The epistle of Jude is believed to have been written by the half-brother of Jesus. Jude's purpose in writing is to warn his readers that the false teachers Peter had spoke of (cf. II Pet. 2:1-3) were already on the scene! The danger was present and real, and first century Christians needed to act accordingly. It would seem that Jude initially intended to write a quiet letter about salvation, but the Holy Spirit led him instead to sound the trumpet of war. This epistle is a call to arms for Christians to "contend earnestly for the faith"!
Jude 3 reads - "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." We can certainly sympathize with Jude's original intent to simply write about salvation. He had a strong desire to do this. Why? It is easier to encourage the saints rather than to declare war on false teachers (i.e., apostates, those who have fallen from grace). Standing alone is not pleasant, suffering mistreatment for telling the truth is discouraging, and seeing Christians become entangled in sin and false teachings is disheartening. However, Jude did what was needful for the church. When the enemy is in the field, the watchman dare not fail to sound the alarm.
Jude did not fail as a watchman for God. He exhorted the brethren of the first century and even us today to "contend earnestly for the faith." What does this important phrase mean? Let's break it down word by word.
"Contend" is a fighting term which means to struggle, fight, or defend. When we add the word "earnestly" the idea is that we will defend something vigorously, that is, we will fight strenuously. But what is Jude exhorting us to "contend earnestly" for? "The faith"! He wants us to vigorously defend "the faith". But what does that mean? Well, let's note that Jude doesn't say "a faith" or "some faith" or "any faith", he says "the faith." In other words, the one and only faith! As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:5 - "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." As Luke wrote in Acts 6:7 - "Then the word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." It was said of Paul in Galatians 1:23 - "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." The meaning of the phrase "the faith" is made clear by the way this phrase is used in other New Testament passages. Whatever "the faith" is, it was distinct and unique; it could be obeyed and it was capable of being preached! What can we conclude? Essentially, "the faith" is the gospel! It is the doctrine or body of teaching which we ultimately have from God for us today.
But notice, that "the faith" was "once for all delivered." This means that it was delivered once for all time. It will never be delivered again from God. This proves that all modern day revelations are false! If the faith has been once for all delivered--and it has according to Jude--then we should not expect any modern day revelations! The faith (i.e., the teaching of the New Testament) is to be our guide!
But, who was "the faith" delivered to? "The saints." Responsibility for the gospel was delivered to those who belong to Christ. It was given to those who have been baptized into Christ's death! New Testament Christians are guardians of the faith. We have the sacred, solemn, and frightening responsibility of teaching, preaching, proclaiming, living, and contending earnestly for the faith! If "the saints" do not contend earnestly for the faith, then it will not be contended for, and men will not have the privilege of knowing the difference between truth and error, between right and wrong, between the doctrine of God and the doctrines of men! Like Paul, let us pray and let us ask others to pray for us that we may speak boldly as we ought to speak (cf. Eph. 6:18-20).
Therefore, Jude 3 teaches us that "the faith" is something which: (1) was delivered to man, (2) was delivered once for all time, (3) is entrusted to God's people, and (4) must be defended.
Jude 4 - "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ." How do false teachers often arrive on the scene? They creep in "unnoticed." How does this happen? It happens when Christians do not contend for the faith as they should. It happens when false doctrine, even concerning the grace of God, is tolerated. In the first century some had the mistaken notion that the more they sinned, the more God would be glorified because His grace would continue to cover their impurities. Paul spoke about this in Romans 6:1 when he said - "What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" And this may be what Jude means here when he says some were turning "the grace of our God into lewdness."
Jude 4 also states that these men denied the Father and Jesus Christ. How were these false teachers denying Christ? Likely these men were denying the Lord by spreading false concepts about Him and His church, and they were also probably living in immorality.
Jude 5-11 declares:
"But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring an accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah."
This portion of God's word contains many warnings given to the saints. To understand these examples Jude references, we need to understand that the evil men who were corrupting the church did not regard themselves as enemies of the church or of Christianity. They regarded themselves as spiritually elite--the advanced thinkers. These examples were selected to make it clear that even if one has special privileges, he may still fall from grace. Even those who have received great privileges from God cannot consider themselves safe, but they must be on constant watch against misunderstanding and misapplying Scripture. We must always be on the lookout for Satan, the roaring lion who is prowling about! (I Pet. 5:8).
Jude says in verse 5 - "I want to remind you". Men easily forget and need to be continually reminded of God's truth. First, Jude uses the example of the unbelieving Israelites. These people were uniquely privileged, but weighty responsibilities accompanied those privileges. Jude's point here is that God's goodness will not hinder His punishing the wicked under the New Testament any more than it hindered His punishing of them under the Old Testament. Israel's sins were numerous: constant murmuring, disbelief of God's promises, unwillingness to rise up and take Canaan, idolatry, and immorality. God physically "saved" them, yet "afterward" they were "destroyed."
The same idea is communicated in Jude 6 with a different illustration. Even angels of God, if they become rebellious, are punished. Dear listeners, if the angels cannot escape the consequences of sin, then neither will false teachers who pervert the gospel of Christ ("the faith")!
A third example is given in Jude 7--Sodom, Gomorrah, and surrounding cities of the plain were destroyed. But why would people who were so richly blessed suffer God's destruction? Sexual immorality! We're not just talking about the sins of adultery and premarital sex that have become the norm in our sick society. These people engaged themselves in what is sometimes called the "alternative lifestyle"--homosexuality! Friends, any lifestyle contrary to God's word is alternative, and the consequence will be eternal condemnation! The people of Lot's day were degenerate and perverted! And such is what many yearn for our society to become. All sexually immoral people will, as Jude says, "suffer the vengeance of eternal fire."
Those who teach false doctrine are in just as bad of shape spiritually as the perverted fornicators of Sodom and Gomorrah. They too will suffer eternally if they do not repent. That is what Jude 8 teaches. These men not only defile themselves but also those who hear them. They reject authority and do their own thing. They do what they want to do regardless of whether or not they have authority for such. To top it all off, they even speak evil, or blaspheme dignitaries. This phrase is difficult to understand, but the next verse sheds some light on it.
Jude 9 reveals - "Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" This is the only place in the Scriptures where Michael is called an archangel, although we do know from Revelation 12:7 that he is captain of an angelic host. Generally, it appears that this angel is the bearer of bad news from God. But, notice the distinction Jude makes between these false teachers and this powerful angel. These men freely blaspheme and revile spiritual beings, but not even the archangel Michael would do such a thing. Instead he shifts the responsibility of a rebuke to the Lord because Michael knows that the Lord alone has the power to do it properly. This passage is very similar to II Peter 2:9-11. The men that are being described here are heretics. Many of them blasphemed the glory of Christ in the most direct way; that is, by mocking His divine attributes and not believing that deity could really take a fleshly form. Jude 10 describes their situation in even more detail.
Jude tells us that they were ignorant men speaking of matters of which they knew nothing. He echoed Peter's description of them as "brute beasts" (II Peter 2:12). Animals live by natural instincts, and so do apostates. Men who rebel against God always sink to the level of beasts. God will give this type of person up to uncleanness as they "corrupt themselves" (cf. Rom. 1:24).
Jude 11 begins with a powerful, three-letter word--"woe"! There are many places in the Old Testament where this word is used to bring a calamity or affliction upon another. Even Jesus Himself used the word frequently and often directed it at the religious leaders of His day (cf. Matt. 23). The apostle Paul used this same word in reference to the consequences which would befall him if he did not preach the gospel of Christ. To the Corinthian brethren he wrote - "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (I Cor. 9:16). Paul, in a sense, had no choice but to preach the gospel of Christ. He could do nothing else unless he wanted to suffer the horrible consequences. Preachers today must feel this same burden - "Woe is unto me, if I do not preach the gospel!"
But in Jude 11, the "woe" is directed at false teachers. He compares their conduct to three of the worst Old Testament apostates: Cain, Balaam, and Korah. Essentially, what we have here are three proofs that disobedience leads to disaster.
Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve (cf. Gen. 4). He was a farmer. His brother, Abel, was a shepherd. God called upon them to give an offering and both did. Abel offered his by faith; that is, he obeyed God's instructions in his offering of a sacrifice. Cain, however, did not do as God commanded. As a result, God was displeased with Cain. At an opportune moment, Cain rose up against Abel and killed him. Why? I John 3:11,12 tells us. Cain was lacking in love; he wanted to worship God his own way and his works were evil. Just like Cain, these troublers in the first-century were innovators with a fierce hatred of anyone who dared reject their ideas.
Then Jude makes reference to the narrative found in Numbers 22-24. The king of Moab, Balak, called for Balaam, a Gentile, to curse Israel. Contrary to the king's wishes, Balaam blessed Israel publicly as the Lord had told him to do. Yet Balaam was covetous and started working behind the scenes to defeat Israel. He practiced this sinfulness because of his greed. He claimed that money meant nothing to him, but his works demonstrated just the opposite. Today, the way of Balaam is merchandising one's ministry for money. False teachers are greedy. Error generally chases the money. Heretics say and do almost anything for it. Jude's troublers are no different than Balaam.
Finally, Jude compares these men to Korah and the rebellion that he led (cf. Num. 16). Korah, along with Dathan, Abiram, On, and their families, perished because they accused Moses of having taken too much authority upon himself. Korah and his company were disputing God's appointed leader, Moses, as well as the priests which were of the sons of Aaron. Korah was a Levite, but of the family of Kohath. Thus, he wasn't qualified to serve as a priest. By opposing God's appointed officers, they were standing in open rebellion to God (and many are guilty of this sin today when they oppose godly elders). They were on dangerous ground, literally, and they were swallowed up by the earth because God was so displeased with them. As Korah had rebelled, so had these men of Jude's day. They rebelled against God's appointed authorities and in so doing, rebelled against God Himself. These three examples so clearly illustrate that disobedience leads to disaster!
All Christians are watchmen, and if we fail to sound the warning against error then we become guilty ourselves (cf. Eze. 3:18). The faith has been delivered and we must defend it. It wasn't delivered to us to be changed but boldly proclaimed as the means of salvation. Let us courageously affirm with Paul - "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation..." (Rom. 1:16).
Christians, God commands you to vigorously defend His truths--contend earnestly for the faith! Are you doing this in your life? Do you stand up for the truth or do you remain mute when error is spoken? If we don't stand for the truth, who will? Satan and his children won't. God has given us this responsibility. Let us pray for strength to fulfill it.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.