Jude's Warnings: Fruitless Trees, Wandering Stars, and Perseverance

Lately I’ve been thinking about the doctrine of sanctification and how it dovetails with the doctrine of perseverance. This morning Judy and I looked at the book of Jude and we found ourselves wondering what the circumstances were that provoked him to write these sobering words. Jude pulls no punches.  Some would consider him less than gracious.  He begins this short epistle by reminding them of their election, then he urges them to contend for their faith, he continues by describing those who are destined for judgment, and then he urges them to persevere by the preserving grace of God. Apparently some had made their way into their gatherings that were making mockery of the gospel. There seemed to be an encroaching dilution of the gospel in their midst and it was characterized by those whose lives were devoid of God-honoring fruit in considering and caring for one another. The gospel had lost its permeating effect and their religion was one of self-serving and self-absorption. Look at these words he uses to describe them,

Jude 1:12-13 These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

His description is graphic- they feast without fear, they look after themselves, and they are waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, and wandering stars. As I read these words I was sobered to consider increasing watchfulness over my own soul. Puritan Thomas Manton comments on this passage and says,

“The saints carry on a joint trade to heaven; they are all partners, and salvation lieth in common between them: you are to promote mine, and I yours.”

Our understanding of sanctification and perseverance can never be disconnected from our understanding of contending for the faith. And our contending for the faith can never be understood outside of the context of mutual care and watchfulness. Our society breathes the air of individualism, self-sufficiency and self-accomplishment, and yet the gospel comes along and removes us from our isolation and independence. The gospel places us in the context of a family, even God’s very household. And now sanctification and perseverance grow as intended within the life we have together as members of Christ’s body. Jude calls it our ‘common salvation’ (vs. 3). Here’s the kicker, I cannot grow in my sanctification without you, and neither can I persevere without you. Left to myself I will become one of those Jude warns about- a waterless cloud, a fruitless tree, a wild wave, and a wandering star. In God’s unfathomable wisdom He has joined us to one another for the purpose of His glory and our good.

As we think about our lives together with others in Christ’s church let us consider how we can promote one another’s growth in sanctification and how we can help one another to persevere. Begin in prayer by asking God to help you see how you can best serve your brothers and sisters. Give some thought to the broad ages and life experiences represented and go out of your way to learn new names, interests, gifting and challenges. Ask someone you don’t know very well how you can pray for him or her. Invite someone to lunch or coffee that you may not have spent much time with. Ask someone how he or she came to faith in Christ. As a family, begin to discuss how you can reach out to others. Pray and ask God to make the fruit of sanctified grace evident in your family as you interact with others. Think of creative ways to encourage and serve others.

At the end of it all my prayer is that the sweet fragrance of Jesus Christ and the glorious gospel permeate our lives as we pursue sanctification, all the while persevering together.


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