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Praying in the Spirit

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What does it mean to, “pray in the Spirit” in Jude 20?

The book of Jude is one of the shortest in the New Testament, and ironically, one of the most likely to produce questions. There are all sorts of strange passages that most of us never come across unless we’re really sticking to our bible in a year plan. Our question is rooted in one of those parts that we might skip over at the end of Jude if we aren’t paying close attention.

So what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? 

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that has been a source of a lot of discussions. We usually come to passages like this and wonder if it refers to speaking in tongues or not. Those from a charismatic perspective see a connection here with Paul’s words to the Corinthians, or they reflect on the way that the Spirit caused the apostles to speak in tongues at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13, 1 Corinthians 14:14-16). Often times, people will also point out that Paul commands the church to, “Pray in the Spirit” at the end of Ephesians 6:18. In one sense, I think those of a charismatic bent are right to affirm that this is part of what Jude is getting at, sometimes when the Bible describes, “Praying in the spirit,” it’s accompanied by tongues. 

But I think it’s important to recognize that tongues is only one of a long list of things that happen when the Spirit is at work in the New Testament:

- Simeon is in the Spirit when he blesses the new-born Christ (Luke 2:27).

- Paul decides to visit Macedonia in the Spirit (Acts 19:21).

- Believers are said to be in the Spirit because of their salvation (Romans 8:9).

- John receives his vision of Christ’s return while he is in the Spirit (Revelation 1:10). 

With all of this in mind, New Testament scholar, Richard Bauckham, points out that in the Bible, “Praying in the Spirit includes, but is not restricted to, prayer in tongues.” It’s easy to look at Jude as seeking to capture something from all of the passages above. 

The unifying thread is dependence, in every case we see people relying on the Holy Spirit to save, lead, and strengthen them in the face of the challenges in front of them.

That dependence is exactly what Jude’s readers so desperately need. If you look at the rest of Jude’s letter, you’ll notice that he starts by describing the letter he wishes he could write, a happy one that celebrates the salvation that he and his readers share. However, false teachers have crept into the church, so the letter Jude actually writes is full of warnings and suggestions for how to avoid error (3-5). It’s in the face of these challenges that we find the command to pray in the Holy Spirit: “build yourselves up in the most-holy faith; pray in the Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Jude basically says: 
spirit-filled prayers of dependence are one of the ways that God will help them combat false teaching, 
it’s how God will build them up in the true faith, 
it’s how God will give them the strength to wait for Christ’s return. 

Interestingly these are all things that we’ve just seen the Holy Spirit does elsewhere in the New Testament. The church Jude is writing to needs to depend on the work of the Spirit to help them weather this crisis. But they don’t just need the Spirit to do one thing, they need the Spirit to do a little bit of everything we see him do in the Scriptures. 

Jude is calling the church to the sort of prayer that will draw them to exalt Christ like Simeon, to make decisions led by the Lord like Paul, and to await the return of Jesus with patience like John on Patmos. 

This sort of prayer will often take different forms: it may look like speaking in tongues or asking for wisdom and discernment. But they all have one unifying theme: dependence. This is the sort of prayer that strengthens our love of Jesus, the kind of prayer that helps us stay faithful until His return. All of these are the work of the Spirit, all of these things are meant to strengthen the church up so that we, like Jude’s readers, can stand against false teaching. 

Jude’s command wasn’t just needed in his day, it’s needed in ours. May we be a people who pray in dependence on the Spirit to guide lead us home. 

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Alcohol and the Christian

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Do you drink alcoholic beverages? Why or why not? Just curious as to another believer's perspective!

Undoubtedly, Christians of all stripes deal with questions relating to alcohol. Some churches deal more strictly with alcohol than others, everything from "Use it as you please," to "You are going to hell for the sin of drunkenness for drinking at all." Both extremes seem to have warrant, but neither perspective gets it right.

The Bible addresses wine and drinking alcohol in both testaments. With an examination of the teaching of Scripture, one thing is certain: alcohol is a blessing that can become a curse.

Scripture speaks of alcohol, specifically wine, as a blessing from God and a symbol of abundance to make "man's heart glad" (Ps 104:15; Ecc 10:19; Is 55:11; Zech 10:7). More precisely, wine is to remind God's people of God's provision in their lives (1 Cor 11:17-32), and of their eternal destination with him forever (Is 25:6-8; Amos 9:13; Rev. 19:6-10). Clearly, wine symbolizes the blessing of God.

However, the Bible also speaks to the misuse of alcohol or wine (Is 5:11, 28:1-7; Titus 2:3). Ephesians 5:18 says, "do not get drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit" (ESV). This single verse strikes a balance between the extremes and provides us with guidance on how we approach alcohol. Paul summarizes the biblical warnings stating that believers should not be drunk or filled with wine (or anything that may alter your judgment) to the point of drunkenness because it is "debauchery," or more fundamentally, a waste of life. He offers the godly alternative, be filled with the Spirit so you may glorify God in all you do and build up the church (Eph 5:18-21). Essentially, do not waste God's blessings, but glorify God and build his church.

One other thing worth noting, Christians have the responsibility to abide by the law of the land (Rom 13). Thus, no underage drinking is ever acceptable in Florida (i.e., where we live), culinary school and communion being the only exceptions.

With Scripture’s wisdom we can ask two questions: is it a sin to consume alcohol? No. Is it a sin to drink alcohol at the expense of your Christian witness and responsibility, being filled with the Spirit? Yes.

So, how should a Christian think about alcohol?

Taking all of the above into consideration here are two different perspectives on alcohol from our staff.

Perspective #1  -  Growing up I saw the destruction alcohol can cause in relationships and one’s life. Once I became a believer, I read Scripture’s warning against drunkenness and the inability to distinguish the holy from the common that followed men in scripture who chose not to heed its warnings. In light of this, for a really long time, I decided not to drink.

It wasn’t until the Lord brought believers into my life who didn’t use alcohol in a toxic way that I began to see how when used responsibly it can be a part of a moment of celebration and joy. So yes, I will occasionally drink with limits on how much I have. I believe that we should never allow ourselves to be so consumed with alcohol that it leads to drunkenness. Also, as a Christ follower, I shouldn’t allow alcohol to control my words or my actions because these are used in submission to Christ.

Perspective #2  -  My relationship with alcohol is a complicated one. I believe Scripture teaches that alcohol is a sign of God’s blessing and even a gift when used in moderation and in accordance with the laws of the land. Even still, I’ve chosen not to drink. At first, this was born out of the way that I saw substances negatively affect my friends. But as I’ve grown older, and reflected on what the Bible teaches my reasons for why I abstain have changed, even though my position hasn’t.

My decision not to drink is rooted in two things: Scripture’s serious warning against drunkenness, and my own admitted weakness when it comes to moderation. I know myself well enough to be aware that I’m not particularly good at moderating, and I recognize that alcohol used to excess draws harsh warnings from scripture. With those things in mind, I’ve chosen not to open the door to the possibility of drunkenness in my life. Even with my own position, I recognize that this is not a matter of, “sin or not” but rather a matter of Christian wisdom. For me drinking would be unwise, and yet I abstain personally while recognizing that this standard may not apply to the brother and sister who is able to enjoy this gift within the Bible’s parameters.


As we consider these testimonies, we can note the biblical nature of both positions. The first in good conscience drinks in moderation with an eye toward pleasing the Lord. The other abstains because of their understanding of their personality. Both seek to live in submission to the Lord and be filled with the Spirit.

Another point to consider, alcohol is not like most addictive things; it is much more potent. For instance, biting your fingernails will not lead to death in most situations, but the misuse and abuse of alcohol can and has led to the destruction of many lives. This begs the question, should you partake in drinking alcohol? Or, is it wise, or unwise?

So, as with all blessings from God, alcohol can be misused and abused to the point of destruction. Alcohol is a blessing, a gift from God, that when misused can become sinful and even a curse.

In summary, to quote Joe Thorn, “One can drink to the glory of God, while another can abstain for the glory of God.”

Resources to consult:


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