Jude and Philemon - Truth and Love

TMS John 13:34-35 True Love
Jn 13:34 ”A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another;
as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
35 By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another."

Observations: 13:34-35 This is the major teaching of Jesus during the Last Supper as recorded by John (and elaborated upon in John's epistles as well). The hallmark of a disciple is the loyal love they have for their brothers and sisters in Christ. The OT taught that believers should love their neighbor (Lev 19:18) and Paul said such love summed up the law (Gal 5:14). Jesus' audience considered it the second greatest commandment upon which hung all the others. So what's new? The standard to which we are to measure our love is new. If we wish to obey this command, we must love others as Jesus modeled. His was a self-sacrificial love (yet at the time, He had not yet gone to the cross, but had spoken of laying down His life for others). In the earlier half of John 13, the only thing about the Lord's Supper which John recorded was the laying aside of Jesus' outer garments to wash the disciples' feet. Paul gives more insight on this in Philippians 2. Jesus modeled humbling oneself to meet the needs of others (for cleansing, but that might be pushing the analogy too far). In any event, in His life, Jesus loved others in teaching them truth that would benefit them eternally, and then gave the ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross.
Application: Our love must be like Christ's in sacrificially serving others if we wish to obey God.
Prayer: Jesus, thanks for loving me, dying for me, and giving me Your commandments; may I love others as I follow Your purposes for my life on this planet. Amen.

Jude and Philemon These two little letters pack powerful punches. The one to Philemon is the last and shortest of Paul's epistles (which are arranged by length). It addresses the forgiveness and reception of a runaway slave whom Paul led to Christ in prison, and was now sending back to his original master. It provides an allegorical picture of God's dealings with us, as well as a application of relationships characterized by love and forgiveness.
The last epistle of the NT, Jude was written by one of Jesus' half-brothers, and warns believers against abusing grace, denying the Lordship of Christ in their lives, and indulging their desires. The judgment awaiting such erring believers should motivate us to build ourselves up in our faith (whatever that means) and strive for future glory.

Jude 1 Faultless Faith
1:1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are sanctified/loved by God the Father, and kept/guarded by/in Jesus Christ, the called: 2 Mercy to you and peace and love be multiplied.
3 Beloved, while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago marked out for this condemnation: ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into indecency, and denying our only Master, God, and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 Angels who didn’t keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, having, in the same way as these, given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment/justice of the fire of the age.
8 Yet in the same way, these dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion/authority, and speak evil of glory/celestial beings. 9 But Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil and arguing about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him an abusive condemnation, but said, "May the Lord rebuke you!" 10 But these speak evil of whatever things they don’t know. What they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason; by these things they corrupt/defile themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever. 14 About these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones,15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." 16 These are murmurers and complainers, walking after their lusts (and their mouth speaks proud things), showing respect of persons to gain advantage.
17 But you, beloved, remember the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you that "In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts." 19 These are they who cause divisions, and are sensual, not having the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
22 And [have mercy, who are doubting] [reprove, who are contending] 23 and/but de some save, snatching them out of the fire with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory in great joy, 25 to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

Observations: 1:1-2 Jude, as the brother of James would have been the half-brother of Jesus (see comments on James 1), yet refers to himself as the servant of Jesus the Messiah. He writes to believers who are loved or sanctified by the Father (a textual variant yields the two different translations), and kept by the power of Jesus the Messiah, who thus can be called “the called/invited.” This last word occurs at the end of the Greek text for emphasis (as in the KJV), although many translations put it at the beginning of the sentence. Believers who are sanctified and preserved or guarded in their relationship with Christ are the ones who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Jude wishes that three blessings be multiplied to them, which many erroneously think of as static forces in the past, rather than dynamic forces in the present and future, which can be had in varying degrees. Mercy is the usual LXX translation of hesed or loyal covenantal love which can be experienced differentially based upon our loyalty. The same goes for peace and love.
1:3 Jude wanted to write about the common salvation they share, probably not telling them about the fact that Jesus died for their sins, since unless they were complete morons, they wouldn't need constant reminders about the justification aspects of their salvation, since they didn't become believers without embracing the truth that Jesus died in their place. It's more likely that he intended to emphasize the glorification rather than sanctification aspect of their salvation since he ends the letter on that in verses 24-25. But instead of talking about glory and the means to attaining it, he was forced by the infestation of false teachers to exhort them to contend/fight (epi-agonizomai an intensive agonized fight, struggle or labor) for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. This is not just the belief that Jesus died for their sins, but the expectation that He would be returning to set up His kingdom and reward those who diligently sought to please Him, which is what would bring their hope of glory into the reality of their experience (see comments on Heb 11:6). Jude tells them to build themselves up in the faith in verse 20 (which again is not somehow building the belief in the atonement, but is used in the NT of building on the foundation of Christ by ministering to others with the expectation of judgment and reward -1Cor 3:10,12,14; Acts 20:32). The fact that the content of the faith that holy ones (saints) need to believe and obey was once and for all delivered to them, precludes the need for any other revelation or prophet or prophetess getting or giving “revelation” to God's people. Any such “additional” revelation would not have its source in God. Faithful believers must fight against false teaching.
1:4 The reason for Jude's change of subject matter is the infiltration of the creepy crawly false teachers whom Paul (Acts 20:29-30; 1Tim 4:1) and Peter (2Pt 2:1) warned about (cf Jude 17-18). They sneak into the church unnoticed, which would be a pretty impressive feat of legerdemain, or an incredible indictment of the gullibility of believers, if no one noticed that the teachers were denying that Jesus existed or died for their sins (although in modern times they could get away with such brazen lies -2Tim 4:3-4). Jude tells us exactly what they were doing, they were turning the grace of God, which every believer had embraced and experienced in being regenerated (born-again) into a license for sin. They were denying the Lordship of Christ, and the right of God to rule or be Master in their lives. We are saved/justified by grace (Eph 2:8-9) through exercising faith, but that doesn't mean we should continue to sin (as Paul emphatically states in Romans 6). These folks aren't denying the deity of Christ, nor the efficacy of His atonement (the Saviorship of Christ) but that God is their Master, and Jesus the Messiah is their Lord (see comments on 2Pt 2:1 where the same word Master/despot is used). Long ago (Dt 28) God had sovereignly attached condemnation/cursing rather than blessing to such ungodly behavior (not knowing and doing what he wanted -see Titus 1). Those who are not concerned about knowing and doing God's will, who live for their pleasure and glory rather than God's, are engaging in ungodly behavior. “It's all under the blood” or “Grace has got it covered” is true with respect to an individual going into the lake of fire for their sins, because Jesus did die for all their sins, but that does not spare them the judgment and condemnation of those who disobey God, as Jude will now illustrate (see comments on Mt 5-7; and the warning passages in Hebrews, more warning pasages in Hebrewsanother warning passage in Hebrewsfinal warning passage).
1:5-7 Jude reminds those who have bought into the lie that there are no negative consequences for those who are born again of some things that carnal Christians (those who live for their temporal desires -1Cor 2; Rm 8) delight in being ignorant about. The parallel between the nation of Israel and NT believers is clearly spelled out in 1Corinthians 10, even down to having the Spirit and Christ as well as in other places (Rm 15:4). God saved/redeemed the Jews out of Egypt but then destroyed those who were not faithful to obey Him and enter the Promised Land. Jude uses the aorist participle, “those who were not believing.” What did they not believe? The promises of God to bless and curse (Exodus 20; Num 14:27-37; Heb 3:17-19). It's not that they didn't believe God redeemed them in the past, but that they had an obligation to serve and obey Him to enjoy the future. Angels who rebelled in following Satan, or perhaps those referred to in Genesis 6 who didn't follow God's order for them, suffered a similar discipline, losing their glorified status, and being kept in everlasting (not the word for “age,” but the word for “always”) chains in darkness awaiting greater judgment on the great Day of the Lord. Similarly Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to their unrestrained passions, particularly immorality and homosexuality, and serve as an example of those who please themselves rather than God, and are suffering (present tense) the punishment of the age (not the eternal one of the angels, nor the past one of the Israelites). All three of those who failed to do what God desired are cited as an example of those who suffer punishment and loss for their unwise and unfaithful choices. All three judgments are different, and it could be argued are mutually exclusive, so Jude is not saying unfaithful believers who follow the false teachings will experience the same judgments, just that they will experience similar unpleasantness.
1:8-11 Returning to the false teachers, Jude calls them dreamers (out of touch with reality) who like those above defile the flesh, despise dominion/authority, and speak evil of glory (literally as in 2Pt 2:10, but translated as beings in light of the next verse). Even Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil about the body of Moses (who knew?), didn't speak evil (same word root as the previous verse) but asked the Lord to rebuke him. This account isn't in the Scripture, but was present in Jewish tradition. Jude appeals to it to make his case as did Paul to the Cretan poet in Titus 1. The false teachers speak evil about whatever they don't understand, a trait common among those who just parrot party lines without knowing the Scriptures in their context. What the false teachers do say are understood naturally, like brute beasts (as opposed to learned by the Spirit of Truth), and these things they teach result in their corruption (and eventual destruction). Jude pronounces a warning of woe upon them because they are following the ways of Cain (Gen 4) Balaam (Num 22) and Korah (Num 16), who all ended poorly.
1:12-16 Some consider the references to the love feast (Lord's Supper) to be the chiastic center of the book. Others argue for verse 9 which fits the theme of contending. What is clear to Jude (and us) is that the false teachers were dangerous, like hidden reefs waiting to shipwreck believers' faith (1Tim 1:19) which prevents one from reaching the intended safe harbor of peace. The false teachers will say they love Jesus, and commemorate Him, but lack fear of God (as do most who parrot lies -Mt 12:36). They pose as shepherds/pastors or teachers who only feed themselves. They don't provide words by which others can live, but are like clouds without rain, and fruitless leaves, without roots in the truth. There's a lot of emotion and froth, but no truth. They are like wandering stars (the word for heresy is from the same root as planet, which looked like wandering stars which had deviated from the right path), for whom was reserved the punishment of the darkness of the Age (2Pt 2:17).
The Book of Enoch is considered to be from first century BC, but is allegedly, based upon tradition, a preservation of what Enoch prophesied. It was also known to the church fathers in the second century AD, and a few fragments had been found, but an entire copy was found in AD 1773. Enoch, known to the NT audience, was the seventh person in the Genesis genealogy, perhaps a reference to the Millennial Age. Jude quotes him to illustrate the judgment that will come upon the ungodly ones in the Day of Judgment. Failure to be godly in one's words and ways sets one up for judgment. Jude describes the ungodly as those who grumble and complain, and walk/live for whatever pleases their temporal desires. They are proud (usually unteachable), and will show hypocritical deference to those who can profit them.
1:17-21 Jude reminds his readers of the words spoken by the apostles (2Pt 3:2-3; 1Tim 4:1; 2Tim 3:1), that in the end times people would mock the way of truth and walk in the way of temporal lust. These folks are not submitted to the Lord Jesus, so there is no basis for unity, and therefore they cause divisions, following their sensual or natural instincts as opposed to the Spirit. They don't have the Spirit indwelling, as in controlling them. See comments on Romans 8:9 where not having the Spirit is contrasted with the Spirit dwelling in those who please God. To make the equation that “not having Spirit” means unregenerate pagans misses the ellipsis, and the contexts of both texts. But some will manage to miss it, since they don't know how to trace an argument in context. These are the same false teachers that Jude has been warning his readers against. They are shepherds and teachers participating in the love feast of the Lord's Supper, the problem is not that they are unregenerate pagans who need to be evangelized but bad believers who need to repent and submit themselves to their Lord and Master. In contrast to them, the good believers need to build themselves up in their most holy faith (the expectation that the Lord would return to reward and rule -1Pt 1; Heb 11:6), and be praying in the Spirit (which is not babbling meaningless sounds) but seeking the mind and will of God as one expresses dependence upon Him to do His will. Such building and praying would be developing the traits that would result in God's reward (2Pt 1 “add to your faith...abundant entrance”). They need to keep/guard themselves so they will remain in the loyal love of God (owing allegiance only to Him), and be eagerly expecting the mercy (hesed - covenantal promise fulfillment) of God, with a view toward receiving dominion of the Messianic Age (eternal life).
1:22-23 Verse 22 has a textual variant (mercy/reprove) and word that has multiple meanings (judge/contend/doubt). The translation most in harmony with the context is the second one in brackets. In addition to following verse 21, believers should “reprove those who are contending (same meaning as the word when used in verse 9) against the faith”. Verse 23 opens with a “de” which joins two different or sequential concepts, rather than a “kai” which joins coordinate concepts. “Having mercy on some and saving others” doesn't take into account the “de” nor make a lot of sense. On the other hand the point of the letter is to have believers contend for the faith, and here in the conclusion, one would expect that to be emphasized. So Jude commands believers to reprove some and to save others, snatching them out of the fiery judgment that awaits them, while fearing God and hating even the clothing (outward trappings, or practices) that is defied by the defiled flesh of those following falsehood.
1:24-25 The letter ends with a great benediction, ascribing praise to our God who is able to keep us from stumbling (and falling short of the glory) and present believers faultless before the presence of His glory with great joy. To our God and Savior, who alone is wise, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power/authority, both now and in the Messianic Age.
Application: Believers must learn to identify and refute false teachers who don't live under the Lordship of Christ; and build themselves up in the faith by drawing on the grace of God to live so as to be faultless when He returns.
Prayer: God, thanks for saving me by Your grace, and giving me the power to live faultless before You; may I live in tune with Your truth and Spirit, under Your Lordship every day, so that You will be glorified by my life. Amen.

Philemon This is Paul's most personal and persuasive letter, written primarily to Philemon in order to induce him to accept back Onesimus, his runaway slave. Paul had met Onesimus in prison and led him to the Lord. Paul gives a number of compelling (almost manipulative) reasons why Philemon should freely and willingly decide to do what is best, The letter also provides insights into relationships among believers in the early church which have modern applications as well.

Philemon 1
1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our beloved fellow worker, 2 to the beloved Apphia, to Archippus, our fellow soldier, and to the assembly in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love, and of the faith which you have with regard to (pros) the Lord Jesus, and toward (eis) all the saints; 6 that the your participation in the faith may become effective, by the knowledge of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
8 Therefore, though I have all boldness in Christ to command you that which is appropriate, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather beg, being such a one as Paul, the aged, but also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. 10 I beg you for my child, whom I have become the father of in my chains, Onesimus, 11 who once was useless to you, but now is useful to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. Therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I desired to keep with me, that on your behalf he might serve me in my chains for the Good News. 14 But I was willing to do nothing without your consent, that your goodness would not be as of necessity, but of free will. 15 For perhaps he was therefore separated from you for a while, that you would have him forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 If then you count me a partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 But if he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, put that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self besides).
20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even beyond what I say. 22 Also, prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen

Observations: 1:1-3 Paul identifies himself a prisoner of the Messiah Jesus, and writes (along with Timothy) to Philemon, and two others, as well as the entire assembly/church which meets in Philemon's house. The number of people who know about the contents of the letter adds pressure for Philemon to act in response to it. Paul wishes Philemon the covenantal blessings of grace and peace.
1:4-7 Paul thanks God for Philemon's love toward the saints and faith in the Lord Jesus (chiastic structure helps us see that faith is not towards the saints, as is further validated by the use of two different prepositions as noted in the text above). Verse 6 is crucial for understanding the letter. Paul prays that Philemon's fellowship or participation (koinonia feminine noun for “having in common” see verse 17 for the masculine form) in the faith might become effective/effectual by the experiential knowledge of every good thing which believers have in their union with Christ. Some translations have “sharing” of his faith, in an evangelistic sense, but Paul's objective is to encourage Philemon to forgive and accept Onesimus, not win others to Christ. Forgiving his runaway slave, and the debt of whatever Onesimus had taken from him when he left would require drawing on the grace that God had extended to him in Christ. Paul refers to how Philemon had used that grace to minister to others in refreshing the hearts of the saints through his generosity to those in need. And thus asks him to extend the same Christlike grace toward Onesimus.
1:8-16 Forgiving and accepting Onesimus was the right thing to do and Paul says he could command Philemon to do what was right, but instead he appeals to him, or even begs him, as the old prisoner of Christ (tugging on the heart strings) to forgive Onesimus. Paul pleads for him as his own child, whom he had led to the Lord while in prison with him. He gives Philemon more reasons to do so, saying that previously Onesimus was an unprofitable servant, but has now become a useful believing brother to both Paul and Philemon. Impressing upon Philemon that “he owes Paul favors” Paul states that Onesimus had ministered to him while in prison, doing the job that Philemon should have done in serving Paul for the furthering of the Good News of the Kingdom of Christ. Paul wanted to keep Onesimus, but didn't want to do so without Philemon's permission, so that any good deed would not be done under compulsion, but as a free will act of Philemon (so there is free-will!). Paul then gives another incentive, pointing out that Philemon would now have Onesimus forever, not as a slave but as a brother in Christ.
1:17-19 Although Paul wants Philemon to willingly accept Onesimus, he makes such a strong case that it would be impossible to refuse with any shred of honor. If Philemon considers Paul a fellow partaker (koinonos the masculine form of the feminine noun in verse 6), then he should receive Onesimus as he would Paul. If Onesimus had wronged him in anything, Philemon should put it on Paul's account. Paul says that he is writing the letter with his own hand to guarantee his pledge, and then reminds Philemon that he owes his very self to Paul, because of Paul's ministry to him. Paul's willingness to go to bat for an escaped slave is an example of the kind of love committed believers showed toward each other.
1:20-25 Paul appears pretty bold in asking Philemon to give him joy and refresh his poor old imprisoned heart by accepting back Onesimus. He says he has confidence that Philemon will not only comply (literally the word for “obey” or “listen under”) with his “request,” but go beyond it, in reinstating Onesimus without prejudice. He also asks Philemon to prepare a guest room in anticipation of God answering his prayers and bringing about Paul's release from prison (a parallel to God answering Paul's prayers to have Onesimus being released form the prison of his debt to Philemon). Speaking of parallels, one can't help but notice the allegorical parallel of the believer being restored to the Father by the work of Christ (where Onesimus is the believer, Philemon is the Father, and Paul is Christ). Paul sends greetings and prays that the grace of Christ would strengthen Philemon's spirit in doing the right thing.
Application: Believers must not harbor bitterness nor resentment towards believers who have wronged them, but extend Christlike forgiveness (regardless of whether or not they repent, to free themselves from bitterness) and acceptance to the repentant as God has done to us, so that our participation in the promises of the Gospel may make a difference in our lives, now and in the future.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for the forgiveness and acceptance You've shown me in Christ, may I know and demonstrate similar grace toward others. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God has forgiven us by His grace and reinstated us in His graces, and expects us to do the same for others.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus is the Lord and Master whom we must serve in order to be blessed, or face negative consequences.

Us in a nutshell: Believers need to draw upon God's grace to live so as to please Him, contending against those who teach falsely, and extending love to our fellow saints.

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