A few years ago I began a subscription to a news magazine. It is a trusted source for in depth articles and commentary on current news and politics. I am a digital subscriber to the magazine, which means I get direct access as soon as the magazine is published without having to wait for shipping; plus I have access to their online content, so I can stay up to date on the daily news that breaks between publications.
When ever I get correspondence from the magazine, I am addressed as a “valued subscriber.” They are indicating the nature of our relationship. They value my contribution (money) which supports their publication. But as soon as I stop paying, that relationship is finished. They may continue to send me appeals to renew my subscription, but unless I act, I lose all the benefits that once came with my subscription. They relationship is dependent entirely upon my contribution.
I draw out what we all know to show the power of how Jude addresses the audience of his letter. In my last post, I examined how Jude introduced himself at the beginning of his letter. How he identifies the audience says so much more. He is writing to those who have been called, those who are beloved in God the Father, those kept for Jesus Christ.
Jude is addressing a particular congregation, but we don’t know which congregation, or where they were. We can assume that there were some Jewish believers in the church because of Jude’s heavy use of Old Testament illustrations, but that’s really all we know.
To address his letter to the called, beloved, and kept, then, opens this letter to every believer, even to believers reading today. These three descriptors, called, beloved, and kept, make up the essence of our identity as believers.
We are called. The word literally means to be invited, but we know from reading God’s Word that is carries much more significance. Jesus said, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14). To be called is to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the invitation to believe in Him, to trust in His righteousness, His perfect atoning sacrifice, His redeeming grace. Many will hear this call, but not everyone will respond, not all will believe.
But those who do believe, those who do answer the call, do so because of the inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit, who unplugs our ears that we may hear; who opens our eyes that we may see; who moves our hearts to repentance and love; and who gives life to our souls long slain by sin that we may respond to that call.
This is what it means to be called. Ephesians 1 tells us that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We have been called out of the kingdom of darkness and called into the kingdom of light. We have been called out of sin and death and into righteousness and life in Christ. This is the working of the Holy Spirit who calls us to new life. We are the called.
We are also the Beloved in God the Father. Again, this is amazing. We know, from the testimony of scripture and the witness of our own hearts that we, apart from God’s grace for us in Jesus Christ, were enemies of God and deserving of His wrath and judgment. We were, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “dead in our trespasses and sins… by nature children of wrath.” There was nothing in us that was lovable. “But,” as Paul goes on to say, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5).
This too is our identity. Not only have we been called (invited and chosen), we have also been loved by God. This love of God is a mercy, for we could not earn it, deserve it, or expect it. This love is eternal, as Eph 1 goes on to day, “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will…” God did not have to be convinced to love us, Jesus didn’t die to pacify an angry God. Instead, God proved His for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Being beloved by God is closely connected to the foreknowledge of God that we read about in Romans 8:29, “For those he foreknew, he predestined…” This foreknowledge is not just having an abstract general awareness of something before it happened. It suggests an intimate, personal knowledge, a loving relationship. This is the love of God for His people. We are the beloved of God the Father.
Finally, we are those who are kept for Jesus Christ. Think of an inheritance, a savings bond that is growing to maturity, a bride that is kept in purity until the wedding day. This is who we are. We are kept, held fast, preserved, secured as the treasure of Christ. This is our great comfort, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, that I, “with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.”
This is who we are: The Called, The Beloved, and The Kept.
Notice how little your own activity is mentioned here. In fact, notice how Jude’s address is inherently Trinitarian (while he may not come right out and say it). We are called, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are beloved by the Father. We are kept for Jesus the Son. Our salvation, our identity in Christ, is rooted in the Father’s love, in Christ’s redeeming work, and in the Spirit’s uniting us to Christ and applying His redemption to us.
This is the one work of God for us, and because it is God’s work, it is sure and secure. This is who we are; who God’s Word calls us to be. It’s even all the past tense to show that what God has determined is certain.
If you are in Christ, you are called, beloved, and kept. Don’t look elsewhere for your identity, don’t seek any other source of confidence or value. You are called. You are beloved. You are kept.
Rejoice in your salvation!