This very brief letter written by Jude had one focus: to warn believers against succumbing to false teaching. Jude helped believers in Christ stay true to the faith by painting a grim picture of deviant teachers. They were arrogant, immoral, and greedy and they were destined for the terrible judgement God had in store for all who deny and defy Him. Jude asked who would want to follow such people to their condemnation? In a world with so many distorted ideas about Christianity, we need to be reminded of the dangers of false teaching as well. Jude called himself the brother of James. The most well known James of the early church was James, the Lord’s brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church. Neither James or Jude referred to themselves as brothers of Jesus but most likely this was done out of reverence for Him. However, others did not hesitate to speak of them in this way. Many believe 2 Peter borrowed and modified material from this letter. If this is the case, then this letter would have been written before 68 AD. It is also possible the borrowing may have gone the other way around. Scholars are not sure. All that is known about the recipients of this letter is that they were Christians. Jude may have known them personally based on verse three and some think this was just a religious pamphlet addressed to Christians everywhere. The tone of the letter carries a sense of urgency and even alarm at the number of false teachers who were infiltrating the church. This was causing division, irreverence, and doubt. Again the motivation was greed. The false teachers always demanded to be paid for their “services”. Jude, like his brother did not believe in Jesus during His earthly ministry but became followers after Jesus’ resurrection. They both referred to themselves as servants of Jesus rather than brothers. And two of Jude’s grandsons were brought before emperor Domitian as descendants of David but they were dismissed as harmless peasants. Here are a couple of themes to watch for. First, false teachers. By now we all know this was a major issue in the new church. Jude’s primary focus here was the ethical dangers posed by false teachers who denied Christ’s lordship by using Christian freedom and God’s grace as a license for immorality. These teachers were grumbles, faultfinders, and scoffers who followed their own ungodly desires and natural instincts. The second theme is Christian behavior. Jude’s letter emphasized the lordship of Christ. Christian freedom is not a hall pass to do whatever one wants. Christians are to build themselves up in the foundational teachings of faith, praying, remaining faithful to God, and being merciful to others.
In the opening to his letter Jude spoke of being called by the Father who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ. This description introduces an important emphasis and gives assurance in the context of false teaching. Jude, or Judas is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Judah. He calls himself a slave of Christ meaning that he is under Jesus’s lordship in every area of his life. This title also carried great honor. The Old Testament leaders of God’s people were also called slaves or servants of God. It is unclear just who the recipients of the letter were. When Jude sat down to write he was going to write about salvation in Jesus Christ. But something came up and Jude found himself writing to warn the believers about the infiltration of false teachers who were threatening to divide and destroy the church. Where the usual thanksgiving in a letter would go, Jude defined his purpose for writing. If you haven’t noticed before, false teachers were a great danger to the church. Many believers were new in their faith and were not able to distinguish what was true and what wasn’t. This played right into the hands of the false teachers who were always looking for those weaker in their faith. In the New Testament faith usually refers to the act of believing while “the faith” refers to the content of Christian belief. Announcing that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives was a constant temptation and a very big lie that the false teachers proclaimed. This would bring condemnation down on the heads of these false teachers.
Verses 5-16 elaborate on the condemnation recorded long ago by applying to the false teachers Old Testament examples of God’s judgement. Jude told the believers that the Pre existent Jesus rescued the Israelites out of Egypt and then later destroyed the unfaithful. God led the people towards the promised land but most of them didn’t trust God to protect them. Because of their unbelief God sentenced that generation, except Joshua and Caleb, to wander in the wilderness until they died. The angels who failed to be obedient to the Lord found themselves out of His favor as well. This may refer to the fall of the evil one and his angelic followers. Jude was probably referring to the sons of God in Genesis 6 who were wicked. Their relations with women was the cause of their judgement. God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah had become the proverbial picture of God’s judgement on those who were grossly disobedient. The cities were immoral and full of sexual perversion. They were destroyed by fire and brimstone and serve even today as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgement. Those who claimed authority from their dreams are most likely evil angels. In the Old Testament and in Judaism in general, angels were given a prominent role in judgement. The false teachers may have been downplaying the reality of a judgement to come, or they denied the glorious origin of these fallen angels.
Michael was one of the mightiest angels. In Jewish tradition an archangel was the highest rank of angel. There is a story about him fighting with the evil one about Moses’ body that is not in the Old Testament but it is preserved in Jewish tradition. Here in verse 11 we again see Cain and Balaam referenced for their disobedience to the Lord and, the consequences. These false preachers even invaded the celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. Jude told the believers these false teachers were like contaminants among them. The early Christians celebrated the Lord Supper as part of their shared fellowship meals with one another. Jude actually had a number of descriptions for these false teachers, none of which were complimentary. His comparison of the false teachers to planets is interesting. Planets were considered to be wandering stars because they moved across the sky seemingly at random. The false teachers wandered as well in their teachings and God condemned their sins. Enoch was an early descendant of Adam and it is believed that he was just taken up to heaven but didn’t die. Enoch prophesied to the people about the ones coming, thousands of them, to execute judgement on the people of the world.
After Jude finished condemning the false teachers he once again encouraged his readers. They had been warned about the false teachers. Now it was up to them to encourage one another in the faith, and reach out to those who were in danger of going astray because of the evil influences. The predictions of the apostles Jude mentioned can be found in Acts 20:29-30, 1 Timothy 4:1-3, and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Jude wrote of the last times. The coming of Jesus as Messiah inaugurated the last stage of God’s plan, when the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the last days began to take place. For this reason, Jude applied the apostles prophecy about the last times to the immediate crisis created by the false teachers. The most holy faith refers to what Christians believe, the doctrinal and ethical core of Christian identity which false teachers threaten. Believers must therefore devote themselves to this most holy faith. The three commands in verses 22-23 correspond to three categories of people: those whose faith is wavering, those who need to be snatched from the flames of judgement, and those who need to be shown mercy. Those who are to be shown mercy must be treated with caution because their sins contaminate even their clothes. Jude ended with a prayer of praise. This is one of the most stirring doxologies in scripture and one often quoted in liturgy. His wording makes it especially appropriate for his readers. They needed a renewed vision of God who could keep them from falling away, from succumbing to the enticing doctrine of the false teachers. He has the glory, majesty, power, and authority to bring them safely into His glorious presence forever.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W