We’re going to open our study of Jude’s epistle today by digging in to verse 1 pretty much immediately. But first, since the entire book consists of only 25 verses, I want you to click this link to begin to familiarize yourselves with its message. After all, in any Bible Study we must constantly keep the context front and center.
As we look at verse 1, we notice that Jude immediately introduces himself and identifies his readers:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: (ESV)
Most people (myself included) tend to skim over such verses, eager to get to the “good stuff.” This dismissive attitude, however, causes us to miss so much of what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jude’s opening words, far from being a necessary convention in First Century letter writing, reveal much about Christian humility as well as about God’s grace in calling us to Himself.
Today, we’ll only have time to talk about how Jude introduces himself. I had fully intended to work through the entire verse, but it contains just too much rush through it. And I want you to really grasp just how humbly Jude presents himself to his readers.
Jude starts out by referring to himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” which indicates his submission to the Lord. So right away he sets the example of putting himself at God’s disposal. He doesn’t expect Christ to cater to his petty demands. On the contrary, Jude expects to follow the Lord’s commands.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the implications of servanthood. Jude identifies himself as Christ’s slave. As such, he obeys the Lord by living for the sole purpose of pleasing Him. The Lord Jesus Christ owns Jude, having purchased him with His blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The implications of Jude’s declaration of servanthood extend well beyond merely obeying the Lord’s commands, however. In the latter part of the First Century, service to Christ carried consequences that 21st Century Christians in America haven’t yet faced. Jude probably wrote his epistle between 60 and 70 A.D., after most of the apostles had been killed because of their service to Christ. Other Christians endured varying levels of persecution. Clearly, identifying oneself as a servant of Jesus Christ amounted to putting a target on one’s back and inviting people to shoot. So Jude introduces himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, fully aware that doing so may sign his death warrant.
Next, Jude tells us that he’s the brother of James. Most of the commentaries I read tend toward the theory that he means James, the half-brother of Jesus. Scripture makes a pretty good case for this possibility by informing us that two of the Lord’s half-brothers were, in fact, named James and Judas (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3).
If Jude actually is one of the Lord’s brothers, he shows remarkable humility in attaching himself to James rather than Jesus. One commentary suggested that, after the resurrection, both brothers saw the Lord as distinct from them, and yet James allowed the apostle Paul to identify him as the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19). I believe that Jude, in calling himself James’ brother, models a servant’s humble attitude.
Next Monday, if the Lord wills, we’ll meet Jude’s intended audience to learn a little about the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.
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