Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nuggets of Jude

Jude is an underated book. It is written (so I think) by Jesus' brother Jude. He describes himself as a slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ and James' brother. It is written to some unspecified Christians described as the called, the loved by God, and kept by Jesus Christ. His recipients are afflicted by false teachers against whom Jude encourages them to contend for the faith. These false teachers are infiltrating the flock and are now condemned. They are godless and distort an authentic Christian doctrine of grace into a freedom to be sexually immoral and deny Jesus Christ as King and Lord.

Jude appeals to OT and apocalyptic examples of God's judgement. These include the Exodus, angels, Sodom and Gomorrah. These are examples of those who will suffer eternal punishment. These false teachers too are unholy, reject authority and slander celestial beings. Jude warns them with the example of Michael who when disputing with Satan over Moses' body, did not dare to slander Satan. These false teachers however are happy to speak abusively and will be destroyed. Jude sees them as going the same way as Cain who killed Abel, Balaam and Korah; all OT examples of opponents of God.

These false teachers abuse the fellowship and Lord's Supper gatherings and meals. Jude has nothing positive to say about them with vivid language, speaking of their death: 'they are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead!'

He appeals to the book of Enoch warning of God's judgement.

He appeals to his readers to withstand these false teachers.

My interest in this blog for the next few entries is vs20-25; a brilliant set of injunctions and encouragements in the faith.

The first is this: Verse 20: 'But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.'

'Friends' here is 'beloved' from the Greek agape. 'Build yourselves up' suggests that we are to take personal responsibility for our own faith. For these readers, as they face false teaching, they are to take personal responsibility to grow! How do we do this? Clearly, through reading Scripture, theological reflection, reading books that grow us, fellowship that builds and encourages, prayer i.e. a devotional life that sustains. We are not then to blame others and fail to take responsibility for ourselves; we are to take personal responsibility for our own faith and its growth. 'Most holy faith' points to our belief. We are not to stray into ideas that erode our faith but remain focussed on 'the faith', that which is orthodox and which deepens our commitment and belief.

As a young Christian I was taught this verse by a friend, and it has resonated within my spirit ever since. I don't blame others when I face struggles, I take responsibility. If the preaching at church is a bit pallad and unimpressive, I take responsibility getting good books, reading the word and taking personal responsibility. Too many of us Christians blame the preacher, blame the church, blame the worship or whatever. We are responsible before God for our own faith.

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