After writing two articles on the heretical New Apostolic Reformation I felt spurred, if you will, to equip the saints in regards to false teaching. More precisely, I wanted to give a biblical perspective on the mode, means, and measure with which false teachers carry out their elaborate ruses. I have been led to exposit the book of Jude, and upon request, I will start 2 Peter when my blogs on Jude are completed.
Many scholars have placed the dating of Jude sometime between 65 A.D. and 80 A.D. This is because false teaching was not prevalent in the church until around this time. Satan had attempted to destroy the early church by persecution, but instead it grew exponentially. When this did not work he tried a more clandestine approach. Something that would come in under the radar of those who lacked discernment. He came into the church through unbelievers posing as Christians and began to teach false doctrine.
The Jude (Judas) who is writing this letter is actually the half-brother of Jesus. We know this because in verse 1 he says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, the writer of the epistle of James and the half-brother of Jesus. Mark 6:3 reveals, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” John 7:5 shows us that none of his brothers believed He was the Christ. “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.” Then in Acts 1:14 after Jesus death the faithful all gathered in the upper room. “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” So at some point between John 7:5 and Acts 1:14 Jesus’ brother Judas, using his own words became a “bond servant of Christ.” This was certainly not Judas Iscariot, nor the other Judas that was an apostle. This was Christ’s half-brother.
“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.” Jude 1:1b-2
“Those who are called” is “kletos” and means “invited”. Its root word is “kaleo” which means “to call” or “to summon”. Kletos is used in scripture for God appointing someone to an office or to salvation. This shows us God’s irresistible grace that calls His elect to salvation. This is not the general call to salvation. Believers have been appointed to salvation, not by works lest any man should boast.
Mercy, peace, and love was a distinctly Christian greeting. “Mercy” (Eleos) means “kindness to those that are afflicted”. Jude is asking God to multiply His mercy to the elect that read this letter. He knows that they are afflicted by sin and in need of constant mercy before an all holy God. Praise God that He indeed multiplies His mercies daily for us! “Peace” (Eirene) means “wholeness”. It implies having been at war and then being reconciled. It is the reconciliation that we have to God through Christ that gives believers peace with their Creator. We are no longer at war with Christ. If we are at peace with our Maker, we can be at peace during the seemingly constant storms of our lives that seek to unsettle and sink us. He asks that God multiply His peace to them. Lastly, “love” (agape) derives from “agapao”. This word denotes being full of goodwill. It is the unconditional love out of the four Greek loves. It is showing benevolence and charity to someone who is in need. This is precisely the love that was demonstrated when Christ became a scapegoat on our behalf and bore the wrath of God for our sins. Christ saw our need and paid our ransom to any who believe on Him and repent of their sins.
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1:3
What you must understand is that certain heresies began to creep into the church. When Jude started the letter with “beloved” it sounds as if he is wanting to convey his love for them, and inasmuch having this love for them, he must convey a very hard message where his words will not be so gentle. In other words, he does not want believers to take offense to what he is about to unveil. Jude’s original intent was for him to write about the salvation they share in Christ, however, something happened. The Greek words behind “while I was making every effort” make it hard to know for sure whether Jude had a strong desire to write, or was possibly in the act of writing about their “common salvation” when the Holy Spirit prompted him to change directions. In my opinion, I believe he was in the act of trying to write the letter about salvation, but the Holy Spirit interrupted and prodded him to a more urgent matter. Have you ever been in the midst of doing something when the Holy Spirit stopped you? I remember many years ago I was on the faculty for a national leadership school up in Chicago for SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). We were teaching undergrads from colleges around the country about leadership. I remember specifically that I saw an undergrad (out of several hundred) at the beginning of the week and had a strong desire to talk to him, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know him, but then I had a sense of regret in my heart for not going up to talk to him that first night. In fact, I didn’t see him the rest of the week and felt a strong desire that I needed to talk to him. Then on the last night I went out with some faculty to a sports bar. I ended up seeing this undergrad sitting at the bar with his friend. Like Jude stated, “I felt the necessity to write”, I felt the necessity to speak to this man for whatever reason. So I left the other faculty members at our table and just pulled up a seat beside him and sat there. I wasn’t sure what to do from there because his back was turned, so I prayed that God would start the introduction. This young man turned around the second I finished my prayer and asked me from out of nowhere, “Would you ever commit suicide?” I was completely caught off guard. I replied, “No”. He then replied, “I would if my girlfriend broke up with me.” That was when I shared with him the hope believers have in Christ. I shared the Gospel with him and spent the night talking to him. I had intended to hang out with the faculty that night, but the Holy Spirit called an audible. He did not come to know Christ as his Savior that night, but seeds were planted. I found out the next year that it was a rough year for him. His girlfriend had broken up with him, but he didn’t take his life. Are you ever so busy or in such a hurry that you cannot sense the Holy Spirit prodding you to minister to someone in need? Or perhaps scrap a lesson you were going to teach? I think there are far more opportunities each day where the Spirit prods us, but we ignore the still small voice inside us.
“I felt the necessity to write to you”. I want to elaborate on the word “necessity” so that you understand what Jude is saying and the burden I felt in Chicago to talk to that young man. “Necessity” is “anagke”. The preposition “ana” means “upward” and denotes a movement from lower to higher, while the other part of the word “agkali” derives from “agkos” and denotes the curving of the inner angle of the arm, or “a bent arm”. Properly, it means, “An arm bent to receive a burden”. These two words together imply a serious compression or stress. It is a burdensome situation that necessitates immediate action. This was no small burden Jude was carrying. God had clearly put something so heavy on Jude that he could do nothing else until he wrote this letter addressing these false teachers. God does not speak to us in an audible voice, but he does take a prod and poke our spirits to make us go in the right direction so as to accomplish His will. In fact, in Psalm 119, “teach me” is a common saying by David. The Hebrew word “lamad” (teach Psalm 119:12) actually means “to strike with a sharp rod”. It is used in context to an ox-goad which is a sharp stick that is used to prod oxen or cattle to go into the direction the farmer desired. This is exactly how God teaches us, directs us, and grows our faith because we are a stubborn people. Can you now see the pressure that God had truly put on Jude?
Jude exhorts the brethren to “contend earnestly for the faith.” “Contend is “epagonizomai”. This is where we get our English word, “agonize”. “Epi” (focused on) is a preposition that intensifies the meaning of the word, and “agon” means, “a contest”. This word is used in athletic competitions where athletes contend against others to win the game. It was also used in a figurative sense of soldiers in combat against an enemy. When your life is on the line and you are fighting vigorously against an enemy combatant, you will pour every ounce of your strength and wisdom into overcoming your foe. If you don’t, you will die. I believe this is the exact thought that Jude is conveying figuratively. It is a battle against enemies. I could imagine Jude saying to the church today, “Stand up against this enemy that has infiltrated Christ’s church and throw them out!” Jude is showing us that there are two options: Fight or retreat. The believer is commanded to fight, though I will say that the fighting is done with the sword of the Spirit in grace and truth, not in malice or hatred. The believer’s fighting must be different from the unbeliever, who will be angry, malicious and seek to hurt you. If we are not gracious in our rebukes and reproofs then we will look no different from the world. Beloved, if you do not contend for the truth of God then error will abound and a Christianity that is not Christian will prevail.
So, who or what exactly was Jude and the early church contending against? I will lead with that answer in my next post.
Soli Deo Gloria!