Pastor Scott Andrews | March 20, 2022
Several years ago, our college ministry called College Connection began a weekly tradition of closing their Sunday evening gatherings by singing, au Capella:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Complete with the amen – I might add, in stunning harmony. We have lots of music majors in our church, and they can sing. You know that song as simply, The Doxology. It was written by Thomas Ken in 1674 – which makes it about 350 years old. It’s an amazing work – but it has recently gone through some revisions, some updates, to include gender neutral language – like, in the PCUSA hymnbook:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise God, all creatures here below,
Praise God above, ye heavenly host
Do you see the difference? It’s subtle, but the new version eliminates the male pronouns. God’s preferred pronouns are… And I know what some of you are thinking – but God is spirit, He is neither male nor female. And yet, the Scripture does refer to Him in the masculine, as God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Oh, by the way, the last line in the updated hymn is not Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but rather, “Praise Triune God, whom we adore.” For what it’s worth, I counted once – the Farewell Discourse which promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, refers to the Spirit with the masculine pronoun about 35 times. It’s not chauvinistic – in the Scripture, God is He. And I am not aware that God submits to humanity’s idea of gender fluidity. I’m not suggesting He is male – I am suggesting He has revealed Himself as He – Father, Son and Spirit.
So again, the title of the song is The Doxology, but what is a doxology? It comes from two Greek words, doxa and logos – a word or saying of glory. A word ascribing glory. Now, sometimes we may consider a doxology to be praise – and it certainly is. But think about it, we may praise our kids for hitting a home run, scoring a touchdown or a soccer goal. We might even praise them for getting all A’s on their report cards – for some, all C’s. When they’re in grade school, good comments in the behavior section may earn praise. I always got the A’s – but never the good comments about behavior. Yes, I needed to be saved – little sinner that I was.
So anyway, we use the word praise in a number of different contexts. But doxology – a word expressing glory – well, that is rightly reserved for God alone. We don’t give or sing a doxology to anyone but God. There are several doxologies through the Scripture, consider these in the NT:
Romans 16:25-27 – Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 – Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
II Peter 3:18 – but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
There are others, but notice a couple things. First, doxologies may come at the end of a book – but sometimes they come in the middle – as in Ephesians 3 – to emphasize a point. Maybe the author is so overcome with God’s goodness, he breaks into praise – a doxology. They can even come at the beginning of a letter, as in I Timothy 1:17. Paul has just written how the gospel is even for the worst of sinners, like him. And he writes, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
So, the typical doxology is again, reserved only for God, and it also magnifies and extols that there is only one and true God. These doxologies typically have four parts: first is an addressee, again God, as in, to God; second, the doxology ascribes glory and honor using a variety of terms; third, the extent of the honor is expressed, usually forever; and fourth is an invitation for the hearers to affirm this honor, usually with Amen. So, a doxology could be as simple as Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” That might be a good way to begin, or end a day – every day – to live your life in doxology.
Which brings us to our text today, the last two verses of the book of Jude. Let’s read verses 24-25.
Notice, the addressee – to Him who is able to keep us; the glory and honor ascribed to God and expanded by Jude in verse 25, glory and majesty and dominion and authority; the extent of the honor is before all time and now and forever; and finally Jude ends with the customary Amen, calling us, the hearers, to affirm the truth of the doxology. So let’s make that our outline:
- The Addressee (24)
- The Honor Ascribed (25)
- The Extent (or duration) of the Honor (25)
- The Affirmation (25)
Now, if you have been with us, you know Jude has been a rather challenging book. Remember, he wanted to write about our common salvation – the salvation we share through the gospel of Jesus Christ. But some false believers, who were also false teachers, had infiltrated the church – bringing with them their wicked behaviors supported by their wicked teaching.
I’m not going to get much into that other than to remind us we see this today in the so-called progressive church. It’s progressed beyond the antiquated teachings of Christian history. Churches and entire denominations are rejecting the inspiration and enduring authority of Scripture because Scripture calls sin, sin – and condemns ungodly, immoral lifestyles. In fact, I would suggest most of these progressive churches would not teach Jude.
So, they reject the inerrancy and veracity of Scripture and suggest we are free to live however we want – after all, we have been set free. There is freedom to pursue our choice of lifestyle – after all, God wants us to be happy – this is the way God made me. Further, that which the Bible has called sin is not sin or no longer sin. We are smarter, enlightened, progressive. About the only thing that really matters in the progressive church is equality and social justice – however they define equality and social justice.
To be sure, the Bible speaks against racism and inequalities and promotes the care of orphans and widows. It is a good thing to be committed to providing social care for all people – to include those marginalized and often overlooked. It is a way to share the love of Jesus Christ tangibly, earning us the right to share the hope of Christ through the Gospel verbally. But, this movement we see in the progressive church denies the authority of Scripture, the death and resurrection of Jesus – He didn’t come to die for our sins, He was a martyr. He came rather to live an exemplary life to be emulated, to set an example of love and care for our neighbors. Any judgment is denied, and any sin is permitted.
All that to say, this book is most appropriate for the Christian church today. False teachers and immoral, ungodly unbelievers abound in the church, and justify their actions. So Jude has been rather tough. We ended that last section in verses 17-23 reviewing the prophecy of the apostles, that in the last days, mockers will come, following their own ungodly lusts. But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, waiting anxiously for the return of our Christ. And all the while, we keep ourselves in the love of God, which sounds a bit daunting.
Further, some in the church – true believers in the church, at least professing believers – may have been adversely affected by these false believers, false teachers. Not only in Jude’s day, but our own. After all, it sounds so enticing. You mean, I really can use Jesus as a fire escape from hell, and live however I want? No, Jude says. These teachers are hidden reefs, caring only for themselves. They are clouds without water, autumn trees without fruit – making empty promises. They are wild waves of the sea, churning up their own shame – for whom blackest darkness is reserved forever. Don’t mistake it, judgment is coming.
But some in the church have given them an ear, and were in danger of apostasy. So, we are to look out for one another – hold one another accountable. On some who are doubting, we have mercy, and graciously and gently call them back. For others, we save them, snatching them from the fire – time and eternity is of the essence. All the while, we show mercy with fear, hating the garment polluted by the flesh – we don’t get sucked in ourselves.
This has perhaps left you trembling. Maybe rightly fearful. What is this – I keep myself in the love of God? But what if I fail? What if I don’t? Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy. Jude ends his letter with words of great confidence. One author writes, “The hope that pervades the doxology is astounding in light of the grave situation that Jude faced as he tried to extract the church from the jaws of the heretics….in the end he turns his eyes to God, now that God is the one who will protect them and purify them so that they will, in the final day, be overwhelmed with joy.” (Gene Green, BECNT) Those who truly belong to Christ will not capitulate. Your faithfulness to the end is not due to your own ability or inner strength – it is God who keeps His own from falling away.
You see, he has given us a great balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. And he has done it, cleverly using the word keep through the book. Consider these:
Remember verse 1 – to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ. We are called, loved and kept. Kept is a divine passive – this is not something we do, it’s something God does. He keeps us for Jesus Christ.
Interesting, he uses the word keep twice in verse 6, speaking of the fallen angels – “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode [their place], He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” Used negatively, but with the same eternal assurance – they didn’t keep themselves where they belonged, so God is keeping them in bonds for judgment. You can count on it.
Then verse 21 – “keep yourselves in the love of God.” Only now, the word isn’t in the passive – it’s an active imperative – it’s a command – do this. Keep yourselves in the love of God.
Wow – that’s hard, so which one is it? Am I loved by God and kept for Jesus – or do I keep myself? Yes – both are true. But don’t be overwhelmed, daunted, doubting. Now to Him who is able to keep you. He has the power, the ability to keep you – different word, but a synonym. It speaks of God’s ability to protect and preserve us. Yes, there is human responsibility to follow hard after Christ, to say no to sin and its enticements. But all the while, God is keeping, protecting and preserving us. In fact, Jesus prayed for us in John 17 for that very thing, “Holy Father, keep them in [or by] Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.”
He is able to keep us from stumbling…into apostasy is the idea. That’s not a promise of sinless perfection – although, by the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit as we heard last week, we have the power to say no to sin, and we should because we love Jesus. But here, He is able to keep us from stumbling – from falling away from the faith. We can remain faithful despite our frailties and failures. When Jude says God is able, it’s not just ability, but a promise. One writes, “When Jude spoke of God’s ability to keep believers from falling, he did not merely mean that believers might be kept from falling. The idea is that God will keep them from falling by his grace.” (Schreiner)
And further, He is able to make us stand – that’s the opposite of stumbling and falling – make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy. Please notice – God is able to make us stand blameless. That is, He makes us forgiven, cleansed, He makes us holy by grace through the work of Christ such that we can and will stand blameless. We will remain faithful, we will not fall, we will stand in the last day, and at the judgment to come, judged blameless. It could be translated without blemish or without fault, and we are reminded of the sacrifices in the OT which were required to be without blemish. Perfect. Further then, we are reminded of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God in Hebrews 9:13,14,
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,
14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish [same word] to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Do you understand what Jude just said? God will cause us to stand in His presence without blemish – blameless – that same word used of Christ and His sacrifice because that sacrifice has been applied to us. I Peter 1 says it this way:
17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,
19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you
21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
This has been God’s intent all along. We see the same idea in Ephesians 1, where God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” Later in Ephesians 5, Christ’s purpose is to present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless.
Jude says, we will stand in the presence of His glory. God enables us, by the work of His Son, and the filling of the Spirit, to stand in the presence of His glory. This is stunning.
Just Friday in my personal devotional Bible reading, I read Exodus 32 and 33. There, Moses was in the presence of the Lord after Israel’s terrible sin of crafting and worshiping the golden calf. When you read of their terrible sin – fashioning a golden calf to which they sacrificed burnt offerings intended for God – and they partied – it is breathtaking – but not in a good way. It hits you to pit of your stomach – how could they do that? To this God – the only God – the one who had delivered them just weeks before. God was prepared to destroy them and start over with Moses.
But Moses interceded for them – he reminded God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – that He would make of them a great nation. If God destroyed them now, His name, His word, would be suspect – the Egyptians and surrounding nations would hear – God only brought them out of Egypt to destroy them. He was unable to fulfill His promises to them.
God relented, and Moses further pleaded with God to go with them into the land. God said, I’ll go with you. Moses responded, “I pray You, show me Your glory.” You know this story – God said, I’ll place you in the cleft of the rock, cover you with My hand, and pass by with all My glory. But you can’t see My face – you’ll see My back – for no one can see My face and live.
Here, Jude actually says, there is coming a day when we stand before the presence of the glory of God – blameless, with great joy. The difference? The finished work of Christ. Can you imagine? Like God’s promise to the patriarch’s, this is God’s promise to you.
And by the way, the pronouns in these verses are plural – He is able to keep you all from stumbling, and make you all stand in the presence of His glory – all blameless with great joy – to the only God our Savior. Do you see? Jude is writing to a church, but a church in community – He will keep us all, and protect us blameless – together. You see, in heaven when we are proclaiming His glory – it will not be a singular voice – but we – a congregation without number with myriads upon myriads of angels – declare the worth of the One who has done it all. There will be public celebration and declaration.
Bringing us to point two – the honor ascribed. To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority. Don’t miss it – to the only God our Savior. There is no other – not golden calves, not idols of our own making fashioned by our own hands, not the god of our own making, not false gods of false religions – to the only God our Savior. Only one true and living God, who alone is our Savior. Which is why, back to the High Priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus starts with, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
It’s interesting to note – most of the time in the NT, Jesus is called Savior. But here, it is God who is Savior – clearly referring to the Father. The OT frequently calls God our Savior. The NT authors had no qualms referring to the second person of the Trinity – through His cross-work – as our Savior. A further declaration of His deity. We saw in Titus 1 that Paul called God our Savior in verse 3, and Jesus our Savior in verse 4. Which is why, by the way, this ascription of honor comes through Jesus Christ – apart from Him, we would know nothing, ultimately, of God.
To the only God our Savior be four ascriptions of ultimate honor:
First, glory, which is the magnificent display of His character and attributes that He alone possesses. We may possess some limited aspect of those attributes He shares with His people – love and mercy and grace and goodness – but He alone possesses them infinitely, resulting in glorious display. To Him, alone, be all the glory – the honor, respect, reverence, and resplendent beauty for His creative and saving work. In that sense of glory, we don’t add to it, we don’t take away from it. But when the Bible speaks of giving God glory, something we are supposed to do, it speaks of making His glory or reputation known. We don’t add to it – we just make it known.
Second, to the only God our Savior be majesty. His majesty speaks of the honor due Him for His infinitely exalted position – His awesome transcendence. For Who He is, that is, in His being, or what He has done – in His deeds. It’s interesting to note the word is not used of anyone in the NT except God.
Third, to the only God our Savior be dominion – that is, He alone is omnipotent – all powerful, and therefore He is sovereign and rules all of heaven and earth – all of His creation and His dwelling place. He is in control – nothing happens without His knowledge and indeed, His sovereign purposes.
And He does so perfectly, fourthly, through His authority. He has the authority to exercise dominion. It’s one thing to say you’re in charge – it’s another thing to have the authority to be in charge. And it is not just random authority – it is purposeful sovereignty that Piper calls simply providence.
Which brings us to our third point – the extent or duration of this honor. Jude’s words are very descriptive, and speak of the eternality of our God – before all time, before the ages, in eternity past before God created time; now, in the present; and forever, literally, to all the ages or to eternity – and beyond. So maybe our second point would be better, the honor acknowledged rather than the honor ascribed. These attributes are not mutable, that is, changeable. It’s not like God acquired these qualities at some point – they have been and will be His forever – from before creation, in creation, and beyond creation. In a world of constant change and flux, this is good news.
This honor has always been due Him – it is due Him now by all creatures of our God and King, even though many deny His existence and refuse to bow the knee – one day they will. And it will forever be due Him. Which means, we will forever ascribe or acknowledge the glory, majesty, dominion and authority of God. Forever. One said it this way, “All glory and majesty and power belong to God. He will be praised forever and ever by believers in Jesus Christ.”
Every once in a while, I hear something like this – heaven as an eternal worship service sounds boring. You mean that’s all we’ll be doing – an eternal church service. Listen, I don’t know all that heaven holds for us – Matthew 25 seems to indicate we who have been granted responsibilities in this age and proven faithful will also be granted further responsibilities in the age to come. But don’t ever bemoan the idea that we will worship God, rightly, forever – because we will. Unhindered by sin – we will do that for which we were created – and it will bring us greatest [boundless] joy, and Him greatest glory. You are thinking of worship in fallen bodies. Imagine worship in glorified, without blemish, blameless body and soul.
To which we can only respond, amen – which is a declaration by God’s people – may it be so, it is written, and it is true. Amen.