Jude is a letter written by Jude (or Judah in Hebrew), one of Jesus’ half-brothers, to a group of Christians in the mid-first century to warn against false teachers in the church.
Jude’s brief letter (consisting of just 25 verses) addresses false teachers who have “secretly slipped in among” the church. These teachers espouse two false doctrines: Jesus is not the Son of God and God’s grace allows Christians to sin all they want.
In verses 5-10, Jude uses Old Testament references such as Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19) and the Israelites who rebelled against God after the Exodus (Exodus 32)—as well as a reference to a story about rebellious angels in the extrabiblical Jewish book of Enoch—to show just how immoral and rebellious these false teachers were.
In verses 11-13, Jude uses other Old Testament references—Cain’s murder of Abel (Genesis 4), the false prophet Balaam (Numbers 22-25), Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16)—to show that these false teachers bring harm to others.
He describes them as “blemishes,” “shepherds who feed only themselves,” “clouds without rain,” “autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted,” “wild waves of the sea” and “wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved” (Jude 12-13).
Jude then references even more Old Testament passages, popular Jewish writings, the letters of the apostles and Jesus’ teachings in verses 14-19 to reinforce the inevitability of false teachers who seek to tear down God’s people.
But Jude reminds Christians that there is hope in Christ, who brings eternal life. Jude encourages the church to build itself up in the faith and to “pray in the Holy Spirit.” He challenges them to center their lives on God’s love, to wait patiently for the return of Christ, to show mercy to others and to “snatch others from the fire and save them” from these dangerous false teachings.
Jude ends his letter with a doxology, or a praise to God:
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Jesus is God’s Son: Jude’s letter condemns false teachers for their behavior, which is immoral, sinful and rebellious against Jesus, to show the reader that when Christians receive God’s grace through faith in Jesus, they are to respond by obeying Jesus’ teachings and not continuing to live in sin. God’s grace through Jesus transforms every part of the Christian’s life.
Watch out for false teachers: Jude also makes clear the coming judgment for those who spread false teachings in the church. Just as Sodom was judged for its rebellion against God, so too those who lead others astray with false teaching and rebellious living will be judged for their rebellion.
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Jude references a couple of Jewish writings that are not in the Christian Bible, and that has been the source of much debate.
But the reason Jude uses these books is not because he thinks they should be a part of the Bible, but because they help him better teach the audience, which was made up of Jewish people who converted to Christianity.
In the same way modern preachers reference books, movies or other media that are culturally relevant to help people better understand and relate to Biblical truth, so Jude uses these ancient Jewish writings to help his audience understand some important, Biblical truths: God’s grace transforms our whole lives, not just our final destination, and that His people live under His authority, which comes from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.