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Jude, Theology of

Jude, Theology of

Jude wrote this urgent letter to counter ungodly persons who turned the grace of God intolawlessness, and by their audacious blasphemy denied the Lord Jesus Christ. These falseteachers claimed the authority to teach on the basis of their so-called visions and werecausing division within the churches.

Jude exhorts the churches to defend the apostolic faith and to recognize that God willjudge these false teachers. Therefore they continue to engage in spiritual discipline andanticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, at which time God will present the faithful tohimself as a holy and rejoicing people.

Jude's method is to remind the readers of what they already know and to reinforce thatmessage. By appealing to the Old Testament, to contemporary writings, and to the teachingof the apostles, he affirms the certainty of divine judgment. By a denunciatorydescription of the false teachers and their fate, he renders them unattractive to thereaders. And by an exhortation to spiritual discipline he assures them of their stabilityin the faith. Finally, in the doxology he gives ultimate assurance that God is able topreserve the faithful and to present them to himself holy and blameless.

Jude (or Judah) identifies himself as "the brother of James, " implying thathe is also the step brother of Jesus ( Matt 13:55 ; Mark 6:3 ) and that hehas the authority to address these churches and condemn the false teachers. Some havesuggested that the author was not a contemporary of the apostles (v. 17 ) and that thebook was written later by another Jude or some unknown person. But the brother of our Lordwas the only man in the early church who could be called simply "James" withoutambiguity. And there is no evidence that the early church would accept letters writtenfalsely in the name of an important person. The date of this letter then must fall withinJude's lifetime, that is, in the middle or latter half of the first century.

The recipients of the letter are not specified but they are familiar with the OldTestament, contemporary Jewish literature, and methods of interpretation. This isappropriate to Jewish Christians in Palestine or Syria, though Christian Gentiles wouldlikely be included. These may be churches Jude had visited on his itinerant ministries.

Eschatology. The overarching theological perspective in Jude is eschatology.This appears in three primary ways: (1) the eschatological fulfillment of the types andprophecies in the Old Testament and apocryphal literature; (2) the certainty of divinejudgment upon ungodly sinners; (3) the anticipation of salvation by spiritual disciplineand divine protection.

The dominant eschatological motif in Jude is the certainty of divine judgment. Godjudges sin, rebellion, and apostasy whenever and wherever it occurs—before creationin the heavenly court (v. 6 ), in the evilcities at the time of the patriarchs (v. 7 ), and among God'speople in the wilderness (vv. Jude 1:5 Jude 1:11 ). Jude'semphasis is upon the eschatological judgment of the great Day (v. 6 ). Yet judgmentcontinues in the present, as indicated by the angels who are currently being kept underjudgment (v. 6 )and the process of corruption in the lives of the ungodly (v. 10 ).

These judgments are presented in Jude as types or prophecies that were being fulfilledby the false teachers (v. 7 ). They were longago prescribed to the same condemnation (vv. Jude 1:4 Jude 1:14-15 ).The punishment of the ungodly will be the "eternal fire of judgment" (vv. 6-7 ) in contrastto eternal life for the faithful (vv. Jude 1:21 Jude 1:24 ). Yetsome persons who had been victimized by the false teachers could be rescued from eternaljudgment prior. So Jude exhorted his readers to persuade some and to rescue others.

Soteriology. Salvation in Jude is a call to eternal life (vv. Jude 1:1 Jude 1:21 ), whichculminates in a royal presentation before Almighty God (v. 24 ). It ismotivated by the love of God, implemented by the Spirit, and completed by the mercy ofJesus Christ. This salvation is shared equally by all with no elitism, or any advantage oftime, place, or nationality.

The called are required to be faithful by adhering to the apostolic faith, living underthe authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. Jude 1:17 Jude 1:25 ), andengaging in the disciplines of the church to keep themselves in the love of God (vv. 20-21 ). In thisway the faithful enjoy the increasing mercy, peace, and love of God (v. 2 ). In contrast,the unfaithful—like Israel in the wilderness—place themselves under the judgmentof God by presuming on his grace, neglecting spiritual discipline, and repudiating JesusChrist in word and deed (v. 4 ).

But the Almighty God who delivered Israel from Egypt is the one who will bringsalvation to completion for his eternal glory. He keeps the faithful for Jesus Christ (v. 1 ) and guards themlest they fall (v. 24 ).And he will cause them to stand honorably in his royal, glorious presence.

Ecclesiology. Even though the word is not used, the church is the centralconcern of Jude's letter. The church is the "called" people of God (v. 1 ) who assemble forworship (and to hear this letter) and to keep the love feast, including the Lord's Supper.This letter seems to reflect an early Christian sermon with its statement of purpose,appeal to Scripture, exhortation, and benediction.

Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord over the church. This authority is extended throughhis apostles and their teaching. It is evidenced by Jude, who addresses these churches asa servant of Jesus Christ and as a brother of James, the renowned leader of the church inJerusalem ( Acts15:13 ; 21:18 ).Jude describes the ministry of local leaders as "sheperding" (v. 12 ). He himselfmodels this by his concern (v. 3 ) and emulation ofGod's love for them (vv. Jude 1:3 Jude 1:20 ). Hisgentle attitude is expressed in his "wish" to "remind" them, ratherthan to scold or rebuke them.

Jude also appeals to Scripture as having authority for the church. These writings arethe authoritative record of God's working in history, and they provide a propheticperspective for interpreting the current experiences of the church. In addition, Judemakes use of materials from the apocryphal writings of 1 Enoch (v. 14 ) and theAssumption of Moses (v. 9 ) as affirmationof his message to the churches.

The mission of the church is expressed in three exhortations: to defend the faith (v. 3 ), to keepthemselves in the love of God (v. 21 ), and to rescuesome while maintaining her own purity.

Theology Proper. The theology of Jude is explicitly monotheistic and implicitlyTrinitarian. God is our Father (v. 1 ) and Savior (v. 25 ). He is theeternal one to whom glory, majesty, might, and authority belong for ever and ever (v. 24 ). He is alsothe Lord—an allusion to the divine name in the Old Testament (vv. Jude 1:5 Jude 1:9 Jude 1:14 )—whosaves his people, and the Judge who condemns the world, sinners, and evil angels (vv. Jude 1:5 Jude 1:9 Jude 1:14 ). Andhe is the King who will summon his people to appear before him for a royal audience (v. 24 ).

The second person of the Trinity is "our Lord Jesus Christ" (vv. Jude 1:4 Jude 1:17 Jude 1:21 Jude 1:25 ).His messianic office is assumed, and the primary emphasis is on his lordship (vv. Jude 1:4 Jude 1:17 Jude 1:21 ).Jude emphasizes this by the use of two nouns, both "Master" (despotes [despovth"])and "Lord" (kurios [kuvrio"]). In three instances (vv. Jude 1:5 Jude 1:9 , andespecially 14 ),Jude's use of "Lord" may imply a reference to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment ofthe typological message of the texts, and the unity of Father and Son.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church, and the mediator between God and the faithful.Through him praise is offered to God (v. 25 ), and by himGod will grant the final expression of mercy in the gift of eternal life (v. 21 ). It is forJesus Christ and his day that God is keeping the faithful (v. 1 ).

The Holy Spirit is mentioned twice in Jude. Unlike the false teachers, those who arefaithful have the Spirit (v. 19 ). And it is inthe Spirit that the church conducts her worship and Christian discipline (vv. Jude 1:20 Jude 1:21 ).

Norman R. Ericson

Bibliography. R. J. Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude; D. Guthrie, New TestamentTheology: A Thematic Study; G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Jude, Theology of'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.