A. In this short letter of Jude to the Christians of his day, we find some instructions and warnings that are still applicable to us today. As he begins his address, he plainly says that he had intended to write to them about their “common salvation,” but “found it necessary to write” to them to exhort them “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered.” (v. 3) Something had compelled Jude to set aside his intention to write about the faith that they shared, and admonish them to take a stand for that faith. That something was a someone, and those someones were ungodly men, bent on destroying the church through their selfish desires.
B. The relevance of this letter to first-century Christians to us today is significant, for there are still those today who operate within the church under the same guise of faith in Christ, but with an underlying motivation of selfish ambition and a drive to follow after their own will and not the Lord’s. There are still those within the church “who cause divisions” and serve “only themselves.” We must be ready to defend the faith just as Jude admonished those of his day, lest the church be polluted and the doctrines of men replace that of its only head, Jesus Christ.
C. So today, let’s look at this letter to the early Christians and consider the warning as one still needed today, and what we must do as the faithful ones.
I. JUDE’S INTENT [:3-4]
A. Addressing Their Common Salvation. [v. 3]
1. Jude’s desire was to write to his fellow believers and address the common salvation they shared. Whatever it was that compelled him to write was strong enough that he decided to do it with “all diligence” - making every effort.
2. In this diligent effort to write concerning this common salvation, Jude “found it necessary” to exhort them through this writing to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered.” Something compelled Jude to believe it was a necessity to write to them and plead with them to contend for - to both fight and defend - the faith that God had already delivered (or given) to the world. But what necessitated this fight?
B. Ungodly Men Were Among Them. [v. 4]
1. The motivation behind Jude’s address of their common salvation and exhortation to fight for the faith was the simple fact that there were, among the body of believers, ungodly men who had “crept in unnoticed” and who were turning “the grace of…God into lewdness” and who denied both God and Christ.
a. These men had come in amongst them with forethought about destroying the system of faith and the doctrine contained within it, and knew that they would be successful only by disguising their intentions and presenting themselves as fellow believers and ones who had the same interests. They were deceivers from the beginning, but appeared to be just as honest and upright and faithful as those to whom Jude is writing.
b. These about whom Jude would warn the faithful, were ungodly men - irreverent and worthy of the condemnation that Jude was about to deliver. Their behavior was despicable and was worthy of the notice by the faithful because they should be vigorously opposed. These men were the impetus behind Jude exhorting a contention for the faith. These men must be fought against and they need to be defeated!
2. The Influence of These Men.
a. The actions and, most likely, the teachings, of these men had turned the “grace of God into lewdness.” Some commentators have named these men as antinomians, or those who promote one practice or teaching as truth that is in direct conflict with another teaching. Whether this name is correct as identifying these men as part of the early Antinomians (with a capital “a”) or not, we cannot know, but what they were doing certainly fit the definition. They promoted a way of life that encouraged sinfulness with the alleged purpose of bring more of God’s grace to those who practiced it. [See Romans 5:20 & Rom. 6:1, 2.)
b. By doing this, they, in effect, denied the Lord by the fact that the Lord they presented appeared to be One who approved of their licentious behavior and encouraged sinfulness that he might "bless us" with more grace! This was not the Lord at all, and by promoting this behavior in His name, they denied the true Lord! [cf. Titus 1:16 - "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him,..."]
II. UNGODLY MEN [:5-19]
A. Examples of Ungodly Behavior. [v. 5-11]
1. Certain Punishment Assured.
a. The Israelites. (v. 5) Though God had brought them out of bondage in Egypt and blessed them and provided for their every need, many lost their faith and trust in God and either sought to return to the land of captivity, complained against Him, rebelled against His commands and authority, or followed after the gods of the surrounding nations. Because of this, He “destroyed those who did not believe.”
b. Disobedient Angels. (v. 6) The record of these angels’ disobedience is mentioned nowhere but here, so we have no details about what the exact acts were. But, that being said, what we do know is that they had gone beyond their intended purpose and limitations and were condemned to “everlasting chains” awaiting the judgment day.
c. Sodom and Gomorrah. (v. 7) These cities had given themselves over to sexual immorality and had indulged in deviant behaviors that brought upon themselves eternal destruction. Their behavior and its end stands “as an example” even today.
d. Those Whom Jude Addressed. (vv. 8-11) Those whom Jude addressed were no better off than the ones he pointed to as an example of ungodliness. They defiled the flesh, rejected authority, and showed no respect for those who were so deserving. They spoke evil of things they knew nothing about and indulged in self-fulfillment and corruption. Such behavior was likened to the “way of Cain” (evil works), “the error of Balaam” (motivated solely by profit or gain), and “the rebellion of Korah” (rebellion against God-approved authority).
2. Their Character.
a. Hidden Dangers. (“Spots,” v. 12. More correctly translated as hidden rocks, as in a reef near the shore which poses a danger to watercraft.) These individuals posed a dangerous threat to the faithful, for they appeared to be just as interested in the truth as others, but they concealed their dangerous love for worldliness and self-gratification. Their behavior would lead to the shipwreck of others’ faith and destroy men’s souls.
b. Disappointments. (“clouds without water” and “trees without fruit,” v. 12) The further destructive action of these men is leading others to believe good would be produced and assistance in time of need, only to see neither. (Like a cloud appearing to a farmer anticipating rain, only to see it disappear without a drop falling, or a tree producing leaves but no fruit.) Such behavior would lead to discouragement and despair over failed expectations in those they trusted most. Imagine a disciple with high expectations, only to be left high and dry.
c. Loud & Boastful. (“Raging waves of the sea,” v. 13) The men also made great protestations and boasts about their knowledge and what they could do. Like waves blown about in a storm, there is much action and little produced - and danger for those who are in the midst. Their behavior produced nothing but shame as they present themselves as something they are not.
d. Untrustworthy. (“wandering stars,” v. 13) The meaning here is that they are constantly changing and unstable, never standing firm on one thing or in one place. Their words are forever changing and incomprehensible; their actions are never consistent with their boasts; their lives are never seen as a pattern for others, for they do not live the lives they proclaim.
e. Complainers. (v. 16) Such people are never happy with who or where they are, what they have, or how much. Their place in life, forever not what they “deserve,” is due to the spiteful intentions of real or imagined enemies. They are forever criticizing others and discouraging others by their constant complaining.
f. Deceivers. (“Flattering…to gain advantage,” v. 16) One of the means of their success is the ability to convince others that they are sincere, and there is no better success than to divert attention away from self while laying on the flattery of the suspicious. With a pat on the back and an enticing smile, all doubts disappear and questions are forgotten - and the ungodly walk among the fellowship of believers as if they were one of them.
g. Walking After Their Own Lusts. (v. 16, 18) The underlying motivation behind all of these actions rests here: fulfilling their own worldly lusts. Though they spoke boastful words, promised great works, and seemed to be partners in the efforts to live godly in the midst of an ungodly world, they really were nothing more than the old “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
1. Their Destruction. These ones were not totally unexpected, though, for their presence had been prophesied long ago (Enoch, v. 14, 15), and what was revealed was not just their presence and behavior, but their end: judgment.
2. Their Behavior. (v. 17, 18) The apostles had warned the disciples of those who would come amongst them. (Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 stands out.) Jude reminds them of those warnings and goes on to describe their character traits, men who would - even as they claimed to be fellow disciples - mock the teachings to which the true believers adhered. No doubt, using their great swelling words and flattery, these ungodly men had great success in belittling those opposed them and ridiculed and efforts to overturn their destructive deeds.
III. DUTIES OF THE GODLY MAN [:20-23]
A. Watching Out For Self. [v. 20, 21]
1. Edification Necessary. (v. 20) Jude’s exhortation in the letter to “contend earnestly for the faith” included the need to contend for their own personal faith. A necessity for faithfulness is a continuous building up and maintenance that we might be able to stand, firmly planted on the faith that was once for all delivered. That edification entailed a life of prayer, the means of communicating our needs and desires to the One whom we follow.
2. Love Necessary. (v. 21) Faithfulness rests on our heart-centered love for God. If, at any time, we lose that love for God and His word, our faith will be weakened and our future is in doubt. Jude’s admonition does not forsake this great need in the life of every disciple, but reminds them to keep themselves in that love.
B. Watching Out For Others. [v. 22, 23]
1. Compassion Needed. (v. 22) In all of our efforts to save others, compassion is a necessary part, but Jude encourages a special admonition to particularly show compassion on some. This may be understood when we consider those whom we strive to teach the truth are not all of the same mind or understanding of the truth, and require different approaches and a different manner in order to convict and convert. The hardened heart will require less compassion than the young and unlearned heart that is more willing. A “distinction” must be made.
2. Instilling Fear Needed. (v. 23) Others, in contrast to compassion, need to know the fear of the coming judgment and their certain end if they would not turn from their ungodly ways. Unfortunately, many do not make the distinction in striving to reach out to the lost and confuse a need for love and compassion with the stronger need sometimes to instill fear into the hearts of the unfearing. More and more today, we see those who simply do not have a fear of God or the pending judgment who need to hear the hard facts of what is awaiting the unrepentant.
In these efforts to save others, it was to be done with a remembrance that they may have been reaching them so late in their spiritual life that it is as if pulling one out of the fire. And as they did the work of saving souls, they were to have the strongest desire for the saving of their soul that everything else was dispensable.
Jude concluded the letter glorifying God for His ability to preserve them all in the faith through the love He has shown to us and through the revelation of that faith once delivered. (v. 24, 25). We must concur with his praise of the One “Who alone is wise” and who is worthy of all “glory and majesty, dominion and power.” A fitting end to a letter of admonishment to “contend earnestly for the faith” that He had delivered to the body of believers.
Now, what has all this got to do with us? As much as we would like to believe that this is not a concern today for us, it most certainly is. There are still among the body of believers those who appear to be righteous and holy and spiritually-minded, but who are, in reality, like these ungodly men of whom Jude wrote. There are still those who are not what they appear, who spend their time in the pursuit of their own desires, who can do nothing but complain about what they have or don’t have, who make loud proclamations but produce nothing of value, and who lead others to destruction through disappointments and outright false teaching. We must, as Jude has written, “contend” for that same faith and defend it against all who would creep in amongst the body of believers even today. If we are to share in that “common salvation,” we must fight the good fight.