The Saving, Preserving and Judging Work of Jesus in Jude

The Saving, Preserving and Judging Work of Jesus in Jude

A third title that Jude applies to Jesus is that of Savior (25).  Within the letter, two aspects of saving are described. There is a saving out of Egypt (5) which applied to the Old Testament covenant people composed of faithful and unfaithful and there is the ultimate eschatological salvation which is implied in verse 25.  The first type of salvation relates to the preservation of a worshipping community within the world.  The second type of salvation ensures that the people of God are kept safe from apostasy and final judgment.[1]

Included in the title, Savior, is the work of preserving the saints.  And this too is ascribed to Jesus in the opening description of the addressees.  The way Jude describes the calledis telling: Everything in the whole sentence is sandwiched between the definite article ὁand the word called.  This means that everything between these two markers ‘defines what it means to be called.’[2]And it is to that content that we turn next.

The concept of keepingor being keptoccurs 6 times in Jude’s short letter.  In verse 1 the question revolves around how to interpret the dative participial phrase.  “The Greek dative could be translated either as instrumental (“by Jesus Christ,” NIV) or as a dative of advantage (“for Jesus Christ,” NRSV).”[3]  While the ESV opts for the latter, the NIV opts for the former and it appears that discerning the meaning with ‘certain[ty] is impossible.’42This author opts to follow the instrumental dative for the following two reasons: 1) “If Jesus Christ is the agent, then the two clauses are symmetrical: “loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.”  [2)]  Seeing the dative as one of agency is reasonable and fits with Wallace’s own description of a dative of agency.”[4]

By adopting an instrumental dative reading in verse 1, the work of Jesus in preserving his people is highlighted from a redemptive salvific perspective, something that the faithful would be quick to receive amidst the tone of judgment which is to follow.  This preservation of the saints is contrasted with the ungodly who are ‘designated for condemnation’ (4) or the angels who are ‘kept in eternal chains…until judgment’ (6).  This keeping for judgment is the opposite side of the coin but equally a part of the redemptive process – evil must be punished so that the elect are eternally safe. All of this is done by Jesus who alone can ‘keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of his glory’ (24).  Thus, as the savior of the covenant community, Jesus is also their keeper and preserver.  As Hamilton has noted, “Jude celebrates the eternal glory, majesty, dominion, and authority of the one who is able to keep his people from stumbling and present them before himself blameless with great joy.”[5]

In fact, it is this cleansing or presenting one blameless that is another one of the works of Christ the Savior which Jude reminds his audience in verse 24. Christ makes His people morally blameless.  That is the only context that makes sense in the letter, but it isn’t just the judicial pronouncement that is in view.  Given the context of the letter, Christ actively works to practically keep His people from walking in immorality as a way of life.  Yes, they sin, but they are not in the habit of sinning.  Though the verbs in view are aorist infinitives which typically do not have any temporal aspect to them, the context seems to demand that God’s people understand their moral purity results not only from their active refusal to sin, but more importantly, it is due to Christ’s preserving hand upon their lives.  This preserving at the end of the letter is an echo from the opening greeting in verse 1 – Christians are a people called and kept by Christ, their Savior.

Closely related to his preserving and saving work is his giving of mercy.  Divine mercy is mentioned twice (2, 21) and as a result of experiencing this mercy, the people of God are to extend mercy to others (22, 23). It is the ‘mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life’ (21).  The mercy which God’s people are to experience is a future reality, and in the context of the eternal judgment that Jude has been declaring, this mercy is assumed to be the future[6]passing over of judgment upon all the ungodliness that Christ’s people have committed in their flesh.  Verse 15 is clear that the Lord is coming to ‘execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness’. Christians are no less sinners than the apostatizing people Jude is opposing.  The called are guilty just like the rest of the world.  But because of the mercy of Christ, because He is the Lord of the Church and is preserving and keeping His people by His power, the believer will find his or her name written in the Lamb’s Book of life, along with all the rest of God’s people. This is the mercy that leads to eternal life. And Jude highlights the corporate nature of this mercy, in fact, the entire letter of Jude is concerned with corporate realities and not individual realities: God’s work is on behalf of God’s gathered people, of which individuals are a part.  But the focus of the letter is upon the communal mercy, communal salvation, communal life that Jesus intends for His people.  His focus is on the communal because he is ‘alarmed at the prospect of whole Christian communities being destroyed from within’ which is distinct from 2 Peter’s special concern for the ‘individual believer’.[7]

Jesus is also clearly described as the Judge of the ungodly (4), the unbelieving (5), the fallen angels (6) and of all people (15).[8]  Christ judges sensuality (4), sexual immorality (8),[9]the disregard of authorities (8), blasphemy (8) and a whole host of other issues listed in verse 16.  While this has been discussed previously, one additional insight can be made by looking at the angels ‘he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness’ (6).  Grudem rightly recognizes that ‘the emphasis is on the fact that they are removed from the glory of God’s presence and their activity is restricted.’[10]  After having been in the presence of God, exposed to his radiant glory, to be cast from the presence of the Lord is picturesquely described as gloomy darkness.[11]  His authority as Judge restricts and limits the influence of the fallen angels, but He has not completely removed them from this world.  That reality awaits creation in the future when the Son returns and establishes God’s kingdom forevermore.  At that point, Christ’s activity of judging will be complete and His people will be saved from the fire that awaits all who have failed to actually live with Jesus as their Lord.

And it is this final work of Christ as the great savior which Jude concludes his letter.  Christ is the Savior of His people (25) because He is the owner of His people (1). And this reality causes the author, and every Christian to break forth in doxological praise.

See also

The First Triad of Names for Jesus in Jude

The Second Triad of Names for Jesus in Jude

The Simple Jesus in Jude 5

The Deity of Jesus in Jude.

Notes

[1]Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2, Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 491.

[2]Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn, “Kept for Faithfulness: Reading the Epistle of Jude,” Crux50, no. 4 (2014): 14.

[3]Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, 38.

[4]Schreiner, 1, 2, Peter, Jude, 37:430–31.  The 4 conditions are: “(1) the dative noun must be personal; (2) the person specified by the dative must be portrayed as exercising volition; (3) a perfect passive verb is present; and (4) the agent of the passive verb can also function as the subject of an active verb, while the dative of means normally cannot.”  After listing these 4 conditions Schreiner goes on to state, “Verse 1 fulfills all of these requirements. The dative is personal (Jesus Christ), he exercises volition, we have a perfect passive (participle), and the agent also could function as the subject (Jesus Christ keeps).” See also Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 163-5.

[5]Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 514.

[6]Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, 96.

[7]Lucas, et al. The Message of 2Peter and Jude.The author accessed a google books version that appeared to be devoid of page numbers.

[8]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 8th printing (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1983), 1202–3.

[9]Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 2. Aufl (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 1991), 72.  He notes that ‘strange flesh’ is sexual immorality in Jude 7.

[10]Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine(Leicester, England : Grand Rapids, Mich: Inter-Varsity Press ; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 412–13.  Erickson, Christian Theology, 447.

[11]Erickson, Christian Theology, 447.

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