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Jude 24-25 “The Practicality of Doxology”

Now to Him who is able to protect you from harm and to place you before His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord is glory, majesty, might, and authority from every age and now and into all ages. Amen.


That Jude closes his letter with a doxology is most fitting given the context of his audience and the content of his message. Doxologies are common in Jewish writings. Each book of the Psalter concludes with a doxology (Ps. 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:47-48; 150:1-6[1]). In fact, a careful examination of those concluding doxologies will show similar language to Jude’s closing praise.


Understanding these verses as a doxology rather than a prayer is important to their understanding. Jude has made his request known in v. 2. Here he presents his praise to God. These words are better understood as statements of praise with his readers in view rather than requests or desires presented to God. In this praise Jude has not forgotten his audience. The accusative ὑμᾶς (you/y’all) makes clear that the audience is the object of Jude’s thought. Again, while this is a doxology praising God, it is not a prayer because it is not addressed to God. This doxology is therefore framed in the realm of instruction.


There is much to be learned from our praise because every statement we make about God assumes that we believe it. If we believe what we say about God, then our lives should reflect those truths. In other words, praising God is not only right and appropriate, but it is also very practical. With this in mind, we can see Jude providing a last ray of hope to his readers as he praises two key aspects of God’s nature. First, he praises God’s ability as God to both protect and preserve (v. 24). Then, he praises God’s character according to His person, promise, privilege, and permanence (v. 25).


Praising the Assurance of God’s Ability (v. 24)


The closest thing to a verb in these final verses is the substantival participle τῷ δυναμένῳ (he who is able). The dative case directs all of our attention to this One who is able. Jude’s first focus of praise is on the ability and/or power of God. God’s ability to love and keep His own (v. 1), save and destroy a people (v. 5), angels (v. 6), and cities (v. 7) has been a common and repeated theme throughout this letter. Jude does not speak of God’s ability in general terms but focuses on two aspects of God’s divine ability. Two complementary infinitives address God’s unique ability to both protect and preserve His people.


Ability to Protect


Now to Him who is able to protect you from harm


The translation offered here differs dramatically from most English versions. Nearly all modern translations say something to the effect of “to keep you from stumbling” (NASB, NKJV, ESV, NIV). This leaves the reader with the impression that Jude advances his theology of “keeping” one more step. Yet Jude does not use the root from τηρέω (to keep, watch over, guard, hold, preserve – vv. 1, 6, 13, 21). Instead, he uses the infinitive from φυλάσσω (watch, guard, keep, protect, look out for). Because there is an obvious overlap in meaning, many commentators take little to no notice of this change of terms used. Yet anyone who takes authorial intention seriously should ask the question: why does Jude purposefully use a different term in his conclusion?


The overlap in meaning is well documented in the LXX as φυλάσσω is used to translate both the Hebrew terms נצר (to keep watch, guard, protect, observe, obey, comply with – Deut. 32:10; 2 Kings 17:9; 18:8; Ps. 11:8; Prov. 2:8) and שׁמר (to keep, watch, guard, take care of, protect, save, restrain – Gen. 2:15; 3:24; Ex. 12:17, 24, 25; Deut. 33:9; Ps. 105:45; Prov. 5:2). The same can be said for τηρέω as a Greek equivalent for נצר (Ex. 34:7, Deut. 33:9; Prov. 2:11) and שׁמר (Gen. 17:9, 10; 37:11). Clearly these terms have an overlap in meaning. Yet the context of these terms may shed some light on the reason Jude uses φυλάσσω here instead of τηρέω as before. In 2 Kings 17:9 and 18:8 the LXX uses φυλάσσω to describe fortified structures to protect their cities. Likewise, in the Psalms (11:8; 15:1; 16:8; 24:20; 33:21; 36:28; 85:2; 114:6; 120:8; 139:5; 140:9; 144:20; 145:9[2]) φυλάσσω is used to describe protection or guarding from danger or disaster.[3] Rather than keeping station (vv. 6, 21) or maintaining a status (vv. 1, 13), Jude seems to be describing God’s ability to protect from danger. This notion is confirmed when we study the term translated as “from stumbling.”


The adjective ἄπταιστος is used only here in the 66 books of inspired Scripture. Yet we can still gain insight as to the term’s meaning by removing the negative ἀ augment. The term before us literally means no (ἀ) stumble (πταίω). What is the idea of “stumbling”? This verbal root (πταίω) only occurs 12x in the LXX of the Old Testament. One reference speaks of a moral failing (Deut. 7:25) while the rest describe defeat in battle or physical destruction (1 Sam. 4:2, 3, 10; 7:10; 2 Sam. 2:17; 10:15, 19; 18:7; 1 Kings 8:33; 2 Kings 14:12; 1 Chr. 19:19). While not a common term in the Scriptures, the most common meaning of πταίω conveys the idea of defeat more so than moral stumbling.


Jude’s meaning here is to extol God’s ability to protect His people from harm. He originally desired to write to these Judaean Christians regarding their common deliverances (v. 3), exhorted the readers to deliver the indifferent from certain destruction (v. 23a), and now offers praise to God who is able to protect and guard His people from harm. In other words, there should be no reason to fear either the Zealots or the Romans on the grounds of physical harassment. Jude’s praise for this unique ability of God assumes that his readers believe it to be true. Praise God who is able to protect you from harm! If God is worthy of such praise, then perhaps the readers should live as if this were true.


Ability to Preserve


And to place you before His glory blameless with great joy


The second complementary infinitive στῆσαι (to set, place, put forward, present) introduces a second ability of God for which He is to be praised. God is able to place the readers before His glory. This is clearly a reference to the very presence of Almighty God whereby only He is able to place man so that they stand in His presence rather than burst into flames and become consumed (Ex. 33:20; Lev. 10:1-2). God is able to present them to Himself for they will be spotless, blameless (ἄμωμος). The negative ἀ augment is again used to distinguish what is without blame or blemish. Μῶμος describes either moral blame or physical stain/blemish. What is the sense of blame that Jude refers to here?


Once again, we need to keep ourselves from drawing a false distinction between the temporal and eternal. What we do and how we live now echoes in eternity. The blame/blemish that Jude has in mind refers to the stain of rebellion that marks the Zealots and their followers. In calling his readers to follow Israel’s rightful king, Jesus who is the Christ, he exhorts them to forsake the path of rebellion. Their refusal to rebel will leave them without this stain. Yet this temporal circumstance is not without eternal implications. Their refusal to join in rebellion is predicated on the fact that they confess Jesus as Lord and Master (v. 4; Rom. 10:9-10) and trust Him to restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6) with times of refreshing to follow (Acts 3:19). Such a scene will obviously be accompanied by great joy.


Praising the Assurance of God’s Character (v. 25)


Jude’s doxology continues without pause. It is necessary to understand that both verses constitute a single sentence. While Jude’s praise for God continues, he shifts from focusing on God’s ability (what He is able to do) to God’s character (who He is). As a son of Abraham writing to other sons of Abraham, Jude begins his praise of God’s character where any Jew would expect.


God’s Person


To the only God our Savior


The adjective μόνος depicts the object as standing alone within its class. Jude exalts the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the only God. There are no other gods but this God. Jude reaches back to the great shema: “Hear O Israel! Yhwh is our God, Yhwh is one!” (Deut. 6:4). Some English translations add “wise” here (σοφω), but this seems to be a mistake introduced much later as an effort to make Jude’s doxology reflect Paul’s (Rom. 16:27). This emphasis on God’s singularity is foundational to Hebrew theology. To God’s singular unity Jude adds that He is “our savior” (σωτῆρι ἡμῶν). The idea of God the Father as savior is not at all uncommon in the Scriptures (Deut. 32:15; 1 Sam. 10:19; Ps. 24:4, 5; 27:1, 9; 62:2, 6; 65:6; 79:9; 95:1) and would be quite familiar to Jude’s audience. To this even the Zealots must agree. But Jude is not finished with his statement. But what does Jude mean by our savior?


The fact that Jude speaks within the context of Christians cannot be neglected, but he addresses Judaean Christians. That is to say, he writes to Israelites who have submitted to Yhwh’s Messiah. We must continually remind ourselves not to draw an immovable line between the temporal and eternal. The salvation of Israel is not only an eternal reality (redemption from wrath) but will happen in time and space and therefore also be a temporal salvation. Beware the forced choice. Jude’s point is that no human force or will is able to save us. No feat of arms or political institute will carry the day. The nation of Israel rests in God as her savior. This statement begins a shot across the bows of the Independent Israel Ship Zealot that soon turns into a full broadside.


God’s Promise


Through Jesus Christ our Lord


The preposition διὰ recognizes Jesus who is the Christ (appositional genitive) as the agent of God’s salvation. The God who will accomplish the salvation of His chosen people will do so through His Christ who is the Lord and Master of Jude and his readers. This single statement should close forever the debate regarding the Zealot cause. They seek to make a nation for themselves and save Israel from the oppression of the Romans. In so doing they proclaim with their actions that God is not the God of salvation and He most certainly will never use His Christ to save. They take on themselves the role of both God and savior by rejecting their only Master and Lord (v. 4). Matthew (Matt. 21:5) had already announced the identity of Israel’s coming salvation (Is. 62:11) as He entered the capital in humility (Zech. 9:9). God’s promise salvation to Israel would come through His Messiah who is Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, no man can come to the Father but through Him (Jn. 14:6) and no other name under heaven can save men (Acts 4:12). No one can join this praise of God as savior through Jesus Christ while at the same time advocating rhetoric that assumes Jesus is not the Christ. To state the same point differently: One cannot praise God while advocating or participating in rebellion against Him.


God’s Privilege


Is glory, majesty, might, and authority


As already stated, there is no governing verb throughout these two verses, yet some verbal idea is necessary to translate Jude’s intention into intelligible English. Most English Bibles infer the optative verb of being (to the only God…be glory, majesty, etc.) in order to bring out the sense of a prayer or desire. Yet it is difficult to imagine how Jude would pray or desire something in the context of eternity past or “from every age.[4] If a verbal idea is to be inserted, then an indicative (is) statement is preferable than an optative (be) wish. This doxology is a statement of who God is, not an expressed desire of who Jude wishes God to be.


Four attributes are here listed by Jude, which may seem odd given his love of triplets. Some have suggested that the first two (glory and majesty) refer to God’s person while the second pair (might and authority) reflect His rule.[5] Others attempt to maintain the triplet construction by asserting that the first attribute (glory) is the sum total of the rest, leaving the other three to define “glory.[6] Given the broad definition of “glory” (δόξα) and the overlap in meaning contained within the following three terms, this latter explanation seems to fit best.


Glory (δόξα) can (1) refer to the bright shining radiance that emanates from the presence of God (Matt. 24:30; 25:31; Lk. 2:9), or (2) comment on His status as One who is honorable, famous, wealthy, or well known (Matt. 19:28; Lk. 2:14). As a praise reflecting the nature of God, the emphasis here is upon His status as a most honorable, famous, and prestigious God. That fame is defined, or at least emphasized by, the following three terms.

Majesty (μεγαλωσύνη) describes a state of greatness usually within the context of a ruler or king. The noun is only used three times in the New Testament and twice is used as an epithet for God the Father (Heb. 1:3; 8:1). There is a reason one refers to royalty as “your majesty”.


Might (κράτος) refers to either (1) the ability to wield power or strength or (2) the entity that holds such power. This doxology states the fact that God is One who holds power and might. His deeds are mighty deeds (Lk. 1:51). His Word is a mighty Word (Acts 19:20). It is proper to ascribe to the Father all might.


Authority (ἐξουσία) describes either (1) the state of control that one has over another or (2) is used as reference for the entity that has such control. The picture of authority is a picture of one who has the right to control more than the ability. Such ability is expressed with the previous term (might). Here the issue is of God’s right to rule. The authority belongs to Him and Him alone.


The common theme that threads these three terms together focuses on God as a ruler. His royal splendor, strength, and sovereign right to rule are what make up His glory. In other words, it is God’s privilege to rule His creation and Jude praises Him for that privilege. It is right and correct for God to rule what is rightfully His. As God rules as only God can rule, it is a glorious and wondrous sight to behold. The question then becomes whether his readers affirm this praise with their lips only or whether they actually believe this praise to ring true. If God is worthy of glory and honor on account of His royal majesty, strength, and sovereign authority, then glory is given to Him through humble submission and obedience. To rebel is to rob God of the glory due His name.


God’s Permanence


From every age and now and into all ages. Amen.


Jude’s conclusion again reflects his love of triplets as he views God’s glory from the past, present, and into the future. While it is true that God is the Lord and Master of time, the point here is more about God’s immutable character.[7] God has always been able to protect and preserve. God has always been the only God who has always planned to save through His Messiah Jesus and has always been worthy of glory and honor. God has always been these things. God is currently all these things. And God will forever be these things. From every past age (πρὸ παντὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος), now (νῦν), and into all future ages (εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας) God is worthy of praise. “Ἀμήν” has no Greek definition (amen) for it is only a transliteration of the Hebrew אָמֵן meaning surely, certainly, faithfully. One who states “amen” after a statement is not announcing that he has finished speaking. Rather, he attaches a note of expectancy to his statement. Let it be so! The God who is, was, and will be is worthy of our praise and thus worthy of our submission. This is a cue for Jude’s readers to echo this expectant note. Let it be so!


Conclusion


Here is proof that Scripture contains no “throw away” verses. This doxology continues to hammer home Jude’s point all the way through. Even as Jude praises God, he provides instruction to his readers. The implication is that he expects his readers to live in accordance with what they profess. Statements about God’s nature assume a response from His people. If God is all that we say that He is, then why don’t we live like it? If God is able to protect and preserve His people, why do we worry about our physical safety to the point where we refuse to submit to the command to gather over fear of catching the common cold? If God is the only God who saves, why do we seek saviors among men? If God’s salvation comes only through Jesus our Lord, why do we fight Him instead of bowing before Him in humble submission? If God’s glory is defined by His position, ability, and right to rule, why do we not obey Him? If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why do we wait for tomorrow to submit? While it is true that the church is united in sound doctrine, the church is also identified when the doctrine is put into practice. Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is useless. Orthopraxy without orthodoxy is impossible. It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to know what they believe about Jesus who is God’s Christ and start conforming their lives to His image. It is right and good to offer praise to God. But that praise is hollow and meaningless if it is not accompanied by practice. What we do reveals what we believe. May we repent of our folly and believe that Jesus is the Christ.


Soli Deo Gloria!


[1] Psalm 150 serves not only as a closing doxology to book five of Psalms (107-150), but as a closing doxology to the entire psalter. [2] These references reflect the LXX order rather than the Hebrew or English arrangement. [3] Herbert Bateman, Jude, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), p. 427-9. [4] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003) p. 492. [5] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 298. [6] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 650. [7] Bateman, p. 438.

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