With few words Jude in Jude 1:3-4 reveals the reason for the composition of his letter: first, he wants to encourage the readers to affirm their faith; next, he alerts them to the danger of immoral people who have slipped in among them; and last, he opens the eyes of the believers to the life and doctrine of their opponents.
Jude 1:3, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
“Love.” Jude addresses his readers with a common greeting of that day” beloved”. Here put this greeting in the context of the address (“to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” v.1) and the blessing (“mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” v.2).
As a Pastor, Jude clearly distinguishes between the recipients of his letter and the false teachers. He expresses his love to the readers, but also tells them to be aware of the pernicious teachings of these heretics. The term beloved demonstrates his affection for the members of the Christian church.
“Salvation.” Because of his pastoral love, Jude composes his letter and writes, “although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (vs.3). Jude indicates that circumstances caused him to change the content of the letter he was planning to write. We have only a few words about the content of this intended epistle: “the salvation we share.” We do well not to speculate what Jude would have written. But what does he mean by the phrase we share? The letter itself it too brief to provide any evidence that Jude is addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. If we lack support for making a distinction between Christians of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, we have to look at the purpose of Jude’s epistle for an answer to this question.
Writing his letter to strength the believers in their faith, Jude refers to the common bond of salvation they possess (Titus 1:4; Acts 2:44). Moreover, he intimates that this very bond helps them withstand false teachers in their community who do not possess salvation. In verses 3 and 4 a contrast is evident between the salvation the believers share and the condemnation God reserves for the godless men.
“Faith.” Jude reveals his personal interest in the spiritual life of the readers. He says, “I felt I had to write.” He notes the necessity of exhorting the believers to contend for the faith. Notice that at the beginning and end of his letter Jude mentions the same subject. In the opening of his epistle he urges the readers “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” He concludes his epistle with the exhortation: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit” (vs.20).
What is this faith Jude mentions? In view of the context, we understand the word faith to mean the body of Christian beliefs. It is the gospel the apostles proclaimed and therefore is equivalent to the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Thus, it is not the trust and confidence that the individual believer has in God, for that is subjective faith. In this passage Jude speaks of Christian doctrine, that is, objective faith.
The context in which Jude discusses faith relates to its deposit in the community of the saints. Jude writes about “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The saints, are the members of the church. They have received God’s revelation, just as the Jews, as Paul says, “Have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2). God delivered His truth to Jesus Christ (John 3:34), and Jesus committed God’s truth to the apostles, who in turn entrusted it to the believers.
What is the deposit of faith? The apostles transmitted the gospel to the church, which in turn proclaimed it throughout the world (I Thess. 1:6-8). The idea of tradition, of the Gospel as an authoritative message committed to and handed down in the Church, was integral to Christianity from the start. The apostolic teaching as a body was transmitted once for all to the church (Luke 1:2; Rom. 6:17; 1 Cor. 11:2).
Jude urges his readers “to contend for the faith.” He encourages the believers not only to fight for the faith, but also to depend on that faith for spiritual help. The New Testament concept to contend is familiar to his readers. It means to exert oneself without distraction to attain a goal. It means self-denial to overcome obstacles, to avoid perils, and if need be to accept martyrdom. Jude implies that the members of the church must exert themselves in spreading the gospel and defeating heresy (II Tim. 4:7).
Jude 1:4, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Why does Jude urge the recipients to contend for the faith? Jude says, “For certain people have crept in.” As pastor-teacher, Jude observers a dangerous development in the church. He feels the need to alert the members to be on guard and oppose the men who have slipped into the Christian community. Jude places the term certain men over against the greeting of dear friends (v.3) and indicates that the believers are facing adversaries to the faith. As Paul warns the Galatians to watch out for “false brothers” (Gal. 2:4), so Jude instructs his readers to oppose “godless men.” And Peter tells the readers of his second epistle to beware of “false teachers” who have entered their community and who secretly teach pernicious doctrines (2 Peter 2:1).
Jude does not indicate whether these godless men at one time belonged to the Christian community; and these infiltrators are dishonest in their relations with the believers, for they furtively slip into the church. By their secrecy they reveal their motives. Probably they were itinerant teachers who were bent on destroying the church of Jesus Christ. The New Testament presents numerous warnings on the believers to avoid strange teachings from false teachers (Phil. 3:2; Col. 2:8; 2 Tim. 3:6; 1 John 3:7; 4:1; 2 John 7).
“Ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” What are these intruders doing that they deserve divine condemnation? To put it in the words of Paul, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:16).
Jude does not say these men are atheists. He indicates that they slyly enter the Christian church by acknowledging the existence of God; otherwise they would be denied entrance. But their personal conduct betrays godlessness (vv.15,18), for these men think that God’s grace allows them to indulge in unbridled sexual freedom.
The word grace signifies God’s forgiving love whereby the sinner receives freedom to serve God and to express His gratitude. These false instructors, however, teach the Christian to use that freedom not to honor God but to satisfy their sexual lusts (Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16; 2 Peter 2:19). These people pervert the teachings of God’s word by engaging in a life of sexual filth. The term license for immorality is an expression Peter employs to describe the shameful homosexual conduct of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:7).
“Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” This is the second characteristic of heretics. Except for describing their conduct, Jude provides no information about how they deny Jesus. The Greek indicates that these godless persons are constantly renouncing the divine authority of Jesus Christ who has absolute sovereignty in every area of life. The nineteenth-century Dutch theologians Abraham Kuyper pointedly stated, “there is not so much as the breadth of a thumb in every area of life of which Christ has not said: ‘It is mine.’” Jude designates Jesus Christ as our only Sovereign and Lord and intimates that we cannot have any other master besides Jesus Christ.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.