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With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is fitting that St. Jude the Apostle would be honored this month, as St. Jude is the namesake of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, located in Memphis. Monday, October 28, is the day on the Church Calendar when St. Jude, brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, is honored. Jackson Presbyterian Examiner will take a moment to explore who St. Jude was, what he wrote, and why the Church honors him.
1. Who was St. Jude?
Scripture tells us little about St. Jude personally. Tradition tells us he was the brother of Jesus and the son of Mary and Joseph. Catholic and Orthodox Christians, affirming that Mary was a perpetual virgin, generally believe Jude was her step-son—the son of Joseph, a widower, from a previous marriage. We know that Jude penned one of the “general” epistles, the second to last book of the New Testament.
Scripture implies that Jesus’ brothers disbelieved in him until after the resurrection. After the resurrection, his family came to see Jesus for who he was—the Son of God—and as far as we know, they never looked back.
2. Jude’s benediction
The closing verses of Jude’s epistle provides one of the most poignant and powerful benedictions in all of Scripture:
“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, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” Jude 1:24-25
This benediction begins by stating two things God is able to do—keep us from stumbling and to present us faultless. This passage is all the more poignant, considering the bulk of the book of Jude. In his book, he urges his readers to be on guard against false teachers who will dilute or distort the truth. Scholars have noted how similar the book of Jude is to the second epistle of Peter, inferring that both Peter and Jude were likely attempting to counter the same errors within the Church. After cautioning his readers repeatedly against the peril of apostasy and false doctrine, he closes with a reminder that it is ultimately God who keeps us from stumbling. One is reminded of the line from Robert Robinson's old hymn, “Come Thou Fount”:
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above”
We avoid apostasy and falling away from the faith not through our own willpower, which is liable to give way. We are kept from stumbling through God’s power in us.
Not only is God able to keep us from stumbling, but he is able to present us “faultless”. That God is able to do this for creatures like us, as fault of fault as we are, is astonishing. The beginning of the Christian life, justification, is when God declares us righteous for the sake of Christ, with whom we are united. We, Christ’s Bride, have Christ’s righteousness, just as a bride legally possesses all that is her husband’s. However, we are not, at the beginning of the Christian life, very much like Christ. We have to, as John Piper said, “become what we are”. We are declared righteous, but for the rest of our lives, God will be making us righteous. In the end, when we stand before God at the last day, Christ will present us “faultless” in God’s presence with, as Jude says, “great joy”.
The benediction ends by ascribing all the praise to God:
“To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”
We are called to seek wisdom and live wisely, but this verse reminds us that, when it’s all said and done, true wisdom resides in God alone and God is alone is wise. When we exercise wisdom, we are being derivative—getting something from God that is not our own. God doesn’t have to go and get wisdom from outside himself, like we do, because he is wise in and of himself.
May God enable the powerful words of Jude’s benediction to sink in. May God remind us that he is the one keeping us from stumbling and that he will, by grace and without any deserving on our part, present us before his presence faultless in the end. Finally, may we remember that all the praise, all the wisdom, all the glory for all the good things in our life—and in the universe, for that matter—belong to God alone.