Most commentators agree that the Book of Jude was written by Jude, the brother of Jesus and James (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; cf. Jude 1:1). The letter was likely written in the late 60s AD, making it one of the later books of the NT in terms of chronology.
It is unclear who the exact audience of the letter is, but it is likely Jews and Gentiles familiar with Old Testament literature, due to the number of allusions made to the Old Testament. One can also note the striking similarity between Jude and 2 Peter. Both are dealing with similar scenarios of false teachers infiltrating the ranks of the church, and both give clear instruction and admonition to persevere in the truths of the gospel.
The thesis of the book is found in verse 3: “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 repeatedly warns against false teachers who have infiltrated the church, using a variety of metaphors to describe them and warn the church of the dangers therein. In response to the distortion of gospel truth and the loosening of biblical morals, Jude calls believers to earnestly defend right doctrine. He does this mainly by drawing on Old Testament narratives—as well as some extra-biblical literature in an illustrative manner—to instruct the church about what these false teachers are like, the consequences they will receive from God, and a call to persevere.
As such, Jude flows like a typical Epistle with greeting, body, doxology, and farewell, but the middle section (Jude 1:5-16) feels in many ways like a judgment oracle from one of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Isa. 13-24). The warning against these false teachers is stark and severe, but just as crucial is the assurance of a God who keeps us (1:1, 24) and the greatness of his character (1:24-25).
Initial Greeting (1:1-2)
Jude’s Main Appeal: Contend for the Faith (1:3-4)
The Immoral Character and Resulting Judgment of the False Teachers (1:5-16)
Concluding Exhortations (1:17-25)
Outline #2: Contend: The Call to Persevere in Faith and Doctrine
Jude kindly greets the people, reminding them of God’s mercy, peace, and love (1:1-2)
Jude makes his appeal for them to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (1:3-4)
Jude rebukes the false teachers and tells of their coming demise (1:5-16)
Jude calls the people to forsake false teaching and instead to persevere in their faith by prayer and waiting for the coming mercy of God (1:17-23)
Jude concludes by praising our glorious God, reminding them that God will keep us as his own (1:24-25)
Big Ideas for Sermons
-The command to keep yourself in the love of God (1:21) is bookended by the fact that God will keep his people (1:1, 24). Thus, the assurance of our own perseverance is rooted in the dynamic of God’s preserving grace (cf. Phil. 2:12-13).
-The thesis of the letter is clearly found in verse 3. As such, we must remind our people in each sermon from Jude that his main focus is to equip people to contend for the faith.
-The faith we are to contend for is that which is “once for all delivered to the saints” (1:3). This is a clear reminder that even if culture changes the message of the Word of God remains constant in every context and every time period.
-We need to call false teaching what it is, as Jude does (1:5-16). False teaching is detrimental to the spiritual vitality of our people, and as such we must name it for what it is and refute it soundly.
-Walk your people through all of the Old Testament references and show them how fluent we need to be in conversing with both the Old and New Testaments (notice also Jude’s use of threes; 1:1; 4; 5-7; 8; 11).
-Talk about the means of perseverance available to us: building ourselves up in our most holy faith (1:20), praying in the Spirit (1:20), and waiting for the coming mercy of Jesus (1:21).
-Note the ministry we must have to others, especially if they have been led astray by false teaching (1:22-23).
-Praise God for his greatness and his kindness in our lives (1:24-25).
-Take joy in the fact that you are called, loved, and kept by the living God of the universe. When difficulty arises, these truths are crucial to keep in mind. Your people need to know God’s disposition toward them since they are in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:1-39)
-Learn specific ways you can teach your people how to contend for the faith. This does not have to be high-brow philosophical arguments (though it could include that), but it must include a great degree of biblical literacy and an understanding of how the whole of Scripture comes together in Christ.
-Don’t allow false teachers to “creep in unnoticed.” Shepherd your people carefully and be aware of errant doctrine that may arise.
-Watch carefully for the twisting of doctrine toward the end of moral laxity. The grace of God always leads to holiness.
-Take heed the kind of warnings given to false teachers in this section and give yourself to the accurate teaching of the Word of God.
-Walk your people through the various Old Testament texts cited by Jude. Be sure they understand the storyline and how Jude is weaving all of these narratives together to make his point. This will help your people become better interpreters of Scripture.
-Take advantage of the opportunity to walk your people through the two extra-biblical references (1:9: Assumption of Moses; 1:14-15: 1 Enoch). Many will likely ask why Jude uses such extra-biblical literature. Show them that while not an inspired book, Jude cites them as we cite sources in an illustrative manner.
-Remind your people of all the warnings found in the apostle’s writings regarding false teaching. The church must remain vigilant against such teaching, knowing that the Antichrist is coming, and many antichrists have already come (1 John 2:18).
-Teach your people that, while God does preserve us, he calls us to persevere, and he gives us the means to do so. Encourage them toward becoming stronger through time in the Word, prayer, and hoping in the future coming of Jesus Christ. They must keep to these disciplines while we live so as not to be deceived and so to persevere in any circumstance.
-Have an outward focus toward those who are in need of ministry and mercy, especially those duped by false teaching. Have mercy, knowing the path they are on leads only to their perishing.
-Praise God continually for his grace, never get over his abundant love and mercy displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
-Trust that God will keep you from stumbling and will present you blameless before him.
Christians need to defend the doctrines of the faith (1:3).
This is going to require ongoing training for our people in the specifics of Scripture, theology, and doctrine, as well as the application of these disciplines in the realm of ethics and apologetics. We cannot accomplish that task overnight. As such, pastors need to think what avenues they have for training their people and take up the task with great resolve and in a systematic fashion.
We need to identify false teachers in terms of their teaching content as well as their immoral character (1:4, 8, 10, 12–13, 16, 18-19).
While we do not want to assault someone’s character in an uncharitable way, if we know false teaching is occurring, we cannot simply stand by and do nothing. We must protect our flock as we are called to do. Make sure your people know what false teaching is out there and why, from Scripture, it is false.
God is going to judge all false teachers (1:4, 5-7, 11, 14-15).
Jude uses a variety of Old Testament narratives to describe what their end will be like. He is also fairly exhaustive in describing these false teachers, saying they are designated for condemnation, are ungodly, and pervert God’s grace into license to sin (1:4). They blaspheme, walk toward destruction (1:10-11), and are grumblers, malcontents, boasters, and scoffers (1:16-18). Jude says much more about them, and we should use his skill in description and his depth of knowledge of the Scriptures to refute them.
God’s people must endure to be saved (1:17-23).
We must be clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but we must also emphasize that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), God has saved us for good works (Eph. 2:10), and genuine saving faith is a persevering faith. Our people must know that God keeps us, but does so by the means he provides. We must be active and engaged by the grace and power he supplies to us to do so.
God grants the grace to assure us that his people will persevere (1:1-2, 24-25).
Grace and perseverance do not cancel one another out. Both are truly stated in Scripture. Thus, we can thank God for the assurance we have based on the finished work of Jesus.
God grants mercy to those who are saved, and so we must show mercy to others (1:2, 21-23).
When our mercy toward others is flagging and not showing up as it should in our ministries, we must preach the gospel to ourselves and be reminded of the beauty of God’s mercy and grace toward us. We must minister with patience and love while also speaking the truth and being firm in our convictions.
My Encounter with Jude
Since verse 3 serves as the thesis for the book I called this series “Contend: The Call to Persevere in Faith and Doctrine.” The beginning and end are clear and point to God’s keeping of his people, verse 21 calls for us to keep ourselves in the faith, and the majority of the book is focused on identifying and calling out false teachers. Jude is clear from his connection to the Old Testament and extra-biblical literature that one cannot deviate from the doctrinal standards found in God’s Word, and if someone does, the fate awaiting them is condemnation before God.
While people differ in the way they would divide the book, I chose to preach it in five sections. The first section (1:1-2) would set up the book and give some historical background to the author, noting especially how Jesus’ brothers were skeptical of his ministry during his lifetime (cf. John 7:1-5). The second message (1:3-4) focused largely on that main thesis of contending for the faith, which stands in direct distinction from what the false teachers are doing in verse four. Verses 5-16 could be preached over several messages, but I chose to do it as one so my people could see the overall way in which Jude dealt with the false teachers (especially in his use of the Old Testament) and what he thought of them. The call to persevere in 1:17-23 is important to work through, refuting the false teachers, showing people how to persevere, and also instructing them to continue ministering to those in need of gospel truth. The doxology (1:24-25) is a wonderful passage that connects back to the first two verses and reminds us of how our great God keeps us and will present us blameless someday.
While quite brief, Jude seems to be neglected in the overall preaching ministry of the church. We have a need to instruct our people in what kind of false teaching is out there, but also the very direct and dire ways in which God thinks of people who teach in such a manner. We need to be challenged to persevere, and assured of God’s “keeping” ministry in our lives. Finally, churches need to be strengthened in terms of what it means to contend for and defend the faith. In all of those ways, my hope was to awaken the church to some basic points of doctrine, but also use Jude as a launching pad toward some distinct initiatives we would be taking as a church to be faithful to the points raised for us within the book itself.
Gene L. Green, Jude and 2 Peter, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).
Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, NAC (Nashville: B&H, 2003).
Jeremy Kimble is Assistant Professor of Theology at Cedarville University and the author of '40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline' (Kregel, 2017).