Today we begin the book of Jude, one of the shortest books in the Bible, written by a Christian called Jude to Jewish Christians probably between 67 AD and 80 AD.
Today’s passage is Jude 1:1-7. Let’s go!
Jude 1:1-2 (NIV) 1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
On verses 1-2: Who is Jude? The fact that Jude calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (v1) suggests to scholars that Jude had a very unique background: Jude was Jesus’ half-brother. In other words, after the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, Mary and her husband Joseph had natural children of their own, including Jude and James. Imagine growing up with Jesus as your older brother! Although Jude grew up with Jesus, Jude and his siblings at first did not believe that their brother was actually the Son of God (John 7:4-5). It was not until Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his followers and family that Jude believed Jesus to be who He claimed to be. It is likely for this reason that Jude humbly refers to himself as only a “servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James”, instead of as “Jesus’ half-brother”.
Also, take note of how Jude addresses the Christians reading his letter. He says, “To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ” (v1). If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then that description applies to you too. You are called, loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:3-4 (NIV) 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
On verses 3-4: Originally Jude’s plan was to instruct his readers about the salvation we have in Jesus (v3). However, because false teachers had started to influence the Christians in Jude’s day, Jude felt it was more urgent for him to warn his readers about these false teachers. Though we don’t know the names of these false teachers, we have an idea about what they were teaching. They were teaching that since God’s love is unconditional it meant that people could do whatever they want, including continuing to sin. As Jude says, they “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (v4). These false teachers also denied the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Sovereign and Lord (v4), possibly claiming that other gods and faiths were just as good as Jesus. For this reason Jude calls these false teachers “godless men” (v4).
What can we learn from this? God’s grace was never meant to be a licence for immorality. Don’t think “since God already accepts me I can just sin whenever and however much I want”. Those who think in this way misunderstand God’s grace. They fail to see that God saved us from our sins by sacrificing His Son so that we would be forgiven and not continue to sin, so that we could know a new life in Christ. If I intentionally go back to sinning persistently in the way I used to, it suggests that there is major room in my life that God has yet to change or take over.
Jude 1:5-7 (NIV) 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
On verses 5-7: In verse 5 Jude references the Lord delivering His people from slavery in Egypt, as described in the first five books of the Old Testament, and how some of the people later forgot about him and were destroyed. Jude suggests that even if you have seen God perform great miracles, it is no good if later you forget or reject God’s saving work and stop trusting in Him.
In verse 6, Jude speaks about angel leaders who rebelled against God and how they were ousted out of heaven and sentenced to hell.
In verse 7, Jude speaks about Sodom and Gomorrah, two towns that were destroyed completely because of their sin (Genesis 19). Jude mentions that those who died in Sodom and Gomorrah are examples for those who suffer from fire?
What can we learn from this? There are real consequences for our sin, including death. As Romans 3:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Fortunately for us, Jesus took on those consequences for us when He died on the cross, sacrificing His life in place of ours. If we do not go to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, there is no other way for us to be forgiven. As Jesus says, “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)
Lord Jesus, thank You for taking on the punishment for my sins when You died on the cross. May I never take Your grace for granted, or treat it as a licence to keep on sinning. Thank You that I am called, loved and kept by You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!