An exposition of Jude verse 20
Jude 20: But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost
Charismatics generally conceive that to pray in the Holy Ghost means to pray in tongues or to speak in tongues when you pray, and the carry this interpretation and sense into the 20th verse of Jude. It is easy to see and grasp the true sense of this passage, if we would submit to the rule of context.
We can get a very quick and short context of the above passage by starting our reading from the 17th verse:
17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
From verse 17 above, we see the apostle Jude reminding his audience of the warnings they had earlier received from the rest of the other Apostles; in verse 18, the warning was about mockers who would rise up in the last days, walking in their ungodly lusts, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and cavilling the doctrine of Christ’s second coming and final judgement of the world See (II Pet 2:1; 3:3, 4); verse 19 informs us of the characters of these mockers, they shall separate themselves from the body of Christ to form an entirely different and new movement; observe the Apostle Jude says of them that they are those who separate themselves, which we are to understand as not a separation from the world or sin but a separation from Christ, his Church and his doctrine. A further character identity of these mockers is that they are sensual, that is, carnal and lustful, conforming not to the Holy Scriptures but walking according to the dictates of their fleshly senses; they are also void of the Holy Spirit: having not the Spirit.
After giving the description of these last day mockers and their character traits, be moves on to admonish his audience. The conjunction “but” contrasts them with the mockers in the preceding verses.
“But ye, beloved, that is, in contrast to these last day mockers, beloved, I proceed to give you some word of exhortation and to enjoin you to some duties which will make you different from these men who mock and walk in lusts; and the first is for you to build up yourselves in the most holy faith, which is, grow in the knowledge of the faith into which you have been called. Second, pray and let all your prayers be in line with the Holy Spirit of God leading you in your prayers. Let not your prayers be done out of lusts, do not pray out of evil desires and carnal appetites (See James 4:3). In verse 21, he further admonishes them to continue in the love of God and to seek God’s mercy.
We can see there is nothing in this verse nor in its context about speaking in tongues or rolling on the floor or barking like dogs in the spirit. Jude was not giving a Charismatic Seminar on speaking in tongues at all. His whole end was to enjoin his audience to the necessary duties which would shame the sensual, lascivious, last days mockers.
From the opening of the epistle, the Apostle Jude informs us of what his goal was: to contend for the truth and to confute the errors of false teachers crept in unawares, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).
To bring in the concept of speaking in tongues into this passage is a violation of the context, a disregard to hermeneutics, and an open proof of either biblical ignorance or spiritual blinding from God or both! It would be equal to bring in the concept of healings, visions, and interpretation of dreams into the passage.
Jude never wrote of speaking in tongues or of any of the apostolic gifts. He had a burden to establish his audience in the truth against the heresies which would show up in the last days.
Kenneth Hagin once wrote that speaking in tongues stimulates one’s faith, but this is not true; speaking in tongues will not stimulate your faith but your feeling and fantasy! It will not help you to trust God the more but only lead you to trust your feelings and experiences.
What stimulated your faith to receive Christ Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Was it tongues?
Daniel in the Lion’s den, Samson, David before Goliath, Gideon before the hosts of the Philistines, Moses before Pharaoh, Paul before Nero, what stimulated their faith? Was it speaking in tongues or was it the simple acknowledgement that Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it? I Thess 5:24; Heb 10:23.
Abraham and Sarah, at such age that their ability to bring forth children were already withered, and their seemed to be no hope, what stimulated his faith so that “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God”? Was it the gift of speaking in tongues or because he was fully persuaded that, what God had promised, he was able also to perform? Roman 4:20-21.
What Wiser Men Have Said On Jude 20
Though the Charismatics have no regard for what others who have gone ahead of them have said on several passages of the Scriptures relating to speaking in tongues, I will here subjoin what few men have written relating to this passage.
CALVIN, John: Praying in the Holy Ghost. The way of persevering is, when we are endued with the power of God. Hence whenever the question is respecting the constancy of faith, we must flee to prayer. And as we commonly pray in a formal manner, he adds, In the Spirit; as though he had said, that such is our sloth, and that such is the coldness of our flesh, that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God; and that we are also so inclined to diffidence and trembling, that no one dares to call God his Father, except through the teaching of the same Spirit; for from him is solicitude, from him is ardour and vehemence, from him is alacrity, from him is confidence in obtaining what we ask; in short, from him are those unutterable groanings mentioned by Paul (#Ro 8:26). It is not, then, without reason that Jude teaches us, that no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide.
CLARKE, Adam: [Praying in the Holy Ghost] Holding fast the Divine influence which ye have received, and under that influence making prayer and supplication to God. The prayer that is not sent up through the influence of the Holy Ghost is never likely to reach heaven.
GILL, John: praying in the Holy Ghost; which is a special means of increase and establishment in the doctrine of faith; the Holy Ghost is the author and enditer of prayer, and an assister in it; without him saints cannot call God their Father, nor pray with faith and fervency, or with freedom and liberty.
POOLE, Matthew: Praying in the Holy Ghost; i.e. by the assistance of the Spirit, who teacheth what to pray for, and how; from whom faith, fervency, and all praying graces do proceed. #Ro 8:26,27: The Spirit maketh intercession (prays) in us, to note the excitations of his grace; here we are said to pray in the Holy Ghost, to note the concurrence of our faculties.