Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, identified himself as the ‘brother of James’ (1), which distinguishes him from the apostle named Jude, a man who was called “the son of James” (Luke 6:16).
He is mentioned in Matthew 13:55 as one of the brothers of Jesus, along with James.
The Gospels record his name as Judas (but English translations shorten it to Jude - probably because most know ‘Judas’ as Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus).
Jude did not come to faith in Jesus during His earthly ministry. 1 Corinthians 9:5 says that the Lord’s brothers and their wives took part in missionary journeys, which suggests he became a man who was fervent in the cause of making the Gospel known.
Arguments over its date depend on views of how Jude relates to 2 Peter. The verses in Jude 4–18 are very similar (nearly identical) to 2 Peter 2:1-3:3. Which came first? If we believe that 2 Peter came from Peter just before his death (around the mid-60s AD) then maybe Jude came slightly after?
2 Peter seems to anticipate that false teachers would be coming into the churches, but Jude altered the purpose of his letter, because this had already happened. Some have speculated that Jude was written during the Jewish War AD66–73 which included the fall of Jerusalem and demolition of the temple, events that might explain some of Jude’s focus on the end of the world. It was felt that the Lord might return when this happened. It may be that Jude was writing after many of the apostles had died, hence his mention of the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints.’ Peter and Paul were executed in the mid-60s AD so this would fit.
There is no clear audience, and it seems likely that this was a general letter circulated to many churches to combat a particular teaching that was threatening the church.
Jude says that he was intending to remind the readers about the Faith (vs 3), but had to write instead to counter the teaching of people whose practices were worthy of condemnation, including rejecting authority and seeking to please themselves. It seems that the readers were not always alert to what they were doing. He uses imagery from the Old Testament and recent Judaism to highlight the way that God had acted in judgment in the past, and would again.
Why read it?
There will always be those who have odd ideas about the Gospel. Jude reminds you to explain what the Gospel is and why their version is wrong.
Many churches have drifted away from the truth. You can play your part in helping them stay true. But the Letter tells us that we do this very gently. Some people are genuinely mistaken and don’t know that they are wrong. So we are to be loving and gracious, not accusing and condemnatory. Of course if they don’t listen, we may need to warn them that God will intervene if they don’t change, just like He did before.
Jude describes the immoral behaviour of the false teachers, reminding us that how we live needs to be in keeping with our faith. God is merciful and gracious when we ask for forgiveness, but this does not give us license to live as we want. Sin matters and needs to be acknowledged and confessed.
We praise God that He is able to keep us from falling, so amidst temptation we can look to Him daily for grace to live well.
|1:1-4||Greeting and Purpose|
|1:5-16||Why false teachers are wrong|
|1:17-23||How Christians should live|