Authorship, Audience, Literary and Genre Style
Of course, ancient letters differed based on form, context, and content.
Jude is seen as one of the canonized collections of written letters that make up the 21 epistles of the New Testament. The Epistles written between 60 and 70 AD, were intended to influence, instruct, and encourage churches or individuals to persevere and live out the Christian faith during difficult and hostile circumstances. Jude is written to the Christian Church in Antioch, Tyre, Damascus and Jerusalem as well. So not surprisingly, the Epistles all begin with a warm greeting which their authors used to acknowledge the foundation of a relationship and they respect and authority that came with it. Jude’s greeting was used as a formal introduction to not only himself but also to his credentials and why his words should be valued and have influence with the first generation Church and those who were contending with the darkness while contending for their faith.
The recipients know of Jude, and his letter is not a To Whom It May Concern – there was both a specific audience and a situational focus. The target audience was a grouping of churches and small group ministries. These communities of faith looking for the imminent return of Jesus and were more vulnerable to the deception of false teachers and spiritual predators, intended to derail and invalidate their faith in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
Jude was not one of the original disciples nor was he included with the first group of apostles (those who were sent). However, he was the brother of both James and Jesus, and was called to the very difficult and dangerous ministry to Jerusalem where he was recognized as an influencer of the mission and authority of the Gospel of Christ. (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) Jude’s letter was a truth entirely relevant to the early Church which was attempting to navigate the influence of the deceitful and divisive teachers who had crept within their walls. They also suffered under the weight of an active and hostile persecution from outside the church walls as well. The truth of Jude remains entirely relevant for the present-day Church. A Church in great need of a relevant word of truth for that same specific audience, situational focus, and hostile circumstances.
Jude by his own description is a servant of Jesus Christ, meaning he has subjected himself to the authority of the master. It is a significant point to understand that after the resurrection of his brother Jesus, Jude (in true humility) did not promote himself as the brother of Jesus – but rather as servant to his Lord and Messiah. The deeper point of understanding is that the authority to minister is based not on nepotism, family ties, or undeserved titles, but more so in surrender to the Lord’s claim on those followers, for which the designation “servant of Jesus Christ” makes for a more respected and reputable claim to authority.
Interestingly, Jude’s title or role within the early Church structure is not specified, but more than likely when he wrote or spoke he did so as a well- known figure within the ministry of the Jerusalem church along with his brother James, and certainly within the context of Christian mission and ministry to the unbelieving Jews. Jude’s use and lexicon of literary Greek was above average, and his letter’s pattern seems to suggest that he was reaching out to the vulnerable Christians in Asia Minor (Antioch, Tyre, Damascus, and Jerusalem) with a genuine sense of urgency. In it’s original context his purpose for writing is clearly a missional message – warn, expose, correct, encourage, and build faith. For present-day followers, Jude will expose deception within the Church that comes from the predictable patterns of pop-cultured and narcissistic false teachers. He will also challenge and equip biblically illiterate and undisciplined Christians.
The alternative strategy and solutions Jude concludes with are the following:
- Adhere to a biblically sound Common Salvation and Contend for the Faith once delivered to the Saints
- Practice Sincere Obedience to the Gospel and Commands of Christ
- Prioritize Righteous Living and Godly Morals
- Pray in the Spirit – Extend Mercy to those who Doubt – Live Life in Love of God and Gods Creation – Save those AT RISK – Despise the Garment of Flesh
Using a true apostolic alternative to false teaching, Jude shows that God is the one who “keeps” us—he preserves us Christians in his love; a love that brings joy that far surpasses any temporary pleasures (Jude 1, 21, 24). In one sense we keep ourselves faithful, “contending for the faith” (Jude 3; 20–21); at the same time, we know that it is God who keeps us faithful (Jude 24). This discovery gives us the ability to be merciful to those who doubt—to extend to them the offer that God wishes to rescue them, no matter where they currently stand within the spectrum of faith (Jude 22–23). We can take a stand—in the realization that it is ultimately Christ who gives us the strength to stand; everything is in his mercy.
As we said earlier, preaching in primarily a Greek speaking region would require a good command of the language, which he had. Jude was well qualified to address this message to a group of oppressed and at-risk believers needing to become disciples clearly making his text relevant and most insightful for present-day context.
Pre-Suppositions and Pre-Conceptions
Since the redemptive story of God’s people began, true followers of faith have been transformed by the supernatural and divine actions of God. The work and faith of the historical Church must be studied and recognized as a relative and proven template for both contending and preserving the faith, as well as preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ. Actions sovereignly planned to unite the Church and Christians from all over the world in faith and fellowship for an active participation in the work of His kingdom here in this present-day. Jude gives prominence to these kingdom actions emphasizing the divine origin of this community and the cooperative role of God and Christ in transforming lives and sustaining faith.
My struggle is similar to millions of other Christians living life in western civilization where our pre-supposed and pre-determined ideas of what contending for the faith and preserving the truth really looks like is jaded and in most cases has been de-emphasized by the Church. So much so that what it will ultimately cost and require of those resisting the push towards global darkness and extinguishing the light of Christianity is no longer part of the Gospel message. Far too many have reduced themselves to a social-Christianity, baptized into the cultural narcissism of western ideology.
When I read Jude all of my bias towards a western ideology downloads into my mind and spirit – to the place where my human will resides. The download is simply this: the common belief that the great God of the Universe, and the almighty Jehovah God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is obligated to implement His every purpose, plan, and prosperous blessing through the convenience, comfort, and approval of American Evangelical Christianity.
If this is true, how then can I rightly interpret and receive a revelation of Jude when I have already pre-determined that his warnings of deception, self-gratifying pleasure, resistance to divine sovereignty, and the certain realities of what is to come keep me disconnected from His message of truth? My often times narcissistic insistence towards wanting my truth and not His, is a form of spiritual rebellion (verses 4-16), and that rebellion keeps me from right and righteous relationship with Him. I am not alone in this pre-supposition – the American Christian Church finds itself in much of the same deception that Jude addresses in his text. So it is spiritually healthy to the interpretive process to identify and address those pre- conceptions that we bring to any passage or text before we begin any process of interpreting and rightly dividing biblical text.
Pre-Supposition / Pre-Conception One:
Immersed in my westernized ideologies and cultural thinking I too have often read a text of the similitude of Jude as it pertains and applies to others and not first myself. For Example: (Verses 16-23)
¹⁶These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. ¹⁷ But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, ¹⁸ that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” ¹⁹ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. ²⁰ But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, ²¹ keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. ²² And have mercy on some, who are doubting; ²³ save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Pre-Supposition / Pre-Conception Two:
Too often I have used my very cloistered and isolated interpretation of “common salvation” to exclude those that I deem as not meeting my spiritual and moral standards – and yet I know there is indeed a “common salvation” that has made its biblical standards and expectations fully known and judged by God, and God alone. Is my “contending for the faith” a contention that has always served God’s purposes or my own, thereby leading my interpretation the bible to be self-serving and self-promoting (prideful), and obsessively self-loving? For Example: (Verse 3 ) “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
When I read Jude through the vanity of my obsessive self-love, self- service, and self-pleasing thoughts and behavior towards the ungodly desires of my flesh I can no longer understand the reasons why the same God who loves and died for me also says He will one day judge and reward me for how I have lived, how I have loved, and for what I have done with what He has given me. By exposing my pre-suppositions and pre- conceptions I can be spiritually free to interpret, receive, and obey the text from Jude as I should.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Why Jude’s Text Must Transform Our Lives
The Holy Spirit will also reveal to us through Jude’s message and meaning that despite how strong we may we think we are, we are all vulnerable to false teaching and systematic conformity to cultural trends. To effectively eliminate wrong or unrighteous presuppositions or pre-conceptions we start with fierce honesty: Is this biblical, or is this cultural? Is this cultural, or is this biblical? One may be right yet not be righteous. But if one is righteous, one will always be right. Unlike those who despise Christianity and mock the Gospel of Christ Jesus, we have the Word and the Spirit to guide us and other genuine followers to hold us accountable (Jude 17–19). We are not alone.
We must stay immersed in God’s love not only for our own sake, but also to expose the deception around us, so that others will not fall away. Jude is clear that judgment certainly awaits those who lead others astray in the church; we can have confidence in that. Our job is merely to expose falseness by contending for the faith—and offering the alternative of the authentic Jesus.
Jude’s letter shines light on the characteristics of evil teaching and leaders who care only for themselves: Jude shows us that false teachers follow their own desires and show favoritism to gain advantages (Jude 12–16). Over and against these values, true followers of Jesus are characterized by the biblical virtues and ethic of mercy, peace, and love (Jude 2); true Christians serve first – helping to save others from falling away (Jude 22–23).
To review and repeat; at the end of his letter, Jude tells us all: Build yourselves up in Christian faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God. Wait expectantly for eternal life. Have compassion on those who doubt. Save all you can from leaving their faith. Turn away from those who will pull you away from God (Jude 20–23). True Christians do not live for themselves – we belong to another; we are “slaves (bought with a price) of Jesus Christ,” so that as many people as possible may be saved by Jesus working through those who have surrendered their lives to Him.
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