Welcoming Love

Jude - Second in a series

Jude's letter was written somewhere between 64 and 80 AD, to Christians of an unknown congregation or area: "to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, called"… (Jude 1)

Of the many translations of the Bible, from the King James to the New International and beyond, some say, To them that are sanctified or called, and some say, To those who are loved by God the Father (Jude 1). There is a Greek word that denotes "purification" and "separation" for sanctified (see 1 Cor 7:14, 1 Tim 4:5, 2 Tim 2:21, Heb 2:11, others) or, for called, "invited" or "appointed," but in Jude 1 "God's welcoming love"* is more in view. Let’s combine the language insights and say, "the welcoming love of God that sanctifies."

So, what is the welcoming love of the Lord that sanctifies? Some examples are seen in the life of Sarah, "who gave us birth" (Isa 51:2), the mother of the faithful.

When her husband, Abraham, was called by God to go to a new land, he went out "not knowing where he was going." (Heb 11:8) Sarah faithfully accompanied him, and her biggest problem turned out to be her beauty.

After arriving in the promised land, it became necessary to travel to Egypt to water their flocks. Knowing Sarah was an object of desire, Abraham entreated her, "I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee." (Gen 12:11-13)

She was in fact taken into Pharaoh's house, which was quickly overrun with plagues (Gen 12:17) and Pharaoh understood he had taken a man's wife. Yet he had not touched her, as he said to Abraham, "Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way." (Gen 12:19)

The welcoming love of God that sanctifies is expressed in his protection and help when others forsake us. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Ps 27:10)

You may ask, Why didn't God keep Pharaoh from taking Sarah and she could have avoided the situation altogether? But recall, her beauty was very great so that Pharaoh desired her for his harem. Is it better to have no gift? We, too, have gifts coveted by controlling types, but the Lord is with us. Again and again in Scripture, God rescues his own from the attacks and strongholds of their enemies, and as we read the Bible, we begin to believe in our hearts that God will show us welcoming love in our worst straits. If we are His then we are Sarah's daughters, and must not be afraid of any fear (1 Pet 3:6): If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).

It appears that Sarah was given a maid as a gift for her time in Pharaoh's harem, Hagar the Egyptian (Gen 16:1). In her mid-70s Sarah still had not had children, so she offered Hagar to Abraham as a means of securing an heir. Thus was Ishmael, Abraham's first son, born.

But Sarah remained barren till she was 90 years old and then gave birth to Isaac. In time she demanded that Hagar, whose life she had upset considerably, be cast out with Ishmael, and God agreed with her judgment (Gen 21:10-12). He understood that she needed the conflict between Hagar's son and hers to be resolved. (Gen 21:9)

God’s special love for his called and kept people does not coddle them in human sin and failure. Sarah was required to live with Hagar till Ishmael was old enough to become a man on his own; yet the Lord agreed that Isaac should not grow up taunted by an adversary, even despite her being the root cause of the problem. Welcoming love does not imprison its children by guilt, shame and conflict, but rather sets us free and resolves confusion.

Before Isaac's birth, Abraham again gave Sarah into the arms of a foreign king to save his own life, and this was in the time frame of Sarah's conception! Yet, once again God protected her: And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night… (Gen 20:4) and he sent her back to Abraham.

Sarah remained faithful throughout the years and the insults. She welcomed the welcoming love of God. [Many of these insights are found in the God Remembered Abraham Bible Study on SistersSite.]

In comparison, what do those outside of God's family have that is of any comfort? Why does it take some people so long to enter his gates? Why are hard-hearted souls so slow to embrace the better land where the welcoming love of God sanctifies?

Perhaps they do not feel quite ready to forego the self serving enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, and dreaming that they are in control of their personal agendas, like those whom Jude exposes. But as humans we all serve a higher power, whether the Lord or Satan, and there is no middle ground. We may think we have our own place in the sun, but we do reside in one territory or the other, in the Welcoming Love or the despising of it.

*My sources are the Interlinear Bible on Studylight.org and The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English by Alfred Marshall.

Who is my brother? Who am I?

Jude - First in a series

There is only one instance in the New Testament of the word Jude, the first word in the Book of Jude— or, counting the name of the book, two.

We understand why the author differentiates himself by his nickname and as the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James (Jude 1:1). Who would want to bring to mind the prophecy, Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; [and] let another take his office. (Ps 109:6-8) Those words were for Judas Iscariot.

Yet, Judas means "He shall be praised." The Old Testament catalogs:

  1. Judah, the fourth son of Jacob
  2. Judah, the tribe that brought forth the Christ; the territory of this tribe; the Southern Kingdom of Israel
  3. Various men who helped Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh 11:9; Ezr 3:9; Neh 12:8, 34)

In the New Testament, the spelling changes to Judas or Juda and we find, in order:

  1. Mention of the territory; Bethlehem was in Juda (KJV) (Mat 2:6)
  2. Judas, also called Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus (Mat 10:3), one of the 12 disciples, the brother (KJV) (or son? ESV) of James (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13)
  3. Judas Iscariot (Mat 10:4)
  4. A brother (half-brother: same mother, different father) of the Lord, along with James, Joses, and Simon (Mat 13:55). Was this the same as the disciple?
  5. Various men, one a provocateur (Acts 5:37), two who served the Lord (Acts 9:11, Acts 15:22, 27, 32)

This is man: One can uphold a name and another defame it, or one can do both. Adam gave us birth— and death.

I recall a Scripture written by my grandmother's hand on the fly page of the Bible she gave me as a Christmas gift when I was about seven: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. (Prov 22:1) Whatever ones name, it is up to the individual to make it a good name, and it makes a difference, especially to those of his or her immediate family.

In reference to Jude 1:1, who was James? In the New Testament we meet:

  1. James, brother of John. These were called by the Lord, "Sons of Thunder"; this James was martyred early in the narrative of Acts (Acts 12:2).
  2. James, son of Alphaeus, a disciple, probably the brother or half-brother of Matthew who was also a son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14).
  3. James, the half-brother of Jesus, (Mat 13:55; Mark 6:3). Many Bible scholars state that this James was the leader of the early church. He was also called an apostle by Paul: "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." (Gal 1:19) (Other references: Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 2:9, 12)
  4. James, the brother of Juda(s) (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), or his father (?), probably the same James as the previous one. In the Greek, the phraseology, "Jude of James," is the same as "James of Alphaeus." It is clear from other passages that Alphaeus was the father of James. If the phrase suggests hierarchy, then James was Jude's older brother.

Bible scholars differ over whether Jude the disciple could also have been a half-brother of Jesus. Some commentators believe the brothers mentioned in Matthew 13 were actually cousins, not brothers. Catholics do not believe Jesus had siblings.

However, it is likely that Jude "of James" and James, head of the early church, were Jesus' half-brothers, and that Jude was also one of the 12 disciples. By identifying himself as Jude "of James" and since we know he did not mean James "of Alphaeus" who had a different father, nor James who had died a martyr, we can deduce that he meant James whom Paul met with and called the brother of Jesus and an apostle. (Gal 1:19)

BUT since Scripture states that Jesus' brothers did not at first believe in him (John 7:3), we may question if Judas (Lebbaeus), the disciple, was also Jesus' half-brother. However, there are many examples in Scripture of words that are not inclusive or definitive in all instances, so perhaps Jude was not among his brothers in the John 7:3 passage.

The main argument against Jude being one of the twelve, is his reference to "the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" in verse 17 of his epistle, rather than including himself in that group. But then, this could show he looked up to many of them and did not think of himself as their equal; or that he thought of himself more as a family member than as one of Christ's disciples.

Since the authors of Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the Bible, it seems logical that they would carefully describe Jude as "Jude of James" to make clear that this disciple was also Jesus' half-brother. Nevertheless, there is not agreement among Bible scholars on this point.

If we should take the view that Jude was Jesus' half-brother, we would see him as one who was a hearer of the Word from his birth, taught by Christ's words and example from his infancy. That would be different and better than the other disciples.

The main differentiation to uphold as we look at the book of Jude is that he considered himself a servant of Jesus Christ, not an equal. He looked to Christ as his master.

So, too, in our fellowship with Christ, as his mother, brothers and sisters (Mat 12:48-50), we, the royal priesthood, chosen generation and holy nation (1 Pet 2;9); we who cannot be separated from the Lord by death nor angels nor anything at all (Rom 8:38); who have been enlightened of mysteries that angels long to penetrate (1 Pet 1:12); his friends (John 15:13-15) — we are above all, his servants, even unworthy servants (Luke 17:10). He is Lord.

Elijah in view

MALACHI -Fifteenth and final in a series

Assurance of salvation is promised to the servants of the Lord in the third chapter of Malachi; now in this final chapter, we see what is in store for the unrighteousness.
Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Judgment Day brings total annihilation of the wicked and the prideful. We expect to see criminals judged, but God states that the proud, as well, will be sentenced to death. Those who lived apart from God will meet a common fate in the unquenchable fire (Mat 3:12). There is no remnant here, no branch, no root.

Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
Like calves in the stall, God's friends can look forward to days of protection and loving care.

Who said that Malachi was not poetic? It was noted in the second post that he lived in the decline of Hebrew poetry, yet we see in this and other verses that poetry lived in and through Malachi.

Malachi 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
This Sun with lovely wings has feet of steel hardened in a fiery furnace, and he will trample down our enemies. We who follow in his steps will walk upon their ashes. His victory is ours.

An exhortation to the faithful:
Malachi 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
By obeying the Law the Jews could do valiantly even with no prophet throughout the 400 years that loomed ahead before the Messiah would come.

Malachi 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Much has been written about these last verses of Malachi by theologians over the ages.

Some say they reference John the Baptist who came in the power and spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:17); that Malachi is warning the Jews to look for that one who would cry out for the people to repent, for he would prepare the way for the Messiah.

Some say the language would be more accurately translated that the heart of the fathers would turn to God along with the children and vice versa, meaning that the Baptist's call would be inclusive for each member of the nation, young and old. Each would need to repent, no matter their station or child's heart.

Others state that these final verses refer to Elijah himself who will appear again on the earth before the second coming of Jesus (Rev 11:3), which will be the "great and dreadful day" of the Lord. Yet, if that Final Day is in view, why would God threaten that, should there be no repentance, then He will smite the earth with a curse? Isn't Judgment Day that time when God assuredly does destroy the earth?

This is the argument against such an interpretation, and those making it point out that Malachi was trying to warn the Jews they could escape the doom of Jerusalem that would follow the rejection of Christ by the Hebrews. In AD 70, the temple was burned, the city was razed, and more than one million people were killed.

Yet, it is rejoined that up to the 1600s and the time of the Reformers, the language of the passage was accepted as a reference to Elijah himself, and was not associated with John the Baptist.

After all, John was already referenced in Malachi 3:1— "Behold I will send my messenger"… Is there a need to repeat that promise? No, we should see a reference to the second coming, not to the first.

Of course, repeating a Bible promise is not uncommon. So, do these verses point to John and the first coming of Christ, or to the Second Coming and Elijah, who did not die but was taken up from the earth in a whirlwind (2 Ki 2:11)?

We know that a final time of repentance is prophesied for the Jews (Zech 12:10) and they will be received by God, restored to their roots (Rom 11:15). This is why some state the the proper interpretation of these verses is that the fathers are the Jews and the children are the Christians, who are united as brothers in the final days.

Yet Malachi seems to be saying that such repentance by the Jews would prevent God from cursing the earth, and we know that he finally does destroy it.

Could we say that the final destruction by fire is not a curse but a cleansing? This seems to stretch the truth; after all, judgment is no different from being cursed by God.

Thus, we would need to see that, in fact, when Elijah appears at the end of time, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, though some repent, fathers to or with children, not all do, and like Sodom, on balance there are not enough repentant to spare the earth, which is the plain language of Scripture (Rev 11:10).

In other words, God through Malachi reveals there is hope for the repentant, yet knowing an end is in view when Elijah prophesies with the second witness. Likewise, Isaiah did not expect to succeed when told to call Israel to repentance (Is 6:8-11).

Many will not admit this interpretation, since a literal reading seems too far fetched. Can we really believe that Elijah and Enoch, who also did not die but was taken up (Gen 5:24), will actually preach in Jerusalem for 1,260 days, then be killed by the Beast, then after three and a half days rise and ascend to heaven? Improbable.

So there we have a summary of the historic commentaries over the centuries, many written before the reestablishment of Israel in the 20th century.

It is also interesting to note that if John the Baptist is not in view, then why did Jesus permit the reference? (Mat 17:11-12) Was he not encouraging a view of Scripture as symbolic rather than literal, a dangerous thing? Yet, he knew that the human mind is capable of understanding a reference in a symbolic way while accepting it as literal as well. The Bible draws us into seeing both the first and second coming of Christ.

We have arrived at the end of a Bible study on Malachi for Today's Christian. How do you view his final prophecy? Is the Second Coming in view? Maranatha! (1 Cor 16:22). Come Lord Jesus.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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