The letter of Jude was written by the half-brother of Jesus. Although an unbeliever during the days of Jesus on earth, he put his faith in the Lord after His resurrection. This was similar for his brother James as well, who later became presiding elder of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15).
Jude has been described as ‘the most neglected book in the New Testament’. Although a short and seemingly strange letter, it contains some very serious and significant matter. It is addressed to those who have been called out of the world, who are now loved ones in the family of God, their Father, and who are being kept for presentation to King Jesus (vs 1).
The Desire (vs 3)
Jude originally wanted to write about the salvation believers enjoy in Jesus. But he was compelled to change the subject and address another more pressing issue. This had to do with ‘urging believers to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’.
When Jude talks of ‘contending for the faith’, he is referring to the urgent and dire need for defending and guarding the body of truth that has been handed down by the apostles. The message of the Gospel is indeed a precious inheritance that has been entrusted to us. It needs to be carefully protected and faithfully passed on from one generation to the next.
The Distortion (vs 4)
There were certain heretical teachers who had subtly and secretly slipped in amongst the believers and were leading people astray. They were twisting the grace of God into an excuse for blatant immorality and were denying that Jesus is the only true Master and Lord.
Grace was being misunderstood as a license for sinning. They taught that one’s lifestyle did not matter and irrespective of how a believer lived, he was certain to inherit the kingdom of God. Their attitude was that since God loves to forgive, people could live any way they want and then just run to Him finally for mercy and forgiveness. It was clearly a case of deliberately mocking God and a complete perversion of the message of grace.
They did not understand that God’s grace is both about His ‘unmerited favour’ and about His ‘enabling power’. God sent Jesus to bless us by turning each one of us from our wicked ways (Acts 3:26). Jesus gave Himself up for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. A life of grace is one where we, through the Holy Spirit, are enabled to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of this great God and Saviour (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Titus 2:12-14).
The absolute sovereignty and lordship of Jesus Christ were also being rejected in Jude’s time. Jesus was no longer proclaimed as ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ but as ‘a way, a truth and a life’. He was no longer acknowledged as the Pre-Eminent and Supreme One.
The Danger (vs 5-7)
Considering the gravity of the situation, Jude reminds the believers about the fact that reverence for God needs to be upheld and maintained. He highlights three groups of people or three events that have taken place in history to show forth the importance of living continually in the fear of the Lord and the consequences of presuming on God.
He recalls the story of the Israelites who were together freed from Egypt but didn’t all finally make it into the Promised Land due to their unbelief (Deuteronomy 1:19-40). He talks about the angels who stepped outside their positions of authority and indulged in sex with human beings, as a result of which they were now kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Final Day (Genesis 6:1-4). And he then reminds the readers of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities which were punished for totally disregarding the laws of God by indulging in sexual immorality, perversion, and gluttony, and through being arrogant and totally unconcerned about the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
The Departure (vs 8-13, 16)
These false teachers were following a path of ruin and destruction. They were using their bodies for every sinful pleasure. They had total disregard for authority and were ready to slander even celestial beings. Furthermore, they had taken the way of Cain who was filled with envy and murdered his brother. They were only interested in monetary gain like Balaam and lusted after positions of leadership like Korah.
Their condition was totally deplorable and terrible. They would gather to eat with the believers at their fellowship meals of love, but in reality were only looking for some way to push their own agenda through. Like submerged rocks, they could wreck everything. They were like clouds driven past so hard by the wind that they could give no rain. They were like uprooted trees in autumn, with neither leaves nor fruit, doubly dead. They were like wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; like shooting stars falling out of orbit, destined to disappear down a black hole forever.
These people were discontented grumblers, always complaining and finding fault. They followed their own evil desires, talked big about themselves all the time, and smartly flattered others when it was to their advantage.
The Disaster (vs 14-15)
The ministry of Enoch is now recalled by Jude. He was the very first prophet in the Bible- the first man to get a message from the Lord for other people. It was a warning that God was going to come in judgment and deal with that whole generation.
Enoch was 65 years old when he had a son, and he asked God what he should call him. God gave him an extraordinary name for the son- Methuselah, which means “When he dies it will happen!” God was referring to the coming judgment (the flood). And we can see how patient He is when we understand that Methuselah lived the longest in the Old Testament- 969 years!
Methuselah died and it began to rain. By that time, Methuselah’s grandson Noah had built an ark and that family was saved from the flood. Jude applies Enoch’s prophecy to this generation of false teachers as well. He describes how one day God will once again pour out His wrath upon them.
The Duty (vs 17-23)
Given such pressure and problems, Jude now shares what his readers must do to avoid getting deceived and ensnared. There are three responsibilities he gives them. He tells them to ‘remember’, ‘renew’ and ‘restore’.
He tells them not to be surprised at the presence of these ungodly men. He reminds them of the warnings given by the apostles about how false teachers would arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
He exhorts believers to renew themselves, through immersing themselves in apostolic teaching and praying in the Holy Spirit (which refers to Spirit-directed prayers made with the human mind and the human spirit). They are to abide in God’s love, remaining watchful and hopeful.
He also tells them of their responsibility to reach out to any believer who may be in doubt (those who are wavering as a result of these false teachings), in danger of the fire (those who have started to believe these new ideas) or already defiled (those who are immersed in ungodly patterns of behaviour). They are to show mercy and urgency in this ministry of restoration.
The Doxology (vs 24)
Jude closes with a note of praise. He encourages the believers to stand firm in the knowledge that God is with them to support and strengthen them in the midst of all the evil teaching and resultant dangers. Even as they take heed to keep themselves in God’s love, he is confident that God will keep them from falling and ensure that they are finally presented before Him without fault and with great joy!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you!