“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1b-2)
Audience matters. You would not perform a stand-up comedy routine at a funeral. Nor would you play an electric guitar solo to a theater full of attendees waiting to hear Handel’s Messiah. In the same manner, the opening greeting of New Testament epistles addresses the unique situation of the audience to whom the author is speaking, as well as providing a basis for the body content to follow.
After identifying himself as the author, Jude addresses his readers by three phrases that deserve further examination: “those who are called,” “beloved in God the Father,” and “kept for Jesus Christ.” We can distill this down further into the three verbs used: called, beloved, and kept.
Here we will turn our attention to the first verb—called. What does Jude mean by identifying his audience as those who are “called”? In this context, called refers to the effectual call of the Holy Spirit to salvation. It is the grace of this calling which is “irresistible.” When the Spirit monergistically works in an unregenerate sinner, that person cannot resist the authoritative call of God any more than Lazarus could resist the command of his Lord, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43).
Jude is identifying his audience as those who, by the grace of God, have received and believed the gospel unto salvation. This is important because it sets the stage for Jude to lay out the distinct differences between true and false believers and true and false teachers. Jude’s readers are exhorted to beware of the spiritually uncalled who have made their way into the local church.
Secondly, Jude addresses his readers as “beloved in God the Father.” As his readers are effectually called to spiritual new life, they are also the recipients of God’s covenant love. The regeneration of the Spirit and the personal, eternal love of the Father are never separated. What an immense comfort this is to any believer—but particularly those who are facing profound spiritual trials.
A verse from Samuel Stone’s hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” speaks to the experience of Jude’s audience.
Though with a scornful wonder,
Men see her [the church] sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!
Jude knows his audience is walking a dark road and facing attacks, confusion, and heresies. He therefore makes a point to remind them that they are among God’s beloved people, and he is watching over their souls.
Thirdly, Jude identifies his audience as “kept for Jesus Christ.” As with the previous point, Jude’s understanding of his readers informs his choice of greeting. As he knows that false teachers are distorting the truth which his readers have heard, he reminds them of the preserving grace of Christ. How often have the infiltrating errors of spiritual wolves veiled the truth from the sheep. Though many who profess (but do not possess) faith have apostatized, not a single true sheep who is regenerated by the Spirit and loved by the Father is lost by the Son (John 6:39).
Jude will go on to offer plenty of warnings to his readers to keep watch over themselves and to contend for true doctrine, but he begins with a reassurance of God’s providential preservation.
We should also note the trinitarian nature of Jude’s greeting. His audience is called (by the Spirit), beloved by the Father, and kept for the Son. Redemption is planned by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit—a reality we see displayed here in Jude’s opening greeting.
We should take heart that we are, as Jude’s readers were, called, beloved, and kept for the glory of God. We have no greater grounds for peace and boldness than these truths. Let us go to the ends of the earth knowing that the attacks and hindrances of the devil can never halt the advance and victory of the church through Christ her head (Matthew 16:18).
We will conclude with the benediction with which Jude concludes his greeting:
“May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”
From eternity past we have been known by you. You called us out of darkness and into light, you have loved us when we were at enmity with you, and you have kept us and will keep us to the end. Please grant us strength to walk boldly into the dark world with the light of the gospel, knowing that we are in the Victor’s army.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Pray that our striving against false doctrine would flow out of, not undercut, our reliance on the providence of God.
- The devil is cunning, and he also knows his audience. He will bring timely temptations and introduce errors in clever and subtle ways. Pray that we are given discernment to identify and refute even the smallest error.
- Pray for missionaries carrying the gospel throughout the world to be strengthened and comforted by God’s mercy, peace, and love. Pray for boldness as they confront false beliefs and hostile cultures.