The writer of this short letter, which is included very near the end of the bible is generally thought to be the half-brother of Jesus, although it is difficult to be sure. He would have been called Judas and may have shortened his name to distance himself from Judas who betrayed Jesus. It is thought that the brothers and sisters of Jesus came to faith after his death on the cross and then did several missionary trips. This letter is a general letter for all Christians and Jude’s purpose in his letter was twofold: he wanted to expose the false teachers that had infiltrated the Christian community, and he wanted to encourage Christians to stand firm in the faith and fight for the truth.
Jude in verses 12-13 uses some amazing metaphors, one after the other, to describe what these people are like and to open the eyes of Christians! But more than simply raising awareness, Jude thought it important that believers stand against those working against Jesus Christ. Believers were to do this by remembering the teaching of the apostles, building each other up in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keeping themselves in the love of God.
The new testament refers to false teachers and prophets in several places and how we should be wise and watchful. In Matthew 7: 15-20 it states:
‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.’
And in Matthew 10: 16:
‘Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’
And in 2 Corinthians 11: 13-15:
‘For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So, it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.’
Within our church, we are blessed with teachers of truth (you can always check by referring back to the bible, if unsure) and I know that when we have preachers come from outside, they will have a great track record before Andy asks them to speak to us. However, do we protect ourselves against incorrect teaching we receive online? Do we weigh up things that are said to us by friends and even challenge what is said wrongly?
Jude is very clear…we must fight for the truth and stand up against error. He uses punchy short commands and statements to get across his strength of feeling. Not only are we ourselves in danger, but if recognised and left unchallenged, who else will be subject to hearing incorrect doctrine or false teaching and be led down the wrong path?
He finishes with the doxology beginning ‘To him who is able to keep you from stumbling…’ All we have to do is keep our eyes on him to be sure that we are not led astray by wrong teaching, but as Jude challenges, are we ready to address false prophecy or doctrine when we hear it?