Jude 1-4 – Contending for the Faith
Purpose and Content of the Book
Jude began writing his letter as an exposition of our common salvation. It may have been similar in theme to 1 Peter. But, by the leading of God’s Spirit, Jude’s emphasis turns polemical, addressing the error and erring that existed in his day. Thus, the final product looks much like 2 Peter. In his second letter, Peter told us that mockers were coming; in Jude’s letter, we find that they have arrived. Jude, therefore, tells us how to live in such a day.
Jude teaches us to enjoy the Old Testament, for he uses at least eight examples from it. In these examples, he was proving that God’s verdict for rebels in the Old Testament is the same as His verdict for apostates in the New Testament. Neither the nature nor the condemnation of such people have changed: they are rebellious, immoral, errant, subtle, dissatisfied, and therefore damned.
The threefold response Jude wanted from his readers was: (1) a battle for the faith, v. 3, (2) a building on the faith, v. 20, (3) a bringing of others to the faith, v. 22-23. All this culminates in praise to God (v. 24-25), for nothing but an accurate vision of God will equip us for our day.
An Outline of the Book
- The Foundation of Jude’s Warning (v. 1-4)
- The Ancient Condemnation of Apostates (v. 5-16)
- A Positive Exhortation to Believers (v. 17-25)
Jude Greets the Believers in Light of Their Blessed Prospect (v. 1-2)
Jude [the half-brother of the Lord Jesus], a bond-servant of Jesus Christ [not identifying himself as Jesus’ half-brother, just as James does not], and brother of James [who wrote the book of James, once an elder in Jerusalem], To those who are the called [Thus, it is a general epistle. “Called” is qualified by the following two descriptions.], beloved in God the Father [“wrapped in the love of God” (NET); cf. Romans 8], and kept for Jesus Christ [future, at His Second Coming; cf. verse 24]: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you [cf. verses 20-21].
In his greeting, Jude emphasizes his submission to Christ rather than his familiarity with Christ. Though the half-brother of the Lord, Jude would rather be identified as the slave of Christ, for the true lover of Christ does not abuse familiarity but rather exercises reverence. If the half-brothers of the Lord did not exercise familiarity with the risen Lord, how much more should we beware of being flippant concerning His Person.
But Jude does validate his writing by citing his relationship to James. This would be James the Just, once an elder in the Jerusalem assembly, often mentioned in Acts. James was called an apostle in Galatians though he was not an apostle by office, but rather an apostle by authority it seems. Thus, Jude’s apostolic authority is still clear, though he himself could claim no apostleship.
Believers are called by God, and this is demonstrated in God’s loving and God’s keeping. The scope of Jude’s letter is general; thus, he addresses it to all of God’s called ones. They were called unto God’s love and protection, similar to the themes of Romans 8, indicating that this is a sovereign and purposeful call by God. The love of God is His permanent commitment to loving us, having immersed us in the ocean of His love once and for all. The keeping of God is with a view to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. We are kept for Him.
Jude sought to equip his readers with mercy, peace, and love for turbulent times. This is not a wish for their possession of God’s love and protection, for they had that already. In light of verses 20-21, this benediction aims for their enjoyment of God’s mercy and love, resulting in inner peace. God’s mercy, peace, and love are ours by possession in a sense, but the manifestation of these blessings is where the benediction comes in.
Jude’s Personal Efforts Were Overridden by His Burden for the Need of Defense (v. 3)
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation [perhaps similar in scope to 1 John, doubtless a primarily positive burden], I felt the necessity [general burden overridden by specific need, by the Spirit of God] to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly [struggle in a vicious warfare] for the faith [the complete body of Christian truth, that is, what we believe] which was [The following clause is definitional of “the faith”] once for all [If once for all delivered, it is unalterable, either positive or negatively, not subject to addition or subtraction.] handed down [for protecting, upholding, and passing on] to the saints [Truth belongs to us, not the apostates.].
God used Jude’s general burden to address a specific need. He originally purposed to write about “our common salvation,” perhaps similar in scope to 1 John or 1 Peter. But as he was pursuing that goal, the Spirit of God directed him to write for a more specific need, that is, to contend for the faith. It would have been easier to give the believers a positive message, yet he was given the hard task to address error.
We learn from this that God is the Author of meeting specific needs. We may have a general burden that we have trouble applying, but if we pursue it God will ensure that the specific needs which He sees are met.
We also learn that teachers sometimes need to do the hard task of addressing error. We freely address error with people who agree with us, but how difficult to an audience that may disregard us as a result. God’s people need positive encouragement, yes, but let us not think they need only that. We need hard preaching at times. Let us be sensitive to the need.
The faith is once for all delivered unto the saints. The believers were to defend an objective, unchanging body of truth. They did not stand for a fluid cultural standard. They stood for truth. Thus, the faith is described as “once-for-all-handed-down-to-the-saints.” That is its defining characteristic. Notice four factors in this description:
- The faith is what we believe. It is the body of truth to which we subscribe. It is New Testament revelation with the assumption of the Old. Since Jude can define “the faith,” we conclude that it is a definable entity. It is closed. It is limited.
- The faith is not open for additions. It was given “once for all.” The word means it was given singularly, uniquely, one time only. Ephesians 2 is right when it speaks of the apostles and prophets as the “foundation” of the Church. They were only at the beginning to give the faith; after that, there is no need for another foundation to be laid.
- The faith was passively delivered; thus, it is not ours to tamper with. It is a stewardship for which we will be judged. Yes, of course God is interested in our theology.
- The faith belongs to the saints; it is not the possession of any academy or system. The faith was not passed down to any “elite” members of the Church; it belongs to God’s people, of low or of high esteem. Thus, every saint is called to defend it.
The faith demands a bitter battle. We fight for what is valuable. Who can estimate the value of divine truth? Oh, we must fight to the bitter end if necessary! There is nothing more attacked in the world; therefore, there is nothing greater we need to defend. This must occupy our minds constantly.
To Contend for the Faith Demands Knowing the Nature of Heretics (v. 4)
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed [mere profession but with an alternative agenda; cf. Matt. 7], those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation [sentenced to damnation, not by eternal decree, but by Scripture’s sentence on all such characterized men], ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness [abusers of grace as in Romans 6] and deny our only Master [ruler with rightful possession] and Lord [sovereign with complete supremacy, also Deity], Jesus Christ [The genuine Man, the Saviour, exalted by God].
False teachers are subtle. Hence, Jude says, “Certain persons have crept in unnoticed.” This is Jude’s version of referencing “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It is the same principle. These false teachers invaded in stealth. This seems to imply they had an agenda, whether conscious of it or not.
False teachers are damned. They were “marked out” for condemnation from the beginning of God’s revelation. Men characterized by immorality and rebellion in the midst of God’s people are already under a passed sentence. Jude is not saying these men were under an eternal decree by God to be damned; rather, he is saying that such men have always been destined for destruction, regardless of the age they are in.
False teachers are immoral. They abuse God’s grace and excuse their sin based on it. They equate freedom from the bondage of Law with lawlessness, which is false. Therefore, they have no agenda but to use Biblical truth for personal gain, regardless of how they must corrupt it.
False teachers are rebellious. They do not appreciate being His slave nor His subject. They “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” He is the only Master to which believers bow. “You cannot serve two masters.” So, by rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, they disqualify themselves from the faith; there is no other option.