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Last week we closed out Peter’s second letter. He challenged us to be on guard so we don’t get carried away by the nonsense of the false teachers and mockers. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ – it’s not an option. This morning, we shift over to the short letter of Jude. Some have called this brief letter the most neglected in the New Testament with 2 and 3 John being close behind. There is a reason we are following Peter’s letters with Jude.
Jude is sometimes overlooked because it is so short, just 25 verses. It’s found just before Revelation and maybe people come to this letter and see Revelation next to it and simply skip it. Since it’s in the Bible, it stands to reason that God wants us to read it, learn from it, and apply the truths that are found therein. Like Peter, the message of the coming judgment have led many to conclude the letter is intolerant and contrary to the love of God taught extensively throughout the Scriptures. So why does this letter exist? Are there any applications to be made? What truths does it contain that help us glorify Christ? We’ll answer these questions and more as we dig into the epistle of Jude.
Jude 1-2 says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”
Here’s some history about the human author. Verse 1 indicates the author to be none other than Jude. Who was he? We know a lot about Peter, James and John. We have tons of information about Paul and Timothy. In N.T. writings, no human author seems to be more mysterious than Jude. Little information is found in Scripture so let’s concentrate on what we do know. He calls himself, “A bond servant of Jesus Christ.” This is significant because of what the word means. It comes from the Greek word doulos meaning slave. It means pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something. Slavery played a divisive yet important role in America’s history. This is not the same thing. Jude willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ.
Jude identified himself as the, “Brother of James.” Jude’s readers must know who James is because no other identifier is used. Who was James? Identifying him is a little tricky because surnames were not prevalent in those days. People were typically identified by their home region, occupation, or whose son they were. Of course the best example is Jesus of Nazareth. Don’t forget Saul of Tarsus. The famous Mary Magdalene from Magdala. Simon bar Jonah – son of John. Remember Alexander the coppersmith that did Paul such harm. So in answering who is James, we need to use the Bible to interpret itself.
I encourage you to study this for yourself and when you do you’ll see James is a fairly common name in Scripture. James is mentioned in numerous places in Acts as a prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him one of the pillars of the church in Galatians. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James in 1 Cor. 15:7 and according to Matt. 13:55, he was the brother of the Son of the carpenter. Who was the Son of the carpenter? Jesus. So James is the brother of Jesus and Jude is the brother of James so Jude is also the brother of Jesus. So it’s interesting that Jude prefers to call himself a slave of Jesus and brother of James rather than identifying himself as the Lord’s brother. It’s also important to note that even though we know that Jude spent his life with Jesus the Messiah, Mark 3 and John 7:5 says that while Jesus was engaged in His earthly ministry, “Not even His brothers were believing in Him.” So when Jesus was alive, his brothers did not accept Him as Savior. It was at some point after His death that they believed. Jude writes with the authority of being a slave to Christ and a brother to James.
Who does Jude write to? We have seen in other studies where the author writes to a specific people. We studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, his letters to the Thessalonians. He also wrote to other local churches. Peter wrote to Christians that were scattered due to severe persecution. Jude doesn’t identify a church, but simply writes to, “Those who are the called, the beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” We need to break this verse into three parts to see just who Jude writes to because if we miss that, the purpose of the letter is lost. First is, “Those who are the called.” Some have used this phrase to prove that God will only save certain people He predetermined or predestined to save. I would conclude that saying that is a gross mishandling of Scripture. “Called” here is an adjective that describes the pronoun, “those”. Remember back just 6 weeks ago, Peter told us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) God’s desire is for everyone to respond to the Gospel and choose to accept the forgiveness for sin Christ offered on the cross. That’s His desire, but that’s not what actually happens.
Second is the phrase, “The beloved in God.” While we recognize that God loved the world and gave His Son (Jo. 3:16), this phrase describes, “those who are the called.” The reason believers are called is because God first loved us. (1 Jo. 4:19) God loves us even if we don’t love Him back.
Finally, Jude writes to those that are, “Kept for Jesus Christ.” Peter said Christians, “Are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:5) Peter and Jude are conveying the same meaning. Let’s put together who Jude is writing to. Called. Beloved. Kept. This trifecta indicates that Jude is writing to Christians in general – the universal church. He finishes his introduction with another trifecta: “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Don’t overlook this simple greeting. God’s mercy means He doesn’t give us what we deserve – death. Mercy affords us the opportunity to receive salvation through accepting the forgiveness offered by Christ. That leads to peace with God because we have been reconciled through Christ. That reconciliation is manifested by love in the spirit of 1 Jo. 4:7-8 that says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
I’ve set it up this way to ensure you understand this brief letter. The things Jude is getting ready to say are not particular to a local assembly of believers like in other Bible books. This message is for us and we need to pay close attention in the coming weeks. I guarantee this letter is going to knock your socks off.