Jude Introduction

Jude  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
It is of interest to consider who it is that is speaking to us in this Epistle. We are told it is “Jude, servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James.” He is not the brother of James the son of Zebedee—John was his brother. That James was out off from very early days indeed, and John was left latest of all; so different was the issue for those two sons of Zebedee. There was another James (as also another Jude or Judas, besides the Iscariot) “son of Alplacus,” who is named “James the Little” (Mark 15:4040There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Mark 15:40)). I don't think that this is the James referred to here, but rather the one who has been called “James the Just”; and I presume that title was given to him because of his practical pre-eminence. He was a hater of evil and a lover of all that was pleasing to God, morally. He comes before us too, in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts, though not for the first time there. In that chapter he takes a great place. He, as far as one can so say, presided, and that is a very proper scripture word. Those “that rule well” means those that preside well. There is nothing wrong in presiding if a man can do it; it is a mistake if a man can't, and assumes to do it; and it is one of the worst things possible when it is done by an official, whether there is power or not. But there is such a thing as “ruling” or “presiding” recognized, though it is never confined to one person, “them that have the rule (or, preside) over you” —there we have several.
But we are not anxious about it. One might be more prominent on one day, another on another day, but James seems to have been prominent habitually, and this appears to have been quite recognized by the elders at Jerusalem. We find Paul going up to see James, and all the elders were present. This is the man who wrote the Epistle, who also calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.” Of course that is true of all, and is said by almost all. The apostle Paul calls himself that continually, and of course so do Peter and John, although the latter calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” rather, but still he calls himself the servant of Jesus Christ in the Revelation (1:2)— “to His servant John.” So you see that it is only a question of the propriety of the case where this word is put forward; and it certainly was very appropriate in the Book of the Revelation, and there accordingly it is. Elsewhere, in his Gospel especially, he dwells rather on the Savior's love, and in that book he does not call himself anything. We only know by internal evidence that he must be the man whom he describes, not as John, but, as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
But James was not a “disciple”; he was one of the Lord's brethren who did not believe all the time the Lord was living here below. “Neither did His brethren believe on Him” (John 7:55For neither did his brethren believe in him. (John 7:5)). “His brethren” were sons of Mary after His own birth. Of course we can understand that Romanists have been anxious to make out that they were sons of Joseph and not of Mary; but they were sons of Mary and of Joseph. They would like to make it out, sons of a former. marriage of Joseph. We do not know anything of a former marriage, nor do they. We do know that scripture is quite plain.
Take Mark 6:33Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. (Mark 6:3) for instance, and there you will find that this thing is fully acknowledged what I have stated just now, where, speaking of our Lord, it says, “Is not this the carpenter the son of Mary, and brother” (not the cousin, you see) “of James and Joses, and of Juda and Simon?” We do not know what place God gave in particular to Joses and Simon, but we do know that James and Judas, or Jude (it is the same name), were called to an, eminent service.
Now if we look at the first of Acts we get more, It appears there were sisters also, but we need not now pursue that subject. In Acts 1:1313And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. (Acts 1:13) we read, “And when they” (i.e. the apostles) “were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter and James” (that James is the son of Zebedee), “and John” (his brother), “and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus” (that is, James the Little), “and Simon Zelotes” (to distinguish him from Simon Peter and from Simon the Lord's brother), “and Judas [the brother] of James.”
Now, in my judgment, these are the two names that are brought before us in this opening verse of our Epistle, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” But we further read in the same chapter of the Acts, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (ver. 14). Who these “brethren” are, we have already seen from Mark 6 James and Jude were two of the Lord's brethren. Simon and Joses were two others. But we do not stop to dwell on these, because scripture does not do so. Yet it says a deal about James; not so much about Jude. As already noticed, although they were unconverted all the time the Lord was on earth they were evidently converted after the Lord died and rose, so that there they were with Mary their mother, and the eleven, all living together and given up to prayer, and waiting for the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is true they were not unconverted now. Nothing would have been more contrary to their mind had they not been believers, but now they are believers for the first time. And very beautiful it is to see that God broke them down by the very thing that might have stumbled them kr ever. The crucifying of the Lord might have entirely hindered, but God used that and the Lord's resurrection, not only to awaken their souls, but to bring them in, so that they were there full of the same expectation of the Holy Ghost as the apostles themselves.
Consequently, when James, the son of Zebedee, was killed (Acts 12), we find another James, who is not described at all as the son of Alpheus, and he is the one that has evidently stepped forward, by God's guidance, into a kind of foremost place; for when all the apostles were there, Peter and John amongst the rest, they didn't take that place, much less any other of the twelve. James did, and to show you that I am not incorrect in this, I will give you another scripture (Gal. 1:15-1915But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. (Galatians 1:15‑19)), which is very convincing and satisfactory. The apostle Paul is showing how he had been kept from mixing up with any other of the apostles in particular, at the time he was brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called [me] by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother “(not, the Lord's “cousin”). Apparently James, the son of Alphaeus, was the Lord's cousin. Now we all know that the word “brother” is sometimes used loosely, but in that case it is always corrected by some other parts of scripture. But this is not corrected by any; and I don't see any reason why—if the Spirit of God calls Mark, not exactly the nephew, but “cousin of Barnabas” (the word there used is cousin)—James should not be so called here, if he were not really the “brother” of our Lord.
It is true James does not call himself “the Lord's brother,” but “the Lord's servant,” and this is very beautiful. Had there been any self-seeking he would have been the one to say, “I am the Lord's brother! You must not forget, I am the Lord's brother.” But that would have been anything but of the Spirit of God, because when he was the Lord's brother, he was an unbeliever. He had been an unbeliever during all the life of our Lord. Indeed he was so until His death and resurrection. He, therefore, with beautiful grace, never brings up that which was his shame—that he was the Lord's brother after the flesh. The Lord Himself put all that sort of thing down, when He declared that it was not the blessed thing so much to be the woman that bare Him, as to hear the word of God and keep it. This is what the writer of the Epistle had done. He had heard the word of God and kept it. He had received the truth of Christ's Person not as son of Mary, but as the Son of God, as the Messiah, the Lord of all. Here then he was glad to say, not that he was the Lord's brother, though he was so, but, “a servant of Jesus Christ,” and he adds, to make it perfectly clear who he was, “brother of James.”
So here we have the plain fact that this James was not the son of Zebedee, who had been killed many years before; neither was he James the Little. We may call him rather, James the Great, because he takes such a foremost place wherever mentioned. The fifteenth of Acts puts it in a very striking manner which I had better not pass over. After Peter had given his very important testimony, and Paul and Barnabas their evidence, about the reception of the Gentiles, we come to another person, in the thirteenth verse, “James answered, saying.” You see they are regarded as speaking, but James answers, “Men, brethren” (that is the proper way to read it; “and” has nothing to do with it). They were not merely men, but men who were brethren. “Men, brethren, hearken unto me. Simon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” &c. “Wherefore my sentence is” (vers. 13-19). No one can doubt the place that he took, and that the Spirit of God sanctions his taking. James was the one that summed up the mind of God, after having heard all the facts, and quoted a decisive scripture. And this is a very interesting thing that, though they were inspired men, they did not do without the scriptures. When you have facts in the light of scripture, it is then that you are entitled to draw therefrom the truth—what he calls here “my sentence,” and what was written in the nineteenth and following verses.
The other striking place where James appears, is in Acts 21, where Paul goes up to Jerusalem. “And the day following” —that is after their arrival, “Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present” (ver. 18). It is evident that that was the great central place of meeting for strangers at Jerusalem, and that the elders also were accustomed to be present on those occasions. These facts give it evidently a very official character, and this was perfectly compatible with the position of James at Jerusalem. Tradition makes him the bishop of the church in Jerusalem, but scripture does not speak of “the” bishop, but of “bishops:” and scripture also shows that there were people more important than the bishops; and James had a place of evident superiority to any of the “elders” (they were the bishops), a place that none of the elders possessed to the same degree. And this James is the one that wrote the Epistle that bears his name, as that of Jude was written by his brother.
It is instructive to see how God allowed the unbelief of the family of our Lord Jesus. It was not like people plotting together. If you look at the great leader of the Eastern apostasy, Mahomet, it was so. His family were persons whom he induced to take their place along with him, to defend him and stand by him. But in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, God allowed that His own brethren should not believe on Him all the time that His mighty works were being done. But there was another work, the greatest of all, and God made that work irresistible. Not indeed the works of His life, but that of His death and resurrection; and these brethren that had stood out so stubbornly against Him were brought out to believe on Him through His work of sin-bearing. There was a reason for their unbelief. There are always moral causes, which particularly act in unconverted persons to prevent their reception of the truth. Sometimes it is the fleshly mind, sometimes the worldly mind, sometimes both. In the case of these brethren, their worldly mind came out strongly in John 7:4. 5, when they said, “If thou do these things, show thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe on him.” The Lord was infinitely far from that. He was not of the world, and tells us we are not. He never sought the world in any form. He only sought to do good to souls in it by delivering them out of the world to make them know the true God, and Himself equally the true God and life eternal.
Well now, here we have this fact so full of interest that James gives us, according to the spiritual character that was formed in him, the most complete setting forth of practical righteousness in everyday life, in our tempers, in our words, as well as our ways. All that is unfolded by James more than by any other, and it is only from want of understanding it, that some do not like James. Sometimes great and good men have kicked at the plainness of speech in James. They have not liked it, but it was a great loss to them, for had they heeded his Epistle it would have corrected many a fault in themselves.
(To be continued)