Near the end of the New Testament Scriptures, we find the short but powerful epistle of Jude. In this study, we will examine some of the crucial teachings of this epistle, but the reader is encouraged to take the time to study this epistle in detail.
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.
Two significant points should be noted about the introduction to this epistle. First, according to most scholars, this man Jude is the same who is noted in the gospels as being the half-brother of Jesus Christ. And yet he introduces himself as the brother of James (another of Jesus’ half-brothers, who was a prominent leader in the first century church) and the servant (doulos, or bond-slave) of Jesus Christ. Clearly, this man had little interest in furthering his own reputation; rather, he was interested in furthering the kingdom of God.
The second point becomes clear as we examine this verse in some of the more modern translations such as the New International Version (1984 Edition), which reads:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.
This epistle is addressed to those who are called—in other words, to Christians. And it reminds us of two precious truths: that the Christian is loved by God, and is kept (preserved, watched over, or held fast) by Jesus Christ. These truths never change, and how wonderful it is for the Christian to consider them at all times. But they become particularly precious during those times when the church is required to bear up under full assault from the evil of the world. As we see in the body of the letter, those to whom Jude was writing were in the midst of such times.
Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Again, several of the modern translations are helpful in communicating the full impact of this verse. The New English Translation renders it:
May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!
What comfort these words bring, at all times, and in all seasons!
The next verse tells us about Jude’s intent in writing this letter.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Jude’s original plan was to write a letter which detailed the basic truths regarding the salvation which Christians enjoy. However, the church to which he was writing was experiencing an extraordinary attack, not only from the world, but from within the church itself. It is for this reason that he instead wrote these words, which are words of exhortation.
The specific exhortation is for the readers to contend for the faith which has been delivered, or committed, to us. Please remember these words as you study the rest of the epistle, which speaks in detail about some of the horrendous behavior that was occurring, because they are a vital exhortation for the Christian of today, as well.
We do not need to look very deeply into the news of the day to find multiple instances of evil so extreme that it angers even the unsaved. In addition, any Christian who reveres God and God’s Word is painfully aware of the many other evils which, though they may be deemed acceptable by society, remain reprehensible in the sight of God. How can I change even one, let alone all of them?
A great deal of effort is expended by much of today’s church to bring about these desired changes. Letters are written to people of influence. Demonstrations and boycotts are organized. Innumerable sermons are preached in which the behavior of the world is dissected and scrutinized. From observing such activities, one might be excused for concluding that the function of the church is to contend against evil. But is it?
Those to whom Jude was writing were certainly not so obtuse as to be unaware of evil. In fact, it’s clear that his appeal was not to those who had been deceived, but rather to those who were witnessing the deception, and were appalled by it. Nevertheless, they are instructed by Jude (and thus by God) to not do the natural thing (which would be to fight back) but instead to put their full efforts into contending for the faith.
Why? Because truth is the only thing that will deliver man from evil, both immediately and eternally. And truth, living in the hearts of men and women, is a flame that is continually in danger of being extinguished. Indeed, the very purpose of much of the evil around us is to so distract us from the simplicity, beauty, and power of the gospel that the gospel might be ignored, and eventually buried.
I’m sure that all of us are emotionally moved by much of what we witness in the world every day. We want to see evil offences avenged. And they will be. But not by us.
Following Jude 4 (which gives us a description of those who facilitate and encourage evil in the church), we read about several events of the past, most of which can be found in the Old Testament:
- Verse 5 speaks of the grievous sin of Israel after having been delivered from Egypt.
- Verse 6 speaks of a group of rebellious angels, perhaps those referred to in Genesis 6.
- Verse 7 speaks of the blatant immorality of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Verse 8 speaks of a confrontation, not recorded in Scripture, between the Archangel Michael and the Devil himself.
What do these events have in common? In all cases, the evil was punished, and punished thoroughly. But not by men, or even by an angel. Avenging evil is the responsibility of God, and God alone. And He assures us that the sin and rebellion which today may vex our souls will not be forgotten, and will one day be judged.
Do you realize the freedom which this allows for the Christian? Knowing that God has these matters well in hand, I am now at liberty to focus on Him, to live for Him, to proclaim His precious message, to shine as a light in this dark world.
God has not abandoned us in the world. He has redeemed us from it and returned us to it. And during our brief stay here, we are not called to be ministers of guilt, but ministers of Christ, that those who hear us might be saved from sin and its punishment, as we have been, by God’s grace and mercy.
We know that the evil which sometimes hinders us will one day be judged. And we know that we need never fear it, for we are even now loved by God and kept by Jesus Christ.
TO BE CONTINUED