Jude by Joseph Novak
Jude: If ever the world is burned to ashes in a nuclear holocaust, let the last human being recite the epistle of Jude, and die.
(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)
Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Jude
Jude came from an important family:
- The Lord Jesus Christ was his brother
- Mary was his mother
- James, the church leader was also his brother
Now he shared this glorious salvation with people all over the world: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female—all united in Christ. He wanted desperately to write about it. But he couldn’t.
The church was facing a more pressing issue: people were creeping into the church unnoticed (Jd 4). These were not “seekers,” nonbelievers who were genuinely curious about Christianity. They claimed to be believers. But they denied the exclusive authority of Jesus, twisting His grace into a license to sin all they wanted.
They were infiltrators. They indulged in sexual immorality, greed, and grumbling. They rejected the authority of the apostles, angels, and the Lord. They caused churches to split up into opposing factions.
The children of God needed to keep their eyes open for this kind of behavior in the churches. So instead of writing about the salvation they shared, Jude wrote a brief, hard-hitting letter to the churches of the world.
In just 25 verses, Jude covers a few important points for Christians to remember:
- The threat to the faith. The ungodly people are perverting the grace of God and denying the only Master, Jesus (Jd 4). God will judge them, just like He has judged the unbelievers in the past (Jd 5).
- Characteristics of the ungodly. Jude compares these unrestrained, divisive people to unruly angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain the murderer, the profit-hungry Balaam, and the rebellious Korah. Jude brings in examples from both the Old Testament and other nonbiblical writings.
- The apostles’ warnings. The church had been dealing with false teachers for a while—some people were even pretending to be apostles of Jesus, with the authority of Peter, James, Paul, and John (2 Co 11:13). The apostles had warned that “mockers” would arise, causing doubt and division in the church.
But Jude is more than just a detractor. He doesn’t just write a list of red flags. This is a letter that urges the Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith”—to fight long and hard on behalf of their Lord. And Jude tells them how to combat this attack:
- Build themselves up in faith. They are to pray in the Holy Spirit, maintain themselves in God’s love, and wait for eternal life in Jesus.
- Show mercy to others. They should have mercy on those who doubt, even on those who are stained by sin. They’re to be rescuers, snatching some out of the fires that will come.
Jude is a call to fight, but it’s not like any other battle cry in history. It’s a charge to delight in God and show mercy to others. This is how the church fights valiantly for the faith: by loving God and showing mercy.
Theme verse of Jude
[. . .] I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jud 3b)
Jude’s role in the Bible
Jude is the seventh and last of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences across the Roman empire. We’re not sure when Jude was written.
Jude’s content mirrors the second and third chapters of Peter’s second letter. We don’t know if Peter borrowed from Jude’s letter, if Jude borrowed from Peter’s letter, or if both men were drawing from a prior discussion. Both letters, however, warn the church of two dangerous influences:
- False teachers who lead the people to indulge in sin
- Mockers who dismiss the idea of Jesus’ return
One major difference between the two books is Jude’s use of apocryphal literature (Jewish writings outside of the Scriptures). Jude mentions events that aren’t recorded in the Bible, such as an argument between Michael the Archangel and the devil over the body of Moses, or Enoch’s ancient prophecies. These examples come from the Assumption of Moses and First Enoch. Jude’s intended audience was familiar with these pieces, and therefore would have appreciated the references.
- The Exodus from Egypt (Jd 5; Ex 12:51)
- The generation of Israelites who died in the wilderness (Jd 5; Nu 14:35)
- The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jd 7; Gn 19:24)
- Cain, the son of Adam, who killed his brother (Jd 11; Gn 4:8)
- The prophet Balaam, who tried to curse the Israelites in exchange for money (Jd 11; Nu 22:31–33)
- Korah, who rebelled against Moses and Aaron, but was swallowed up by the earth (Jd 11; Nu 16)
- Enoch, the descendant of Adam and ancestor of Noah, whom God “took” from earth before he died (Jd 14; Gn 5:24; Heb 11:5)
Jude is only one chapter long, and it’s the fifth shortest book of the Bible (Third John is the shortest).
Quick outline of Jude
- The ungodly contending against the faith (1–16)
- How we should contend for the faith (17–25)
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