Jude: A Message for Our Time, Part One

The Greeting

Just twenty-four short verses long, this brief letter, part of what we call The Catholic Epistles, is contains some of the pertinent warnings for our generation in all the Bible. Jude’s purpose in writing this letter was to warn his readers to be on guard against “innovators” who were smuggling false teachings into the church (Edwin Blum). This little book with the powerful message has been referred to as “the most neglected book in the New Testament” by Douglas Bowers.

Yet in our politically correct charged time, the message of Jude is more timely than ever. Our culture shuns and perverts the truth, while the culture of the modern Church is becoming more and more indifferent to the truth. So much so, that many Christians cannot distinguish between truth and error. Jude wasn’t the only writer of the Bible who fought against false teachers. Paul warned Timothy about them in their relationship to widows in his church:

From their number come those creatures who worm their way into people’s houses, and find easy prey in silly women with an exaggerated sense of sin and morbid cravings – who are always learning and yet never able to grasp the truth. These men are as much enemies to the truth as Jannes and Jambres were to Moses. Their minds are distorted, and they are traitors to the faith. (2 Timothy 3:6-8)

That phrase, “always learning and yet never able to grasp the truth,” perfectly describes, not only some of the widows and “silly women,” in Timothy’s church, but the average member of a church, who hears the truth taught and preached week after week, yet seems unable to function in that truth. The writer to Hebrews felt this common pastoral frustration and expressed it this way:

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (Hebrews 5:12)

How many members of our churches could best be described as “spiritual midgets,” when they ought to be “spiritual giants?” Is it any wonder the once great and influential Church of Jesus Christ has, to a very large extent, become unimportant and irrelevant in the thinking of so many these days?

Delbert Rose wrote:

The Christian life depends upon grace expressing itself in godliness; basic to Jude’s theology is the inescapable relationship between belief and behavior, between error and evil, between sound faith and good works.

If one’s beliefs are wrong, their behavior will not bring glory to God. Donald Guthrie, in his excellent commentary on Jude marks the relevancy of this epistle by saying:

As long as men need stern rebukes for their practices, the Epistle of Jude will remain relevant. It ought to become the fiery cross to rouse the churches to vigorous action against today’s blatant apostasy.

1. Jude Who? 1:1a

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

Jude was a very common name in New Testament times. It is actually the English variant of “Judas.” James was also a common name in New Testament times. Jude writes that he is the bother James, so who exactly was James? Generally, one identifies his father, not his brother, in an introduction. But here, Jude links himself to James. It is likely he did this because this James may have carried some weight in minds of the recipients. In the New Testament, there are no less than five prominent men named James:

James, the son of Zebedee, Matt. 10:2;
James, the son of Alpheus, Matt. 10:3
James the Younger, Mark 15:40
James, the father of Judas, Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13
James, the half brother of the Lord, Matt. 13:55

Of these five, it is probable that the last one, James the half brother of our Lord, is the most likely candidate. By linking himself to his brother, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, Jude also links himself to the Savior. We can learn a little about Jude’s character by the way he introduces himself. William Barclay noted:

Few things tell more about a man than the way in which he speaks of himself. Jude was willing to be remembered by his relationship to his far more famous brother.

But why not be remembered by his relationship to his half-brother, Jesus? A verse in John 7 is very telling:

For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:5)

In humility, Jude would rather be known as a “servant” or “slave” of the brother, now recognized as the Savior, he had once denied.

The Greek word for “servant” is doulos, which may be properly translated as “bondservant” or “slave.” But we would be incorrect to view a doulos as we would view a “slave” by today’s usage of the word. A doulos in Jude’s time was a person willingly subjected themselves to their master. They were a slave because that’s what they wanted to be. Again, Rose has noted that this lordship of Jesus Christ is a major theme in this letter, considering the people to whom it was written had been denying the Lordship of Jesus, preferring the lordship of the false teachers. So at the very beginning of this letter, then, Jude places himself at a contradistinction to his readers.

2. The Called, verse 1b

To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.

The recipients of this letter are simply called “the called.” No other destination is given. This suggests that Jude was not a pastor, or a spiritual father to any particular congregation. Perhaps he was just a very interested individual who was dismayed by the state of the church in general.

The phrase, “the called” is a designation that has become synonymous with “a Christian.” It comes from a single Greek word, kletois, which is a word packed with meaning. It stresses a sovereign act of God in summoning one to salvation. “Many are called,” but only the “few” accepting the terms of the call are “chosen,” Matthew 20:16; 22:14. It paints the picture of a God who goes in search of soul to save, calling out to that soul, wanting that soul to respond to His call.

Certain blessings belong only the kletois. They are:

Loved by God the Father. Some translations read “sanctified by God,” but this is likely a mistranslation of two Greek words which appear look very similar to each other. The best evidence, though, is that Jude wrote that “the called” are indeed “loved by God.” And this makes perfect sense, for God is love, 1 John 4:16, and He has set His love on His people. This was a concept that Jude’s readers would have understood immediately. Consider Deuteronomy 7:6-8–

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you.

Kept by Jesus Christ. These words echo the words of Jesus Himself concerning His disciples:

While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. (John 17:12)

The word “kept” or “preserved” is teteremenois, which is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing activity. Christ’s preservation of His people has never stopped and will never stop. This is a wonderful promise: Christ will keep us! It reminds us of what Paul wrote,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:35)

But, later on his letter, Jude indicates that this keeping process will not go on automatically. He ends his letter saying,

Keep yourselves in the love of God (verse 21).

In the Greek, the word “by” is absent. Some translations have used the word “in,” as in “kept in Jesus Christ.” But, in keeping faithful with the context, we could read this part of the verse like this: “kept for Jesus Christ,” with the thought that God the Father preserves the kletois for His Son.

3. Amazing blessings, verse 2

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

The NIV, as well as most translations, give us a paraphrase of this verse, not an actual translation. The exact translation is:

May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. (NASB)

All three of these things: mercy, peace, and love, are things God does for us or gives to us.

  • “Mercy” is from the Greek eleos, which is translated “the unmerited goodness of God.” This is how God deals with us each and every day; He treats us better than we deserve.
  • “Peace” is eirene, and has reference to a “harmonious relationship.” What else could accompany the acceptance of God’s mercy but peace? God makes is possible for believers to be in a harmonious relationship with Him.
  • “Love” is from the awesome Greek word agape. Of all the New Testament writers, Jude is the only one who has used this word in this way.

All three of these are given to us by God, who causes them to grow in our lives. This multiplication of abstract things like mercy, peace, and love is difficult to understand. It not unlike memorizing the dreaded “times tables” in school. Kids learn their “times tables” through constant repetition and practice. This is the concept of Jude 2: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. Jude does not say they must be multiplied, but that they may be multiplied. God is the one who does the multiplication, not us.

These intangible qualities are multiplied as we approach God throne, seeking His mercy and forgiveness of our sins. The more we come to God, the more God grants us the gifts of mercy, peace and love. (Kistemaker)

Jude could have written, “May mercy, peace, and love be added to you.” But he used multiplied because God’s gifts are doubled, and tripled, and quadrupled. That’s an amazing thing. Addition is easy to understand:

2+2=4
4+4=8
8+8=16
16+16=32

But the times tables are a lot harder to remember:

2×2=4
4×4=16
16×16=256
256×256=65,536

Multiplication is really mind-boggling. But, this is how God gives us these gifts of mercy, peace, and love. We cannot comprehend what the results are in our lives. And God doesn’t expect us to. He wants us to pray, “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”

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