There are two ways of approaching the doctrines of the Scriptures. One way is to collect all the data throughout the Bible into logical categories (called “systematic theology”). The other way is to work through individual books of the Bible, collecting the data on a particular subject (this is called “biblical theology,” although the term is used in other ways in less than conservative circles). When we ask, what do the epistles of Philemon and Jude say about God the Holy Spirit, we are taking a kind of biblical theology approach. Our conviction in these posts is that, while some believers overemphasize the Spirit, others overlook Him. We want to do neither, but long to have a balanced view of the Third Member of the Trinity.
Philemon has a binitarian verse 3 which refers to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (but no reference to the Spirit). Otherwise, there are no overt references to the Spirit in this one-chapter letter.
In Jude we have a binitarian reference in verse 1 regarding those who “are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” A similar omission of the Spirit occurs in verse four where we read of the false teachers that “They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
We do read in verses 17-19 – 17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. What does it mean that they “do not have the Spirit”? The reference is to scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires and who divide God’s people. We do read in Romans 8:9 the following: “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” To not have the Spirit = to not belong to Christ!
We then have the incredible challenge in verses 20-21 — 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. What does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? We have a similar charge in Ephesians 6:18 which says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” “Praying in the Spirit” (as we suggest in our article “The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit”) means becoming aware of and cooperating with His ministries in our lives.
We have a similar binitarian references in verses 24-25 which conclude this short epistle: 24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. It seems that Jude follows other NT writers in keeping the Spirit in the background.
The Challenge: If you and I “have the Spirit” we should not follow mere natural instincts. And we should “pray in the Holy Spirit” so that we understand and cooperate with His ministries in our lives!