Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jude, That Obscure Little Epistle, and the Doctrines of Grace

"Now unto Him that is able to keep you that ye fall not, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with joy, that is, to God only wise, our Savior, be glory and majesty and dominion and power, both now and forever, amen."
- Jude 1:24-25, Geneva Bible

I use the Geneva Bible here instead of my usual ESV for two reasons. One is that it simply has a loftier rhythm to it, to my ear, though there is no material difference between the two translations of these verses. And the other is because of the archaic use of pronouns that shows the use of the plural here. Jude isn't addressing a particular person, but rather the church as a whole.

Of the so-called Five Points of Calvinism, the most maligned is probably Limited Atonement, while the most accepted is the Perseverance of the Saints or, as many Baptists phrase it, "once saved, always saved." Given the pride of fallen men, that should hardly be surprising.

One doesn't hear much about the Epistle of Jude. Not only is it painfully brief overall, but it also addresses a string of eschatological concerns, so it just doesn't get talked about as much as, for example, Paul's epistles. But here it explicitly touches on a doctrine that can be misused as a justification for spiritual complacency, but should, rather, serve as a great comfort to the struggling believer.

Notice how it combines major themes from other books of the Bible. Where Jude reminds us that God is able to keep us, we are reminded of the words on Jesus in John 10:28, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand." And "to present us blameless before Him" recalls the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:4, "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." Thus, contrary to the view of most Baptists, our perseverance is grounded in His predestination of us. Then Jude justifies this perseverance as, not for our sakes, even as profitable as it is, but rather because of the glory it brings to God.

This is where I believe that the Calvinist rises above the Arminian: while the Arminian is concerned to preserve his own pride and supposed native righteousness, the Calvinist is concerned only with the glory of God and establishing His righteousness.

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