Pastor Scott Andrews | January 23, 2022
Jude 1:1-2 – Introduction
If anyone understood the Cold War, it was President John F. Kennedy. The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies, which lasted from 1947 until 1991, when the Soviet Union fell. It’s called the Cold War because neither side – the US nor the Soviet Union – ever actually declared war. It was just a tense coexistence. But war was seemingly inevitable – never more so than in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s the closest the world has ever come to full scale nuclear war – with mutually assured destruction. It is estimated that if nuclear war broke out, as much as a third of the world’s population would have been annihilated.
Well, you may remember from your history classes the Cuban Missile Crisis lasted from October 16 to November 20, 1962. During that time, in response to the US deploying a nuclear arsenal in both Turkey and Italy, the Soviet Union began deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba, about 90 miles from Florida. When the US found out, the tense standoff began, between Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and US President John F. Kennedy. I’ll spare you the details, but it was a stressful one month and four days, with nuclear war moments away. The crisis was resolved when Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba, and Kennedy then removed the missiles from Turkey and Italy. Nuclear crisis averted – but the Cold War lasted for thirty more years, again, until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
During the Cold War, there was lots of spying going on between the KGB and CIA – James Bond and MI6 got involved. It made for great TV shows and movies. The issue though, was you often didn’t know who the enemy was. Agents and double agents – potential war and annihilation. It was quite dramatic – in grade school, young students even had nuclear bomb drills where they would hide under little wooden desks, as if that would protect from nuclear devastation.
Well, it seems to me that to fight a war well, you must know who the enemy actually is. And you must declare war against that enemy. You have to know who you’re fighting. During the Cold War, President Kennedy once said, “When there is a visible enemy to fight in open combat, many serve, all applaud, and the tide of patriotism runs high. But when there is a long, slow struggle with no immediate visible foe, your choice may seem hard indeed.” The choice? Whether to serve, to fight, or not, when you don’t know who the enemy is – when you are lulled to comfortable sleep, when all of a sudden, your way of life isn’t really that important.
I would suggest today, perhaps more than ever, President Kennedy’s words are apropos for another group of people, with eternal ramifications – that is, the church of Jesus Christ. We are at war, but have we been lulled to sleep? Is it possible we have an enemy in our midst, and we neither know, nor perhaps even care? Do we even know who the enemy is? Yes, I know the enemy of our souls is Satan himself. I know our fight is not against flesh and blood, but demonic forces. And yet, those forces can array themselves against us through human agency in the form of false teachers. False teaching that has infiltrated the church – again, perhaps as much now as ever. And in a false sense of grace, acceptance and love, the church has become weak – anemic – and dare I say, unholy. Has the cold war against us, with no immediate visible foe, gained the upper hand, with the annihilation not of physical life – but eternal spiritual life at hand? You know, mutually assured destruction.
Years ago at our church in Colorado, we had a Romanian pastor visit our Men’s Bible Study. He was in town to visit with Eastern European Missions. The visiting pastor shared about all the challenges the church in Romania endured during the years under communism. In fact, this was before 1991, and Romania was still an anti-God communist country. But in the midst of the persecution, the pastor shared how the church was alive and well in Romania. He was asked, from his perspective, how the spirit of the church in Romania compared with the church in the US. He responded, I prefer the situation in Romania, for there, at least, you know who the enemy is – they’re on the outside. Here in the US, he suggested, the enemy is on the inside.
You perhaps have heard the oft-told story of Russian KGB agents entering a secret church gathering with guns pulled. They began yelling at those present, suggesting they were in serious trouble, in danger of their very lives. However, they gave the opportunity for any present who wanted to denounce Jesus and leave, they were free to do so. Several did, denying their Lord, and fled. The agents then put away their guns, saying they too were Christians, but wanted only to worship with real Christians. They were in fact getting rid of the enemy on the inside.
Of course, in our study of the NT through the years, we have been warned over and over of the possibility – more, the actuality of false teachers, the enemy, in the church. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15 in His first recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” In John 10, He spoke of the thief who comes in to steal, kill and destroy – who comes into the sheepfold by another door than Jesus.
Paul said in Acts 20, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Don’t be lulled to sleep.
Peter said in II Peter 3, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.”
John said in I John 4, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Everyone seemed to know – the enemy would be active, and would creep into the church to destroy it. Which brings us to the book of Jude this morning. If there is any book that warned against the enemy, it was Jude. And yet, it has been called the most ignored, the most neglected book of the NT. I was talking to Michael about this, and he asked, has anyone ever asked, “When are we going to get to the book of Jude?” Nope – everyone wants to know if and when we’ll get to Revelation, but Jude? Hardly. Are we going to get to Jude before I die? Nope – no one has ever asked that. Some of the reasons for its neglect since the beginning of church history include the following three:
First, it’s brevity. It’s only 25 verses, one of the shortest books of the NT. It is ignored with the best of them, right alongside II and III John.
Second is its use of extrabiblical literature. We’ll talk about that when we come to it, but Jude quotes two apocryphal works, I Enoch and the Testament of Moses. Many questioned whether you could actually quote non-biblical books in biblical books. Never mind Paul did it. In the earliest days, many questioned whether Jude was inspired, because it quoted non-inspired, non-canonical works.
But by far the number one reason it’s neglected is because it’s just not that nice. Jude is really strong – he gives a burning denunciation of error. He’s so opinionated and unkind. One author said about this little book, “The vigorous little Epistle of Jude is without parallel in the New Testament for its vehement denunciation of libertines and apostates.” Jude just isn’t very Christian. We all know Christians should be the most loving, accepting, nonjudgmental people around, right? And we’ve bought into that – who am I to say that certain beliefs or certain behaviors are wrong – sinful? Christians are so arrogant and judgmental – who gives us the right to do that?
Yet I would suggest, if there was ever a church and a society which needed the strong words of Jude, it is ours. In our desire to get along, to play nice, to be accepted, we have forgotten who the enemy is – or what false teaching is. It doesn’t seem to even matter to us anymore. The church itself has fallen into many of the errors we are going to see in this book. Let me tell you right now – sexual licentiousness – sexual sin is the major challenge of this book. And our culture is open to any and every kind of sexual immorality today – and it is being received and even promoted in the so-called church of Jesus Christ. We have welcomed the enemy right into our midst. Does it matter? Thomas Schreiner said in his commentary on Jude:
“We can also say that the message of judgment is especially relevant to people today, for our churches are prone to sentimentality, suffer from moral breakdown, and too often fail to pronounce a definitive word of judgment because of an inadequate definition of love. Jude’s letter reminds us that errant teaching and dissolute living have dire consequences.”
It is a strong word for us today in our clear and present danger – when we have welcomed the enemy. With all that in mind, turn to the little book of Jude – you can find it in the back of your Bibles, right before the book of Revelation. Now, as you’re turning, let me say that if you read II Peter 2, you will find some striking similarities with this little book. Somebody copied somebody. There are three options – either Jude used II Peter, or II Peter used Jude, or they both used another source. The easiest answer is one used another – we have no evidence of a third source – but as to which one used which, the scholars debate. I’m not sure – good rationale is given for both. But they did use the material differently. Jude focused on sinful living; Peter focused on false teaching that resulted in sinful living.
By way of introduction, let’s read the first two verses of the book – Jude 1-2.
We find this short book is in fact a letter – an epistle. Believe it or not, scholars debate that, because it doesn’t contain all the elements of a typical letter of that time. But, it contains enough. Per letter writing convention of the day, the author identifies himself as well as the recipients. Let’s look at that, starting with the author.
The very first word is Jude – Ioudas. Jude is the English form of the name Judas, which is the Greek form of the name Judah. As you know, Judah was the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob and the founder of the Israelite tribe of Judah – from which Jesus comes. Remember, He’s the lion of the tribe of Judah, right? Read Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, and you find He comes through the tribe of Judah. Which was necessary, by the way, since David was of the tribe of Judah, and the promise of the Messiah – the One who would sit on David’s throne forever must be a descendant of Judah. Jesus fit the bill – in fact, He fulfilled all OT prophecies concerning the Messiah.
Anyway, the name Judas was also popularized in the intertestamental period – between Malachi and Matthew. The national hero Judas Maccabaeus is the one who successfully led the Jewish revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC.
It was a very popular and common name at this time – in fact, there are some 8 Judes or Judas mentioned in the NT. Did you know, for example, there were two disciples named Judas? One of them was, of course, the most infamous Judas in history – Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. In fact, one author said this, “Men call their sons Paul or Peter, they call their dogs Nero or Caesar, but the name Judas has been blotted out of our language except as a synonym of apostasy and treachery.” And yet, the author of this book is named Judas, or Jude. Hey Judas just doesn’t work, does it?
But which Jude? Most of those mentioned in the NT can be easily eliminated, but two are possible as the author of this book. One is the disciple named Judas. But note, he is called the son of James, not the brother of James, so most rightly eliminate him as a possible author. Leaving us with Jude, the brother of James as identified in the first verse. But who is James? Most agree there is only one James with enough popularity that only his name need be mentioned – James, the leader of the church of Jerusalem, the author of the book of James, and the half-brother of Jesus.
James, the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee, the sons of thunder – that James had been martyred by this time. If this Jude was the brother of James, then he too was the half-brother of Jesus. This is supported in the lists of the siblings of Jesus in the gospels:
Matthew 13:55 – “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” Notice how James is listed first, and Judas is listed last. Most suggest the order is intentional – that James was the oldest, and Jude was the youngest.
But notice Mark 6:3 – “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” Again, we notice that James is first, but this time, Simon is last. So, Jude was probably one of the younger brothers of Jesus.
Can you imagine, though, what it must have been like to grow up with Jesus as your older brother? Many of you have older brothers – the ones who think they’re always right. Can you imagine having an older brother who was always right? They didn’t really care for Jesus growing up, because, well, darkness doesn’t like light. How can I say that?
Remember, when they grew up with Jesus, before His death and resurrection, they did not believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God. In fact, they thought He was crazy, and one time came to get Him to take Him home. Not likely because they cared about Jesus, but because they were concerned about the family name. It wasn’t until after the resurrection we find in I Corinthians 15 that Jesus appeared personally to James. It was then, most surmise, that James, then his brothers, believed. Imagine what that was like – see James, I told you so.
It’s interesting to note, when they were growing up, they called Jesus their brother, because they had the same mother – Mary, but different fathers. Later, when they had the same Father – because they became believers, they chose to call Jesus Lord. So we too, while we have different mothers, we have the same Father, so we call each other brothers and sisters – but with James and Jude, we call Jesus Lord.
So again, after the resurrection, after Jesus appeared personally to James, we find they finally believed. We read in Acts 1:14, “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.” Again, James became the pastor of the church in Jerusalem and wrote the book that bears his name. Tradition tells us that Jude became a leader as well, and he wrote this book that bears his name.
But notice he calls himself a bond-servant or slave of Jesus Christ. Yes, I’m the brother of James, but a slave of Jesus. James refers to himself in the same way. Why? Well, they had certainly been humbled in their early rejection of Jesus, followed by His death and resurrection. It was proof positive that Jesus was who He claimed to be. In John 7, the brothers tried to goad Jesus, making fun of Him – if you’re the Messiah, why don’t you go to Jerusalem and make Yourself known? He did make Himself known in Jerusalem, and it cost His life – all according to plan.
They had been humbled. In His earthly ministry, Jesus actually subordinated their physical relationship to more important spiritual relationships. He was told in Matthew 12 that His mother and brothers were outside, waiting to see Him – again, to take Him home and rescue Him from delusions of grandeur. Jesus responded, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!
For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
Our spiritual relationship with Jesus is more important than any blood relationship. And by the way, our spiritual relationship with one another is also more important than any blood relationship. We occasionally need to be reminded of that. To be clear, I’m not minimizing biological family relationships – I’m simply elevating our spiritual relationships.
Jude expressed a great deal of humility. He could have started his letter, Jude, the half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, and brother of James, the pastor of the church of Jerusalem. But he didn’t. He called himself the brother of James only to identify himself – but a servant of the Lord. But to be a slave – to be owned by another – was important then. To be owned by Jesus – to be His slave, was significant. Jude was saying the authority to write this letter comes from being a servant of Jesus. He never claims to be an apostle, or much anything else for that matter. We too should express such humility – Jesus is not our buddy – He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and we are His servants – we are owned by Him.
Now briefly, what we learn of Jude we learn from this short letter. He was a man of keen mental abilities with a great grasp of the Greek language. In fact, it has been suggested by some that a carpenter’s son could not have used such excellent, refined Greek – but remember, by this time – probably in the 50s or 60s, he had been a leader in the church for some time. He clearly had a strong will with clear perceptions and an ability to give clear and forceful expression to his thoughts. He was of strong character with profound convictions and courage, with a great love for the church of Jesus Christ. We can learn much from his character in this short letter.
Now, when you read the book, you may notice his strong character and think him a man of little love and emotion. But please notice, he calls his readers beloved three times. It may appear as if he was only denouncing false teachers – which he was – but his main purpose was to encourage his readers to remain true to the faith – to care for them by protecting them. We do not show love simply with wishy-washy feelings devoid of truth – true love is founded on truth and a desire to protect those so loved.
Speaking of his readers – who were the recipients of this letter? We don’t really know, but given the Jewish character of the letter, most agree his readers were mostly Jewish – perhaps right there in Palestine. All we know of the for sure is seen at the end of verse 1, “To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” Notice he says three things of his readers:
First, they are those who are the called. We’ve seen over and over believers are those who have been called by God. It’s not as if they woke up one morning and said, I think I’ll choose God today. No, rather, God chose them and called them – it is an effectual call – God effectively calls those chosen to believe. And they did, without exception. Those called believe and are justified.
Second, they are beloved in God the Father. This is a perfect participle, one of my favorite tenses in the Greek. It speaks of something that happened in the past with ongoing consequence. It means, once God loves us and called us, it is forever. It is unchangeable. Nothing can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord, His Son. Once called and saved, you are forever.
Third, this is further solidified, who are kept for Jesus Christ. We are kept in and for Christ Jesus – nothing can change that. That is where we are headed – inevitably, irrevocably. But why all this talk of being called by God, loved by God and kept by Christ? Because, Jude is going to write concerning rebellious, sinful apostates – those who had the truth, perhaps even had been intellectually convinced of the truth, but had now turned from the truth, turning the gospel into a license to sin. If it were not for the preserving power of the Lord, we would walk the same path. The same power that saved us, now keeps us and compels us to live holy lives – keeping us pure until the coming of Christ. Philippians 1:6 says we can be confident of this, that He who began a good work in us will perfect until the day of Christ.
Yes, Jude is going to be a flamethrower, calling out sin and those who use the grace of God as a license to live lives of sin. But not you. You are called, you are loved, and you are kept.
He finishes in verse 2 with a grace-filled Christian greeting, “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” Mercy is God extending His gracious benefits to us because of Christ. Peace is the result of that extended mercy. And love is the reason that mercy has been extended. May it be yours in abundance – be multiplied to you.
Yes, brothers and sisters, Jude is going to have some hard things to say. Frankly, he’s going to remind us who the enemy is, and what they are trying to do. He’s going to call us to faithfulness, an offer a scathing condemnation of those who continue in a life of sin. But not you. You have all it takes to remain faithful.