Jude, slave, brother

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features Chapter 2: Jude, Slave, Brother: The Identity of Apologists.

Previously: Chapter 1: Jude, A Slave: The Attitude of Apologetics

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Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and a brother of James … (Jude 1)

In June 1989 a young man made headlines – and history – when he singlehandedly slowed the advance of tanks heading for China’s Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government had begun cracking down on anti-communist demonstrations in Beijing. Feeling the crush of military muscle, most of the peacefully demonstrating Chinese dispersed, except for one man whose identity has never been positively confirmed.

Holding shopping bags, the man, dressed in dark pants and a white shirt, strode into the center of the broad street and, turning toward the approaching column of tanks, stood his ground. When the driver of the lead tank tried to maneuver around him, the bystander moved to his left and cut off the tank’s advance. He then climbed onto the tank and tried to talk with the soldiers inside before two unidentified men whisked him away.

“Tiananmen Square Guy,” as he came to be known, stands as a symbol of peaceful opposition to the oppression of totalitarian regimes. Conflicting claims about his name and whereabouts indicate that his true identity may never be discovered.

The names of other famous people in history may never be known, either, or at least positively confirmed – from the kissing sailor and nurse on VJ Day to the Zodiac Killer, and from “the babushka lady” in the Zapruder film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination to Jack the Ripper.

Sometimes famous people remain anonymous by design, and this is no less true of authors of New Testament books. For example, none of the Gospels is self-identified, although we’re quite confident of the writers’ identity. In contrast, the unnamed author of the book of Hebrews remains a mystery. Peter’s authorship of 2 Peter is disputed.

But we face a different challenge with the book of Jude – namely, that Jude (Greek Ioudas, or Judas, Judah) is a common first-century name, and there happen to be eight such characters in the New Testament:

  • Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles and the betrayer of Jesus (Matt. 10:4)
  • Judas the son of James, one of the twelve apostles (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13)
  • Judas, Paul’s host in Damascus (Acts 9:11)
  • Judas, called Barsabbas, a leading Christian in Jerusalem and a companion of Paul (Acts 15:22, 27, 32)
  • Judas, a revolutionary leader (Acts 5:37)
  • Judah, an otherwise unknown person in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:30)
  • Judah, a son of Jacob in the genealogy of Jesus and an ancestor of an Israelite tribe (Matt. 1:2; Rev. 7:5)
  • Judas, a half-brother of Jesus and a brother of James (Matt. 13:55)

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Why the world is broken

Nearly everyone admits the world is broken, at least to some extent. There’s a disconnect between “what is” and “what ought to be.”

People pursue happiness, only to die sad and alone.

Our stuff wears out, loses its luster, or gets stolen.

Buses run late, baristas can’t make a decent latte, and the wrong team wins the Super Bowl.

Worse, evil runs rampant. ISIS bombs innocent concert-goers. Governments starve their people, even in resource-rich countries. Twitter wars trash reputations.

And on it goes. When we stop to ask our friends why they believe the world is broken, we get a variety of opinions.
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Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ

 

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features Chapter 1: Jude, A Slave: The Attitude of Apologetics.

Previously: Introducing The Last Apologist

 

Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ … (Jude 1a)

My business card is standard fare. It identifies me and describes my role at my place of employment. It also offers several ways to get in touch with me. That’s what most business cards do; they serve as practical, brief, and efficient introductions.

Some people, however, use business cards more creatively, with pop-up photos, odd shapes, and other features to grab your attention. And then there are truly unique characters who seek to leave a lasting impression another way: by making audacious claims.

Take Guangbiao Chen, for example. Chen is a Chinese tycoon and philanthropist. His business card details illustrious titles and heroic accomplishments. For example, his English business card describes him in the following ways:

  • Most Influential Person of China
  • Most Prominent Philanthropist of China
  • China Moral Leader
  • China Earthquake Rescue Hero
  • Most Well-Loved and Beloved Chinese Role Model

We’re only halfway through Chen’s list, but you get the idea. This may be one of the cheekiest business cards ever produced.

But how would you respond if someone handed you a business card that simply read, “Jude, a slave …”? Let’s see how Jude’s profoundly humble self-introduction models the manner in which followers of Jesus should defend the faith.
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What Christians can learn from the cults

Counterfeit forms of Christianity — most notably Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses — thrive on deception.

This is nothing new. The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about false prophets who proclaimed “another Jesus … a different Spirit … a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

While Christians should seek to correct the false doctrines of our Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness friends, we might also consider learning from their admirable qualities, including:

(1) Their zeal for witnessing. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have recaptured true Christianity after centuries of apostasy. They not only stand behind their convictions; they put feet to them.

Today, there are nearly 71,000 Mormon missionaries carrying the message of Joseph Smith around the world — at their own expense, or the expense of their families. Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses boast 8.3 million “publishers” in 240 countries.

They may be faulted for their false teachings, but certainly not for their faithfulness to them.

As Anthony Hoekema has written in The Four Major Cults, “It would appear that the cults are generally pursuing a much more diligent and systematic program of witnessing, both at home and abroad, than are the churches.”
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Introducing “The Last Apologist”

The Missouri Baptist Convention recently published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. So, this post introduces the study, and then in the weeks to come we are posting The Last Apologist one chapter at a time. We pray that it is a help and encouragement to you.


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