New Book: Jude

by Naomi Allen

Jude is not a cuddly book. With imagery of everlasting chains, dead trees, and corrupted flesh, this book is no one’s first choice of fridge magnet.

Not only dark and challenging, it is also downright confusing. Did anyone not scratch their head at the reference to the dispute over the body of Moses? If you struggled to engage with Jude, you are not alone.

Part of the reason we might find this letter difficult is Jude’s assumption that his readers have a deep understanding of Jewish literature. His short letter is littered with references to Old Testament texts and even non-biblical (or ‘apocryphal’) Jewish writings such as 1 Enoch. We have comparisons to Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, and Korah (vs 7, 11) – all Old Testament examples of rebellion and corruption. For Jude’s primarily Jewish audience, these references could not have made his central theme clearer: there is an ongoing battle for the truth. Jude applies the consequences of these past events to the false teachers of his day (we think around the mid-60s AD) and urgently pleads with his community to ‘keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life’ (vs 21).

In my mind, the fervour of this letter can have two effects on us. On the one hand, it can scare us and shut us down. Too much talk of judgement and fire and we simply look the other way, dig out those fridge magnets that remind us of God’s good plans for us and how he so loved the world…

On the other hand, however, a letter like this can stir us to action. It can inspire in us a determination to defend the truth which we have been gifted. The passion with which Jude puts aside his intended subject (vs 3) to wage war on behalf of Jesus should call us to arms and encourage us to do the same. There are so many false promises made by our culture. They may not be the same lies as the false teachers in this letter, but they can be just as damaging. How do we respond when we hear our friends being sold the lie that they can find satisfaction in their appearance, their grades, their sex life, or their income? Do we feel the rage of Jude that they are being led away from the truth?

This is a serious challenge and it might not sit very comfortably with you. Thankfully, Jude ends on an incredibly reassuring note. Verse 24 reminds us that it is God who keeps us from stumbling and who presents us to himself without fault. It is Jesus who ultimately receives the glory, majesty, power and authority. No false teachers, no rebellious angels, and no weakness on our part can rob him of that.

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