This letter is written by Jude, a half-brother of Jesus, who identified himself as the “brother of James” (v1) - which distinguishes him from the Apostle named Jude, who was called “the son of James” (Luke 6:16). The Jude writing this letter 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 to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
Jude did not believe in Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 7:5). 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.
Discussion over the date of this letter depend on views of how Jude relates to 2 Peter. The verses in Jude 4–18 are very similar to 2 Peter 2:1-3:3. So, which came first?
It seems likely that Peter wrote 2 Peter just before his death around the mid-60s AD. 2 Peter anticipated that false teachers would be coming into the churches, but Jude’s purpose was different because this had already happened. Some have speculated that Jude was written during the Jewish War AD 66-73 which included the fall of Jerusalem and demolition of the temple. Those events might explain some of Jude’s focus on the end of the world when the Lord will return. It may be that Jude was writing after many of the apostles had died, hence his mention of the faith ‘once for all entrusted to God’s holy people’ (v3) - that is to say, after most of the New Testament had been written. Peter and Paul were executed in the mid-60s AD, so this would fit.
It seems likely that this was a general letter circulated to many churches to combat false teaching that was threatening the church.
Jude says in verse 3 that he wrote to urge his readers to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ ‘Faith’, here, means the truth of the gospel that Jesus had given to the apostles which we find in the New Testament. Jude says that Christians are to ‘contend’ for it - that is: we are to announce it, defend it, live it and make sure it is not changed or lost. Jude warned that teachers had come into the church who were changing the apostles’ teaching. Those false teachers denied the truth about Jesus and encouraged immorality (v4), rejected authority (v6) and sought to please themselves. It seems that the readers were not always alert to what the false teachers were doing. Jude uses examples of Old Testament characters to highlight the way that God had acted in judgment in the past. Jude reassures us that false teachers will be judged by God, but that He will keep His faithful people even in dark and difficult days (v1, 24).
Keep to the Truth
There will always be those who distort the Gospel
It is easy to drift away from the truth (Hebrews 2:1). Every Christian should play their part in helping the church stay true to the Bible. Some people are genuinely mistaken and do not know that they are wrong. So, we are to be loving and gracious, not accusing, or condemning (v22). Of course, if they do not listen, we may need to warn them that God will intervene in judgement if they do not change, just like He did before (v5-7).
God is able to keep you
Jude described the immoral behaviour of the false teachers, reminding us that we need to live in a way that is consistent with our profession of faith. God is merciful and gracious when we ask for forgiveness, but this does not give us permission to live as we want. Sin is serious and needs to be acknowledged, confessed, and repented of.
This Letter begins and ends by reminding us that our security as Christians does not depend on our ability to keep ourselves, but on God’s power. 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 (v24).
|1-4||Greeting and purpose|
|5-16||The dangers of false teachers|
|17-23||How Christians should live|