Jude: Contend for the Faith

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Contend for the Faith

Description of false teachers, Defense against false teachers.

Background: Jude, the brother of Jesus, warns of libertines around 68-80 AD
Theme: Contending for the true faith
Outline: Description Of and Defense Against False Teachers
Key Verse: "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 1:3, NIV)


Author: Jude the brother of James. Jude and James were both brothers of the Lord and sons of Joseph and Mary. They were not included in the twelve Apostles, and became believers after the resurrection of our Lord. Jude was the younger brother and traveled as a missionary, primarily to the Jews. His wife traveled with him. The name Jude is a form of Judah (greek Judas) and was very common.

Situation: Jude opposes false teachers. These particular false teachers live a sexually immoral life style and are arrogant in their teaching. It is likely that they quote 'Enoch', an apocrophal writing in which Enoch has mystic visions. It is also likely that these false teachers claim to have mystic visions and direct revelation from the Spirit, which is placed above or supercedes the teaching of the Apostles and the Scriptures. The heresies of acceptable immorality and visions contradicting Scripture are very dangerous and destructive of the Christian faith. While revelations and visions might be possible (from the Holy Spirit), the Holy Spirit will not contradict the Apostles teaching as recorded in the Scriptures, and in particular, the New Testament message is of a new life which is lived to please God (and is moral).

I. Salutation (vv. 1-2)

New International VersionBrRon's Commentary
{1} Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,

      To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:

    The Greek word for servant is 'doulos'. It can be translated as bondservant or slave. The concept is not like slavery we are familiar with from recent history. In Roman times, household servants were slaves, owned by their masters. In the sense here, it means that James knows he belongs to Jesus Christ, and his purpose as a 'doulos' is to serve his master, not to serve or please himself. We may feel that we belong to our company or job for eight (or more) hours a day, and may resent it. We belong to Jesus every hour of the day.  It also implies that Jude was not speaking on his own, but was speaking as the servant and emissary of Christ.

    Do you feel priviledged to serve such a master, even to be owned by Him?

    Jude was Jesus' brother as well as James, but he does not base his claim to fame on this. He claims Jesus, his earthly brother, is his heavenly Master, and Jude is merely his servant. Jude's brother, James, was the head of the Jerusalem Church, led the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), and wrote the Letter of James.

    Jude is writing to believers, who are the ones called, sanctified, and loved by God. God showed His love by forgiving their sins and adoptioning them into the family of God. Jude's greeting reminds them that above all else, they are deeply loved by God.

    We also should remember how much God loves us, even when we are going through trying struggles.

    What does it mean to be 'kept safe for Jesus?' Some versions translate this as "kept safe in Jesus". It could also mean "kept safe by Jesus". It is a matter of how you interpret the Greek text. But it clearly means that we are kept safe because of our relationship with Jesus. The rest of the letter will be warning of spiritual struggle against false teaching and apostasy.  

    We will be kept safe by and in our Lord, because of God's love for us, not merely by our own efforts and intelligence.

{2} Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.    Paraphrase - "May you receive abundant mercy, peace, and love from God the Father."

II. Warnings against Apostates (vv. 3-4)

New International VersionBrRon's Commentary
{4} Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.    Jude really wanted to write a letter about the faith that he shared with the other believers, perhaps how wonderful it is to be living the Christian faith. But he was 'constrained' either by the Holy Spirit or by concern over the dangers of false teachers. It is not a pleasant topic, but it is necessary to address. Thinking of James as the 'servant of Jesus Christ' (verse 1), he must write what his Master constrains him to write. Perhaps he wrote another letter (not Scripture) at another time, but this is the message which the Lord required and preserved.

    Various ways to translate 'contend' are contest, strive, fight, and battle. The word can be used of military battle or of athletic contests. The contending is not sitting back and letting others teach whatever they want, it is an active participation, like fighting on the front lines of a battle.

    How active is our Christian walk? Do we participate, or only watch from the pew?

    "Once for all entrusted" indicates that the 'faith' is fixed truth and does not change over the years.  This faith is explained in the Scriptures.  

{5} For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.    False teaching is nothing new. Jude will give Old Testament examples and apply the lessons to his own time, just as we must apply them to our time.

    Often television shows on religious topics quote religious leaders or even seminary professors who do not think the events of the Gospels happened as recorded.  For instance, they may take the resurrection of our Lord as 'a spiritual lesson', and such events as Jesus walking on the water as 'later fabrications by the church'. 

    Some religious teachers today have impressive titles or positions but deny that Jesus Christ is God as described in the New Testament.

III. Warnings concerning the Peril of Apostasy (vv.5-16)

New International VersionBrRon's Commentary
{5} Though you already know this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.     Example 1 - Unbelieving Israelites died in the wilderness.

    Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, but the great majority died in 40 years of wilderness wanderings because they refused to obey God when commanded to enter the Promised Land. They did not return to bondage in Egypt, but also did not receive the blessings intended for them. I do not believe that a 'saved' person ever loses their salvation (or goes to Hell when they die), but Christians can miss the blessings because they will not obey and serve their Lord.

{6} And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home -- these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.    Example 2 - Rebellious  angels bound for judgment.

    The Fallen Angels followed Satan in his rebellion against God. Although created as God's servants, with positions of honor, they are now objects of judgment. These are probably the demons and unclean spirits which were active in the time of Christ. If God punishes angels, who were created holy and immortal, then we should expect that He will punish humans who defy Him.

{7} In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.    Example 3 - Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed with fire from heaven.

    We associate particular sexual sins with Sodom and Gomorrah (homosexual sins), but it is not the particular sin that is stressed here. The point is simply that morality is important. Immorality (of various kinds) is so disgusting to God that He destroyed the cities because of it. The Bible teaches that the sexual act is good and acceptable within the covenant of marriage, but is forbidden outside of marriage

{8} In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.    The dreaming may be the method by which these false teachers claim to receive revelation. See Jeremiah 23:25
{9} But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"    Jude probably quoted from "The Assumption of Moses", a non-Biblical writing. However, God protected Jude's letter from any error of fact or doctrine through the process of inspiration. This does not give any stamp of approval for the whole source quoted ("The Assumption of Moses"), but does mean that the quotation included in Jude's letter is factual and true. Perhaps the false teachers used this writing. Jude quoted from it because the false teachers and their followers were familiar with it, and it showed the error of their ways.
{10} Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals -- these are the very things that destroy them.    Don't speak or teach authoritatively on matters which God has not revealed! See Deuteronomy 29:29

    It is fair to present an opinion on a controversial topic, but we should not go beyond Scripture and teach our own opinions as if they gospel truth.

{11} Woe to them!  They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.    The 'way of Cain' is a murderous and jealous attitude which leads to great sin.

    Korah's rebellion happened during the Exodus wanderings in the wilderness. Korah led a revolt against Moses and Aaron, but God caused a chasm to open in the earth and all of the rebels fell in. For the full account, read Numbers 16.

    Balaam was a prophet who was hired by the Moabites to speak against Israel. God did not allow this, but used Balaam to speak true and positive things about Israel. Balaam then convinced the Moabites to send their women to sexually seduce the men of Israel, to destroy their relationship with God. In this case there was a strong connection between false teaching and immorality

{12} These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm -- shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without any fruit and uprooted-- twice dead.    Unfortunately, we have this problem today. There are actually unsaved men in the pulpits of many churches in this country. It is easy to say, "Not in our denomination". Without judging particular men or churches that I do not know, I still sound a warning bell that some 'pastors' are unsaved and so not preach the necessity of accepting Jesus as the Savior from our sins.

    Are you confident that your pastor preaches the true gospel?

{13} They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.    The Greek word for wandering, used here, is 'planetai'. From this we derive the name 'planet'. Although a planet appears to be a star to the naked eye, from night to night it appears in a slightly different position in the sky. It appears to wander among the stars. Most people will mistake a planet for a star as the unaided eye cannot distinguish it from a star. It is only the difference in position from night to night, or the use of a telescope, which reveals its true nature. In the same way, it takes careful observation over time to detect false teachers and their influence.
{14} Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones  
{15} "to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him".    This is another quotation, from the book of Enoch, which was a non-Biblical writing. The book may have been used by the false teachers, so Jude shows this book also contradicts what the false teachers say.
{16} These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.    The phrase 'showing respect of persons' means that certain people are given better treatment. This can be racial, sexual, or financial. By that, I mean that they may 'play up' to a wealthy woman, and not bother with a poor person, or someone perceived to be unimportant.

    Do we treat all people equally? Are we fair to all?

IV. Guidelines for Avoiding Apostasy (vv. 17-23)

New International VersionBrRon's Commentary
{17} But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.    The Christian is to believe what the Apostles have written (and their associates) in the Bible. If any teacher contradicts the clear teaching of the Apostles, he is simply wrong and should not be believed. There are certainly points of disagreement over what the Bible means, and we can ask teachers for explanations. But Jude assumes that Christians can understand the words that the Apostles have spoken! We can understand the Scripture, at least on the important and clear matters. It is clear what 'Thou shalt not steal' means, and that we must obey. It may not be so clear exactly what year Jude wrote his letter (and so we really need to know?)
{18} They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires."    We should not be surprised that there are many who oppose Biblical Christianity. Even under the guise of psychology or science (I am not against all psychologists or scientists, only false ones) mockers just give their own opinions, with a guise of respectability.
{19} These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.    These specific teachers did not live a pure life. Sensuality includes indulging in too much food and drunkenness as well as sexual sin.
{20} But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in the most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.    Building up in the Holy Faith includes prayer and Bible study. Do you pray daily? Do you build yourself up in the faith by reading the Bible daily?
{21} Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.    Often we are interested in knowledge about God, and while that is good, it is also necessary to practice what we preach. We keep in the love of God by obeying Him, and talking to Him (prayer) regularly. We rely on the mercy and grace of Jesus rather than on the good things we have done.

    There is a future aspect to salvation, we have received mercy when we were saved and receive mercy now.  But Jude speaks of the mercy we will receive in the future when this life is finished and we live eternally with God.

{22} Be merciful to those who doubt;    We have to be careful in dealing with cult members and false teachers. Some are simply mislead, and we can help. Others we must finally cut off - to protect our fellow Christians. For instance, some matters of belief we can discuss and perhaps come to a better understanding. But is the false teacher refuses to listen or consider the Word, or mocks our beliefs, we must openly warn others.
{23} snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear -- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.    We may not 'like' everyone. Even a murderer may be led to the Lord and saved, yet we must despise the sins the person has committed. Yet, sinners can be saved, even false teachers. We offer salvation from the Lord because of His love and mercy, not because the false teacher or sinner has anything to offer us or the Lord.

    Our dislike of someone's sin or sinful beliefs should not keep us from being merciful to them, but we must be careful.

V. Victory over Apostasy (vv. 24-25)

New International VersionBrRon's Commentary
{24} To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy --    This concluding verse explains what is meant in verse 1 by 'kept safe in Jesus Christ'. It means both kept from stumbling and kept to be eventually presented faultless and clean in the presence of God the Father.
{25} to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. 

Updated March 2012
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