The Book of Jude contains only 25 verses. It is a dark letter — a warning written by a man who wanted to encourage but who felt compelled instead to urge his readers to contend for the faith. His warnings, and his descriptions of false teachers, are as appropriate for us today as for the first century.
Date and Author. 80s A.D. Jude, Jesus’ brother.
Background. With the early period of missionary expansion past, Christianity had become established throughout the Roman world. There were waves of persecution, some past and many still to come. But already a much more serious threat was developing. Jewish and Pagan false teachers were creeping in among the brethren, corrupting the faith through reinterpretation and by introduction of pagan views of reality. There was a real danger that Jesus might be robbed of his deity, and that Christians might be turned away from the life of love and godliness which linked them in intimate fellowship to the Lord.
Jude’s letter of warning seems addressed primarily to Jewish Christians. It notes that in the OT, too, the enemies of God tried to subvert the faith of Israel. Jude challenges the believers of this new age to contend against subversion and to reject the false teachers who twist the truth.
Greetings; 1, 2.
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
Secretly Slipped in; 3, 4.
The Sin and Doom of Ungodly People
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
The danger does not come from official government hostility. Instead, Jude has been forced to write this letter urging his readers to contend for the faith because individuals seeking to pervert Christianity have infiltrated the church. Jude’s language is strong. The word “urge” was used to exhort hesitant armies to do battle — and “contend” indicates a struggle demanding intense effort.
It is important to contend, because the faith has been “entrusted” to the new generation. This same word is used of passing on the faith in OT times. It affirms the NT message of the apostles as the “once for all” standard of Christian belief. But this deposit of truth is threatened, by men who are already doomed to punishment. Their own godlessness is demonstrated by a denial of Jesus’ deity and by warping grace into license for immorality.
Judgment on Immorality; 5-7.
5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Rejection of Authority; 8-10.
8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
moral pollution — refusal to recognize valid authority. dreamers – deluded and out of tough with reality.
“despise the glorious ones” — teaching of 1st century heretics that the world was made by angels. but these beings are actually the servants of God and are defamed by this false doctrine.
Jude’s point is that the talk of the false teachers, their rejection of the reality of the spiritual world unveiled in Scripture, and their lack of respect for supernatural authority is a mark of their character and a basis of their coming judgment.
Their Character; 11.
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
3 OT personalities illustrate the character of the false teachers. “Traveling along Cain’s path” speaks of hatred for a brother. “Balaam’s error” was to surrender any integrity he might have had as a spiritual leader in a greedy passion for money. “Korah’s rebellion” was a demand to be recognized as a spiritual leader when not called to leadership by God. –> false teachers: loveless, greedy, and insubordinate. Destruction is sure to come to such persons.
12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
A Call to Persevere
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
How to contend for the faith? Build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love. Wait expectantly for Jesus to come. Be tender with those who waver. Snatch others from the judgment (by evangelism). Maintain an attitude of pity and concern — but keep clear of corruption.