Jude was a brother of Jesus (Son of Mary and Joseph), as was James. He was probably not a believer during the earthly ministry of Jesus but became a believer after the resurrection and then became active in the work of the Church in Jerusalem. Not much else is known about him for certain. To be doctrinally clear, we should affirm that scripture records that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit not of Joseph. Though Joseph served as Jesus earthly parent, his decent was of the Holy Spirit. James and John then would be half brothers or maybe even step brothers. None-the-less the other apostles referred to them as the brothers of the Lord.
The primary issue addressed is the danger and error of false teaching. We do well to hear this warning today for we are surrounded by false teachers. Everywhere, a new age, social gospel seems to abound even in “churches.” There are cults that exalt earthly leaders whose self-serving motives ultimately lead away from Christ, not toward Him. In addition to this, there is the direct and overt influence of the occult, and those who write lyrics and make movies exalting evil, Satan, darkness, and death. These are not just harmless artistic endeavors; rather they are open doors to the influence of Satan, and to possession by demons.
Jude’s letter stands as a warning to believers and to those false teachers who would dare to lead away the beloved of God. Surely the punishment which the Lord will pour out upon those who have ignored His Word will be horrible and just.
It is likely that this epistle was written about 66-69 A.D.
The letter can be divided roughly into two parts:
- Warnings against false teachers and godlessness
- Call to perseverance in the faith
The epistle is introduced with a traditional greeting. From Jude who identifies himself “as servant of Jesus Christ” and “a brother of James.” We note that neither of these men call themselves brothers of the Lord, although there are others who referred to them in that way (Galatians 1:19). It seems certain that they regarded their highest calling to be that of servants, and desired to be known first for their service to the Lord, not by the happenstance of their connection by birth.
Called Loved and Kept
The letter is written to believers and ultimately to all people. Three phrases emphasize the relationship of God to His beloved.
- Those who have been called
- Who are loved by God
- And kept by Jesus Christ
Each of these three words has it’s own special meaning:
- Being called connotes God’s directed will in bringing us into life, to salvation, and to servant hood. He intended it, and He brought it about, not we ourselves. We have responded to His love because he has given us strength and grace to do so.
- Being LOVED by God the Father is the universal blessing of every living thing. In this statement Jude includes all people in those to whom this letter is addressed.
- Being KEPT by Christ reminds us that (if we are in Christ) we are secure for the future as well as for the present. Jesus is able to sustain us in spiritual wholeness and to reconcile us to God in spite of our imperfections and waywardness. This is great and blessed assurance.
Mercy, Peace and Love
Next Jude conveys to us his own hope for us. “MERCY, PEACE, and LOVE be yours…”
Let us offer a brief thought about each of these words:
- Mercy- is that willingness of God to extend the Grace and benefit of His love to us in spite of our wayward behavior. It is His willingness to forgive us and forget our transgressions, treating us as if we had not offended. .
- Peace – what is wished here is personal spiritual peace, not peace between nations or freedom from problems. This is a hope for freedom from anxiety, worry and inner turmoil. Such peace comes when we truly trust our life in the hands of a God who loves us perfectly, and provides for us out of the limitless resources of His kingdom. .
- Love – Love at its perfection must be not only experienced, but also expressed. To wish one love is surely to wish not only that they feel loved, but also that they feel love for others, which comes from within.
Moving from the greeting, Jude immediately puts forward his primary concern, which he then expresses with several examples which we will take up one by one. Hopefully we will bring clarity to this passage which, at first reading seems to be a bit elusive.
Jude’s central concern, distortion of the Gospel message, is laid out in verses 3 and 4. It had been Jude’s desire to simply share the Good news with them, but now he finds it necessary to teach them to “contend for the faith which was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
This is not a message that changed with the years. It was not given for that generation, with another message to come in later years. This message came “once…for all” — for all times and for all people. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was made once to be sufficient for all people of every age. That truth shall remain unchanged unto eternity.
The Apostolic Message: Verse 3
We are to beware of those who would try to modify or water down the message which was received by the apostles and handed down to us in their writings. Jude calls us to “contend for the faith.” We are not to be passive in our resistance to such error. We are called to actively defend the orthodox (apostolic) message of Christianity, and we are to actively defend ourselves and others from any doctrine which is contrary to, or which adds to the message of the scriptures which were given once, for all time, to the apostles.
This is not to say that all the enlightenment that shall come from the scriptures has already been received. I believe that each generation is brought to deeper understandings of the immutable truths found in the living Word of God. The Holy Spirit is ever directing and developing the collective consciousness of humankind to understand the deep things of the spirit. But we must be aware that the spiritual world is tarnished by the presence and influence of the great deceiver. Satan is ever-present. Peter says that “the devil is like a roaring lion, walking around seeking someone to devour.”
He says that we must be aware that there are “certain people whose condemnation is sure who slip in among believers” to distort the truth and deny the sovereignty of Christ. Jude states, “These were foretold by the prophets.” Two examples of such prophetic statements:
- Jeremiah 5:26 – “Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men.”
- Isaiah 66:23-24 – “From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
These infiltrators are described by Jude as “godless men, who change the grace of our God into license for immorality but deny the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.” These would take the freedom from the law, (which is appealing) and separate it from the responsibility to be accountable to a new law written in our hearts and on our lips and in our minds. Because they have denied Christ as Lord, they have not been cleansed by His sacrifice and thus haven’t been possessed by the Holy Spirit of God. Without the indwelling Spirit of Christ they are outside the law with no compass. They are not Christians and therefore they are merely outlaws. They have claimed freedom from the law of the old covenant without entering into the new covenant. They have gone astray in a most dangerous way, for they have no means of connection to God.
By claiming the Gospel of freedom from the law, they have a foothold in our camp, but let us not be deceived. They may speak of Christ as an exalted leader or a wonderful teacher. Yet without the saving transaction of His substitutionary death and resurrection, we are not free at all. This is the central requirement of our faith as we see in Romans 10:9 and I Corinthians 15:3-4. Without a belief in the crucified, resurrected and living Christ our freedom falls and our reconciliation with God is only a myth.
To illustrate his concern Jude offers several examples. The first three are examples of how God deals with those who fail to follow His direction.
The wandering and death of the unbelieving generation in the desert wilderness after the exodus from Egypt
The reference here is to the story which is told in Numbers 13 and 14. Those who had been delivered from bondage in Egypt, given the Law on Sinai, and given victory in battle, suddenly became overwhelmed with fear when told there were “Giants” in the Promised Land. They refused to go forward in battle the next day; for fear that their children would be killed! For this lapse of faith and direct disobedience, God’s verdict was that they could just stay there and die in the wilderness, and when they had all lived to the end of their lives then He would lead their children into the Promised Land. So it was that they remained in the wilderness for 40 years until the entire generation who had left Egypt as adults had died off, and only the two who had not lost faith in the Lord remained. (Joshua and Caleb).
The banishment of the angels who rebelled and were expelled from their position in heaven
Jude 6 is one of the clearest references in scripture to events which are not extensively disclosed in any passage. This passage along with 2 Peter 2:4 (”For God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;”) gives us only a glimpse of a rebellion which took place among the angels.
From these two passages it seems that angels chose not to be satisfied with their own position as ministering servants, and therefore challenged the authority of God and were cast out of their positions in heaven to dwell in the earth which is a place of relatively confined doom and darkness when compared to their former estate of heavenly enlightenment and freedom.
The destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This story recorded in Genesis 18-19 is about rebellious people who offended God by their unrighteousness, their abusiveness, and ultimately by their hostility toward the angels who were sent into the city. Jude here mentions sexual immorality. The King James Translation makes reference to going “after strange flesh.” The sin was the Sodomites effort to rape and abuse the guests at Lot’s house. This was compounded by the fact that it was an offense against angels. Just as Genesis 6:2 makes reference to the “Sons of God” pursuing the “Daughters of men,” so this reference which the NIV terms “perversion” seems to be related to the lust and abuse which the Sodomites intended to commit against the angel visitors.
Slandering holy things
The above three examples are offered to emphasize the rebellious nature of those who would pervert the gospel message. Disobedience, disrespect for the authority of God, and abuse of things which are holy, were among the sins of these unrighteous foes of the faith. Jude interjects that not even Michael the Archangel would have slandered Satan, but would have left such judgment to God. Yet these people who have infiltrated the church will speak slander against “anything the do not understand.”
The example of Michael is once again a bit vague. We do not know any details of the interaction between Michael the Archangel and Satan. In addition to that, we do not know the source of Jude’s insight. An early church historian, Origen, says that Jude’s reference is to a passage in an apocryphal book, “The Assumption of Moses,” which was written about the time of the birth of Christ, but the manuscripts of such a book are no longer in existence. Luke 24:45 tells us that when Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection he “opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures.” We must assume that some of these glimpses of truth which are shared by the first century believers have, as their source, the direct revelation and teaching of Jesus.
Never-the-Less, the point here is that those who infiltrate the church and proclaim a doctrine which is different than the one revealed by God to the apostles are way out on a limb! Three more examples of their stupidity follow in quick succession at verse 11.
They have taken the way of Cain
The story of Cain is in Genesis 4:1-16. He offered a gift other than the sacrifice which God had asked him to offer. He did it his own way rather than God’s way, and then was angry that God did not accept his offering. The result was jealousy and ultimately murder. So it is with those who would prescribe their own doctrine rather than affirming the truth which God has revealed. They feel that they should have “equal time” with God’s truth and are willing to commit even greater offenses to get what they want.
They have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error
The Story of Balaam is recorded in Numbers 22-25. This man was paid by the enemy to pronounce a curse on Israel. God directed him not to go with them and even his donkey stopped dead in his tracks and told Balaam he was stupid to pursue this vile endeavor, but ultimately he went to do the dirty deed. When he opened his mouth all that came out was a blessing on Israel and a pronouncement of their foes defeat. Needless to say he was not popular with those who had employed him, nor with Israel. Even his donkey had rejected him. Likewise those today who would try to stand opposed to the kingdom of God for the sake of personal gain will be rejected and will show themselves to be fools.
They have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion
The rebellion of Korah is recorded in numbers 16. He gathered a group of more than 250 leaders of the community, and together they lead an insolent rebellion against the leadership of Moses. The issue was resolved when God told Moses to tell the Israelites to “Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abriam.” and the ground under the tents of Korah’s men split apart and “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them with their households and all their possessions. They went down into the grave with everything they owned and the earth closed over them.” Of course there is more to the story than that, and you might want to look it up and read it, but the message for us is that those who would challenge the authority of God or detract from the work of his chosen instruments will receive reprisal at the hand of the Lord.
Examples From Nature
The next examples which Jude calls upon to emphasize the danger and repulsiveness of these false teachers are examples from the natural world. These need no extensive explanation, but allow me to list his examples here:
- They are like blemishes at your love feasts
- They are like shepherds who feed only themselves
- They are like clouds without rain
- They are like autumn trees which have produced no fruit, and which are uprooted
- They are like wild waves of the sea
- Like wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever
We cannot help but get the message that Jude has left us. His examples leave no room for questions. Yet he offers one more gem for us before he closes this section. Again Jude makes a reference to a prophecy contained in an apocryphal book. The “Book of Enoch” was known to the Christians of the 1st century, but was lost until 1773 when a manuscript of the entire book was discovered. This book purports to be a record of revelations given to Enoch and Noah.
If God had intended it to be in the canon of scripture it would be there. It is not, and therefore does not carry the same weight as scripture. Never the less, most of the apocryphal books are acknowledged to be historically accurate records which add to our knowledge of the events upon which writers of scripture have written. Jude has made reference to a historical book which comes to us with wisdom from before the great flood! Enoch did not die. Genesis 5:24 tells us that he “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” This is Enoch to whom the quotation of Jude 14-15 is attributed.
Apart from the scathing condemnation of ungodliness contained in the quote, what is really precious here is the first phrase. “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone…” Wow! This means that the second coming of the Lord was revealed even to Enoch!”
Call to faithfulness and Perseverance
The judgment of the end-time is just as certain as the return of the Lord in glory. With that point having been clearly made, Jude ends his Epistle with words of encouragement.
- First we are to remember that the apostles warned that such scoffers and detractors would come. .
- Second we are to build ourselves up in the Holy Spirit through prayer and to keep ourselves firmly planted in the Love and mercy of Christ. .
- Third we are to be about the work of snatching others from the influence of the evil one.
His final words of praise for the Lord are also blessed assurance for we who are in Christ Jesus. “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”…. What comfort it is to know that in spite of our weakness and propensity toward sin Jesus is able to sustain us and hold us up through the storms of life. He is able to guarantee our eternal outcome because of His own faultless righteousness. That is sufficient! So we too must join with Jude in proclaiming that he is worthy of all glory and majesty and power and authority for all ages, now, and forever!