One commentary opines that Jude is the most neglected book in all the New Testament, and it is not difficult to consider this to be true. It is primarily known for verse 3, "earnestly contend for the faith," and for verses 24 and 25, a noble and uplifting praise of God. The book is only twenty-five verses long, and it is tucked between the oft-quoted Johannine epistles and the well-worn, dog-eared pages of Revelation. In addition, Jude does not provide much in the way of doctrine or Christian living. Besides this, it is almost a carbon copy of II Peter 2.
Most of Jude is a scathing denunciation of false teachers—the smoke almost rises from its pages. The denunciation is sandwiched between two short, three-verse sections in which he exhorts them to faith and love. One of the factors that nearly kept it out of the canon was that Jude quotes two passages from apocryphal books, "The Assumption of Moses" and "The Book of Enoch," both of which were written between the writing of Malachi and beginning of the New Testament. Though they were apocryphal, Jude has no problem quoting passages from them.
Though it seems as if this book has several prohibitive factors, these are merely human perceptions. God has no problem with it, as He included it within the Bible for a reason. He saw something in it that would be of great value to His people down through the ages, and perhaps, due to His omniscience, He inspired Jude to write it specifically for the end-time church when the events that the apostle mentions would be most applicable. Certainly, it applied to those in the first century, since he wrote it to counter specific problems of the time. It really is a timeless book because the circumstances of Jude's day crop up from time to time within the church.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude wastes no time getting into his subject. The first thing he does is call himself a servant of Jesus Christ, not His brother. Most commentators note that this shows his humility. He was not coming to them with authority because of his blood relationship with Jesus but with the authority of Christ's servant, who had been specifically commissioned to do this job. Yes, there is humility but also a great deal of authority.
He underpins his authority by calling himself the brother of James. James, in the New Testament church, was a bedrock figure. Remember, Paul likens him, with Peter and John, to a pillar, pointing to his high reputation in the church as a person of great authority. James summed up matters in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, and he was generally known as righteous. A tradition has come down to us that James had knees like a camel's because he spent so much time in prayer. So, Jude establishes his credibility in his humility and his authority in that he is Christ's servant and has a direct link to James, who had a sterling reputation in the church.
He goes on to describe true Christians. He makes sure his salutation includes this description in it because he is beginning to separate the wheat from the tares. "True Christians are like this," he says. "They are called, sanctified by the Father, and preserved by Christ."
First, he says true Christians are specifically invited into the family (John 6:44). God the Father sends out the call, and He brings them to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Second, true Christians are set apart by the Father's calling, His mercy in forgiving them, His bringing of them to repentance, and His acceptance of them when He gives them His Holy Spirit. Romans 8 says that, if we have the Spirit of God, we are the sons of God. Jude, then, makes a distinction here. True Christians are "the called" and "the sanctified," people who have been made holy.
Third, he says we are guarded, kept, made secure, preserved, by Christ's work on our behalf. Without Him, we would have fallen away years ago. Without Christ's intervention on our behalf before the Father, we would be long gone. His strength has kept us here, not our own, so it shows a relationship with our Protector. We have a calling, we have a relationship with the Father, and we have a relationship with the Son. These distinctions are significant in the midst of apostasy, because they separate the sheep from the goats.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Ephesian church did have a problem. It was not in holding false teachers at arm's length, but in tending to become lax, to "drift with the tide," as it were, and this made them an easy target for false teachers. In this way, their weakness was, in a way, connected to their strength. They approached matters somewhat lackadaisically when times were fairly good, but when times became bad, they seemed to be able to stand up for the truth.
At certain times, their devotion to God's way left a lot to be desired. Just before the apostle John died in about AD 100, this was very much the case, and he really had to rouse them to get them back. From what we know from church history, by this time the membership of the true church was small and concentrated mostly around John in the church at Ephesus and some of the nearby towns in Asia Minor that he directly pastored.
Jude recognized the beginning of this drifting when he wrote in the mid-60s. All the apostles wrote similar things in their epistles: that the members of the church needed to get on the stick because false doctrines and false teachers were already in evidence among them and beginning to cause problems. If they did not root them out quickly, destruction would follow. The brethren were far too tolerant of divergent beliefs and practices, and Jude, especially, makes this point rather bluntly. He basically yells at them. Those who know Greek intimately say his language is very terse and sharp, and with it he lays in to them for being too tolerant of untruth.
His brother, Jesus, is more circumspect in His wording in Revelation 2:5. To paraphrase, he says, "I would rather that you were strong all the time. You need to go back and do the first works and remain strong so that these false teachers do not get a foothold in the church in the first place."
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude's entire book is based on Matthew 7:15-20, where Jesus tells us, "Beware of false prophets," and "by their fruits you will know them." We should keep this thought in the back of our minds as we study Jude because most of the book describes these false teachers and their false teachings. Jude is giving this warning so that we will be able to spot them when they come out, when they begin to show their fruit.
In this way, Jude and II Peter are both witnesses to the certainty of false teachers, giving us instruction on identifying them and their effects. That said, however, the two epistles are only similar on the surface. They bring out different nuances of these false teachers. It is good to read them together, but it is also good to study them separately, because they are not necessarily saying the exact same things. They agree, but they give us different details, different information, so we can know more fully how to spot these false teachers.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jude 1:1:
1 Corinthians 9:19-22