Called, beloved and kept – a sermon on Jude 1 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.
This morning we turn our attention to the second-last book of the Bible. It’s only a short letter – just 25 verses – but it is a letter that gives us much encouragement, instruction and assurance. And today we’re going to focus on just the very first verse.
It’s important for us to know who the author of the letter is. Who is this Jude? To whom is he writing, and what’s the message that he’s trying to get across to the people to whom he’s writing? And of course we also need to understand what he’s saying to us, to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, almost 2000 years later.
So who was this Jude? In Greek his name is Ioudas, and normally in the New Testament that’s translated as Judas. It was a fairly common name in the time of Jesus – remember that two of His disciples were called Judas. But in our English Bibles this Judas has traditionally been called Jude. It’s possible that this was done to remove any stain of association with Judas Iscariot. But in the end it doesn’t matter – our Jude, the Ioudas that wrote this letter, is quite clear about who he is. He’s the brother of James, and a servant of Jesus Christ. And both these descriptions paint a picture for us about the character of Jude.
While Jude does not say which James he’s related to, there is only one James who can just be referred to as James without any ambiguity – James, the half-brother of Jesus. So in a humble yet forceful way Jude is saying he is the half-brother of Jesus too. This is the same Jude/Judas that’s mentioned in Matthew 13 and Mark 6. So what Jude’s doing in the very first verses of our text is to state his authority – yet he does it in a humble way, not lording it over his readers.
But he’s not “just” the half-brother of Jesus. There’s something special about what he is as well: he is also a “servant of Jesus Christ.” Most of the translations in use today use the word “servant” here, for it reflects the service that all of those who belong to Christ should be performing: serving the Saviour. But the actual word used is “slave.” The word “slave” has a very negative meaning today, so many people don’t like using it. But beloved in the Lord Jesus, there’s something hugely important that we need to keep in mind when we think about this concept of a “slave of Christ.” And that is that Jesus has purchased us! Yes, He’s purchased us with His life. We’ve been bought at a price – a very dear price! We’ve been bought and paid for with the precious blood of Jesus, the Lamb without blemish, which means that He has to have the highest priority in our lives. And it’s to this that Jude is referring here too. He’s not ashamed to call himself a slave or a servant of Jesus Christ – for serving Jesus is his priority. And friends, he describes himself in this way at the beginning of his letter so that the readers of this letter can be quite clear about what he’s on about. You see, he wanted them to understand what their priorities ought to be – their priorities need to be shaped by who they are in Christ.
So who is it that Jude was writing to? If we look at what he says in the rest of the letter, it’s clear that Jude was writing to a specific church or a group of churches where there were false teachers. And he wrote to them to warn them to remain faithful – or as verse 3 puts it, to contend for the faith. Verse one also gives us the reason why God’s people are to remain faithful – listen again to what it says:
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ
You see, friends, Jude is reminding his readers in these churches of their very special status: they have been called out of darkness into light, God the Father loves them and no matter what befalls them, He will keep them until Christ returns. In one sense he’s giving them a Trinitarian reason for remaining faithful, for they are
- Called (through the Holy Spirit);
- Beloved (in God the Father); and
- Kept (for Jesus Christ).
Called, beloved and kept – that’s what the first verse is all about.