Vs. 1: Who was Jude? Jude and his brother James were brothers of Jesus (Mt. 13:55 - Jude and Judas are the same name). Why then does Jude identify himself as brother of James and servant of Jesus rather than brother of Jesus? Jude calling himself a servant (or slave in some translations) isn’t an expression of low status, i.e., Jude isn’t saying, “I’m just a lowly servant of Christ.” Servants of powerful figures had great status and authority in the ancient world because of their connections to the one they served. What Jude is saying is that he gets his status and authority because he is Jesus servant. He could have claimed that status and authority on account of his blood relationship to Jesus, but in Jude’s mind what really mattered was that Christ had chosen him to be his servant. That was the source of his authority.
Jude then calls those receiving the letter called, loved in God the Father, and kept in Jesus Christ. God called them into relationship with him. In that relationship they experience the depths of God’s love for them, and because of the work of Jesus on the cross they can trust that God will never let them go.
Vs. 2: Jude here wishes them an abundance of mercy, peace, and love. They have received these things through their relationship with God, and Jude expresses his hope that they continue to abundantly receive. Jude’s goal in the first two verses is to strongly ground them in the fact that they are secure in their relationship with God.
Vs. 3: Jude was planning to write a letter of a more general form, but that didn’t happen. He received word of the situation and it was so serious that he had to break off his plans and write this letter.
He exhorts his readers to contend for their faith. Apparently it was being challenged by someone. In the following verses he spells out what that challenge was. He does not, though, explicitly tell his readers, yet, how to contend for their faith. At this point they simply know that they must do it.
Vs. 4: A common problem in the early church was a misunderstanding of the doctrine of grace (actually this has been a problem at every point of church history, including the present). These infiltrators believed that because they had received grace from God that it did not matter how they lived, for Christ’s blood atoned for all of their sins. Perhaps they were saying something along the lines of Romans 6:1b, ‘…Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?’ (TNIV). Both Paul and Jude vehemently reject that notion. Jude claims that these people are ungodly and the lifestyle that they live is tantamount to rejecting Christ. They’re not willing to be Jesus’ servants. They won’t accept him as the Lord. Grace does not give you free reign to live as you wish. Grace gives you the desire and ability to live as God wishes. Their lifestyle and rejection of Christ brings them under God’s judgment.
There are two groups, the beloved and the others. The beloved receive God’s love and mercy and peace and are kept by him. The others, because of their ungodliness, don’t, even though they think they do. This section sets a strong tone at the start of the letter. Our lives must be lived in conformity to the grace we have received. While we’re not perfect, immorality and ungodliness cannot characterize us.