v1-2: The greeting introduces the writer, the recipients and the themes of the letter. We also see Jude's particular style of threes.
The writer described;
- Jude (Judas Thaddaeus), his proper name;
- servant of Christ, his calling and ministry;
- brother of James, his connection with the main Christian leaders.
We know that Jude ministered in Assyria and Persia, before being martyred in Persia.
Jude's style is similar to Peter's and James'. His letter seems to pick up some themes from 2 Peter 2.
Christians described: - called, loved/sanctified, kept/preserved. This is a basis for our confidence, and is essential since there are many things that would shake us.
Jude's prayer: - mercy and peace and love, and in abundance.
v3-4: Jude gets straight to the point. He answered a heresy that had infected the churches, and encouraged his readers to stand for the truth.
v3: Dear friends, beloved; Jude wrote out of love and concern, as well as his commitment to doctrinal correctness. Because of the developments in the churches, he felt compelled to write to them.
Our common salvation; something we share; the N.T. writers frequently identify with their readers in this way; their own experiences of being with Christ did not make them any better than others, they were not 'more saved.'
We are to contend earnestly, for many assail the truths of Christ. There is a constant need to be faithful. Since the truth is important, and valuable, and precious to us, we are commanded to contend for it. This implies deep belief, real commitment. Do we give more effort in trivial things than in something so important?
"The faith," the body of Christian truth; this has been delivered, entrusted, committed to us, see 2 Tim 1.14. This is something which is deeply precious to us, and is of immense value; it is through the truth of Christ that there is salvation. The implication is clear, that we must accept the truth, and reject error.
v4: The problem was that false teachers had crept in unnoticed, infiltrating the true church. They were ungodly men, for error does not promote godly living.
They turned the grace of God into licentiousness, Rom 6.1-2; Gal 5.13. They abused God's grace. An initial misunderstanding can develop into heresy unless it is dealt with.
They also denied the Lordship of Christ, which led to an amoral lifestyle.
v5-7: Jude powerfully compared the false teachers of his day with examples from history. The same sinful attitudes and practices were repeated. The examples were given to communicate the clear truth that God's judgment is a real and fearful thing.
v5: They already knew all this, and Jude reminded them of it, 2 Pet 1.12-13; 3.1-2. False teaching can come at any time, and cause us to neglect the truths of Scripture.
First example, the Jews who disbelieved; they slandered celestial beings, they spoke evil of dignitaries (v8, see RAV; Num 16), and God was not pleased with them (1 Cor 10.5), even though they had been delivered from Egypt. Such folly, for they had enjoyed such deliverance, but then departed from the God who had delivered them. They were destroyed, their bodies left in the wilderness, Heb 3.17, never reaching the promised land. Some appear to be part of the community of believers, but do not share their faith.
v6: Second example, the angels who rebelled; they rejected authority (v8). They lost the great privilege of seeing the face of God. They are kept in darkness, awaiting their judgment, compare Heb 10.26-31; such judgment is now inevitable. Like Pharaoh, they have hardened hearts. Angels are thus changeable; like man, but unlike the God who cannot change (Mal 3.6).
v7: Third example, Sodom and Gomorrah, given over to sexual immorality and perversion, polluting their own bodies (v8, 2 Pet 2.6).
All these serve as examples of those who are condemned to judgment. Any perceived delay in executing judgment is seen as His long-suffering, giving opportunity to repent, Rom 2.4; 2 Pet 3.9.
v8: These false teachers are described as "dreamers" claiming divine revelation, but they were not holy men.
They polluted their own bodies, like those in Sodom and Gomorrah; they reject authority, like the rebellious angels; they slander celestial beings, like the Jews who rebelled, who spoke against Moses.
v9: Jude refers to an incident, not recorded elsewhere in Scripture, but doubtless well known to many Jews, when the archangel Michael argued with the devil over Moses' body. The incident is recorded in 'The Assumption of Moses,' an apocryphal book. Paul similarly quoted writings of his day in Acts 17.28.
The lesson is clear, that we are not to slander authorities, even the devil himself. We are, of course, entitled to say, as Michael did, "The Lord rebuke you."
v10: These men acted according to natural instinct, without any true spiritual influence or authority, speaking of those things that they know nothing of.
v11: Jude picks three more examples, further describing their bad attitudes;
- Cain, the lust of the flesh, wrong motives; going.
- Balaam, the lust of the eyes, wrong doctrine, running.
- Korah, the pride of life, wrong practice, perished, like the swine at Gadara.
These were all religious men, but each attacked the true people of God.
v12-13: See 2 Pet 2.18-19; such people even shared in "your love feasts, eating with you" and that "without fear;" they were amongst the true people of God, and had not been identified for what they were. They had crept in, but not been put out.
- They were clouds without water, promising much but delivering nothing.
- They were late autumn trees without fruit, devoid of fruit for others.
- They were raging waves of the sea, a big show, but no substance, and even bringing destruction.
- They were wandering stars, i.e: planets, remaining forever in darkness, without aim and direction.
- They deserved judgment, the blackest darkness.
v14-15: See Ps 1.5; the judgment of the ungodly is certain. The Lord will judge them. Jude's reference is from the book of Enoch (see note at v9, regarding another Apocryphal book).
v16: More obvious characteristics by which men are to be recognised. "Their own advantage" is a constant motivation, and they change chameleon-like to suit it.
v17-23: Our spiritual response to these false teachers, and to the world around us.
v17: Jude writes to Christians who were far different from the false teachers he describes. But he warns them to be alert.
That was true of those to whom Jude wrote, Acts 20.29; 1 Tim 4.1-3; 2 Tim 3.1-5; 2 Pet 3.3. It is equally true of us. Our security and confidence is in the word of God, which predicts such things, but which also gives us answers.
v18: They are mockers/scoffers, who despise the truth, and who live ungodly lives, living to please themselves.
v19: They claim to be spiritual, but they do not have the Spirit of God. Their lives are controlled by the flesh. There is a pretence of religion, but lacking any power. They bring division into the true church.
v20: "But you;" there is a need to stay close to the Lord. "Dear friends" (or beloved), used in v3,17 – God's people are loved people.
Building ourselves up in the faith; something continuous, requiring on-going effort and commitment. We must also grow in our understanding of our "most holy faith," that we might earnestly contend for it. The phrase "most holy" is used elsewhere of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.
Prayer is a mark of dependence upon God, we do not have strength in ourselves, Rom 8.26; Gal 4.6. Praying in the Spirit, mentioned in Eph 6.18, refers to true spiritual prayer, hearing God's voice, and using His words back to Him. It may include use of the gift of tongues, but is not restricted to that.
v21: Cultivate our relationship with God, keeping ourselves in Him love, knowing He is merciful. "Eternal life" gives us hope and strength today, John 14.21. We dare not absolve ourselves from responsibility for our spiritual well-being. Rom 14.12 indicates that we are accountable to God; and here we are responsible. We must take our well-being very seriously.
v22-23: We are saved to serve. Some are influenced by false teachers; we need to have discernment to see their real desires for God, and therefore to have compassion upon them.
v24-25: Like Peter (in 2 Pet), Jude begins and ends with certainty. God has power to keep us from stumbling, whether into false doctrine, or into sins. Stumbling is not something we do deliberately, see Gal 6.1