Jude is also a half-brother of Jesus. Unlike James though, he wasn’t a pillar of the early church. John 7:5 tells us that he didn’t believe in Jesus. It was only later, after the resurrection, that he came to be a believer and follower of Jesus. It was later when he saw Jesus for who he really was—the Son of God—his Savior.
Jude introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” There are other Jude’s and Judas’s mentioned in the Bible but we know this person is not one of them. Anyone of them could have been the writer of this letter, but we know which one wrote this letter because of the added description. A lot of these people could have claimed to be “a servant of Jesus Christ.” But Jude further says, “a brother of James.” And James was a “brother of the Lord” (Galatians 1:19, Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, and John 7:5).
Jude doesn’t claim to be a brother of Jesus. Why? Jude himself didn’t refer to his status as “a brother of the Lord” probably because he wanted to emphasize his status as “as a servant of Jesus Christ.” What he refused to do when Jesus was alive he now does without embarrassment or hesitation.
The letter Jude bears a remarkable resemblance to 2 Peter and it may be because they were written around the same time. We don’t know where it was written from, but we can assume from the context that it was written to Jews who had become Christians and were now living out their faith in a primarily Gentile society. Jude addresses false teaching, immorality, and how to live faithfully in an ethically liberal environment.
Reading Plan – Day 1
Jude begins with an introduction. He doesn’t just say “Greetings.” He introduces himself and then gives a fuller description of who he is as the writer. Some, maybe even most, of his readers knew who he was, at least by reputation. But some don’t. The value of this introduction is that his readers are able to know him by both what he does say and what he doesn’t say.
Jude and all of the derivative names associated with Jude (Judas, Judah) were popular in the first century. There are at least six men in the New Testament alone who bear the name. However, we know that this is the half-brother of Jesus because he is also the brother of James. The introduction you just read explained the details of why he introduced himself in the way he did.
Jude is writing to fellow believers. They have been “called,” they are “loved by God the Father,” and “kept by Jesus Christ.” (verse 1). This is a beautiful way for Jude to describe their relationship with God through Christ. It is also a beautiful way of emphasizing God’s work on their behalf. God has called them. He loves them more than they can imagine. And because of their status in Him, they are kept by Christ.
When Jude addresses them, he addresses them as dear friends. This must have been a common way for Christian’s to describe their relationship with each other because John used to the same language to describe his friendship with Gaius (3 John).
Motivation for Writing
Jude’s desire was to write them about the common salvation they shared (verse 3). Something else has taken precedence though. His purpose for writing has changed. There is an urgency to it. He explains that his new motive for writing is so that they will “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
“Contend” is a word taken from the battlefield or at the very least from a wrestling match. There is a sense of resistance that is implied. Jude wants his readers to actually engage the conflict. He explains the conflict more in the rest of the letter, but what he wants his readers to do is to contend for, defend, the faith which they now share.
Peter communicates a hint of this when he writes, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Jude carries a greater sense of urgency here. He isn’t just advocating for a reasoned explanation of one’s faith. He is advocating for a passionate defense, even confrontational engagement for the faith. There is a sense here that the faith is under attack and the attack is particularly insidious because it is coming from “among them” (verse 4). False teachers have secretly slipped in. Like cancer, they are destroying the body from the inside out and the true believers are being instructed to put up a fight.
A comparison might be Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the Old Testament leader who embarked on the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The task was great, but it was made even more difficult because of the continuous resistance of Israel’s enemies. They were ridiculed, mocked, and plotted against. The pressure became so great that the people began to lose their strength, physically and emotionally (Nehemiah 4:10-11).
The people were on the edge of giving up when Nehemiah stepped in with words of encouragement. He said, “remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). From that point on the workers “did the work with one hand and held a weapon in the other” (4:17).
Like Nehemiah Jude encourages the believers to with one hand “build themselves up in their most holy faith”; with the other they “contend earnestly for the faith” against its foes.
Jude charges these false teachers as “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). Later in his letter, Jude will give several illustrations or examples to help us understand what he means by godless. In no uncertain terms though, he makes it clear that “condemnation” is their future. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of the readers to contend for the most holy faith.
Modern day Christianity emphasizes our responsibility to love one another and even love our enemies and rightly so. What sometimes gets lost is our responsibility to “contend for the faith.” Jesus was particularly harsh on one group of people. He had no problem calling out the religious leaders and even accused them of making their converts “twice the sons of hell” as they were (Matthew 23:15). They were, in a sense, producing religious hypocrites and Jesus used this particular accusation a rhetorical device to emphasize the hardness of their hearts. In the same way, Jude has nothing good to say about the godless men who have slipped into the church.
It’s quite likely that the general church is facing a similar crisis today. It’s increasingly likely for church leaders to minimize the moral commands of the Bible and even embrace alternative interpretations of scripture. In addition, Cults twist parts of scripture and or embrace “prophecies” which often lead their followers away from Jesus and into bondage and immorality.
Contending for the faith seems to be a wise and relevant choice for believers.
- What might “contending for the faith” look like in our community and nation today?
- What comfort do you get from know that you are “called, loved by God the father, and kept by Jesus Christ?”
Consider writing down a key verse or verses from today on an index card or small piece of paper and carry it with you today. Look at it as often as you can as a reminder of what you learned today.
Possible Verse: Jude 2-3
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 543). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.