Security in An Age Of Apostasy
Lina Sandell Berg was no stranger to affliction. At the tender age of twelve, she lay stricken with a paralysis that confined her to bed. Although physicians had all but given up on her, one Sunday after a time of prayer, God restored her to complete health. Fourteen years later, Lina watched her father fall overboard and drown when the ship in which they were sailing lurched forward. At thirty-five; Lina married C. O. Berg, a wealthy businessman. The joy of their happy marriage was short-lived when their firstborn son died at birth.
Through all that she suffered – affliction, heartbreak and loss – Lina wrote almost 650 hymns. Many express how secure the believer is in Christ’s love. One hymn, “More Secure Is No One Ever,” aptly expressed this security. Two of the five stanzas go like this:
More secure is no one ever Than the loved ones of the Savior;
Not yon star on high abiding, Nor the bird in homenest hiding.
Neither life nor death can ever From the Lord His children sever;
For His love and deep compassion Comforts them in tribulation.1
Those possessing salvation are eternally secure in Christ. Nothing will ever separate them from Christ – not affliction, heartbreak, loss of a loved one or times when they draw away from God’s love.
With this thought in mind, Jude greeted the recipients of his letter, reminding them of their security in Christ. For it is this security which will keep them in an age of apostasy. But before doing so, he gave a word concerning himself.
Servant Of Christ
Jude identified himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (v. 1). His name is derived from the Hebrew word Judah and is translated “Judas” in Greek. There are five Judases named in the New Testament: Judas, an apostle, “the son of James” (Lk. 6:16); Judas Iscariot (Lk. 6:16); Judas, the brother of James and half brother of Jesus (Mt. 13:55); Judas of Damascus (Acts 9:11); and Judas, surnamed Barsabbas (Acts 15:22).
Which Judas was the writer of this book? The two apostles are eliminated since the writer of the book was not an apostle. Judas of Damascus and Judas Barsabbas are eliminated because neither had a brother named James. This leaves only Jude, the brother of James and half brother of Jesus, as the author.
Often a prophet has no honor within his own family or city (Lk. 4:24). This was true of Jesus, for Jude had rejected Him as the Messiah early in His ministry. Sometime after Christ’s resurrection, however, the scales fell from his eyes, and he came to faith in Christ (Acts 1:13). Jude, in fact, became so committed that he called himself a “servant of Jesus Christ” (v. 1). The word “servant” means bondslave. A bondslave was one who had been released from slavery but, out of love for his master, voluntarily put himself in servitude to him for life. To show that he was a bondslave, the servant had his ear bored through with an awl against the door of his master’s house (Dt 15:17).
Jude’s service reflected that of a bondslave. He chose to serve Christ out of love, not force. His only desire was to do Christ’s will, not his own. With undivided allegiance, he served Christ and no other master. His commitment was for life.
Such should be the attitude of everyone who considers himself a servant of Christ. But often the opposite is true. Many men in the ministry drop names, jockey for position in religious organizations and befriend successful spiritual leaders in order to gain a higher position for themselves within the fellowship or denomination to which they belong.
Why did Jude fail to identify himself as Jesus’ half brother? A number of reasons are possible. First, Jesus was God, and Jude felt unworthy to be put on the same level with Him. Second, Jesus considered all those who did the will of God to be His brothers and sisters (Mt. 12:46-50). Third, it would not have been in keeping with Christian humility to make such a claim. Fourth, Jude initially rejected Jesus’ Messiahship (Jn. 7:5) and did not receive Him until after His resurrection (Acts 1:13). Thus, he called himself a bondslave rather than a half brother of the Lord. Whatever the reason, Jude truly was a bondslave of Christ.
Selected In Christ
Jude was writing to those who had been “called” (v. 1) to salvation by God the Father. Although the word “called” might appear misplaced at the end of verse one rather than at the beginning, Jude put it there for emphasis.
Two types of calls are mentioned in the Bible with reference to salvation. In the general call, God externally offers salvation to all mankind through Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16). This call does not become effective until an individual receives Jesus Christ as his Savior. Many hear the gospel and are invited to accept it when the general call is given, but few do. The Lord said, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14).
Next is the efficacious call. It takes place when God, through the Holy Spirit, irresistibly works on the mind and heart of a person He has chosen, so that the individual freely chooses to believe in Jesus Christ as his Savior. The believer is called, not according to his own works, but according to God’s own purpose and grace (2 Tim. 1:9).
Paul is a classic illustration of God’s efficacious call. He was called, not according to his own will but according to God’s will (1 Cor. 1:1). In fact, he was bent on the destruction of the Church up to the moment of his call and conversion (Acts 9).
Sanctified For Christ
The moment an individual heeds the call and becomes a Christian, he is “sanctified by God” (v. 1). This means he has been set apart, both spiritually (1 Cor. 1:1; 6:11) and physically (1 Th. 4:3), unto God for service. The sanctifying process takes place through the Holy Spirit who cleanses the believer by washing him with the water of God’s Word (Eph. 5:26).
There are three stages of sanctification mentioned in Scripture. First, the believer has been positionally sanctified. He has been eternally set apart unto God by redemption through Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:10, 14; 13:12). Positionally, the believer has been declared righteous before God through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ which he received at the moment of belief. It is called positional sanctification because the believer is considered holy in his standing before God.
Second, the believer is progressively being sanctified. Progressive sanctification is an ongoing process in the daily walk of a believer as he lives out the teachings of God’s Word. He must separate himself from sin and allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse him daily by means of the Word of God (Jn. 17:17).
Third, the believer will be perfected in sanctification. He is promised an ultimate (complete) sanctification at the moment he receives his resurrected body (Eph. 5:27). At that time, the believer will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29) for he shall be like Him (1 Jn. 3:3).
Four agents are involved in the believer’s sanctification. The Father chastens the believer concerning sin (Heb. 12:10); the Son provides the means for sanctification through His shed blood (Heb. 13:12); the Holy Spirit applies the truth of God’s Word to the believer’s life (1 Th. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2); and the believer is to separate himself voluntarily from sin (2 Cor. 7:1). Although the Authorized Version (K.J.V.) reads “sanctified,” most Greek manuscripts used the word “beloved” instead. The word “beloved” is a perfect participle which means God manifested His love to the believer in a past act, and that love continues into the present. The believers to whom Jude was writing had been loved by God the Father and were to be permanent objects of His love.
God’s love can be described in four ways. First, God loved the believer in the past, before salvation: “But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Second, His love for the believer is personal, like that for His own Son: thou “hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (Jn. 17:23), said Jesus. Third, God’s love is continually present with the believer as Jude taught, “who are loved by God the Father” (N.I.V.) [v. 1]. Fourth, God’s love is permanent for His own. Paul asked, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” and then answered by saying, “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?. . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39). Now that is love!
Some teach that believers can be separated from God’s love and lose their salvation, but this is not scriptural. Not only are believers loved by God, they have been accepted in the “Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). If the believer is loved by God eternally, how can he be unloved? If the believer is “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), redeemed through Christ’s shed blood (Eph. 1:7) and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13), it is impossible for him to lose his salvation.
Secure In Christ
Today many Christians reject the idea that a person can be eternally secure after he has received Christ. For such as these, Jude stated unequivocally that the believer is “preserved in Jesus Christ” (v. 1).
The word “preserved” is a perfect participle which means to guard, to hold firmly, to watch, and to keep. It speaks of a past act which took place the moment the person received salvation in Christ with the present and permanent results of still being “preserved.” The believer has been kept, is being kept and will be kept as an eternal possession by Christ.
Many teach that a Christian can lose his salvation by going off into sin. This is not true. The believer is kept not by his own power, but by God’s power (1 Pet. 1:5), which provides the security needed to preserve him in salvation. If the Christian could lose his salvation, then salvation would depend upon him and not upon the keeping power of God. The Christian is as secure in his salvation as the power of God is to keep him secure.
There are a number of Scriptures which prove unequivocally that redemption is a once-and- for-all divine act which cannot be reversed. First, Scripture teaches that those who have been regenerated by God “have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). This means that the believer has eternal life as a present and permanent possession.
Second, Jesus stated that believers “shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:28). The word “never” is a double negative in Greek and means under no condition will the believer ever perish (lose his salvation).
Third, Jesus said that He keeps all whom the Father has given to Him, and He will lose “none of them. . . but the son of perdition” (Jn. 17:12). If it were possible for man to possess salvation and then lose it, this would make Jesus’ words untrue and cast suspicion on other statements He made about salvation.
Fourth, the believer is said to have been “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). God the Father seals Christians into Christ by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. This sealing is a once-and-for-all act which takes place at salvation and cannot be reversed. The sealing work of the Holy Spirit signifies a number of things. It authenticates the genuineness of a person’s salvation (Eph. 1:13). It denotes ownership and identifies the person as God’s possession (Rev. 7:3). It also guarantees that the Christian is eternally secure until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30).
Sustained By Christ
AII believers need to be blessed by God, but especially those who must contend for the faith in an age of apostasy. For this reason, Jude prayed that those to whom he was writing would have God’s “Mercy, . . . peace, and love. . . multiplied” (v. 2) to them.
Mercy is the manifestation of God’s pity and compassion to those in distress and is kin to His grace. In God’s divine order, His mercy comes before grace – He acts in grace because He has mercy for the plight of His people. It is God’s mercy that will support the believer who must face the persecutions poured out against him when he stands for the truth in an apostate age. When mercy is received, it produces peace in the heart of the believer. A person who has made peace with God receives peace from God, which produces the peace of God in his life. It is this peace of God which produces inner stability to face the pressures of an apostate age. The person who possesses God’s mercy and peace will also have His divine love. It is God’s divine love, abundantly poured out, which strengthens the believer, enabling him to stand and earnestly contend for the faith during days of apostasy. How true the words of Lina Berg, “More secure is no one ever Than the loved ones of the Savior!”
- Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, Inc., 1985), pp. 186-188.