From the Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 2

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude
(Part. 2)

Although Jude is one of the shortest books in the Bible, comprising only twenty-five verses, it has a very important place in the canon of Scripture. Being largely a book of judgment, the place given to this letter is the right one, for it serves as a fitting preface to The Revelation. As A. C. Gaebelein has said of Jude’s letter, “…it reveals the conditions, religiously and morally, which prevail on earth before the great coming event takes place, of which Revelation has so much to say.”1

Like James, it is unfortunate that Jude’s letter has been greatly neglected, for it is especially applicable in these “last days” of this age of grace.

The Declaration Of The Apostasy (Vv. 1-4)

The Introduction (vv. 1-2). Jude calls himself “the servant (bondslave) of Jesus Christ.” The fact that he did not refer to himself as the brother of our Lord was not in any sense to depreciate his own person. Rather, to have appealed to this relationship would have been altogether inconsistent with the true spirit of Christ (see Luke 22:27-28), and it would have formed a strong a priori argument against the letter’s authenticity. The fact that Jude refers to himself as the “brother of James” may be to identify himself, or else he used his brother’s name—and his relationship to him—to lend authority to his letter.

Throughout his brief treatise Jude readily shows his fondness for triads, there being two sets in verse 1. The first set is represented by “Jude” (actually a form of the Jewish name Judah), “servant” and “brother.”

The second set depends on what translation of verse 1 is preferred, the better rendering being, “to the called ones, beloved in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ,” or as the New American Standard Version has it, “to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” Thus the recipients of the letter—and all true believers—are “called,” “beloved” and “kept.”

The word for “called” (in reference to all Christians) pertains to an effectual call, such having been invited and having responded (see Rom. 1:6; 1 Cor. 1:24). The word for “beloved” intensifies the believer’s standing in love, while the word for “kept” strongly proclaims the believer’s eternal security. Also, as related to the letter itself, the believer is kept from apostasy. These three words, “called,” “beloved” and “kept,” describe the true Christian life, the same being in marked contrast to the kind of life lived by the false teachers about which Jude is led to write so much in his letter.

The celebrated Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, has stated in connection with verse 1 that “kept by Jesus Christ” is “a quite possible interpretation”2 (see John 17:6, 11).

The salutation of verse 2 is unusual. Grace is omitted and a study of other New Testament salutations will reveal that “love” is not often included. “Mercy” denotes the undeserved pity of God, and it corresponds to Paul’s “grace” in his salutations. Both words express the unmerited goodness or favor of God which is at the root of His fellowship with redeemed sinners. In essence, God’s mercy withholds what we deserve, while His grace bestows what we do not deserve. “Peace” is the Hebrew word of salutation which, with an added fulness of Christian meaning, is generally found in the letters of the New Testament. “Love” is, of course, a reference to God’s love, the outflow of the new life in Christ. Believers are already living in the enjoyment of these precious blessings, but Jude desired that they might be “multiplied” or increased in our experience and example (see 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2). Apart from God’s mercy, His peace could never have been known, the latter issuing out of the former (see John 14:27 with Rom. 5:1; Phil. 4:7). Because the divine nature is in the believer, the love of God is produced and flows out to Him and to others.

If mercy, peace and love are ever lacking in the life of the believer, it is because of his failure to enter into the Lord’s abundant supply (Phil.4:19; Heb. 4:16).

The Intention (vv. 3-4). These verses tell us why Jude wrote his letter. He had been giving diligent thought to writing a treatise about “the common salvation,” literally “our common salvation (i.e., the full and free salvation extended to Jew and Gentile alike). However, the appearance of the apostate teachers in the church constrained him to write about the urgency of contending earnestly for the faith. This sudden change was, of course, directed by the Holy Spirit. As a little side note, it’s important to observe that if it was not for the subject of apostasy a sizable portion of the New Testament would be missing.

The verb for “earnestly contend” (v. 3) is found only here in the New Testament, although the same idea is expressed in Philippians 1:27 in the words “striving together.” This exhortation gives us the positive and practical challenge of the letter—namely, that the truth must be held fast and advanced (this is readily illustrated in the Old Testament by Nehemiah and his workmen). “The faith” is not the faith by which a sinner lays hold of salvation, but rather a reference to the written body of truth—the Word of God—regarding our Lord’s “so great salvation.” Furthermore, this body of truth has been “once for all delivered unto the saints” (v.3).

Two great truths are in view: (1) The one body of truth is complete. No supplement is possible. However, while our Lord’s written revelation is complete, illumination continues, this being one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in the believer which our Saviour Himself promised and described in John 16:13-16. And in 1 Corinthians 2:10, the Apostle Paul stressed that the believer can experience the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit even to the extent of understanding the deep things of God. While it is quite proper and thoroughly Biblical to advance in spiritual knowledge and understanding, believers must nevertheless faithfully abide in the teaching of Christ. Pope, purgatory, indulgences, the immaculate conception, etc., all come under the category of advances but not such as abide in the teaching of the Lord, Jesus Christ. (2) The one body of truth is final. No successor can be admitted. Classic examples of those who have violated this truth and principle are the Mormons who place The Book of Mormon on a par with the Bible, and the adherents of Christian Science, its founder—Mary Baker Eddy—having affirmed a greater authority than the. Bible’s for her book, Science and Health, with a Key to the Scriptures.

The body of truth regarding God’s salvation has been delivered from the apostles to the Church, and it is important to note that Jude follows Paul in esteeming the gospel as that which, in its unchangeable entirety, has been delivered by God to men for them to hand on to others (see Gal. 1:8, 9, 11, 12; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:2).

Believers should seek to “earnestly contend for the faith” by example, as well as by exhortation. The word “saints” expresses the key idea, suggesting the thought of separation or holiness in both conduct and conversation. As someone has discerningly pointed out regarding the designation of believers as “saints,” the name is an honor, an exhortation to be what we are; it is a reproach because we are not what we are.

Lest we become contentious when contending for the faith, the Apostle Paul has given us a high and holy standard by which to abide: “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at His will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

In the light of Paul’s words, Harry A. Ironside commented as follows on the spirit that is to characterize the servant of Christ who would contend for the truth:

“Firmly, yet with tender compassion for those being led astray, he is to stand for all that God has revealed. When a bad, carnal spirit takes possession of one, he is powerless to help or bless others. And it should ever be remembered that in contending for the faith, the soul of the sinner has to be thought of likewise. It is not enough to uphold the doctrines of Christ, the behavior must commend the truth which the lips proclaim. The phrase in Eph. 4:15, translated ‘speaking the truth in love,’ has been literally rendered, ‘truthing in love.’ We do not have the participle form of the word in English, as in Greek; consequently it is awkward to so express it; but it gives the exact meaning. It is far more than speaking the truth that is in question. It is the truth lived out in all our ways. Unless this be characteristic of the one who contends for the faith of God’s elect, the utterances of his lips will be but in vain.”3

(to be continued, D.V.)

1 A. C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible, The New Testament, IV, p. 173.

2 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, VI, p. 186.

3 Harry A. Ironside, Exposition of the Epistle of Jude, p. 15.