Was Jude a Calvinist? (Pt.2)

Derek Ouellette —  August 26, 2010

I used a picture of Beza rather than Calvin intentionally.

Many commentators I read on Jude either interpret him deterministically or avoid the subject. In fact, when I first read it I too read it deterministically. (Oh how conditioned we are; the WIT translation is in full operation.) But upon closer examination I found synergism to have full expression throughout Jude. So let’s take a second glance:

To those who are called [Jude 1:1]

Interpretation: “Called” and other related terms find their fullest theological expression in Ephesians 1 and must always be understood corporately (“in Christ”), i.e. as to “the Church”, whoever has joined the body of Christ by faith [Ephesians 1:13].

who are… kept by [“for” or “in”] Jesus Christ [Jude 1:1]

Interpretation: Jude confirms the interpretation of corporate calling by making reference to those who are kept “in Christ”. Still, the Greek word for “kept” [τετηρημένοις] means, “to keep watch” or “guard” and in its structure it is a “passive verb”. In other words, those who remain (passive) in his arms will be guarded. Nothing can remove you from the love of God. Apostasy must be deliberate (proactive), you cannot slip out of God’s hands, you must leave willingly (even forcefully).

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago [Jude 1:4]

Interpretation: It was written about and foreshadowed in the stories of the Exodus, of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam and Korah. That is, as Paul writes, those stories were given “as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” [1 Corinthians 10:6 or as the author of Hebrews similarly warns in Hebrews 3:16 ff.]. These stories do not tell about anyone in particular, but only that this is the pattern of apostasy which has been common among the people of God from the beginning, and that Jude is declaring was occurring among the church he was writing to.

[They] deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord [Jude 1:4]

Interpretation: A reference to those who have watered down the grace of God and turned it into an opportunity to sin. They deny the Sovereignty and Lordship of Jesus Christ because – obviously – Christ is not reigning as Sovereign Lord in their lives. By their lives they are denying that he is their King.

Keep yourselves in God’s love [Jude 1:21]

Interpretation: This verse was silently passed over in Part 1 and is equally silently passed over in most commentaries because it sounds too much like something Arminius would say. John Wesley says, “Jude 1:21 exactly answers the introduction [Jude 1:1].” This synergistic parallel is very reminiscent of Philippians 2:12-13 and is in line with our interpretation of “kept” above.

[Praise] Him who is able to keep you from falling [Jude 1:24]

Interpretation: God’s ability, God’s Sovereignty is never the issue. He can do whatever he wants and is certainly able to keep you from falling. But he will not force you to remain in him (cf. John 15:10 w/ John 14:23), which in fact is the point of Jude’s whole Epistle. If a deterministic approach to Jude’s Epistle is accepted uncritically then Jude might as well have kept his pen in his desk and saved the paper.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Brian MacArevey

    Good post. I agree that it is important to note that God does not preserve His people in some abstract way that has nothing to do with our own participation in the good works which He has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    I was wondering if you would agree with something else that I have noticed…

    It seems to me that Jude has framed this epistle with such strong words of promise for a particular reason. The issue here is unbelief. Why does apostasy occur? Because people stop believing that God really loves them, and that His ways are the way of mercy, love, joy, and peace.

    So, while it is true that the letter has much to say about apostasy and the danger of it, the purpose of the letter is ultimately to provoke people to trust in the Lord who loves them unconditionally.

    For this reason, I always feel like the Arminian argument that you can lose your salvation is unhelpful, because, though it is true that we can apostasize, the reason that people do is because they believe that they could lose their salvation, and ultimately salvation seems to be dependant on one’s works.

    Maybe it is just the way that the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is framed? It is by nature unhelpful?

    Do you have any thoughts?

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette


    That is an interesting hypothesis! But it would seem ironic to me if Jude’s main point is to say belief in apostasy leads to apostasy, especially since the little letter is riddled with examples of apostasy.

    I’ve never heard of anyone apostatizing as a result of believing in apostasy; it’s always rebellion (which, itself is unbelief) because of deeper issues of the heart, sin, et cetera. However, history is filled with examples (I believe) of individuals who have turned God’s grace into an opportunity to sin, and have no concern because they believe in “once saved always saved”. Which is a greater danger do you suppose, believing you are not a Christian or believing you are when you are not?

    The ideal Arminian approach does not seek to emphasis the possibility of apostasy, but only too acknowledge it and warn of it (when necessary) because the scriptures do. But because it is fashionable these days among the Reformed (even many reformed Arminians) to reject apostasy as a possibility, Arminians tend to compensate for this by emphasising it. :( It’s a sad necessity.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    P.S. I admire the attempt to reframe the Calvinst/Arminian debate, and I am wildly willing to work this through some more.

  • Brian MacArevey

    Great Derek!

    By the way, I am enjoying your blog immensly.

    I am struggling to put into words just exactly what I want to say here…so I will try again. Jude seems to be framing this epistle with great promise so that his readers will continue to trust in the love and soveriegnty of God wholeheartedly, and not fall victim to unbelief (or apostasy), which is, in essense, the absense of trust in the love and soveriegnty of God.

    I am proposing that people apostasize because they do not really believe that God does love them and that He has revealed His ways to them for their own good, and people apostasize because they do not trust that God is willing and able to protect and preserve them as they continue to walk in His ways, trusting Him for their deliverance.

    I think the C/A debate skews the whole agenda of Jude in a major way.

    The “once saved always saved” position seems to neglect the entire body of the letter which stresses the need for perseverance, and the possibility of apostasy.

    But, on the other hand, to emphasize “losing your salvation”, to me at least, seems to run contrary to the motive of Jude in the penning of the letter, which is to warn people that they need to continue to trust that God loves them and will never cast them off.

    I think that this epistle makes a lot more sense if we dispose of that old law/gospel distinction, and see that even the law was given as a means of grace. If we would see good works as the product of God’s grace instead of as antithetical to it, and if we would abandon the old perspective on Paul, so that we will stop thinking that the bible is concerned about telling people that they cannot “earn their salvation” then we would go a long way.

    I would appreciate more thoughts from you…


  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Well I don’t know if you put your words exactly as you wanted them, but I think you did just fine. It sounds to me that you are saying that the old C/A debate is framed the way it is because it is stuck in the old perspective of Paul (i.e. law/gospel antithesis). That the law was given as a means of grace is exactly right, and that Jude’s primary motive for prevention of apostasy is to encourage his readers to remember the Sovereign Love of God.

    I don’t know if I could add to what you already said without going down a very long rabbit trail. Your final paragraph was beautifully worded and (I think) works well with many passages such as Galatians 2 and Romans 2-3 where those text focus on Justification being the product of “Christ’s work” on the cross, (for example, that it does not read, as traditionally translated, “justified by faith in Christ” – pitting faith against law, but “justified by the faithfulness [i.e. works = cross Philippians 2:5-11) of the Messiah”. And Romans which states that we will be justified in the end by what we do (Romans 2:13). (I realize I’ve kinda fumbled between “justification” and “soteriology”).

    In the end I couldn’t agree with you more, but I need to think more about how this subject relates to (or can reframe) the old Calvinist/Arminian debate. You’ve given me something to contemplate. Thanks.