As is the case with James, the identification of Jude has caused much debate. Jude and Judas were popular names honoring the great tribal patriarch, Judah. However, because Jude called himself “THE BROTHER OF JAMES” (Jude 1), with no clarification of which James, it is best to see this as a reference to the most well-known James at that time, Jesus’ half-brother, the leader of the Jerusalem church. This would also make Jude Jesus’ half-brother. (The other two named in Matthew 13:55 were Joseph and Simon, also named after patriarchs.)
Although Jude’s letter was never officially rejected by the Early Church, some were hesitant to recognize it as inspired, primarily because of his references to other Scripture (2 Peter) and extra-biblical literature. His reliance on the book of 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15 and the reference to the body of Moses in Jude 9 has caused some to question its integrity. However, Paul quoted Greek poets, philosophers, and traditional sayings multiple times within his inspired letters, so this is not automatically cause for disqualification. In fact, except for the specific account in Jude 9, there is nothing in Jude that contradicts other Scripture or creates new doctrine. Ironically, it is instead a short, yet strong, reminder of our need to maintain doctrinal accuracy.
Jude had intended to write a longer letter on the doctrine of salvation, but the influx of false teachers in the church (Jude 4; likely the same ones Paul and Peter warned about earlier) caused him to set that aside for a quick memo on doctrinal integrity. Specifically, he wrote, believers must “CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH” (Jude 3). It is important that we do not simply “believe” or “uphold” the faith. We must fight for it, knowing that our opponents will certainly fight for their side. Jude seems to quote 2 Peter 2:1 when he referred to those “WHO DENY OUR ONLY MASTER AND LORD, JESUS CHRIST” (Jude 4).
Showing a penchant for cadence in his oratory, Jude created four lists to describe these false teachers. First, he compared their coming judgment to the plagues of Egypt, the angels of Genesis 6, and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7). Second, he compared their attitude toward God to Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Jude 11). Third, using visuals from nature, he compared their activity to dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, and wayward stars (Jude 12-13). Fourth, describing their spiritual state, he called them divisive, worldly, and devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19).
In contrast to this dangerous threat to local churches, Jude provided two lists for believers as well (Jude 17, 20-21 and Jude 22-23). First, regarding ourselves, we must: 1) remember this was prophesied; 2) pray in the Holy Spirit; 3) maintain ourselves in God’s love; and 4) anticipate Christ’s mercy. Second, regarding others, we must: 1) have mercy on those wavering in the truth; 2) rescue some from the fire; 3) have mercy on others, while paying attention to ourselves (see Galatians 6:1).
Jude’s final exhortation reminded his readers – and us – that succumbing to false teaching is not inevitable. Not only can God keep us from falling, but he can also cause us to stand, “REJOICING, WITHOUT BLEMISH BEFORE HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE” (Jude 24) for eternity.