1. Theme: The preservation of Jesus Christ
2. Key Verses: Jude 1,24
Jude is divided into sections of verses. Each section in the outline is labeled to relate to the theme of the book.
I. The Basis for Preservation (1-3)
II. The Root of Apostasy (4)
A. God's grace (1, 2)
B. The saints' contention (3)
III. The History of Apostasy (5-9)
A. The example of national Israel (5)
B. The example of the angels (6)
C. The example of Sodom and Gomorrah (7)
IV. The Character of Apostasy (8-16)
A. Arrogant (8-10)
B. Greedy (11)
C. Fruitless (12)
D. Condemned (13-15)
E. Respecter of persons (16)
V. The Plan for Preservation (17-23)
A. Remember the word of God (17-19)
B. Build up on your faith (20)
C. Pray in the Holy Ghost (20)
D. Keep in the love of God (21)
E. Look for mercy unto eternal life (21)
F. Have compassion on some (22)
G. Save some with fear (23)
H. Hate the spotted garment (23)
VI. The Promise of Preservation (24, 25)
4. General Comments
There is not enough biblical information to identify the writer of the epistle of Jude with anyone else named Jude in the Bible. According to the wording in Jude 17, especially in comparison to II Peter 3:2, he was probably not the apostle Jude (or as he is sometimes called, "Judas, not Iscariot"). It would make an interesting story if the writer of Jude, who had a brother named James (Jude 1), was the half brother of the Lord Jesus. Then Jude's change from a man of unbelief and jealousy to a man of trust and humbleness would be a wonderful story of grace. It would also put an added sharpness to Jude's terrible description of the arrogance of wicked men, in as much as he wrote out of the experience of his own former pride. He was vividly aware of the peril of these men, for he too had haughtily walked down such a path of self-destruction. However, if we want to be honest in our analysis, all of this is speculation that is not supported by any biblical data. We do know that the letter of Jude is a product of the Holy Spirit, and part of God's infallible word. That should be enough for us.
Of the many lessons that we could learn from Jude, we will focus particularly upon preservation. The two phrases, "to them that are ... preserved in Jesus Christ" in verse 1 and "him that is able to keep you from falling" in verse 24, are like bookends. We can think of all that is said in Jude in the verses between these phrases as a development of the idea of preservation.
If we think about it a moment, we might ask, "Why would we ever question the idea that Christians' salvation is preserved?" After all, if God is God, He certainly is able to save His people and see to it that nothing can rob them of the gift of eternal life or separate them from His love (Rom. 8:35-39). Not only that, the testimony of the Bible is that God always preserves whom He saves (Eph. 1:13, Phil. 1:6, II Tim. 1:12).
Preservation ceases to be a certainty in a person's mind, and becomes only a possibility, if he believes that his destiny is dependent in part upon his own actions. If a person refuses to admit that he contributes absolutely nothing to his own salvation and that God does everything, if he believes that he has a free will to choose to accept or reject Jesus as Savior, if he believes that he must decide to exercise his own faith in order to be saved, then he is at the mercy of his own variable inclination and ability to not only forsake his sins but also trust and serve God. If his view were true, then whenever a time of believing was followed by a time of spiritual neglect and rebellion, it would mean that he must have lost the salvation which he acquired through his previous life of faith in the Lord Jesus. However, the Bible teaches that salvation is as strong as the power of God. The Bible teaches that salvation is eternal, a one way street into the Kingdom of God. The reason is that salvation is totally God's work.
The truth of preservation is a testimony to God's magnificent wisdom and ability to care for His people. It is meant to glorify the only wise God (Jude 25). In Jude, that testimony is made clearer by the contrast between the lives of God's people and the lives of people who live without grace. For one thing, God is able to preserve His people from the consequences of their own sin and weaknesses (Jude 24), while allowing stubborn unbelievers to run greedily after their own lusts, to their own destruction (Jude 5,11,13). For another thing, God is able to preserve His people from the sneaky as well as the overt influences of wicked men (Jude 4,8), while allowing those wicked men to be corrupted by their own evil (Jude 10).
Many of the verses in Jude are similar to verses in II Peter 2 and 3. For example, we can compare Jude 4 with II Peter 2:1, Jude 6 with II Peter 2:4, Jude 7 with II Peter 2:6, Jude 8 with II Peter 2:10, Jude 10 with II Peter 2:12, Jude 11 with II Peter 2:15, Jude 12 with II Peter 2:13 and 2:17, Jude 13 with II Peter 2:17, Jude 16 with II Peter 2:18 and 3:3, Jude 17 with II Peter 3:1,2, Jude 18 with II Peter 3:3, and Jude 21 with II Peter 3:12,13,14. It may be natural to wonder if Jude copied Peter or both copied some other manuscript. However, it does not matter. The Bible contains all the things that God wants us to know in the form that He wants us to know them. We can rest in the fact that Jude and II Peter 2 and 3 are repetitious because it was God's intention to repeat those ideas, just as He duplicated the message in Psalms 14 and 53 for His purposes.
One conclusion we can make from these multiple comparisons is that many of the things taught in II Peter 2 and 3 are also taught in Jude, so that these two parts of the Bible can help to explain each other. II Peter 2:9 states the point of II Peter 2 and 3. The message is that God knows how to judge wicked men as He has said, and knows how to keep His own as He has promised. Therefore, we can conclude this is the message of Jude as well. That is, a Christian's preservation is based upon the knowledge and ability of God. This is a solid hope, which history illustrates (Jude 5-7). Additionally, the multiple comparisons show that Jude and Peter were two mutually supporting witnesses. In the biblical formula, they confirmed each other's message, which is that God is able to preserve whom He wills, no matter how wicked the human environment in which they live.
5. Observations on Specific Verses
a) Jude 3
This verse is misunderstood by most Bible teachers. The usual view is that Jude originally intended to write about "the common salvation," but then changed his mind and decided to exhort the readers to "contend for the faith." This is not only a wrong way to think about Jude 3, it also interferes with a clear understanding of the important issues in the letter.
In the phrase "when I gave all diligence to write unto you," the words "when I gave" are a translation of a present tense verb better rendered "do," "make" or "execute," as it is used in Jude 15. The words "to write" are a translation of a present tense infinitive form of a verb. The grammatical construction called infinitive conveys no idea of tense, gender or person. It is like a label which describes the intended action of the verb and distinguishes it from all other verbs. That is, the verb is not about walking, eating or speaking. It is about writing. The whole phrase can be thought of as, "As I make an effort to write to you now."
In the phrase "it was needful for me to write to you," the words "to write" are a translation of an aortist tense infinitive form of the same verb, "to write," that we looked at above. The aortist is a grammatical construction which can be thought of as a snapshot of a past action. That is, the verb describes an event that occurred once in the past but is now remembered. The phrase can be rendered, "I remember something that I was going to write to you in the past."
As Jude began to write about the common salvation, he remembered something important which would contribute to the completion of his task. It was something that he had planned to write to them about before. It was the necessity of contending for the faith. The idea of verse 3 can be expressed as, "As I make an effort to write to you now about the common salvation, I remember that I had planned to write about contending for the faith. Since I was going to write to you some time ago about contending for the faith anyway, I might as well as discuss it in the letter I now plan to write, because it is such an important part of the common salvation."
Those teachers who insist that Jude switched from one theme to another make an artificial and silly separation between salvation and contending for the faith. The subject of the common salvation includes contending for the faith. That is, the content of the common salvation is not a narrow idea limited to the work Jesus did as Savior when He was on the earth, and to His work in a person's heart that causes him to repent and believe. Salvation includes all that is part of the gospel, one item being a believer's defense of the faith that was delivered to him.
b) Jude 4
The words "men ... who were before of old ordained to this condemnation" do not mean that God elects some people to damnation just as He elects some to salvation. The Bible does not teach double predestination. The Bible teaches that all men justly deserve condemnation. Out from among all those sinners God calls and saves some, totally because of His sovereign grace and without regard to any merit or effort of their own, pulling them out of the fires of His wrath, so to speak (Jude 23). All the rest, who go to hell, get no more than what they deserve (Rom. 2:11,12).
The words "who were before ... ordained" in Jude 4 are not a translation of the same word we find, for example as "which was ordained" in Acts 10:42, or "ordained" in Acts 13:48, which describes God's premeditative action of selection. Instead, the word "ordained" could be rendered "write before," and refers to God's eternal will as expressed in His word. Jude 4 does not mean that these evil men were singled out specifically by name in some way long ago, but that the wicked men, who were in the church to which Jude wrote, fulfilled the general principle expressed in the Bible that the wages of sin is death. Their condemnation was not a failure by God to preserve them, because they only made a pretense of being a believer. In addition, their outward affiliation with the church was based not upon faith, but upon their desire to associate with the true church and at the same time pursue their own lustful desires.
We ought to set aside another possible misunderstanding of this verse. Contrary to what the verse might seem to imply, it is not possible to turn the grace of God into anything that it is not, especially not "lasciviousness," that is, lustful desire untamed by self-control. The idea of the verse is that the men who crept in unaware were deceivers who identified with the grace of God only in an outward way, but their behavior soon showed them to have no spiritual control in their lives. Therefore, if an observer was not careful, he could wrongly conclude that the deceiver's lustful life is an example of what God's grace does to a person or that the grace of God is weak, unable to keep a man in a sanctified holy life. But that conclusion would be wrong. Unfortunately, that is the kind of unfair criticism God endures when evil men pollute the church (Rom. 2:23,24, II Peter 2:2).
c) Jude 6
The first part of this verse refers to the time when Adam and Eve sinned. That is the time when the angels first rebelled with Satan and "kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation," namely heaven.
The rest of the verse refers to the cross. When Jesus endured the wrath of God, He "spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (the cross)" (Col. 2:14,15). He spoiled the wicked spiritual principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12). All unsaved people are under Satan's control (Matt. 12:28,29, Heb. 2:15), but through His death, Jesus destroyed Satan (Heb. 2:14) and so was able to deliver His people from Satan's power. In other words, Satan and his host were chained in the sense that they could no longer keep the elect of all nations from coming to salvation (Rev. 20:1-3). Also, they were chained in the sense that they were reserved for the judgment to come (Jude 6,14,15).
d) Jude 9
It is not certain where Jude obtained the information about Michael and the body of Moses. Some say he learned it from Jewish tradition. Some say he received special revelation. Others say he read it in an apocryphal book like the "Assumption of Moses." The main thing is that God saw fit to include it in the Book of Jude, and so it has become part of His word. We can trust it to be absolutely accurate, just like we know that the information in II Timothy 3:8 about Jannes and Jambres is true, despite the fact that their names do not occur in the Old Testament. The message of this verse is not found by searching for Jude's source, but by comparing the details in the verse with the rest of the Bible, of which it is a part.
There are myriads of spiritual beings which are sent by God to minister to His people on earth (Psalm 91:11, Heb. 1:13,14, see also Matthew 4:11). However, Michael is not one of them. Michael, whose name means "Who is like unto God?," is the archangel or chief messenger, above all other angels or messengers. In Daniel he is called the prince of the people of God (Dan. 10:21, 12:1). From these references we must conclude that Michael is Jesus Himself. Therefore, verse 9 describes the contention between Jesus and the devil concerning whether Moses could be bodily brought into heaven.
We do not know when in history the dispute happened, maybe soon after Moses died. However, it does not matter. The basis upon which Jesus claimed he could take Moses' body was that He would personally die on behalf of all His people and be raised from the dead, validating the completion of His payment for their sins and ensuring that they have eternal life. The basis for the devil's objection was that, at the time of their dispute, Jesus' death and resurrection was still a promise and had not yet taken place in history.
Although God's word is as good as gold, equivalent to being fulfilled the moment He speaks it, Jesus recognizes the devil's logic. Even though the devil knew the integrity of God's word and even though the devil's motivation for getting technical with Jesus was evil, Jesus had the right response. The words "did not bring a railing accusation" do not mean that Jesus was intimidated by the devil or did not know what to say. Jesus will indeed accuse the devil one day. Yet, at the time of the dispute it was not the proper time to do so. When Jesus, in the fullness of time, fulfilled His promise to save His people from their sins, when He went to the cross, He guaranteed that He would judge the devil some day.
The words "The Lord rebuke you" refer ahead in time, that is, beyond the time of the dispute and beyond the time of the cross. The words are a quotation from Zechariah 3:2 in which Jehovah, or the redeemer, is speaking (LORD = Jehovah). The word "Lord" in Jude 9 refers to Jesus, who will be the Judge of all unsaved and who also has the authority and power to save and keep all of His people. That is, Jesus was referring to Himself, announcing the plan of God. He was announcing that judgment is coming to the devil, as it is to all unsaved men.
The idea of this verse is that Jesus did not impatiently rebuke the devil for his audacity. Jesus honored God's timing. He submitted to God's will, the plan that He Himself had devised before the foundation of the world. Jesus was obedient and properly held His peace despite the maliciousness of the devil's words. Jesus did not react in an emotional way to the devil. He did not respond sinfully in kind or at the wrong time to the devil's mocking words.
The preservation of Moses' salvation was secure from all time, and Jesus was not upset that the devil advertised the fact that, at the time of their dispute, Jesus had not yet done all that was necessary to guarantee the salvation of His people. Jesus knew His plan and was confident that He was able, at the right time, to fulfill its terms, thereby preserving the salvation of Moses and all of His people. He, who knew the truth, did not react angrily to a challenge to the truth. What a contrast to the evil people mentioned in the letter of Jude, who speak arrogantly and out of turn, who say wrong things about the gospel of which they understand nothing, whose desire is not to preserve other people but to destroy other people's relationship with the true God.
e) Jude 10-16
Jude writes many terrible things about the wicked people who creep into the congregation. One outstanding character trait we must highlight is their limitless arrogance. Their apostasy is marked by increased insolence and audacity (Jude 10,16,18). Sin is often a noisy business, accompanied by great boasts and insults (Psalm 2:1, 73:9). Wicked men hope by the volume of their words to convince others and themselves that they are right, as well as to drown out the voices of their conscience and the Bible. In contrast, righteousness reaps quietness, humbleness and gentleness (Isaiah 32:17, Gal. 5:22,23). The boasts of wicked men pass away like mists in the morning, despite men's great efforts to preserve their name in history. However, the testimony of God's people endures eternally.
f) Jude 14
This verse is a quotation of the uninspired apocryphal book called the Book of Enoch (Enoch 1:9). This fact does not add any authority to that apocryphal book, nor does it reduce the trustworthiness of Jude. We need not be concerned that the Bible has been corrupted by an inclusion of a piece of uninspired religious writing. After all, Sometimes the Bible quotes secular authors (Acts 17:28). Sometimes the Bible quotes sayings that were commonly known in the day that the Bible was written (Titus 1:12).
Because the Bible is God's careful workmanship, all the words that are included in its pages are inspired in the sense that they are exactly what He wants in His scriptures. The actual words may even record a lie, like Peter's denial before the soldiers and the unnamed maid. However, the words are an accurate recording of what happened or what was said. The point is that God is in control of the construction of His word, the Bible. We do not discover its message by criticizing how He wrote it. Our task is to compare all the words of the Bible to arrive at perfect instruction for knowledge about God and His world, together with the perfect counsel for the right behavior in all situations of life.
Very little information is given in the Bible about Enoch. We do know that Enoch "walked with God" (Gen. 5:22,24). This phrase does not mean that Enoch had the unique experience of strolling hand in hand with God in some special way. The word "walked" means to walk abroad, up and down over the land, as it is used in Zechariah 10:12 to mean to walk bearing the name of the LORD (Jehovah). Today we would call that bringing the gospel to the world, or witnessing. Incidentally, the word "walked" is used in the same way for Satan in Job 1 and 2, the idea being that he brings his false gospel throughout the world to deceive.
The word "walked" is also in the reflexive mood, meaning that Enoch walked with himself. The emphasis is that Enoch walked himself, that is, he went alone bringing the gospel. This is a reminder that people who faithfully bring the gospel are considered fools by the world, sometimes even abandoned by their own family members. Nevertheless, God was with him. The idea is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19,20.
Enoch was a preacher of the common salvation, which was also Jude's message. So we know why Jude chose him as a supporting example in this letter. Notice that the message of the common salvation included a word of judgment, as we would expect, for Jude opened this letter by expressing the need to contend for the faith against certain men who crept into the church unawares with their evil words and deeds. Enoch's example illustrates the principle that the common salvation is protected from corruption in the church by plainly and clearly speaking God's word against wicked men and their ways.
g) Jude 17-21
Preservation does not mean that God isolates His people from the influence of human society, as if He were putting fruit in jars to keep until He returns. Nor does preservation mean that He makes them immune to the evil advances of wicked people, as if He changed them into plastic and metal androids. God preserves His people by working through means. God has a carefully designed program for His people so that they can faithfully live in an apostate world until they die or He returns at the end of time. That program is described in these verses.
Above all, God's people must remember "the words which were spoken before of (actually "by") the apostles." The Bible is essential to the preservation of God's people. For example, according to verses 18 and 19, God's word has much to say about the evil people who would populate the world, especially "in the last time." One of the first steps God's people can take in successfully preserving a faithful walk with God is to be able to recognize the things that might cause them to stumble. This means that believers must know what behavior is deviant from God's will so that they will not be confused by the sophisticated words of the scoffers nor be impressed by unsaved peoples' so-called "liberated lifestyle," which is really nothing more than rebellion against God's law.
Believers must not only know what is evil and avoid it, believers must also know what is the right thing to think and do. Believers continue to build their life on the most holy faith, that is, the word of God's grace in the Bible (Acts 20:32, Jude 20). It is the faith expressed in the Bible which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), and which preserved them.
Believers must also continue "praying in the Holy Ghost." This phrase means they must pray as a believer. That is, they pray while they are in the Holy Spirit as their dwelling place, sheltered from the wrath of God and the evil of the world. This phrase means that they pray in God's will, knowing and understanding the words which the Holy Spirit teaches them, speaking God's words back to Him in prayer. This phrase means that the Holy Spirit creates an earnest focus toward spiritual things in prayer, and through prayer reduces a believer's attention toward the things of this wicked world. This phrase means that believers pray all the time that they are in the Holy Spirit. That is, they pray without ceasing.
The words "keep (the same word as "preserved" as in Jude 1) yourselves in the love of God" can be understood by the parallel phrase, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." The idea is that a Christian is preserved by maintaining an attitude of anticipation and longing for the return of the Lord. What is the evidence that a person is kept by God? Is it not that he looks away from this world and toward the Lord who loves him, and who promises him a new world to come (II Peter 3:12,13)?
h) Jude 22,23
Verses 17-21 show how God works in an individual believer's life, while verses 22 and 23 show how God uses a believer to work in another person's life. As an extension of the thought of verses 17-21, the idea of verses 22 and 23 is that God preserves His people through evangelism. Those who are the targets of evangelism are preserved if they are saved through the words that they hear. Those people who are the witnesses are preserved as they maintain a spiritually healthy focus upon the gospel in their witness to others.
The words "making a difference" is a strange phrase in English. It is a translation of one Greek word, which is a combination of a prefix that means "through" and a root that means "judgment." A believer must be able, by careful observation and thought, study a matter all the way through to the end and finally distinguish between what is true and false. The idea of verse 22 is that a believer's pity is controlled by a thorough understanding of all the facts of a situation. For example, if a Christian discerns that a person wants the gospel, then he must show great compassion, that is, spend time and effort with him. If a Christian discerns that a person does not want the gospel, but wants to bring his own evil ways, the believer must not show compassion for him, in the sense of continuing to bring him the gospel (Matt. 7:6). Nor should a Christian show him friendship (II John 10), even though it is always appropriate to pray for his soul.
The issue in Jude is that God preserves His people's salvation, even though they live in a spiritually corrosive world with many evil men who have "crept in unawares" (verse 4). That is, evil men have crept into the church, participating in the corporate life of the church (Jude 12). Although the rebellious nature of these evil men has been hidden from the true believers in the congregation, they have not crept in unaware to God. God knows the hearts of all men, and in Jude God describes how He works in His peoples' lives to keep them from falling from their common salvation amid many spiritual dangers. He does that by giving them the desire and ability to recognize false christians and their evil doctrine.
We have an evangelistic attitude toward all men, but our pity in the sense of an active effort to help him ceases if he is like the man described in Jude, a man full of wickedness and rebellion. On the other hand, for those who are interested in the gospel, we bring the gospel. If God saves them through our witness, then we have pulled them out of the fires of hell, so to speak.
Jude adds another word of caution. The words "garment spotted by the flesh" refer to a salvation that men try to obtain by means of their own works, works that are always spotted by sin because of their sinful flesh (Isaiah 63:6,7). That kind of a salvation is directly opposite to the Bible's message, which states that it is the grace of God alone which brings salvation. A gospel which includes the works of men is a false gospel. A man who believes that kind of false gospel is not preserved unto eternal life, but is reserved for condemnation.
Believers will encounter many false gospels as they bring the true gospel to men. However, all false gospels are really the same, for they all include in their doctrine the idea that men can, and must, do something to secure their salvation from God's wrath and to stand righteous before Him. All such gospels are enemies to men's souls, they are coverings or garments spotted by the flesh. Therefore, believers must have nothing to do with them. Believers must hate any garment which does not come from God, avoiding its evil influence in their witness in both word and deed (Titus 3:5-11).
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