Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Jude Studies|
Jude is an unusual letter. It is short, the author is not clearly identified, it's readers aren't identified, it has many similarities to parts of 2 Peter and it's writer makes reference to non-canonical books!
It's short – well yes, but Jude only has one issue on his mind and having addressed it, he finishes. The author: Jude or Judas is normally taken to be the brother of Jesus (see Mt 13:55 ). Its readers: anything here is really speculation beyond the fact that he was writing to Christians who were being infiltrated by unbelievers. The similarities with 2 Peter: this suggests either the same writer under a different name or the fact that Jude and Peter were close and had shared the same concerns and had same discussions about the plight of the church. The non-canonical books: as you go through the studies you will see that three times Jude makes reference to things recorded in books that are outside the New Testament canon, books that Jews of that day used. At the end of the studies we have provided various summaries of the things found in this letter, to clarify what is here.
The Reason for Writing
Early on Jude tells us that he was originally going to write about salvation generally but now feels he has to write to the believers to instruct them to “contend for the faith” (v.3) because of certain men who had slipped into the congregation of the church and who were causing upset. A large part of this letter describes these men and speaks against them. In other words he is exhorting his readers to stand up for their faith and resist these men.
The Nature of the Problem
Men had “secretly slipped in” (v.4) who Jude considered to be godless (v.4) with ungodly desires (v.4,8,15,16,18,19) and who perverted grace and made it an excuse for immorality (v.4,7,8). They also reject authority (v.8 & implied by v.10 & 16) and were self-centred (v.12,16,18) following only their sensual desires (v.10,11,16,18,19), and not the Holy Spirit (v.19). In all this they reject and deny Jesus (v.4). Against all this Jude brings a variety of warnings (see Summary tables).
Passage: Jude 1-4
A. Find Out:
1. How does Jude describe himself? v.1a
2. How does he describe those to whom he writes? v.1b
3. What 3 things does he want for them? v.2
4. Why had he originally intended to write? v.3a
5. But why instead did he now feel he has to write? v.3b
6. Why? v.4
Jude tells us no more about himself than the fact that he considers himself a servant of Jesus and James is his brother. He assumes we know who James is. Where there is the use of such a name like this, it is probable that he is one of the key leaders, so Jude has close ties to the apostles.
Paul often asked for “grace and peace” for his readers. Jude asks for “mercy, peace and love”. The “mercy” indicates a need to hope for God's compassionate viewing of them so that they will not get what they deserve. The “peace” is a very real foundational characteristic of the Christian experience which, if it is missing, indicates a turmoil in the church that needs dealing with. The “love” is another foundational characteristic which, if missing, indicates upheaval between people that needs resolving. All of those things become apparent in this short letter.
His original intention in writing (and this seems a general letter, not to a specific church) was simply to declare afresh the wonder of the salvation that is ours, but as he has gone to write he has heard of things happening that disturb him, and which therefore, become the primary focus of his writing. There are people who have come into the church who are godless, immoral and unbelieving. There is a very real threat to the church and Jude addresses it. This is a vital letter!
Passage: Jude 4-7
A. Find Out:
1. When were these men marked out? v.4a
2. What do they do? v.4c
3. Of whom did want to remind his listeners? v.5a,b
4. Why? v.5c
5. Who also does he use as an example? v.6
6. What third illustration does he give? v.7
Jude focuses on people who have somehow got into the church but who, in fact, are very far from what a Christian should be. Apparently they must appear or sound “Christian” but in fact their casual attitude towards the Law means that they do wrong things on the basis that grace will cover them – they'll be all right!
No they won't, says Jude! Stop for a moment, is what he is saying, and remember what's happened in the past. Remember the Israelites who came out of Egypt – delivered by the miraculous hand of God, but many of whom were also destroyed by it, because they were casual and thought they could ‘get away with it'. They couldn't!
Then he refers to the fall of angels. In doing this Jude refers to The Book of Enoch , a Jewish book that was not within the canon of Scripture but much used by the Jews (see Introduction). That book indicated (like Rev 12) that there had been a falling out in heaven and the rebelling angels were judged by God. Their special position hadn't helped them. Then there was Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of towns given over to immorality who thought that they could ignore God and ‘get away with it'. They didn't! The message is clear from Jude – these ungodly men may think that they're getting away with their casual lives, but God WILL hold them accountable, so you watch out.
Passage: Jude 8-11
A. Find Out:
1. How does Jude now describe these people? v.8a
2. What 3 things does he say they are doing? v.8b
3. Who does he give as an illustration against them? v.9
4. Yet what do they do? v.10
5. What 3 Old Testament people does he now use as an example? v.11
Jude is full of Old Testament examples and teaching. Even as he starts here by describing them as “dreamers” there is an echo of Deut 13:1-5, of Moses condemnation of dreamers who led people away from God. These dreamers ‘pollute' their own bodies (v.8), i.e. their behaviour (probably sexual) contaminated them with sin. They rejected authority (so common in ungodly people) and they even speak about or to spiritual beings without any understanding.
This last thing, Jude expands on. In this he refers to another non-canonical book used by the Jews of the day, The Assumption of Moses , where the archangel Michael was given the job of burying Moses. Supposedly Satan challenged him declaring that Moses was a murderer. Michael didn't abuse Satan but merely referred him to the Lord. The point, says Jude, is that if one of the leading angels wouldn't revile Satan, we shouldn't either. In fact, he goes on, they speak abusively about anything they don't understand, thus revealing their unrighteousness. The only things they do understand (implied) are their base sensual desires which lead them on to destruction.
These people are like Cain, who let his wrong instincts lead him to murder, or Balaam whose base instincts led him to lead others into immorality for money, or for Korah who's instincts led him to rebel against Moses. That's what these people in your midst are like, he says, and they were all judged!
Passage: Jude 12-13
A. Find Out:
1. Where do these men flaunt themselves? v.12a
2. What wrong people does Jude then describe them as? v.12b
3. What natural element doers he describe them as? v.12c
4. And then what feature of nature? v.12d
5. What further picture does he use to describe them? v.13a
6. And what final analogy? v.13b
These two verses are the peak of the picture language that Jude uses. He starts out simply by referring to the way they turn up at the Lord's Supper celebration, brazenly eating without a care, despite their sin. Then he refers to them as shepherds, suggesting possibly that they are leaders, but if they are, they are self concerned and do not care about the flock. Now comes the wave of picture language:
Clouds – blown along (out of control, driven by desire), without rain – appearing one thing but not bringing the life that is needed and which should be there.
Autumn trees – without fruit (barren) and uprooted (not connected to God's world and therefore lifeless.
Wild waves – coming in on the incoming tide, getting bigger and bigger, crashing to destruction on the shore (their shame at their increasing sin leading to destruction).
Wandering stars – stars should be in a fixed location but these are out of control (a picture from the Book of Enoch ) where angels and stars are likened. The fallen angels are consigned so darkness – so it is with these men.
These are the terrible pictures that Jude uses of these men – self-centred, self-concerned in their sensual sins, fruitless & condemned.
Passage: Jude 14-19
A. Find Out:
1. Who did what? v.14
2. What did he say God was going to do? v.15
3. What five things did Jude then say about these people? v.16
4. What does he tell them to remember? v.17
5. What had they said would happen? v.18
6. What three things does he then say about these men? v.19
These verses could be summed up in four words: “You have been warned!” He's been describing these men and now it's as if he says, “But don't be surprised about this, you have been warned,” and goes on to give them two sources of this warning.
The first comes again from the Book of Enoch that he's already referred to. In there Enoch prophesied that God would come to judge the world and deal with the ungodly. The implication is that God knows there will be ungodly people and although they may be apparently getting away with their unrighteous behaviour and speak against God, He will in the end come and deal with them. So, says Jude, expect these sorts of things to happen and don't be surprised - but also be aware that God WILL deal with them in His time!
Then he refers to the apostles' teaching that was already being established as the basis for Christian belief. Already there was clear teaching that Jesus would return and the period before his return will be called the End Times, and in these times there will be many people who will just do their own thing and will scoff at those who are concerned about piety. These, says Jude, are the people you have with you and they therefore divide you by their human opinions, they live according to their desires and they do not have the Holy Spirit. Beware of them!
Passage: Jude 20-25
A. Find Out:
1. What 2 things does Jude counsel the church to do? v.20
2. What further 2 things does he tell them to do? v.21
3. How are they to be towards doubters? v.22
4. How are they to act towards others? v.23
5. What does he say God can do? v.24
6. How does he say God is to be glorified? v.25
As he comes to the end of this letter of warning, Jude now wraps it up by instructions to the church, first on the way they are to look after themselves and then how they are to view others.
First of all what they are to do about themselves: build themselves up. The answer to others trying to pull you down, is to build yourself up. Hold onto the truths of the faith and flow in the Spirit - it is always Word and Spirit – truth and life, that we need. Part of that, he says, is keeping yourselves in God's love. We need to remind ourselves of the truth of the Gospel, that it is all because of God's love for us, and we need to remind ourselves of that love and live in the light of it.
Then comes a “check your attitude towards others” type of instruction. Be merciful to doubters, i.e. be gracious, gentle and understanding of those who are in the faith but who are not so strong as you. Keep on reaching out to others – seek to bring them into salvation. Where there are others who don't seem to want to respond (implied) view them with mercy, but still hold the fear of God, for they will be judged if they don't eventually repent. Hate the wrong they do, even if you have an open heart to the sinner. He then reminds them that God can keep them and prevent them from falling away. They don't have to fear these people who have come in!
In these studies we have observed the following:
Other non-canonical books referred to:
Descriptions of the intruders
As we come to the end of this short set of studies, the following are some of the things we may wish to consider:
1. A Distinct Church
Jude's letter highlights a problem: some people had come into the church congregation purporting to be Christians but living very loose lives. The New Testament message is very clear, and it is echoed in this letter, more by implication than anything else: Christians are different because of the work of God in their lives, and are to live differently. A person is not a Christian because they call themselves one, but because they have been saved and transformed through the new birth by the work of God. When they surrender their lives to God and accept the finished work of Christ on the Cross as for themselves, God places His Holy Spirit within them, and the act of life-long surrender and the work of the Spirit in them, means that they start living, and continue living, holy lives. Anything less than this is suspicious. There are standards to be kept and their absence in an individual raises questions over their relationship with God. That is what this letter from Jude is all about.
2. God's Judgement
Jude's letter also highlights the fact that God does judge unrepentant sinners. Jude cites the instances of a) the unbelievers who came out of Egypt, yet who died in the wilderness, b) the angels who fell, c) Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed, d) Cain, Balaam and Korah who all died by judgment, and finally, e) the worldwide judgement of God that will come at the last time. All of these examples say that sinners may think that they're getting away with it, but God WILL come and deal with them. This is thus a strong warning for anyone who is living a profligate lifestyle to repent and surrender to God. It doesn't matter what you call yourself, the question is what sort of relationship do you have with God?