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Tips for Preaching on the Book of Jude

Help for creating your sermon series on Jude, tackling the theological issues in the book, and applying the book to your hearers.
Tips for Preaching on the Book of Jude
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Historical Background

The letter was written by “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1). Tradition identifies the author as Jude, one of Jesus’ four brothers, who doubted Jesus before his resurrection (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) but later became a leader in the early church (Acts 15:13–21; 21:18; Gal. 2:9).

Jude wrote this letter to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1), but we know little about the recipients or the date of the letter. Because Jude leans on the Old Testament Jewish apocalyptic material (1 Enoch and Testament of Moses), it’s likely that he wrote to Jewish followers of Jesus.

Jude intended to write a longer letter to explore “our common salvation” (Jude 3), but changed his focus to address itinerant false teachers who had slipped into the church (Jude 4) and rejected all moral authority. They seemed to believe that Christians could live as they please and engage in immoral behavior. Jude writes to warn of this danger, and calls them to reject the false teachers and contend for the faith.

Many scholars notice similarities between 2 Peter and Jude. Both respond to false teachers who promote similar false teachings, and condemn the false teachers using similar terms. It is possible that one of the authors borrowed from the other.

Sermon Series

Contend for the Faith

Big idea for this series: Contend for the faith with a whole-life response of obedience, even in the face of opposition.

I preached a version of this series in 2011. That particular church tended to de-emphasize theology. I wanted to remind the church of the importance of being on guard against distortions of the gospel, and train them how to respond when they hear false teaching that sounds attractive.

Text: Jude 1-4
  • Title: Worth Fighting For
  • Exegeticla Idea: Contend for the faith because some people distort God’s grace and reject the authority of Jesus.
  • Big Idea: Delight in, and contend for, the gospel.
Text: Jude 5-16
  • Title: What’s the Big Deal?
  • Exegeticla Idea: False teachers live ungodly lives and are destined for condemnation.
  • Big Idea: False teachers are rebels who will be judged, and they are a danger to the church.
Text: Jude 17-23
  • Title: How to Fight
  • Exegeticla Idea: Hold fast to the faith by remembering apostolic predictions, remaining in God’s love, and showing mercy to those affected by the false teachers.
  • Big Idea: Respond to false teaching by keeping yourselves in God’s love.
Text: Jude 24-25
  • Title: Our Confidence
  • Exegeticla Idea: Praise God because he is able to preserve believers until the Day of Judgment.
  • Big Idea: Our confidence is ultimately in God, who is able to preserve us.
Faith in Faithless Times

I borrowed this title from Mark Dever’s chapter on Jude in The Message of the New Testament.

Big idea for this series: Respond to false teachers by recognizing the danger of their teaching, and by building yourself up in the faith.

This second series is one sermon shorter, and deals with verses 17 to 19 as part of the preceding section rather than the one that follows, but overall follows the same basic development of the text.

Text: Jude 1-4
  • Title: When Fighting is Right
  • Big Idea: Contend for the faith because of false teachers.
Text: Jude 5-19
  • Title: How to Recognize a False Teacher
  • Big Idea: There’s nothing new about false teachers. They will be judged.
Text: Jude 20-25
  • Title: How to Contend
  • Big Idea: Build yourself up in the faith, praising God who can keep you from stumbling.


Theological controversy can seem like a distraction. With so many different perspectives, many suggest that we should look for areas of agreement and downplay doctrine when it becomes contentious.

We can also experience uncertainty in facing ethical issues within the church, such as sexuality. Some uphold a strict ethic, believing we should obey God’s moral law as revealed in Scripture and taught throughout the centuries. Others argue that we take a more enlightened view and shift our understanding. Still others argue for a third way: that we agree to disagree.

How should the church respond when it faces theological controversy and varying standards of morality?

Jude provides an opportunity to address these timeless issues and more:

  • Why “our common salvation” is worth taking about, and should appear as a common topic of conversation (3). Jude would have preferred to talk on this subject, except a more urgent issue came up.
  • Why distortions to the gospel are dangerous and must be handled with urgency (3). Not every theological issue is worth fighting for, but some issues are so central that we must contend for them.
  • How false teaching and immorality often go together (4). Belief affects behavior. When we believe false teaching, it affects every area of life.
  • How false teaching follows repeated patterns throughout history (5-13). Heresy often seems new, but it isn’t. It follows patterns that began in the Hebrew Scriptures and continue until today. Recognizing the historic patterns will help us deal with contemporary dangers.
  • Why sexual immorality matters (4, 7). Many today argue that we should rethink the historic biblical teaching on sexuality. Jude reminds us what is at stake.
  • How to counter false teaching (17-23). Jude gives practical advice on how to guard ourselves in the face of danger, and how to respond to those who have been affected by false teaching. He distinguishes between the different responses needed to different degrees of danger (22-23).
  • Where to find our confidence (24-25). We have a role to play in contending for the gospel, but our ultimate hope is in God, who is able to keep us from stumbling.

Jude preaches itself. The book is full of such urgency, and relates to so many issues we face, that the overall themes are easy to interpret and apply.

Because Jude sounds the alarm, some may think that it is too negative. Because a series on Jude will likely be short, it’s important to focus on the positive messages of Jude (20-25), and to explain why it is important—for the original readers and for us—for Jude to sound the alarm.

The hardest parts to explain are the references to extrabiblical Hebrew texts. Jude references rebellious angels who have sex with women and are being imprisoned for their rebellion until they face God’s judgment, taken from the book of 1 Enoch (6); the archangel Michael’s debate with the devil about the body of Moses from the Testament of Moses (9); and Enoch’s prophecy from the book of 1 Enoch (14-16). These traditions are unfamiliar to us, but would have been very familiar to the original readers.

It is especially difficult to understand what Jude meant in verses 9-10. Jude seems to argue that the false teachers are doing what even Michael would not dare to do: to condemn evil angels on their own authority. Michael leaves the final judgment to God; the false teachers, on the other hand, condemn what they don’t understand.

Jude is not necessarily agreeing with everything in 1 Enoch, the Testament of Moses, or Jewish tradition in general. He is simply using material that would have been familiar to his audience to buttress his point. Jude’s point: rebellion against God’s authority, sexual immorality, and rejection of his angelic messengers is nothing new and should not take us by surprise.

In covering this section of the letter, it’s important to emphasize the point that Jude is making without becoming bogged down in the details. Jude’s main point is clear: false teaching is nothing new, and it’s always been a danger to God’s people.

I especially love preaching verses 20 to 23. We’re not just supposed to keep ourselves believing the right things about God; we’re to keep ourselves in the love of God. Christianity is theological, but it is also relational. When others waver, our response should be to carefully call them back to God’s love.

Theological Themes

Jude covers some important theological themes in his short book:

  1. God is triune: Father (1), Son (1, 4, 21, 25), and Spirit (19-20).
  2. Salvation. Christians are those who are “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (1). Although we play a role in our ongoing obedience (17-21), it is ultimately God who preserves us (24-25).
  3. The gospel. There is a theological core to Christianity that is worth protecting. If we lose that, we lose what it means to believe (3-4).
  4. Heresy. Heresy presents itself as new, but it’s old and destructive. Heresy affects behavior, not just beliefs, and is an ongoing danger to God’s people (5-16).
  5. Judgment. Jude repeatedly talks about condemnation, judgment, and the last day (4, 6-7, 13).
  6. Ecclesiology. The community of God’s people is the new temple, being built as we hold to the gospel (20-25). As the church gathers and celebrates its love feasts (12)—probably a reference to the Lord’s Supper—it must also guard its doctrine.

My Encounter with Jude

“Are you a church that believes in grace?” I faced this question in the first church I pastored, and assured the couple that we wholeheartedly embraced God’s grace. A few weeks later, I discovered that this couple was living immorally. I confronted them, and they balked. “Didn’t you say that you believed in God’s grace?” It was the first, but not the last time, I struggled with antinomianism: a rejection of God’s law based on a belief in God’s grace. I’ve also found that a lot of people want to avoid theological controversy at all costs.

I’ve pastored three churches. All of them, in different ways, have struggled with these issues. At the second church I pastored I preached a series on Jude to encourage the congregation to see the danger of well-meaning people who promoted dangerous teachings. We must be alert. We must contend for the gospel. If we lose the gospel—even to convincing, well-meaning people—we lose everything.

The same heresies keep presenting themselves, and they look attractive at first. Jude helps us recognize the danger of heresy, as well as the danger of an “anything goes” approach to our faith. It’s worth learning how to spot a heresy, it’s worth contending for the gospel, and it’s crucial that we respond to God’s grace with obedience, not with immorality. Jude carries an important message for the church today.


Richard J. Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1983).

Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006).

Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996).

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