Summary: Jude's letter followed teh letter-writing convention of the New Testament. This sermon examines the opening greeting by looking at Jude's background, audience, and prayer.
Last week I began a new series of studies on the Letter of Jude which I have titled, “Contend for the Faith.”
The Letter of Jude is the second-last book in the Bible, just before the book of Revelation. It is the fourth-shortest book in the New Testament, after 2 John, 3 John, and Philemon.
Unfortunately, the Letter of Jude is one of the most neglected books in the New Testament. That is a pity, because it is a tremendously helpful part of God’s revelation to his people.
As we shall see more fully in the coming weeks, Jude was going to write a letter about the wonderful truths of our common salvation. However, word reached him that error and heresy was creeping in to the church, and so he found it necessary to write appealing to God’s people to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
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:
2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1-2)
When you and I write a letter to a friend, there are certain normative conventions that guide us as we write that letter. We usually begin with our address, followed by the date. Then there is the opening greeting. This is followed by the body of the letter, and concluded with a closing comment and our name.
In New Testament times, people also had certain normative conventions to guide them as they wrote their letters. Letters in New Testament times began with the author’s name. Sometimes he said something about himself to identify himself to his audience. Then, the letter had the recipient’s name, which was often followed by some prayer or good wish. The body of the letter came next. The letter often concluded with some kind of closing prayer.
Jude’s letter followed the letter-writing convention of the New Testament. Today, I want to examine the opening greeting and look at Jude’s background, Jude’s audience, and Jude’s prayer.
I. Jude’s Background (1a-b)
So, first, let’s look at Jude’s background.
Jude began his letter in the standard New Testament way of writing a letter. He began by identifying himself. He said, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (1).
A. A Brother of James (1b)
The New Testament lists several different men who have the English name of Jude. “Jude” is actually the English form of the Greek “Judas” and the Hebrew “Judah.”
Jude was an extremely popular name at the time of the New Testament. The founder of one of the twelve Jewish tribes was named Judah. And the hero of Maccabean revolt against the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC was named Judah.
There were actually eight men in the New Testament with the name of Jude (or the equivalent of Judah or Judas). They were:
1. Judah, the founder of the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:33);
2. Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 10:4);
3. Judas, son of James (Luke 6:16);
4. Judas of Damascus, at whose home Paul stayed after his conversion (Acts 9:11);
5. Judas, called Barsabbas, who carried a letter to the Gentile believers concerning which of the Jewish practices they should keep (Acts 15:22);
6. Judas, a Galilean spoken of by Gamaliel as one who had gained some temporary notoriety (Acts 5:37);
7. Judah, listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke (Luke 3:30); and
8. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55).
Jude identifies himself in verse 1b as the “brother of James.” Well, the only Jude whose brother was named James was also the half-brother of Jesus. We read in Matthew’s gospel that when the people were astonished by Jesus’ teaching, they asked, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 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? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-56).
So, the Jude who wrote this letter was the brother of James and Jesus’ half-brother.
Why were Jude and James called half-brothers of Jesus? The reason Jude and James were half-brothers of Jesus is that they all had the same mother, Mary, but they did not have the same father. Joseph was the father of Jude and James, whereas Jesus had no earthly father.
B. A Servant of Jesus Christ (1a)
Interestingly, Jude’s brother James also wrote a letter that is part of the New Testament canon. And what I find fascinating is that his opening greeting is very similar to the opening greeting of Jude—at least, in terms of identifying himself. James began his letter by writing, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1a). And notice again what Jude wrote, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ” (1a).