Jude is an odd little book. Its language is strong, harsh, and uncomfortable. Why does he repeat “keep/kept” six times (v 1, twice in 6, 13, 21, 24)? “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith” (v 3). “Contend” was the Greek word commonly used to describe those who vigorously agonized in athletic contests. Yes, contending for the faith will require everything we’ve got. If we don’t agonize for the faith, who will?
Jude wastes no time. He’s worried about “certain people … who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v 4). Of course, we want to extend grace to people. But what if grace ends up blurring everything?
When things get blurry, Jude reminds us that God keeps his people safe in three ways: 1) just like when Jesus saved his people in Egypt, he keeps us safe from outside threats (v 5a); 2) just like when Jesus saved Israel from the unfaithful, he keeps us safe from inside threats (v 5b); and 3) just like when fallen angels did not keep their appointed place in God’s administration, the Lord keeps us safe from demonic threats (v 6). Jude adds that God even keeps his good angels safe noting the time when Sodom “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire” and tried to blur God’s appointed boundaries (v 7). These are all examples of how God keeps his people safe when it gets crazy, and lines are blurred (vv 5-7).
How do things get so blurry? Jude explains. Things get blurry when people’s imagination becomes their authority (v 8a). Instead of glorifying God, “they contaminate their bodies with sin, reject the Lord’s authority, and insult his glory” (v 8b). That’s when Jude brings up a popular story in Jewish literature (v 9). Why? When the archangel Michael contended with the devil about Moses’s body, he did not presume to usurp God’s role as judge. Michael had the self-discipline to “stay in his lane” while contending with one who had completely abandoned his God’s appointed place. What is Jude’s point? When there is the crossing of God’s appointed boundaries, Michael is our model. “The Lord rebuke you,” Michael told the devil. God will deal with evil. Our job is to contend for faith without condemning people.
Contending for the faith in a world of blur will be frustrating. “Whatever these people don’t understand, they insult. Like animals, which are creatures of instinct, they use whatever they know to destroy themselves” (v 10). So, good luck applying logic to instincts. We’ll need to brace for hatred (Cain’s path), hedonism (Balaam’s error), and in-your-face disdain (Korah’s rebellion). Hidden reefs cause shipwrecks. Wild, churning waves constantly knock people down. Instead of being reliable, fixed points of light for fellow travelers to find their way, wandering stars lead people off course (vv 11-13). Jude is essentially saying, “As for you, you keep contending for the faith! Stay in your lane. Justice will prevail. God will right all wrongs. Listen to Enoch!”
Jude then cites another familiar book to first century Jews: “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (vv 14-15). No matter how much “people complain, find fault, follow their own desires, say arrogant things, and flatter people in order to take advantage of them” (v 16), when Jesus appears, he will set things right, says Jude.
“But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them” (vv 17-19). In other words, buck up and quit being so shocked.
Build “yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (vv 20-21). Be tender and merciful “to those who doubt” (v 22). Do all you can to “snatch them out of the fire”—but be careful of getting pulled into the blur (v 23).
Next time you hear Jude’s benediction, God is calling you to contend for the faith because you are kept safe by the only one “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (v 24).