D. Scott Meadows
21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
This continues Jude’s recommendation of the means of perseverance, here, with respect to two graces, love and hope. Keep yourselves or use the means. Yourselves highlights the concurrence of God’s preserving with our persevering. In the love of God seems to mean our love for God, a grace He works in us, and our work is to keep it, increase it, and experience all its varied effects. Looking is the formal act of hope. For the mercy refers to all the good that we shall receive at the Lord’s coming. Our Lord Jesus Christ purchased this mercy for us and will dispense it. Unto eternal life refers to our happiness in heaven.
Observation 1. In perseverance there is a concurrence of our care and diligence (Phil 2.12, 13). The main work is God’s (Phil 1.6; Heb 12.2; 1 Pet 5.10), yet He keeps us by our own care and endeavors. Being born, a young child is still under his mother’s care, but has a distinct and separate life of its own. After we have received God’s grace, we have power to act and do what is necessary for the preservation of the spiritual life. Well, then, let us not neglect the means to that great end. You must not lie upon a bed of ease, thinking God must do everything. He truly does everything, but He does it in us and by us. Idle wishes are useless as long as our hands refuse to work.
Observation 2. People who have grace need to look to the keeping of it for three reasons.
First, we ourselves are prone to revolt (Jer 14.10; Psa 95.10; 1 Tim 5.12; Rev 2.4). David’s “first ways” were better than his last, which included scandalous crimes (2 Chron 17.3).
Second, we are assaulted with continual temptations. The persistent suitor sometimes prevails. Satan loses nothing by asking again. Resisting him may precede yielding to him. Prolonged exposure to the world may taint the spirit. Greater familiarity with deformed objects makes them seem more normal. Indwelling lust, though long restrained, may break out with more vigor. Morality in youth does not guarantee against immorality in old age.
Third, we are more prone to complacency the longer we are Christians, as if all danger were past. As new converts, we may have been more wary about falling away, truly afraid that might happen, and more diligent to prevent it. But when we have gotten over these early anxieties, we are in danger of feeling secure without deliberate persevering, and our souls suffer for it (Rev 3.17–19). We must be careful to get grace and to keep it, watchful and diligent to the very end. People change. Satan is restless; sometimes he changes his game. Every new situation brings new pitfalls. Prosperity and poverty are alike spiritually dangerous. We need to learn how to walk up-hill and down-hill as we walk together with God.
Where there seems to be the least danger there is sometimes the most reason for fear. Lot, chaste in Sodom, blew it in the mountains alone with his family. David who felt guilty for cutting off a piece of Saul’s garment later fell into adultery and murder and laid asleep in it for a long time. Peter insisted with all sincerity he wound never deny the Lord, but his confidence failed him, even when tried by the words of a mere damsel. We are but feathers before the blast of some temptations.
1. Unless you keep it, all is in vain; if indeed it was in vain (Gal 3.4). Lose your love for God and you also lose your reward and increase your punishment on Judgment Day, whatever your cost had been for following Christ (Ezek 18.24; 2 John 8). The Nazarite had to start all over again if he violated the terms of his vow (Num 6.12). Many professing Christians do not persevere and are punished (2 Pet 2.20–22).
2. To lose any degrees of grace is a great loss, since it is the most precious gift (2 Pet 1.1) and tends toward the best blessings— eternal happiness and communion with God. We are accountable for degrees of grace as well as grace itself. Those with five talents had to account for all five. A man may recover his peace and joy, but perhaps never to the same degree. A prodigal returned may yet not be entrusted with so much as before. We may recover from sickness but never reach the same vitality. So Christians may not recover that largeness of spirit and fullness of inward strength and comfort after their foul falls into sin.
3. God’s reputation suffers in the world by those who say they love Him and then leave Him, as if He were unworthy of their love. I think the devil leaves some alone while they seem to grow in Christian commitment and reputation only to attack them later when their fall would be a real scandal and injury to the Lord’s work. Many are so zealous at first, and then, running out of breath, take a hard fall, shaming themselves and hardening others. Judas was temporarily left alone by the devil, and many others since. O Christians! Will you not be persuaded for your own good? Will you start like a blaze and end as a stench? A house unfinished becomes a home for screech owls, but it is a great honor to hold out to the last.
4. The worst is past. Only a few more years of service are left and then you will be happy forever. “Your salvation is nearer than it was when you first believed” (Rom 13.11). At least our toilsome pilgrimage is short and ends in safety. “What! Will you not watch with Me one hour?” Christ says to us. The longest life is no longer than any other when compared with eternity. Enoch lived 365 years and the whole time he “walked with God” (Gen 5.22). Is it so tedious for us to walk with God for the few summers and winters left to us before we arrive at heaven? Ω
1Just an excerpt abridged and paraphrased by D Scott Meadows