In his short epistle Jude wanted more than anything to write about the wonders of “our common salvation” (v. 3), which is the marvelous gospel of God’s gracious love and forgiveness through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. We have been led by the Spirit to appreciate how “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
This is the amazing truth—the Christian faith which God has entrusted to us, His saints! We are people whom the Lord no longer sees as sinners, but rather as His holy ones—made holy by His covering us with the righteousness of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This truth is so amazing because, when we know and feel the guilt of our sins, the gospel comforts us with the assurance that “…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). That wonderful gospel we cherish. Its truth shall not change. It cannot change, for it has been written with the blood of Christ!
As he continues, Jude makes clear that already in the first century this marvelous truth was being attacked and abused. For example, he saw how false brethren used this gracious truth as a license to sin, which caused the apostle Paul to exclaim, “Certainly not!” (Romans 6:2)
This was but one attack that came from within the visible Christian church. By the time of the sixteenth century the gospel was all but lost, with many poor sinners—including a certain monk named Martin Luther—living under the terrors of God’s holy law.
In this Reformation season we rejoice that in the richness of His grace God opened Luther’s heart to comprehend the gospel and believe in Jesus for the remission of all sins. However, this truth was not welcomed by everybody within the established visible church. Therefore it became necessary for Luther—as well as many laymen—“to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Many staunch confessors of God’s Word of Truth stood in defiance not only of church authority but also of the Holy Roman Emperor. They put their lives at great risk for the sake of the blessed gospel of Christ. And, yes, some lost their lives for the sake of that gospel, though they retained their confidence in Christ even in the face of death.
In our day the gospel continues to come under attack within the visible church. Satan has not let up in his efforts to deceive. The errors which Jude saw creeping into the church are visible in many Christian denominations today. Not only is sin tolerated but at times it is even celebrated!
The doctrinal errors of the Reformation age—where the merits of man were seen as requirements for forgiveness and eternal life—continue to be embraced by many. Since we have a sinful flesh that would lead us into misbelief, the danger is there also for us. We might be tempted to sin willfully today, thinking we can always repent tomorrow, and so abuse the gospel. The world attacks many teachings of Scripture, and our sinful flesh confuses us.
So it is that we need to heed the Spirit’s call to contend for the faith which has been entrusted to us, for God’s gospel is the only way of salvation. Later in his epistle Jude shows us exactly how to go about this: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20-21).
As we pray for the Spirit’s blessing on our study of God’s pure Word, we shall build ourselves in that truth against the wiles of the devil and the heresies of this world. In the process we are comforted by the assurance that it is not our own human strength that keeps us steadfast, but the Lord! The Holy Spirit strengthens us and Christ preserves us in true faith unto eternal life.
Jude’s closing doxology serves well as a Reformation word of prayer and praise. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).