Jude has long been a favorite book of mine; for being such a short work (only twenty-five verses), a number of important topics are touched upon, including some rather esoteric matters regarding eternal punishment, sexuality, and angelology. If you’ve never read the Book of Jude, I encourage you to take a few moments to do so. And I encourage you to follow along with this commentary series, twenty-five posts through twenty-five verses.
The Book of Jude is the sixty-fifth book of Scripture as arranged in (most) Christian Bibles. Jude, like the majority of New Testament books, is an epistle — a fancy way of saying it was correspondence or a letter (you kids might need to ask your parents what a letter is; it’s a lot like e-mail, only more of the words are spelled correctly). The Book of Jude was written In the mid AD 60s, shortly before Peter would author his second epistle.
This was a mere 25–30 years after the death and resurrection of the Christ, prominent eyewitnesses were still alive — such as the aforementioned apostle Peter — and the church was facing opposition not only from secular and Jewish authorities but was also dealing with rampant false teaching from a variety of groups. It is these false teachings which Jude unleashes a torrent of written rage upon, and while we will (eventually) get to that point, I want to take this one verse at a time, beginning with (can ya guess?) Jude 1. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Book of Jude, it is only one chapter long; because of this, the standard way of noting Bible verses becomes redundant: Jude 1:1 and Jude 1 both refer to the first verse of the epistle, and the latter is preferred for brevity’s sake.)
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: The Epistle of Jude 1
Jude’s introduction of himself is very simple but it allows us to get to know a little about this man chosen by God to pen one of Scripture’s most intense chapters.
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Who was Jude? Aside from the Book of Jude, you may not think we know anything about him. No one by the name of Jude is mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures.
Most (all?) English translations would lead you to believe that Jude shows up, writes an epistle, then vanishes again. But that is not the case: Jude is mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures by the name “Judas,” a translation of the Greek Ἰουδάς (prn. ee-oo-dasˈ). Variants of the name include Judah and Jehudah. It was a common name and occurs in Scripture for at least ten distinct individuals.
Hitchcock’s Bible Names gives the meaning of the name as “the praise of the Lord; confession.” No meaning is given in the Strong’s entry for Ἰουδάς (#G2455), so I can’t say whether that’s an accurate meaning or not. Given Jude’s fierce condemnation of false teachers in his epistle, it can be implied that the praise of the Lord was precious to him and was something not to be corrupted by false doctrine — no matter how much liberal teachers want to proclaim that doctrine doesn’t matter and that we shouldn’t be caught up on it.
“A servant of Jesus Christ”
Here we see Jude’s humility. You see, Jude was more than a servant of Jesus Christ, he was His brother! Don’t feel bad if you’re unaware that Jesus had brothers; a certain ginormous church has expended a lot of time, money, and effort to convince the world that Jesus’ mother Mary remained a virgin throughout her entire life.
When Jesus returned to His hometown, those neighbors who had known Him for His entire earthly life were astonished at His teachings and works. They knew Him so well that they found His ministry to be simply unbelievable. In testifying of how well they knew Him, the neighbors speak of not only Jesus’ mother Mary but also “his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas” (Mt. 13:49). (Did Mary Have Other Children?)
Jude would have been perfectly within his rights to say, “Jude, brother of Jesus…” when writing his epistle, but he did not. He chose the far more humble — yet far more descriptive — title of “servant of Jesus Christ.”
The word “servant” is a translation of δοῦλος (dooˈ-los), a Greek word which very simply means “slave” and therefore carries the ideas of subservience and subjection. I know the concept of slavery being a positive thing in the Scriptures is about as offensive as telling someone that the Scriptures condemn homosexuality, but that is why we need to be on guard against culture coloring our faith.
Jude — writing under the guided inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is called a servant, a slave, of Jesus Christ. That is an amazing statement.
Think back to all the times Jesus says something to the effect of, “By this, you will be known” or “A believer will be known by this…” Jude met those qualifications, and not only was Jude associated with Jesus but Jesus associated His name with Jude, and that without qualification.
What do people say Christians ought to be nowadays? Nonjudgmental? Loving and compassionate? Open hearted and open minded? Willing to look past doctrine to see the “bigger issues”?
These people probably ignore the Book of Jude. Four times Jude drops a word which is more scathing than ever modern cuss words could hope to be, for what could be worse than to be so far dissociated from the Lord that you should be called “ungodly”… four times. And that represents just one small part of Jude’s attack on false teachers. How open minded was Jude when he declared that the homosexuals of Sodom and Gomorrah “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7)?
Yet God bestowed not only the honor of writing an epistle upon Jude but also declaring Him to be a servant — not an enemy — of His precious Son.
“and brother of James”
Jude was hardly a prominent apostle, and it is that obscurity which may be the motivation to tie Jude to a prominent leader in the church: the apostle James. We saw earlier when looking at Jude’s familial relationship with Jesus that James was included in that list as well. In addition to James’ relationship to Jesus Christ, he was also leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15) and was thus very prominent in early Christianity. Attaching his name to Jude’s teaching would serve to reinforce Jude’s teachings to his readers.
“To those who are called”
Here we see who Jude is writing to, and he calls them the “called.” What are we to make of that word? The Greek is κλητός (prn. klay-tosˈ) and is a word which means “appointed” or “invited” or specifically someone who is a “saint.” When we walk that concept through the Scriptures, we come across Romans 8:29–30, which says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
So who are the called? They are those who God foreknew in the past and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Those who are predestined are ultimately called in this life and will become justified and then glorified. That chain of events cannot be broken — those who are saved are destined to be saved, and there’s nothing they can do to change that — and exists apart from man’s will. The chain exists entirely as part of God’s good pleasure (Eph. 1:5), and whatsoever God desires, He gets.
All of that is to say that the Book of Jude is written to Christians, those who have been born again and forgiven of all sin. This should come as no surprise as the bulk of the epistle stands as a no-holds-barred indictment of a variety of unbelievers.
“beloved in God the Father”
I spent some time trying to come up with something to say to that phrase. The thought that the Father loves us causes ineffable joy to well up within me. I am a sin-blackened worm unworthy of even the air I breathe. I have spat upon God’s law and have rebelled against Him with stiff-necked obstinacy.
And an eternity ago, He knew that’s exactly what I would do. He knew that there would be nothing of true value within me, that I would do nothing to please Him other than to heap up filthy rags in a vain attempt to be “good” (Is. 64:6).
Yet it pleased Him to not only choose me, but to make the ultimate sacrifice in order for my sin to be forgiven and for me to be reconciled to Him.
Undeserving. Unworthy. And unaware that I was in a state of spiritual death and blindness… Until the day that the Lord called me to Him so that He could justify me.
I hope that if you’re reading this, my story is your story, that you are one of the called. Believe in Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
“and kept for Jesus Christ:”
We’re only in the first verse of Jude, and already we have two of the primary five tenets of Calvinism affirmed; earlier we saw the unconditional election by God, and here we see perseverance (or preservation) of the saints.
Why is it Jude comforts his readers with the promise that they are being kept for their Savior? Perhaps it is because Jude was overflowing with joy at the thought and couldn’t cherish the promises of God pertaining to salvation enough. If that is the case, who can blame him?
Much of the epistle, though, is negative. With talk of eternal damnation, warning after warning about false teachers who seek to lead believers astray, and more, it is understandable that those Jude wrote to may worry as a result. The news of your bank going under would be received quite a bit differently if your accounts were not insured by the FDIC than if they were, right?
The promise that believers are kept for Jesus is our insurance against all the evils of this world and the wiles of Satan.
And it is our assurance that we cannot fall away. Our salvation is as certain today as it was an eternity ago when God decreed it.
What could be more more comforting than knowing that Jesus Christ awaits us and that we are being kept and preserved by the Father so that we will be presented to Him as His people?
Those are my observations from Jude 1. I take away from that verse that we should not let anyone dissuade us from fervently defending orthodox Christianity against those who would seek to feminize or weaken the church or doctrine to satisfy some artificial ideals of tolerance, acceptance, or openness. Truth in doctrine is vital, and Yahweh used His servant Jude to fervently contend for it against those who would seek to corrupt it.
May we be as bold when we proclaim the truth.