Jude 1–4


Today we’re going to spend our time on the book of Jude. It’s a very short book: it only has 25 verses. And since it’s so short, I thought I’d be able to deal with it in just one sermon. However, there’s a lot packed into these 25 verses and so I’m going to spend at least two Sundays on it.

What’s this short book about? Well, Jude the writer tells his readers in verse 3 that he had intended to write to them about the salvation we share. He had wanted to write a very positive and uplifting message about what God has done by his Son Jesus Christ to save us from his wrath and curse which we all deserve because we’re sinners who sin against God continually. He had wanted to write to them about that. However, instead of writing that letter, he now felt he had to write a different kind of letter. Instead of writing that positive and uplifting message about our salvation, he now felt he had to write to urge his readers to contend for the faith that was once-for-all entrusted to the saints. So, he wants them to defend the faith and the truth of the gospel which they have received. And the reason they needed to defend the faith and the truth of the gospel is because certain men had slipped in to the church unnoticed. They were heretics, false teachers, who claimed to know God, but who were twisting the gospel. And by the things they said and did, they were undermining the truth of the gospel and they were leading believers astray. And so, most of the letter contains warnings about these men who were twisting the gospel.

In verses 1 to 4, which we’ll study today, Jude introduces himself and he describes his readers and he tells them why he’s writing to them. Then, in verses 5 to 19, Jude tells his readers how God dealt with wicked people in the past and how he will do the same with these wicked people who are troubling them. And he mentions the people who escaped from Egypt in the days of Moses, but who died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. And he mentions the fallen angels who are being kept by God in darkness to await the day of judgment. And he mentions the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah who were destroyed when God sent burning sulphur on those cities. And just as God punished those wicked people in the past, so he will punish wicked people in every generation.

And then in verses 20 to 23, Jude exhorts his readers to keep themselves in the love of God by building themselves up in the holy faith and by praying in the Spirit, while they wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come again to bring us to eternal life. And he also instructs his readers how to deal with those who have been taken in by the heretics: be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear.

And then the letter ends with the marvellous doxology in verses 24 and 25 and the reminder that God is able to keep us from falling and to present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. So, although we need to pay heed to the warning and defend the faith and the truth of the gospel, we can do so in the confidence that our great God will uphold us and help us.

So, that’s a brief outline of this brief book. As I said, today we’ll concentrate on the first four verses where Jude introduces himself; where he describes his readers; and where he tells them why he’s writing to them.


Who was Jude? He describes himself for us as a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

Most of the commentators are agreed that Jude was one of the Lord’s half-brothers. So, after the Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Mary, Mary and Joseph went on to have other children in the normal way. The names of their sons are given in Matthew 13:55: there was James and Joseph and Simon and Judas or Jude. James, of course, wrote the book of James and he became very prominent in the early church, which is why Jude refers to him by name in verse 1.

So, Jude was the Lord’s half-brother. But instead of describing himself as the Lord’s half-brother, he describes himself as the Lord’s servant. The word ‘servant’ — or ‘slave’ as it can also be translated — implies three things. Firstly, it implies possession. A servant or slave in those days belonged to someone. And therefore Jude is telling us that, since he’s a servant of the Lord Jesus, he belongs to the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is his Master. And this is true for every believer: once we were slaves to sin and Satan, but now we belong to Christ.

And the word ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ also implies service. A servant is required to serve his master. And so, by referring to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, Jude is telling us that he serves Jesus Christ. Though the Lord Jesus was his half-brother and they grew up together in the same house, they are not equals, because Christ is the Master and Jude is his servant who serves him. And this is true of every believer. Once we served sin and Satan and did what they wanted; but now that we believe in Christ and belong to him, we’re to serve him. We’re to do his will. Whatever we’re doing, wherever we live or wherever we work or wherever we find ourselves, we’re to serve Christ who is our Master.

Thirdly, the word ‘servant’ also implies authority. In the Old Testament, men like Moses and Joshua and the prophets were known as being servants of God. And they were servants of God because God had chosen them and commissioned them and sent them to act on his behalf or to speak on his behalf. So, Moses and Joshua were sent by God to lead his people on his behalf. The prophets were sent by God to speak to his people on his behalf. And so, when Jude describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, he’s telling his readers that he has been commissioned and authorised by Christ to write to them. And so, they ought to listen to him. And since this letter is now part of Holy Scripture, we too are duty-bound to listen to it and to believe and to obey whatever it says. God himself is speaking to us through the words of Christ’s servant, Jude.

Jude’s readers

That’s Jude. We then have a description of his readers. Jude describes them to us as those who have been called; and who are loved by God the Father; and kept by or for Jesus Christ.

And, of course, this is a description of every believer, because the Christian life begins when God calls us into Christ’s kingdom. He calls sinners through the reading and preaching of his word; and by his Spirit he enables some to respond to his call. And so, as the preacher preaches the good news of the gospel and his words enter our ears, the Holy Spirit, the inward preacher, is at work in the hearts and minds of some who hear to enable them to understand what they hear and to believe in Christ for salvation. If the Holy Spirit was not at work in the hearts and minds of some who hear, then no one would believe, because by nature all of us are dead in our trespasses and sins and we’re unable by ourselves to respond to God’s call. But the Holy Spirit enables some who hear to believe. And so, if you’re a believer, it’s because of God, who called you and who enabled you to respond to his call.

And not only are believers called, but they are loved by God the Father. One of the commentators said something which I found striking. He said that there are no beings in the universe who are greater than God. He is the Supreme Being. He is Almighty God. He is greater than everything else. And yet for believers — for those who have been called — this Supreme Being, this Almighty God, this God who is greater than everything else, has become our Heavenly Father who loves us and who cares for us. Little children go to their father and ask for his help, because they know he loves them and will take care of them and will give them what they need. And Christians know we can go to God for the help we need, because we know he’s our Heavenly Father who loves us. And how much has he loved us? Well, he loved us so much that he gave his only begotten Son to die for us and for our salvation. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

And not only are believers called and loved, but they are kept. The NIV says we are kept by Jesus Christ, but it should probably be that we are kept for Jesus Christ. You see, God our Father who loves us and cares for us is keeping us. That means he’s watching over us as a shepherd watches over his sheep. And so, he’s watching over us to guard us and to protect us and to shield us and to deliver us. Yes, we’ll face troubles and trials in this troubled life. Yes, we’ll suffer many things. Yes, we’ll face disappointments. And from time to time, we might go astray. But God will keep us so that his people will ultimately persevere in the faith. So, when we’re disheartened, he’ll encourage us. When our faith is weak, he’ll strengthen it. And if we go astray, he’ll discipline us and do whatever is necessary to bring us back to the right path. And he will continue to keep us until the day when we come into his presence in glory to stand before Christ our Saviour who loved us and who gave up his life for us in order that we might have eternal life in the presence of God.

And so, if you’re a believer, then that’s what you are. You’re been called by God; and you’re loved by God; and you’re being kept by God for Jesus Christ. It really is wonderful, isn’t it? And not only are you called by God and loved by God and kept by God, but you can also expect mercy and peace and love from God. That’s in verse 2. Mercy is God’s kindness towards us and it refers to the ways he helps us. And we know from elsewhere in the Bible that God’s mercies never come to an end, but they’re new every morning. So, we can expect his help every day, because his goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life. And he gives us peace, which is that deep-down sense of well-being and contentment and rest which God gives his people which prevents us from worrying no matter what happens in the world. And then he also reassures us of his love. The Devil comes along and tries to get us to believe the lie that God hates us and is angry with us because of the things we have done. ‘That’s why you’re suffering’, the Devil whispers in our ear. ‘You’re suffering because God hates you and he’s angry with you.’ But then the Lord comes to his believing people in the preaching of his word or in the Lord’s Supper and he reassures us of his love for us, which is never-ending, and of his willingness to pardon us because of Christ who has paid for our sins in full so that no further payment will ever be demanded from us. And so, not only are believers called and loved and kept by God, but we can expect mercy and peace and love from God.

Reason for writing

We’ve thought about Jude and about who he was writing to. Let’s now think about Jude’s reason for writing this letter to these people. And so, we’re looking now at verses 3 and 4.

And as I said at the beginning, it’s clear from what he says in verse 3 that he had wanted to write to his readers about the salvation we share. Other translations say he wanted to write about our ‘common salvation’. You see, there’s not one kind of salvation for one kind of person; and another kind of salvation for another kind of person. God saves all of his people in the same way, because God saves his people by grace. That means we’ve saved because of his kindness to us. People sometimes think God will save us because of the good things we do. They think we have to climb up to heaven by our good deeds. But no, we’re saved by grace alone, which means it’s because of God’s kindness to us. We do not deserve salvation and we cannot earn it by the things we do. Instead we receive salvation as a free gift through faith in God’s Son, who gave up his life to pay for our sins and who shed his blood to cleanse us of our guilt.

And we ought to be clear on what the word ‘salvation’ means. We can sometimes be a bit vague and say that ‘Jesus saves’ or that ‘Jesus saves us from our sins.’ But it’s more accurate to say that he saves us from the wrath and curse of God, which we all deserve for a life-time of disobedience. The day is coming when everyone who has ever lived will have to stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of ourselves. And unless you’ve trusted in Christ for salvation, God will justly condemn you for all that you have done wrong and he will send you out of his presence to be punished forever. But if you’ve trusted in Christ for salvation, then God will clear you on that day. So, even though you may have done everything wrong, God will declare you ‘not guilty’ for the sake of Christ, who took the blame for you when he died on the cross and who shares with you his perfect righteousness. And so, you will be saved from the condemnation and punishment you deserve; and you’ll be brought into the presence of God where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

Jude wanted to write to his readers about that. But instead he had to write them a different kind of letter, because it somehow came to his attention that certain men had secretly slipped in among them. So, these men have crept in among them. They have infiltrated the church. They have come in unnoticed. That is to say, when they first came, no one realised what they were. They looked like sheep, but really they were wolves dressed up as sheep.

And Jude says about them that their condemnation was written about long ago. So, in the pages of the Old Testament, God made clear that he would not tolerate such wicked people; and he would eventually punish them for their wickedness. And so, in the verses which follow, Jude refers to what God did to the wicked Israelites in the days of Moses; and to the fallen angels; and to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he’ll do the same to these wicked people who have slipped in to the church unnoticed.

And Jude describes them as godless men. The word translated ‘godless’ could also be translated ‘ungodly’, because it refers to people who live ungodly and sinful lives. And he accuses them of changing the grace of our God into a licence for immorality. The grace of God refers to God’s kindness and to his willingness to pardon us for our sins and to accept us as righteous in his sight for the sake of Christ. So though we may have done everything wrong, God is prepared to treat believers as if we’ve done everything right. We don’t deserve it. We cannot earn it. But God graciously and freely pardons believers for the sake of Christ. That’s the true gospel.

But these heretics, these false teachers, were twisting the gospel and saying something like: since our salvation does not depend on what we do, then we can do whatever we like. We can live however we like. And Jude refers to sexual immorality in verse 4. And so, presumably they were saying that they can do whatever they want sexually.

The Apostle Paul referred to the same error in Romans 6 where he responded to those who were saying that since we’re pardoned and accepted by God by grace and not by keeping the law, then we may continue to sin. Since God will forgive us, we can do as we please. But Paul made clear that believers are to count themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. So, when we first believed, we died to our old life of sin and disobedience and we were raised with Christ to live a new kind of life, a life of obedience to God. And so, we’re not to be slaves to sin, but we’re to be slaves to righteousness, doing what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.

And people make the same or a similar error today, don’t they? Young men hear that we’re not under law, but under grace, and they think that means they can sleep with their girlfriend, because they’re not bound by God’s law any longer. And in certain circles you have church leaders who say that there’s nothing with same-sex relationships and God graciously accepts us just the way we are. And, of course, there’s a grain of truth in what they say, because God does accept us just the way we are. But having accepted us, he changes us. He gives us his Holy Spirit to enable us to keep his laws and to do his will to become more and more holy. He gives us his Spirit to free us from sin and to live obediently and not immorally.

And Jude said about these ungodly men that they denied Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. In other words, instead of submitting themselves to Christ and doing his will, they continued to do as they pleased. Christ was not their Master, because sin was still their master.


And so, since these men had slipped in to the church, Jude wanted to warn his readers and wanted to urge them to contend for the faith. When he refers to ‘the faith’, he’s referring to the good news of the gospel about Christ, which God has entrusted to his people for safe-keeping.

But Jude feels that his readers now need to contend for it. So, he has in mind a wrestling match and the believers are wrestling against these people who have slipped into the church unnoticed. And it’s as if these heretics have grasped hold of the gospel and they want to twist it and bend it out of shape so that it serves their immoral purposes. And Jude is urging the members of the church to wrestle with them and to struggle against them and to grab hold of the gospel and pull it out of their hands and to keep it safe.

And since Jude’s letter is part of the Holy Scriptures, then this is a message not just for Jude’s first readers, but it’s a message for believers in every generation and it’s a message for us today. God is coming to you today in the preaching of his word and he’s saying to you that you must contend for the faith that was once-for-all entrusted to the saints. You are to defend it. And the way to defend the faith is to make sure you know the faith. It means you need to pay attention to the reading and preaching of God’s word as it’s proclaimed here week by week. And it means you should study the Bible at home by yourself and with your family. And it also means you should study our church’s catechisms and Confession of Faith, because they summarise for us what the Bible teaches about God and about our salvation and about how to glorify God in our daily lives. And so, you should study the catechisms and Confession because they will help you to understand the Bible and to be clear on what you need to believe. And knowing the faith, knowing what we’re to believe will keep us from being taken in by heresies and by other kinds of error and from everything else that might lead us away from Christ and our salvation.