Judah (Greek Judas or English Jude) was a common first century name so the author qualifies this by stating that he is the brother of James. It was important for the church, and still is, to know who is writing or speaking. Those who taught, and especially those who penned the scriptures, needed to demonstrate their credentials. This was all the more important as the canon was still being formed. The canonical process depended not only on the content but also on authorship, even if the authorship is not stated within, such as with Hebrews, there can be no doubt that the original hearers knew the authors. It the case of Jude, it is clear even to us.
It was important for Judah to show his relationship to the well known apostle and author of the letter bearing his name-James (Acts 12:17, 15:13). Both were the half brothers of Jesus (Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3). As with the Petrine epistles, Jude was most certainly written in the late 60’s. Most assume that Peter, in II Peter, alludes to Jude’s letter. Paul may have also had Jude in mind when he referred to the itinerant ministry of the Lord’s brothers in I Corinthians 9:5. Jude has several allusions to the OT if not quoting directly. Jude’s main concern was with the rise of false teachers, “who were using Christian liberty and the free grace of God as a license for immorality. (v. 4; cf. 2 Pet. 2:1-3)” (This and further info can be found in the “New Geneva Study Bible,’ pp. 1999).
Jude 1-2 Called, Sanctified, Preserved-Mercy, Peace, And Love.
Jude was not only the brother of James (see above), but he also considered himself a bondservant of Jesus Christ. This is all the more remarkable, given that he was a half brother to the Lord. Such was his firm conviction that Jesus was so much more. It is also interesting to note that Peter adds this title to that of apostle in his second letter (1:1)-the former not included in the first epistle (1:1). Doulos means slave. They were bought by the Lord to serve Him. They were not their own, and neither were there words or mission. His readers were also identified with Christ as those “who are called.”
From the beginning Jude makes clear who he is but also who he considers his readers to be-they are those “who are called.” That this call was effectual can be seen by the other descriptive words Jude uses. They were called to sanctification and preservation-all clear acts of sovereign grace. Paul used the expression-“called to be saints.” (Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2) As Paul pointed out-the calling of the saints is based on predestination (Rom. 8: 28-30). God’s call is “according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) Jude makes clear we are called to be set apart to God for a holy purpose. Furthermore, those who are called are also preserved. This also highlights the effectual nature of this call. The called have been given to the Lord by the Father, and it was and is His prayer that they be preserved to the end (John 17:11-12, cf. 6: 37-40, 10: 28-29; Rom. 8:31-39; Heb. 7:25).
These three points are expressed beautifully in the Westminster Confession Of Faith-17.1 “They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” We persevere because He preserves us. “The regenerate are saved through persevering in faith and Christian living to the end (Heb. 3:6; 6:11; 10:35-39).” (NGSB, p. 1781) One should also note that the author to the Hebrews was confident that his readers were those who were saved (6:9).
Jude was not content that his readers should be content simply with what they had received. It was his prayer and blessing that they have “mercy, peace, and love” multiplied to them. We should never be satisfied with only what has been received-we will always need God’s mercy, peace, and love if we are to be sanctified and preserved to the end. Having begun with these, we must also persevere to the end with the same. Peter expressed the same desire in both his letters (1:2), as did Paul in his letter to the Romans (1:7). Although the latter add grace, they all include mercy. They are all interrelated, for there is no mercy without love and peace, and mercy finds expression in God’s unmerited favour-grace.
Jude 3-4 Contending Earnestly For The Faith-Word And Deed.
Jude adds two more titles for his readers-beloved and saints. Of course, it all starts with God’s love for us. It is interesting to note that even the sanctification spoken of is in the past tense-there is a sense in which sanctification is definitive when one is called. This is what constitutes one a saint. In the case of God’s love, though he wishes that it be multiplied, it is because it is something which they know something about already. In addressing his readers as the called, sanctified, and preserved, Jude seeks to highlight what is their “common salvation.” (v. 3) He considered it part of his due diligence to remind them of this salvation. But he also found it necessary to also defend the faith against false teachers, and these two themes run throughout the letter. Jude exhorted them to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
Exhortation denotes something more than passing concern. Being a follower of Christ always entails not just preserving the common faith, but of necessity defending it against those who would seek to destroy it. This faith was “once for all delivered.” Four things are noted here. The faith is delivered-men do not come at it by their own imagination-it was delivered through those chosen and appointed. Secondly, it must be delivered to others because without this delivery no one will know the faith. Thirdly, this faith was delivered once-there is but one faith, not multiple faiths, and this revelation is complete. Finally, this faith is for all-there is no exception-there is no other faith. This will contrast with the false teachers who claim more is needed, speak on their own authority, speak what is contrary to the one faith, and do so from their own imaginations.
Concerning the false teachers-they came in “unnoticed.” This contrasts with Jude who made a point of affirming who he was and by what authority he spoke. These also were predestined, but for a different end. “Marked out for this condemnation.” Jude and his readers were marked out, called, sanctified and preserved as saints-beloved. Thirdly, these men are ungodly-that is, there is no fear of God. They do not follow what God desires. On the other hand, Jude and his readers are sanctified-set apart by God to His service. The saints view God’s grace as the grounds for obedience. The ungodly view grace as an excuse to do evil. Finally, by their actions and words, the ungodly show that they have denied “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Doctrine and life always go hand in hand-orthodoxy and orthopraxis are inseparable.
Jude 5-11 Beware Of The Dreamers.
Jude proceeds to give past examples of the false teachers. The issue is one of unbelief. Those who died in the wilderness did so because they did not believe the word spoken. The writer to the Hebrews said that they in fact rejected the gospel-and this is the critical point (cf. Heb. 3:16-4:2). Paul also makes the point that these are examples for the saints not to follow-I Cor. 10:5-10. It is interesting to note the example of the fallen angels-they rejected their place. The parallel is, the wilderness generation forgot their place as those who had been delivered. They rejected God as their redeemer, and set about to live as though they had no need of redemption, and they perished through their unbelief. Judgment awaits both groups.
Judgment also awaits those of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding peoples, who rejected God’s norm-man’s sexual place in life, of men with women, and instead stepped outside the bounds of God’s creation ordinance. The “vengeance of eternal fire,” awaits all who step outside God’s norm with an evil heart of unbelief. The false teachers share this in common-they reject authority, and show it in their defiling of the flash. They take what God created as good, and due to rejecting the authority of His word and norm, they pervert it. Unlike the true ministers of the word, these false teachers are “dreamers,” they conjure up their thoughts from their own imaginations, and their actions bear witness.
This rejection of authority is not only of God directly, but also of all those in authority. The dignitaries might be political leaders or of those among the angelic host, with the example given of the archangel Michael. Michael is a guardian of God’s people (Dan. 10:13, 21, 12:1), and leader in the war against the devil and the other fallen angels (Rev. 12:7). There is a warning here to not be flippant with the devil-he may be fallen but he still has power. The saint is only secure as they put their trust in the Lord. “The Lord rebuke you,” was Michael’s attitude. Many assume that this reference to Michael is from the apocryphal Jewish work, ‘The Assumption Of Moses’. (NGSB, p. 2001) The inclusion of these references does not make the writing as a whole inspired. Only that which is included here receives that approbation. Those books in the canon are canonical because of the whole of their testimony is received-not parts only.
Even Jesus appealed to the scriptures when tempted by the devil-so should we (Luke 4:1-13; Mt. 4:1-11). Satan stood opposed to the Angel of the LORD, and in the record of Zechariah, this same LORD opposed Satan with the words, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan!” (Zech. 3:1-2) The LORD is speaking of the LORD! Like the words of Psalm 110 where we read, “The LORD said to my LORD,” we have evidence of Christ appearance among the saints of old (cf. Luke 20: 41-44). Jesus’ response then was the same as when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, many years later.
Knowledge and how it is acquired is crucial. The false teachers spoke evil of what they did not understand, and they could not because they looked only to themselves. Peter describes this as them knowing “naturally,” like brute beasts. There is nothing of the revelation of the Spirit giving them a word from God. Their claim to be teachers was false, as much as the message. What they know “naturally” they bend to corruption. They followed the example of Cain. Cain thought that his offering was acceptable, but what Abel offered is what pleased God. With the fall, animal sacrifice was what God required-Cain looked to his own acceptability (Gen. 4:1-5). The writer to the Hebrews made clear that it was the sacrifice of Abel that was deemed acceptable (11:4). Cain’s works were evil (I Jn. 3: 12), for he “was of the wicked one.”
There is also the example of Balaam, who was motivated by greed. Balaam was a commercial prophet-employed for the secrets he might reveal. In Cain we have an example of the false teachers taking pride in their own works. In Balaam we find an example of the false teachers motivation of greed. Finally, in the example of Korah we have the infamous example of those who reject God’s appointed authorities (Nu. 16:1-3). The example of Korah reiterates the rebellion against authority Jude noted earlier. Korah assumed that anyone in the assembly could exercise authority-he was wrong. God had his appointed leaders, and he still does today. Pride, profit, and power are the trademarks of the false teachers. The saints look instead to the apostolic witness.
Jude 12-19 The Ungodly: Selfish Spots, Empty Clouds, Unfruitful Trees, Raging Waves, And Wandering Stars.
Jude reveals something more about the false teachers which is telling-they serve only themselves. Jude doesn’t even call them teachers, but rather, “certain men,” who are “dreamers.” They are selfish, for not only do they not serve the church, they indulge themselves in the generosity of others. They stand opposed to what the “love feast” represents. They are like mold on a fresh loaf of bread, taking nutrients from the loaf and causing damage wherever it exists. If allowed to grow it will consume the whole loaf. Bread is the very staple of life. One reaches for the very staple of life-love-and instead one finds empty corrupting selfishness.
Jude’s second example speaks to the same thing. When clouds come one can expect rain. From rain the crops will grow-the very sustenance of life itself. Bread and water are the staples of life. But these false teachers only give the appearance of giving life. Instead they just lead people astray. Clouds form when air becomes saturated with moisture from the water cycle process. A cloud without rain is a cloud which has formed from the accumulation of moisture, but it does not give it back-meant to be redistributed by the winds. Like clouds without rain, the false teachers take but do not give. They break the cycle of love, as it were.
Jude’s third example, like the second, also refers to growth and harvest. “Late autumn trees,” gives the picture of waiting and waiting for the tree to bear fruit but nothing is forthcoming, for they are “without fruit.” They are dead because they do not bear fruit, and they are dead again because now they are only useful for the fire-twice dead. Such trees get pulled up by the roots so that they do not sprout again and deceive others. This is what must happen to these false teachers.
Jude now moves to the sea and navigation. There is great sound and flurry from these teachers, but like waves of the sea, they only serve to hinder, and make all the more difficult, one’s navigation. All the noise of they’re words and deeds is but they’re shame, being like the foaming of tumultuous waves. Lots of fluff, but no substance. There is no smooth sailing with these, but only the danger of being thrown against the rocks which are hidden underneath, or of having one’s vessel overturned.
Jude’s next example also speaks to navigation. Long before GPS, navigators looked to the stars to find they’re course, to find they’re way. These false teachers aren’t just like the black or grey skies, hiding the points of celestial navigation. These false teachers appear as stars one might navigate by, but instead they are aimless points of deception. For such “stars” the blackness of darkness is reserved forever.
Finally, Jude once again quotes from a popular apocryphal work-I Enoch. Again, this need not be taken as an endorsement of the whole, but only of that part included here. “Allusion to or citation of extrabiblical materials is rare in the New Testament. But given the currency of apocryphal religious works during the period, and the desire of the New Testament writers to communicate the gospel in terms familiar to their readers, it is not surprising to find some occasional use. Examples include 2 Tim. 3:8, which uses Jewish traditions about Ex. 7:11; and the quotation of pagan poets in Acts 17:28; I Cor. 15:33; and Titus 1:12.” (NGSB, p. 2000)
Enoch was indeed the seventh from Adam (Gen. 5:24), and according to Jude, a prophet who prophesied about these false teachers, so many centuries later. He prophesied of judgment to come-the Lord coming with His saints. Paul said, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world.” (I Cor. 6:2) This is an incredible truth. And as in Paul’s letter, so here, the saints have what they need to pass judgment on these false teachers. We are called to convict the ungodly-of their deeds and words. Not only are their deeds ungodly but how they perform them is ungodly also.
They speak “harsh things” against the Lord. The word which the NKJV translates as ‘harsh’ (sklaron) comes from sklaros, translated by the NKJV and KJV as ‘hard’ at Mt. 25:24, or at John 6:60 as Jesus teaching being a ‘hard’ saying or message. It is the same word which the Lord used to describe the inability of Paul to accept the Lord and His work (Acts 26:14). This reference to the words spoken to Paul is interesting because Luke said that it was spoken in Hebrew-therefore it was translated-like the quote from I Enoch. Strong’s definition covers here-“dry, ie. hard or tough (fig. harsh, severe):-fierce, hard.” (Concordance, p.65) Unyielding, or like tough, hard, soil-unworked- might capture what is being said here of these false teacher’s speech. Like Paul before his conversion, they are stubborn. They refuse correction.
Jude 20-22 Build, Pray, Keep, And Look To The Triune God.
With “but you, beloved,” Jude moves to his readers. They are beloved-by God. This love constituted adopted members of His family, and saints. Contrary to the ungodly, who divide, the beloved are to build each other up in their “most holy faith.” They had a standard-the apostolic and canonical witness. Unlike the ungodly, the faith is holy-set apart as it were-given as it is by God the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is by this same Spirit that Jude calls upon his readers to pray, and to keep themselves in God’s love is of the utmost importance. God’s love is found in the mercy of Jesus Christ, “unto eternal life.” This is a relationship with the triune God, from whom salvation flows.
Given what Jude has said about the ungodly in their midst, some instruction was necessary-wisdom for decisions and behaviour going forward. Jude instructed them to make further distinctions. Some in the body required compassion-some doubted and were weak. These needed to be encouraged and built up. Some were further down the road of the dreamers and needed to be pulled from the fire, as it were. “Hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” Jude has already made clear that the apostates were beyond redemption, for they had rejected and indeed openly opposed the apostolic witness-the witness of the Spirit. The beloved, on the other hand, are to build, pray, keep, and look to the triune God.
Jude 23-24 Hope, Glory, And Praise.
In this benediction of benedictions, Jude comes full circle in his dual purpose for writing. He wrote concerning their common faith, and contending for it against it’s enemies. Jude wrote about keeping ourselves in God’s love, and those things which accompany this. But here he makes clear, again, that we do so because God keeps us (cf. Prov. 24:16). He gave instructions concerning counseling those who have stumbled, and here He concludes with the greatest counsel of all. Jude also defines the goal, purpose, and evidence of this keeping. God’s goal is to present His people as “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
Faultless or blameless is what is required to dwell in the Glory Presence. David Helm makes this point from Exodus-no doubt truths which would have resonated with Jude’s readers. God’s Glory Presence settled upon the Temple, but only as it was constructed according to the pattern given (40:16). But even Moses could not enter on His own (v. 35). God required blood sacrifice to enter into His Glory Presence-and so Exodus cannot be read without Leviticus (cf. 1:3). “The words “without blemish” in Leviticus contain the substance of Jude’s word “blameless.” In essence, what Jude is saying is that all those trusting in the sacrifice of Christ will become like the blameless sacrifice that secured access to the Father. We will be presented, through Christ, as acceptable in his sight.” (1 & 2 Peter And Jude, p. 357)
One must imagine that this joy is shared by all who know God’s love and are determined to live with this purpose. God’s beloved is destined for the Glory Presence. There is no joy for those destined, like the apostates, for judgment, but there is joy for the beloved. For the beloved, God is indeed our Savior-this is the only way to arrive with joy. We need to be saved. What separates the apostates from the beloved saints is mercy and grace. God “alone is wise.” This wisdom can be seen in the salvation conceived and accomplished, but also in the judgment to come. This is why the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, for He “alone is wise.” The fool rejects this dependence on God for wisdom (cf. Prov. 1:7). For the saints, the word of God is the first axiom of all thought and existence.
Glory, majesty, dominion, and power-this is the praise which is the accompaniment of God, our Savior. This is the response of the redeemed. Ours is a reflective glory-we give God glory because His Glory rests on us. The picture is one of a King-in this case, the King of kings. This is no doubt the praise which will occupy the beloved saints for all eternity. However, as Jude also points out, this is both for “now and forever.” Praise of the triune God is also the joy of the saints in the here and now. Furthermore, we praise Him not just for future glory, majesty, dominion, and power, but we praise Him for these and more which He has and exercises now. Sadly, many in the church do not see these things now, and this perhaps explains the loss of joy among many. “Amen.”