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Jude 1:1, Jude 1:2
INSCRIPTION DESCRIPTIVE OF WRITER AND READERS, AND CONVEYING SALUTATION.
Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James. The Epistle opens with a designation of the author which is brief, consisting but of two terms, only remotely, if at all, official, and having nothing exactly like it in the inscriptions of other New Testament Epistles. The writer gives his personal name Jude, or rather, as the Revised Version puts it, Judas. For while in the New Testament the Authorized Version uses the various forms, Judas, Judah, Juda, and Jude, the Revised Version, with better reason, adheres to the form Judas in all cases except those of the tribe and the son of Jacob. The name was a familiar one among the Jews, whose stock of personal names was limited. This is seen in its New Testament use. Not to speak of its occurrence as the name of the son of Jacob, and as the name of two individuals in the line of the ancestry of Jesus (Luke 3:26, Luke 3:30), it appears as the name of several persons belonging to New Testament times. These include one of the brethren of the Lord; the apostle who is called in our Authorized Version "the brother of James," but who may rather be "the son of James" (Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 1:13); the traitor Iscariot; the writer of this Epistle; the rebel leader of Galilee (Acts 5:37); the man of Damascus to whose house Ananias was directed to go (Acts 9:11); the delegate, surnamed Barsabas, who was sent with Paul and Barnabas from the mother Church to Antioch (Acts 15:22, Acts 15:27, Acts 15:32). The writer attaches a twofold designation to his personal name. First, he terms himself "a servant of Jesus Christ," as the Revised Version puts it, not "the servant of Jesus Christ," with the Authorized Version. The curious fact has been noticed that this passage and Philippians 1:1 (in which latter, however, we have the plural form) are the only passages in which the Authorized Version inserts the definite article in the designation of the author of any New Testament book. He gives himself thus the same title as is adopted by the James whose name heads another of the Catholic Epistles, and who is taken to be his brother. It is not certain, however, what breadth of meaning is to be ascribed to the phrase. The term, "servant of Jesus Christ," or its cognate, is used as a general description of the Christian believer, apart from all reference to any particular position in the Church (1 Corinthians 7:22, etc.; Ephesians 6:6). It does not carry a strictly official sense. It seems never to designate the apostolic office as such, unless some qualifying clause is added. It stands without any such addition, it is true, in Philippians 1:1 and James 1:1. But in the former it is applied to two comrades, one of whom is not an apostle; and in the latter the person so described is in all probability not one of those who appear in the lists of the apostles. In other passages (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1) it is coupled with the official term "apostle." It is claimed by some of the best expositors, however, that in this passage, as in some others, it has an intermediate sense, meaning one who, while not an apostle proper, was charged with the apostolic work of preaching and ministering. If that is so, the writer presents himself as one occupying the kind of position which is assigned to Barnabas, Timothy, and others in the Book of the Acts. But he describes himself further as the "brother of James." The title has nothing like it elsewhere in the inscriptions of the Epistles, and, as the particle which connects it with the former clause indicates, it points to something not merely additional, but distinctive. The distinction is the relationship to another person in the Church, better known and more influential than himself. For the James here mentioned is generally, and we believe rightly, identified, not with the brother (or son) of Alpheus who appears among the twelve, but with the Lord's brother, who is represented by the Book of the Acts as in pre-eminent honour and authority in the mother Church of Jerusalem. Jude, therefore, might have called himself the "brother of the Lord." He abstains from doing so, it is supposed by some, because that title had become the recognized and almost consecrated name of James. Or it may rather be that he shrank from what might seem an appeal to an earthly kinship which had been sunk in a higher spiritual relationship. The choice of the title is at the same time a weighty argument against his belonging to the twelve. Unable to put forward any apostolic dignity or commission as his warrant for writing, and as his claim upon his readers' attention, he places himself beneath the shield of the more eminent name of a brother, who also was the author of an Epistle in all probability extensively circulated before this one was put forth. Those to whom he writes are also most carefully described. The terms of this threefold designation are unusual and somewhat difficult to construe. The text itself is not quite certain. The Received Text and our Authorized Version give the reading "sanctified," which has the support of one or two documents of good character, and is still accepted, chiefly on the ground of intrinsic fitness, by some scholars of rank. It must be displaced, however, by the reading "beloved," which has on its side three of the five primary uncials (the Vatican, Sinaitic, and Alexandrian) as well as important versions and patristic quotations, and is accepted by the best recent authorities. This, however, gives us so unusual a combination, "beloved in God the Father," that some are driven to the conclusion that the preposition has got somehow into a wrong place. Dr. Herr pronounces the connection to be "without analogy," and to admit of "no natural interpretation;" and the great critical edition of Messrs. Westcott and Herr marks the clause as one which probably contains some primitive error. Taking the terms, however, as the vast preponderance of documentary evidence presents them, we have three brief descriptions of the readers, all sufficiently intelligible, and each obviously in point. The most general of the three descriptive notes is the "called." The idea of a "call" pervades all Scripture. It appears in a variety of applications, of which the most distinctive is that of a call into the Messianic kingdom. This call is ascribed usually, we may perhaps say universally, to God himself In the Gospels we find the term "called" contrasted with the term "elect" or "chosen" (Matthew 22:14), so that the call is of uncertain issue. On the other hand, in the Epistles, at least in Pauline passages of great doctrinal significance (Romans 8:28, Romans 8:30; Romans 11:29, etc.), the election appears as the cause, the call as the result; and the latter then is of certain issue, or, in the language of theology, effectual. It is held by many that throughout the Epistles, or at least throughout the Pauline group, the term has uniformly the sense of a call not merely to the membership of the Church, but to final salvation. Whether this is the ease, and how the usage of the Epistles is to be harmonized with that of the Gospels, are questions which require further consideration. It appears, however, that in the Epistles the idea of the election and the idea of the call often lie so near each other that they seem to be different expressions of one Divine act, and that an act which makes its object sure. In passages like the present, the "called" seems parallel to the "elect" of the inscriptions of 1 Peter and 2 John, and probably has the deeper Pauline meaning—a meaning which has its roots no doubt in the Old Testament conception of the certain election of a believing remnant under the theocracy (1 Kings 19:18; Isaiah 59:20, etc.). The parties addressed are described more particularly as "beloved in God the Father." The difficulty which is felt by the best interpreters of the present day in explaining the preposition "in" as it stands in this unusual connection, appears also in the renderings of the old English Versions. Tyndale and Cranmer, indeed, follow the Received Text, and translate "sanctified in God the Father." The Genevan also gives "sanctified of God the Father." But Wickliffe and the Rhemish Version follow the other text (which is that of the Vulgate), and translate it, the former, "to thes that ben loued that ben in God the fadir;" the latter, "to them that are in God the father beloved." The difficulty is met by a variety of doubtful expedients. Some cut the knot by imposing upon the preposition the sense of "by" or the equally alien sense of "on account of." Some take it to mean "in the case of God," or "as regards God," which comes nearer the point, but is yet short of what is intended. Others would render it "within the sphere of God," understanding the readers to be described as the objects of the writer's love—a love which is no mere natural affection, but inspired by God and of spiritual motive; the objection to which is that it is out of harmony with the other designations, which describe the readers from the view-point of the Divine care. The idea, therefore, seems to be that they are the objects of the Divine love, that they have been that and continue to be that in the way of a gracious union and fellowship with himself, into which they have been introduced by God the Father. The preposition, therefore, has the mystical force which it has in the familiar phrase, "in Christ"—a force which it may also have where God is the subject. All the more so that the title "God the Father" seems to refer usually, if not exclusively, to God as the Father of Christ. The third clause describes the readers, according to the Authorized Version, as preserved in Jesus Christ. Here the Authorized Version follows Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish Version. That rendering has also been adopted by some recent interpreters of importance. It is wrong, nevertheless. For there is no instance elsewhere of the carrying over of a preposition from one clause to another in such a connection as this. Not less mistaken is Wickliffe's "kept of Jesus Christ." The Genevan Version, however, gives the correct rendering, "reserved to Jesus Christ," and the Revised Version translates it very aptly, "kept for Jesus Christ." The verb is the one which is used in 1 Peter 1:4 to describe the inheritance as "reserved." It occurs frequently in the Gospels, somewhat rarely in the Pauline Epistles, and there oftenest in those of latest date (1 Timothy 5:22; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:7). It occurs with marked frequency in the Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. It is most characteristic of 1 John, 2 Peter, and Jude among these Epistles. The idea is that of being preserved by the Divine power until the coming of Christ—a preservation of which there was the more need to be assured in face of the falling away which threatened the Churches, and had indeed begun in some. Christ prayed his Father to keep, through his own Name, those that were given him (John 17:11). Paul prays God to keep his converts blameless unto the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). These designations tell us nothing of the locality or circumstances of the readers, but limit themselves to spiritual characteristics. The relations in which the several clauses stand to each other is also a matter of dispute. The Authorized Version makes them coordinate clauses, "To them that are sanctified … and preserved … and called." It is better to take the "called" as the subject, and the two participles as the qualifying epithets, translating, with the Revised Version, "To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ." But it perhaps best represents both the force and the order of the original to render it, "To them that are beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ, called ones."
The greeting. This takes the form of a prayer or benediction in three articles. It is rendered in precisely the same terms—mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied—in Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan, the Authorized Version, and the Revised Version. In Paul's Epistles the opening salutations usually mention only "grace and peace," and these as proceeding from "God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." But in the pastoral Epistles (as also in 2 John) the three blessings, "grace, mercy, and peace," appear, and these as coming from the same twofold source of Father and Son. In the Petrine Epistles we have again the two Pauline blessings of grace and peace, but with the distinctive addition of the "be multiplied." Here, in Jude, we have the characteristic Petrine "be multiplied," but this connected with three blessings, and these somewhat different from those which appear in the Pastoral Epistles—"mercy, peace, and love," instead of "grace and mercy and peace." What the writer desires, therefore, on behalf of the readers is an abounding measure of the three great qualities of grace, which refer respectively to the case of the miserable, the case of the hostile, and the case of the unworthy. Are these regarded as subjective qualities in man, or as objective gifts from God? The former view is favoured by some, who point especially to the closing benediction in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:23) as a case in point. But the latter view is sustained by the force of the "beloved" in the previous verse, and the mention of" love" in verse 21, as well as by the general analogy of the inscriptions of Epistles. What Jude prays for, therefore, is not that his readers may be helped to exhibit in large measure a merciful, peaceful, and loving disposition to others, but that they may enjoy in liberal degree the great blessings of God's mercy, peace, and love bestowed upon themselves.
The author's reason for writing. The statement of this is introduced by the conciliatory address, beloved—a form of address found twice again in this short Epistle (Jude 1:17, Jude 1:20). It occurs at great turning-points in all the Catholic Epistles, except for an obvious reason in 2 John. (See James 1:16, James 1:19; James 2:5 (who couples the term "brethren" with it); 1Pe 2:11; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Peter 3:1, 2 Peter 3:8, 2 Peter 3:14, 2Pe 3:17; 1 John 3:2, 1Jn 3:21; 1 John 4:1, 1Jn 4:7, 1 John 4:11; 3Jn 1:2, 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:11.) It is frequent also in the Pauline Epistles. It is only here, however, and in 3 John 1:2 that it is introduced so near the beginning of an Epistle. The statement itself contains several expressions which demand notice. The phrase which the Authorized Version renders, When I gave all diligence, is better rendered, while I was giving all diligence, with the Revised Version. In this particular form it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; but it has close parallels in 2 Peter 1:5 and Hebrews 6:11. The noun is the same as is translated "diligence" in Romans 12:8, and "business" in Romans 12:11. It is not certain whether the phrase expresses action here as well as earnest desire; but it indicates the position of the author, whether as seriously bethinking himself to write, or actually engaged in the task, when he had occasion to send the counsels given in this Epistle. The subject on which he had thought of addressing them was the common salvation—the term "salvation" meaning here neither the doctrine nor the means of redemption, but the grace of redemption itself. And this grace is designated "common," or, as the better reading gives it, "our common salvation;'' not with reference to any contrast of Jew with Gentile, but simply as a grace open to all, and in which writer and readers had an equal interest (comp. Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32; and especially the "common faith" of Titus 1:4). The "like precious faith' of 2 Peter 1:1 is a stronger expression, and probably points to a distinction, formerly existent, but now removed, between Jew and Gentile. The next phrase is rendered too weakly by the Authorized Version, It was needful for me to write unto you. Neither does the Revised Version quite bring out the idea when it substitutes, I was constrained to write unto you. What is in view is an objective necessity; certain circumstances which had arisen and imperatively demanded writing. So that we might translate it, "necessity arose for me to write," or, "an emergency occurred constraining me to write." He was thus induced to write in the way of exhorting them. The particular subject of the exhortation is described as the duty of contending earnestly for the faith; the contention being expressed by a strong term somewhat analogous to that used by Paul in Philippians 1:27, and the "faith" being taken, not in the subjective sense of the quality or grace of belief, but in the objective sense of the things believed. This "faith" is declared to have been delivered once for all (so, with the Revised Version; not once delivered, as the Authorized Version puts it, which might mean "once on a time") to the saints. It is not stated by whom the deliverance was made. The unexpressed subject may be God, as some suppose who point to the analogy of 1 Corinthians 11:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:3; or it may be the apostles, as others hold who look to the analogy of such passages as 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Peter 2:21, and especially the seventeenth verse of the present Epistle itself. The main point is, not the author or the instruments of the deliverance, but the fact that such a deliverance has taken place. What has been transmitted is carefully defined, not, indeed, as a system of doctrine, but at least as a sum or deposit of things necessary to be believed. This is said to have been given once for all, so that there is no repetition or extension of the gift. It is described; further, as committed, not to the Church as an organization, nor to any particular office-bearers, but to the saints in general.
It has been inferred that the writer had been actually at work upon another Epistle, when he felt it necessary to give it up and compose this one. That is not a certain inference from the previous verse. What that verse makes clear is that it had been Jude's purpose to compose an Epistle on the general subject of the common salvation, and that something emerged which made him change his plan and write a letter dealing with certain specific matters of urgent importance, and hortatory in its form. The circumstance which led to this change is here stated—it was the appearance of a corrupt and insidious party in the Church. For, he says, there are certain men crept in unawares; or, as the Revised Version more forcibly renders it, privily. The verb describes the men as men who had no rightful standing in the Church, but had made their way into it secretly and by false pretences. Compare Paul's description of the "false brethren unawares brought in, the came in privily to spy out our liberty. which we have in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 2:4); but especially the picture which two of the latest Epistles give of the "false teachers who privily shall bring in damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2:1), and those who "creep into houses and lead captive silly women" (2 Timothy 3:6). The men thus generally described are next designated more precisely as those who were before of old ordained to this condemnation. So the Authorized Version renders it. But the point is more correctly caught by the "even they who" of the Revised Version. The men just spoken of in general terms are immediately described as the very men to whom something more precise applies, which is now to be stated. There is some difficulty, however, as to the exact sense of the statement. The term which is translated "ordained" by the Authorized Version is of doubtful interpretation, the doubt turning on the question whether it has a temporal or a local reference. The latter idea seems to be expressed in Galatians 3:1, where the verb means either publicly placarded or openly set forth ("evidently set forth," according to the Authorized Version). For the most part, however, the temporal sense prevails, and that this is the sense here is confirmed by the fact that the verb is connected with the temporal adverb "of old." It has been contended that the biblical figure of a book of the Divine counsels is at the basis of the expression here, anti that it should be rendered "ordained" (with the Authorized Version), in the Calvinistic sense of "foreordained." But this is opposed by the fact that the term here rendered" of old" is not applied in the New Testament to the eternal purpose of God. The reference, therefore, is to ancient prophecy, and the term means "who were of old written of," "who were of old set forth," as the Revised Version puts it, or "designated" in prophecy. The writer does not specify what particular prophecies are in view. Hence some take them to be predictions of the evils of the last days spoken of by the apostles, such as we find recorded in the Pastoral Epistles and in 2 Peter. But the force of the phrase "of old," in its present connection, points to what is of ancient date in the stricter sense. The Old Testament prophecies, therefore, are probably those referred to, and the fact that mention is made by-and-by of Enoch as one of the prophets of old, makes it likely that the predictive sections of the book which bears his name are also in the author's mind. The phrase, "to this condemnation," explains that unto which these men were prophetically designated in ancient time. The noun denotes usually, if not invariably, the judgment of a judge on something wrong, and here, therefore, it seems to have the sense of penal judgment or condemnation. It is not quite apparent what judgment is intended. It is supposed by some that the writer is looking to the unhappy relations of these men to the Church, and finds in these relations and in the moral conditions thereby revealed the judgment 'of God upon them. It is more probable that he refers to the penal retribution, of which he is immediately to give examples. Three strokes are added to the picture of the men. These bring out in darkest outline both their character and their faith. There is first the general description of them as ungodly men—impious men, in whom there is no spirit of reverence, as the adjective literally implies. The same note appears in Peter's description (2 Peter 2:5, 2 Peter 2:6). (Compare the use of the same term in Romans 4:5; Romans 5:6; 1 Timothy 1:9; 2 Peter 3:7.) This ungodliness is next shown to take the form of an immoral perversion of spiritual privilege—turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness. By the grace of God is meant the whole gift of redemption offered in the gospel. It is called here the grace of our God; the turn thus given to the expression indicating at once the dear and intimate relation to God into which the writer and his fellows in the faith have been introduced, and their shuddering sense of the shameless use to which his gift was debased. The thing to which that grace was perverted is described by a word of wide and evil application, denoting every species of unbridled conduct, but particularly unblushing licentiousness. The same ungodliness in these men is further declared to rise to a denial and disavowal of all Divine claims upon them. The Revised Version, which is more rigorously true to the original here than the Authorized Version, gives an alternative rendering, denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ, in the text, but denying the only Master, and our Lord Jesus Christ in the margin. The question is whether God and Christ are separately mentioned as both objects of the denial, or whether Christ alone is referred to; both the titles, Master and Lord, being applied to him. The question is not easy to decide. Among the strongest arguments in favour of the latter view are the two considerations that the attitude of these men to God has been already stated in the previous clause, and that in 2 Peter 2:1 we find both the verb and the noun which are used here applied to Christ. On the other side, it is urged that the parallel in 1 John 2:22 favours the double reference here; that the title hero rendered "Master" is never applied to Christ except in the single instance of 2 Peter 2:1; that the epithet "only" is used more properly of God, as in verse 25 of this same Epistle; that it is difficult to distinguish between the two titles, if both are referred to Christ here; and that the analogous expression in the Book of Enoch (48:10) is to be considered. The case is stronger on the whole on the side of the twofold subject being in view. But it is further asked whether this denial of God and of Christ is meant to be a theoretical denial or a practical. It is the practical disavowal of God, which appears in a godless and unbridled life, that seems chiefly in view. But there is no good reason for excluding the idea of corrupt doctrine or teaching. The latter is not expressed, it is true, in the terms adopted in the Epistles of John. Neither is there anything to warrant the supposition that the writer was thinking of Simon Magus in particular, or of Carpocrates, or any of the early Gnostics—a supposition entertained both by the earliest Christian writers and by some in our own time. But it is possible enough that the seeds which were to develop into the pronounced Gnosticism of a later time were already sown, and that in such speculative error Jude saw the ally of a life which was regardless of all Divine restraint.
Three instances of the judgments of God are now referred to. They are cited as typical examples of the Divine retribution, with which the readers can be taken to be familiar, and which they will recognize to give point to the terror of the condemnation overhanging the men in question.
The first is taken from the history of Israel. It is introduced, not as a contrast with what precedes, but as a natural transition from it. It is given, too, as a matter quite within their knowledge, and of which consequently they need only to be reminded. The Authorized Version is short of the mark in several respects here. What the writer expresses is not the mere fact that he is to do a certain thing, but that he has the wish to do so. Hence the now I desire to put you in remembrance of the Revised Version is preferable to the I will therefore, etc., of the Authorized Version. The next clause is more decidedly astray. For the term rendered" once" means "once for all," and the knowledge is given as a present possession. Hence the rendering should be though ye know once for all; or better, knowing as ye do once for all—a form of expression which might be paraphrased in our English idiom, as Mr. Humphry rightly observes, "though ye have known all along." There is, however, very considerable difficulty in the reading here. It varies between "ye know this" which is accepted by the Authorized Version, "ye know all things" which is preferred by the Revised Version, and "ye all know" which, though poorly accredited, is yet supposed by Professor Herr to be not improbably the original. The documentary evidence is, on the whole, on the side of "all things;" and if this is adopted, the universal term will naturally be limited by the context to a knowledge of all that is pertinent to the point in question. This knowledge of the principles at issue in the case of these evil men, and of the retributive deeds of God by which these principles have been signally vindicated, is a reason why Jude needs simply to refresh the memories of his readers, and not to tell them anything new. In the second half of the verse there is a still more serious difficulty in the text. Instead of the term "Lord," some of the very best authorities read "Jesus." If this must be accepted, we have an act of the Jehovah of the Old Testament ascribed to the Jesus of the New Testament. But this would be an entirely unexampled usage. For, while the New Testament not unfrequently introduces the name of Christ when it refers to deeds of grace or claims of honour which the Old Testament connects with the name of Jehovah (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 3:15, etc.), it never does this with that name of the Redeemer of the New Testament which specially marks his human nature and origin. Hence Professor Herr speaks of the reading "Jesus" here as a blunder, however supported. The ordinary reading may, therefore, be adhered to, especially as it is by no means ill accredited, having on its side two of the primary uncials and other weighty authorities. These clauses are peculiar in other respects. They speak not of "the people" as the Authorized Version puts it, but rather of "a people." And this is not without its purpose. For the idea is not simply that the ancient Israel experienced both redemption and judgment at the hands of their Lord, but that Israel's Lord, by bringing Israel out of Egypt, secured a people for himself, though he had also to destroy unbelievers among them. Again, the phrase rendered "afterward" by the Authorized Version means strictly "the second time," as is noticed by the margin of the Revised Version. What is intended, therefore, may be that Israel was the subject of two great deeds on Jehovah's part—in the first instance a redeeming deed, in the second instance a punitive deed. And his purpose in seeking a people for himself was not inconsistent with his doing what he did in this second instance. What, then, is referred to? Those seem to interpret it best who take it to be a general reference to the wilderness-fate of unbelieving Israel, rather than to any single instance of the terrors of the Divine judgment, such as that reported in Numbers 25:1-9. It is far-fetched to suppose that the event in view is one so remote from the deliverance of Israel from Egypt as the Babylonian captivity. We may compare with this verse, therefore, such passages as Psalms 106:12-21; Hebrews 3:16-4:5.
The second instance of Divine judgment is taken from the angelic world. The copula connects it closely with the former, and gives it some emphasis: "angels, too," i.e., angels not less than the people selected by God to be a people for himself, have been examples of the terrible law of Divine retribution. The particular class of angels are defined as those who kept not their first estate; or better, their own principality. The idea conveyed by the term here is that of lordship rather than beginning. It is the term which is held by most commentators to be used as a title of angels in such passages as Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12, etc., where mention is made of "principalities." In the present passage Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan and our Authorized Version agree in rendering it "first estate." But the Rhemish gives "principality," and Wickliffe has "princehood." Those seem right, therefore, who take the reference to be to the Jewish idea of a peculiar dignity or lordship held by the angels in creation. The sin alleged as the reason for the penalty which the writer recalls to the minds of his readers is that they failed to keep this lordship, and left their proper habitation; by which latter clause a descent to a different sphere of being is intended. The penalty itself is this—that God hath kept them in everlasting chains (or, bonds, with the Revised Version) under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. It is well to retain the rendering "kept" in this clause, instead of the "reserved" of the Authorized Version. For the verb used in describing the sin and that used in describing the penalty are the same. As they "kept not their lordship," God has "kept them in everlasting bonds." The word by which the idea of the everlasting is expressed is a peculiarly strong one, occurring only once again in the New Testament, viz. in Romans 1:20, where it is applied to God's "eternal power." It designates these bonds as bonds from which there never can be escape. The place of this present penal detention is declared to be "under darkness." The term selected for the darkness, again, is an unusual one, occurring only here, in Romans 1:13, and in 2 Peter 2:4, 2 Peter 2:17, and possibly Hebrews 12:18. It means the densest, blackest darkness, and is used both in Homer and in the apocryphal literature (Wis. 17:2) of the darkness of the nether world. This darkness, as Dean Alford observes, is "considered as brooding over them, and they under it." But this present penal detention is itself the prelude to a still more awful doom—"the judgment of the great day" (cf. Acts 2:20; Revelation 6:17). There is a similar, but less definite, statement on the subject of angelic sin and penalty in 2 Peter 2:4. But these representations differ greatly from others (e.g., Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12), where the air or the heavenly places appear as the scenes occupied by evil spirits, and these spirits possess freedom. In the New Testament, indeed, there are no passages, except those in Peter and Jude, which speak of fallen angels as at present in bonds. Even in Matthew 25:41, the statement is of a fate prepared, and nothing more. The difference in the two representations is due probably to a difference in the subjects. Other passages refer to the devil and his angels. But in the present passage there is nothing to indicate that the fall of Satan is in view. The sin suggested by the context is not the sin of pride, but a sin against nature. The reference, therefore, is taken to be to the Jewish idea that amatory passion is not limited to the creatures of earth, and that some angels, yielding to the spell of the beauty of the daughters of men, forsook their own kingdom, and entered unto unnatural relations with them. The Jewish belief is seen in the story of Asmodeus in the Book of Tobit; it is found by Josephus (who has been followed by not a few modern interpreters) in Genesis 6:1-4; and it is given with special distinctness in the Book of Enoch.
The third example is taken from the history of the cities of the Plain. This example is closely connected with the immediately preceding by the even as with which the verse opens; which phrase expresses a likeness between the two cases, to wit, between the reservation of those angels in bonds for the final judgment, and the fate of those cities as subjects of the penal vengeance of God. Two of those cities of evil memory, Sodom and Gomorrah, are mentioned by name. The other two, Admah and Zeboim, are included in the phrase, and the cities about them. Attention is rightly called by some of the commentators to the remarkable frequency with which the case of Sodom and Gomorrah is brought forward, both in the New Testament and in the Old, and to the use which Paul makes of it (as he finds it cited by Isaiah) in the great argument of Romans 9:1-33. The sin charged against these cities is stated in express terms to have been the same in kind with that of the angels—the indulgence of passion contrary to nature. They are described as having in like manner with these (that is, surely, in like manner with these angels just referred to; not, as some strangely imagine, with these men who corrupt the Church) given themselves over to fornication, and gone after strange flesh. The verbs are selected to bring out the intense sinfulness of the sin—the one being a strong compound form expressing unreserved surrender, the other an equally strong compound form denoting a departure from the law of nature in the impurities practiced. The sin has taken its name from the city with which the Book of Genesis so fearfully connects its indulgence. It forms one of the darkest strokes in the terrible picture which Paul has given us of the state of the ancient heathen world (Romans 1:27). With the Dead Sea probably in his view, the writer describes the doom of the cities as an example of or a witness to (the noun used being one that occurs again only in James 5:11, and bearing either sense) the retributive justice of God. They are set forth (literally, they lie before us) for an example, suffering the vengeance (rather, the punishment) of eternal fire. So it is put by the Authorized Version and the Revised Version, as also by Wickliffe, Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan, and the Rhemish. There is much to be said, however, in favour of the order adopted by the Revised Version in its margin, viz. "set forth as an example of eternal fire, suffering punishment." It could not, except in a forced manner, be said that these cities, in being destroyed as they were, suffered the penalty of eternal fire, and continued to serve as an instance of that. But it could be said that, in being destroyed, they suffered punishment, and that the kind of punishment was typical of the eternal retribution of God. "A destruction," says Professor Lumby, "so utter and so permanent as theirs has been, is the nearest approach that can be found in this world to the destruction which awaits those who are kept under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
Having set in the forefront of his warnings these terrible instances of gross sin and overwhelming penalty, the writer proceeds to deal with the real character of the insidious troublers and corrupters of the Churches of his time. He describes them as filthy dreamers; or better, as the Revised Version puts it, men in their dreamings—an expression pointing to the foul and perverted fancies in the service of which they lived. He charges them with the particular sins of defiling the flesh, despising dominion, and railing at dignities. He further declares of them that, in practicing such sins, they run a course like that of the cities of the plain, and run it in defiance, too, of the warning held forth to them by the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. For such seems the point of the terms connecting this paragraph with the preceding, which are best rendered "nevertheless in like manner," or "yet in like manner" (Revised Version). The difficulty lies, however, in the description of their offences. What is intended by the charge that they defile the flesh is obvious. But what is referred to in the other clauses, and set at naught dominion (or, lordship), and rail at dignities (or, glories), is far from clear. It has been supposed that a lawlessness is meant which expressed itself in contempt for all earthly authority, whether political or ecclesiastical. The whole scope of the passage, however, and the analogy of 2 Peter 2:10, etc., seem to point so decidedly to higher dignities than the earthly institutions of Church and State, that most interpreters now think that celestial lordship of some kind is in view. But of what kind? That of God and that of good angels, say some. That of Christ and that of angels, say others. Both clauses, say a third class of interpreters, refer to angels, both to good angels and to evil, or to good angels alone, or to evil angels alone, as the allusions are variously understood. Pointing to the particular word which is used here for "dominion" or "lordship," some contend that there is a definite reference to the dominion of Christ, the Lord distinctively so called. But the same word is used elsewhere (cf. Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16) of angels, while the term translated "dignities," or "glories," occurs again only in 2 Peter 2:10. If, therefore, any single kind of lordship is in view, we should conclude in favour of angelic dignities, and the authority of good angels in particular. But it may be that Jude uses the terms here in a general sense to cover all kinds of authority, especially celestial authority. This is favoured by the undefined expressions which meet us in the Petrine parallel (2 Peter 2:10, etc.). It is supported, too, by the consideration that in leveling three separate charges against the men, Jude has probably in view the three separate cases which he has just cited in Jude 1:5-7. In which case the parallel between these latter and the men now described can naturally be only of a general kind. It is remarked by Professor Plumptre that the passage in 2 Peter 2:10, etc. (see his Commentary), taken in connection with this one in Jude, suggests that "the undue worshipping of angels in the Judaizing Gnosticism which had developed out of the teaching of the Essenes (Colossians 2:18), had been met by its most extreme opponents with coarse and railing mockery as to all angels, whether good or evil, and that the apostle felt it necessary to rebuke this license of speech as well as that which paid no respect to human authority."
The irreverent and unbridled speech of these "filthy dreamers" is now contrasted with the self-restraint of one of the "dignities" of the angelic world. The point of the contrast is sufficiently clear. The incident itself is obscure. But Michael the archangel. With the exception of Revelation 12:7, where he is described as warring with the dragon, this is the only mention which the New Testament makes of Michael. It is entirely in harmony, however, with the Old Testament representation. It is only in the Book of Daniel that he is named there, but he appears as the champion and protector of Israel against the world-powers of heathenism. He is "one of the chief princes" (Daniel 10:13), "your prince" (Daniel 10:21), "the great prince" (Daniel 12:1), who gives help against Persia, and stands for the chosen people. He is also introduced in the Book of Enoch, and the view given of him there is like that in Jude. He is "the merciful, the patient, the holy Michael" (40:8). He belongs to that developed form which the doctrine of angels took towards the close of Old Testament revelation, when the ideas of distinction in dignity and office were added to the simpler conception of earlier times. In the apocryphal books we find a hierarchy with seven archangels, including Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel. When contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. These last words occur in Zechariah 3:2, where they are addressed by the Lord to Satan. The term used for "disputed" points to a contention in words. The phrase rendered "railing accusation" by the English Version, and "invective" by others, means rather a judgment or "sentence savouring of evil-speaking," as Alford puts it. Following the Rhemish Version, therefore, the Revised Version renders it a "railing judgment.'' What is meant, then, is that Michael restrained himself, leaving all judgment and vengeance even in this case to God. But what is the case referred to? The Targum of Jonathan, on Deuteronomy 34:6, speaks of Michael as having charge of the grave of Moses, and there may be something to the same effect in other ancient Jewish legends (see Wetstein). But with this partial exception, there seems to be nothing resembling Jude's statement either in apocryphal books like that of Enoch or in the rabbinical literature, not to speak of the canonical Scriptures. Neither is the object of the contention quite apparent—whether it is meant that the devil attempted to deprive Moses of the honour of burial by impeaching him of the murder of the Egyptian, or that he sought to preserve the body for idolatrous uses such as the brazen serpent lent itself to, or what else. The matter, nevertheless, is introduced by Jude as one with which his readers would be familiar. Whence, then, comes the story? Some have solved the difficulty by the desperate expedient of allegory, as if the body of Moses were a figure of the Israelite Law, polity, or people; and as if the sentence referred to the giving of the Law at Sinai, the siege under Hezekiah, or the rebuilding under Zerubbabel. Others seek its source in a special revelation, or in some unrecorded instructions given by Christ in explanation of the Transfiguration scene. Herder would travel all the way to the Zend-Avesta for it. Calvin referred it to oral Jewish tradition. Another view of it appears, however, in so early a writer as Origen, viz. that it is a quotation from an old apocryphal writing on the Ascent or Assumption of Moses, the date of which is much disputed, but is taken by some of the best authorities (Ewald, Wieseler, Dillmann, Drummond) to be the first decade after the death of Herod. This is the most probable explanation; and Jude's use of this story, therefore, carries no more serious consequences with it than the use he afterwards makes of the Book of Enoch. Beyond what could be gathered from a few scattered references and quotations in the Fathers and some later writings, the book in question remained unknown for many centuries. But in the year 1861 a considerable part of it, which had been discovered in the Ambrosian Library of Milan, was given to the public by Ceriani, in an Old Latin version, and since that time various editions of it have been published. Ewald observes that the quotation "shows how early the attempt was made to describe exactly the final moment of the life of Moses, and to weave into this description a complete answer to the questions which arose concerning his highest glory, and his guilt or innocence". Some who are not prepared to accept the theory that the passage is a quotation from this ancient book, understand Jude to refer to a traditional expansion of Scripture, based partly on the narrative of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy, and partly on the scene between Joshua and Satan in Zechariah 3:1-10. So, for example, Professor Lumby, who is of opinion that the mention of Jannes and Jambres in 2 Timothy 3:8, and certain passages in Stephen's speech as reported in Acts 7:1-60, show that there were current among the Jews "traditional explanations of the earlier history, which had grown round the Old Testament narrative." (On the Assumption of Moses, and the spread of legend on the subject of the death of Moses, see Schurer's 'The Jewish People in the Time of Christ,' volume 3, div. 2. pages 80-83, Clark's translation.)
The description of the men dealt with in Jude 1:8 is resumed, their impious irreverence and self-indulgence being set over against Michael's bearing. The corresponding passage in 2 Peter 2:12 is less definite. Here we have two pointed statements, one referring to the railers at dignities, the other to the defilers of the flesh in 2 Peter 2:8. But these rail at whatsoever things they know not: and what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in those things are they destroyed. So the Revised Version renders it, with much more precision than the Authorized Version, and preserving the distinction which appears in the original between two verbs," knowing" and "understanding," applied to two different classes of objects. The idea is that high and holy objects are beyond their knowledge, and their understanding is limited to the senses, the physical wants and appetites which they have in common with the brutes. In the case of the former they are rash and profane of speech where they should be silent and restrained; in the case of the latter they use them only to their own undoing. The turn of the phrase, "in these they are destroyed" (or, "destroy themselves"), indicates, perhaps, how absolutely they are lost in the service of the physical appetites. The words which Milton makes the tempter use of himself have been cited as a parallel to this verse—
"I was at first as other beasts that graze
The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,
As was my food; nor aught but food discerned
Or sex, and apprehended nothing high."
('Paradise Lost,' 9:571-574.)
As in 2 Peter 2:15, the darkest passages in the Old Testament history are again appealed to. While Peter, however, refers only to a single instance, Jude introduces three, and prefaces the whole by a Woe! such as the Gospels repeatedly attribute to Christ himself. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain; rather, they went in the way of Cain. The phrase is the familiar one for a habitual course of conduct (Psalms 1:1; Acts 9:31; Acts 14:16, etc.). But what is the point of the comparison? Cain is supposed to be introduced as the type of murderous envy, of the persecuting spirit, or of those who live by the impulse of nature, regardless of God or man. In John 3:12 he is the type of all that is opposed to the sense of brotherhood, the murderer of the brother whose righteous works are an offence to him; but in the present passage he is introduced rather as the first and, in some respects, the most pronounced example of wickedness which the Old Testament offers—a wickedness defying God and destroying man. And ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. The "error" in view is a life diverted from righteousness and truth. The verb rendered "ran greedily," or "ran riotously,'' is a very strong one, meaning they "were poured out," and expressing, therefore, the baneful absoluteness of their surrender to the error in question. Otherwise the construction of the sentence is so far from obvious that various renderings are proposed: e.g., "They gave themselves wholly up to the error of Balaam for the sake of a reward;" "By the seduction of Balaam's reward they committed excess of wickedness;" "They went to excess by Balaam's error, which was one determined by gain." The first of these is adopted, with some modification, by the Revised Version, and comes nearest the idea, which is that of men losing themselves in riotous excess for the sake of worldly advantage. The point of the analogy between Balaam and them, therefore, is, not his enticing Israel to idolatry or to immorality, as some understand it, but the covetous spirit which the Old Testament and the New alike attribute to the prophet of Pethor, to which also the Book of Numbers carries back the entire debasement of his character and perversion of his gifts. And perished in the gainsaying of Core. The term which is very fitly rendered "gainsaying" by the English Version here ("contradiction" in the Rhemish Version; "treason" in Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan) denotes properly an opposition expressing itself in words. It is, therefore, aptly applied to the rebellion of Korah and his company, who "gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you," etc. (Numbers 16:3). The analogy between the two cases, consequently, is limited by some to the assertion of an unregulated liberty, the assumption of a self-invented holiness, or the adoption of a worship which was alien to God. It lies in the broader idea of a contemptuous and determined assertion of self against divinely appointed ordinances.
Jude 1:12, Jude 1:13
The next two verses carry on the description of the men in a running fire of epithets and figures, short, sharp, and piercing, corresponding also at certain points with 2 Peter 2:13-17. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. What is referred to appears not to be ordinary friendly gatherings or occasions for the interchange of affection, but the well-known agapae, or love-feasts, of the primitive Church, the meals provided in connection with the Lord's Supper, at which rich and poor sat down together. In adopting the rendering "spots," the English Version follows Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan, and the Rhemish, and is followed by some good interpreters on the ground that the term, though formally different, is essentially the same as that in 2 Peter 2:13. The word itself, however, properly means "rocks," and therefore the point may be that their immoral conduct makes these men like treacherous reefs, on which their fellows make shipwreck. So the Revised Version gives "hidden rocks" in the text, and transfers "spots" to the margin. The "without fear," which is usually attached to the third clause, is connected by some with the second, in which case it expresses the reckless, irreverent spirit in which these men joined in the sacred agape. The last clause, "feeding [or, 'pasturing'] themselves," describes them further as having no regard to the proper object of these love-feasts in ministering to Christian fellowship and the holy sense of brotherhood, but as using them simply as a means for the saris-faction of their own appetites and the furtherance of their own base ends. Compare the evils referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:21, and the description of the shepherds in Ezekiel 34:1-31, and Isaiah 56:11. "They are like shepherds," says Humphry, "that have themselves for their flocks, feasting themselves, not their sheep, and doing this without fear of the chief Shepherd, who has his eye upon them." Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; or, carried past by winds. Like rainless clouds, the sport of the uncertain breezes, yielding nothing for the fruitfulness of earth, these empty, volatile, inconstant men disappoint the expectation of the Church and do it no service. Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. The Authorized Version is less happy than usual in its rendering of the first clause. The Revised Version, in adopting "autumn trees" instead of "trees whose fruit withereth," returns to the renderings of the earlier versions, Wickliffe giving "harvest trees," Tyndale and Cranmer "trees without fruit at gathering-time," and the Rhemish "trees of autumn." The idea of uselessness and unfruitfulness, which was expressed in the previous figure, is repeated, but in a more absolute form, in this new figure. The late autumn is not the time, from the Eastern point of view, for the putting forth of fruit. The tree then becomes bare, barren, leafless. So is it with these men. Nor is it only that they have no fruit to show. The capacity of fruitfulness is extinct within them. The possibility of recovering it is gone from them. They are as dead to all good service as trees are which are rooted out as hopelessly useless. The phrase, "twice dead," may mean no more than "utterly dead." The point, however, is rather this—that they are dead, not only in respect of barrenness—which is a death in life—but in respect of the extinction of all vitality. Raging (or, wild) waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; or shames, as the original gives it; that is to say, shameful deeds, or, it may be, the degrading lusts which inspire their unlicensed life (Huther). This comparison recalls at once the figure in Isaiah 57:20. Wandering stars, to whom is (or, has been) reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. In the Book of Enoch (Isa 18:1-7 :14) the angel shows the prophet "a prison for the stars of heaven, and for the host of heaven," and in the next verse it is explained that "the stars that roll over the fire are they who have transgressed the command of God before their rising, because they did not come forth in their time." It is possible that Jude had this in mind here, as the language of earlier chapters of the same book may have suggested others of Jude's figures. If the "wandering stars" are to be identified with any particular order of the heavenly bodies, it will be with the comets rather than the planets, the movements of the former seeming, to the common eye, so much the more erratic. The doom which is declared to be in reserve, no doubt takes its form so far from the immediate figure of the comet vanishing into the unseen. But the idea expressed is not so much that of suddenness as that of certainty and irreversibility. It is the doom which Christ himself pronounces to be prepared (Matthew 25:41), and, therefore, inevitable and perpetual. In confirmation of this statement of the certainty of the doom, the readers are next reminded of the Lord's judicial coming, and of that as the subject of prophecy. The prophecy in question, though not one of those recorded in the canonical Hebrew Scriptures, seems to have been familiar enough to the readers to make it a natural and pertinent thing to quote it. So Paul cites heathen authors or common popular sayings in support of his statements.
Jude 1:14, Jude 1:15
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these. The Revisers render it, and to these also Enoch … prophesied. In the apocryphal writing from which the passage is taken Enoch is styled, as here, "the seventh from Adam." Seven occurs in Scripture as a sacred symbolical number. Its introduction here, therefore, is very generally understood to claim a peculiar authority and finality for the prophecy emitted by Enoch. But it may be intended simply to mark the high antiquity of the prophecy, and its connection with the man who was distinguished from others of the same name mentioned in the oldest Scriptures (Genesis 4:17; Genesis 25:4; Genesis 46:9) by his exceptional nearness to God. Saying, Behold the Lord cometh (literally, came) with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince (that is, to convict) all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches (or, with the Revised Version, all the hard things) which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. The "ten thousands of his saints" is better rendered "ten thousands of his holy ones," or, as the Revised Version gives it in the margin, "his holy myriads." For the "holy ones" here intended are the angels. The mention of this retinue of Jehovah is in accordance with the Hebrew idea which appears in such passages as Deuteronomy 33:2, Deuteronomy 33:3; Daniel 7:10; Zechariah 14:5 (where the better reading is, "and the holy ones with him"); and appears again in the New Testament (Matthew 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, etc.). The clause, "among them," which might limit the ungodly to those in Israel, is omitted by the best authorities. The epithet "hard," which is applied to the "speeches," means hard in the sense of "harsh," not in the sense of "difficult to understand." It is the "churlish" which is applied to Nabal (1 Samuel 25:3). In the original the whole emphasis of the sentence is on the "ungodly sinners," which words are thrown forward to the close, thus: "all the hard things which they uttered against him—these impious sinners!" Near the beginning of that remarkable specimen of ancient apocalyptic literature, the Book of Enoch (Zechariah 1:9), we find these words, "And behold, he comes with myriads of the holy, to pass judgment upon them, and will destroy the impious, and will call to account all flesh for everything the sinners and the impious have done and committed against him" (Schodde's rendering). This is the passage which Jude quotes. He does so, however, with some modification; for the original, as we now have it, does not contain any reference to the "hard speeches" of the men of impiety. The book itself has had a singular history. Some acquaintance with it is discovered as early as the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' the 'Book of Jubilees,' and the 'Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.' It was freely used by the Fathers of the first five centuries. Though never formally recognized as canonical, it was in great esteem, largely accepted as a record of revelations, and regarded as the work of Enoch. It disappeared after Augustine's time, the only traces of its existence being some references to it in the writings of Syncellus and Nicephorus. From this time it was entirely lost sight of till rather more than a century ago, when the Abyssinian Church was discovered to possess an Ethiopic version of it. The well-known traveler, Bruce, obtained three copies of this version in 1773, and in 1821 an English translation was published by Archbishop Laurence. This was followed by a German translation by Hoffmann in 1833. The Ethiopic text itself was first issued by Archbishop Laurence in 1838, and afterwards in most scholarly fashion by Dillmann, in 1851, who also published a new German translation with important emendations in 1853. Since then much attention has been paid to the book. Within the last few years a corrected edition of Laurence's English translation has been published by the author of the 'Evolution of Christianity'; while another edition, with an English translation and important explanatory matter, has been issued by Professor Schodde of Ohio. An attempt has been made by some to bring the composition of the book down to Christian times, so that Enoch should quote Jude, not Jude Enoch. But there is every reason to believe that it belongs to the second century B.C. Certain portions of the book, however, are of later date. For it is scarcely possible to deny that it is the work of more than one hand. The original seems to have been written in Hebrew or Aramaic. We cannot be far astray, therefore, in accepting it as the composition of a Jew of Palestine dating between B.C. 166 and 110. It professes to give a series of revelations or visions received by Enoch, in which the fall of the angels, the punishment of unrighteous men, the reward of the godly, the coming of Messiah, the mystery of the world-weeks, and the secrets of the kingdom of nature, as well as those of the kingdom of grace, are shown him. That such a book should have been ascribed to Enoch is not strange. It was suggested by the account which is given of him in Genesis 5:21-24. "The statements there left ample room," as Dr. Schodde well remarks, "for a vivid imagination to supply unwritten history, while antiquity and piety made Enoch a welcome name to give force and authority to a book, and the 'walking with God' of Enoch, and his translation to heaven, which correct exegesis has always read in this passage, founded his claim of having enjoyed close communion with God and having possessed superhuman knowledge."
As in 2Pe 2:18, 2 Peter 2:19, the men are further stigmatized for the gross and profane selfishness to which they gave vent in speech. The present verse enlarges on the particular vice which the writer adds to the more general statement given in the Book of Enoch—the vice of uttering hard things against God. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. The words rendered "murmurers" and "complainers" occur nowhere else in the New Testament. It is doubtful whether any clear distinction can be drawn between them, except that the former term is the more general, and the latter the more specific, expressing one particular direction which the murmuring spirit takes, namely, that of discontent with their circumstances (so Huther, etc.). The clause, "walking after their own lusts," then declares the secret cause of their discontent. They made themselves, their own notions of things, their own ambitions and appetites, the one rule of their life. They therefore judged the lot which was assigned them by God unworthy of them and railed against it. We may gather from the parallel passage in 2 Peter that they forswore in especial the restraints put upon them by the providence or by the grace of God, and asserted a liberty which meant unbridled self-indulgence. The arrogant selfishness which refused to be fettered by Divine law naturally expressed itself also in "great swelling words," in loud protestations, perhaps, that nothing should interfere with their liberty. The phrase (which in the New Testament occurs again only in 2 Peter 2:18) is the same as is rendered "speak marvelous things" in Daniel's description of the king who "shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods," etc. (Daniel 11:36, Daniel 11:37). In the last clause we have a phrase similar to, but not quite the same as, the one which usually expresses the idea of having respect of persons. The Authorized Version, therefore, seems to do better than the Revised Version here in adopting a rendering which indicates that there is some difference from the usual form. The point of this difference may be that Jude's phrase expresses not merely the partial and unprincipled conduct which is one thing to the poor and another to the rich, but the open and unconcealed adulation with which these men hung upon those to whom it might be of advantage to attach themselves. The proud repudiation of the submission which was due to God and the Divine disposal of their lot was accompanied by a cringing, unblushing submission of their manhood to those of their fellow-men who had favours to bestow. Arrogance and servility are near of kin. The boaster is half-brother to the parasite.
Jude 1:17, Jude 1:18
A direct appeal is now introduced to the readers. Its object is to save them from being disconcerted by the rise of these impious men or beguiled by their pretensions. They are reminded, therefore, of apostolic words, by which from the beginning they had been taught to anticipate such perils and to be on their guard against them. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were (or, have been) spoken before of (i.e. by) the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Revised Version rightly restores the rendering "but ye, beloved," which the Authorized Version dropped. The older versions, Wickliffe, Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan, the Rhemish, agree in introducing this emphatic "ye," which sets the readers in sharpest contrast to these "murmurers," and gives greater point to Jude's appeal. The teaching of the apostles on the subject in hand is referred to as something by no means strange to them. The terms would naturally suggest that the readers had been themselves hearers of the apostles. They are not decisive, however, of the question whether oral or written communications, direct or indirect instructions, are in view. The indeterminate sense of the term "apostle," and the general tenor of the reference, make it impossible to say that Jude ranks himself here among the twelve. The sentence would be more natural on the lips of one who was not himself an apostle. How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. The Revised Version is more literally true to the original in giving this the direct form, how that they said, to you, In the last time there shall be mockers, etc. This does not necessarily imply, however, that written words are referred to, or that a quotation is being made. The tense of the verb, "said," by which the words are introduced, points the other way. It means that they were in the way of saying such things, and makes it probable, therefore, that Jude refers to the substance of what the apostles were in the habit of saying about the future in their ordinary preaching and teaching. Christ's own prophecies on the subject of the end (Matthew 24:1-51, Matthew 25:1-46) would form the text for such declarations. We have examples of these apostolic predictions in the case of Paul (Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:1), in that of John (1 John 2:18), in that of Peter (2 Peter 3:2, 2 Peter 3:3). The last resembles the present passage most closely, the same unusual word for "mockers," or "scoffers," being common to both. The stress of the statement is again on the sensual impiety of these men, as appears from the strong and peculiar phrase with which the prediction closes, "walking after their own lusts of ungodliness". By "the last time" (with which compare the expressions in 1 Peter 1:5, 1Pe 1:20; 2 Peter 3:3; Hebrews 1:1, etc.) is meant the time which closes the present order of things, and ushers in Christ's return. It was a Hebrew idea that time was divided into two great periods—" this age" and "the age to come," which were parted by the coming of Messiah. The "age to come," or the Messianic age, was in principle introduced by Messiah's first advent, but it was to be finally brought in by his second advent—an event conceived to be near. The time which heralded the conclusive termination of the one period and entrance of the other was "the last time"—a time of evils and of portents marking the end of the old order.
There follows yet another description of the same men, taking up that in Jude 1:16, and generalizing it in harmony with what is suggested by the apostolic prediction. In three bold strokes it gives a representation of them which is at once the sharpest and the broadest of all. This final description, too, at last lays bare the root of their hopeless corruption. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. The pronoun "themselves" cannot be retained in face of the weight of documentary evidence against it. The verb (which is one of very rare occurrence) is held to be capable of more than one sense—seceding, causing divisions, creating factions, making definitions or distinctions. The most natural meaning seems to be that adopted by the Revised Version, they who make separations. So Tyndale; Cranmer and the Genevan have "these are makers of sects," and Luther gives "makers of factions.'' It may be that they caused divisions by setting themselves up as the only enlightened Christians, and, on the ground of that enlightenment, claiming to be superior to the moral laws which bound others. The term translated "sensual" has unfortunately no proper representative in English. It is "psychical," being formed from the noun psyche, which is rendered "life" or "soul." This psyche is intermediate between "body" and "spirit." It is in the first instance simply the bond or principle of the animal life, and in the second instance it is embodied life. Thus it is that in man which he has in common with the brute creation beneath him, But it becomes also more than this, expressing that in man which renders him capable of connection with God. For in the third instance it denotes the seat of feeling, desire, affection, and emotion; the center of the personal life—the self in man. The adjective itself occurs in the New Testament only in a few passages of marked importance—1 Corinthians 2:14; 1Co 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46; James 3:15; and the present verse. Here it designates the men as men who live only for the natural self—men who make the sensuous nature, with its appetites and passions, the law of their life; natural or animal men, as the Revised Version gives it in the margin. Wickliffe renders it "beastly;" Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan, "fleshly;" the Rhemish, "sensual." The third clause admits of being rendered either "having not the spirit" (in which the Authorized is supported by Wickliffe, Tyndale, and Cranmer), or "having not the Spirit" (so the Revised Version, following the Genevan and the Rhemish). For it is in many passages difficult to decide whether the word "spirit" means the Holy Spirit of God or man's own spirit—that in him in virtue of which he can have fellowship with the Divine, and on which God specially acts; "that highest and noblest part of man," as Luther puts it, "which qualifies him to lay hold of incomprehensible, invisible things, eternal things; in short … the house where faith and God's Word are at home." The rendering of the Revised Version is favoured by the occurrence of the term in the following verse. The Spirit of God was not in the lives or the thoughts of these men, and hence they were creators of division, and sensual. Their pretension was that they were the eminently spiritual. But in refusing the Divine Spirit they had sunk to the level of an animal life, immoral in itself, and productive of confusion to the Church.
From these corrupters of the Church, who have occupied his pen so long and so painfully, Jude now turns direct to his readers and brings his 'subject to a fitting close, with a couple of exhortations full of a wise and tender concern. One of the two counsels deals with what they should do for the protection of their own Christian position against the insidious evils of which he has written in words of passion. The other deals with what they should do for the preservation of others exposed to the same seductive perils. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith. The tone of pleading affection appears in the grave and earnest words by which he reminds his readers of the necessity of looking carefully to their own perseverance. As the condition of all else, he names the great duty of personal edification or up-building. They must strengthen themselves on their foundation, and that foundation is their "most holy faith." By this apparently Jude does not mean simply the subjective grace or virtue of faith. Peter, indeed, speaks of the strengthening and development of that as the secret of being neither barren nor unfruitful. But the idea and the phrase seem somewhat different here; for any spiritual gift of their own would be all too weak a security. It is rather the "faith" which has been already mentioned as "once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3), and is now conceived as possessed by the readers. In this faith, of which Christ himself is the Sum, they have a secure foundation for their renewed life, and on this faith they are to establish themselves more and more. Praying in the Holy Ghost. These words go best together, though some attach the term, "in the Holy Ghost," to the former clause. They express a second condition which must be made good, if the readers are to be safe from the seductions which threaten them. Their Christian life, if it is to be proof against these evils, must be fed by prayer, and by prayer of the deepest and most effectual order—prayer which takes its life and power from the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26). Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. The "love of God" must have a sense parallel to that of the "mercy of Christ." It is, therefore, not our love to God, but his love to us. The love which God is revealed in Christ to have to us is that in which they are to keep themselves. So long as they live within its grace they cannot but be secure against the corruptions of men. If they fall away from it, they become an easy prey. And keeping themselves in this love, they are to "look for mercy." They are then entitled to expect that mercy, and the attitude of expectation will itself be an aid to the keeping of themselves in the love. The mercy of the future is here spoken of as specifically the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; Jude having in view that advent of Christ which filled the immediate horizon of the early Christians, and to which they looked with an intensity of expectation to us very partially realizable, as the event which would speedily reveal every man's work and in which mercy would triumph over judgment for the faithful. And this mercy, or, as it also maybe, this expectation, is further described as having nothing less than eternal life for its object and its certain end. So the central idea in this counsel is the necessity of holding by the revealed fact of God's love in Christ. The first two clauses point to the means by which this is to be made good, and the last clause expresses an attitude of soul which is at once an extension of the central duty and a help to it. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire. The readings here are so diverse, and so difficult to determine, that some of our best critics take this to be one of the passages in which we have to recognize a corruption of the primitive text now past certain correction. The Received Text is clearly in error at least in one important term. The word which it renders "making a difference," as if it referred to the readers, is in the same case with the "some," and refers to the persons who are to be dealt with. It is doubtful, too, whether we have three different classes of persons referred to in three distinct hortatory sentences, or only two such classes. The most recent and best of our English students of the text, Messrs. Westcott and Hort, adopt readings which differ in some respects from those of the Authorized, but agree with it in presenting only two classes of persons. The Revised Version, following many good authorities, both ancient and modern, prefers another form of text with a triple division. Accepting this, we have still more than one uncertainty to take account of. In the first of the three clauses there is the difficulty of deciding between two readings, one of which gives us "on some have mercy," while the other yields the sense "some convict," that is to say, bring their sin home to them, or refute their error. The preference is to be given, on the whole, though with some hesitation, to the former of these readings, which is also the more difficult of the two. There is also the difficulty of determining the precise idea expressed by the participle in the same clause. It appears clear enough that it cannot have the sense assigned it by the Authorized Version, namely, that of "making a difference." But setting this aside, we have still to choose between two ways of taking it. It may have the sense of hesitating or doubting; in which case the class of persons referred to will be those who are not wholly gone in unbelief, but are on the way to it. Such persons are to be regarded as fit objects for anxious, considerate, pitiful treatment. This is a sense which the word undoubtedly bears in several passages of the New Testament. It has also the sanction of the Revised Version, which renders it, "And on some have mercy, who are in doubt." But it may also have the sense of contending, and the fact that it has already been so used in the present Epistle (Jude 1:9) is a weighty consideration in favour of this view. The rendering then might be, "Some compassionate, when they contend with you" (so Alford, etc.). In tide case the class referred to will be the contentious, of whom there might be different kinds, some more hopeful and reasonable, others less so. Men of this spirit are to be tried first with kindness and consideration. Even when they oppose you and draw off from you, be pitiful toward them; take a compassionate, helpful interest in them. The second clause is best rendered with the Revised Version, "And some save, snatching them out of the fire." This brings a different class of persons into view—those who have sunk into corrupt courses which will soon undo them, who are already, indeed, in the penal fires of wrong, but yet are not beyond the possibility of rescue if quick and vigorous measures are taken with them. It is generally supposed that Jude has in view here the figure of the "brand plucked from the burning," which occurs in Zechariah 3:2. If so, the position in which this second class stands is represented as one of the last possible peril. The terms are strong and vivid enough for this. They mean that there is no time to lose, that all depends upon the prompt use of efficient measures, however forcible and unwelcome. The third clause then runs, "And some compassionate with fear." It points to a class who are to be dealt with in the same way as the first class. Yet there is a difference between them. This third class of persons is more dangerous to those who seek their good. They too are to be tried with active, helpful pity; but this is to be done "with fear." In their case the life is so treacherous, the error so insidious, that their Christian benefactors incur grave risk in coming to close terms with them, and require to practice an anxious vigilance lest they be themselves led astray. Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. The idea of "filthy garments" occurs in the same passage of Zechariah already referred to, and the term" garment" (here the tunic, or inner robe) is elsewhere used in a figurative sense (Revelation 3:4). Here it points to everything that is in contact with pollution. The clause seems to be added in order to give greater emphasis to the need of "fear" in dealing with men of the kind in question. Not only are their impurities to be zealously avoided, but all the accessories of these impurities—everything, in short, that is in any way connected with them. If this is the case, then this last is the most dangerous and hopeless of the three clauses mentioned. They are those "on whom profound pity is all that we dare bestow, and that in fear and trembling, lest by contact with them we may be brought within the influence of the deadly contamination that clings to all their surroundings" (Plummet). Only the pity which is to be shown them is not mere feeling, but a compassion which implies some active, though anxious interest in their rescue.
Jude 1:24, Jude 1:25
The Epistle closes with a doxology of a high and solemn strain, resembling in some respects that with which the Epistle to the Romans concludes, and couched in terms befitting what has just been said of danger and duty. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling. The writer has counseled the readers to keep themselves in the love of God. He has also set before them the attitude they ought to adopt toward different classes, and has not concealed the peril to themselves which the discharge of Christian duty to others may involve. Recognizing how short the way is that brotherly counsel or personal effort can carry one in these solemn and arduous obligations, he now reminds his readers of a higher power that is available for their help and protection, and commends them to that as their best, their only security. The risk of falling or stumbling, as it rather means, is great. Only the omnipotence of God can "keep" them from it or protect them against it, the word for "keeping" being one which expresses the idea of "guarding." And to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. The terms here again arc exceedingly vivid, the one which is rendered "present" meaning to "set one up" or "make one stand," and the "faultless'' being the adjective "without blemish" which is applied to the Levitical offerings in the Old Testament, and to Christ himself in 1 Peter 1:19. The "glory" here in view is that of the last day, when he to whom all judgment is committed returns to execute that judgment in his own glory and that of his Father (Luke 9:26; Titus 2:13). The "exceeding joy" expresses the feeling with which it shall be given to the faithful to meet that day. The Revised Version, therefore, more correctly renders it, "And to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy." Weak and vulnerable as they are, God's grace is mighty to do these two things for them—to protect them through time, and at the end of time to make them stand the scrutiny of the Judge like men in whom no blemish is discovered, and to whom that day brings exultant joy. To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore (or, unto all the ages). So the Revised Version renders it, in accordance with the best-authenticated text. Documentary evidence renders it necessary to omit the "wise" in the "only wise God" of the Authorized Version, to insert the clause, "through our Lord Jesus Christ," to omit the "and" before the "majesty," and to adopt the extended expression of duration in the closing sentence. Thus the largest possible ascription of praise is made to God. It is the ascription of an honour which is confessed to belong to him eternally, before the world was, as well as in the present, and on to the eternity which is yet to enter. This is his in his character of Saviour—Preserver of them that are tending to fall, Redeemer of the weak and sinful; and, therefore, it is "through Jesus Christ."
Jude 1:1, Jude 1:2
"Called, beloved in God the Father, preserved for Jesus Christ."
Three designations expressing the three great facts of grace which make the honour of God's saints. There is the call—the act of God which takes us out of the world of evil and brings us into the kingdom of Christ. But this call implies that we are the subjects of an eternal love which holds us within its unfailing arms, and of a protective power which keeps us for Christ whose possession we are designed to be. To these three facts of grace we owe the good which enriches our life. In virtue of these the three great blessings of mercy, peace, and love are ours by right, and form the proper subjects of prayer in our behalf. This selecting and separating operation of the Spirit, that infallible purpose of the Father's love, these rights which the Son has in us and in consequence of which we are destined to be his servants and his possession,—these are the immovable foundations of our security. But the same high facts of grace are likewise the measure of our responsibility, and the irresistible argument for a life which should be superior to whatever evil may threaten or tempt it.
Jude 1:3, Jude 1:4
Error not to be trifled with, but to be earnestly dealt with.
"It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith," etc. Least of all is the kind of error which acts upon the moral life to be lightly thought of or suffered to pass unchallenged. One of the most difficult, yet most imperative, of the Christian duties is to admonish and fortify brethren who are ready to yield to the seductions of error. The bond of a "common salvation" of which we are partakers together, pledges us to the discharge of such duty. The "faith" is the deposit of truth. The message of Christ is spirit and life. But the new spirit and the new life, in which the power of his gospel consists, rise out of the facts and truths of revelation, and work through these. To the Church universal, the whole body of believers, has been committed, therefore, a sacred deposit of truth, here called the faith, embracing evangelical history, doctrine, and precept. This body of truth is a permanent trust. It has survived the times of the Church's greatest declension, and by it she has lived. It is her chief advantage and distinction, as the possession of the "oracles of God" was the chief advantage of the Jew over the Gentile (Romans 3:2). It is something delivered to us, not elaborated by our own thought. How great the responsibility attaching to our stewardship therein! The trustee's duty is to keep this deposit intact, to protect it against corruption, and to hand it on to others.
The invasion of the Church by error is no accident or surprise.
"I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this," etc. It is not to be taken "as though some strange thing happened" (1 Peter 4:12). Faith is apt to be staggered or darkened by it. Yet it is to be anticipated. It has been the subject of prophecy. It is provided for in the Divine guidance of the Church, and it works to its own retribution. The history of God's ways, too, is the best corrective for faith's perplexities and fears in presence of the march of error. The history shows that what is, is only that which also has been. The dread things in its record bear witness to the fact that victory is not on the side of evil, but that there is a defeat predetermined for it—a penalty which follows it by a certain law. God's terrible deeds in righteousness attest the temporal punishment of sin. The Old Testament history, in which these are registered, is the nurse of a faith which should be humble, strong, courageous, hopeful. To neglect it is certain loss, It is gain to be "put in remembrance'' of it. "Them that believed not"—the explanation both of the sin, and of the destruction of the generation in the wilderness. So the evil heart of unbelief is the final secret of guilt and error, the hidden laboratory of all perversions of truth and all depravations of the moral life, the subtle inspiration of enmity to God and defiance to law.
The mutual dependence of belief and life.
"Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh," etc. Religion is the strength and security of morality. Morality is the outcome and flower of religion. There must be some relation, therefore, between the truth of the religious belief and the purity and elevation of the moral life. A doctrine of God and things Divine which becomes mistaken, imperfect, or corrupt, cannot but affect the conduct which a man allows himself. A life of license is the natural result of a denial of God and Christ. Morals are imperiled and impaired as spiritual truth is scorned or depraved. The abuse of grace is the most fatal canker in the Church. The corruption of the best is the worst. The angel that falls becomes a devil. The grace of God, corrupted, is turned to lasciviousness. The liberty of the gospel, when perverted, becomes an occasion to the flesh. Humility is the true note of dignity. The highest natures are the most modest and self-restrained; the lowest and most ignorant, the rashest and the most self-willed. Reverence is the safeguard both of faith and of virtue. The latest developments of error and unbelief are no novelty. The corruptions of Jude's time were but the corruptions of ancient days. The evils which crept into the primitive Church of Christ were but the renewals of the "way of Cain," the "error of Balsam," the "gainsaying of Korah." Sin only repeats itself as it perpetuates itself. Under many new forms we recognize only the old sins of envy, avarice, and pride.
Jude 1:12, Jude 1:13
A perfect Church a vain expectation.
"These are spots in your feasts of charity," etc. The teaching of our Lord's great parables gives us no warrant to look for a perfect Church till the end. Popular ideas of the purity of the primitive Church are far from being borne out by fact. The New Testament writings themselves, especially the Epistles to the Corinthians, the Pastoral Epistles, Jude, 2 Peter, and the Apocalypse, indicate with the utmost plainness how mixed the early Churches were, and to what an extent they-suffered from grievous and varied evils. Neither have we any scriptural warrant for setting up impracticable terms of admission to the Christian Church, or impracticable conditions of discipline within it. The facility with which the most sacred usages and ordinances admit of abuse, e.g., the perversion of the simple and beautiful institution of the love-feasts, shows the necessity of jealous watchfulness over ecclesiastical practice, and the wisdom of denying ourselves the most appropriate forms for the expression of Christian life and worship, when these become misunderstood, lifeless, or associated with evil. The most fatal form of selfishness is the selfishness which takes advantage of religion, and assumes the cloak of spirituality. Mark Jude's lurid picture of the brood of deceits, sensualities, and blasphemies that spring from it. Study, too, his equally lurid picture of the degradation, the emptiness, the death-in-life of such a life—the treacherous hopes like rainless clouds with which it beguiles and embitters, the barrenness worse than that of exhausted autumnal trees to which it is doomed, the shame which is the issue of its passionate license.—There is a double punishment of fleshly sins. Their retribution comes in the penal law which works in nature and makes them in part their own avengers in time. It comes, too, in the nameless awards of eternity, which axe in reserve.
Future judgment an anticipation of nature and a truth of revelation.
"To execute judgment upon all," etc. Its declared era is the Lord's advent; its declared functions are those of correction and retribution. "Great swelling words "—the natural language of the errorist and the deceiver. "Very many such words are recorded in Church history, and that, too, as spoken in justification of unbridled lust. Some of the more openly abominable belong to the Gnostic and other antinomian heretics of early times, when men were taught that by faith and what was called knowledge they were raised above all restraints of law and obligations of morality—became, in fact, incapable of sin, and especially so superior to matter and all material influences that no degradation or pollution of the body could possibly affect them in any way whatever, any more than the ocean is defiled by what you throw into it. The later centuries also supply abundant illustrations of the text, as in the arrogant pretensions of popery, the extravagances of the libertines in the Reformation, and the Mormon and 'free love' and spiritualistic ravings of our own day" (Lillie). "Mockers"—the class most impervious to grace, the most hopeless to reclaim. The rise of such is the most deadly symptom of evil in the Church. But the sins of discontent with providence, immoral license, swelling vanity, cringing servility, and malignant scoffing are near of kin. "The lack of the Spirit" is the last word in the description of impiety. The grace of that Spirit is the sole guarantee of the higher life. The loss of that Spirit is the way of death.
Jude 1:20, Jude 1:21
The law of Christian safety—to keep ourselves in the love of God.
"Keep yourselves in the love of God," etc. The soul's one asylum and retreat is the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The act of grace which calls us to the Christian life introduces us to the knowledge of that love, and brings us within its pavilion. The sum of all subsequent Christian duty is to be true to it; the sum of all Christian wisdom is to suffer nothing to turn us away from it. But our continuance within it demands that we persevere in building up the structure of a holy life on the foundation of the faith given us; that we nourish and strengthen that life by prayer, and that we keep the eye of expectation on the future. The Christian life, too, is necessarily a progressive life. Growth is its security against decay, and its protection against temptation. And the prayer that nourishes and strengthens is prayer in the' Holy Ghost—prayer prompted by him, directed in its subjects and its frames by him, interpreted in its deep and unutterable longings by him. "So great is the sloth and coldness of our carnal nature," says Calvin, "that no one can pray as he ought unless moved by the Spirit of God; even as we are so prone to distrust and fear that no one dare call God 'Father' save by the dictation of the same Spirit. Hence comes the desire, hence the earnestness and vehemence, hence the activity, hence the confidence of obtaining, hence, finally, those unutterable groanings of which St. Paul speaks. Therefore not without cause does Jude teach them that none can pray as he ought save by the guidance of the Spirit." The judicial decisions of the future are committed to the Son of man. The hope of mercy in the day of his coming is one of the gifts of the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit. That hope is the light which brightens the believer's path in the darkened present, and makes him proof against the seductions of sin and error. The expectation of that mercy is the inspiration of his courage; it is the call from beyond the stars which makes it easy for him to hold by the love and truth of God, and bid away whatever would tempt him to depart from these.
Jude 1:22, Jude 1:23
The law of Christian duty to others in times of peril and evil.
"And of some have compassion," etc. There is a duty to all, but the duty is not the same to each. Christian wisdom must decide how to distinguish between cases, and to act in each so as at once to seek the good of others and to keep ourselves pure. "Different courses are to be pursued according to their different circumstances, characters, and dispositions. Some must be dealt with sternly, even as that Hymeneus and Alexander, whom St. Paul 'delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.' Some may be saved by promptness and decision even from the extremity of danger. Some, while they awaken compassion, must yet be dealt with tremblingly, lest he who seeks to save them himself suffer from the contact. Such is obviously the part of wisdom. An insight into character, and a ready tact in adapting one's efforts to its various phases, is an important qualification in those who would win souls from the error of their ways. All souls are to be cared for; but not all by the same methods" (Gardiner).
Jude 1:24, Jude 1:25
The grace of God the believer's first and last dependence.
"Now unto him that is able to keep you," etc. Only his power can protect us from our own weakness and sin and error, and make us capable of standing, and purify us for the manifestation of the great day. But that grace is sufficient, and it is at hand to give success to our own efforts in keeping ourselves in the asylum of God's love. "Full of consolation," says the writer immediately quoted, "must have been the thought in days when danger pressed on every side, and ungodly men, bringing with them all error of doctrine and viciousness of life, had crept into the very fold whither the faithful had turned for safety. Equally comforting must it prove m an age when the name of Christ is made the cloak for strange oppositions to his teaching and his example, and when in the wide wilderness of error it is difficult to discern the narrow pathway of truth."
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
Jude 1:1, Jude 1:2
Authorship and salutation.
This brief Epistle is remarkable for its triple order of ideas, carried through to the very end. The first instance occurs in the account the author gives of himself—"Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James."
1. Who was Jude? There are two persons of the name represented as relatives of James. There is Jude the apostle, brother or son of James the martyr (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), who is also called Lebbaeus; and there is this Jude, the brother of James—that is James the Just, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19), president of the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). The author of this Epistle was, therefore, a younger brother of our Lord and a younger son of Joseph and Mary. He was not an apostle, else he would probably have called himself so. He did not believe in our Lord during his ministry (John 7:5), but became a convert after the Resurrection (Acts 1:14).
2. His official position. He was "a servant of Jesus Christ," not merely in the larger sense in which all saints are so, but in the special sense of his official relation to the Church as an evangelist.
(1) It is an honour to be in the service of such a Master.
(2) Our service ought to he
(a) to him alone (Matthew 6:24);
(b) and to be a diligent, cheerful, and constant service.
(3) Those who would lead others to serve Christ must themselves set the example.
3. His relationship to James. Jude mentions this fact:
(1) Partly that he may distinguish himself from others like Judas the apostle and Judas Iscariot.
(2) Partly to substantiate his claim to a hearing from his relationship to one more celebrated and better known in the Church; James was at once "the Lord's brother," "a pillar in the Church" (Galatians 2:9), and a saintly character.
(3) Partly as implying an agreement in doctrine between James and himself.
(4) Had Jude been an apostle, he would hardly have mentioned this relationship, inasmuch as he could have asserted a much stronger claim.
(5) It may be asked—Why did he not rather mention his relationship to Christ himself?
(a) He may have been led by religious feeling, like James himself in his Epistle, to omit all reference to this matter.
(b) The ascension of Christ had altered the character of this earthly relationship.
(c) Such a course would have been inconsistent with the spirit and teaching of our Lord himself, who taught that those who did his will were more nearly allied to him than earthly kin (Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28).
II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE EPISTLE WAS ADDRESSED. "To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and preserved for Jesus Christ." Here, again, we have a triple order of ideas. He addresses true saints of God.
1. They were called. This is the familiar Pauline description of the saints. They are called
(1) out of darkness into God's marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
(2) The calling is "according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
(3) Not according to works (2 Timothy 1:9).
(4) It is a high calling,
(5) a holy calling; and. therefore saints ought to live suitably thereto.
2. They were beloved in God the Father. This is a unique expression in the New Testament. The tense of the participle implies the love as a continuously existing fact. The Father is the Source of all love-experiences, the sphere in which love is displayed; for God is love.
3. They were preserved for Jesus Christ.
(1) Their preservation does not depend upon their own holiness or effort.
(2) It depends on God's purpose, on his calling, on his grace, lie is able to "keep them from failing" (verse 24). Christ shall "confirm them to the end" (1 Corinthians 1:8); no one shall pluck them out of his hand (John 10:29); their seed abideth in them (1 John 3:9); the fear of the Lord in their hearts shall keep them from departing from him (Jeremiah 32:40); they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:5).
(3) They are preserved
(a) from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13);
(b) from the evil of the world (John 17:15);
(c) from falling (verse 24);
(d) from the touch of the evil one (1 John 5:18).
(4) They are preserved for the day of Christ's coming. That signifies their steadfast perseverance till death. The Apostle Paul placed his stuff, as an immortal deposit, in Christ's hands, with the full persuasion that it would be safely kept "till that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). The saints are kept for the glory of Immanuel in his everlasting kingdom.
III. THE SALUTATION. "Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied." Another triplet.
1. Mercy is from the Father. It is his distinguishing attribute. "His mercy endureth for ever." There is forgiving mercy, providing mercy, restrain-inn mercy, restoring mercy, crowning mercy. He has "bowels of mercy." He "delights to show mercy."
2. Peace is through the Son.
(1) He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14), as "the chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Isaiah 53:5).
(2) He gives peace (John 14:27).
(3) He preached peace (Ephesians 2:17). Therefore great shall be the peace of God's children.
3. Love is from the Holy Ghost. He sheds it abroad in the heart (Romans 5:5). There is "a love of the Spirit" (Romans 15:30). The Christian has experience of love objective and subjective.
4. Jude prays that these graces may be multiplied.
(1) This implies that saints are till death incomplete in their graces. There never will come a time in which this prayer may not be offered for saints in the flesh.
(2) This prayer has an eye to the glory of God as well as to the comfort and peace of believers.
(3) The Lord is always willing to impart his best gifts.
(4) He has abundance of grace for all his children, and for all the exigencies of their life.—T.C.
The purpose and occasion of this Epistle.
It was to exhort the saints to steadfastness in contending for the truth which was then threatened by an insidious party of antinomians who had entered the Church. Love prompted the writing of the Epistle, as we may infer from the term "beloved" by which the author addresses his readers.
I. HIS CONCERN FOR THEIR WELFARE. "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you."
1. It was a, ready, prompt, entire diligence, because there was danger in delay, and the constraint of love was upon him.
2. It is right that ministers should be diligent about the most important concerns, the interests of truth and the welfare of the flock.
3. Jude showed his concern for the saints by committing his thoughts to writing.
(1) Writing gave them permanence. Words pass away, but writing remains. "This shall be written for the generation to come."
(2) Writing secured a wider circle of hearers. Every age of the Church, as well as the first, has been benefited by this brief letter of Jude.
(3) It is a great sin to undervalue the written Word of God.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT OF HIS WRITING. "Our common salvation."
1. The nature of this salvation.
(1) It is the deliverance of man from the guilt and power of sin and the complete redemption of his soul and body in the day of judgment.
(2) It begins in the present life.
(3) God has given us his Word to show the way of salvation.
2. It is the common salvation of all sailors. "Our common salvation."
(1) Christ, the Saviour, is common to all the saints.
(2) There is but one common way to heaven. There is but "one faith."
(3) The blessings of salvation are common to all believers, Jew and Gentile.
(4) It is a salvation of which the early Christians had an experimental knowledge; it is "our common salvation."
III. THE NECESSITY FOR HIS WRITING. "I was constrained to write unto yon." This arose:
1. From the evil doctrines of the antinomians.
2. From their subtle arts.
3. From the too great readiness of the saints to be deceived.
4. The exposure of seducers is a necessary part of the ministry.
IV. THE NATURE OF THE EXHORTATION JUDE ADDRESSED TO THE SAINTS. "Exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." Christians must suffer the word of exhortation, which is an excellent help to religious steadfastness.
1. The matter to be contended for.
(1) It is the doctrine of faith, or the truth which is to be received in order to our salvation. It is called "faith" because it is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to work faith.
(2) It is the faith "delivered" by God, not discovered by man. The natural man can no more perceive than he can discover the things which are of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-16:24).
(3) It is the faith delivered "once for all." No other faith will ever be given. No new doctrines are to be added to the circle of faith, though the truth may be cast in new forms, and shaped according to the intellectual and spiritual exigencies of each age. Therefore
(a) it is a great sin to despise the faith delivered to us;
(b) we ought to be thankful for it;
(c) we ought to receive and obey it in the love of it;
(d) we ought to guard it against heretical perversions.
(4) It is a sacred deposit placed in the hands of trustees—delivered to the saints. Not to holy prophets and apostles merely, but to all saints, even in ages destitute of prophets and apostles.
(a) It is a solemn trust, involving great responsibilities.
(b) The saints are to keep the faith for their own salvation and comfort.
(c) They are to keep it for generations to come.
(d) How much is the world indebted to the saints!
(e) The trustees of the faith ought to have holy hands and holy hearts.
2. The duty of the saints to contend for the faith. This duty implies
(1) the importance of this faith, for it is the best things that Satan is most anxious to destroy;
(2) the presence of adversaries seeking to corrupt or destroy it;
(3) the need of Divine strength for contending for it with effect;
(4) the various ways in which the saints are to contend for it—
(a) by refuting and convincing gainsayers,
(b) by praying for its success,
(c) by confessing it boldly before men,
(d) by mutual exhortation,
(e) by holy example,
(f) by suffering for the truth.—T.C.
Reasons to enforce the duty of contending for the faith.
The principal reason is the presence of antinomian errorists in the Church.
I. THE ENTRANCE OF WICKED ERRORISTS INTO THE CHURCH. "For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old set forth unto this condemnation."
1. These men are not named, either because Jude did not care to give them the celebrity their vanity might have desired, or because their names were already known to the saints.
2. It is not possible for man to guard the Church against the entrance of such men. Even apostles themselves could not keep the Church pure.
3. The entrance of errorists is usually effected by hypocritical arts. They are "false apostles," "deceitful workers," "deceiving the hearts of the simple," "drawing many disciples after them," "false teachers privily bringing in damnable hercules." They usually conceal their real opinions; they mix wholesome truth with destructive errors; and they preach doctrines palatable to the corrupt nature of man. They usually effect an air of novelty or originality in their teaching. The best Christians may therefore be sometimes mistaken in such seducers.
4. The presence of such men in the Church does not destroy the being of the Church.
5. Their destructive influence and the retribution that awaits them were predicted beforehand. For "they were of old set forth unto this condemnation." Not in the prophecies by Peter and Paul, but in the Old Testament; for the phrase, "of old," refers to something in history. The condemnation is that illustrated by the examples recorded in the following verses.
6. It is needful that Christians should be on the watch against the entrance and the influence of wicked errorists.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THESE MEN. "Ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."
1. They were godless men.
(1) They denied to God the honour due to him. They lived without relation to God. They were practically "without God in the world." "In their works they denied him." "They called not upon the Lord."
(2) They gave to the world, to sin, to folly, the allegiance that was due to God. They "served the creature more than the Creator."
(3) They sought to honour God in a wrong manner. They worshipped not according to his Word; and their service was selfish, or partial, or inconstant, or profane.
(4) Ungodliness leads to all wicked practices.
2. They perverted the doctrines of grace. "Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness;" arguing, as Trapp says, from mercy to liberty, which is the devil's logic.
(1) The true design of the grace of God. It is that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we may live soberly, righteously, godly, in this world," As the free gift of God, our election and our calling being both of grace, we are bound to see that we receive it not in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).
(2) The perversion of this grace is effected
(a) by men "using their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness" (1 Peter 2:16), "for an occasion to the flesh" (Galatians 5:13), by "continuing in sin that grace may abound" (Romans 6:1);
(b) by rejecting the Law as a rule of life;
(c) by abusing their liberty to the offence of weak consciences.
(3) The heinousness of, such conduct.
(a) It implies the sin of hypocrisy.
(b) It is a profound dishonour to God and his doctrine.
(c) It argues a boundless ingratitude.
(d) It is almost the most hopeless of all sins against God.
3. They denied Jesus Christ. Wearing the livery of Christ, they were all the while vassals of the devil.
(1) Christ is the only Lord and Master of believers. This Lordship is based upon the idea of property. We are the Lord's, whether living or dead (Romans 14:9).
(a) He gives laws to his servants.
(b) He binds them lovingly to obedience.
(c) He rewards them according to their service.
(d) He has power both to give and to take away.
(e) There is no escape for his enemies.
We may, therefore, infer:
(a) How serious an error it is to deny Christ's Deity!
(b) How foolish to trust in any other Saviour!
(1) How blessed are believers in possessing such a Lord!
(2) These errorists denied this Lord.
(a) Doctrinally;—perhaps, like the Gnostics, they denied his true Deity and his true humanity.
(α) by opposing his gospel;
(β) by apostasy from his truth;
(c) by a wicked and lewd life. These men, by rejecting Christ's authority as well as his salvation, "forsook their own mercy."—T.C.
First example of Divine vengeance.
Jude then proceeds to give three instances of this sort—the first being that of the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness.
I. THE NECESSITY OF REMINDING SAINTS OF FAMILIAR SCRIPTURE FACTS. "Now I desire to put you in remembrance, though ye know all things once for all, how that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not."
1. Every private Christian ought to be well acquainted with the Scriptures. Jude concedes that those he addressed were so. The Bible is a book for the people as well as for ministers. Knowledge is highly commendable in a Christian (Romans 15:14), as well as goodness.
2. The best of people need to have their pure minds stirred up by way of remembrance; for memory is too often "like the sieve which holds the bran and lets the flour go."
II. THE SAINTS REMINDED OF A FAMOUS DELIVERANCE. "I removed his shoulder from the burden, and his hands were delivered from the pots" (Psalms 81:6).
1. No difficulties could hinder Israel's deliverance from Egypt.
2. Israel went down to Egypt a family, and emerged out of it a nation.
3. This nation curried the destinies of the world in its bosom.
III. THE SAINTS REMINDED OF A GREAT DESTRUCTION. The Lord dealt first in mercy, then afterward in judgment.
1. Destruction overtook the Israelites from plague, fire, serpents, earthquake, sword. The wilderness was strewn besides with the carcasses of all except those of twenty years old and under, who alone were privileged to enter the land of Canaan.
2. This destruction was a disappointment of high hopes as well as a fall from a high position of privilege.
3. Yet it was but partial. The stock of Israel was spared. And the doom was long deferred, so as to give more than a generation of time for repentance.
4. The Lord's judgment in this case proves that punishment cannot be averted by privileges abused.
IV. THE SAINTS REMINDED OF THE CAUSE OF THIS DESTRUCTION. It was unbelief. "They could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:6).
1. Difficulties soon discover the untrustful heart.
2. Unbelievers forsake their own mercies, and are their own worst enemies.
3. There is no folly like unbelief. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
4. The end of unbelief is utter and absolute destructions.—T.C.
Second example of Divine vengeance.
This is the case of the fallen angels.
I. THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL ANGELS. It is expressly asserted in Scripture. There is no greater moral difficulty in understanding the existence of such beings than in understanding the existence of evil men. They are spoken of as "angels that sinned" (2 Peter 2:4), as devils "who enter into men" (Luke 8:30), as beings to be judged by the saints (1 Corinthians 6:3).
II. THEIR REVOLT AND DEFECTION FROM GOD. "And angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation." They are represented in the parallel passage in Peter as simply "the angels that sinned; ' and the devil is spoken of as not "abiding in the truth," and pride is assigned apparently as the cause of his fall (1 Timothy 3:6). "It is hard to be high and not high-minded." But the allusion here is rather to the angels rejecting their high dignity of position in subjection to God, and departing from their habitations in heaven, as the consequence of the alienation caused by pride.
1. Their revolt was a dishonour to God.
(1) They slighted the place of his glory.
(2) They were the highest order of his creatures, and might have found their happiness in obedient service.
2. An evil nature cannot endure either the joys or the holiness of heaven.
3. It is a sin for the highest being to exempt himself from service.
4. The angels have a habitation in heaven.
III. THE PUNISHMENT OF THE EVIL ANGELS. "He hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
1. There is a present punishment. They are "kept in everlasting bonds under darkness."
(1) There are the bonds of. God's power. "The strong man is bound by a stronger than he." "The old dragon was bound for a thousand years."
(2) There are the bonds of sin, as if to account for the dread consistency of him "who sinneth from the beginning" (1 John 3:8).
(3) There are the bonds of a guilty conscience, which cause the devils to tremble as they believe (James 2:19).
(4) Yet restraint or torment cannot reform the evil angels.
(5) The devils cannot hurt us unless we get within the compass of their chains. Calvin says, "Wherever they go they drag with them their own chains, and remain involved in darkness."
(6) The darkness under which they are held points to their miserable condition, as signified by their separation from the presence of God, brought about as it was by their own act, and utterly irrevocable.
2. There is a future punishment. "Unto the judgment of the great day."
(1) The Lord will judge the angels in that day with the saints as his assessors (1 Corinthians 6:3).
(2) The devil wilt be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
(3) There will be no further seduction of the wicked, and no further hurt to the elect.—T.C.
Third example of Divine vengeance.
This is the case of the cities of the plain.
I. THE CAUSE OF THEIR PUNISHMENT. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication, and gone after strange flesh."
1. God often assigns the most fertile places to the greatest sinners. Sodom is compared to "the garden of the Lord."
2. Prosperity often becomes an occasion for much wickedness and impiety.
3. The inhabitants of these cities of the plain were guilty of fornication and unnatural crimes.
(1) These were personal sins of a heinous character. They were sins against both soul and body. No whoremonger shall enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9), and fornication is a sin "against the body itself" (1 Corinthians 6:18).
(2) They were social sins. They affect the family and society.
(3) They were sacrilegious sins. The body, which is a temple of the Holy Ghost, allows its members to become those of a harlot (1 Corinthians 6:15).
(4) They were sins not to be named among saints (Ephesians 5:3).
4. The causes of these sins were
(1) fullness of bread (Ezekiel 16:49), and
II. THE SEVERITY OF THEIR PUNISHMENT. "Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
1. There may be allusion to the rain of fire that destroyed the cities, and to the volcanic nature of the soil which underlies their present site.
2. But that destruction is only a type of the worse destruction that overtook the guilty inhabitants.
(1) No "dogs" shall be admitted into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:15). "Our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). The justice of God is not abolished by his mercy.
(2) Yet the rejection of the gospel is a worse sin than that of the Sodomites. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for Capernaum and Bethsaida (Matthew 10:15).
III. THESE SODOMITES WERE PUNISHED AS AN EXAMPLE.
1. God shows thus his hatred of sin.
2. His desire to prevent our ruin.
3. The inexcusableness of those who sin in the face of such examples.
4. We need under the gospel the restraints of fear as well as the allurements of love.
5. The same sins recur in every age, and therefore need to be very pointedly condemned.
6. The sins of the Sodomites are more heinous if committed in this dispensation of light and privilege.
7. Let us be thankful to God for such warnings against sin.—T.C.
The character of the libertines in Jude's day.
Three triplets again, to correspond to the triplets of Jude 1:5-7. Mark the sins of these libertines.
I. GROSS LICENTIOUSNESS. "They defile the flesh." Thus they resemble the Sodomites. The early Gnosticism had an antinomian as well as an ascetic side.
1. Sins of unchastity inflict deep dishonour on the body. They defile that body which ought to be a temple of the Holy Ghost.
2. They lead men, into destructive error. "The lusts make the affections to be judges; and where affection sways, judgment decays." The errorists of primitive times were men "of corrupt minds," teaching "things they ought not for filthy lucre's sake, serving their own belly." Solomon says, "Evil men understand not judgment."
II. THEY ARE HOSTILE TO THE DIVINE LORDSHIP. "They set at naught dominion." Like the fallen angels. The dominion here spoken of is not human magistracy, but the Lordship of God Almighty. They deny the Lord Jesus; They will not have this Man to reign over them. This evil temper springs:
1. From pride.
2. From self-sufficiency.
3. From hatred of God.
4. From anger at all Divine restraint in their evil actions.
III. THEY REVILE THE ANGELIC HIERARCHY. "They rail at dignities." Like the murmurers in the wilderness. They rail at celestial lordships.
1. Great is the excess of an unsanctified tongue.
2. Fools rail at powers of whom they know nothing.
3. It is a great sin to put dishonour on celestial beings whom God has so highly honoured.
IV. THE FOUNTAIN FROM WHICH THESE SINS ISSUE. "In their dreamings." This threefold manifestation of an evil mind has its origin in the self-delusion of sinners. Their dreaming implies:
1. That they live in an unreal world, and have no true conception of the serious nature of sin.
2. That they are unconscious of the damager that threatens their immortal souls.
3. That they are insensible to all the warnings of coming judgment.
4. Dreaming is dangerous, for, like the hypocrite, the sinner shall fly away as a dream (Job 20:8).—T.C.
An angelic example for human imitation.
Jude then refers to an extraordinary incident not recorded in Scripture, but evidently contained in the old Jewish traditions respecting a contest of Michael the archangel with the devil.
I. THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL—WHO WAS HE?
1. He appears as "one of the chief princes" who stood up for God's people against the Persians (Daniel 10:13).
2. He appears as fighting. "Michael and his angels" against the devil and his angels (Revelation 12:7).
3. He is probably the archangel whose voice is to be heard at the period of our Lord's descent to judgment. (1 Thessalonians 4:16.)
4. He is probably at the head of the good angels, as the devil is represented as at the head of the evil angels.
5. High as he is in rank, he is most active in dutiful service to God.
II. THE STRIFE BETWEEN MICHAEL AND THE DEVIL. "But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment."
1. The incident here referred to occurred necessarily after Moses' death.
2. The dispute did not arise, as some think, from the effort of type devil to prevent the concealment of the body of Moses, whom God buried that no man might know the place of his sepulture. The reason usually assigned for the secrecy of the burial is that the Israelites might have worshipped the body of their great lawgiver. But there is no evidence that the Israelites ever at any time showed a disposition to worship dead men's bones. Their inclination was rather to worship the powers of nature.
3. An ingenious and plausible explanation has been given of this strife in this wise.
(1) We know that Moses and Elias appeared together at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29-33). They are called "two men." Elias was certainly in the body—a glorified body, no doubt. Does not the similarity of statement imply that Moses was likewise in the body?
(2) This would imply that Moses was raised up after his burial, but before he saw corruption, and was taken to heaven like Elijah and Enoch. God buried him, and the archangel watched over him that he should not see corruption. But why should the devil interfere with the archangel's watch? Is it that the devil has "the power of death" (Hebrews 2:14)? Is it that he has an interest in the corruption of our bodies, as the completion of that physical death which enters into the wages of sin? The contest may have arisen from the effort of Michael, on the one side, to secure the body of Moses from corruption till the moment when he, with his angels, would carry it into heaven, and from the effort of the devil, on the other side, to inflict the last stigma of death upon the great Israelite. This explanation seems more plausible than any other that has been suggested of this mysterious conflict between the heads of the principalities of the spirit-world. The conflict suggests that:
(a) Sin and holiness must necessarily come into conflict wherever they encounter each other.
(b) Michael overcomes the devil. "He that is for us is far greater than all they that be against us."
III. THE DEPORTMENT OF MICHAEL IN THIS STRIFE WITH THE DEVIL. "He durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."
1. It would have been inconsistent with angelical perfection to rail against the devil.
2. There is no cowardice in Michael not daring to sin.
3. What is wrong for angels cannot be right for men to do.
4. Michael left the decision of the strife absolutely in God's hands.
5. God's power restrains that of the devil.
6. The thought that we have a God into whose hands we may commit our cause ought to make us patient, forbearing, and forgiving.—T.C.
The deplorable perversion of knowledge.
This verse is a practical application of the historic reference to the archangel Michael.
I. THE LESSON OF IGNORANT DEPRECIATION. "But these rail at whatsoever things they know not." These were unseen spiritual powers whom they treat with mocking irreverence.
1. The ignorance in question is that conceited and contented ignorance of which the psalmist speaks. "They know not nor will understand, but walk on in darkness.'' They are "willingly ignorant" (Romans 1:28). None are so ready to speak as the ignorant. Or, it is ignorance of things not possible for man to know in his present life, and is therefore excusable.
2. The sinfulness of railing at such things.
(1) It is great folly, for it is railing at what is the result of man's infirmity or his limited powers. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is a folly and a shame to him" (Proverbs 18:13).
(2) It is great presumption.
3. It is great wickedness; for it is to impute evil where none may exist. It is to rejoice in the evil which may only exist in our own thoughts. How great is the sin of railing at things which are worthy! We see how corrupt affections blind the judgment.
4. We ought to reprove known evil, and to praise what we know to be good.
II. THE LESSON OF THE RUIN WROUGHT BY SENSUAL KNOWLEDGE. "And what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things they corrupt themselves."
1. The range and scope of natural knowledge. Jude refers here to the familiar objects of sense as equally obvious to both man and beast.
(1) These evil persons, like the irrational animals, readily discover the means of gratifying their desires.
(2) They receive all their blessings, like the beasts, without thought or thanks to the Giver.
(3) They cannot improve them spiritually any more than the beasts which only live to eat.
(4) They use them to excess, wallowing like swine in the mire of mere sensual enjoyments.
(5) They are impatient of restraint in proportion to the full enjoyment of natural bounties.
2. The corruption that springs out of mere things of sense.
(1) These evil men, by their abuse of natural blessings, bring disease upon themselves.
(2) They corrupt their moral nature. "Wine and women take away the heart" (Hosea 4:11). Outward enjoyments make no man excel in beauty of character.
(3) They are corrupted eternally. "Satan lies in ambush behind our lawful enjoyments." "They who sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption" (Galatians 6:8).—T.C.
Three examples of similar ungodliness.
Another triplet, answering to the triplet of Sodom, the evil angels, the unbelieving Israelites. In both triplets there was an outrage against nature, a contempt for Divine sovereignty, a revolt against dignities.
I. A DENUNCIATION OF JUDGMENT. "Woe unto them!"
1. Wickedness has its end in woes. The end of it is "death."
2. The most fearful woes are those which are spiritual in their nature. No outward calamity is so terrible as the wrath of God, no worldly misfortune so great as a seared conscience.
3. The woe does not come without warning. God foretells the ruin that it may be averted, as in the notable case of the Ninevites.
4. Ministers ought to exhibit the terrors of the Law as well as the sweet promises of the gospel.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THIS DENUNCIATION OF JUDGMENT. There is a threefold variety in godless transgression.
1. There is an outrage against the laws of nature. "For they went in the way of Cain."
(1) That was a way of hypocrisy. Cain offered a sacrifice, but in a faithless spirit.
(2) It was a way of envy. "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy." In the case of Cain it was "the inlet to murder." Who is able to stand before envy? It is its own punishment.
(3) It was a way of selfishness and hatred. Hatred led to the murder of Abel, and selfishness was stamped upon the interrogative answer to God's question: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
(4) It was a way of violence and cruelty. "He who cared not how he served God regarded not how he used his brother. Cain begins with sacrifice and ends with murder." Those who plead for most liberty are apt to be most selfish and cruel.
2. There is a religious opposition to God from interested motives. "And ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire."
(1) Their guide—Balsam.
(a) He was a false prophet; he is called both a prophet (2 Peter 2:16) and a soothsayer (Joshua 13:22).
(b) The devil uses the ablest instruments to serve his ends.
(c) God often endows wicked persons with high gifts. Great, accordingly, is their responsibility.
(2) The error of Balsam.
(a) This does not refer to his being deceived in the expectation of reward for his wicked work.
(b) It refers rather to his deviation from God's will and commandment in the whole history of his relations with Balak. "His way was perverse before the Lord." He made the Israelites to err from the way of righteousness by teaching Balak to cast a stumbling-block before them—to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication (Revelation 2:14).
(c) It was a deviation in doctrine that led to a deviation from holiness. Thus false teachers are usually evil-workers (Philippians 3:2). Their "minds are defiled, they are reprobate to every good work." "Truth reforms as well as informs."
(3) The motive of Balaam's conduct. "For hire."
(a) There was profanity in such conduct. Covetousness is idolatry; but it is something like blasphemy in a religious guide. The guide to heaven ought to be above the base love of lucre.
(b) There was hypocrisy in such conduct. There was an apparent concern for God's honour and the good of man; but under all was the eager lust for reward.
(4) The impetuous and eager pace of seducers. "They ran riotously."
(a) They are not checked by God's judgments.
(b) The desire for gain hurries men forward to many an act of wickedness and sin. He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent" (Proverbs 28:20).
(c) Sinners pursuing a downward course know not where they may stop.
(d) There is a Divine hand to punish the greatest sinners.
(e) How sad that the saints of God should not run as eagerly in the way of God as sinners in the way of wickedness and folly! They ought, surely, to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God."
3. There is a contempt for sacred ordinances which brings its own retribution. "And perished in the gainsaying of Korah."
(1) The history of Korah. He was a Levite of the tribe of Levi, and cousin-german of Moses. He was, therefore, employed in an honourable department of the ecclesiastical service—" to wait upon the sons of Aaron in the service of the house of the Lord."
(2) His insurrection. "The gainsaying of Korah." He opposed the exclusive privileges of Moses and Aaron, saying that they "took too much upon them," and he claimed the privileges of the priesthood for himself and others. "And seek ye the priesthood also?" says Moses. The conduct of Korah finds its counterpart in the seducers of Jude's day, who despised ecclesiastical ordinances, and set at naught the order of the Church. Their conduct showed
(a) contempt for Divine order and appointment;
(b) discontent with their existing privileges;
(c) envy at the rulers of the Church;
(d) ingratitude to God for his privileges.
(3) His punishment. "Perished in the gainsaying of Korah." The facts of Korah's destruction are familiar to all. They suggest:
(a) That seducers ordinarily involve others in their own destruction. So it was with Korah. Two hundred and fifty—"famous in the congregation, and men of renown"—were drawn into the conspiracy. "He would neither be alone in woe nor in wickedness."
(b) God opposes those who oppose his ordinances. "An evil man seeketh only rebellion, therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him" (Proverbs 24:22).
(c) We are bound to accept thankfully the privileges which God has provided for us.—T.C.
Jude 1:12, Jude 1:13
A vivid picture of the moral corruption of the ungodly seducers.
I. THEIR SELFISH AND SINFUL PERVERSION OF THE CHURCH'S FELLOWSHIP. "These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you, shepherds that without fear feed themselves."
1. They, like sunken rocks, wrecked those who unsuspectingly approached them.
(1) Their profession of religion was so belied by their immoral ways, that men, taking them to be Christians, abhorred the true gospel and turned away from it to their destruction.
(2) Their evil example led others into unchristian courses to their eternal ruin.
2. They mingled, without fear or misgiving, in the loving fellowships of the Church.
(1) The love-feasts were connected with the Lord's Supper, which is itself, indeed, a love-feast. They were designed to maintain brotherly love, and especially to refresh the poor saints. They always began and ended with prayer. They were no places for self-indulgence or gluttony.
(2) These godless persons attended the love-feasts, with no fear of the Divine displeasure, with no reverence for the holy society into which they intruded themselves.
(a) It is not possible in this world entirely to separate the godly from the ungodly. It is impossible for ministers to read the hearts of men so surely as to keep a sharp line of distinction between believers and unbelievers. Yet the discipline of the Church ought to enforce a conformity to the terms of their profession.
(b) These seducers were unfit guests at a feast designed to commemorate the unity of the body of Christ and the brotherhood of all believers. "Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?"
3. They feasted themselves luxuriously, regardless of the poor. Their conduct reminds one of the shepherds of Israel. "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel, that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flock?" (Ezekiel 34:2).
(1) They feasted immoderately. "Their hearts were oppressed with surfeiting." Like the Israelites in their idolatry, "they sat down to eat and to drink" (Exodus 32:6).
(2) They wronged the poor, whom they suffered to fast while they were feasting.
II. THEIR EMPTINESS AND INSTABILITY. "Clouds without water, carried along by winds."
1. Instead of being like clouds dropping refreshing rain upon the earth, they, as rainless clouds, while promising much, were profitless and disappointing to the hopes of the Church. They could not give what they had not, but they professed to have something to give. Their deluded followers "spent their money for that which was not bread, and their labour for that which satisfied not." When people are athirst for God—" the heart punting for the water-brooks"—it is hard to find no water at hand to satisfy the soul. Yet the Lord says, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." It is a great sin to profess a goodness to which we are utterly opposed, because
(1) it profanes God's Name;
(2) it grieves the hearts of true saints;
(3) it hardens the wicked;
(4) it is utterly unprofitable to the empty professors themselves.
2. They were as unstable as clouds whirled every way by the wind.
(1) They were unstable in doctrine, carried about by every intellectual caprice, like those who halt between two opinions, and are not settled in the truths of religion. They were not "grounded and settled" because they were off the true Foundation (Jude 1:20).
(2) They were unstable in their affections, now fervent, now cold, "framing to themselves such a moderation as will just serve the scantling of the times."
(3) They were unstable in their practical conduct. At one time they were ascetic in their ideas; then self-indulgent, loose, evil. With all their changes they begin in the flesh and end in the flesh.
(4) Christians ought to be warned against unsteadfastness. They ought to continue in the things which they have learned (2 Timothy 3:14), and not to be "tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).
III. THEIR UTTER UNFRUITFULNESS. "Autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots." Saints arc fruit-bearing trees of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3). Where is an evident climax in this picture of the godless seducers. First, they are like autumn trees, which ought to be full of fruit, yet they are without fruit, like the barren fig tree; then they are utterly dead—dead in appearance and dead in reality; then they are like uprooted trees concerning which there can be no more hope of fruit. There is a logical as well as rhetorical fitness in the picture.
1. There was no fruit because there was no life in the tree. These godless persons were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:2).
2. This death implies ignorance, darkness, alienation from God.
3. The torn-up roots imply not only that there is no hope of growth, but that the world sees the secret rottenness that was at the root of such trees. They will never again be taken for fruit-bearers. "From them who had not, even that which they seemed to have is taken away" (Luke 8:18).
4. The picture before us is a solemn warning to believers.
(1) It is their duty to be spiritually fruitful (Philippians 1:11; John 15:2; Colossians 1:10).
(2) They must bring forth fruit at every season, even in old age (Psalms 92:12).
(3) Believers, therefore, ought to plant themselves by the rivers of water (Psalms 1:3).
(4) They ought to guard against apostasy. "Be not high-minded, but fear."
(5) They ought, therefore, to pray for the dews of God's blessing. He alone can give the increase.
IV. THEIR SHAMELESS AND TURBULENT TEMPER. "Wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame."
1. There was a restless agitation in their life. They were "like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isaiah 57:20). "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Their consciences were unquiet; they were fretful and arrogant; they troubled the peace of those Churches into which they crept, by their hard speeches, their obscene talking, their blasphemous suggestions.
2. As the wild waves lash themselves into foam, these seducers throw forth upon the world all the shamefulness that was buried in their wicked hearts. "Boldly belching out their abominable opinions and their detestable doctrines;" but, above all, giving a free outlet to all licentiousness. Evil things come forth from "the evil treasure of the heart."
3. It is the lot of the Church to live in the midst of these "raging waves" of wickedness and folly.
4. The Church is most districted by enemies within her communion.
5. The enemies of God proclaim their own shame, and bring confusion upon themselves.
6. The saints ought ever to pray that the peace of God may dwell in their hearts.
V. MISLEADING GUIDES AND THEIR FUTURE DESTINY. "Wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved for ever."
1. These seducers were like stars, conspicuous by their position and their exploits. They were false lights to mislead the people into error and destruction.
2. They were wandering stars,
(1) because they kept no certain course;
(2) because they blazed brightly for a moment, then went out in darkness.
3. They threw down no light upon the world lying in darkness and the region of death.
4. It is a fearful thing to seduce others from the way of truth. "They which lead thee cause thee to err" (Isaiah 3:12).
5. God shows great forbearance even to seducers. He "endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Romans 9:22).
6. Divine judgments are often in kind. The seducers who loved darkness rather than light will be plunged into still deeper darkness—"into the very blackness of darkness for ever."
7. Let believers be warned to seek the light—to walk in the light, to walk decently as in the day.—T.C.
Jude 1:14, Jude 1:15
An ancient prophecy of judgment against the wicked.
I. THE PROPHET. "And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied."
1. He was a preeminently holy man, who was translated to heaven without dying.
2. His descent is here mentioned,
(1) partly to indicate the antiquity of his prophecy, as going back to the first days of man on earth;
(2) partly to distinguish him from Enoch the son of Cain;
(3) partly also to show the zeal of Enoch against wickedness in those early times. He was the seventh from Adam, reckoning by generations.
II. HIS PROPHECY. It is the coming of Christ to judgment. "Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones." We have here the historic tense of prophecy.
1. The Lord comes from heaven. "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven" to judge the world.
2. It will be in the end of the world, in a day utterly unknown to man or angel.
3. He will be accompanied by ten thousands of his saints, who will sit with him as assessors (1 Corinthians 6:3). "The saints shall appear with him in glory." They are called his saints, because they are so by redemption and by service.
4. This second advent is to execute judgment and convict the ungodly.
(1) The last judgment is to be regarded as a matter of the greatest certainty.
(2) It is foolish to expect an escape from judgment through secrecy.
(3) Words will be judged as well as deeds. "All the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." Sinners reproach, mock, and condemn the just. The piety of the just does not exempt them from severe aspersions. Christ regards the words spoken against his disciples as spoken against himself.
(4) The judgment will take account of the manner or motive of transgression. "Works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought."
(a) The wicked devise mischief (Proverbs 6:14).
(b) They delight and take pleasure in it (Proverbs 10:30).
(c) They persist in transgression in the teeth of all warnings.
(d) Their sin does not spring from mere infirmity like the sin of the righteous.
(5) The true interest as well as the highest wisdom of the sinner is to make a friend of the Lord against the day of judgment.—T.C.
The cynical and dissatisfied temper of these self-indulgent flatteries.
I. THEY WERE LOUD IN THE EXPRESSION OF THEIR DISCONTENT, "These are murmurers, complainers." It was natural they should be so if they "walked after their own lusts," because these lusts were insatiable, and the means of their gratification were not always accessible.
1. The habit of murmuring argues unbelief and distrust in the Lord. When men can say, "The Lord is my Portion," they will be likely to add, "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places." (Psalms 16:5, Psalms 16:6). No fullness of earthly blessing can still the complaints of an unbelieving heart. The lesson of contentment is not to be learnt in the school of great prosperity.
2. It argues unthankfulness. The humble believer, as he receives his blessings, says, "I am less than the least of thy mercies."
3. It argues a high estimate of the murmurer's worth. "He counts God a hard master and himself a good servant." He seems to say, too, that if he had the ordering of human destiny, he could dispose it to better account.
4. The lesson for murmurers is that their habit
(1) cannot relieve or benefit them,
(2) but rather fills their life with still deeper anxiety and unrest.
5. The lesson for believers is
(1) to cultivate a contented mind (1 Timothy 6:8);
(2) to seek for submissiveness of heart;
(3) to be thankful that their lot is better than that of many others in the world.
II. THEY WERE SINFULLY SELF-INDULGENT. "Walking after their lusts."
1. The lusts of men are from within. "Out of the heart proceed" all evil things (Matthew 15:18). "The wars and the fightings" of life come of the lusts of men (James 4:1).
2. They are
(1) deceitful (Ephesians 4:22);
(2) entangling (2 Timothy 3:6);
(4) disquieting (2 Peter 2:11).
3. The course of the wicked is usually very persistent.
4. The servitude of the sinner to lust is miserable in its end. "The wages of sin is death."
III. THEY WERE GIVEN TO VAIN AND BOASTFUL EXAGGERATION. "And their month speaketh great swelling words." Either of themselves or others. The beast in the Apocalypse had a "mouth speaking great things" (Revelation 13:5).
1. None are so ready to boast of themselves as those possessing the least merit.
2. It is a folly to boast of ourselves. The Apostle Paul "became a fool in glorying" (2 Corinthians 12:11). "Let another man's lips praise thee, and not thine own." Our worth should commend us, not our words.
3. We should not allow swelling words to seduce us from the truth. There are those "who with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Peter 2:3), who "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Revelation 16:18).
IV. THEY WERE PARASITES AND FLATTERERS. "Showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage."
1. It is right to show respect to persons worthy of honour, but wrong to show respect to persons of evil character. It is wrong to "glory in men," but above all to "think of men above what is meet," and to be puffed up for one against another. We are not to have "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons" (James 2:1)—"when wickedness in robes is magnified, and holiness in rags is contemned." The Lord says, "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty" (Leviticus 19:15).
2. It is peculiarly base to act in this matter with a view to our personal advantage.
(1) It is sinful and hypocritical to flatter the wicked because they are great or powerful.
(2) We must learn to know the true glory of man, which is "the hidden man of the heart."—T.C.
Jude 1:17, Jude 1:18
A quotation from recent prophecies.
Jude then refers to the warnings of apostles respecting these scoffing sensualists. "But ye, beloved, remember ye the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I. CONFIRMATION OF HIS STATEMENTS BY THE AUTHORITY OF APOSTLES.
1. It is evident that Jude's Epistle was written subsequent, perhaps long subsequent, to the Epistles of Peter and Paul, to which he refers. These sensual seducers had time to develop their corruptions and their audacity of position.
2. Jude recognizes the Divine authority and inspiration of these earlier writings of Scripture.
3. He throws back the saints upon the recollection of Scripture as their only authoritative guide. There is no evidence that he refers here to any oral traditions.
4. Jude believes in the fact of prophetic illumination.
5. It is the duty of ministers to warn their people against a approaching evils.
6. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE PROPHETIC WARNING. "In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts." Note here the predicted appearance of wicked mockers.
1. They arise in "the last time." That is, in the period lying between the first and the second advents of Christ. They appear even under the purest dispensation of grace. The wicked are most wicked when grace is most abundant.
2. They are as wicked as they are scornful. Mockery is, indeed, a note of advanced corruption. Their mockeries are directed both against God and man. These mockers were probably those referred to by Peter as asking, "Where is the promise of his coming?'
(1) Mockery is essentially a profane act. It argues contempt of God's being as well as his attributes.
(2) It argues unbelief. It implies that God's threatenings are a fable.
(3) It is a barrier against the reception of good. "Rebuke a scorner, and he will hate thee"
(4) It is a from of persecution (Galatians 4:29).
(5) Great is the Divine forbearance with mockers.
(6) God will punish the mockers. He "scorneth the scorners" (Proverbs 3:34); and will "mock at their calamities" in the day of their judgment.
III. THE CONDUCT OF BELIEVERS IN THE PRESENCE OF MOCKERS.
1. We must bear mockings with patience, like our Lord, who "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2).
2. We must not render scoff for scoff, at the risk of hardening scoffers.
3. We must not allow scoffers to deter us from following the Lord fully.—T.C.
Application of the prophecy to the seducers of Jude's day.
Mark the threefold division of the verse.
I. THEY WERE SEPARATISTS. "These are they who make separations." Perhaps as "spiritual" persons, who regard things of sense as so indifferent that they may be enjoyed without risk to the soul.
1. Church divisions are usually grounded on separations from the Church's doctrine. Those who bring in "damnable heresies" "draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).
2. Separations may be justified by the Church's departure from the truth. This is the justification of Protestantism in withdrawing from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century.
3. Separations, originated by scoffing sensualists,
(1) have their origin in unbelief and pride;
(2) engender hatred;
(3) and end in the destruction of immortal souls.
II. THEY WERE SENSUAL. "Sensual."
1. Sensuality, or the idea of an enlarged liberty in sinful enjoyment, is often the motive of separations.
2. Corrupt affections blind the judgment and harden the conscience. Burns says that sensuality "hardens a' within." It turns Christianity into epicurism.
3. Sensuality destroys the soul eternally. "They who sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption" (Galatians 6:8). "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die," (Romans 8:13).
III. THEY ARE WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT. "Having not the Spirit."
1. Sanctity and sensuality cannot dwell together.
2. Those who want the Spirit are easily carried away into sensual sin. Therefore David prayed, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psalms 51:11).
3. Saints ought to seek the Spirit of holiness, love, meekness, and truth. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).—T.C.
Jude 1:20, Jude 1:21
Exhortation to the saints to build up their own spiritual life as the grand security against apostasy.
I. WORKING UPON THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH IS THE ONLY MEANS OF OUR SPIRITUAL SELF-PRESERVATION. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God."
1. The foundation. "Your most holy faith." This is faith objective, not subjective; the doctrine of faith rather than the grace of faith. It is true that Christ is our only Foundation, but he is so as revealed to faith, and he can only become so through faith. We build upon Christ by building upon his Word. We receive him as he is offered in the gospel.
(1) It is "your faith," because it is "delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:4); because the saints were "delivered into it" (Romans 7:5); because it was for the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9).
(2) It is "your most holy faith," because
(a) every word of God is pure;
(b) the covenant is holy;
(c) it works holiness in the heart and life (John 15:1-27.).
2. The building up upon this foundation.
(1) The saints are to build themselves up. This is addressed, not to sinners, but to saints who have been already placed upon the foundation. The counsel is the same as that of Philippians 2:12, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Jude writes to those who already possess the Spirit, through whom they already enjoy that inward and habitual grace which is to be used by believers according to their need and upon a sense of their deep responsibility. Yet believers are still in a true sense "God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10); and it is "the Lord who builds the house" (Psalms 127:1).
(2) The building implies a various and skilful use of the materials necessary to that end. Faith, love, hope, patience, watchfulness, knowledge, are to be the gold, silver, precious stones, built upon this broad foundation. We are to grow in grace, and grow up in Christ in all things, adding to faith all the virtues (2 Peter 1:5-7) and all the graces of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:23).
II. TRUE PRAYER THE ONLY MEANS OF BUILDING OURSELVES UP. "Praying in the Holy Spirit."
1. There is no prayer without the Spirit. (Romans 8:26.) The Spirit suggests the matter of prayer; without him "we know not what to pray for." He instructs us to ask for things according to God's will. The Spirit suggests the true manner of prayer.
(1) It must be "in sincerity and truth."
(2) In fervour: "With groanings."
(3) In faith: "Nothing wavering."
(4) In holiness; for the Spirit of supplication is always a Spirit of grace.
(5) In love; for we are to lift holy hands without wrath, and the Spirit makes us at peace with ourselves.
2. Without prayer a man shows himself to be destitute of the Spirit.
3. What a resource have the saints in the building up of their spiritual life!
III. THE SELF-PRESERVING END TOWARD WHICH ALL THIS SPIRITUAL EFFORT IS DIRECTED. "Keep yourselves in the love of God."
1. This is not our love to God, but God's love to us, in which we dwell as in a region of safety—"as in a watch-tower," says Calvin; for it is parallel to the saying of our Lord, "Abide ye in my love" (John 15:9). "How great," says Jenkyn, "how fall, a good is God!" In him is all fullness of grace, of joy, of safety, springing out of his infinite love. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).
2. Our preservation in the midst of heresy and impiety depends on our dwelling in God's love.
3. We cannot keep ourselves in God's love without having our own love deeply stirred. This breastplate of love will be a preservative against seduction (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
4. We ought continually to pray that the love of God may be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5.)
5. Saints ought ever to know and believe that love. (1 John 4:16.)
IV. THE EXPECTATION THAT IS LINKED TO THIS GUARDIANSHIP WITHIN THE SPHERE OF GOD'S LOVE. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
1. The object of this expectation.
(1) It is Christ's mercy, because:
(a) He procured it by his merit.
(b) He applied it to us by his Spirit.
(c) He holds out its crowning blessings in the future day of judgment: "Come, ye blessed of my Father." There is "a crown of righteousness in that day." He is "to present us faultless before the presence of glory" (Jude 1:24).
(d) There is no mercy apart from Christ.
2. The expectation itself. This implies
(1) a confident belief in the reality of this mercy;
(2) warm desire for it;
(3) patient waiting for it (Hebrews 6:12);
(4) a joyful foretaste of it (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 1:8);
(5) the love of his " appearance " (2 Timothy 4:8).
3. The final issue of the expected mercy. "Eternal life." This is the true life of man. In its final glory it implies the function of God's presence. Augustine says, "Heaven is a low thing without God." Our happiness finds its end in everlasting communion with God.
4. The effects which this expectation ought to exercise upon us. It ought
(1) to preserve us against error and sin;
(2) to quicken our zeal;
(3) to make us faithful in the discharge of all duty;
(4) to make us patient in the endurance of trial.—T.C.
Jude 1:22, Jude 1:23
Exhortation to faithful, but discriminating, dealing with three classes of transgressors.
I. THE LEAST HOPELESS CLASS—THE UNSTABLE AND DISPUTATIOUS. "And on some have mercy, who contend with you." We are to be compassionate towards errorists of this class.
1. Compassion becomes a Christian; for he ought to have the very bowels of Christ himself.
2. It is not to be denied to errorists of a certain class. They are entangled with doubts. Their very disputations imply that they are restless in mind. We are to restore the fallen in a spirit of meekness. "We live not among the perfect, but such as are subject to many slips." We have frequent need ourselves of God's pity and help.
3. Wisdom is needed in dealing with the fallen. Some will be won by love who will be repelled by severity. The persons in this first class may have fallen through infirmity, ignorance, or blinded zeal.
II. ANOTHER CLASS TO BE TREATED WITH A HOLY SEVERITY, "And some save, snatching them out of the fire."
1. This class is obdurate, presumptuous, and without shame. They have not known the bitterness of sin, and they are in great hazard.
2. The saints can, in a sense, save transgressors. "How knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:16); "Thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Timothy 4:16; see also James 5:20). Believers can rebuke sinners, plead with them, pray for them, and win them back to the gospel.
3. A holy severity is often needed in dealing with transgressors. "Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Sinners must be plucked violently from the fire. Our severity ought to have a saving motive: "Severity to sin being mercy to the soul;" "and a godly heart," as Jenkyn says, "would not have one threat the less in the Bible."
4. The wicked are fearless in sin, and regardless of its dread consequences. Yet
(1) those who are in the fire may be plucked out.
(2) The merriment of a sinner is madness. The fire of judgment is burning under his feet, and he knows it not.
III. THE MOST HOPELESS AND CORRUPT CLASS. Those to be saved by appeals to their fear. "And on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."
1. Such sinners need to be confronted with the terrors of the Law. A holy rigour is needful for corrupt and proud transgressors. None but fools hate reproof.
2. The saints ought, in dealing with them, to watch lest they should receive contamination.
(1) Sinners are very defiling in all the accessories of their life.
(2) Even the saints run risks of defilement.
(3) They must seek to avoid even the appearance of evil. They should pray to be "kept from the evil." They must seek to purge themselves from the vessels of dishonour (2 Timothy 2:21).—T.C.
Jude 1:24, Jude 1:25
I. THE PERSON TO WHOM PRAISE IS ASCRIBED. "Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
1. It is God our Saviour presented under a double aspect.
(1) As he who alone can keep us from stumbling or falling. The allusion is appropriate to an Epistle so full of warnings and denunciations and exhortations, and which began with an address to saints as those "preserved for Christ Jesus." We stand by faith, and we can only stand strong "in the Lord, and in the power of his might." "He that hath begun a good work in us will perform it till the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
(2) As he who will present us in final glory.
(a) "Without blemish;" for the Church will then be "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."
(b) "In exceeding joy," where there is fullness of joy; for he "who is self-sufficient, all-sufficient, must needs be soul-sufficient."
2. The final glory comes through Jesus Christ. The salvation, in its beginning, progress, and end, is the Lord's.
II. THE PRAISE ASCRIBED TO GOD. "Be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen." These men who despised dominion, and spoke evil of dignities, are told that all dominion and glory belonged to God ages before they were born, as they do still in the ages of time, and will do for ever through eternity, Mark the threefold phrase for "eternity," as if to carry the threefold idea of everything out to the very end.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY J.S. BRIGHT
Christian cooperation desired in the defense of the gospel
The believers to whom Jude wrote were "called" by an external and spiritual power into the fellowship of the Church; had been "preserved" from the gross evils and corruptions which sprang up in those early days, and "sanctified by God the Father," and made partakers of his holiness. As he claims their service in the preservation of the faith he implores "mercy" that they may be enabled to help, "peace" of mind amid the earnestness of their contention for the truth, and "love" that the thought of the Divine love to them might influence them to speak the "truth in love" to others.
I. THE SPIRITUAL ESTIMATE OF THE WORK OF SALVATION. Natural men pass it by with indifference; and, if they regard it, object to its claims, its doctrines, and its pursuits. Jude, James, and those who were "called," knew that it was the highest and most precious gift of God. It was his Divine idea; "for of him are all things." It was the result of a marvelous preparation, and was accomplished by the holy sacrifice of our Lord on "the accursed tree." It is applied by the eternal Spirit, and secures forgiveness, imparts power to appropriate good from all agencies, objects, and conditions; and prepares for eternal glory. It saves from the waste of our life, our labour, own influence, and property; and makes the future one of gracious recompense and unfailing reward. Many things in the world engage the affections and tax the energies of mankind, among which are to be found the allurements of pleasure, the attractions of power, and the possession of gold; but these, when viewed in the clear and heavenly light of Divine instruction, appear as the light dust of the balance, and unworthy of our highest love and our most ardent pursuit. Whatever difference may be found in place of abode, and diversity of forms of worship, an exalted estimate of the gospel is the broad and universal mark of the Church of Christ. As believers understand the worth of the "faith once delivered to the saints," they are required to watch over its purity, and by their steady profession of obedience to the Saviour, by the fervour of their prayers, and by their seasonable advocacy of the gospel, are to contend for its preservation from mutilation and injury.
II. THE UNIVERSAL ASPECT AND FINAL CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL JUSTIFY ENDEAVOUR TO PRESERVE IT UNIMPAIRED. This inspired writer was a Jew, and all the apostles of Christ were of the stock of Abraham, and had been trained up in a system of local sacrifice and national privilege. This state of things made many of their countrymen narrow and exclusive, and disposed to look upon other nations with the spirit of dislike and even of contempt. When our Lord came he foretold the extension of grace to the Gentiles, and said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." His followers received his Spirit, and found that, "where the Spirit of the Lord was there was liberty." "The middle wall of partition was thrown down," and now by one Spirit Jew and Gentile have "access to the Father." It was the "common salvation," and, with all its Divine blessings and extraordinary privileges, offered to men of every clime and tongue, that they might be fellow-heirs with believers who, according to the flesh, descended from Abraham, the father of the faithful It was a system of grace which was the last and abiding revelation of the will of God for the salvation of mankind. There had been vast and long-continued processes of gradual discovery to patriarchs, prophets, and psalmists; foreshadowings in the ceremonial law, and typical service of the temple; continuous and far-reaching movements of providence; and all these were designed to prepare the way of the Lord, and herald his approach, who is "the End of the Law for righteousness." Previous institutions were to give way and be shaken, that those things which "cannot be shaken may remain." The kingdom of Christ cannot be moved; and the truths which concern it are given once for all. None can add to them or take from them without being guilty of presumption and unfaithfulness. They are committed to the saints, who are bound by loyalty to Christ their King; and by a desire to promote the good of others to guard the sacred and invaluable deposit.
II. THE GRAVE AND URGENT REASONS FOR SPIRITUAL VIGILANCE AND COURAGE, Jude does not allude to any persecution outside the Church which demanded steadfastness and decision; but he points to those adversaries who with policy and cunning climbed up some other way, and were dangerous because their corruption of Christian doctrine and of personal conduct proved them to be enemies of the cross of Christ. They proved the truth of Cowper's lines—
"Errors in life breed errors in the brain,
And these reciprocally those again."
These men entered into the Church, as the serpent into Paradise, to tempt and seduce believers from the truth. They were the apostles of Satan, and turned the glorious grace of the gospel, which was given to deliver from sin, into indulgence in sensual pleasure, and thereby turned the clemency of God into a motive to further and more frequent rebellion against him. It was a heavy charge against Israel that "she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal" (Hosea 2:8). If Jehovah was righteously angry at such perversion of temporal gifts, how much more must he be offended by the profanation of his gospel to purposes of selfish indulgence! By the ministry of Jude he calls them to share in his righteous displeasure against sin. To add to their transgressions and misbelief, these offenders denied the right of Jesus Christ to control and shape their life and conduct. He died that, "whether we live, we are to bye to the Lord; or whether we die, we are to die to the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." These views were not innocent as differences about meats; but they affected the very spirit and object of the gospel; and, therefore, required of believers their most zealous concern for those things which were the means of their salvation and the basis of their hopes of eternal life. Characters of the description here introduced were already condemned by the voice of God; and whatever their smooth and deceitful policy, whatever reluctance to censure these Christians might feel, they were, since such solemn interests were in jeopardy, to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints."—J.S.B.
Here are reasons for resisting evil men drawn from examples of the Divine anger against others.
As a scribe well-instructed, Jude brings from the treasures of Old Testament truth suitable illustrations to inspire believers with becoming earnestness in the work of defending the purity of the Church, and the completeness of Christian doctrine. They are reminded that no special relation to Jehovah—like that which subsisted between Israel and their Redeemer from the slavery of Egypt—will avail to protect men from the penalties of disobedience; and therefore many who had been delivered by miracle and by the mighty power of God were overthrown in the wilderness. There is a higher illustration adduced, which affirms that no dignity of nature such as the angels possessed, and no past perfection of adoration and service, will screen offenders from merited punishment. The "first estate" of the angels was one of splendour—ample knowledge drawn from the unclouded revelation of God, and blessedness of emotion; but the awful righteousness of the eternal throne cast them into outer darkness, and reserves them for future condemnation and shame. The last example is drawn from the wide and hateful corruption of those who dwelt in one of the fairest and most fruitful regions of ancient Canaan. The spot, which was well watered and like the garden of the Lord, was defiled by man, whose sin drew down the flames of the Divine anger, which turned the region into desolation and made it permanent witness for the hatred of God against iniquity. Such demonstrations of the mind of Jehovah respecting sinners and their punishment should create in believers definite impressions of the evil of disobedience, and a determination, by Christian methods, to denounce it wherever they find it active, and endeavour to check and restrain its spread and influence.
I. IT INVITES US TO CONSIDER THE SHAMEFUL MISUSE OF KNOWLEDGE AND SPEECH. These men who crept into the Church appear to have revealed the corruption of their nature during the hours of sleep—since they were the same wicked offenders as when they were full of activity during the day, and their nature, like the "troubled sea, cast forth mire and dirt." With this sad feature of their life there was connected the spirit of contempt for magistracy and the powers that were "ordained of God." To condemn this spirit of scorn and derision a fact is introduced which shows the spirit of reverence which obtains in heaven. Michael the archangel, one of the most lofty and noble among the "principalities and powers," is brought to oppose and turn aside the accusations of Satan, who is a fallen and lying spirit, and is eager, agreeably to the vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 3:2) to urge the destruction of Israel, whose plight is represented by the high priest clothed in filthy garments. The Jews restored from captivity are like a half-consumed brand or branch; and Satan, as a murderer, desires the annihilation of the tribes of Israel. He is rebuked with calm dignity, when Michael might have overpowered him with terrific and well-deserved upbraidings. The evil users of their speech and knowledge are condemned because they presumptuously venture to speak scornfully of Divine things, which, as "natural men," they cannot understand; and whereas the light and instincts of nature should guide to certain lines of conduct, even there they grossly abuse and pervert their faculties and powers to dishonourable indulgence. These facts show the deplorable activity of sin, and should awaken the prayer for that preservation from the evil of the world, which is impressively suggested in the intercessory petitions offered by our Lord just before his sufferings and death.
II. THE FEARFUL PORTRAIT WHICH JUDE PRESENTS OF THESE TRANSGRESSORS AND THEIR FINAL CONDEMNATION BY THE LORD JESUS AT HIS APPEARING. They are described as murmurers and complainers against the methods of providence—the rulers of countries and the claims of the gospel. They have men's persons in admiration; as Tertulius complimented Felix, who was a cruel governor, to prejudice his mind against Paul (Acts 24:2, Acts 24:3), by means of "great swelling words." These offenders followed Cain in his unacceptable worship, in which there was no sacrifice of a victim, no contrition of spirit, and no prayer for mercy. They imitated the temper of Balaam, who for gain would have injured the tribes of Israel; and in the way of ambition rose up, as Korah and his company, against the solemn appointments of the Aaronic family to serve at the altar. In the agape, or love-feast, they act as rocks at sea, upon which the ship is driven and wrecked. They are shepherds who feed themselves without restraint; clouds that promise rain, and yet distil no moisture on the thirsty soil; trees which bear no fruit; and wandering stars which guide no traveler; and hasten to deserved and eternal darkness. The ancient 'Book of Enoch' foretells their certain and inevitable doom. The Son of God—who in his own character, and in the treatment of his people, who are members of his mystical body, has endured reproach, accusation, and calumny—will come to be glorified in his saints, and take vengeance upon them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel, of which he is the Center and the Glory. In view of the vast corruption of these men, and the fearful prospects which await them, the allusion to believers being "preserved in Christ Jesus" acquires a power and depth of meaning which could scarcely fail to awaken the ardours of gratitude to him who had kept them in times of fiery temptation.—J.S.B.
Believers urged to remember the prophecies of the apostles, and to note their fulfillment.
Jude acknowledges the truth that the apostles spake under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as really as Isaiah and Jeremiah; and their predictions of the working of Satan and his servants were delivered partly by word of mouth, and partly by writings addressed to the Churches, and to evangelists like Timothy. Paul affirms that there would be many whose characters resembled those described in this Epistle (see 2 Timothy 3:1-6). These offenders would "mock" sacred things and sacred persons; and in the spirit of scorn would exclude themselves from saving knowledge, and repeat the experience of Herod, before whom the Son of God would work no miracle and utter no word; no, not even of reproof. The life of these men would be impure, their spirit factious and schismatic; and they would prove that they were in their natural state—for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh"—and were therefore deprived of the life-giving and purifying presence of the Divine Spirit. These believers were to observe the inspired predictions of the apostles; and then mark how the prophecy corresponded with the facts. If they remembered these things they would find their memory a means of grace, and, instead of being shaken in mind, they might from these sad examples draw reasons for firmer faith and more steady profession of the gospel.
Here we have SPECIAL DUTIES AND PRIVILEGES OF BELIEVERS ASSOCIATED WITH THE OFFICES AND GRACE OF THE HOLY TRINITY. They are first encouraged to pursue the work of building up their spiritual life and character, which assumes that a foundation has been laid by faith in Christ; and that the fabric is to be carried up, by the addition of similar materials, to visibility and permanence. To realize this blessing there must be prayer in association with the help of the Divine Spirit, who will unfold the work of new covenant blessings, and prompt the suppliant to seek the "fruits of the Spirit" in all their variety and inexpressible value. Christians are then exhorted to keep themselves in the circle of the Father's love, that they may realize all the benefits of adoption, and maintain a becoming confidence in the aim of all his discipline which is to prepare them for eternal life. However diversified his methods may be, his purpose is unchangeable and gracious; obedience to his will is the way to rest in his love, and to be in the way of his gracious manifestations to his children. All these counsels are concluded by an exhortation to look for eternal life through Christ. His mercy begins this spiritual life—and the same mercy is seen in patience with our slowness—the revival and strengthening of spiritual convictions, and supplies of Divine grace. The Lord Jesus often directed the minds of his disciples to the future life, in which would be found the consummation of his purposes in the peace, security, joy, and perfection of his followers. The completeness of these counsels is worth our observation. The greatness of the work of edification leads to prayer in the Spirit. Prayer in the Spirit will conduce to growing impressions of the Father's love; and all will tend to promote anticipation and desire of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.—J.S.B.
Jude 1:22, Jude 1:23
Believers who enjoy the blessing of mercy from Christ, are required to show mercy to others.
It is probable that there were many in the circle of the Church whose spiritual condition required judicious and compassionate treatment; and all who were strong in faith were here, as in many other parts of the New Testament, counseled to help and restore others to peace and spiritual strength. There must be merciful consideration of such as are perplexed with doubts and anxieties; for, according to the original, the phrase, "making a difference," seems to refer to such as were troubled by a scrupulous conscience. To such Paul refers when be writes, "But him that is weak in the faith receive ye, yet not to doubtful disputations." Others are to be snatched like a half-burnt brand from the fire, lest they be entirely lost by being "swallowed up with overmuch grief;" or some earnest cautions were to be given to those who stood in great moral peril; or by agonizing prayer a soul might be saved from spiritual death. Spiritual caution was necessary in some special cases, since mercy was to be exercised with "fear" lest the taint of fleshly evil should defile those who treated them for the purposes of penitence and restoration. The garment which must be touched must be hated, while the sinner was pitied and forgiven. These thoughts remind us of the responsibility of the Christian's state, and the obligation which lies upon him to diffuse blessings around him. He will not be inattentive to the claims of others, and will not walk in the way of Cain, who said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" If the scrupulous, the erring, and those who are in moral danger, are neglected by the followers of Christ, how can they be warned, restored, and strengthened?—J.S.B.
Jude 1:24, Jude 1:25
The sublime character of Christian prayer
it is permitted us to pray for temporal supplies and all things which are necessary for the life of the body; but the general current of petitions recorded in the New Testament has regard to the worth of spiritual advantages, and the enduring blessedness of the life to come. Jude teaches us to pray for ourselves and for others, that when our Lord shall appear the second time there may be acceptance and welcome. It is an immense privilege to be kept "from falling" or stumbling, from the prevalence of doubts, trust in ceremonies, and from being surprised by grievous sins. This precious safety must flow from him who has power over the external conditions of our life, and over the inward processes of thought and meditation, and can strengthen us by his Spirit "in the inner man." The desire expressed by Jude includes the continuance and completeness of the process of sanctification; the attainment, through the mighty power of Christ, of a glorified body on the day of the resurrection; and entrance into the inheritance of the saints in light. Notice—
I. THE WISDOM OF SOLICITING THE COOPERATION OF DIVINE POWER TO ESTABLISH AND PRESERVE CHRISTIAN WORK. It is instructive to observe the pains and care with which inspired apostles marshaled their arguments when they wrote to the Churches. It is impossible not to admire the fervour and urgency with which they exhort believers to avoid inconstancy, worldliness, and evil associations; and at the same time, they wisely introduce promises, encouragements, and cheering prospects to prompt them to make their "calling and election sure." They then supplicate grace to give effect to their work, and to fulfill the desire of their hearts. The seed which is sown needs the rain and sunshine of heaven to make it prosper, that he who has sown in tears may come back "with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." This truth is illustrated by a very cheering passage which describes the happy experience of Paul and Apollos, in which we find the zeal and power of the apostle of the Gentiles, and the learning and eloquence of Apollos, applied to the work of the ministry, and the happy success with which the Divine blessing crowned their labours; for said Paul, "I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6).
II. THE HAPPINESS OF CONCLUDING OUR WORK WITH GRATITUDE TO THE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD. Jude reached the close of the Epistle with the conviction that the Divine love seen in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should awaken feelings of fervent thanksgiving. The Father is the Fountain of salvation; the Son, the Medium of grace to us, and the Way of our approach to God; the Holy Spirit enables us to realize and enjoy the blessings of the covenant of grace. It is right to ascribe to God the "glory," which is the manifestation of his excellence in the past, the present, and wondrous future; "majesty," which consists in royal state; "dominion," which is supreme over all things and beings; "power," whereby he can realize the counsels of his own will, and his right to our eternal adoration and service. Such is the close of the Epistle, and such should be the close of our life-work. In this way David ended his career, and said, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as Head above all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious Name" (1 Chronicles 29:11-13). Amen.—J.S.B.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
(1) Writer. "Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." The first designation of Jude points to his being a minister of the gospel. The second designation points to him as not so well known as his brother James. He does not take the designation of "apostle;" and this is in favour of his being brother of the James who was so well known as head of the Church in Jerusalem, and therefore also brother of the Lord. Obtrusiveness cannot be charged against Jude. He professes to write as the Lord's servant, not as the Lord's brother; and when he does bring in natural relationship it is not to the Lord, but to James.
(2) Readers. "To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ." There is no indication given of locality. The first designation (to follow the order in the original) points to the overflowing of love on them as belonging to the family of God. The second designation points to watch being kept over them for Jesus Christ who is to have satisfaction in their destiny. The third designation, following on the other two, points to their having been effectually brought within the family circle of God and its privileges.
2. Salutation. "Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied." The first word of salutation points to their being regarded under troublous conditions. The second word of salutation points to their enjoyment of the Divine protection. The third word of salutation points to their being (generally) delighted in by God. This Divine blessing is already realized: let it be realized a hundredfold.
II. THE LETTER.
(1) His original purpose. "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation." Jude was busily engaged in the collection of materials for a treatise, which, if we may judge from this fragment, would have been masterly. It did not seem good to the Spirit to give more than the title of the contemplated treatise, which is very suggestive, viz. "Our common salvation." It is a salvation which was wrought out for men simply as sinners. Respect was had to the universal fact of sin. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." When men had common implication in sin, and could do nothing for themselves, God in Christ wrought out for them a common salvation. It is a salvation which is enjoyed simply on the condition of faith. There is not the test of social condition, nor the test of race, but the test of that disposition which is called faith. All who humble themselves as sinners, and accept of what has been wrought out for them by Christ, are saved.
(2) His purpose as changed. "I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." His purpose was changed by a necessity arising before its full accomplishment, on which light is thrown in the next verse; but it was not entirely changed. His changed purpose related to the faith, i.e., contents of the faith, which were essentially these—that for human salvation the Son of God became incarnate, that in human nature he endured the full desert of sin, that in enduring the full desert of sin he emitted a protest against sin as what was not to be permitted with impunity under the government of God. This faith was delivered unto the saints, i.e., Christians (one and all of them), of whom, in accordance with the faith, holiness is expected. It was delivered once for all, i.e., so as to admit of elucidation, but not of addition (by deliverances from age to age). The faith is the same for Christians of all generations. Jude's purpose with reference to the common faith, which otherwise might have been distinctively expository, became distinctively hortatory. The common faith carried with it a common obligation, viz. to fight in its defense. In penning this Epistle, Jude was an earnest combatant. But the obligation was not confined to him. He wished his readers also to feel the obligation of defending as they could the faith—preserving from all attenuation or disparagement the entrance of the Son of God into our nature, his satisfaction for sin, his emphatic protest against the indifference of sin.
2. Occasion. "For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old set forth unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Jude's alarm was occasioned by the presence of intruders in the Christian fold. These crept in privily—literally, "entered in aside from," i.e., did not enter in by the door. They are described indefinitely as certain men, being not definitely, or all of them, false teachers. They fell back on false ideas, but more in the way of justifying their immoral conduct. Jude puts to the front their condemnation, which he is to announce, and also (as he is to show) their being of old set forth unto this condemnation as being men of a certain character which is described. They were ungodly men, i.e., they wanted especially reverence toward God (want of right feeling toward God being founded on an unworthy conception of God). To the adopted into the family of God the grace of our God is most sacred; but these treated it irreverently, turning freedom from the condemning power of the Law into freedom from the regulative power of the Law. Especially was their antinomianism associated with lasciviousness. The adopted into the family of God acknowledge Jesus Christ as their only Master and Lord, i.e., as having alone power to sway and direct them; these are antichristian, in refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as having the sole swaying and directing of them.
III. THREE EXAMPLES OF JUDGMENT.
1. The people redeemed from Egyptian bondage. "Now I desire to put you in remembrance, though ye know all things once for all, how that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." They had got once for all in the knowledge of Christ the key to the interpretation of all things; he might therefore have left them to find out examples for themselves. He would only put them in mind of a few. He takes his first example from the generation of Israel that came out of Egypt. The Lord stood forth a first time, and it was to save a people. He stood forth a second time (this is the literal rendering of the word which is translated "afterward"), and it was not to save, but to destroy. It might have been expected that the generation who had seen the great works of the Lord in Egypt, for whom the Red Sea was parted, would have believed; yet this was the generation that perished in the wilderness for their unbelief. If the Lord works deliverance for us, it is that we may believe; if we show a disregard of the Divine works, an insensibility to their importance, we can only expect that the Lord will stand forth some day when we may not be thinking of it, and this time not to deliver, but to destroy, so that we never reach the heavenly Canaan.
2. The angels that appreciated not their rule and their abode. "And angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness until the judgment of the great day." We are here given to understand that these angels had their own rule, i.e., under God, and their own habitation, i.e., a place in heaven. Their rule, though necessarily circumscribed in comparison with Divine rule, was important in ways that we cannot clearly define; their habitation was light and peace and joy. It might have been expected that they would have been content with what they possessed; but no; there was something else which appeared more desirable to them, and for it they kept not their own principality, but left their own habitation. And what an irony in the exchange they made! Instead of keeping power, they were kept in bonds. Instead of having an abode of light, they were kept under darkness. They are to be kept in everlasting bonds (" everlasting" having here a limited sense) until the judgment of the great day, when their false preference is to be adjudicated on. If we appreciate not the position of influence God means us to fill, and the light and happiness he would appoint for us on earth, but prefer something else, there are certainly bonds and darkness for us until the great assize.
3. Sodom and Gomorrah. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire." The inhabitants of these cities gave themselves over to fornication, and went after strange flesh, i.e., other than human. They did this in like manner with the angels, there being an unnaturalness in the sin of the angels, but not the same unnaturalness. Their abominations did not escape the notice of God; they suffered for them the punishment of fire. The fire is regarded as eternal, inasmuch as its consequences remain. The Dead Sea covers the sites of those cities. It is said in Jude 1:4, "They who were of old set forth unto this condemnation;" or it is said here "are set forth as an example." We are intended to learn from the inhabitants of those old cities, or from the buried cities themselves. If we give ourselves up to forbidden pleasures, will not the judgment-day bring punishment as of eternal fire?
IV. Two CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INTRUDERS. "Yet in like manner those also in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at naught dominion, and rail at dignities." Their first characteristic was defiling the flesh (corresponding to "lasciviousness" in Jude 1:4). They did this in like manner with the inhabitants of the cities of the plain, by whose fate they were not warned. Their second characteristic was setting at naught dominion and railing at dignities (corresponding to "denying our only Master and Lord" in Jude 1:4). They did this in like manner with the Israelites who believed not, and with the angels who valued not their rule and their habitation. Lordship over them (in Christ) they despised; dignities (belonging to the heavenly world) they railed at. They did this when they should have been warned by the judgments on Israel and on the angels. Both these characteristics were displayed by them in their dreamings, i.e., "in the arbitrary fancies of their own perverted sense, which rendered them deaf to the truths and warnings of the Divine Word."
V. THEIR CONDUCT CONTRASTED WITH THAT OF MICHAEL.
1. Michael. "But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." "And the Lord buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day." There was a Jewish tradition that the grave of Moses was given to the special custody of Michael. There seems also to have been a tradition (which cannot be traced) of a dispute which Michael had about the body of Moses. That the dispute was matter of fact is here certified. It throws light both on the importance of Moses and on the spirit of Michael. Of so much importance was Moses to the Israelites that there was danger of their worshipping him after his death. His body was therefore put beyond their search, and placed under the care of Michael. The devil, assuming a claim to the body as death's prey, sought to get it back for the enticement of the Israelites. Michael, contending with him in defense of his charge, was indignant at the attempt to thwart the Divine purpose; but he did not allow himself to be abusive in his condemnation. Having respect to his adversary's original dignity, he simply said, "The Lord rebuke thee." The same language was used when an attempt was made to stop the building of the temple. Satan is represented as at the right hand of Joshua, the high priest, in the act of resisting him. The Lord (as Joshua's defender) said unto Satan, "The Lord rebuke thee."
2. Contrast. "But these rail at whatsoever things they know not: and what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things are they destroyed." In contrast with Michael, these had no proper knowledge of the heavenly dignities that they railed at (of the nature and position given by God); there was a brutish kind of knowledge in which they were well advanced to their destruction.
VI. DENUNCIATION OF THEM BASED ON AFFINITIES TO EVIL MEN. "Woe unto them! for they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah." Jude, at this stage, becomes so impassioned that he regards the woe he pronounces on these men as already carried out. When Cain would not listen to the Divine remonstrance, but went on his willful way, and was punished by being made a fugitive and a vagabond, they were made fugitives and vagabonds with him. When Salaam was told not to go and curse Israel, but was swayed into a precipitous course by Balak's tempting offer, they were infatuated with him. When Korah set himself against the Divine appointment of Moses and Aaron, and was swallowed up alive, they perished with him.
VII. DESCRIPTION OF THEM BY ASSOCIATION WITH CERTAIN NATURAL OBJECTS.
1. Rocks. "These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you, shepherds that without fear feed themselves." In the same impassioned tone Jude seizes upon natural objects to describe them. First of all he calls them "hidden rocks" (which is the right translation). When he contemplates them as "hidden rocks is at the love-feasts. It was the fact of their being hidden in their true characters that led to their having a place at the love-feasts. It was also the fact of their being hidden that made them so dangerous there, as it is the rock that is just covered with water that is so dangerous to vessels. It is wrong and confusing to bring in "shepherds." All that is conveyed is that, with the characters they had, they should have been afraid to present themselves at the love-feasts; but instead of that, they feasted themselves at their pleasure. It was their want of moderation that was dangerous by way of example to others.
2. Clouds. "Clouds without water, carried along by winds." In seasons of drought clouds sometimes appear in the sky that hold out the promise of rain to those who have been long and anxiously looking for it; but they are only a deception—they have no rain in them to give out, and are carried past by the winds. So the men of whom Jude writes held out the promise of being a blessing especially to the Christian society, but they were only a deception, having no spiritual influences in them to give forth to any.
3. Trees. "Autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots." In autumn fruit is expected on trees, but we have here autumn trees without fruit, and incapable of bearing fruit in the future, for they are dead, and twice dead, not only dead with their roots in the ground, but dead with their roots plucked up. So the men of whom Jude writes were not only destitute of good works, but incapable of ever producing them, being "rooted out of the soil of grace."
4. Waves. "Wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame." "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." There are those who are not only sinners, but sinners without the restraints that many put upon themselves in sinning, i.e., wicked. They are restlessly active in sinning; and what they do in their restlessness is to bring up the moral filth that has collected in them. It is these that Jude pictures here.
5. Stars. "Wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved for ever." We are to think of comets, whose course strikes us as erratic, and that, after shining for a time, are lost in the darkness. So there are those who are really out of the course appointed for them, but call forth the admiration of man for a time; their erratic course, however brilliant, can only end in their passing into the blackness of darkness for ever. This is the startling image with which Jude reaches a climax.
VIII. PROPHECY OF ENOCH.
1. Enoch. "And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied." This is a new association with Enoch. We think of the godly humility of his walk, and of his being one of two rewarded with a translation; but it is only here that Scripture ascribes to him the prophetic gift. We do not wonder at his singular sanctity being accompanied with inspiration. He is here called the seventh from Adam, to mark the ancient date of his prophecy. For Jude, having referred to "these" men as having been of old set forth to their condemnation, and having brought forward many ancient examples, is now able to bring forward a distinct prophecy having a bearing on them (though not on them exclusively) of the most ancient date. The remarkable thing is that the prophecy (substantially) is found in the apocryphal 'Book of Enoch,' with which Jude seems to have been acquainted. The likelihood is that it found its way into that book from tradition. Jude did not avoid tradition (with regard to Michael as well as with regard to Enoch), rather took to tradition as that which was familiar to his readers, and what he did with it as an inspired man was to give it a pure, authentic form. We are thus indebted to him for the transmission of two important traditions, without the uncertainty that attaches to other Jewish traditions.
2. Contents of the prophecy. "Saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." To Adam was made an announcement of redemption; it is a significant fact that "the seventh from Adam" was able to make as clear an announcement of judgment. He announces the event as though it had taken place, and he was, after the event, narrating what he had seen. It was an event that was fitted to fill with astonishment. The Lord came, i.e., from heaven to earth. He came with a brilliant retinue, viz. "ten thousands of his holy ones" (apparently the angels) he came to execute judgment, which is the very language Christ uses of what was assigned him by the Father (John 5:27). He came to execute judgment upon all, i.e., both godly and ungodly. He came to convict, i.e., bring home guilt to all included in the latter class (therefore in Jude's time too), both for their works and for their speeches. "A corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit"' The ungodly had their works of ungodliness which they had ungodly wrought. The ungodly sinners had their hard speeches which they had spoken against the Lord. Five times is the thought of ungodliness brought in. We may account for it by the strong impression Enoch had of the ungodliness that was around him. Men were working works as though they were never to be brought into judgment for them. God they thought of only to utter hard things against him who was Infinite and Essential Reasonableness and Tenderness. When brooding over the ungodliness of his day, Enoch was moved to predict, in rhythmic form, a coming, world-wide judgment.
3. Application of the prophecy. "These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their lusts (and their mouth speaketh great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage." These are hard speakers against the Lord, especially in regard to their lot, They are murmurers, complainers of their lot—which is connected with their lusts (not God-governed desires), which are not easily satisfied. And, in murmuring and complaining, "their mouth speaketh great swelling words;" they reflect on God for not making their lot better, they seek to impress men with the great things they are entitled to. While thus they exalt themselves, they can demean themselves far enough in fawning upon persons from whom they hope to obtain an advantage.
IX. APOSTOLIC TEACHING.
1. Its contents. "But ye, beloved, remember ye the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they said to you, In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts." The prophecy of Enoch was of most ancient date; he now refers his readers to what was within their own recollection. They had not heard our Lord Jesus Christ; but they had heard his apostles. They were thus very near the highest source. Those apostles spoke of the last time, i.e., the period immediately preceding the completion of the kingdom of God. They spoke of mockers then. Of all classes of men these are the worst. They are not satisfied with ignoring holy things—they turn them into ridicule. They are represented by the free-thinkers of the present day, who are increasingly aggressive. There is this to be said that where there is an earnest Christianity, dislike of it takes the form of mocking. In the last time there will be an earnest Christianity such as we have not yet seen; and we may also expect that infidelity will then be most bitter when its utter defeat is near. We have the authority of the apostles here for saying that infidelity and libertinism go together. Mockers, they say, "walking after their own lusts of ungodliness." The explanation of the infidelity of many is their dislike of godly restraints.
2. Its application. "These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit." It is very difficult to fix the meaning of the first part of this description. It is against the old translation, "they who separate themselves," that the men in question were present at the love-feasts. Neither does it appear that they were connected with a Christian society to "make separations," as the Revised translation bears. The idea of mocking is not lost sight of, as appears from the following verse. But, as if mocking were already asserted of these men, the thought proceeds, "These mockers are they." What, then, are we to make of the word which has given so much trouble? Taking the literal meaning to be "to put the limit away from," we would translate, "they who take excess of liberty." This is in accordance with the second idea in the apostolic saying. There is an easy transition then to "psychical." "The 'psychical' of Scripture are those in whom the spirit, as the organ of the Divine Spirit, is suppressed, dormant, for the time as good as extinct; whom the operations of the Divine Spirit have never lifted into the region of spiritual things" (Trench). Hence it is added, "having not the Spirit." These mockers make their own bounds, because under natural impulses instead of the Spirit's influences.
X. EXHORTATION TO READERS REGARDING THEMSELVES,
1. Connection of life with faith. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith." There is a couplet which is taken to convey this meaning—that one mode of faith is just as good as another.
"For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
His can't be wrong, whose life is in the right."
It is true that his mode of faith can't be wrong, whose life is in the right; but it is also true that his life can't be in the right, whose mode of faith is wrong. What we believe is the foundation; what we build on it is our life. This is in the line of Jude's thought. He has characterized mockers as libertines. And, having recorded this charge against the infidels or scoffers of his day (even within the pale of the Church), he turns to his own true brethren in the faith, and says to them, addressing them by an endearing title, "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith." As if he said, "Ye have a most holy faith, let your life (to correspond with it) also be most holy." "Faith here is equivalent to the Object of faith. We do not build upon our act of faith; that is the heresy of building on ourselves. We build on the Object of our faith. Now, the great Object of our faith is God. We believe in God—that is the first article of our creed. We are theists, and not atheists. But more definitely we are Christian believers—we believe in a God identified with the Christian manifestation. We believe in a God to whom sin was so heinous that nothing but the blood of his incarnate Son could suffice to take it away. Should there not, then, be an awful sanctity about our life? It should be far removed from that of infidels, who have no object of faith to elevate them; and from that of pagans, who have an unholy faith; and from that of Romanists, whose faith is to a great extent nullified by such excesses as indulgences and purgatory; and from that of rationalists, who think of sin being taken away without satisfaction being made for it. What we count an immeasurable advantage in our creed should be turned into a corresponding advantage in our life. But is it not sometimes as though we did not believe our creed? Is there not a vast discrepancy between our life and the embodiment of our creed in the life of Christ? Let us listen, then, to the exhortation of this servant of Christ, and advocate of consistency.
2. Recognition of the Trinity in connection with our life. We believe, we have said, in God; we believe also in the Three Persons of the Godhead—in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We are to build upon the Three Persons, though in different ways. "Praying in the Holy Spirit." Under the dispensation of the Spirit, we must not forget the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is here placed first, and in connection with prayer. In a good life we must give the first place to prayer. It qualifies us for receiving the bounties of Providence, puts us into working order, arms us against temptation. But prayer, to do this, must be prayer in the Holy Spirit. How can we wrestle with God in our own might? How can we have the right desires from ourselves? It is only when we pray in the might of the Holy Spirit, who is promised to help our infirmities and to teach us how we ought to pray, that we can succeed. The true idea of prayer is the Spirit of God pleading in our prayers, exciting within us the right desires—desires which at times cannot find expression in words, but only in sighings and groanings. We have often to complain that our prayers are cold. We have come under some worldly influence, and have no heart to pray. At such a time let us not neglect the duty, or attempt its performance in our own strength; but let us, in despair of self, depend on the Spirit's help, saying, "Come, O Breath, and breathe on these dead desires, that they may live!" "Keep yourselves in the love of God." This we are to do when, from the mount of prayer, we go down into the world. Our whole duty in the world may be summed up in this—that we keep ourselves in the love of God there. The temptation is to slide into the love of self. In things forbidden we cannot love God at all. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." In things lawful we can love God only by putting due restraints on ourselves. Let us eat and drink and work, not for selfish ends, but for the glory of God. To keep ourselves thus in the love of God will require effort. Without effort we can keep ourselves in the love of self. Without effort men are sliding every day to ruin. It is not those alone that sin hard who are lost, but those also who do not bestir themselves. Let us, then, make every effort to keep ourselves out of the love of self, and in the love of God. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." We have been trying hard to keep ourselves in the love of God amid worldly allurements. We are not now to rest in anything we have done, as though we had advantaged God in any way. "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." We are conscious of our feebleness as agents. We find it hard to live the most holy life, to attain to eminent distinction in holiness. We are conscious of self soiling even our best efforts. It is well, then, that we can took for mercy. But for mercy we should faint. It is well that we can look for the mercy "of our Lord Jesus Christ." We can hope that our poor services will be accepted of God with an all-merciful regard to that perfect service which he has rendered on our behalf. Thus, then, are we to build up the most holy life. We are to begin with prayer in the Holy Spirit; we are to go about everything in the world in the love of God, and then we are to look for acceptance of what we have done through Jesus Christ. That is to be our order of procedure "unto the life eternal" (the unity of thought connects this with all)—until this life of time is merged in the life of eternity, until this very imperfect life is merged in the perfect life above. Let us look forward to this complement and goal of our life as that which is fitted to free and uplift us under present conditions.
XI. EXHORTATION TO READERS REGARDING THE ENDANGERED.
1. Those who are in incipient danger. "And on some have mercy, who are in doubt." By those "who are in doubt" we are to understand those who hesitated in their judgment of the course pursued by the men with whom Jude has been dealing. In their hesitating mood there was danger of their, being drawn into the same course. They were certainly to be condemned for not being able to discriminate between a Christian course and an un-Christian course; but they were to be treated with mercy. If care was taken to give them Christian enlightenment, so that they were able to pronounce decisively against an un-Christian course, their safety would be secured.
2. Those who are in extreme danger. "And some save, snatching them out of the fire." There seems to be a reference here, as in Jude 1:9, to Zechariah 3:2. Joshua (representing Jerusalem), clothed with filthy garments, was a brand already burning. With his filthy garments taken away, and clothed with a change of raiment, he was a brand plucked out of the fire. There were some who had come under the polluting influence of the evil men, for whose contracted pollution the fire was burning. They were not beyond recovery, but as in extreme danger, mercy toward them needed to take a certain swiftness and forcibleness. Let them be snatched hastily, even violently, as brands out of the fire.
3. Those who are a source of danger. "And on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." There are some who, in their pollution, are fit objects for mercy; and yet they are a source of danger to those who have to deal with them, from the filling of the mind with images of pollution. The only safety in dealing with such is, along with wholesome fear leading to prayer for Divine help, a strong detestation of the pollution sought to be removed. The Saviour was thus proof against the pollution with which he had to deal, and none of us is safe in the neighbourhood of pollution without his detestation. Only we shall be very unlovely if, with his detestation, we have not also his mercy (Luke 15:2).
XII. CONCLUSION IN THE FORM OF A DOXOLOGY.
1. God addressed.
(1) With reference to the condition of the readers. "Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy." They were in danger of stumbling from the ungodly influences to which they were exposed, and the treacherousness of their own hearts. God is addressed as able to guard them from stumbling. We are like infants beginning to walk; he is the Strong One who keeps watch over us, so that we do not stumble. The result of his guarding them from stumbling would ultimately be his placing them in a secure position. This would be at the time of the full display of his glory. They would then be in such a state that the all-searching eye would discover no blemish in them. It would be a time of exceeding joy to them, meaning their triumph over all opposing elements, over the evil of their hearts, and over the mortality of their bodies. They must not stumble on their way to the glorious consummation. For this (by implication) Jude prays on their account; and they (he suggests) must remember where their safety lies.
(2) According to the Christian manifestation. "To the only God our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord." "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me." It is only when we stand clear of the polytheistic idea, and think of sovereignty as undivided, that we have a proper object for our adoration. It is not his simple sovereignty that we adore, but his sovereignty joined to saving power. We can look up to him, and say, out of our consciousness of what he has done for us, "Our Saviour." It is in the New Testament that we have this clearly disclosed. God saves through an Agent of his own appointment, even his own Son in our nature. Jesus, having wrought out salvation in a wonderful manner, claims our obedience; and, by yielding obedience to him as our Lord, we come into possession of salvation. Saved, we have a new song put in our mouth—even praise unto our God.
2. The ascription to God.
(1) Fourfold quality. "Be glory, majesty, dominion, and power." Who can measure the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the Divine perfections? We ascribe to God the right to receive praise, to be counted great, to exercise dominion, and to put forth power, to the exclusion of every other, and beyond what we can grasp.
(2) Threefold time. "Before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen." There is the division into time past, present, and future. God was worthy of being adored before all time—when yet there was no creature to adore him. He is worthy of being adored now, in what he is doing for his people. And he will be worthy of being adored through all the ages that will elapse after the salvation of his people has been completed. It becomes us, in token of our acknowledgment, and in expectation of our triumph, to add our "Amen."—R.F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jude 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18