Contending for the Faith: Introduction - Part 2
Jude Lesson #02
January 10, 2012
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
We have seen that the main idea in Jude was to contend for the faith. This is his main message, Jude 3. Everything that he says comes back to understanding why it is important for us to contend for the faith.
The Greek word translated “contend” was a word that was often used in the context of athletic contests where there was a challenge or some obstacle that needed to be overcome. So what we see is the importance that is stressed in the Word of God for maintaining doctrinal accuracy and purity because there are always those who come into the congregation, into any sort of theological group, and have ideas that aren’t orthodox and don’t stay with the Scriptures.
There is always a challenge to the sufficiency of Scripture, sufficiency of grace and the sufficiency of the Cross; there are always challenges to how we understand the Scriptures. Hermeneutics are a tremendous battlefield today, so we are to always contend for the faith. This is part of the area of theology that is usually referred to as apologetics. It doesn’t have to do with apologizing for something but it has to do with giving an answer for the hope that is in us, why we believe something is true.
What we have to contend for is the basic propositions that are fundamental to Christianity. We can even divide these into different levels of significance. There are the primary truths such as the Trinity, the infallibility and the authority of Scripture—because without that we have nothing. If there is anything in there that is fallible, then what is and what isn’t, what is the criterion for determining what is wrong and what isn’t, what is the ultimate arbiter of truth? It has to be God, and to be God by very definition has to be able to preserve and keep His Word accurate.
Coming from Him it has to be inerrant to begin with and even though it comes through fallible, fallen human writers God is able in His omnipotence to preserve and protect the writing of Scripture. This gives us the body of faith.
So we talk about God, the authority of Scripture, who Jesus Christ is—the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God—and what He did on the Cross in terms of dying for our sins as our substitute, and that salvation is not by works but by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We don’t add anything to faith; we don’t add anything to the work of Christ upon the Cross. These are foundational, fundamental beliefs that make up the faith.
Then there are many other doctrines that are just a shade less foundational than those and that are also extremely important to maintain related to doctrines of the church, the body of Christ, the distinctions between Israel and the church, many other doctrines that come along, and that all makes up the faith, the doctrine that has been passed on down through the centuries.
When we talk about the development of doctrine, we are not talking about the fact that the body of truth changes or evolves over time but that our understanding and clarification of what the Bible teaches is refined or clarified from generation to generation. But we are to contend for that body of doctrine.
So the main idea is that we are to contend for the faith. Those who maintain the purity of faith in terms of belief and application then run the race well, and they receive the prize. That focuses us on the judgment seat of Christ. Those who do not run the race well, those who fail, those who fall by the wayside don’t win the prize. It doesn’t mean that they are not saved but it means that there is a loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
In verse 17, in the way the sentence is structured, we see that Jude does not see himself as part of the group of the apostles of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t view himself as an apostle but he is part of the apostolic community, so that his writing will still have apostolic validation and verification at this particular time.
Jude also wrote to show believers how they could grow even in the midst of apostasy. Though everything around us seems to be falling apart, even though as we in our day look around and see churches that are departing from the faith, teaching many things that are not biblical, that nevertheless, even though our numbers dwindle and those who contend for the purity of the faith continue to do so, we can still grow spiritually despite the fact that we are living in a spiritually regressive culture and church culture.
He wrote to assure believers that God would continue to protect them even in the midst of apostasy. Even though we see many churches, many pastors drifting off course, losing sight of grace, teaching Lordship salvation, Reformed or Covenant theology, these things that get away from the truths of Scripture and we wonder what the future is for sound biblical teaching, God will preserve the truth. God is in charge, Jesus Christ is the Head of the church and so the truth will never be completely lost.
To whom does Jude write? Three things we should not about this. First of all he addresses these as believers—“beloved” or “sanctified.” Either word only refers to believers in the rest of the New Testament. They are “kept” for Jesus Christ, which clearly indicates that they are believers. Secondly, they are Jewish believers. He assumes that they have a thorough knowledge of the events that he is describing from the Old Testament. Third, we know that they must be in the diaspora. They are not in Jerusalem, not in Judea, they are scattered out in the pagan environment of the Greco-Roman world.
Another thing to note here is that historically Jude, 1 and 2 Peter, James, and Hebrews have been classified as the general Epistles. They are not Pauline, not Johannine. They are sometimes called the “catholic” epistles because they don’t have a specific set group, like Paul writing to the church at Colosse or to Philemon, Titus, or Timothy.
There is not a specific audience stated, they have a universal audience and so they were called the catholic [i.e., universal] epistles. But these are not really catholic or general epistles, they are Jewish epistles. All are written to Jewish believers in the early church. The early church into the early part of the first century still had a predominantly Jewish membership. It was more and more Gentile, especially the further away from Judea, but it was still predominantly a Jewish group within the churches. So, they were Jewish believers who were living in the diaspora and facing various problems that were unique to them. Where we see application for us is, they are trying to maintain doctrinal purity in the midst of a pagan environment.
How do we know this is part of the Canon? One of the rules for determining canonicity in the early church was apostolic authorship, but we have two epistles and two other books that were not written by apostles. Luke was not an apostle. To be an apostle one had to be chosen by Jesus Christ, commissioned by Jesus Christ, and also gifted with the spiritual gift of apostle. Then they were sent out to the church as a whole.
But there was a second classification of apostle, and the distinction is understanding who commissioned them. Barnabas and some others are mentioned as apostles, but these were those who were commissioned by local churches and send on specific missions by a local church; they weren’t commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jude, James, and Luke were not apostles, but they operated within the apostolic community so that what they wrote had the authority and approval of either an apostle—Luke was a travelling companion of Paul.
Another was Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark, who was not an apostle, but was a companion to Peter. What Mark wrote was ultimately Peter’s account. Jude and James were both associated with the church in Jerusalem and operated within that apostolic community, as indicated by the reference that Paul has to Jude and the other apostles in 1 Corinthians 9.
In terms of the Canon, Jude’s biggest challenge was that it seemed to be repetitive in relation to 2 Peter. They covered the same things and so there is a question there about redundancy. But once the two epistles are studied together, it is realized that 2 Peter is warning about a coming apostasy and Jude speaks of the fact that it is already present.
Similarities between Jude and 2 Peter
In Jude 3 there is a similar parallel with 2 Peter 1:5, mostly focusing on just striving for the faith or pursuing spiritual growth.
In Jude 4 there is the mention of the apostates as ungodly men who deny the Lord; in 2 Peter 2:1 they are represented as those who will deny the Lord who bought them.
Jude 6 mentions angels held in eternal chains until judgment day. This is also mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4.
Jude 7 mentions the judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah; it is mentioned also in 2 Peter 2:6.
Jude 8 talks about how they are defiled, reject authority, slander dignitaries, characteristic of false teachers. This is parallel to 2 Peter 2:10.
Jude 9 mentions Michael; also mentioned in 2 Peter 2:11.
Jude 10 talks about the false teachers as “brute beasts that speak evil.” This is parallel to 2 Peter 2:12.
Jude 11 compares them to following Balaam’s path. Cf. 2 Peter 2:15.
Jude 12 speaks of them as clouds without water carried about by the winds—empty of content/truth. 2 Peter 2:17 imitates that.
Jude 16, they grumble, complain, lust, flatter people. This is a parallel of 2 Peter 2:18.
Jude 17 states that this was predicted by the apostles of the Lord. That parallels 2 Peter 3:2.
There is another way to view this: Jude 3 is seen in 2 Peter 1:5; Jude 4 in 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 6 in 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 7 in 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 8 in 2 Peter 2:10; Jude 9 in 2 Peter 2:11; Jude 10 in 2 Peter 2:12; Jude 11 in 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 12 in 2 Peter 2:13; Jude 12–13 in 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 16 in 2 Peter 2:18; Jude 17 in 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 18 in 2 Peter 3:3.
How do we explain this similarity? Among the students of these two books there are three ways to try to explain it. The first explanation would be that both authors just coincidentally, accidentally wrote similar epistles.
But if we believe that there is a divine plan behind the content and organization of the New Testament then this can’t be an accident. There are no accidents in the plan of God. Under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit as the One who is inspiring the writings of Scripture, we must be confident that He guided both writers, and therefore it is improbable that they just accidentally wrote about the same things.
There was an intentional reason in the mind of God for why there is such similarity between these two epistles, and that is something we need to think about. Why do we have two epistles that are so close to one another? What are the differences? That is what God the Holy Spirit wants us to learn.
The second way of explaining this that we find is that both writers drew on a common source. This is a typical way of trying to explain things: that there was some source that we don’t know anything about that influenced both Jude and Peter. But since there is no evidence of that kind of a document anywhere, that is just really an argument from silence, speculation, and so that falls short of being a good explanation.
Then the third is that one was influenced by the other. In other words, either Peter read Jude or Jude read Peter and that there is a relationship to the other epistle—an intentional relationship in the mind of the writer.
So the two options are that Peter borrowed from Jude. That is, Jude would have written first and then Peter came along and wrote second, having read Jude’s epistle, and in reading Jude’s epistle he tries to expand on what Jude has said. In this scenario Jude would have been written early in the decade of the AD 60s, somewhere between 60–65, and then 2 Peter would have been written later, somewhere about 65 or 66.
That falls into a problem there; there isn’t enough time because of when Peter was martyred in Rome. So the second view is probably the superior view, it gives a little more time: Jude actually borrowed from Peter. Peter wrote early in the 60s and Jude then writes near the end of the decade but before the destruction of Jerusalem. He was possibly stimulated by heaving read 2 Peter and realizing that what Peter had forecast was now on the scene. Jude is warning his readers that it is now present.
The arguments for 2 Peter being first and Jude second, is indicated by the fact that Jude 3 states, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation …” In other words, he shows that he had an original intent to write about their common salvation but then he changed the plan suddenly. “… 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.” Peter speaks about the false teachers coming using a future tense verb, while Jude indicates that they have already arrived. Jude 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed …” He uses a past tense verb.
A third reason why Jude follows 2 Peter is that Jude refers to prior apostolic warnings concerning false teachers (Jude 17–18) and that could easily refer to the warning that Peter gave in 2 Peter 3:2–4. Jude is well-read. He cites other sources, for example, from the book of Enoch, which makes it likely that he would have read 2 Peter and possibly cited from 2 Peter as well. Then a rational argument: if is more likely that a prominent apostle would be cited in a latter than someone less prominent than the other way around where a prominent apostle would be citing from someone who was less well-known.
Style and language
Jude has an interesting style. He is obviously Jewish but he writes well in Greek and is very comfortable in the Greek language. He has some interesting characteristics. He uses triads or triplets; he groups things in threes. There are fourteen groups of threes in this epistle.
For example, in the first verse: called, sanctified, preserved. In Jude 2 this is the only epistle that uses three characteristics in the salutation: “mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Then there are various other groupings, judgment of God upon sin in the past—the exodus generation, fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah. Later in Jude 11 he cites Cain, Balaam, and Korah. He describes the false teachers who have infiltrated the church as dreamers who defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
He uses fifteen words in this epistle that aren’t found anywhere else in the New Testament. A few of them are found in the Septuagint and some of them are found in the more classical Greek writers, but he has a unique vocabulary. His style is definitely distinct; he is not simply copying or regurgitating something he has read from Peter.
Certain key doctrines are emphasized here. The first is the importance that he places upon contending for the faith. This is so important. Believers need to take a stand for doctrinal accuracy and doctrinal purity and not just slide to the lowest common denominator, which is the tendency of our age.
Second, there is an emphasis on accountability before God for sin and for false teaching. There will be a judgment some day.
Third, that doctrine related to the angelic invasion of the Earth with the intent to destroy the genetic purity of the human race is mentioned in Jude 6.
There is also an emphasis on eternal security, as stated at the very beginning, that we are kept or preserved in Jesus Christ, and then at the end, Jude 24, “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.”
A fifth has to do with representing the fact that these false teachers would come up from within the ranks and that they would have an appeal to the sin nature of believers to lead them to distraction. But the solution is that believers are to build themselves up on our most holy faith. So we contend for the faith and we are built up by the faith.
A lot of what we see in the first two verses we have already covered in the introduction. The first verse talks about Jude as “a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” So there are two parts to the opening.
The first is the identification of the writer and the second is the identification of the recipients, which is simply state as “those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” This is really an interesting way in which he begins this introduction, and it applies to most of the other introductions that we have in the Epistles of the New Testament.
Jude simply identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. He is a DOULOS, a slave. We have a cultural problem with the word “slave” coming out of our history, and slavery in our culture, as in the Roman culture, is the lowest rung on the social ladder. But this is exactly what the word DOULOS indicates, it is a word that doesn’t carry with it any honor or respect in and of itself.
Jude calls himself a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He uses the phrase in a way that is similar to other apostles such as Peter and Paul who did this as well. It may appear at first glance that this kind opening address in these epistles is something which is just a formula, just the way they wrote. But that is not precisely true. When this is compared with other letters that were written at that time there are similarities but there are also important differences.
When we look at this “slave” terminology we come to understand something about slavery in the Roman Empire. It was quite something for someone who was born a free man to call himself a slave. Why should anyone who has the status of a free man in Rome—which is a high status—call themselves a slave?
There are several reasons. First, the Old Testament background. We see Old Testament writers, the prophets, the servants of Yahweh. The first person to identify himself as a servant of Yahweh is Moses, e.g., Exodus 14:31; Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1, 2 and another fifteen times in Joshua. So this has an Old Testament background, it connoted a special status of authority to the one who was the servant of the Lord.
The second nuance of this term is that although a slave has no status in and of itself if a person was the slave of a nobleman or high official than they were given greater honor than other slaves, and it was an honor that would be attributed to the one to whom they were a slave. It was an honor that was due to his owner or master.
In the Roman Empire a slave was just a nobody in society, but he had status only based on the authority of the master. So if the master of God then the emissary of God who was a slave of God, slave of the Lord, he was to be given the respect of one who was serving the most high God.
Third, by saying that they are a slave of God, a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ, it wasn’t just a statement of pseudo-humility. There is something that is being emphasized here. When we think of a slave we think of someone who is in a subservient relationship to someone in authority, that they on the pain of death have to obey everything that that authority says; and in this case this is someone who has voluntarily put themselves in a position of slavery.
There is a precedent for this in the Old Testament. The Old Testament slavery, as identified and regulated in the Torah, was not a slavery like that in the United States. It was a slavery that was more like indentured servitude. At the end of indentured servitude, at the end of a specific amount of time, the slave would have paid of his cost or whatever it was that the master had invested in him and then he would be free.
So there was that opportunity of freedom in that Old Testament slavery but there was also the opportunity where if the did not believe they could function or survive in an environment of pure freedom then they could voluntarily remain as a slave. Under voluntary slavery there is an emphasis that the person has chosen the master, chosen to whom he would be obedient.
Another thing that this shows in a more subtle way is the authority of the writer. Jude can’t say he is an apostle. When he says he is a servant of the Lord, he is making a subtle statement about the authority that he has as the writer of this epistle.