“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
Jude 3 ESV
Jude (or Judas), the writer of the letter, was the brother of James, the early church leader, and the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s quite interesting to note though that James and Jude were the same brothers who doubted Jesus in John 7:5. They were also the same brothers who proclaimed that He was “out of his mind” in Mark 3:21. There was likely more pain then we know when Jesus proclaimed “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” in Matthew 13:57.
But what a drastic change! James and Judas became leaders in the church and martyrs for their faith. They went on to write the encouraging letters that we have today in James and Jude. 2 Corinthians 4:6 rings true for them both by God shining His light into their formerly darkened hearts.
Originally the intent of Jude was to write about the common salvation that we all share. Jude, who as we noted was in the darkness up until the point of his brother and Lord’s death and resurrection, wanted so desperately to write about what he believed and loved (Jude 3). But he didn’t. He couldn’t because he noticed that the church was facing a far more pressing issue: certain people were creeping into the church unnoticed. These were people who claimed to be believers but were denying fundamental doctrines such as the exclusive authority of Jesus Christ (Jude 4). These were apostates, false teachers who were twisting the grace of God into a license to sin. What had once for all been delivered to the saints now needed to be contended for.
So the letter of Jude is a warning to true believers to watch out for these types of people. Instead of writing about their common salvation, Jude writes a brief but uncompromisingly direct letter.
Only 25 verses, the letter can be broken down into two major sections.
1) Verses 1-16 describe the ungodly contesting against the faith.
2) Verses 17-25 describe how we should contend for the faith.
Jude is a call to fight. But it is unlike any other battle cry we have heard of. Although his main concern is to renounce false teachers (for the threat he was confronting was similar in fashion to what was described in the Peter’s second letter: false teachers who twisted the grace of God to be a license for immorality) we can see that Jude’s strategy is more than just the negative opposition of these false teachers. Jude calls Christians to fight by building themselves up in the faith and by showing mercy to others. In verses 20 and 21, Jude calls Christians to pray in the Spirit, to maintain themselves in God’s love, and to wait for eternal life in Jesus; all as a means to build themselves up. And in verses 22 and 23 Christians are to show mercy to those who doubt, who are stained with sin. Christians are to be rescuers, snatching them out of the fire.
But the thing is this wasn’t a problem only for Jude’s time. His warnings are quite relevant today. Pastor Chris mentioned it this past Sunday but many of those false teachings are still within our church today, along with a host of others such as the prosperity gospel or inclusivism. Jude’s prescription for confronting spiritual error is as timely and applicable today as it was when it was first written.