The Beloved

An Address on the Epistle of Jude

The "Beloved" are the precious wheat among the tares, the sons of God in the midst of a perverse generation. Let no one imagine that they are few in number. They are a great host. It is probable that there are more on earth today than ever before, for the Holy Ghost has not been weakened in His work by the work of the enemy. Let us give thanks for that.

JUDE tells us in his short letter that he was THE BROTHER OF JAMES, and this appears to stand next in importance to the fact that he was the bondman of Jesus Christ. He is the only New Testament writer that makes any reference to a blood relationship in introducing himself and his letter to his readers. There must be some reason for this, let us see if we can discover it. This James was a stern and watchful man, an austere man, who would not tolerate anything that fell short of his standard. He was a second Nehemiah, who, when some of the priests married wives of Ashdod and Ammon and Moab, was very angry, and "contended with them and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair," and "chased them out of his presence." Yet in spite of this zeal of his he was unable to keep Tobiah, the enemy of the Lord, out of the house of God; he had crept in unawares and established himself in that house, much to Nehemiah's surprise and grief. And James was no less zealous for the name of God and no less angry with those who made friends with the world and otherwise misbehaved themselves, as his epistle shows, and yet his brother Jude is compelled to declare the fact that into the Christian circle, the house of God, ungodly men had crept without being recognized. Something had to be said about this, and the truth had to be ministered that could meet this strategic move of the devil. Hence we have Jude's epistle, which seems to stand as a supplementary epistle, a second epistle of James.

Now we are not wiser or stronger than Nehemiah or James; we cannot cast the evil out of Christendom, and efforts to grapple with it are not successful. It is in whether we will or not, and it will certainly run its course to its foreordained end as Jude tells us. We can neither arrest its course nor change its character. Let this sad fact sink into our minds, men have crept unawares into the Christian circle and have brought with them their pernicious doctrines and practices. We shall not be able to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God if we forget this. Yet it must not be the dominant factor with us. The great question is, Is there any good remaining? and if so, let us follow that.

Christendom professes to follow the One who is holy and true, and yet within it there are these ungodly men who TURN THE GRACE OF GOD INTO LASCIVIOUSNESS, and deny the only Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, for so the 4th verse should read. They are saying "God is so good, we need have no fear, there is no judgment to come, and we can do as we please, it does not matter." Of course, those who talk like that, deny they have a master at all — they are out to do their own wills, and judge for themselves what is right and what is wrong. They may profess still to acknowledge the name of Christ, but in works they deny Him, and His commandments are of no account to them.

If Jesus is the one Master and Lord, when He speaks we must hear and obey, we have no option, we are disobedient and rebellious if we do any other, but these ungodly men care nothing about His words; they prefer their own notions and do as they please, and claim that nobody has anything at all to do with it. They have no master but self, they are the captains of their souls. This is the spirit of the day and what will the end of it be?

I ask you to carefully read the whole epistle; it is a true description of the state of things which has resulted from the incoming of these ungodly men. It shows us the state of corruption, godlessness and apostasy that is developing in Christendom, and it shows us what the end of it will be.

It is very remarkable that Jude should quote from Enoch, the first prophet that ever prophesied, and the burden of his prophecy was that "the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon the ungodly." A long time ago it is since Enoch uttered this prophecy. Six thousand years have elapsed since then, and the ungodly still vaunt themselves, and the tides of evil rise higher and the scoffers are saying, "WHERE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS COMING?" We must expect them to ask that question and to see them grow bolder in their sins because that coming is delayed. They do not understand that our God is long-suffering, and not willing that any should perish; they do not understand His infinite patience, or the immeasurable pity of His heart. They take advantage of His grace and turn it into lasciviousness. But the Lord is coming and He is coming to judge. Then will these ungodly sinners who have thought they could do as they pleased in the Christian circle, and who have pastured themselves there without fear, be brought to book, and their ungodly careers will be brought to a sudden end by the righteous judgment of God.

But my purpose is to ask the question, "Is there not anything good in the midst of all this evil?" And if there is, it shall be my theme. Shall the tide of evil sweep everything before it, and is there nothing but judgment ahead?

It is wonderful to see that in this epistle in which Jude paints the picture of the growing apostasy in such dark colours, there are some who are four times addressed as "beloved." And in this we see the great contrast between Old Testament times and those in which we live. Nehemiah had no brother as James had to write about the "beloved" as a set-off to the evil that had grieved him so sorely. Like the great Elijah, he was a solitary man, and knew not the blessedness of a fellowship in the love of God. And so he finished his book, the last historical book of the Old Testament, with a prayer for himself alone, "Remember ME, O my God for good," were the last words that he left on record. While we learn the lessons which the Old Testament has to teach us, dear brethren, let us not live in the Old Testament but in the New, lest we become solitary men like Elijah and Nehemiah. In the New, in spite of all the evil that may abound, we see the triumph of God's purposes for His "beloved," and these may know the joy of the love that rests upon them in fellowship one with another.

These beloved are the precious wheat amid the pernicious tares, the sons of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. And let no one imagine that they are few in number, they are a great host. It is probable that there are more of them today on earth than ever before, the Holy Ghost has not abandoned His great work nor even been hindered in it all by the work of the devil. In this let us rejoice.

As we centre our thoughts on this side of the epistle, it takes on an entirely new character; just as great masters, Rembrandt for instance, painted their finest pictures against black backgrounds that their beauty might be enhanced by the contrast, so Jude in this short epistle rejoices our hearts as he shows us the beauty of God's work in contrast to the devil's. We begin with "beloved by God the Father," for so the first verse should read. Consider this, my Christian hearers, the same endearing epithet by which He addressed His Son when He was here on earth is given to you. It was an evil day in which Jesus lived, gross darkness covered the people, but in the midst of it all He walked in the perfection of His grace, and the Father looked from heaven upon Him and said, "This is My beloved Son." The evil that surged all around Him did not prevent the beloved Son from enjoying the Father's love, nor can all the evil of this present day prevent the "beloved" from enjoying that self-same love.

Let the wonder of this fill the mind. Is it not amazing that this is the name by which you are called no less than four times in this short epistle! We may well ask how do we know this, how has this love been shown to us? And for answer, our minds are carried back to the 15th chapter of Luke's Gospel and we read afresh and with renewed interest the story of the prodigal. We see the sinner in his distress and destitution in the far country; we see him, driven by his hunger, decide to return to his father's house of plenty, and to our astonishment we see that no sooner does he turn than his father's arms are about his neck and he is covered with kisses. What a surprise that must have been to that prodigal! One thought must have filled his heart, driving out all others, MY FATHER LOVES ME, and his love is an unmerited love; it cannot be because of what I have been or am, it must be because of what he is himself.

It is a wonderful story, not told by an angel from heaven, or by Peter or by Paul, but by the Son of God Himself, and in it He described the way in which God receives a repentant sinner. Who but He could have told that story? and when He told it, He told the truth, the plain, simple truth. He described for us the way that God receives those who return to Him; the way He received you when you turned to Him. He says to us, "Behold, the manner of the Father's love." It may be you did not just realize the blessedness of the reception He gave you at the time, it may be that you have not yet realized it. Oh, enter into it now! When you were yet a great way off, He saw you, for the eyes of love are keen, and He was moved with compassion, for the heart of love is tender, and He ran, for the feet of love are fleet.

"Yes, a great way off He saw you,
  Ran to kiss you as you came.
As you were your Father loved you,
  Loved you in your sin and shame."

The youngest as well as the oldest is beloved by God the Father. You do not need to grow great in the service of the Lord to be beloved by Him. The babes in His family are loved with the same changeless, eternal love wherewith He loves His Son.

But suppose there had been an interval between the turning of the prodigal and his reception by the father, and suppose somebody had met him and said, "Are you going back to your father's house, and do you expect to get inside? Don't you know that your father has got a very high standard for his house, and that everything that goes into it must be suitable to it, and you — look at you! those clothes you are wearing are filthy, what are you going to do about it?" That would be a very serious problem for the prodigal. What could he do about those rags, so filthy, and himself so unfit for his father's house? But the father solved that difficulty without delay when he said, "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him." And when the prodigal went into the father's house, there was nothing better there, for he was dressed in the best, and there is nothing better than the best. He went into his father's house clothed in the best robe. How splendid was that boy as he crossed the threshold, dressed in the best that the father himself could provide, and what servant in the house could say he was not fit to be there? The father had satisfied himself in adorning him according to his own thoughts and for his own company, and that was enough. Have we understood the story? It is thus that we have been treated — by the Father.

"From the riches of His glory

  Brought He costliest raiment forth,

Put them on me — robes of glory,

  Spotless as the heavens above.

Not to meet my thoughts of fitness,

  But His wondrous thoughts of love."

Here is set forth in the parable our being "in Christ Jesus." May we all understand what that means. The Scripture says of those who have believed, that they are "IN CHRIST JESUS," and when it comes to the question of their acceptance, He is not spoken of as Christ Jesus merely, but as "the Beloved" (Eph. 1), and here we see the love of our God pass from the love of compassion to the love of complacency — we are loved in the Beloved, and for His sake. We stand in the presence of God our Father in all the fair, spotless beauty of His beloved Son, we are preserved in Christ Jesus. But let no one suppose that Christ has become a cover for our filthiness and sin, that the best robe has merely covered our rags. It is not so; all that we were as ragged, filthy sinners met its just condemnation at the cross when Christ died for us. Our sins, our guilt and all we were was there condemned, when "God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" before God, and in faith we have stepped out of the old condition, in Adam, and are now in Christ, and the Spirit has been given to us that we might rejoice in it evermore. While we accept the fact by faith, it is only by the Spirit that we can know it experimentally.

Oh, my friends, if we see this we shall confess that we have been greatly blessed. "Beloved by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ."

When the prodigal started off to the far country, be must have been very well to do, but he soon spent all and wasted everything that he possessed in his pursuit of pleasure, and got nothing in return, but when he came back to his father he came back to something that he could not spend. He was enriched by his father's unsought love, and that could never be spent, he could not exhaust that. He had come back to boundless munificence, to infinite wealth. He came back seeking bread, he found his father's heart. We were prodigals: our necessities brought us to God. He met us with the munificence of His love. We have been enriched — we cannot exhaust the Father's love; it exceeds all our needs, it is eternal, fathomless, changeless. The love that rests upon the beloved Son is the love that rests upon us, and not only does His love rest upon us, but His desire is that it might be in us, for the Lord closes His prayer to the Father in the 17th chapter of John's Gospel, by asking that His love might be in us, that it might be our enjoyed portion, that we might know in the deep experience of our souls that the Father loves us.

I have no doubt also that when the boy started off on his travels he fitted himself up with a good wardrobe, the best tailors in the place would be set to work, and his clothes, made according to his own notions, were as good as he could get, but they were soon worn out in the far country. He came back in rags, but now he had a garment that could not wear out, that could not be spotted. At least such a garment is typified in the best robe that has been given to us, for "Christ is made to us righteousness." He was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We have a robe that can never be spotted, and we are accepted in Him who is the Beloved, and we are preserved in Him, for there is no condemnation for those that are in Him.

What evil could reach us there in Him who is beyond death and judgment? There surely is everlasting preservation. I pray God that we may understand what it means to be in Christ Jesus."

The Christian life is not one of leisure and ease, THE "BELOVED" MUST BE ON THE ALERT, they have been called to contend earnestly for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. But they go forth to the conflict from this most blessed base, and this is their safe retreat when tried and tested by the conflict. Here they may rest and find their hearts true portion in the Father's love, and it is this that will preserve them from being swept away by the waves of evil that roll around. Indeed none are fit for the conflict, or able to move through the abounding evil for the glory of God, but those who know that they are loved by God the Father and preserved in Christ Jesus.

The beloved by God the Father and preserved in Christ Jesus, are also called to a great destiny, and we might well expect this. How could grace that began with the Father's kiss have any mean end in store for us? The epistle shows what this destiny is. It says, "Now to Him that is able to keep you from falling and present you faultless in the presence of His glory with the exceeding joy." A GLORIOUS DAY IS COMING, we are to be presented faultless before the presence of God's glory, and He is going to do it with exceeding joy. You might say, "I do not feel very blameless now, I find a great deal of fault in myself every day." No doubt that is true, but all that belongs to you as you are as having the flesh in you, and that flesh really is not part of you as a child of God, and the day is coming when everything of the flesh will be dropped, and we shall be there in that glory entirely and altogether according to what we are in Christ. There will not be a spot in us then, we shall stand there without blame, and God will exult in the grace that brought us there.

We must turn again to the 15th chapter of Luke's gospel. There the Father said," It is meet that we should make merry and be glad, for this my son was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found." So they began to be merry. There was joy in heaven when you turned to God, but that was only the beginning; what will the end be? When you came to Jesus, God celebrated in the presence of the angels the grace that saved you. But when He has brought you and all the beloved to the great destiny that His love has purposed for you, He will not only celebrate the grace that has saved you, but the grace that has kept and the grace that has glorified you. What a celebration it will be!

We do not wonder that Jude speaks of Him as THE ONLY WISE GOD, for only the wisdom of God could have accomplished this. Could the wisdom of man have taken up such as we are and put us at last in that glory, made as meet for that glory even as Christ is? No, none but God could do this, and Jude is right when he speaks of Him as the only wise God. His wisdom has become the servant of His love and He has found a way by which we may be in His own home as His own sons, and that way is Jesus. Once in the manger, once on the cross, once in the tomb, but now risen again from the dead, and in the glory, Jesus is God's wisdom and way, and it is through Him that He has carried out the plan of His love. He owes it to Him, and we owe it to Him. Because He owes it to Him He is going to put the brightest crowns in the universe upon His sacred brow, and because we owe it to Him we are going to cast our crowns before Him. He is the centre of the Father's thoughts, He is the centre of our adoration and praise.

Now the question arises, What about the in-between? Very important is the in-between. Our salvation at the beginning was all grace and our translation at the end will be all grace, but in the interval there is grace also. There is more. In other epistles mercy and peace, and grace, are desired for the saints or servants of God, but in this one love also must be multiplied. It is the daily, hourly income of the beloved, IT IS MORE THAN AN UNTAXED INCOME, as grace for timely help might be, it is the very state in which they are set. Love, as well as mercy and grace, must contribute to their maintenance as the beloved.

The whole spiritual income of the beloved and surroundings in which we are set in relation to God our Father and one another are adequate, but there is our responsibility also, and now we come to that. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith." Here is something for us to do. It is most blessed to talk about what God has done and what He will do, but we must consider what we are to do. We are to build up ourselves on our most holy faith.

Again we are carried back to the Gospels, and we remember how the Lord spoke of the man who built his house upon the sand, and the one who built his house upon the rock. These apostates in this epistle who are turning away from the truth and from Christ, these successors to Cain and Balaam and Core, are building on the sand, they are building in their self-will upon their own speculations and hypotheses, upon what they think is right, and what pleases them, and they have got no foundation. They are raising their superstructure upon the sand, and they are finding no place in their building for Christ, the chief cornerstone. The Lord is coming to judge, and the first blast of that righteous judgment will sweep away the edifice in which they have boasted and they will be left without a shelter in that day when every man's work shall be tested.

THANK GOD, WE ARE NOT BUILDING ON THE SAND. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith," that is the rock. We may well thank God for the rock. What would you feet like, my Christian hearer, if your feet were on the shifting sand? Just for a moment, imagine what it would mean to you to be cast back into the former life that you lived before you knew the Saviour; the very thought of it makes you shudder. Your feet have been taken off the shifting sand and fixed upon the rock, blessed foundation — you have to build up yourselves upon the rock where grace has set you. That is the beginning — the rock is beneath your feet — build up yourselves there. You will have to read the Scriptures if you are to do that, you cannot build your selves on your most holy faith if you neglect the Scriptures. In the Scriptures God Himself speaks to us, He reveals Himself, makes known to us what His grace is, His wisdom, His righteousness, He reveals Christ in all His glories, and that is the material that builds up and develops the soul. But I want to emphasize the fact that it is yourselves and not yourself. The "beloved" are indispensable to each other. If you forsake the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, you will fail in this. If you do not allow your affections to flow out to all whom God loves, you will fail in this. Each must look to his own soul first, of course, but none must say, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

"Praying in the Holy Ghost" — and of course we cannot do that if we walk in the flesh. — "Praying in the Holy Ghost" is a great privilege. If we pray in the Spirit we shall be praying according to the will of God. It is by God's communications to us in His Word that we build up our souls and in praying in the Holy Ghost we communicate with God. The Father speaks to us in His Word, and we speak to Him by prayer in the Spirit.

"Keep yourselves in the love of God" — the rock beneath your feet, and the sun shining above your head. Keep yourselves there. Where else would you like to be, dear Christian, but in the love of God? You say, That is the place for me exactly; I want no other place than that. Yet there is such a thing, of course, as losing the sense of it. You may allow your heart and mind to wander after vain things, or you may become overcharged with care as though God did not love you. There is such a thing as a cloud covering the soul, but if the clouds gather over the soul they are not over the love of God, and:

"Still sweet 'tis to discover,
When clouds have dimmed my sight,
When passed, Eternal Lover,
To me as ere thou art bright."

"Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life." I have the very best of news for you, dear people, the very best of news. I could not bring any better news to you than this that I have to tell you: JESUS IS COMING. Rejoice and be glad, our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. And when He comes it will be His crowning mercy to us.

And here I believe we see why Jude quoted from Enoch, and not from Isaiah or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. All spoke of the Lord's coming, but Jude passes them all by and goes right back to Enoch. Enoch was the one who was translated to heaven without dying; he was in this a type of the church, that is to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His coming. Now the man who looked for translation without dying had to bear witness to the world of judgment to come. He was to be taken out before the judgment came, but his witness was that "the Lord comes to execute judgment." And those who are expecting to hear the Lord's assembling shout that shall translate them to the glory, have a witness to bear to the world meanwhile, and it is this, "The Lord comes to execute judgment"; and that when the church is gone this judgment will fall.

IT IS VERY SIGNIFICANT that when Peter preached to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, in Acts 10 (the first sermon that was ever preached to Gentiles, and given to us by inspiration of the Spirit) he said, "He has commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be Judge of quick and dead." And when Paul spoke to the Gentiles at Athens, as recorded for us in Acts 17, he said, "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained." These sermons, the only sermons, as far as I know, recorded for us in the Acts as having been preached to Gentiles, put judgment to come in the forefront of the preaching. But in what sort of spirit must we preach it? Two brothers met on Monday morning, and one said to the other, "I was giving them the judgment last night." Said the other, "I hope you did it with tears." And so we read here, "Of some have compassion, making a difference." Oh, Christians, how do you feel about that? How hard we get, how little compassion we feel for the perishing! The God who will judge, because He must in righteousness, is a God of compassion and willeth not the death of any, and HE IS LOOKING FOR VESSELS into which He can pour His own compassions that they may overflew in compassion to others.

I am ashamed of myself as I read this word and feel how little compassion there is in my heart for the lost, how little I am like our only Master, whose eyes ran down with tears because men would not come to Him that they might have life. I chide myself because I am so contented with my own blessing and so little concerned about the souls of men and women in this doomed world.

We who are saved are to be saviours of others, "snatching them out of the fire." And to do this we must go where they are. The figure is surely that of the angels dragging Lot out of Sodom, they could not have done it if they had not gone where he was. Yet nobody in that filthy city would mistake those angels for Sodomites, they were distinct and separate from the ways of that city, and there only to do the will of God. May we be in the world as they were in Sodom. There are three qualities needed if we are to save men out of the pollutions of the world. We must have COMPASSION; we shall not seek them at all if this is lacking, compassion for men in their miseries. We must have FEAR of that which has caused the miseries, which is sin. We must have HATRED of the pollution of sin lest thinking little of it we be drawn into it. Let us not waste our time in endeavours to clean up the world system. It cannot be done. No more than could Sodom be cleansed. The world is ripening for judgment. The Lord comes to judge. Our business is to snatch men out of the doomed place. May God show us how to do it. And to Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and for ever. Amen.