Jude 1-2

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1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

I love famous opening lines of novels. Many of these opening lines are so well known that after hearing just one or two words of them you not only can finish the line but you are also immediately carried away into the world of the entire book, with all of its feelings, and intrigue, and twists, and turns.

An opening line can grab you and not let you go! It can bring a whole mood. An opening line can confound or amuse or irritate you. For instance, how many of these famous opening lines grab you and take you somewhere else:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“All children, except one, grow up.” J.M Barrie, Peter Pan

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell, 1984

“It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” William Goldman, The Princess Bride

“Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I love it! I love a good opening line! I want to argue that this opening line should be considered among the greats. Here it is:

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

I really mean it: that is an amazing opening line! It may sound fairly typical of ancient letters, of biblical letters, but it is actually laden with meaning and a fascinating backstory. It is an opening line that provokes, both in what it says and what it does not say. It is an author’s identification, but an identification that is rich with purpose and intent and weight.

Let us consider this great opening line of the ancient letter we refer to as “Jude.”

An identification by what is said: “slave”

We begin with a name: Jude. We will unpack which Jude this is in our second point. But, out of the gate, let us move to the description that Jude clearly wants us to move to:

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ…

This sounds so very nice: “Jude, as servant of Jesus Christ…” But the word he uses there is the Greek word “doulos” and there is a better and more shocking way of translating it. Douglas Moo observes, “‘Servant’ can also be translated ‘slave’—the Greek word is not diakonos (‘[household] servant’) but doulos (‘[bond]slave’).”[1] The New Testament scholar Spicq is more assertive than Moo on this point. He is positively irritated by rendering doulos as “servant,” as Gene Green notes:

Although translators commonly render δοῦλος as “servant” (less frequently “bond-servant”), Spicq…vigorously objects: “It is wrong to translate doulos as ‘servant,’ so obscuring its precise signification in the language of the first century.” Jude is nothing more than Jesus Christ’s δοῦλος, which may be understood within the context of ancient chattel slavery. In the socioeconomic sense, a slave is the property of another, bought and sold as a commodity; as Aristotle declared, “A slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave”… A slave is the “unfree,” and the fundamental social distinction in ancient society was between status of the “slave” and the “free” (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:11; Rev. 6:15; 13:16; 19:18). As a slave, all rights over his life and property belong to the master, who in Jude’s case is Jesus Christ.[2]

What is telling is that the New Testament does seem to speak of both lostness and salvation in terms of slavery. For instance, Jesus, in John 8, says:

34 …“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

So to be lost, to be unsaved, is to be “a slave to sin.” But then salvation is also spoken of as a kind of slavery, obviously in a redemptive and positive sense, in Romans 6.

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Do you see the paradoxical usage of the new slavery in verse 18? We, “having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” We have moved from the slavery of sin to the slavery of righteousness, to becoming slaves of Christ!

In his 1979 album, “Slow Train Coming,” Bob Dylan sang:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Indeed! We are gonna have to serve somebody! So in calling himself a slave of Christ, Jude was first and foremost making a statement about his allegiances. He was not living life for himself. He was not calling the shots anymore. He was, joyfully, a slave of Christ!

Furthermore, in saying this Jude was aligning himself with the other great leaders of the church whose greatness had come in their death to self and total allegiance to Jesus Christ. Consider these other opening lines from the New Testament:

Romans 1

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…

2 Peter 1

1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…

James 1

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…

My point is not that this was some kind of reverse psychology: that by using this language Jude was ironically being arrogant by saying, “Hey, I am one of the great slaves of Christ like the other great apostles! Follow me too!” No, he was rather standing in solidarity with these men who had likewise determined that being a slave to Christ was better than being free unto ourselves, that slavery to the good Master Jesus is preferable to a freedom that was really just shackles in hell.

No, Jude was exhibiting profound humility in saying this: “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ…” My goodness!

One of the most self-evident things about men of arrogance and power is that they love lofty titles and despise lowly designations. The mighty of the earth pile their titles one atop the other to create the impression of grandeur. In Colm O’Regan’s 2012 BBC article, “The rise of inflated job titles,” he pointed out that:

Idi Amin famously went by the title His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

and he also noted:

Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany whose full moniker ran to 158 words, in order to make sure it counted all the territories within his power, including Duke of the Wends and the Kashubians…[3]

But not Jude! Not Jude! No, he is content to be a slave of Jesus Christ! That is enough for him!

How about you? Are you willing to set aside your own freedom, so-called, and swear allegiance to Jesus as your Lord and Master? Can you say of yourself, “I am a slave of Jesus Christ?”

An identification by what is omitted: “brother of James”

And then, a twist. Listen:

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James…

First of all, who is this “James” of whom Jude is the brother? The vast majority of scholars old and new believe this is James the Apostle, the head of the Jerusalem church. The way that Jude writes this strongly suggests that the early churches knew who this particular James was. This would suggest that the “James” here is the James who was the head of the Jerusalem church after the ascension of Jesus, the James who wrote the letter that bears his name. But the James who wrote the letter of James is not the disciple James, the brother of John. He is rather the James spoken of in Matthew 13.

54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

The James mentioned in Jude 1 is James the half-brother of Jesus. This James “is sometimes referred to in Eastern Christianity as “James Adelphotheos” (Ancient Greek: Ἰάκωβος ὁ Ἀδελφόθεος), meaning ‘James the Brother of God.’ The oldest surviving Christian liturgy, the Liturgy of St James, uses this epithet.”[4]

But if Jude is the brother of James who is the half-brother of Jesus, then this means, of course, that Jude is himself the half-brother of Jesus. So we look again at that 56th verse of Matthew 13: “And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

And there he is. “Judas,” the same word as “Jude.” Our Jude is one of the four brothers of Jesus. A number of the early church fathers identified him thus. Clement of Alexandria identifies Jude as “the brother of the sons of Joseph” who had a “near relationship of the Lord” and, again, “he was His brother, (the son) of Joseph.” The church fathers Origen and Jerome concur.[5]

Why is this significant? It is significant that the Jude who wrote this letter was the half-brother of Jesus first and foremost because of what we know about the brothers of Jesus before the resurrection. In John 7 we read:

1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him.

“For not even his brothers believed in him.” So during his earthly ministry the half-brothers of Jesus “did not believe in him.” They clearly, in verse 3, drew a distinction between themselves and “your disciples.” And they even appear to challenge Jesus: “show yourself to the world” if you really are who you say you are.

Now we begin to see how this first sentence is so laden with meaning: Jude previously rejected his half-brother Jesus’ claims about Himself…but now he believes!

And how much does he believe? This leads us to our second point: the depth of his belief rests in his deliberate decision not to call himself Jesus’ “half-brother” but rather Jesus’ slave!

This Jude is Jesus’ half-brother, but he does not play on that. He does not throw that card on the table. He does not seek to cash in on the undeniable street-cred that would bring him. He does not say, “Hey, you know that is my big brother, right? I grew up with Him. I spent 30 years with Him. All those things you guys want to know about my brother, Jesus, and his growing up years and what it was like watching mom and dad raise Him, I know all of that stuff.” No, instead, he calls Himself Jesus’ slave!

To go from a rejection of your brother as possibly mad to a complete submission to your brother as Lord is an astonishing thing!

What on earth happened to make this so? Simply put: the resurrection. Jesus, Jude’s and James’ half-brother, was dead and then alive! He is alive even today! So why does Jude not speak of his familial tie, other than indirectly as “the brother of James”? Because the truly amazing aspect of his relationship with Jesus is not that they grew up together but rather than his big brother turned out to be his Lord and God! So Jude’s proper relationship with Jesus is moreso that of “slave” than of brother.

Astonishing! Amazing! Beautiful! One of the great first lines of all time!

If the half-brother of Jesus was willing to submit himself to his brother as Lord, not seeking an exalted status by pressing his familial connection, how much more should we?

An identification with those addressed: “those who are called”

We have seen that Jude identifies himself by what he says (Jude, the slave of Jesus Christ) and by what he omits (that he is the half-brother of Jesus). Now we see that he identifies himself with the those he is addressing: the church.

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

His audience, he tells us, consists of:

  • those who are called;
  • those who are beloved in God the Father;
  • and those who are kept for Jesus Christ.

The church is called. The church is beloved. The church is kept.

I am not one for tight, humanly-constructed systems like those that dominate the discussions surrounding election and predestination. I have always felt that the job of the preacher is to preach the scriptures as they come to us, even if they come to us with certain paradoxes. There is a paradox at the heart of the whole question of God calling us to salvation and of humanity responding to that call. It is enough for me to preach the call of election and predestination when it appears and to preach the response of humanity when it appears. I have less and less interest in trying to step into the mystery of that and dissect it, nor do I think I can.

Here we see the church referred to as “those who are called.” And indeed we are! We are a called and elected people. In ways, again, that are paradoxical and mysterious we see elsewhere in scripture the spotlight fall on our need to respond to that call in repentance and faith. But the call cannot be denied. It should be celebrated. “We love him because he first loved us!” (1 John 4:19) To this we should say “Amen!”

And so we are called and loved. We are called because we are loved: “beloved in God the Father.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” (John 3:16).

And we are “kept.” We are “sealed” in and by the Holy Spirit. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

This is the church! This is those to whom Jude writes, yes, but it is also those with whom Jude identifies. These are now his people! He is one of them!

So we are not surprised to find, after the ascension of Jesus, in Acts 1 the following:

14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Nor are we shocked to find the following amazing verse in 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul drops a fascinating nugget of information while expressing his right to marry if he so chose. Listen closely:

Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

What is Paul talking about here? Where does he have the right, theoretically, to “take along” a wife? In context he is speaking there of his apostolic missionary journeys. He says he has the right to “take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas.”

What does this tell us? It tells us that it is not merely that Jude moved from disbelief to belief, but also from belief to mission.

Jude had “taken along” his “believing wife” and gone out into the world to win it for Jesus.

Jude moved from doubt to conviction to mission…and then he wrote a letter!

Jude was a joyful slave of King Jesus whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

Jude, the man who wrote this beautiful and strange little letter, had come to see his big brother Jesus as Lord of Heaven and earth, as the only reality that mattered. Jude set aside his pride and skepticism and embraced the reality of Jesus…and his life would never be the same.


[1] Moo, Douglas  J. 2 Peter, Jude (The NIV Application Commentary Book 18) . Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

[2] Green, Gene. Jude and 2 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 45). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18855099

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James,_brother_of_Jesus#cite_note-Schaff-20

[5] Bateman, Herbert W., IV. Jude. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Academic, 2017), p.14.

1 thought on “Jude 1-2

  1. It was just wonderful to have this sermon text the same day; I read it and studied it and went to bed Sunday and behold @ 3:00am woke up strangely
    wanting to “see/hear/watch” you preach it; Wow, oh, wowwy, your notes were OK but your “man in black” preaching/teaching/telling of it was over the top. The added in bit about Michael Card and his book pub. @ age 52- gotta luv it. Its gonna be hard, so hard to wait for all 7 weeks for all of Jude but can hardly wait to see/hear/listen/learn “what you do with vs. 22” Come let us go out and do some Jude 22 in October 22, ye old “do 22” formula which is infinitely better than a “catch-22”, 1961, “It was love at first sight”, Joseph Heller et al;
    Go Wym and go CBCNLR & Love, Central
    P. S. – Your gonna eat 40 what? in Sherwood Forest, huh, heardest thou usins? Sherwood will never be the same or the ghost of the mythological Robin Hood may show up and take some of the deserts home for the poor

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