Like 2nd and 3rd John, Jude is a short book of just 25 verses. The author is Jude or Judas, a very common name for Jewish men at that time. He introduces himself by first describing his relationship to Jesus Christ as a doulos, a slave. English translations do not like to use “slave” to translate doulos, but rather servant (the ESV translates slave only 18 out of 126 references). A slave is one who has no rights and belongs solely to another to be used at his master’s whim. Jude understands what many “believers” don’t seem to realize, that is, a true believer dies to himself in order to follow Jesus, submitting to His interests and will.
There are three ways in which doulos is used in Scripture. (1) It is used of those who serve God’s will as instruments in the execution of God’s decrees. Even pagans, such as Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28–45:1) and Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27:6), are God’s servants to accomplish His will, often without knowing that they did so. (2) Doulos is used of true saints whose love for the Lord prompts them to give up their lives to serve God and His kingdom (1 Corinthians 7:22). (3) Those who serve in public offices, whether secular or sacred, are said to be God’s servants (Romans 13:4; Psalm 133:21). This includes priests (Psalm 134:1), prophets (Amos 3:7), and those who serve Christ’s assembly (2 Timothy 2:24). Even Jesus was regarded as God’s servant (Isaiah 49:3; 53:11).
A slave has no position of honor in any culture, yet, Jude gives his position an honorable title. Apparently, Jude was not concerned about how that might appear to the world. The simple truth is that all are in the service of a master, whether Satan or self (Ephesians 2:2, 3; Romans 1:25; 16:18) or Christ (John 12:26; Romans 14:18). To serve Christ, we must serve others (John 13:12–17, 20).
Also, observe that this first identifying statement linked him to brother-servants: Jude is a slave of Christ and a brother of James. It is probably true that James was his actual brother in the flesh (Matthew 13:55), however, it would be best to understand Jude as referring to a brotherhood enjoined by service to Jesus Christ. This is the true and eternal brotherhood, fellow-servants of the gospel, belonging to Jesus Christ by creation and redemption. Those whom Christ has purchased by His redemption are not their own (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). If a believer lives for himself, he defrauds Christ of His rights by purchase. When our own lust or interests are contrary to His will, then we must acknowledge that we are susceptible to the verdict of whether we are indeed His servants at all (Matthew 7:21–23).
This identifying statement also implies a duty for which all will give a full accounting to Christ, the Master (Matthew 25:19). This understanding should, then, motivate us to faithful service (Galatians 1:10), which requires His servants to wait on Him in earnest seeking after His direction (Psalm 119:125). Jude, himself, illustrates this service to Christ’s will in the very writing of his book (v. 3).