Maintaining the Truth in Love
American Journal of Biblical Theology,
The most neglected book in the New Testament is probably the book of Jude. In some ways the book is unique, but unique in ways that tend to keep it from drawing attention to itself. The book is diminutive in size; only twenty-five verses, and much of its message is contained in other, more popular, books of the New Testament. Though other books do occasionally draw from non-canonical sources, this text has been firmly criticized for doing so. Where the other letters, notably the previous Johannine epistles, expose and condemn those who are teaching false doctrine within the body of believers, Jude’s letter places a stronger emphasis on the judgment that awaits them.
Jude 1a. Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
Like a common ancient Roman or Greek letter, the text opens with the name of the author. Little is contained in the text that can clearly identify the identity of the author. The name rendered as “Jude” is the same as the Hebrew “Judas,” causing us to look at those by that name that are elsewhere identified. There are two pairs of brothers by these names that are recorded in the New Testament. Luke 6:16 identifies “Judas, the brother of James” as an Apostle, causing many to equate this author with this apostle, Judas. Matthew 13:55 identifies both Judas and James (along with Joses and Simon) as brothers of Jesus. However, this Judas did not become a believer until after the resurrection. Since Jude and James were common names during this historical period, the best we can do is hold to an educated speculation. Jude, given an opportunity later in the text, does not refer to himself as an apostle. His genuine humility may have prevented himself from writing the words, “brother of Jesus Christ,” preferring to refer to his brother James who must have been well-known since his identity is not further described.
The words that are rendered “and brother of” could also be interpreted “the son of,” though to do so uses the Grammar in an unusual manner. This leads some to place the writing at a later date since this Judas would be a generation younger than the other two mentioned above.
Further complicating the attempt to identify the author is the lack of historical references within the letter, also making it difficult to determine when it was written.
Another difficulty concerns the language in the letter itself. Jude stands alone in the quality of the application of Greek vocabulary, grammar, and usage. The author was extremely fluid in Greek, and at least capable of writing at a level much higher than one would expect from the less than academic men by the name of “Judas” whom we find in the New Testament.
It is the preference of this author to hold Judas the brother of Jesus who is mentioned in the Luke reference to be the author of this text.
Jude 1b. to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
It is likely that Jude had a particular fellowship of Christians to whom he sent this letter, but he did not specifically identify that fellowship. Because of this, the letter has often been grouped with the “catholic epistles,” a reference to those New Testament letters that were written to the larger Christian church rather than a specific fellowship.
In his address, Jude describes three of the blessings that God has given to all who turn to Him in faith. First, they are “sanctified by God the Father,” a reference to God’s work of forgiveness as He no longer condemns the faithful for their sins.
Second, the salvation of the faithful is preserved in the nature and work of Jesus, the Eternal Christ. Since sin no longer has the power to condemn the faithful, salvation will not be taken away because of an act of sin. Though Christians still miss the mark of perfection, the LORD does not expect perfection. He simply expects the fruit of faith: submission to His Lordship and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit who helps the faithful to turn away from sinfulness.
Finally, Jude notes that Christians are called by God. It is not the other way around. Where religions work to gain the attention of their pagan gods, Christianity is based upon the One God, One who reaches down through time and space to draw all people to Himself.
Jude 2. Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Following the common form of a Roman or Greek letter, Jude ends his salutation with a blessing for the reader. However, unlike the common and meaningless blessing of a pagan letter, Jude expresses a sincere prayer as he hopes that the realization of God’s blessings will be “multiplied” among his readers. All of the Catholic Epistles were written to a discouraged fellowship that found themselves under persecution from all sides. It would have been difficult for his readers to realize the full measure of mercy, peace, and love that come from the LORD when they find themselves immersed in the conflict between the faithful and those who were immersed in the pagan and secular culture. However, Christians could find those blessings even in the midst of persecution when their hearts and minds were focused on the LORD. Consider a statement written by Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, who was martyred towards the end of the third century:
"It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians and I am one of them." Amen!
These are a people who found true mercy, peace, and love while immersed in a wicked world. Two millennia later, this mercy, peace, and love is still available to a fellowship of faith that still finds itself immersed in a wicked world.
Jude 3. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Following the salutation, Jude wastes no time explaining the purpose of this letter. Using such words rendered as “diligence” and “needful,” Jude notes that the content of this letter is very important. The message of this letter is so important that it cannot wait for him to come for a visit, as circumstances have arisen that require an exhortation from Jude to guide and encourage them during this time.
Jude starts his exhortation by calling upon the church to “earnestly contend for the faith,” the faith that they were originally taught from the beginning. Many heretical teachings had been brought into the churches from those who are either ignorant of the truth of the gospel or are deliberately working to move the fellowship away from the truth. When people do not stand up for what they believe, they will be easily influenced to surrender those beliefs for other systems of thought that might make human sense or logic, might fit some well-planned agenda, but is not the truth. An American country music singer recently published the lyrics:
You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.
The word that is rendered “contend” can be rendered “wrestle.” The idea is that contention requires deliberate resistance to the force that is creating the conflict. Those Christians who are experiencing forces that are working to draw them away from the faith are to take a stand, defending the truth that they know.
The church has always been under attack, and still is with entire groups of Christians caving in to secular ideologies, many of which are clearly contrary to the content and spirit of God’s Word. Jude’s call to contend for the truths of the faith are still relevant.
Jude 4. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The work of evil began in the Garden of Eden, at the moment that the Spirit of God came into the heart of man. It was then that the contention began. The prince of darkness has worked unceasingly to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of man by turning man away from the truth. Such godless men have been serving as the minions of evil from the beginning. Such men have “infiltrated” the church, either unnoticed by the faithful who did not work to contend against falsehood, or as a deliberate and malicious act of evil men. If the situation is the same today, this infiltration would be comprised of both. When people of faith do not stand firm on the Word of God and are willing to make compromises with the mores of ungodly culture that compromise serves to empower evil in the fellowship.
Jude describes some of the consequences of bringing evil into the camp. The grace of God turns into lasciviousness. A fellowship that stands on the true Word of God has well-defined borders on human behavior. The word rendered “lasciviousness” is a reference to sexual sin. Where much sin is easy to hide, sexual sin is far more obvious, and can only be exercised in the church when it becomes acceptable to the fellowship. As the church wanders away from the truth it becomes susceptible to the messages that have “crept in unawares,” until a point is reached where those message become normative behavior and the church becomes accepting of behavior that is clearly identified in scripture as sinful.
As the church wanders away from the truth, it begins to stand on the world rather than the Word, and its members no longer believe in the need for a true profession of faith in Jesus Christ as both Savior and LORD. When the Lordship of Jesus leaves the fellowship, it is no longer the body of Christ. Jude goes on to describe the consequences of leaving the LORD to follow the world.
Jude 5. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
The promise that the LORD made to the faithful includes their protection. When the children of Israel left faith in God to follow the world, they no longer practiced that faith, but rather took part in the ungodly practices of the pagan world within which they were immersed. By so doing, the nation left the hand of God’s protection. Israel and Judah were destroyed when they turned to the intrigue of the warring nations around them for protection rather than trust in the protection of God. God did not destroy faithful people who had sinned. He destroyed faithless people who had not received the faith of their fathers. The small remnant of faithful remained, some scattered, and others taken as a group into Babylonian captivity.
To wander away from God and presume His continued presence and protection is the height of folly. God is a Holy God and will not be mocked. The faithful remnant became so small in ancient Israel that they no longer had any influence in the nations. Jude is calling upon the faithful to “contend” against the powers that are leading them away from the truth, so that the church will not suffer the same apostasy that was Israel.
Jude 6. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Some may argue, “We are the church of God. That cannot happen to us!” Jude reminds his readers that the very forces of evil on this earth began as angels of the LORD, God. By leaving the throne of God’s Lordship they brought upon themselves the judgment of God, a judgment that rewards them with exactly what they want: eternal separation from God. If the influence of godly Christians in the church today continues to diminish, the people who remain, those who want to be separated from God’s Word, will get exactly what they want: eternal separation from God.
This truth should shake up every congregation that is witnessing the acceptance of ungodly practices by the church as it employs euphemisms such as “pro choice” to describe the mass killing of unborn children, “ethnic cleansing” to describe genocide, or any other forms of language that are meant to cleanse that which cannot be cleaned.
Eternal separation awaits those who despise the Word of God, not just because they deserve it, but it is actually what they truly desire. God will give you the desire of your heart.
Jude 7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
When a population completely rejects the Lordship of Christ, their spirit is similar to that of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The biblical narrative describes these cities as devoid of any people of faith. The people were given over completely to their base desires and became an example to the world for all time of the nature of the judgment of God that awaits them.
This is the direction that the church is heading if the number of truly faithful believers diminishes to the point where they, through the work of the Holy Spirit in them, no longer have primary influence in the body. When the church fully surrenders the Lordship of Jesus for the lordship of its pastor, its members, or its leaders, it has left the faith and faces the full judgment of God for their apostasy.
The early church did not have the resources of the church today, and was susceptible to apostasy if they were drawn away from the truth. Though we have more resources today, congregations who do not take advantage of them are just as susceptible to falling into apostasy when the church becomes influenced by those who do not know the truth of the gospel.
Jude 8. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
Having given three examples of the consequences of the sinful behavior of both Israel and her pagan neighbors, Jude connects this dialogue with the state of those who are bringing their pagan world views into the fellowship. Jude likewise illustrates three areas of sinful behavior that characterize the interlopers.
First, they gave authority to their “dreams” as their guiding source. Basically, this means that they consider truth to be anything that enters their mind. Sometimes people who claim to be faithful Christians fall into this error when they think that they are so attuned to the LORD that they give a label of holiness to anything that comes into their minds. Consider how dangerous to the gospel and to the church this trait can become when those people have no relationship with God.
Second, they are characterized by sexual sin. This may include any application of sexual gratification that is outside of the consummated relationship between a male and female within the bonds of marriage. Though the sin of homosexuality may first come to mind, the early church was immersed in a Greek culture that literally worshiped sex. Polygamy, incest, ritual prostitution, child molestation, and other forms of sexual sin were both common and considered normative, and even celebrated, behavior. The sinful lifestyle of the interlopers illuminates the hypocrisy of their profession as a Christian.
Finally, they despise the things of God. They may not shout blasphemies against God, for to do so would certainly diminish their authority in the congregation. However, they demonstrate that they despise God in their lifestyle, using coarse and worldly language, allowing wickedness in their lives, and demonstrating anger and hatred towards those who would work to correct or rebuke them for their ungodly words and actions.
Jude 9. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
Those who are bringing heretical views into the body are quick to contend against their critics. They are defensive and arrogant as they speak and work to defend their positions of power and decry the work of the Holy Spirit in the body, demonstrating anger and hatred towards those who do know the LORD and are contending against their evil behavior.
Jude draws from an extra-biblical traditional story that would have been known to his readers. Moses’ grave has never been found. This led to a myriad of explanations including this traditional one wherein there is a debate between the Archangel Michael and satan concerning Moses’ eternal state. Satan accused Moses of sin, highlighted by Moses’ killing of the Egyptian. Too humble to even rebuke satan himself, Michael called upon the LORD to rebuke him. This narrative illustrates the dramatic difference between the sincere humility of a faithful leader and the arrogant and hypocritical leadership demonstrated by the interlopers.
Jude 10. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
When people do not know the LORD, they are not able to truthfully understand or interpret spiritual things. Their great words and criticisms are based in ignorance. What they do know are those things that come to them naturally, ideas formed from the base knowledge and animal instincts that drive them. By following their sinful, base, nature they only succeed in corrupting themselves both spiritually as they are continually reinforcing their pagan beliefs, and physically as they engage in base and lascivious behavior.
Jude 11. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
While the church is allowing the unrepentant to steer their congregation, and may actually praising them for their leadership, Jude presents no doubt about his opinion of these leaders. Jude likens them to Cain who despised God, despised the sacrifices that the LORD required, and hated the sincere piety of his brother Abel. This hatred led Cain to murder his brother.
The allusion to Balaam is instructive. The people considered Balaam to be a prophet of the LORD, and he presented himself as such. However, he succumbed to greed when he was willing to curse Israel in order to gain a personal reward. A similar characteristic is found in the heretics: they profess to be Christian leaders, but their hearts are full of self-centered greed, and their true motives are not consistent with the work of the LORD within the body.
Jude 12. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Where the church members might think that their heretical leaders are furthering the work of the church, the truth is quite the opposite. Jude describes them as ugly, black holes burned into the fabric of their godly works. Rather than work to nurture others with acts of agape love, the interlopers only work to feed themselves, taking whatever they can for their own gain, whether in substance or in position. Consequently, they may have positions of title, but their works are without any power. They are like clouds that look like they will provide life-giving rain, but the rain never comes. They are like fruit trees that promise an abundance, but only wither when the fruit is to come in.
Jude 13. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Jude uses two more metaphors to describe the nature of the heretics in the fellowship. He likens them to the raging waves of the sea. Most of those to whom Jude is writing would not be seafarers. People tended to be afraid of the sea, and even those who did go out onto the Mediterranean Sea were quite wary of raging waves that would threaten to capsize any vessel. That which rages is loud and boisterous, drawing much attention to itself, and works to destroy those who are caught in its power. This describes the nature of those church bullies whose shame is evident in their self-centered behavior. One cannot observe a raging wave without seeing its foam, and one cannot observe the church bully without seeing his self-centered swagger.
Jude also likens them to stars that have no future other than to wander away into eternal darkness. Their light is only temporary, is without direction, and will soon come to nothing.
Jude14-15. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
These verses have spurred no little controversy, and have caused some to question the assignment of Jude’s letter to the biblical canon. The books of Enoch are a pseudepigraph and are not part of either the Christian or Hebrew canon. Some have argued that since a non-canonical reference is made, then the letter cannot be canonical. That is, it should not be included in the Bible. However, there are many citations and allusions to non-canonical sources throughout the Bible.
Written within a few generations prior to the birth of Jesus Christ, disseminated by the scribes, and taught by the Rabbis, Enoch was not considered part of the Hebrew Bible, but was an important part of their traditional teaching. Consequently, much of the books of Enoch was well-known to the Jewish members of the early church. Jude would have no idea that his letter to the church would become part of the Christian canon, and would have had no reason to abstain from drawing from this well-known document.
We can conclude that, though the book of Enoch is not inspired scripture, it does contain some statements that are consistent with the spirit, nature, and content of the Word of God. It is rather evident that the quote that Jude draws from is such a quote. This same message can be found in various verses of the Revelation of John. There is much agreement between the apocalyptic passages in 1 Enoch and the Revelation. Because of this, we can accept these two verses of Jude’s letter with confidence.
The citation makes reference to the coming of the LORD at the end of the age, a time when the wicked will be judged. Jude makes it clear that, though the church may be treating these leaders with deference and respect, the LORD will judge them for their evil.
Jude 16. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.
Further demonstrating the ungodliness of these leaders, Jude points out some of the characteristics of their behavior that serve to expose them. They are murmurers, and complainers. Their words are not ones that serve to edify others through the expression of agape love, but rather, they tend to criticize and complain about others in order to satiate their own need of self-justification.
They also draw upon the admiration of others as they speak “great swelling words,” telling others what they want to hear in order to obtain the political and social advantage. These are often gifted and talented people who simply do not know the LORD, so their gifts are used for their own gain. Ideally these would come to know the LORD and their gifts could then be channeled to good works.
Jude 17-19. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
Finally, having fully exposed the true nature of ungodly leadership in the fellowship, Jude reminded his readers that their presence in the body had been part of the teaching of the Apostles when they warned that there will be “mockers” who live for their own lusts; heretics who are devoid of the Holy Spirit as they work to lead the church away from the truth. Indeed, a primary theme of the New Testament epistles is the exposure of false teachers and instructions to the church to recognize them and to give them no authority in the body of believers.
Jude 20-21. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Jude’s letter was written to address an important issue in the church, one that is important enough that it could not wait for him to come for a visit. This issue was the damage being done within the body by ungodly leadership that was leading the church away from the truth of the gospel. This threat to the church needed to be addressed immediately.
Having exposed the heretics in the body, Jude turned to the faithful Christians who were susceptible to the influence of the heretics who would draw them away from their faith. Where the heretics fail to express love, Jude again returns to his testimony of love for the people of the church as he encourages them to strengthen their faith in the LORD.
How does one’s faith become strengthened? Jude gives his readers several tasks which may be exercised to this end:
1. Jude refers to the necessity of praying to the LORD with a sincere heart, one that is submitted to the LORD. When we open our hearts in prayer, we also open ourselves to recognize the work of the LORD in our own lives and in the world around us. Though faith involves believing in that which we cannot see, we are given opportunities to witness and understand the work of the LORD around and in us, and every time we recognize the LORD at work, our faith is strengthened.
2. Jude also instructs the readers to “keep yourselves in the love of God.” The expression of Agape love, the unconditional love that comes only from the Holy Spirit, is not an emotion: it is a choice. We choose to love each other unconditionally because the LORD loves us in this way, and we are instructed by Him to love one another in this way. Jude reminds his readers that this choice to express agape love in their walk requires both a decision to do so, and the effort necessary to maintain it.
3. Finally our faith is strengthened when we understand and recognize the promise of the LORD to bless us with spiritual blessings in this life, and to grant to us an eternity with God in the next. Christians are able to look forward to the reward for their faithfulness with hope and expectation.
Jude 22. And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
The Christian life is not a passive one. The LORD does not intend that the faithful wait for the return of the LORD without joining with Him in His kingdom work. It is common practice for the people in a church to allow the leadership to do all the work, contributing very little to the work of the church or to ministry outside of the fellowship. When the leadership of the church is not working to build the kingdom of God, such a church devolves into a social club with a Christian theme.
Having exposed many of the leaders in the churches as unsaved heretics, Jude calls upon the people to put their faith to work. One of the hallmarks of agape love is the compassion it inspires. Compassion is expressed in a substantive work to meet the needs of those one expresses compassion for. Jude notes that when one exercises compassion, they are “making a difference.” This work of compassion is one that can be exercised by every believer, and when the entire church is mobilized to respond to their compassion for others, there will be a significant difference in their community as they serve to meet the needs of those around them.
Also, there are some who have a heightened compassion for the lost. Not all Christians are evangelists, but the LORD has equipped some with the ability and desire to respond to their compassion for the lost with positive action. It is these who are proactively engaged in efforts to bring lost souls to salvation. Jude refers to this work as “pulling them out of the fire,” a work that is motivated by their love for God and their hatred for sin and its consequences.
Having exposed the heretics, Jude notes that it is these who put their faith to action that are the true members of the body of Christ. They can be encouraged to know that their suspicions concerning the true motives of the heretics is true, and that they can become engaged in an effort to strengthen their faith, minister to each other and to others, and bring the church back to the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When this is done the power of the heretics is diffused and dispelled.
Jude 24-25. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Jude ended his letter with a blessing, one that may be one of the few verses of this text that is frequently quoted. Jude calls upon the church to be vigilant in their obedience to the LORD, as the LORD gives them the power to do so. Though all sin, and none can come before the LORD without fault, Jude reminds his readers that forgiveness is found through Jesus Christ. The heretics are finding no such forgiveness, and in their hearts they cannot experience the joy that Jude is writing about. One is found faultless before God only through the sincere profession of faith in the LORD, trusting Him as LORD, and seeking to follow Him in obedience. Only then will the joy of salvation be found.
Jude’s letter closes with words of praise to the LORD, something that may be encouraging to a church that hears very little praise, particularly out of those unsaved men who have “infiltrated: the church fellowship.
The letter that Jude wrote to the church may be small in size, but it is large in its message, a message that is certainly as appropriate today as it was in the few short years following the resurrection of Jesus Christ when the early church was being formed. The church is still immersed in a wicked and perverted society, one that constantly pressures the church to conform to its secular and pagan philosophies. While some fellowships are caving in to the pressures of society to conform, others are standing strong on the Word of God, not willing to knowingly compromising the Word of God in any way. Jude’s letter is a reminder for us to look carefully at the system of leadership that we have set up in our churches, and root out those who demonstrate ungodliness in their walk, giving leadership to those who are spiritual mature and show that maturity in the never-ending stream of godly works that their faith produces. When the church is successful in choosing spiritually mature leadership that is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the church will no longer be susceptible to falling into false doctrine and/or apostasy. The church will then be able to effectively minister to the needs of its members, find opportunities to meet the needs of people who come in contact with the church, and people will be saved from the disaster that awaits all those who take their rebellion against God to their graves.
 D.J. Rowston. “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament.” New Testament Studies. 21 (1974 – 1975). p 554 - 563
 This Judas, the brother of James should not be confused with Judas of Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.
 Mark 3:21,31.
 Also referred to as “general epistles” they include Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-2-3 John, and Jude.
 Romans 8:1.
 Aaron Tippin. “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.” RCA Nashville, 1980. Written by Aaron Tippin and Buddy Brock. Produced by Emory Gordy, Jr.
 Galatians 6:7.
 Psalm 37:4.
 Genesis, Chapter 19.
 Deuteronomy 34.6 states that the LORD buried Moses.
 Genesis 4:8.
 Numbers 21:15.
 Writings ascribed to various biblical patriarchs and prophets but composed within approximately 200 years of the birth of Jesus Christ.