|Jude, Theology of |
Jude wrote this urgent letter to counter ungodly persons who turned the grace of God into lawlessness, and by their audacious blasphemy denied the Lord Jesus Christ. These false teachers claimed the authority to teach on the basis of their so-called visions and were causing division within the churches.
Jude exhorts the churches to defend the apostolic faith and to recognize that God will judge these false teachers. Therefore they continue to engage in spiritual discipline and anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, at which time God will present the faithful to himself as a holy and rejoicing people.
Jude's method is to remind the readers of what they already know and to reinforce that message. By appealing to the Old Testament, to contemporary writings, and to the teaching of the apostles, he affirms the certainty of divine judgment. By a denunciatory description of the false teachers and their fate, he renders them unattractive to the readers. And by an exhortation to spiritual discipline he assures them of their stability in the faith. Finally, in the doxology he gives ultimate assurance that God is able to preserve the faithful and to present them to himself holy and blameless.
Jude (or Judah) identifies himself as "the brother of James, " implying that he is also the step brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3) and that he has the authority to address these churches and condemn the false teachers. Some have suggested that the author was not a contemporary of the apostles (v. 17) and that the book was written later by another Jude or some unknown person. But the brother of our Lord was the only man in the early church who could be called simply "James" without ambiguity. And there is no evidence that the early church would accept letters written falsely in the name of an important person. The date of this letter then must fall within Jude'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 Old Testament, contemporary Jewish literature, and methods of interpretation. This is appropriate to Jewish Christians in Palestine or Syria, though Christian Gentiles would likely 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 and prophecies in the Old Testament and apocryphal literature; (2) the certainty of divine judgment upon ungodly sinners; (3) the anticipation of salvation by spiritual discipline and divine protection.
The dominant eschatological motif in Jude is the certainty of divine judgment. God judges sin, rebellion, and apostasy whenever and wherever it occursbefore creation in the heavenly court (v. 6), in the evil cities at the time of the patriarchs (v. 7), and among God's people in the wilderness (vv. 5, 11). Jude's emphasis is upon the eschatological judgment of the great Day (v. 6). Yet judgment continues in the present, as indicated by the angels who are currently being kept under judgment (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 fulfilled by the false teachers (v. 7). They were long ago prescribed to the same condemnation (vv. 4, 14-15). The punishment of the ungodly will be the "eternal fire of judgment" (vv. 6-7) in contrast to eternal life for the faithful (vv. 21, 24). Yet some persons who had been victimized by the false teachers could be rescued from eternal judgment prior. So Jude exhorted his readers to persuade some and to rescue others.
Soteriology. Salvation in Jude is a call to eternal life (vv. 1, 21), which culminates in a royal presentation before Almighty God (v. 24). It is motivated by the love of God, implemented by the Spirit, and completed by the mercy of Jesus Christ. This salvation is shared equally by all with no elitism, or any advantage of time, place, or nationality.
The called are required to be faithful by adhering to the apostolic faith, living under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 17, 25), and engaging in the disciplines of the church to keep themselves in the love of God (vv. 20-21). In this way the faithful enjoy the increasing mercy, peace, and love of God (v. 2). In contrast, the unfaithfullike Israel in the wildernessplace themselves under the judgment of God by presuming on his grace, neglecting spiritual discipline, and repudiating Jesus Christ in word and deed (v. 4).
But the Almighty God who delivered Israel from Egypt is the one who will bring salvation to completion for his eternal glory. He keeps the faithful for Jesus Christ (v. 1) and guards them lest 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 central concern of Jude's letter. The church is the "called" people of God (v. 1) who assemble for worship (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 through his apostles and their teaching. It is evidenced by Jude, who addresses these churches as a servant of Jesus Christ and as a brother of James, the renowned leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; 21:18). Jude describes the ministry of local leaders as "sheperding" (v. 12). He himself models this by his concern (v. 3) and emulation of God's love for them (vv. 3, 20). His gentle attitude is expressed in his "wish" to "remind" them, rather than to scold or rebuke them.
Jude also appeals to Scripture as having authority for the church. These writings are the authoritative record of God's working in history, and they provide a prophetic perspective for interpreting the current experiences of the church. In addition, Jude makes use of materials from the apocryphal writings of 1 Enoch (v. 14) and the Assumption of Moses (v. 9) as affirmation of his message to the churches.
The mission of the church is expressed in three exhortations: to defend the faith (v. 3), to keep themselves in the love of God (v. 21), and to rescue some while maintaining her own purity.
Theology Proper. The theology of Jude is explicitly monotheistic and implicitly Trinitarian. God is our Father (v. 1) and Savior (v. 25). He is the eternal one to whom glory, majesty, might, and authority belong for ever and ever (v. 24). He is also the Lordan allusion to the divine name in the Old Testament (vv. 5, 9, 14)who saves his people, and the Judge who condemns the world, sinners, and evil angels (vv. 5, 9, 14). And he 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. 4, 17, 21, 25). His messianic office is assumed, and the primary emphasis is on his lordship (vv. 4, 17, 21). Jude emphasizes this by the use of two nouns, both "Master" (despotes ) and "Lord" (kurios ). In three instances (vv. 5, 9, and especially 14), Jude's use of "Lord" may imply a reference to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the 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 him God will grant the final expression of mercy in the gift of eternal life (v. 21). It is for Jesus 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 are faithful have the Spirit (v. 19). And it is in the Spirit that the church conducts her worship and Christian discipline (vv. 20, 21).
Norman R. Ericson
Bibliography. R. J. Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude; D. Guthrie, New Testament Theology: A Thematic Study; G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament.