When looking at a table of contents of the Bible, we usually ‘know’ where the recognizable books are. Genesis is at the beginning, the Psalms are right in the middle, Revelation is the last book. Sometimes, ‘smaller’ books are lost in the middle. Right before Revelation, at the end of the Bible, there is a short book named Jude that we often skip right over. It is only one chapter and contains 25 verses. It is the fifth shortest book in the Bible with 461 words. Its length however, does not make it any less important.
The author of the book refers to himself as Jude, which is another form of the Hebrew name Judah (or Judas), which was a common Jewish name. Of the men named as such in the New Testament, the ones most likely to be the author are Judas the apostle (not Judas Iscariot) and Judas the brother of Jesus. The author is likely Judas the brother of Jesus because the author does not claim to be an apostle and seems to separate himself from the apostles. Even more, he refers to himself as the brother of James. If you’ve read our introduction to James, you know that he was likely the oldest sibling of Christ. Usually a person would refer to themselves as someone’s son rather than someone’s brother. Jude probably does this because James was so well known in the early church.
Jude and James never refer to themselves as the brother of Jesus. Others however, do not hesitate to describe them as such (Matthew 13:55, John 7:3-10, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5, Galatians 1:19). They did not ask to be heard in this light because they were members of the household of Joseph and Mary.
Jude does not have a specific audience. His address is very general “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ,” (Jude 1:1). He is very eager to write about salvation. However, he felt it important to warn this readers about certain immoral men who were circulating among them that were perverting the grace of God. These false teachers were trying to convince believers that being saved by grace gave them permission to sin. They were teaching that since they believed their sins would no longer be held against them, they were free to do whatever they pleased. Jude wants his readers to be on guard and ready to oppose this teaching with the truth of God’s grace.
So here we have another book in our Bible that was most likely written by one of Jesus’ biological half-brothers, just like James. It is interesting that both of these men to not claim on their own that they are Jesus’ brother. You would think that if they told people this, their words would carry more weight. Why wouldn’t they tell people this? Perhaps it was for their own safety, Jesus was crucified and many other early church leaders were arrested and executed. Perhaps they didn’t want to cloud Jesus’ message. If they claimed to be his brothers, would their teachings contradict God’s? Perhaps they were just humble men and didn’t want the spotlight. We may never know.
Overall, Jude writes on a pretty important topic. He wants his readers to know how God’s grace works. It is not that once you believe you’re free to do whatever you want. Your sins will no longer be counted against you. His point is that as believers we will still fall into sin. We should try our best to avoid it, but our best is never going to be good enough. Our faith in Christ doesn’t give us a free pass, but it offers grace and salvation even though we will still mess up.
I think this message is very important for us in our current season of life. Our lives have changed dramatically the last few months. Along with that change comes new patterns and new temptations. Sometimes change can throw us off course and we don’t realize that our temptations have changed as well. We don’t get a free pass to engage in these new habits. However it is important to know that when we do fall into new temptations, God’s grace is ultimately there to save us. It’s a different way of thinking. Jude wants us to be aware of that difference. It’s that difference that will help us recognize new thoughts and temptations as our lives continue to change.
Questions for Discussion/Contemplation: