He would have rather written an encouraging letter regarding their shared faith; nevertheless, many false teachers had infiltrated their ranks, justifying immorality, denying the Lord. Such people always had existed among the people of God; they all would share in the same condemnation, as Jude set forth in his letter to his fellow Christians.
The letter of Jude is the twenty-sixth book in modern editions of the New Testament; it is often categorized among one of the “catholic” or universal letters or epistles. The author identifies himself as Jude, brother of James (Jude 1:1); this James is generally believed to be James the Just, the brother of the Lord, elder in Jerusalem, and author of the letter of James, and so Jude would also be the brother of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 13:55, Acts 21:18, James 1:1). The Scriptures reveal nothing else about Jude. Many in scholarship consider the letter of Jude as a pseudepigraphal work of the second century; while the letter was reckoned among the disputed books in early Christianity, many early Christians testified to its legitimacy, particularly Clement of Alexandria (Comments on the Letter of Jude; also featured in the Muratorian Canon). The letter provides no information about the location of its author or its specific audience beyond those called loved in God, and kept for Jesus (Jude 1:1), but according to historical accounts Jude’s family remained in Palestine for at least three generations after him (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.19-20; his great-grandson Judah Kyriakon as an elder in Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 1); thus Jude may well have remained in Palestine, and wrote to Christians in his association or in general. No date or time reference is found in the letter of Jude, but it is most likely to be dated between 70 and 90: the text betrays no continued existence of the Temple or its services, and seemed to reflect Gnosticizing tendencies among some of the disenchanted, likely consistent with Palestine in the post-destruction period. Of all the New Testament authors Jude proved most conversant with apocryphal and pseudepigraphal traditions, alluding to and explicitly quoting the Book of Enoch and referring to the Assumption of Moses (Jude 1:6, 9, 14-15; cf. 1 Enoch 1:9); whether he considered these entire works to be inspired and profitable cannot be decided with any degree of confidence, but these particular allusions have certainly received full affirmation as legitimate, and we do well to respect the judgment of the brother of the Lord in these matters. Jude wrote to encourage Christians to stand firm in the faith which had been delivered to them and resist those in their midst who taught and lived in ways contrary to its message.
Jude identified himself as the slave of Jesus and brother of James, and spoke of his audience of Christians as called, beloved by God the Father, and kept for Jesus; he then provided a slightly modified epistolary greeting, speaking of mercy, peace, and love (Jude 1:1-2). Jude immediately set forth his reason for writing: he wished to speak about their common salvation, but felt compelled to write to encourage them to contend for the faith delivered to the saints once for all (Jude 1:3).
Jude then condemned false teachers who had gained entrance among the Christians (Jude 1:4-16). Their condemnation was foreordained; as ungodly men, they turn the grace of God into lasciviousness and deny the Lord Jesus (Jude 1:5). Jude rehearsed God’s judgments of the past: unfaithful Israelites perished in the Wilderness; angels who sinned were cast into prison; Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to sexually deviant behavior; in a similar way these false teachers defile the flesh, despise authority, and revile glorious spiritual beings (Jude 1:6-8; cf. Genesis 6:1-4, 19:1-29, Exodus 14:1-Deuteronomy 34:12, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Yet even Michael the archangel refused to revile Satan, but pronounced God’s rebuke on him; these false teachers revile things they do not understand, and what they claim to understand they abuse in sensuality (Jude 1:9-10; a reference to the Assumption of Moses, based on Deuteronomy 34:6). Jude pronounced woe on the false teachers, speaking of them in terms of Cain, Balaam, and Korah, decrying them as stumbling blocks in their assemblies, self-serving leaders providing no profit to others, unstable, about to be destroyed, their shame manifest, condemned by Enoch in prophecy, gossips, slanderers, showing favoritism to their own ends (Jude 1:9-16; cf. Genesis 4:5-14, Numbers 16:1-35, 22:1-24:25, 31:16, 1 Enoch 1:9).
Jude then encouraged his fellow Christians based on what they heard from the Apostles (Jude 1:17-23). The Apostles foretold the coming of such ungodly, sensual false teachers (Jude 1:17-19; cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-4, 6:1-10, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Peter 3:3). Christians, nevertheless, were to build each other up in their holy faith, pray in the Spirit, keep themselves in God’s love, and look for the mercy of Jesus unto eternal life (Jude 1:20-21). Christians should have mercy on those who doubt; some were to be saved from the fire, and others they should have mercy with fear, hating the corruption of the body (Jude 1:22-23). Jude concluded with a declaration of praise of God in Christ (a doxology), glorifying God as the Savior who can guard Christians from sin and make them stand in His presence in cleanliness and joy, and who deserves majesty, dominion, and power from before time until forever (Jude 1:24-25).
Jude’s letter may be short, and full of parallels with 2 Peter 2:1-22, yet has been cherished for its exhortations. To this day Christians must contend for the faith, given to them once for all by the Apostles; they must be on guard against those who introduce worldly influences; and yet judgment is to be rendered by God, and it is for Christians to encourage one another and do all they can to rescue those who have fallen prey to the doctrines of demons and the forces of the powers and principalities over this present darkness. May we contend for the faith and be strengthened in God’s love and Jesus’ mercy and be saved!
Ethan R. Longhenry