To those who are called …
This study is the twenty-seventh in a series of studies on the books of the New Testament
(Jude – read in 1 minute and 28 seconds)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 20, 21 (NKJV)
Jude introduces himself at the beginning of his letter: ‘Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James…’ (v.1). As the brother of James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, he is also a half-brother of Jesus. But he still refers to himself as his servant or, in some translations, a slave. He thereby places himself under the complete authority of the person he grew up with, both of them carpenter’s sons, and with suggestions that being seen as a brother of Jesus was not without difficulties.
The passionate letter was, perhaps, written in a hurry – a result of Jude receiving news about problems this particular group of Christians were experiencing – and it replaced a probably more encouraging letter regarding ‘our common salvation’ (v.3). Some of the contents of the letter that was never written seem to creep into the end of the message, where Jude focuses on that salvation and what people are to do to maintain their right relationship with ‘God our Savior’ (v.25). More than half of this brief epistle focuses on the behaviour of these ‘ungodly men’, in line with Jude’s declared purpose.
The most striking part of this epistle is the dramatic language Jude uses to describe the false teachers. It includes a list of powerful metaphors, used to condemn them. Poets write metaphors with intention and sometimes that intention runs deep. Jude’s choice of language carries so much more information than just a colourful description. They are, for example, ‘clouds without water’ (v.12), with nothing to encourage growth of sown seeds; they just create darkness and do not fulfil any hope. Sometimes the reader can add to that intention – that is a power of this sort of writing. These ‘certain men’ who have ‘crept in unnoticed’ (v.4), at least by the majority of the church, are described as ungodly, sexually immoral, rejecting authority, people who only serve themselves, grumblers – the list continues.
Jude highlights the symbiotic relationship between the Old and the New Testament with a clear awareness of the history of salvation that pervades the Old Testament, and that has its resolution through Jesus Christ. He also uses it to position these men alongside the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, alongside Cain, Korah, and Balaam – where the fate of these people is detailed (v.11). He is saying that the same fate potentially awaits them, although he does allow for them being saved by being pulled ‘out of the fire’ by those who have remained faithful (v.23).
The ‘beloved’ readers – and each of us by implication – are left with a route to remain faithful: prayer, remaining ‘in the love of God’, waiting for Christ, and showing compassion to those who have lost their way (v.20-22).
Heavenly Father, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, keep us from stumbling, and let that time come when we come ‘before the presence of your glory with exceeding joy’. Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Market Harborough congregation of Grace Communion International
GCI Market Harborough
9 The Point
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