The Epistle of Jude

The Epistle of Jude is the last of the general letters of the New Testament and the next to the last book of the Bible. Jude is a brief but hard-hitting epistle written by a man who believed in not allowing negative influences to destroy the church. Jude unmasks false teaching with pointed language and vivid images, while appealing to the faithful to remember the teachings of the apostles.

Structure of the Epistle

A Salutation (vv. 1-2) is followed by a warning that "licentiousness" has found its way into the church (vv. 3-4). Such blasphemies will receive the judgment of God, as did Israel (v. 5), rebellious angels (v. 6), and Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7). Verses 8 through 13 note that the outrage of the blasphemers exceeds that of Satan himself and is similar to the rebellions of Cain (Genesis 4:3-8), Balaam (Numbers 22-24), and Korah (Numbers 16:19-35). Their schemes are nothing new; Enoch of old prophesied their punishment (vv. 14-16). Christians need not be victimized by such deceivers; their defense lies in remembering the words of the apostles and by working for the salvation and by working for the salvation of those caught in such errors (vv. 17-23). A famous benediction concludes the epistle (vv. 24-25).

Authorship and Date

The author of the epistle introduces himself as "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (v. 1). There is no further identification, and the James mentioned is probably the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19). Jude, therefore, would also be a brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55), although not an apostle (Jude 17). The emphasis on remembering "the words which were spoken before by the apostles" (v. 17) suggests that the epistle was composed sometime after the apostles had taught, thus favoring a date near the close of the first century.

Historical Setting

The Epistle of Jude has the character of a tract or brief essay written for a general Christian audience (v. 1). The author set out to write about "our common salvation" (v. 3), but the more pressing issue of false teachers launched him into a bitter attack on the "ungodly" (v. 15). Their ungodliness took the form of denying the lordship of Christ Jesus and, in the name of grace (v.4), justifying a life that included immorality of all sorts (vv. 4, 7, 16), mercenary interests (vv. 11, 16), cheap talk (v. 16), and utter worldliness (v. 19).

The false teachers attacked by Jude seem to have separated "spiritual" matters from behavior. Apparently they taught that the world is evil, and therefore it makes little difference how one behaves. Like the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6, 15), the false teachers deserved the just punishment of God. They refused to recognize the implications of the incarnation -that if God cared enough to send His Son into the world, then He certainly cares how people behave in it.

Theological Contribution

Jude writes as a defender of the faith who is "contending earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (v. 3). The "ungodly" are not heathen outside the church; they are the false teachers inside (v. 12). Their association with the faith, however, does not mean they live in the faith: the ungodly have not the Spirit (v. 19), whereas the faithful do (v. 20); the ungodly remain in eternal darkness (v. 13), but the saints have eternal life (v. 21). Condemning his opponents in sharp imagery, Jude calls then "raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (v. 13). The saints, on the other hand, must set their anchor in the teachings of the apostles (v. 17), and in the love of god (v. 21). They must work to retrieve from certain destruction those who have been deceived (vv. 22-23).

Special Consideration

Jude's last word on the problem of corruption in the church is preserved in a memorable benediction. Only God can keep us from error and bring us to Himself:

"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, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."


A Study and

Teaching Outline

 I. Purpose of Jude...........................................................1-4

II. Description of False Teachers.................................5-16

A. Past Judgment of False Teachers......................5-7

B. Present Characteristics of False Teachers........8-13

C. Future Judgment of False Teachers...............14-16

III. Defense against False Teachers............................17-23

IV. Doxology of Jude...................................................24-25

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