Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Exposition of Jude: Part 1 of 25

Note: I am beginning an occasional verse by verse exposition of the book of Jude, the next to last book in the New Testament.

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: (Jude 1:1).

Jude is a polemical work. It is written for the purpose of defending the faith (see v. 3). In form it is a letter or epistle. Ancient letters usually begin by identifying the sender and the recipient. Jude 1:1 follows this form.

Who is the sender? He is "Jude (Greek: Ioudas), a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James."

The name Jude (or Judas) was common among first century Jews, especially after the exploits of Judas Maccabaeus (d. 160 B.C.), a patriot who had fought against Israel’s enemies. Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, shared this name as did an early Christian prophet (see Acts 15:32). The name came from the tribe of Judah. It was a proud Hebrew name. The writer is a Jew.

Next, he calls himself "a bondservant (Greek: doulos) of Jesus Christ." He is a servant or slave of Jesus Christ. He is a man who has found true freedom by coming under the Lordship of Jesus. He has been saved, liberated from sin and eternal death. He has come to see Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah (Christ). The writer is a Jewish Christian.

He also says he is "brother of James." Does he mean that James was his Christian brother, or his biological brother, or both? Who is James (Greek: Iakobos or "Jacob")? Most likely the James he refers to is the great leader of the early church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15:13; 21:18; Gal 2:9). This might also be the James who wrote the book by that name in the New Testament. Though direct reference is absent in the text itself, Christian tradition has suggested that not only were James and Jude biological brothers, but they were also the half-brothers of Jesus himself! In Matthew 13:55 the skeptics say of Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James (Greek: Iakobos), Joses, Simon, and Judas (Greek: Ioudas)?" So, the sender is a Jewish Christian who may have been the half brother of Jesus himself.

Who are the recipients? No specific church or city is mentioned, but Jude writes to believers. He describes them as possessing three qualities. First, they are called. They have received an external call to believe in Jesus. They have responded to the effectual internal call to believe in Jesus as Lord. They are part of the ekklesia (church), the called-out ones. Second, they are sanctified by God the Father. They are in the process of being made holy or set apart by God. Third, they are preserved in Jesus Christ. They have the assurance that they will not ultimately fall away from the faith. Nothing can remove them from the Father’s hand (see John 10:29).

Practical application:

1. What does it say about Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah if even members of his own family recognized that claim as valid and became his bondservants?

2. Have you heard and responded to God’s call? Is he making you holy? Do you have the assurance that you are saved and that Jesus will preserve you in the faith?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

(Evangel article 3/7/07)


timothy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
timothy said...

I have a question about the correct translation of one of the clauses in the first verse of Jude.

Is it best to translate from the Greek as "preserved IN Jesus Christ" or is it better rendered as "Kept FOR Jesus Christ" as some other translations have it?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Thanks for the comment.

The phrase here in Greek is Iesou Christo which is "Jesus Christ" in the masculine dative singular form (the Greek text here is the same in both the traditional text and the modern critical text). There is no preposition present in Greek. The English prepositions are supplied to interpet the usage of the dative case. Is it a dative of sphere, as in the Tyndale/KJV/NKJV, so that the meaning is "believers are preserved in the sphere or under the domain of Jesus Christ"? Or, is it a dative of advantage, as in the NASB, so that the meaning is "believers are preserved for Jesus Christ"? Another possibility is that it could be a dative of means, as in the NIV, so that it means, "believers are preserved by means of Jesus Christ." One might even say that all three translations are technically true theologically. We are preserved in Christ, for Christ, and by Christ. I am not sure that there is a definitive interpretation here, though I think I would tend toward seeing it as a dative of sphere (following the Tyndale-KJV tradition).