Zev Porat

Monday, July 6, 2015

Contrast of Character: Jude 19-20

It is not uncommon for biblical writers to use the literary devices of comparison or contrast to make a particular point to their audience. It is also not uncommon for these devices to conjure up a mental image in the reader's imagination, or to paint a mental picture to help explain the particular point being emphasized. When these comparisons or contrasts are illuminated to the reader, it as though one is looking through a microscope at a single cell. All of a sudden, one can understand nuances and details that were once cloudy and vague. In an instance one is transported into a world where a new perspective brings deeper meaning and a more vivid understanding of God's Word. These nuggets of details are found throughout Scripture and constantly amaze those who seek to explore the depth of their wisdom. 


While listening to a friend bring a message to a group Bible study, I was reading through the passage only to find where the author employed a contrast that I had before simply missed. In the book of Jude verses 19-20 we read, "These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit" (NIV; all references of Scripture are drawn from the NIV unless otherwise noted). It is critical to analyze these verses within their literary context in order to ensure a correct interpretation. Therefore, the "men" Jude was speaking of in v19 were those men addressed in v18 who would scoff at the Word of God while following their own desires. This begs the question, "Why was Jude addressing evil men who follow their own wishes and desires?" The answer is found in Jude 3ff. According to Jude's own words, he wanted to write about one topic but changed the purpose of his letter to urge his audience as they contended for the faith of Jesus Christ (Jude 3). This struggle, or opposition, was taking place within the church because false teachers had slipped into the church and had begun teaching false doctrines. In reading Jude's description of these false teachers from Jude 4-16 one can see a tenacity in the language and a veracity to expose these men for what they were—godless, false teachers. Thus, when one arrives in v19 there is an understanding that these false teachers do two things. One, they divide the people of the church. Two, they do not have the Holy Spirt so they follow their natural instincts to sin. However, instead of simply describing the actions of these wicked teachers, or revealing their true motives, Jude goes on to offer a contrast with the word "but." 


As one of my Bible college professors pointed out, in Scripture there are big "buts" and little "buts". Little "buts" are connecting words used in the same manner as the word "and." However, big "buts" are those instances where "but" is used to offer a contrast—these are worth noting because they signal two items that are not compatible or completely opposite by nature. For instance, in 1 John 1:5 John explained, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." Light and dark are opposite; in no way, shape, or form can one have both light and dark at the same time because darkness is the absence of light. In much the same manner Jude proclaimed, "But you, dear children, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit." With this statement, Jude drew a line between those with evil intentions and those who have been kept by Jesus Christ (Jude 1). However, upon closer analysis, one noticed a vivid picture within this contrast. Notice that v19 used the words "divide" and the phrase "do not have the Spirit" while v20 used the phrases "build yourself up" and "pray in the Holy Spirit." While those who run after their evil desires divided and acted out of sinful instinct because they did not have the Holy Spirit, Jude informed his audience of believers that their nature was opposed to these characteristics. Jude informed his audience of believers they were to build themselves up in the faith of Jesus Christ and they were to pray in accordance with the Holy Spirit given them upon their accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.   


Therefore, those who are not kept by Jesus Christ, those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, are different in character and purpose to the individuals who have accepted Jesus Christ. God has given believers the task of building ourselves up according to faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. This means believers should be different from the world around them as their faith transcends every area of life more and more. We do not have the characteristic of dividing and destroying the family of God, but the responsibility to build it up. Moreover, because the Holy Spirit of God dwells within every believer, we should be praying in accordance with the moving, working, and will of God. This is opposed to the idea of embracing every whim that our sinful flesh seeks after. In short, the line between the essence of the believer and the nonbeliever should be deep and wide. Let us embrace the contrast in character because it comes through a love relationship with Jesus Christ.   

James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years. 
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014. 

No comments:

Post a Comment