“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.3 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 1-4
There are some interesting things to consider as we look at the background of the book of Jude. In the opening statements, Jude refers to himself as the brother of James. This brother of James is most likely the half brother of Jesus. This means that Jude is also the half brother of Jesus and yet decided not to make mention of it.
Be honest, if you were the bother of Jesus, wouldn’t you say something? This guy had an inside scoop on Christ and yet he refused to acknowledge it.
This is totally a side note, but can you imagine being the brother of Jesus? Everyone knows what it’s like to have the one sibling who never gets in trouble. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus never sinned. Every family has the one good sibling and the one bad sibling, but talk about trying to live up to your siblings goodness when your sibling is Jesus! Anyway…
This is not something that Jude discusses. So the question is why didn’t he mention his special relationship with Jesus? He could have authoritatively declared anything he wanted and most likely would have had people listen. However, Jude understood his place. He wanted to present himself, not as the brother of Jesus, but rather as a servant of Jesus.
This is important because the rest of the book requires the prerequisite knowledge of the fact that Jude was exuding humility. If one does not understand their place as a humble servant of the Savior, then the content of Jude can create a feeling of self-righteousness and superiority over others. When someone strives for titles and recognition, they relinquish their right to speak because they end up caring more about the position than the message. Jude did not want to fall into this trap and decided to present himself as a humble servant.
Reason For Writing
“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 3
Jude, when writing this letter, initially wanted to write the recipients about their common salvation. However, he changed his mind because he had become concerned for those whom he was writing. His concern was simply that there needed to be a contending for the faith because there were those who were undermining the Gospel message. How were they undermining it?
“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 deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” Jude 4
There were those who were falling prey to the deceptions of those who had crept into the church. These false teachers were perverting the Gospel of grace. For Jude, this was quite concerning. If you ask anyone fighting a battle, they will tell you that they’d much rather fight an enemy head on than have a wolf in their pack. Nothing is more damaging than influential false teachers within the church. This concerns Jude.
Therefore, Jude finds it necessary to call them to contention because they no longer had a common faith. They were no longer on the same page. The Gospel message they had once embraced has now been perverted by the false teachers and, for Jude, this common salvation was worth fighting for. It then is worth asking, what does Jude mean when he refers to common salvation. Again, before going any further in the book of Jude, it is with addressing some important prerequisite knowledge. What is the common salvation? What is the basis for this faith he is calling them to? What is it that we hold to? And how is this faith being perverted?
What is salvation?
If there were ever a question that could be answered in a million different way, this would be it. However, it is worth answering the question in the way that Jude addresses it. Jude, in verse 4 refers to the “grace of God”. This is because we cannot understand salvation without grace. However, grace cannot be understood without justification, and justification cannot be understood without understanding our sinful nature. Therefore, it becomes necessary to understand each concept and how it gets perverted. Understanding these concepts should also bring us back to a common salvation.
Let’s first understand the our sinful nature. You and I are born with a leaning toward godlessness. Our connection with God was severed because of our sin. In fact, the Apostle Paul spent the first few chapters of Romans describing how severed our relationship with God has become and how impossible it is for us to reconcile in our own strength. He says, “No one is righteousness, no one does good (Rom. 3:10-12) and “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). He continues by connecting our fallen nature to that of Adam and that you and I cannot know God because our sin separated us from Him. Ultimately, this sin causes the wrath of a perfect Holy God to fall of this sinful bring death (Rom. 6:23). It’s important to see that we don’t not sin, we are sinful. It is part of who we are.
This, however, sets some alarms off for people. People do not like the idea of being told they are sinful and worthy of God’s wrath. This, ultimately, becomes the great scandal of the Gospel. Some are put off because, “that’s not what I’ve been told about myself”. Oprah and my favorite TV preacher tells me that a beautiful inside and that I need to just believe in myself. Rihanna told me “I’m beautiful like diamonds in the sky” and Katy Perry told me I’m a “firework” (sorry for the pop culture references). They tell me that I’m beautiful and I can find it within myself to come alive and be free.
The problem with this way of thinking is who determined that you are good and beautiful. Where did the standard of good and beautiful come from? Who exactly set this standard? Do I set the standard? Do you set the standard? If there is a standard, shouldn’t it be universal and apply to everyone? If there is no universal standard, than how can we declare it to be so? As a Christian, I have a standard of goodness and beauty by which I measure everything, however, can there be a standard set if it is simply based on my opinion about what is good and beautiful?
Furthermore, if we are naturally good and taught evil (as the current logic goes), then where has evil come from? Without the basis of a sinful nature, there is no real basis for evil. If there is no basis for evil then there is no basis for good. In fact, we only know what is evil based on what we know to be good. This then brings us back to the question, what is the standard of good and beautiful? In the end, you can’t give a basis for good and not contradict yourself, unless you give the standard by which goodness is measured.
The biblical perspective is the only truly good thing is God Himself. He is the standard of righteousness and everything else falls short of His perfection, including me. To deny our sinful nature is deny our true problem and source of evil action. If the problem is denied then the solution to the problem is ignored and disregarded. This becomes the deception.
However, if we are willing to accept that we are sinful, separated from God, worthy of His wrath then it produces a tension within us. Now, we want to know what the solution is to fix this problem. The solution is found, not within ourselves, but by the justification provided by another.
What if I told you that you could be viewed and treated as if you’ve done nothing wrong? What if I told you this is God’s plan, in Christ? The answers to these questions are found in the justification that Christ brings. So, what then is justification? Simply put, justification is defined as “to be declared free of blame; absolved”. Being justified is a murder that walks into the courtroom knowing that he is guilty. He is devastated over his action, but knows he must suffer the penalty. However, as the judge is about to pronounce judgment, the judge declares all charges dropped. He says, “You’re free to go and are not guilty”. Can you imagine the scenario?
Now, any sharp person will ask, “well doesn’t that make the judge unjust”? They are right. How can a just judge allow a criminal’s crime to go unpunished? This would make God a corrupt and horrible judge, if it were not for Christ. In Romans 3:25 we are told, -“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith”. This means that Christ took the blame and stepped in to take punishment of your sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin, for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus the perfect and blameless One became sin on our behalf so that the punishment due to me was exacted on in Him.
However, not only did he take our sin, but in the Great Exchange, he also gave us His righteousness. His righteousness is imputed to us so that “we might become the righteousness of God”. Now when God sees you he does not see a wretched sinner, but instead sees the beauty, goodness, and perfection of Jesus resting on us. It is this perfect that justifies me. This is what changes my status from guilty to not guilty.
This means that you are either a Christian or you are not a Christian. Some say, “I am trying to be a Christian”. If you think that way, then you don’t understand the Gospel. Christianity is a status before God not something to attain. You are either guilty or not guilty. You’ve either been justified or remain unjustified.
This then leads us to the final thoughts regarding grace. If you notice, there was nothing that you did in the whole process of salvation. No good deed, right words, or attempts at finding inner beauty changed your status before God. This salvation was an absolute work of God’s grace. God graciously accomplished all that was necessary through His Son Jesus. This is the Gospel of grace. This is the common salvation. This is message that is worth contending for. This is message that was lost by the recipients of this letter. This is why Jude was so concerned.
There are usually two groups that hear this message usually applies to. There are two categories that people so easily seem to fall into. The first group are the self-righteous and the second group are the licentious.
First, the self-righteous group assumes there is no way they are bad enough to deserve God’s wrath and death. They assume they are way better than the awful sinner sitting next to them. They assume they are a nice boy or girl and they are obviously not as bad as other people. They declare, “I am a good person and God will be happy with attempts, even though I mess up sometimes”. They believe there good deeds will out weigh their bad deeds.
They also, without realizing it, try to justify themselves before God by doing things that God wants them to do. They know in their head that Jesus died, but they still think that actions appease God. They try to justify themselves by going to church, reading their bible, or giving their money. They think, “well God I did this stuff for you, I guess you owe a good life and salvation”. They’d never say it, but that’s the motivation. Our deeds are only good if we do them because we love God and not because we think it gives us special favor.
Second, there is a licentious group. This is group believes that God’s grace is a license to do what they please. They believe that in the end God is good and gracious and He’ll just forgive me. These tend to be the ones who declare, “Only God can judge me”. “Don’t tell me what is right and wrong, I just need to follow my heart”. There is an incorrect belief that their arrogant and deliberate rebellion is ignored by God because of His grace.
Neither of these groups understands the Gospel. Neither of these groups has been justified and neither have a common salvation.
The Gospel-Centered Response
There is only one way to respond to the grace of God. It is simple admitting that I am not worthy of His grace and that I’m a helpless sinner. However, recognizing all that Jesus has accomplished for me. I stand on the promise that I am His. Now that I know this, I want to do good by serving Him and living in way that honors Him. I don’t do it because makes me better than the next guy or that it saves me, but I do it out of live for the God who saved me. I will not abuse His grace, but instead die to myself daily. May my life proclaim His glory, holiness, goodness, and beauty.
http://yourlisten.com/channel/content/17000702/Jude_1_4:_A_Common_Salvation_ (If on mobile, click the download button)