The first verses simply tell us who the author is and to whom he is writing.
Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1:1-2) (LEB)
Jude calls himself the brother of James. This is most likely, James the brother of Jesus who was an elder in Jerusalem and well known among all the Christians. That would also make Jude a brother of Jesus. Whether he is the physical brother of Jesus or not, he does not emphasize that relationship. The relationship he emphasizes is that he is the slave of Jesus.
The theme or primary message of Jude is found in verse 3.
Dear friends, although I was making every effort to write to you concerning our common salvation, I considered it a necessity to write to you to encourage you to contend for the faith delivered once and for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3) (LEB)
He urges all the Christians, not only elders or preachers, to contend for the faith. There is only one faith for which we must fight and it was delivered once for all to the saints. Anything that comes along that changes the one faith that is revealed in the New Testament much be challenged and fought.
There is a reason he was urging these brethren to do this.
Some people had come in and were pretending to be Christians and were among the true Christians but were twisting the grace of God into sin!
For certain men have slipped in stealthily, who were designated long ago for this condemnation, ungodly ones, who change the grace of our God into licentiousness and who deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4) (LEB)
Licentiousness is basically the idea of having a license to sin, often in regard to sexual sin but not restricted to it. These people thought that since they were forgiven by the grace of God, they could continue sinning. Paul dealt with that idea in Romans 6. God’s forgiveness through His grace is an opportunity for us to leave sin, not an opportunity for us to keep sinning.
Jude Reminds Us of What God Does With Those Who Do Not Repent
Just because God saves you at one time does not mean that He will not destroy you later if you turn away from Him in unbelief and do not keep your proper place under our Master, Jesus (see the end of verse 4).
Now I want to remind you, although you know everything once and for all, that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, the second time destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling place, he has kept in eternal bonds under deep gloom for the judgment of the great day, as Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns around them indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in the same way as these, are exhibited as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:5-7) (LEB)
He gives three examples of people were destroyed by God. The first example is the people of Israel who God saved from Egypt but destroyed those later who did not believe. If we are saved by being forgiven of our sins and put into the family of God and the body of Christ, we can still be sent to Hell if we decide that we do not really believe God.
The second example is the angels who sinned. We really do not know any more about this than what Jude tells us here. The point is that if even the angels who sin are punished, we should never think that we will avoid it if we leave the place God designed for us, following His Son.
The third example is Sodom and Gomorrah who were destroyed because they did not keep their place that God designed for them in sex. God never designed homosexuality. This is an invention of men that is completely against God’s natural design. These people were destroyed because they left what God had designed for their own ways.
Back to the Problem
These men who had come in among the Christians did not heed this warning from history and thought that they knew better than what was revealed in the faith. They based their faith on their own dreams which led them to sin and not submit to our Master, Jesus. They even thought that they knew better than the angels who delivered the message of God.
Despite that, in the same way also these men, because of their dreams, defile the flesh and reject authority and blaspheme majestic beings. (Jude 1:8) (LEB)
Michael, the archangel, did not even speak out against Satan directly. It was not his place—that is for God to do. If we are not to directly revile Satan, who are we to speak out against those greater than us, as these men were reviling angels?
But Michael the archangel, when he argued with the devil, disputing concerning the body of Moses, did not dare to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9) (LEB)
With these men, when they did not understand something, they would revile it. The idea is that if they actually have to study to understand something, rather than just trusting their dreams, then it must be stupid. What was important to them was what they just knew by instinct without any study. This is how many people are today who believe they are guided by the Holy Spirit and so do not study the word of God.
But these persons blaspheme all that they do not understand, and all that they understand by instinct like the irrational animals, by these things they are being destroyed. (Jude 1:10) (LEB)
These Men Are Following a Dangerous Tradition
Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, and have given themselves up to the error of Balaam for gain, and have perished in the rebellion of Korah. (Jude 1:11) (LEB)
- The way of Cain - Cain killed his brother, Abel, because God was happy with Abel and not with him. He should have repented so that God would be happy with him as well. These men turn against those who are doing right instead of repenting from their wickedness.
- The error of Balaam - Balaam wanted money so much that he taught the Moabites how to get the Israelites to sin so that God would curse them. Somehow what these men were doing involved encouraging others to sin.
- The rebellion of Korah - Korah was a man who rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. These are men who do not accept that God has placed others in positions of authority and want to be in that position themselves. These are people who may not recognize the authority of the elders in the church, and ultimately do not recognize the authority of Christ as the head.
The End for These Men
These men were dead and it was dangerous to allow them to remain among the Christians. Look at how he stresses how dead and useless they were. There was no hope that if they were allowed to stay, they would end up repenting as they saw the good example of others.
These are the ones feasting together without reverence, hidden reefs at your love feasts, caring for themselves, waterless clouds carried away by winds, late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted, wild waves of the sea foaming up their own shameful deeds, wandering stars, for whom the deep gloom of darkness has been reserved for eternity. And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, also prophesied about these people, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with tens of thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they have committed in an ungodly way, and concerning all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:12-15) (LEB)
Did you also get the idea that these men were ungodly? The end was coming for them and would not be pleasant when Jesus came in judgement.
This Kind of People Was Expected
The apostles had warned about this kind of people and the Christians should have been watching for them to contend with them for the faith.
These people are grumblers, discontented, proceeding according to their desires, and their mouths speaking pompous words, showing partiality to gain an advantage. But you, dear friends, remember the words proclaimed beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Jude 1:16-17) (LEB)
These people are not spiritual, they are ungodly and self-serving. They want followers and they will use any means to get them. Watch out and make sure that they do not catch you.
The Difference Between What These Men Were Doing and What the Christians Must Do
These men were causing division because they were worldly-minded. Christians must be spiritually-minded and so build each other up instead of causing division.
These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly, not having the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (Jude 1:19-21) (LEB)
Remember That Not All Sinning Brethren Are Like These
These men Jude is warning against were dead and dangerous. This is clearly a call for the Christians to cut them off completely as they content for the faith. There are other Christians who fall into sin who should be treated differently, with mercy.
And have mercy on those who doubt, and save others by snatching them from the fire, and have mercy on others with fear, hating even the tunic stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23) (LEB)
It may be that some of these were influenced into sin and doubt by these wicked men he has been warning about. You do not have to treat the followers in the same way as the leaders. Have mercy and bring them back to the truth.
Even With Evil All Around, God Can Keep You From Stumbling
Now to the one who is able to protect you from stumbling and make you to stand before his glory blameless with exultation, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time and now and for all eternity. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25) (LEB)
Just because other Christians around you are falling into sin, that does not mean that you must. God is powerful enough to protect you. Our confidence cannot be in our brethren or in our own power, but in God.
As we go through life, look out for those who are trying to take you away from the faith Christ delivered to us once for all. Contend for that faith. Trust in God to keep you from stumbling.