A Study of Jude
Introduction to Jude (Jude 1-2)
“The most neglected book in the New Testament is probably the book of Jude.”
~ D. J. Rowston
Similar to 2 Peter, Jude faces a church that is in grave danger. Advocating sexual liberty and freedom from traditional orthodoxy, false teachers are undermining the integrity of the Church through hedonism, tolerance, and cultural expediency. Thus, Jude pens this letter to address the importance of standing firm in the truth and to warn believers of the dangers of these false teachings.
II. Overview of Jude
The author identifies himself as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (v. 1). While this name (i.e., Jude, Judas) appears several times in the New Testament, there is little doubt that this Jude is the half-brother of Jesus.
Further support that Jude is one of the four brothers of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mk 6:3):
- The author never claims to be an apostle and even seems to distance himself from them (v. 17).
- The author describes himself as the “brother of James” (v. 1). Normally, one would describe himself as the son of someone. This indicates the prominence of this “James”.
- The character of the letter (e.g., use of Scripture and eschatological perspective) is consistent with an early Palestinian Jewish-Christian leader such as Jude.
- To argue that the letter is deliberately pseudonymous and that the author wanted to pass himself off as Jude, the brother of James, fails to explain the use of an obscure figure in early Christianity.
It should be noted that the Book of Jude was seen as Scripture very early in Church history (e.g., Murtorian Canon of AD 200, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria).
B. Date and Occasion
While no specific location is mentioned, the recipients do appear to be Jewish believers located in a specific area (v. 1).
The date is also difficult to assess. Jude 3 seems to suggest that this epistle was penned in the latter years of the apostolic period, sometime between AD 60 and 80 (e.g., “the faith once entrusted to the saints” and “remember what the apostles . . .”).
Jude’s format is carefully constructed with a unified purpose. We can outline the letter as follows:
The Purpose of the Letter (3-4)
Warnings against Apostasy (5-16)
A. An Appraisal of the Past (5-7)
B. An Assessment of the Present (8-16)
Ways to Avoid Apostasy (17-23)
A. Remember Apostolic Teaching (17-19)
B. Relish in God’s Love (20-21)
C. Respond in Mercy (22-23)
While this letter contains strong condemnation of the false teachers, Jude should not be viewed in a negative light. The epistle provides strong encouragement for its readers as noted in the positive tone highlighted at both the beginning and end of the letter (see Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 426).
III. The Greeting (Jude 1-2)
Typical of most ancient letters, this epistle begins with the sender, then the recipients, and concludes with a greeting. What is unique with Jude’s greeting is that a customary “hello” is absent. Instead, Jude highlights the content of the gospel as he anticipates the major themes he will address within the letter.
v. 1 – Referring to himself as a “slave” references the special service to the Lord as seen in the lives of many Old Testament leaders (e.g., Abraham, Moses, David). In the New Testament period, Paul, Peter, and James will refer to themselves as the slaves of Christ. Such a title in the New Testament reflects a high Christology.
It should also be noted that James’ self-identification as a slave-agent of Jesus Christ serves as “a claim to authority, divine commission, and perhaps even inspiration. Standing behind him is Christ himself. This is not a mere statement of humility.” (Green, Jude & 2 Peter, 45-46).
Jude’s authority also stems from his relationship with James. This is most likely the same James who is the brother of Jesus and a leader of the Jerusalem church (see Acts 15:13; Gal 2:9, 12).
Observe the three-fold description of his readers:
- Called. The concept of God calling becomes a major theme in the New Testament. According to God’s sovereign choice, the Lord calls individuals unto salvation and service (see Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 1:9; Gal 1:6, 15; Eph 4:1-4; Col 3:15; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 1:9). The readers’ recognition of their divine calling is crucial to withstanding the teachings of the false teachers.
- Wrapped in the love of God the Father. Often accompanying God’s calling in Scripture is His love (see Isa 44:2; Rom 9:25). As aptly noted by one commentator, “God’s election of people is not motivated by their merit (2 Tim 1:9; cf. Rom 5:7-8), as if they were elected and called in due to their virtue” (Green, 48).
- Kept for Jesus Christ. There are two possible ways to render this phrase. It could be either one is “kept by Christ” (NIV) or one is “kept for Christ” (NASB, NET). However, the grammatical construction favors the latter rendering. It would seem that Jude could be emphasizing the goal of their salvation is that they will be kept secure for Christ’s return (see 1 Pet 1:5). Whichever position one takes, the main emphasis is clear: “those whom God has called to himself are loved by and kept until the day of salvation” (Shreiner, 431).
v. 2 – Jude’s love for triplets appears in this second verse as well: mercy, peace, and love. First, we should note what is missing from this greeting. Unlike almost all of the other New Testament greetings, peace is omitted from the prayer wish. This glaring omission is probably due to the fact that the false teachers have distorted the proper view of grace (v. 4). In addition, the triplet that is provided highlights the major themes of the book. Note the following:
- Mercy. The readers needed God’s mercy to withstand the false teachers, but they also needed mercy as they related to those who had succumbed to the false teachers (vv. 22-23).
- Peace. The false teachers had created division and strife (vv. 10, 16). Peace was gravely needed in the Church. This division also had the potential of creating a broken relationship with the Lord.
- Love. The false teachers abused the concept of love and the purpose surrounding the love feasts (v. 12).
A. God’s calling stems from His great love for us.
Ephesians 2:4-5 –
B. God’s calling is established and guaranteed based upon His sovereign power and His omniscience.
Ephesians 1:7-8 –
C. God’s calling comes with a purpose.
Romans 8:29-30 –
“In election we behold God the Father choosing; in vocation, God the Son teaching; in justification, God the Holy Ghost sealing; in salvation, the whole Deity crowning.” ~ Thomas Adams
For further thought . . .
Based upon our study this morning, I invite you to spend some additional time this week reflecting on the following:
Examine the following passages of Scripture. How do the writers suggest that the dangers of false teachers/prophets can be spotted? What safeguards do they try to establish against being led astray by such teaching?
Matthew 7:15 –
Matthew 24:11-12 –
Colossians 2:18 –
1 John 4:1 –
2 John 10 –
Revelation 2:20 –