January 18, 2011

Called, Beloved, and Kept

Jude … to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ. (Jude 1)

Jude does not tell for whom, exactly, this letter was written. That is to say that, unlike other New Testament writers, he does not address it “to the chosen lady” or “to all who are beloved of God in Rome”. He lists no names, no places, no definite clues as to who his recipients were, or where they lived. And yet he does tell us a great deal about them in verse 1. He refers to them as being “called”, “beloved”, and “kept.” Think about those three designations with me:

First, the recipients of Jude’s letter were “called.” Simply put, what Jude means is that they were “called” by God; that they were Christians. So this is not an evangelistic letter, mainly … but a letter written to encourage and strengthen the “called” of God! But the word “called” denotes even more than simply the fact that these people were Christians. “Called” also refers to how they became Christians in the first place! That is to say that these people were not Christians, first of all, because they had called on God … but because He had “called” on them! Now, to be sure, they themselves (along with everyone else who has ever believed on Christ) had to call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10). But that’s not what Jude emphasizes here. Here Jude emphasizes how God had “called” them. And this emphasis is a reminder that, if any of us are in Christ, it’s not first of all because of what we did. No, if we ourselves have called upon the Lord, it’s because we were first “called” by the Lord. He is the initiator in this love relationship. He is the first caller. He sent His Son to die while we were still in our sins (Romans 5.8). And He sent His Spirit to woo us when we were thinking of all sorts of things besides seeking Christ. He called us first! And we should primarily think of ourselves, therefore, not as those who have called upon the Lord, but as those who have been “called.”

And not only were Jude’s recipients “called”; they were, secondly, “beloved”. Probably Jude meant that they were “beloved” by himself, the author. So that gives us some clue as to who these saints were. Perhaps this letter was written to a church in which Jude had once been a member; or perhaps he’d been there pastor. Whatever the case, this was a congregation of saints for which Jude had a unique affection. But notice that Jude did not simply say that they were “beloved” by himself, but that they were “beloved in God the Father”. The reason Jude loved them is because they were “in God the Father”; in His love. Jude loved them because God loved them! And that begs a question of us: Do we love whom God loves? Do we love our brothers and sisters in the local church? Do we love other genuine Christians who disagree with us on certain secondary matters? Do we love the persecuted church across the sea? Do we love the orphans and the widows? And do we show that we love these various ones by our prayers, and support, and so on? If they are loved by God, then they ought to be loved, by us, “in God”!

Thirdly notice that Jude’s recipients were “kept” for Jesus Christ. God was keeping them, in other words, from losing their salvation. They would appear before Jesus someday. So here is the doctrine of eternal security. True believers do not lose their salvation! But it’s even more than that. Because (see Jude 24-25) God does not promise merely to keep us from hell, but even to keep is from “stumbling” … and to make us “blameless” before Himself. In other words, God not only keeps true Christians from losing their salvation; He also keeps them growing in grace all the way until the end! He keeps true Christians living like true Christians – not in perfection, but in genuine growth, and continual repentance, and continued faith! So then, are you “called”? Are you one of Christ’s “beloved”? And is God proving His calling of and His love for you by keeping you walking with Jesus? Then the rest of this letter is for you!

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