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. 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. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and l deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1-4 ESV).
The title for this article is taken from the last words of the theme text: “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” In relation to that, Jude, who undoubtedly is the author of the epistle with his name also describes himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ.” These words are profound with lessons I will attempt to glean in the course of the article. Now in an attempt to unpack those words, I will begin by looking at the background of the author of the epistle.
Apart from identifying himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, he also identifies himself as a brother of James giving us a clue to who he was. This James has been identified as a half-brother of Jesus Christ and therefore Jude is also a half-brother of Jesus: “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? (Matt.13:55); “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3).
These texts lists Jesus’ brothers and of interest in this article is the name Judas. That name is Jude; the writer of Jude. Two commentators explain it:
As its title implies, the book was written by Jude, brother of James and Jesus (cf. Matt.13:15; Mark 6:3, where Gk[Greek]. “Judas” is the same as “Jude” in Jude 1).¹
Jude, which is rendered “Judah” in Hebrew and “Judas” in Greek, was named after its author (v. 1 ), one of the 4 half-brothers of Christ ( Mt 13: 55 ; Mk 6: 33).²
Submission To The Lordship Of Christ
The words Master and Lord communicates the idea of ownership or rulership. Which means Jude was submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and sees himself as owned by Christ. That Jude is a brother of Jesus is one of the first things to consider. It is amazing that a brother would go as far as describing himself as a servant of his own brother; more so to call him his only Master and Lord? That is a great example of humility in faith. It is of interest to note that, while Jesus was alive, prior to Jude writing his epistle, even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in 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 (Jn. 7:2-5).
We notice here a point in time when the biological brothers of Jesus didn’t believe in him. But as at the time of penning his epistle, Jude had come to personal faith in Christ after his resurrection: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”(Acts 1:14). It is important to state here that salvation in Christ has no biological links. If a half-brother of Jesus would have to come to personal faith in him for his salvation; then you, a Gentile—alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and a stranger to the covenants of God as said by Paul in Eph. 2:12, has no other chance but to come also in faith. There are no different ways of salvation in Christ but one; coming through faith for both Jews and Gentiles.
Also, apart from describing himself as a servant of Christ, another compelling evidence for Jude’s faith and salvation is what he said in the opening verses: “I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation…” Jude shares salvation with his recepients and it is clear in those words. Your biological relationship with a Christian cannot save you. Your parent’s faith cannot save you. And attending church all your life cannot save you. What will save you is coming to faith in Christ Jesus and repenting from your sins: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16).
The Deity of Christ
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4).
The above is called the Shema and every Jew grows up reciting it. It is a Jewish confession of faith that confesses the Oness of God: “Often called the Shema, from the initial Hb.[Hebrew] word meaning “hear”, this verse is the great confession of Israel’s monotheistic faith, and to this day it is recited morning and evening by Jews (cf. Mark 12:29).³
Considering the above, if Jude is a Jew and he confesses Christ as “Master and Lord” then it gives us something to ponder over. And Jude didn’t just describe Jesus as “Master and Lord” rather he qualified it with an adjective “only”. This makes his statement even more stronger. It means apart from Christ, Jude and his readers have no Master and Lord. For a Jew who ascribes to the Shema to say this, there are theological and doctrinal issues at stake and the foremost is the person of Jesus. Perhaps, one of the biggest controversies that has hit church history is the person of Jesus Christ. While traditional Orthordox Christian beliefs uphold Jesus as God; there are others like Jehovah witnesses who proclaim Christ is a created being—the first created being of God. But Scripture doesn’t teach that and Jesus himself made several statements in the Bible to point to his divinity. One of the popular been “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). At the pronouncement of these words; the Jews picked stones to stone Christ having understood clearly the implications of what Jesus was saying:
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them , “I have shown you many good works from theFather; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God (Jn. 10:31-33).
Interestingly, the Jehovah Witnesses New World Translation renders “Our only Master and Lord” as “our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How would they go about this if it has no implications for the divinity of Christ?
As Christians, we must confess the divinity of Christ because Scripture clearly teaches it: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1); “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1Timothy 3:16). These are just but two of numerous texts to affirm the Deity of Christ.
Jude, a Jew and half-brother of Jesus by calling him “our only Master and Lord” points us to who he believed Jesus was. Jesus was more than a brother to him. Jesus was his only Master and Lord and he was Jesus’ servant. And Christians of all ages have held to this truth of Jesus’ divinity.
I will leave you in conclusion with the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith:
The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
1. Doug Oss and Thomas R. Schreiner, Introduction To The Letter of Jude, in ESV Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 2447
2. John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2005), 1978
3. R.C Sproul, study note on Deuteronomy 6:4, in The Reformation Study Bible: New King James Version (Orlando: Florida, Reformation Trust), 275