by Sam E. Stone
Jude is often described as one of the general epistles, since it is not directed to any specific group of Christians, but to the church at large. The author, Jude, most likely is a younger half-brother of Jesus. He identifies himself only as a “servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1).
As the letter begins, he explains that he was “very eager to write . . . about the salvation we share,” but the church was facing a difficult challenge (v. 3). “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
False teachers were the problem. These heretical leaders had slipped into the church and were attempting to subvert the saints. The Old Testament described such individuals who tried to lead God’s people away (v. 4). They were judged and punished. Such false teachers attempted to “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (v. 4). Because of God’s grace, these teachers said, “We are free to sin all we want, and God must forgive us.” Unthinkable! (See Romans 6:1, 2.)
Now Jude reminds them that even the apostles had foretold the arrival of these false teachers (see Acts 20:29, 30). They were to come in the last days. This period of time began in the time of Christ and will continue to the end of the world (Acts 2:17). There will be scoffers, Jude explains. Peter offers a similar warning in
2 Peter 3:3. Those who mock what Scripture says about the return of Christ will learn how wrong they were one day. The Lord’s return will surprise and startle both saint and sinner alike (Matthew 24:36).
These people were causing division in the church, just as false teachers often do today. Those with a divisive spirit do not have the Holy Spirit, Jude declares.
In contrast to these false teachers, the true believers are directed, Build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Each Christian has a personal responsibility to grow in Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8). The “most holy faith” refers to the body of truth they had been taught (as in v. 3). Pray in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps the believer when he prays (Romans 8:26, 27). When repentant believers are baptized, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The Spirit then helps them (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18). We seek to follow the Spirit’s promptings and rely on his power.
As we await Christ’s return, our duty is to keep (ourselves) in God’s love. As we do, we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring (us) to eternal life. We keep ourselves in God’s love when we continue to demonstrate our love as we live for him. At the same time, God will keep us in his love as well (Romans 8:35-39).
Then Jude categorizes different groups of people with whom we must deal. Be merciful to those who doubt. A distinction is made between the false teacher and the one falsely taught. Some knowingly and willfully teach wrong doctrine. Others have been influenced by error, but are still open to hear and heed the truth. In dealing with them, we must show a Christlike spirit (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Such an attitude does not mean weakness and toleration of error, however (1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:9; 2:15).
Snatch others from the fire. Rescue those on the verge of destruction. To others show mercy, mixed with fear. There is no place for self-confidence when one tries to redeem a lost soul (Galatians 6:1). We are all susceptible to temptation. Paul realized that even he could be disqualified if he turned his back on Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:27). So can we.
The short letter from Jude contains one of the most beautiful and powerful benedictions in all of Scripture. After reminding his readers of the false teachers who had been foretold, Jude outlined appropriate reactions, taking into account the heart and condition of those involved. In verses 24, 25 he concludes by reminding Christians that their resource is more than adequate for the challenge ahead. Believers must look to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. God keeps us from falling through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.