Note: This post is part five in a six-part series on how the book of Jude demonstrates qualities of a good sermon.
After Jude states his main idea and illustrates clearly what he means by the ungodly, he completes his thesis by appealing for his readers to contend for the faith. So just how do we contend for the faith? Jude provides five imperatives from verses 17-23, which form at least four points of application to support his main idea.
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (ESV)
First, in verse 17, Jude states, “you must remember.” He tells them to remember the predictions that scoffers would arise. The current situation should not surprise believers; we should expect it. As part of remembering, we should build ourselves up and pray in the Holy Spirit. Prayer forms a good specific application as well as the various ways to build your faith.
In verse 21, Jude commands, “keep yourselves.” He writes in order that his readers might keep themselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. So first, you remember or you meditate upon the Gospel, and second, you keep yourself by acting in line with the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3). The first two applications focus on you—your beliefs and your actions. The following applications focus on others.
Third, in verse 22 and again in verse 23 you see “have mercy” and “show mercy.” Perhaps this repetition indicates that Jude’s audience struggled with mercy, but more likely Jude wants them to show mercy to two different groups. Have mercy on those who doubt, and then show mercy with fear by snatching some out of the fire. Jude provides two specific ways his readers should demonstrate mercy.
The final imperative falls in verse 23, “save others.” Notice how Jude’s words paint the picture and create urgency when he writes “snatching them out of fire.” We can visualize the weight of necessity of the task. How is it that we save others? We share the Gospel message with them. But do we really see sharing the Gospel as snatching the lost from the fires of hell? Jude wants us to contend for the faith, and one way we contend for the faith comes through sharing our faith.
By making specific application to the listener, sermons with deep exegetical work also become intensely practical and applicable to lives of the listener. Good application will avoid any criticism of boring exposition, and it follows the biblical model established for us in the New Testament. So in your next sermon, make sure to look for the specific application flowing from the text and then paint a memorable picture of that application for the listener to imagine.
In the last post, I will look at how Jude’s conclusion avoids moralistic emphasis and points the reader back to the glory of God.