Every book of the Bible invites us to use different stories, language, themes, and metaphors to describe the good news of what God has done in Jesus. If you’re a youth pastor or small group leader, here’s the gospel according to the book of Jude.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, responds to a theological crisis and calls his people to fight for the faith passed down to them (Jude 1, 3). False teachers claim that God’s grace has canceled his moral commands. They say it’s God’s job to forgive, so Jesus is no longer a moral master or authority of their lives (Jude 4). The false teaching says that as humans we are free to pursue our passions, particularly sexual ones, because we are the masters of our bodies and God will forgive us anyway.
So Jude reminds his readers of several stories from the Hebrew Bible where God exercised his moral authority by judging those who dismiss his authority. In the Exodus, God saved Israel from slavery but judged the Israelites who do not believe God was in charge (Jude 5). Before the Flood, a group of angelic beings disregarded God’s authority, slept with human women, and were judged for crossing that divine boundary (Jude 6; Genesis 6: 2). In Sodom and Gomorrah the opposite happened, but with the same effect. A group of men wanted to rape angelic beings and were punished for it (Jude 7). To Jude, these false teachers are just new incarnations of an ancient hostility towards God’s moral authority (Jude 8).
Jude then borrows from a piece of popular literature that adapted the story of Moses’ burial from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). In the popular version, the Devil tells the archangel Michael that Moses’ body belongs to him because Moses murdered a man. Michael, instead of accusing the devil of slander, holds his tongue and says in effect, “I leave judgment, in this case, up to God” (Jude 9). Jude’s point is that even in their popular literature all the heavenly beings admit God is Master and Judge.
These false teachers are ignorant of reality. And in their ignorance they’ve become animals ruled by whatever their hearts desire (Jude 10). Like Cain who murdered his brother in envy, like Balaam who sold out Israel in greed, and like Korah who committed treason to gain power, these false teachers, baited by their lusts, invite judgment (Jude 11).
Jude warns the faithful that these shipwrecked souls are now like hidden reefs—both dangerous and inviting death to anyone who gets too close (Jude 12). Like a comet loosed from orbit, their autonomy and cheap grace will lead them to eternal darkness (Jude 13). Quoting from the then-popular book of Enoch, Jude warns that God is coming to bring conviction and justice against all who reject God’s authority and take advantage of his grace (Jude 15-16).
So… Where is the Gospel?
False teachers are nothing new and shouldn’t surprise us (Jude 17-18). False teachers have always tried to snatch and divide God’s people (Jude 19). But the good news is that in a world of deceptive teachers, Jesus keeps us for himself (Jude 1). In a world that lures us to follow our hearts and instincts, Jesus keeps us from being trapped by that ancient hostility (Jude 24). And instead of becoming enslaved to our instincts, Jesus our Master frees us to persevere in mercy and love like he did on the cross.
Jesus has kept us for himself, mercifully snatching us from the fire. And he empowers us (particularly those charged with teaching) to show mercy towards those who doubt the reality of God’s judgment (Jude 22). God does not desire that any of your students would die, and so he has made you youth ministers of preservation to snatch your doubting student’s souls from the flames (Jude 23).
I’m sure you know precisely which of your students doubt God’s moral authority. If so, let Jude function as an encouragement to you as much as it is a warning to them. Your students are not lost causes. Letters of warning assume some will listen. If you’re willing to teach it, some of your students will hear and accept Jude’s warning. And Jesus, the moral master of the universe, will use all of his authority to save them from the same judgment they’ve rejected. He will free them from their appetites and make them truly human and righteous forever.
There are as many ways to worship Jesus in Jude as there are facets of a diamond. I hope this article begins a long journey of seeing and enjoying all the ways the Bible reveals the goodness of good news of Jesus.
This article is an adaptation for Rooted Ministry. The original can be found here.