Today, we are going to begin a study of the book of Jude. I am going to introduce the book, and get into it briefly. Many of you may be wondering what happened to our study of Biblical conflict resolution. We will get to that, but honestly, I need a little more time. The topic is one that I want to do right. I have read more books, and still am reading some more to help me prepare for it. The second reason is that I have done a topical series this summer, and I really want to get into a book for at least a few weeks before doing a topical series.
So, if you will, please turn to the book of Jude.
I am going to read through the whole thing first, then share a few background points, and dip into it a bit.
So, a few things about this NT epistle.
Written by Jude: Brother of Jesus, and James.
It has been accepted as part of the canon of scripture since very early in the church.
He wrote this book around the mid 60’s a.d. Around the same time as 2 Peter.
The theme of this book is the contending for the faith that was delivered once for all to the church. And that people must be on guard against false teachers in the church.
While this is a very short letter, it is loaded with allusions and references to Old Testament passages and stories to help him make his point about what he wants to address with the people he is writing to.
It is not totally clear who he is writing to specifically, but it seems to most scholars that he is writing to a mixed group of hebrews and gentiles.
This letter is bookended by some very sweet reminders of the gospel and who we are in Jesus, but has a very harsh warning to it in the main body of the text.
You may notice that Jude is similar to James in that he identifies himself as the servant of Jesus, not his brother, but his servant, or more accurately, his bond servant, or slave. Now, this is fascinating to me because he was his brother. Now, who of you would ever refer to your self as your brother’s slave, and mean it in a good way? I bring this up because it is evidence that people in Jesus own life. even members of his family worshipped him as God.
Now, we have seen in our study of the Word that remembering who the audience of a letter is is crucial to understanding the meaning of a text of scripture. I want to pause here because this is huge for many things in scripture. If you ever hear a passage of scripture used to “prove” that you should do something, or that God wants a certain thing, always look at it in the context of the passage. Read the whole book, or letter, and get a feel for the argument, see where it falls in the flow of a letter. Don’t just proof text verses. Some of them will stand on their own, many of them do, but many more need to be understood in the context of what is being said, and to whom. The audience of this letter is stated generally in the greeting.
Now, let me ask you something about your experience of God’s love for you. When you think about who you are in Jesus, Do you think about your relationship as something you initiate, or that God initiated? Think about it for a minute, because I would argue that how you view that experience can have a very large impact of how you read scripture, and how you receive this letter. You see, this letter is in many ways a call to action for Christians. He even says it in the beginning that He wanted to write about our common salvation, but he found it necessary to write about something else. He is writing a letter of appeal. This is a letter of urgent, heart felt appeal to the believers. And the appeal, as we will see in future weeks is to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. So there is a task to preform, a duty to fulfill, and work to be done. But as in so many other places in scripture, the identity of the one performing the duty must be rooted in something other than that duty. And it matters because the duty is hard, and long, and difficult, and there may be fear that we will stumble and fall in the course of fulfilling this duty. So much so that he ends this letter with the reminder of the same thing that is in the beginning, the you are being kept. You are not keeping yourself.
So, in looking at your own identity as a Christian, I want to remind you of the three things that Jude reminds us of as he begins this letter.
“To those who are called, beloved in God the father and kept for Jesus Christ.”
1: You are called: No matter how you describe your experience of coming to faith in Jesus, you must realize first and foremost that you were called. You did not reach out to God, He called you! You are in a long line of people who have been called out of a world of sin, into the love of God. I want to remind you of a few people who were also called.
a. Abraham: Genesis 12:1-9. Now, I think we can all agree that Abraham was a pretty amazing dude right? But you know what God did with him really? He basically took a nobody, and made him a somebody. He took a pagan, and made him the father of God’s people. And let me ask you this, who gets the credit? Abe, or God. God called Him, and God gets the credit. And if you are wondering what God thinks of the arrangement, look at Genesis 18:19
b. Moses: Exodus 3:1-12
c. Paul: Acts 9:1-19
d. 1 Thessalonians: 2-10
e. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
f. John 6:44
2: You are Beloved: Did you know that if you are in Christ, God has not just saved you as kind of a reluctant God who was hoping you wouldn’t respond. He set His affection on you. He not only loved the world enough to send Jesus, He loved you enough to work in your heart to make you His child. Some of you really need to hear this truth today. The God of the Universe has set His affection on you in a very distinct way…
a. look with me for a minute at Romans 8:28. We all know this one right, but do you know what comes after that? It says that for those whom He for knew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son. Now, this passage has a lot of debates around it, and I am not going to get into those right this minute other than to say that this word “foreknowledge” is not easily apparent in English. In this context, the word “know” isn’t a word of book knowledge. this isn’t information that God knows, it is derived from the same word in Genesis 18:19 that was translated Chosen. It is also tied to the word for Love. So, you could also translate the word foreknow, as fore love. So, in this sense there is a real affection that is carried with this foreknowledge. it is now mere information, but in fact, knowledge like that of a husband for his wife. It is the same idea communicated in Jeremiah 1:5. I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
b. John 3:16
3: You are Kept for Jesus: This is important to understand. Just as important as God getting the credit for your salvation, He also gets the credit for your persevering in the faith.
a. 1 Corinthians 15:3-11
b. This also goes right to the end of the letter as well, read Verse 24 with me again…
So, you, as a Christian are Called, Beloved, and Kept. All passive verbs, all credit goes to God for these things. Why does Jude focus so much on this in this letter that has so much urgency about defending the faith.
We are going to see that there are a lot of things that we are going to be called to do, and there are a lot of threats to the church, mostly from within. So why focus on God’s work in your life and mine? because, hear me on this, we need to be in complete trust that the Lord will sustain us. When we go into battle for the Lord, we should never fear that He might not win. We should never be wringing our hands, wondering if it is going to work out for God. We need to be headed into battle with the courage in our hearts that comes from a recognition that against all the odds, God’s power to call me, to Love me, and to keep me, will win the day. So, I can contend for the faith without fear. I can follow His call without hesitation.