those who beckon from without, but our Savior ensures that they remain safely in the fold. He employs all of His resources to ensure the perseverance of the saints, including: the sealing of the Holy Spirit; the promises of Scripture; the entry of our names into the Lamb’s book of life; the bridal chamber Christ prepares for us in heaven; the encouragement of fellow believers; even divine discipline that may include physical (but not spiritual) death. All of this, and more, serves as a guarantee that “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
Edward Pentecost writes, “Victory over apostasy is found in Jesus Christ! He is the One who will ‘keep’ believers. Christ will present believers to His Father without fault and with great joy – joy both for Himself and for them (Heb. 12:2; 1 Peter 1:8). Here is the greatest theme of victory to be sounded, the highest note of praise and adoration possible, and the greatest assurance for the redeemed.”
Jude never entertains the thought that genuine believers may lose their salvation. The opening words of his epistle make this clear as he refers to Christians as “called [elect, chosen], loved by God the Father, and kept by Jesus Christ” (v. 1). At the same time, Jude exhorts followers of Jesus to faithfully walk the path of good works God prepared for them in eternity past (Eph. 2:10). He is able to ensure that our daily walk is one in which we do not stumble or fall. “God does not promise that true believers will never sin,” writes Thomas Schreiner. “He promises that he will preserve us from committing apostasy, from abandoning the faith once and for all.”
Think about this sobering reality: If it’s possible to lose our salvation, we all would. Adam is created innocent and lives in a perfect environment, yet he falls, plunging himself and the human race into sin, and bringing a curse upon the cosmos. Moses talks face-to-face with God (Ex. 33:11) and must veil himself so as to keep from frightening the Israelites with the radiance of his countenance (Ex. 34:29-35). Then, in a rebellious outburst, he disqualifies himself from entering the Promised Land (Num. 20:10-12). David is a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22 KJV), but he commits adultery and murder. Peter is one of the Twelve, walking with Jesus every day for three years, but he promptly denies his Lord on the night of His betrayal. Even Paul laments over his “body of death,” in which the “law of God” wages war with the “law of sin” (see Rom. 7:13-25). Only God keeps him from falling.
Redemption is a completed act in the eternal mind of God, and it plays out over time in our lives. While we may, at times, wander far from the warm glow of the Father’s hearth, He remains faithful to finish the good work He began in us (Phil. 1:6). It may help us to think of salvation as a golden strand, stretching unbroken from eternity past into eternity future, tying together the great elements of God’s redemptive work. This golden strand includes, but is not limited to:
- Election – God’s gracious choosing of the redeemed, which ensures our everlasting life (John 10:27-29; 1 Cor. 1:8-9; Eph. 1:4-6; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:23-24; 1 Peter 1:4-5; Jude 1)
- Regeneration – the work of the Holy Spirit making us spiritually alive and bringing us into an unbreakable relationship with God (John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3)
- Justification – God’s declaration that we are in right standing before Him based on the finished work of Christ (Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:30)
- Sanctification – God’s work of setting us apart (positionally) and conforming us to His image (practically) (Rom. 6:22; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2)
- Glorification – God’s future call to us from our graves, completing the work of redemption by giving us incorruptible bodies that are like His resurrected body (John 5:28-29; 11:24-25; Acts 24:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:12-58; Heb. 11:35; Rev. 20:6)
If it’s possible to lose our salvation, which of these divine knots in the golden strand comes unraveled? Can genuine believers become unelected, with the Father changing His mind about us if we cross some invisible line? Can we become unregenerate, passing into spiritual death for a second, or third, time? Is it conceivable that we could become unjustified, and thus subject to double jeopardy, having at one time been acquitted of all sins before God’s throne in heaven? Can we become unsanctified, with the Spirit unsealing us, departing His dwelling place in our hearts, and rescinding the down payment on our home in heaven? Finally, could we become unglorified, with God revoking His promise to redeem our mortal bodies? The very thought of such possibilities shakes our assurance to its core and calls into question the ability of the Righteous One to save us forever (Heb. 7:25).
A living hope
Thankfully, salvation is the gift of God, which Christ paid in full through His work on the cross. As Peter writes, God has given us “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3b-5). John MacArthur writes, “Because God is perfectly faithful, supremely powerful, and infinitely loving, He will not allow His children to fall away from saving faith or defect from the gospel so as to be lost again in their sins.”
And there’s more. Not only is God able to protect us from stumbling; He is able to make us stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy. Today, we stand in the grace of God (Rom. 5:1-5), and one day we will stand in His glorious presence (Col. 3:4; 1 Peter 5:10). The very thought of being in that glory should inspire fear and trembling while we are in our mortal state. It certainly did for Isaiah (Isa. 6:5); Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28); Peter, James, and John (Matt. 17:5-7); and again the apostle John, who falls as a dead man when coming face-to-face with Jesus in a vision (Rev. 1:17). Elsewhere in the New Testament, the term “stand” refers to eschatological vindication at God’s throne on the last day (Rom. 14:4; 1 Cor. 10:12).
To stand in the presence of God’s glory requires blamelessness, provided only when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. The Greek word amomos (rendered “blameless” in Jude 24 HCSB) means “faultless” and describes the sinless state in which one day we will stand. Followers of Jesus today are justified, or declared in right standing with God. The Holy Spirit is sanctifying us, or making us more like Christ. But the ultimate act of divine redemption comes on a future, unknown day when we are glorified, or bodily resurrected and fully conformed to the image of Christ. Put another way, we stand declaredrighteous today; one day, we actually becomerighteous, seeing Jesus as He is and being made like Him.
This future reality should erupt within us, producing great joy that overflows in our words and deeds – even when our circumstances invite us into the abyss of despair. James encourages us to “consider it a great joy” when we experience various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, which results in spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4). Paul writes a message of encouragement to Philippian believers from his prison cell, exhorting them to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). And Jesus, who comes into this world to die, endures the cross and despises the shame “for the joy that lay before Him” (Heb. 12:2).
Ultimately for the Christian, joy comes, not just in moments or in seasons, but in unbroken streams throughout eternity. We watch with great anticipation for that midnight when the Bright Morning Star splits the skies, calls us to Himself, and fulfills His promise to make us just like Him. On that glorious day, God dwells with us, wipes the tears from our eyes, and abolishes the former things that have characterized the sinful and fallen world He died to redeem (Rev. 21:4).
Next: Jude’s doxology