...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

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24 July 2010

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Scattered throughout the New Testament are passages which mention the three persons of the Godhead in succession. We find one of these in Jude's short epistle:
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:20-21).

First, notice the contrast implied in the adversative "but." The author strengthens the contrast by the emphatic use of the personal pronoun "you," as well as the descriptive term "beloved." Jude spent most of the epistle exposing false brethren who had "crept in" among faithful Christians. These evil men used the faith to satisfy their own desires. In so doing, they endangered the souls of other brethren. Jude repeatedly called attention to their ungodly actions and brazen attitude. He did not have much hope for their salvation (Jude 1:4), but he certainly hoped to influence brethren "beloved" to him.

Secondly, notice that the two verses comprise one long sentence, which contains one verb and three participial clauses. The main clause is "keep yourselves in the love of God." In contrast to evil men who had given themselves over to ungodliness and carnal living, Christians are commanded to remain in God's love. Certain condemnation waits all outside of that domain, as Jude illustrated with various historical examples. The verb, along with the reflexive pronoun "yourselves," emphasizes the active part the Christian plays in his salvation. God, in his mercy, provided salvation. He extended his love toward us though we were sinners (Romans 5:5-8). It is up to us to remain in his love. The other phrases of this sentence are also active in voice (praying, building, and looking). Combining these with other admonitions in Jude (contend earnestly for the faith, remember the words of the apostles) we find this epistle steeped in action.

Reflecting for a moment on the Trinity, it seems fitting that the main clause would contain God the Father, the first person of the Godhead.

Looking now to the other phrases, we note that these will in some way enhance or explain our main clause, "keep yourselves in the love of God." Are these the purpose or result of remaining in God's love? Do they explain the means of staying in God's love? Participles have about eight different uses in the Greek language. The aforementioned questions can help in identifying their use in these two verses. The first two phrases seem to express the means by which we can keep ourselves in God's love. By building on the foundation of the holy faith, we remain in fellowship with God. Interestingly, many claim to love God, yet have wandered far from the faith. They see the faith as a restriction to their individual spirituality or expression. Jude steadfastly proclaims it as a means to remain in God's love. Rather than abandon it, we should contend earnestly for it (Jude 1:3).

Jude also suggested prayer as a means of a close walk with God. It is in this phrase we have our first mention of Deity: "praying in the Holy Spirit." But how do we pray in the Spirit? First, do not overlook the contrast made with those just mentioned who do not have the Spirit (Jude 1:19). No doubt the false brethren prayed (probably lengthy, eloquent prayers like the Pharisees), but their prayers did not have the Spirit's approval, aid, or influence. When a Christian walks with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14), then no doubt his prayers are in the Spirit as well; and from time to time will be aided by the Spirit as the need arises (Romans 8:26). Given the general audience of Jude's epistle we should not assume that praying in the Spirit had reference to a supernatural gift bestowed upon a select part of the Christian population, but instead to an activity that could be enjoyed by all.

The final clause states an attending circumstance to our main clause. A few versions give this meaning by translating the phrase, "as you wait." A person built up in the faith, who continually prays in the Spirit, and thereby remains in a loving relationship with God cannot help but be joyously awaiting the blessed coming of his Savior at the same time. Such a person understands the benefit of Jesus' coming: eternal life. And he attaches to that visit the knowledge that salvation is obtained only due to the mercy of Jesus Christ. He chose to bear the punishment rather than require it. How joyful the meeting will be between Christ and His Bride.

Bryan Moody
January 2009

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