Shabbat, August 12, 2017
Jude urges us to contend for the faith. Who was Jude and what is the faith for which we must contend?
For if Jude and the other first century Jewish apostles believed that the faith was being distorted and perverted in their day, how much more so in ours? If they struggled to uphold the truth of the faith about Messiah Yeshua that the Holy Spirit revealed to them, how much more so should we, in our days ever-increasing information (and misinformation) on the Internet? V’eemru? (And let us say?)
You may want to turn in your Bibles to the letter of Jude—it’s near the end, right before Revelation. It’s been a while since I’ve done a book study—so buckle up, we’re gong to start an interesting series. Jude has just one chapter, but it’s packed. (Sing: Hey Jude, won’t let us down… Lai, lai, lai…)
Ahem… Starting with verse 1: “Judah, a slave of Yeshua the Messiah and brother of Jacob.”
I’m reading from the Tree of Life Version, which calls him Judah instead of Jude. With a name like Judah (from the Hebrew Yehuda), you know Judah was Jewish. What do you think, does Van Dyck portray Jude as a Jew? The Dutch Masters (notably Rembrandt) often hung out with Jews….
In the Greek, it’s actually Ioudas. In Greek, masculine names end with ‘s’—such as Socrates, Heracles and Pericles; so Yehuda translated into Greek became Ioudas and Yeshua became Yesous.
(Eventually Yesous became Jesus in English and pronounced Hesus in Spanish.) The disciple who betrayed Yeshua is known as Judas—because in Greek he’s Ioudas. To avoid confusion with the infamous Judas, translators came up with Jude for the good apostle. Beats me why the other translators didn’t use Judah. Maybe Judah is too Jewish? Oy….
Judah identifies himself as a slave (or bond-servant) of Yeshua the Messiah and brother of Jacob. That’s interesting, because he could have identified himself as a brother of Yeshua. Indeed, that’s why the TLV calls him Judah—the TLV uses Hebraic names only for Yeshua and His immediately family—Miriam, Jacob and Judah. How do we know that Judah and Jacob were Yeshua’s brothers? The Bible tells us so!
Matthew 13:55, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother called Miriam, and His brothers Jacob and Joseph and Simon and Judah?” And in Mark 6:3, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Miriam, and the brother of Jacob and Joseph and Judah and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” So Judah was likely a younger brother of Yeshua and Jacob (aka James). Yet Judah only calls himself the brother of Jacob. Similarly, Jacob introduces himself, in James 1:1, “Jacob, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.”
So why didn’t Jacob or Jude mention that they were brothers of Yeshua? Wouldn’t family connections give them some clout? That may have been the point. Jacob and Judah didn’t want to play up their blood family connections, but their devotion to Yeshua as slaves or bondservants to the Lord of all.
Indeed, all the apostles introduced themselves as bondservants of the risen Lord Yeshua. How many of you think of yourselves as bondservants of the Lord Yeshua? As for me, I am willing to do anything for Him. You may call me Rabbi, you can call me Dr. or Mr., but I just want to hear my Lord say, “Well done, good & faithful servant.” V’eemru?
Roman Catholics claim that Jacob and Jude weren’t actually brothers but distant cousins, since Catholics believe that Mary was and is forever a virgin—the Virgin Mother. No offense to Catholics (I have good friends who are Catholic from my early days as a believer in Yeshua), after giving birth to Yeshua, the Bible never actually calls her the Virgin, but simply Mary (or in the TLV, Miriam).
Besides what the Bible says about Yeshua’s brothers, Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, says in Antiquities (20,9), “Ananias… brought before [a Sanhedrin of judges] the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James…. Though Jacob was known of “the most equitable of the citizens,” the false accusation stuck and he was stoned to death… for the glory of Yeshua.
Yeshua’s brothers struggled to understand who Yeshua really was after He began His public ministry. Yet in Acts 1:14, we read, “All these with one mind were continuing together in prayer—along with the women and Miriam, Yeshua’s mother, and His brothers.” Here we see that the brothers joining the apostles and other followers of Yeshua with one mind, as one spiritual family. I like to say, the Spirit is thicker than blood. As loyal as people are to blood family, which is mortal, how much more loyal should we be to our spiritual family, the mishpochah of God? V’eemru?
Apparently the whole perspective of the brothers toward Yeshua changed after He rose from the dead. Before, Yeshua was their big brother in the carpenter’s shop. Then He became a wonder-worker—everywhere except Nazareth, their hometown. Yet when they saw Him, risen from the grave, the Holy Spirit enabled them to understand that Yeshua was much more than their natural brother.
He is the Messiah, the promised King and Redeemer of Israel, whose was born, lived, died and rose, in fulfillment of many Scriptures, and He is the Lord and God of all. V’eemru? But I am getting ahead of myself, summarizing “the faith” for which we must contend.
Continuing in verse 1, “To those who are called, who are loved in God the Father, and kept safe for Yeshua the Messiah.” By describing his readers as “called,” Judah is reminding them (and us) of our high privileges. As believers and servants of Messiah Yeshua, we have been called to His wedding banquet—have you all accepted His invitation? You have also been called out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9). You have been to serve the living God, to follow Him wherever He leads you. It is a high and glorious calling. V’eemru?
By describing his readers “as loved in God the Father,” Jude is reminding them (and us) of our special and intimate relationship with God as our Father—just as Yeshua related to God as His Father. Some people think of God as intimidating or distant—for isn’t He the ruler of the farthest galaxies and their terrifying black holes? Yet our God truly loves us His children, to whom we cry “Abba, Father.” V’eemru?
By describing his readers as kept safe for Yeshua, Judah is reminding them (and us) that Yeshua will protect us from our spiritual enemies. Though hasatan may scheme or accuse or even roar at us, if God is for us, who can be against, especially while Yeshua is ever interceding for us. V’eemru?
Verse 2: “May mercy and shalom and love be multiplied to you!” How many of you want God’s mercy, shalom and love? Well, you can’t earn it and you can’t buy it. As the songwriters of “Hey Jude” also opined, “Money can’t buy me love.” Instead, mercy, shalom and love can only be given—only given by God as gifts of Messiah Yeshua. So lavish is God’s grace & generosity that Judah boldly prays that they may be multiplied to you. Oh, how much our Father in heaven loves us! V’eemru?
Verse 3: “Loved ones, though very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I felt it necessary to write to you urging you to continue to contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the kedoshim [saints].”
Our salvation isn’t common in the sense that it’s cheap, Salvation isn’t cheap, it’s costly & precious! Rather, we are saved in common, in community. In common—we are all saved through the sacrifice of our Messiah Yeshua, whose precious blood made atonement for us all, once and for all. V’eemru?
Also in community—as believers in Yeshua means we stand together with millions of other believers. When I put on the armor of God and stand against the spiritual forces of darkness, I always add, “together with all the kedoshim in Messiah Yeshua.” I do not stand alone, and neither do any of you. Since we all have a common salvation, we stand together as the awesome army of God. V’eemru?
Together, we must earnestly contend for the faith. The Greek word for ‘contend’ means to exert oneself, to struggle. The lion roaring at us is relentless in his scheming to steal, kill and destroy. Though we can be confident of our ultimate victory in Messiah Yeshua, in this world and in this life, we must fight the good fight. V’eemru?
What is “the faith” for which we must contend? Many people (especially Americans) think of faith as something personal. A survey poll found that 70% of Americans who go to church say that you can be a good Christian without going to services. Jude would contend earnestly for the minority position!
The apostolic writers refer to “the faith” many times. For example, in Acts 14:22, “They were strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith.” Also Acts 16:5, “Messiah’s communities were strengthened in the faith and kept increasing daily in number.” The faith was something that that the communities of disciples held in common, and which they persevered in and with strengthened them.
The apostle Paul uses this expression many times, such as in 1 Timothy 1:2, “To Timothy, my true child in the faith.” The faith was a bond that linked spiritual father and son.
In 2 Tim 4:7, Paul wrote from prison, facing death, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” The faith was something worth fighting for, even worth dying for. V’eemru?
One commentary (David Guzik) says: “the faith means “The essential truths of the gospel that all true [believers] hold in common.” I would say that, and more… The essential truths are more than a creed or theological statement; it is also the way we live and why. Many Jews like to say that Christianity is a religion of creeds while Judaism is a religion of deeds. How many of you heard this assertion?
Actually, Judaism does have creeds, starting with the Shema—Hear O Israel! Then comes a creed, “The Lord our God is one” (and then there’s a lot of debate about what “one” means).
Then the creed of Deuteronomy continues with the V’Ahavta, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.” Pastor Jack Groblewski explained that “all your strength” actually means “all your resources.” I.e., “all you’ve got.”
The next verses instruct us to have this love on your heart always and to teach them to our children.
The Shema/V’Ahavta is both a creed (there is only one God whom we should love) and a deed (you must love Him with all our heart and all our strength. Make sense? V’eemru? Yeshua and the apostles also emphasized this creed, calling it the royal law of love.
Furthermore, RAMBAM (an acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides) formulated a famous Jewish creed, known as the 13 principles of faith. Orthodox Jews declare that faith in these I believe. We sang it earlier in the service. Orthodox Jews sang it in Auschwitz & other concentration camps.
The 12th principle is: “I believe in the coming of Messiah.” V’eemru? He’s coming, again! Also notice the 13th one: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead. V’eemru? It’s too bad few Reform Jews (most Jews in America) are familiar with the 13 principles. My beloved Mom was surprised when I pointed out that resurrection is a Jewish idea.
Ever since Bible times, Pharisees and Orthodox Jews have believed in the resurrection, so that in Acts 23:8, Paul could declare to other Jews, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees! I am on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” And the other Pharisees agreed. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul strongly affirms that the resurrection is part of the faith.
Jude doesn’t spell out what he means by the faith, but he does give a hint in verse 4: “For certain people have secretly slipped in—those who from long ago have been marked out for this judgment. Ungodly people, they pervert the grace of our God into indecent sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.” Jude is quite concerned that “certain people have perverted the grace of our God. Actually, is it even possible to pervert the grace of God—since God and His grace are incorruptible? No one can pervert God’s grace, but people can pervert how other people understand grace.
If certain people in churches and synagogues say that God condones indecent sensuality, that would be a perversion or distortion of God’s grace. V’eemru? Alas, it happens, more and more, lately.
In the 1st century, upholders of the faith had to contend with theologies based on Greek philosophy—such as Epicureanism (pleasure as the highest good) and Gnosticism (pursuit of esoteric knowledge).
In the 21st century, upholders of the faith contend with secularism and postmodernism—ways of thinking which deny the Word means what it says, or that the standards of the Bible are relevant. So “certain people,” whoever they were (or are), pervert “the faith” for which we must contend. V’eemru? To deny God’s word is to deny our Master and Lord, Yeshua—for He is the Word. Here, “the faith” is how we live our lives—not with indecent sensuality but with purity and holiness.
Jude articulates another kernel of “the faith” as “our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.” “Our only” connects to His uniqueness as the one and only, echoing the Shema—Our God is one and only. Also Yeshua is “our Master and Lord”—Master means that when He commands, we obey. V’eemru? As Americans, we value freedom so much, some of us might not be so comfortable with obedience. Yet parents, police officers and judges command obedience, because it preserves order in society. Moreover, God gave 10 commandments, not the 10 suggestions. V’eemru?
Lord goes even further, declaring that he is Adonai, the Lord, God. By the 1st century, the only time the name of God, YHVH, was pronounced was in the Temple on Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement. In the New Covenant, YHVH never appears, only kurios, which means Lord. When the apostolic writers call Yeshua Lord, we should hear Adonai—the Lord, YHVH. There has been much speculation, which has spread via the Internet, about the pronunciation of YHVH. Yet the apostolic faith exalts the name of “our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.”
This faith is spelled out clearly in Philippians 2:9-11, which Bible scholars believe was an early creed of Yeshua’s followers, possibly formulated within a few years of His resurrection:
“For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue profess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord—to the glory of God the Father.”
V’eemru? The name of Yeshua is above every other name. Moreover, Yeshua the Messiah is Lord—Adonai—to the glory of God the Father. It is a momentous statement of the faith, one that the apostles concluded after they witnessed firsthand the resurrection of Yeshua and the power of His Spirit falling upon them and all who put their trust in Yeshua as Messiah and Lord. Jacob and Jude refrained from calling themselves brothers of Yeshua, because Yeshua is more than a brother in the flesh—He was and is God in the flesh—it’s the faith!
The faith is powerful—for it is not just a statement of what we believe; it’s also the way we live. We live in the power of our faith in Yeshua. We live in the power of His resurrection—and ours. We live in the power of the Spirit whom Yeshua gave us—which heals, provides & overcomes evil.
The faith is definitely worth contending for. V’eemru? In our Internet age when many others are contending for trendy ideas, which contradict the faith, let us be willing to contend for the faith.
Lord willing, we’ll continue our study of Jude in a couple of weeks…
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Scripture references are mostly from The Tree of Life Version (TLV) though occasionally other versions. Verse citations provide Jewish numbering, with Christian numbering in parentheses.