Bible Study

Greetings from Jude

Part 1: Hey Jude

Did any of y’all ever skim past the greetings in the New Testament epistles? When I was a younger Christian, I didn’t really see what significance there was beyond knowing who the text was written to. I figured it was simply an introduction similar to our “to whom it may concern.”

Whether the author is Paul, Peter, or my new friend Jude, each letter is introduced with an affectionate salutation. Maybe he calls them beloved brothers. Even in the letter of correction to the notorious church of Corinth, Paul opens with grace and peace to you. The audience is established as believers with an encouragement of their place in Christ.

I remember being given a CD of a preacher who began his sermon much differently. This particular pastor/evangelist was hailed as one of the greats, so I remember being hopeful for some encouragement and edification from the man of God. (If you know, you know.) Instead, he began his message by insulting his congregation, boasting about how many people he had run off with his harsh preaching, and then moved to call them whoremongers.

Can you see how that hindered me from ever wanting to hear what this fella had to say?

Though there is no rule on it, I think we can say these greetings are a lovely example of how to begin a message or even a conversation with others. As I said, even a rebuke of a church in chaos received better than that.

With all of that said, I think it is important to take an extra close look at the greeting in Jude. As Jude braces the reader for a discussion on apostasy, he has some very important things to say. These aren’t sweet little nothings to tickle our ears. This is important for each believer to hear.

“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.”
‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Who is this book written to?

To those who are called

God calls all of those who believe unto Himself. The Greek word used here is klētos which, by Thayer’s definition, is an invitation from God to eternal salvation. A person cannot be saved apart from the internal call (regeneration). Many will hear the outward call of the gospel from preachers, evangelists, and witnessing Christians. Only those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, or called, will respond to that call.

Jesus taught that no man could come unto him unless the Father draws that person first. I remember when my eyes were opened to the truth, how everything in the world around me suddenly seemed different. I told everyone, “I have new eyeballs!” Truly, this wasn’t a mere choice to turn over a new leaf or push forward in determination to be moral. This was a working of the Holy Spirit who overcame my pride and drew me to Himself.

Lydia experienced this same effectual call when “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
‭‭(Acts‬ ‭16:14‬)

In reformed teaching, this is called the effectual call (also known as irresistible grace, a term often misunderstood to mean being forced to be saved) Romans 1:6 confirms this: “Those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Not all who are called with an outward call will receive Christ. However, those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit will belong to Christ.

Romans 8:30 confirms this effectual call in what some theologians refer to the Golden Chain:

“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:30‬ ‭

This article explains it well.

We can be assured of our position in Christ because we have been called. Called from the muck and mire, called from the pit of sin, and called from death to life. Indeed, salvation is of the Lord.

Beloved in God the Father

The basic meaning of this word means dearly loved. You aren’t just a faceless nobody who Jude is writing to. Though the recipient of this letter may or may not have been someone who personally knew him, he understood their value in the eyes of God. Dearly loved by the Father. Before he ever gets into correction and doctrine, he desires for the reader to be rooted and covered in the love of God.

1 John 3:1 echoes this sentiment as he writes, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

We often imagine the disposition of God as angry and distant. Perhaps we see Jesus as the kind one and the Father is standing in the corner with his arms crossed disapprovingly. Scripture reassures us of the opposite.

You are dearly loved, friend.

Kept for Jesus Christ

As we begin a book on apostasy, false teachers, and people seemingly leaving the faith, it is disheartening to wonder if we could leave as well. We are living in a day where the words of Jude are on full display. Professing Christians are denouncing their belief in Christ or embracing a gospel which isn’t supported in the scriptures. I don’t know about you, but seeing these stories can be jarring and unsettling. They may strike fear or even anger in us.

Jude begins a topic on this issue by establishing those who are truly in Christ as those who are also kept in “God the Father, for Jesus Christ.”

This word kept implies a guardianship and careful tending to the person who is being kept. A strong fortress is being built around them, making it impossible to be taken or to escape. The elect (the saved) are a love gift from God to His Son Jesus. Chosen by grace and without any pre-qualifying conditions, none who are His can be lost.

You’re forever His.

We may struggle with seasons of doubt, crisis, and even rebellion. We may have moments where we feel God is nowhere to be found or where we even question whether Christianity is true. But truly those who belong to Christ will not be lost. His sheep know His voice … and He knows His sheep.

We are kept. Or as the King James puts it, we are preserved.

Rest in that.

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you

Not only was Jude praying for these qualities to manifest in the recipient of his letter, but he prayed they would abound in them.

Our flesh makes it easy to lift our nose in pride at those who struggle to believe or perhaps don’t believe at all. But instead, we should be marked by the love of Christ. (John 13:35) We should reflect His mercy, peace, and love to an unbelieving world. The fruit of all that God has done in us (verse 1) should be reflected in how we treat others. This doesn’t enable us to compromise truth or to soften it. However, my prayer is that in defense of truth, my spirit would remain soft and kind … even if the truth itself seems the opposite.

Final Thoughts

Jude pulls no punches in this little one chapter book. As I read through each verse, I do kind of feel as though he is one of those preachers delivering hard hitting truths and maybe stepping on some toes.

Sadly, I’ve heard many preachers who go straight for the toe smashing and follow with an altar call with no time spent on the gospel. No time spent on Christ. They crush you with the law and, well, they leave you there.

Jude does not follow that pattern. He reminds the reader of their place in Christ, their security in Him, and encourages them of their duty to follow in love and mercy toward others.

Spoiler Alert: He ends his letter the same way.

You are called, beloved, and kept. Look to the Gospel, rest in it, and share the love of Jesus with others today.

Bible Study

Hey Jude

It might be one of the easiest books in the Bible to find, because it is right before the final book of Revelation. (Not Revelations. 😀) So, if your pastor says he’s going to be preaching from Jude, hopefully you won’t be flipping through trying to find it while everyone else seems to navigate their Bibles with ease.

(Kind of like I was during each week of the series on Amos. Those minor prophets are hidden in there.)

I’ve heard sermons which contained snippets of Jude, but never any real exposition of the text. Actually, as often as I heard the phrase “earnestly contending for the faith” in passing, I didn’t even know the it came from there.

It is just this tiny one chapter book like the harder to find epistle Philemon. (Filet mon? Filly mon? How do y’all say it?)

Anyway, as I was deciding on what book to read after several months in Luke, I was also going through an, uh, interesting time. I had wandered over into progressive TikTok – also known as Christian deconstruction and exvangelicals. Being someone who has experienced unhealthy church systems, these creators’ stories resonated with me. I felt them. I share a little about that here.

But I also began to feel my faith being challenged.

I decided to cut the TikTok account, because this was affecting my mental state as I’m trying to heal spiritually and emotionally. My goal is to better understand historic Christianity, not tear it down. I’ve certainly tried to unhitch myself from extrabiblical standards and conspiracy theories which have no base in scripture OR historic Christianity. But my authority is scripture.

Also, TikTok is a time suck and I admittedly lack self control when it comes to scrolling through stupid videos of husbands pranking their wives or old guys dancing to Earth, Wind, and Fire. Just me? 🤷🏼‍♀️

Before I went dark, one Christian reformed TikToker shared how God corrected her drift into progressivism through a study in Jude. I had gone through Galatians and got a thorough look at Paul’s rebuke of legalism. But as I was experiencing this pendulum swing internally, I knew I needed to go to scripture for answers.

Enter our friend Jude.

Some commentaries say his name was really Judas, but that it was shortened to avoid confusion with that guy. He begins his greeting by announcing he is the brother of James. As we know, James was the half brother of Jesus. Many scholars conclude this would mean Jude was his half brother as well. If so, it is interesting that Jude didn’t make that claim. Perhaps from a place of humility, he kept his familial relation to himself in order to keep the attention on Christ.

Interesting note about Jesus’ own half brothers: they didn’t believe in Him as the Messiah until after the resurrection. (John 7:5; Acts 1:14)

This epistle is believed to have been written somewhere between A.D. 60-80, about the same time as 2 Peter. And one of its’ earliest manuscripts is believed to have been in the third or fourth century!

And as I begin digging into this with y’all, just know, Jude is going to have us all over the Old Testament. This might be a little book, but it is PACKED with doctrine and theology.

One of the things I am most grateful for from my time in the IFB (independent fundamental Baptist church) is how I was made very familiar with the Old Testament. But if you’re not, Jude will hook you up. He makes some bold statements and goes into history to cite his position.

Lastly, the theme of this epistle is to establish true believers in their calling, discuss the dangers and condemnation of false teachers and apostates, and encourages believers to continue contending for the faith.

For now, I’ll leave you with this beautiful doxology where Jude shares the eternal position in Christ of those who believe. This book feels a little bleak at times. It’ll have you looking inward at your own sin. And it will have you looking around to see the apostasy which seems to be so prevalent in our culture. However, if you have put your faith in Christ alone, you can rest in Him completely secure.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Have you ever read, studied, or heard preaching from the book of Jude? Share your experience with me in the comments!

Christian living · fundamentalism · Legalism

I Am A Fundamentalist

I am a fundamentalist.

Yeah, yeah. The term gets thrown around as a pejorative by more progressive Christians or unbelievers for anyone who takes the Bible seriously. It can also be used to define cults or unhealthy churches. In this case, I’m referring to the original, historic definition of the term: a person who affirms the fundamentals of the faith.

I do affirm the five fundamentals of the faith. Inspiration and inerrancy of scripture, the virgin birth and deity of Christ, bodily resurrection, substitutionary atonement, and the authenticity of miracles. These are the essential doctrines that one must have to truly believe the Gospel. If we pull one of these pieces of doctrine out, the entire thing crumbles.

It is essential for Christians to believe these things. We may differ on Calvinism versus Arminianism, whether or not to use wine in communion, where we stand on eschatology, but there is no variance on the fundamentals.

Absolutely none.

There was a time when I believed earnestly contending for the faith meant being “contentious.” You know, separating from my Southern Baptist family members. Seething in anger at a pastor who preached from something other than the KJV. Rolling my eyes when someone sang a song that was contemporary. I was holding to the old paths! Removing not the ancient landmarks!

The word contending here means to agonize, work laboriously. To do so earnestly is to recognize the seriousness of the task at hand. Passing on the faith that was handed down from the apostles (once for all) is a sober task. It should be done lawfully – in a way that exalts Christ (not our ego) and in love for our neighbor.

Today, your love for the truth and for people to have the truth will sound like hate to an unbelieving world.

I fear that maybe my use of the buzz phrase “recovering fundamentalist” may have given some the impression that I have dropped Christian orthodoxy. That perhaps I see flaw in the fundamentals, therefore desiring to dismantle or deconstruct them. However, this name actually comes from a specific group of people who are leaving legalism behind and embracing Biblicism over tradition. They aren’t dismantling the fundamentals, they are recovering them. Some have left their churches in pursuit for healthier ones, others have remained to bring reform and healthy change. In some extreme cases, people were pushed out and shunned.

Either way, we hold to the heart of the Christian faith. We dust off the cobwebs of “ol time religion” and find the precious faith that was “once for all delivered to the saints.” We are embracing sola scriptura.

We kind of speak our own language, because the independent fundamental Baptist world is its own sub culture. And a lot of the time, we feel like a fish out of water without it.

In this current deconstruction climate, the terminology is tricky and the lines can become blurred. Theological terms are being dismantled and redefined. It’s been difficult for me to process and navigate through.

Upon my departure from the IFB, I began to hear stories of people from all denominations who have seen what I’ve seen. Spiritual abuse, scandals, narcissism in leadership, twisting of scripture, cover ups, toxic churches, and so on. Their stories truly resonated with me as I empathized with their pain. Their hurt is valid. I understand the crisis of faith when your pastor gets caught in wicked sin or when you see scandal covered up. In a reaction to this crisis, it is noble to fight for change in the church to protect the flock.

But I am noticing many are looking at the fundamentals to see if that’s where the flaws lie. Many want to deconstruct Christianity because they’ve been hurt by wicked and evil men. They are deeply re-examining the heart of the Christian faith to see if it has been the root cause of enabling abuse.

“The fruit is bad. The root must be bad.”

“Maybe as we evolve, the definitions change. Maybe the Bible doesn’t mean what we’ve thought it means. What if Paul hadn’t written most of the New Testament?”

In the independent Baptist church, I was warned about theological liberalism as though it was contemporary Christian music and women in pants. My conscience was seared to the point where I couldn’t even look at another Bible translation besides the KJV. And I felt unsafe or slightly rebellious listening to music that didn’t have a gospel twang.

With all love and respect to my brothers and sisters in the IFB, that’s not where the problem is. I understand your desire for safety, to be right. To some degree, I wish that I was still in my protected bubble six years ago where I knew no better. But this could possibly be why many of our kids are leaving home and subsequently leaving the faith.

They aren’t being prepared.

I am 31 years old and have been saved for 11 years. I’ve been a stay at home mom, I haven’t worked a secular job since I was 17, and my world is very small. I simply wasn’t prepared for subtle, well crafted attacks on inerrancy of scripture. Or the idea that the atonement was cosmic child abuse. I didn’t know how to respond to claims that the miracles were just metaphorical. I had my pre loaded answers, but any good argument has an expectation of those. As ridiculous as these claims sound,they are a lot more subtle when presented. You don’t typically know what you’re hearing until after it’s over.

Thankfully, Christ’s sheep know His voice. I began to recognize that there was something very wrong with what I was hearing.

It’s not pastors in untucked shirts you need to be fighting against. It’s wolves who are dressed up as a sweet, kind sheep. Jude warned of wolves coming INTO the church unnoticed. Certainly, that would include abusive pastors. The pendulum swings to the other side, though. The Bible specifically warns about false teachers as well. They will pervert the Gospel into legalism or license.

I knew the fundamentals before, but I didn’t know how to defend them in this world. And let’s be real – I’m still learning. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

When I say I’m a recovering fundamentalist, I’m stripping down all of the extra biblical legalism and getting to the heart of the Christian faith. I’m learning that the Gospel isn’t just the door to salvation, but it’s a necessity for every day in the Christian life. I desire to be in a gospel centered, healthy fellowship of believers (in a local church) that follows the Bible. (We are visiting one regularly that we really like, but taking our time with it.)

No. I no longer hold to a King James Only position and there are some second tier issues that I would probably greatly differ on with my brothers and sisters in the IFB. But my heart for truth has not changed. My desire to see souls saved for the glory of God has not changed.

So yeah, I’m a fundamentalist. I pray the true church of Christ will continue to return and recover the fundamentals today, as it was done in church history. I desire to see those who have been hurt and abused to come into a healthier relationship with Christ AND His body.

But as far as this precious faith given to me, I can’t compromise. My heart is to be gracious with those I disagree, but honest about what scripture truly says.

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV