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Thursday, January 05, 2012

1 - Overview of the Book of Jude [A]

Jude by Robert Dean
Series:Jude (2012)
Duration:55 mins 42 secs

Overview of the Book of Jude
The Book of Jude
Jude Lesson #01
January 5, 2012
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Slide 2

Jude is usually called one of the general Epistles if you look at a Bible handbook or survey of the New Testament but it is actually one of five Jewish epistles in the New Testament. In the first century of Christianity there was still a large segment of Christians who were Jewish, and there were a number of primarily Jewish congregations scattered around the Roman Empire in the diaspora.

These Jewish congregations received five of the twenty-one epistles in the New Testament. If we look at many introductions they will not emphasize that because they have not understood this historically. Part of the reason this is misunderstood is that because of allegorical interpretation when Peter wrote in 1 Peter that he was writing from Babylon. The Roman Catholic Church had elevated him to a position of priority among the apostles and so that he was in Rome, so they looked at Babylon as a code word for Rome.

However, if we believe in a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture Babylon must mean Babylon, Rome must mean Rome, Jerusalem must mean Jerusalem. That makes sense because if Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, Peter was the apostle to the Jews.

The largest Jewish community outside of Jerusalem was in Babylon, and so it makes sense that Peter would have gone to Babylon to proclaim the message that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, the descendant of David who had come to offer to Israel but instead was rejected and crucified, rose from the grave the third day and He is now in Heaven awaiting the time when the Father would give Him the Kingdom and He would return as the Son of Man, as predicted in Daniel 7.

In the community of the first-century Christians faced two basic problems. The first was the problem of persecution against Christians and for the Jewish believers it would come from both the pagans in the Roman Empire as well as from certain Jews within the Jewish community who rejected Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah.

The second area of conflict was within the church. Outside the church was the problem of persecution; inside the church was the problem of false doctrine. There were those who we know from Acts 20, as Paul warned the Ephesian elders, that there would be those who would come ever from among those leaders in Ephesus who would be wolves among the flock. But especially from within the Jewish community there were those who came and synthesized various doctrines that had started to become popular within the Jewish community who did not have their base in the Old Testament but had their base in the apocryphal works that were a blend of Greek philosophy and other philosophical and religious systems.

So of these five Jewish Epistles—Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude—two of them focused on this problem of false doctrine. 2 Peter was a warning that false teachers would come into the congregation; Jude is writing to say that they are now present.

These believers at that time lived within this pluralistic society in Rome where there were many different religious beliefs, a number of different religious systems that came from not only traditional Greco-Roman religions but also from ideas that were synthesized from outside the Greco-Roman culture.

So there was a challenge to Christians to stand form in the faith, as the apostle Paul had warned them as well, and so the message of Jude is to contend for the faith. Jude 1:3, “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.” The issue here isn’t salvation, which is a free gift of God, the issue is for these believers after salvation to not fall by the wayside, to not give up, to not get influenced by false teaching.

Slide 3

The issue isn’t their eternal destiny in Heaven the issue is whether or not they would be a success or failure at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Slide 4

Who was Jude? The author is identified in Jude 1, the first verse: “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James …” The problem is, which Jude is he? In the Greek it is IOUDAS, the same name that we have for Judas Iscariot.

Actually, there were eight different people in the New Testament who went by the name of Jude. It comes from the Hebrew name “Judah,” one of the twelve sons of Jacob, and Judah means praise. It was a very popular name in the first century because in more recent times there was the name Judas Maccabaeus who led the Jews in the revolt against the Syrians during the Maccabean Revolt in about 160 BC.

So there were eight different persons in the New Testament identified by this name. The first was the son of the patriarch Jacob or Israel in Matthew 1:2, 3; Luke 3:33. Second, there is the mention of an ancestor of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 3:30. Third, there is the reference to Judas Iscariot, e.g., Mark 3:19.

Fourth, there is the mention of one who is also known as Thaddaeus, one of the original twelve disciples and also an apostle who was either the son or the brother of one known as James, Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 1:13.

Another was a Galilean rebel, mentioned in Acts 5:37, a pseudo-messiah. Sixth, there was a native of Damascus mention in Acts 9:11 to whom Paul went a short time after his conversion. Seventh, another Judas who accompanied Paul, Barnabas and Silas on a trip to Antioch, Acts 15:22, 27, 32. He went there with Paul, Barnabas and Silas when they were returning from the Jerusalem Council, which was covered in the earlier parts of Acts 15. His surname was Barsabbas and it is possible that he was the brother of Joseph Barsabbas who was one of the two men who were possible candidates for replacing Judas Iscariot, mentioned in Acts 1:23.

Then the eighth person mention was Jude the brother of James and the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is mentioned in Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55.

The three most likely options are Judas the apostle, also known as Thaddaeus. Second would be Judas, a leader in the Jerusalem church, the one who accompanied Paul and Silas. Then the third option is the one that is thought to be the author of this Epistle by most people, and that is Jude the half-brother of Jesus.

We can be pretty sure that this is who the author of this epistle is just by a process of elimination. The other seven don’t seem to fit the qualifications of one who would write the Scripture.

Since Jude was a common first-century name he identifies himself not only as a bondservant or slave of Jesus Christ but as a brother of James. As such he would be choosing a James who was of prominence, someone who would be known among the readers, and so the most prominent one would be the James who was the leader in the Jerusalem church who was also the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and the author of the Epistle of James.

Slide 5

He is mentioned in Acts 15:13–21. We see that both Jude and James are mentioned in the list of Jesus’ brothers in 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?” External evidence from the early church supports the view that this Jude in Jude 1 is the half-brother of Jesus.      

It is interesting that both Jude and James in the opening of their epistles do not link themselves to Jesus. This shows a certain amount of humility, but also a recognition that they were only brothers to Jesus in terms of His humanity, because they shared the same mother but had Joseph as their father, where as the Lord Jesus Christ did not come through Joseph.

The fact that Jude was the half-brother of Jesus is supported by a number of people in the early church, including one quoted by Eusebius who tells us that Jude also had sons and grandsons, and because these grandsons were of the house of David (through Joseph) the emperor Domitian viewed them as potential leaders of a revolt against Rome and had them brought before him at his judgment seat. In their defence they showed their calloused hands to the emperor, proving that they were just simple farmers who were not seeking an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. The record shows that they were released and they lived into the second century.

Other sources from among the early Church Fathers also support the fact that this epistle was accepted as Scripture and that it was written by Jude the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the short writing The Shepherd by Hermas, as well as Polycarp who was a student or disciple of the Apostle John, as well as Theophilus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, the epistle of Barnabas, Muritorian Canon which was a partial listing of the books that were accepted as canonical (AD 160–165), all include Jude as part of the Scripture.

Jude is mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:5 as an evangelist who travelled and took his wife with him. In another important fact, something that is distinct and unique in the spittle of Jude, is that he does something that no other writer of Scripture does. He quotes from apocryphal literature.

Apocryphal literature is literature that was not accepted as part of the Old Testament Hebrew Canon. But they did give a certain amount of information about the inter-Testament period which was when most of them were written. The book of Enoch is one that is quoted by Jude and it is not accepted as canonical, but that does not mean that these books did not say true things or that they did not give to some degree an accurate picture of history or life in the inter-Testament period.

So they have some value but they do not have the authority of Scripture. Because Jude quotes from a couple of these apocryphal books it does not mean that he authenticates them as Scripture, it simply means that he is citing something said in those works, just as Paul cites from the Greek pagan poets and philosophers in Athens—Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12, 13.

It doesn’t mean that those writings are inspired by God or have any authority in the church; it just means that at that particular point something that is said is true, and we know it is true because under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit it has been brought into Scripture. The two apocryphal books that Jude references are The Assumption of Moses (quoted in vs. 9) and the book of Enoch (verses 14, 15). So at that point, just in terms of what has been cited by Jude, it is accepted as true; it is used under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make the point that Jude is making.

When did Jude write his epistle? Approximately AD 67–68. He doesn’t mention the destruction of Jerusalem so that would indicate he wrote it before AD 70.                        

Why does he write? We need to recognize that the purpose for this epistle is to warn the church in relation to the infiltration of false teachers. This is the same thing Paul did with the Ephesian pastors in Acts 20 as he was heading back to Jerusalem.

So Jude was doing the same thing—the infiltration of false teachers who would promote sinful conduct as well as false teaching about the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So there is a warning that comes from the very beginning to contend, to fight, to struggle for the truth. This has an application for every believer. We are to contend for the faith, a set body of truth/doctrine, and we are to fight for that truth that was once for all delivered to the saints. This is teaching that it was something given to the church once for all; it is a set body of doctrine, so it doesn’t change over time.

Part of contending for the faith means that we have to be able to identify what the false teachings are that are prevalent in our generation. We have to understand how these are being presented and how they are seducing Christians into various areas of wrong thinking that violates this faith that has been once-for-all delivered to the saints.

False teaching emphasizes two things: practice, lifestyle or application in terms of promoting sinful conduct or licentiousness, and then the second has to do with teaching false doctrine. In this epistle Jude is going to bring for evidence of how God judges the unbelievers who are responsible for communicating and promoting false doctrine.

He is clearly writing to believers, those who are saved, those who are “being kept” by Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ who holds us in His hand and nothing can cause Him to let go of us. He keeps us; we don’t keep ourselves by our own actions or behaviour. They are addressed as such in Jude 1 to those who are “called,” and “kept” by Jesus Christ.

There is a similarity between 2 Peter and Jude. They both talk about similar events—fallen angels, their revolt against God; the Noahic flood, certain events in the Old Testament period—Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses—and these similarities have caused some people to think that Jude basically wrote down or revised what Peter wrote.

And there are those who think that Peter did not actually write 2 Peter for various reasons. What we must understand as we study it is that Jude would have had to be written after Peter. He is reminding his readers of what Peter had said in 2 Peter but his focal point is in the present where as Peter is talking about false teachers that are going to come in the future into the church. Jude writes about these same events because he is connecting this for his audience so that they understand that he is telling them that the time that Peter had talked about has now come.

Originally it seems that Jude had wanted to write about the doctrines of salvation. In Jude three he says, “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.”

So originally he had one idea. He wanted to write to them about salvation but due to the work of God the Holy Spirit as a supervisor, as it were, who oversees the writing of Scripture through inspiration and guided the writers to preserve them from error, He was guiding and directing Jude to write on a different topic than the one he originally intended. This is because of the presence of these false teachers who had invaded these Jewish Christian congregations. So the writing of Jude was design to protect this congregation from the errors that were present at the time.

There are also some secondary reasons that he writes. He wanted first of all to encourage them and challenge them to contend for the faith; that is the primary message of the epistle.

Secondly, he also wanted to warn his readers about the apostates and to give them the various characteristics of their teaching. He also predicted the imminent judgment of these false teachers and in his prediction about their judgment wants his readers to understand that God judges, and will judge false teachers.

So how one handles the truth is presented as something very serious. He marshals very serious evidence of this from the way God has judged those who opposed God’s plan in the past. In Jude 5 he talks about God’s judgment on Egypt; in Jude 6 about God’s judgment on the angels who rebelled against God and left their original abode during the time preceding the flood of Noah; in Jude 7 about God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah; in Jude 11 about God’s judgment in relation to Cain, Balaam, and Korah, who all represent different types of rebellion against God in episodes in the Old Testament.

So Jude emphasizes the reality of divine judgment on those who oppose Him. He is also reminding his readers of previous warnings that have been given to them, Jude 17–19, and he is encouraging these believers to grow even in the midst of opposition, even in the midst of apostasy, Jude 20–23.

He closes with a tremendous benediction, emphasizing the fact and reminding them that they are kept not by their power, but by the power of Christ, Jude 24–25, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, [25] to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, {be} glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

So he has various purposes all wrapped around the idea of telling these believers (and us) that we are to continue to contend for the faith that has been once-for-all been given to the church.

We have alluded to the fact that these recipients are Jewish, but what else do we know about these recipients, those to whom he was writing? First of all, it is clear that they are believers because they are “sanctified” by God; secondly we know they are Jewish. We know this because of the similarities between 2 Peter and Jude, because Jude cites from this apocryphal literature, The Assumption of Moses and Enoch. A Greek or Gentile audience would not have that literature in common.

He assumes that they have a good knowledge of certain events that are covered in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament—mentioned in his epistle. These would be Jews who were living outside of the land, not those who were in the land, especially as in the late 60s the land would be under turmoil because of the Jewish rebellion against Rome.

What is the structure here in the epistle? It has been noted by scholars for centuries that the Bible is not only the Word of God but it also has the characteristics and marks of excellent literature. And like any good literature, and good speech, there are introductions, conclusions, and then there is the main body of the work.

Some writings in the Scriptures are poetry, some is historical narrative, we also have the Gospels which were written to proclaim the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus Christ and, above all, the fact that He came to Earth, became a man and went to the Cross to die for our sins.

So there are different categories of literature and this is epistolary literature which is more didactic or teaching in terms of its emphasis, it is instructional, in some cases exhortational. It is really a challenge to people. Hebrews was that way. Jude is presenting a challenge and that challenge is articulated in the second part of Jude 3.

In terms of how Jude brings together his material in order to accomplish his task he has a typical style for an epistle. He begins with a greeting. In the ancient world they would front load the material about the author and the recipients so that the first thing read would be the author, so you would know right away who was writing you. Jude has a different greeting than the Apostle Paul. Rather than “Grace to you and peace” he begins “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” He is emphasizing the mercy of God which is related to His grace, but it is the expression, the more personalized, more individualized expression of God’s grace in the life of an individual.

Because we are recipients of God’s mercy, we have peace because of the work of Christ on the Cross. The wall of division, that wall of sin, has been broken down and there is no harmony; and because of that we can express true love, genuine love, which is part of the evidenced that every believer should have for his faith in Jesus Christ.

So we have the greeting in Jude 1–2 and then a closing or benediction in Jude 24–25. Notice there is a parallel between the two. In the greeting he addresses those who are called, sanctified by God the Father and preserved or kept by the Lord Jesus Christ. And in Jude 24 he says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” So it picks up some of those things as a reminder that they are kept by Jesus Christ no matter what the opposition might be, no matter what failures there may be.

The purpose for the epistle is given in Jude 3–4—to exhort them to contend earnestly for the faith. The reason is because certain men have crept in unnoticed, so it is a present tense reality now.

We have to understand the meaning of this word “ungodly.” It does not refer to carnal Christians. The word is used again and again in Scripture to indicate unbelievers, never to indicate believers. So these are unbelievers who have crept in who are teaching a licentious view of the grace of God, perverting the grace of God. And they are also denying doctrines related to the Lord Jesus Christ—His deity and His completed work on the Cross.

Then in the development of his argument the first thing that Jude is going to do is to emphasize the fact that these are serious matters, that those who are unbelievers, those who are responsible for distracting and for perverting the faith of believers will come under divine judgment.

So he will give evidence of how God is involved in history, that He is not just some God who is far away but He is personally involved in history and He personally judges those who oppose His plan.  

In Jude 12ff there is a focus on who these false teachers are and what they teach, how they have come into the church, how they have disguised themselves, and the consequences of their infiltration. They are further described in Jude 16ff in terms of their character and how they are truly false teachers.

The conclusion in Jude 19 is typically mistranslated and misunderstood in almost every English version. Starting in Jude 20 we have the positive command of Jude. He spends from Jude 3 where he warns of the danger of false teachers, down through Jude 19 identifying all of the negatives about the false teachers, and he spends four verses (Jude 20–23) focusing on the positive command.

That is just the opposite in terms of proportion that we have in the modern understanding of how to win friends, win people to the congregation, and how to build a big strong congregation.

So there is a lot of emphasis on the negatives, the wrong things that are taught and why it is wrong, and then just a little on the positive in Jude 20–23, that they are to build themselves up on “your most holy faith.” Notice the building up, the edification. The spiritual strength comes from faith/doctrine; it doesn’t come from wonderful stories, nice little narratives, motivational speaking, it comes from understanding truth and praying in fellowship (“by means of God the Holy Spirit”).

It emphasizes personal responsibility and volition in the believer’s life to “keep yourselves in the love of God”—a synonym for staying in fellowship; and “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life”—anticipating the future, or living today in light of eternity.

Then Jude 22, the application of mercy; Jude 23, “save others, snatching them out of the fire”—which relates to how believers are to be involved in the life of those who are being sucked in with false doctrine.