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Here we have observable, the person saluting, the persons saluted, and the salutation itself.
Observe, 1. The person saluting described three ways.
1. By his name, Jude, called Thaddeus and Lebbens, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. Behold, an holy apostle, and a perfidious traitor, bearing the same name; Judas an apostle, and Judas an apostate: it is not an holy name, but an holy nature, that commends us unto God.
2. By his office, a servant of Jesus Christ; he might have styled himself a near kinsman of Jesus Christ, or a brother of the Lord; but he mentions not his natural, but his spiritual relation to Christ: alliance in faith, or a spiritual relation to Christ, is much dearer and nearer than alliance in flesh: there is a peculiar honour and excellency in the title of Christ's servant, above that of Christ's kinsman.
3. By his kindred and alliance, brother of James; this is added to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot: it is the duty of the servants, but especially the ministers, of Christ, to prevent all scandalous exceptions against their persons, and to be of untainted reputations: Jude, the servant of Christ, and brother of James.
Observe, 2. The persons saluted: these also are three ways described.
1. They are sanctified by God the father; The apostle judges of them by their profession, and by their obligation; they had, by assuming the Christian name, obliged themselves to be saints or holy persons; and by their profession did own and declare themselves so to be; and no doubt many of them were inwardly sanctified, as well as outwardly holy.
2. They are preserved in Christ Jesus; that is, in the faith of Christ Jesus, when many for fear of persecution have apostatized from it: he that will approve himself a true Christian, just show himself a steadfast Christian; instability is an argument of insincerity.
Again, preserved in Christ Jesus, that is, preserved in a state of grace and holiness, by Christ Jesus, by the merit of his death and passion, by the prevalency of his intercession, and by the Holy Spirit's efficacy and operation.
3. They are called, all of them externally, by the ministry of the word; internally, many of them, by the effectual operation of the Spirit, renewing the nature, and reforming the life; these are the persons saluted, them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called.
Observe, 3. The salutation itself, Mercy, peace, and love multiplied unto you; mercy from God, the Father of mercies; peace from Jesus Christ, who is our peace; and love from the Holy Ghost, by whom it is shed abroad in our hearts: and his praying that these graces may not be barely given and granted, but be multiplied and increased, intimates to us our duty, which is, not barely to seek grace at the hands of God, but the multiplication and augumentation of it; to labour after grace in growth, as well as grace in truth. Mercy, peace, and love, be multiplied; thankful we may and ought to be for the least measures of good received, but not satisfied with the greatest measures, short of our heavenly perfection; he was never truly good that does not desire daily to grow better.
Observe here, 1. A courteous and loving compellation, Beloved; people should study to render themselves fit objects of their pastor's love.
Observe, 2. How his love towards them put upon writing to them with all diligence: love must be the spring and fountain of all our ministerial performances; all services without love, are as sacrifices without fire. Christ first enquired after Peter's love, before he urged him to labour; God will reward no services to our people, but what have been done in love.
Observe, 3. The excellency and weightiness of the subject about which he was to write, it was concerning the common salvation; so called, not as if it were a salvation common to all persons, good and bad; but because common to all believers, who have a joint title to it, and a common interest in it; the salvation which the gospel reveals, is a common salvation; it is common in regard of the purchaser of it, Christ, our common Saviour; in regard of the price paid for it, the precious blood of Christ; in regard to the way and means by which it is obtained and secured, and that is faith; and in regard of the earnest of it, and longings after it, the Holy Spirit of God is common to all believers, and gives them a pledge, an earnest of, and sets them a breathing after and longing for, this salvation.
Observe, 4. The exhortation itself, Earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, that is, for the sincere doctrine of the gospel delivered by Christ. Once delivered; that is, once for all so as never to be changed or altered more, no new rule of faith is evermore to be expected; and therefore the articles of faith added to the apostle's creed by the council of Trent, can be no articles of Christian faith, because never delivered by Christ or his apostles, and never known to many Christians long after their decease.
Learn, That it is the duty of Christians at all times, but especially in times of error and seduction, to contend earnestly for that pure and uncorrupted faith which is contained in the gospel.
Here we have a reason of the foregoing exhortation assigned, why we should contend so earnestly for the Christian faith once delivered by Christ to his apostles, because there were crept, by little and little, such seducers into the church, as would endeavour to adulterate and corrupt it: There are certain men crept in unawares.
Note here, That corruptors and corruptions creep secretly and gradually into the church; and heretics do not broach all their errors and false doctrines at once; vain then and frivolous is the question which the church of Rome asks us, When did their innovations and false doctrines come first into the church? They crept in, and that unawares; it is enough for us that we find them there, though we assign not the time when, not the manner how, they did come in.
Observe next, The character and description which our apostle gives of these seducers crept in amongst them.
1. He tells us they were men fore-ordained to condemnation; mark, not fore-ordained to seduction to sin, but to condemnation for sin; the word rendered fore-ordained, signifies before written, or before prophesied of, by Enoch and others, that they would by their great sins and impieties fall into that condemnation which God hath ordained as a just reward to their transgressions; God never ordaineth or decreeth any man's sin, but he decreeth and foretelleth their condemnation for sin.
2. He styles them wicked, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness; pointing at the Nicolaitans, Gnostics, and other impure heretics, that sprang from Simon Magus, who made the doctrine of the free grace of God, discovered in the gospel, a cloak for their looseness and lasciviousness. Errors in doctrine are usually accompanied with corruption in manners, as being most suitable to man's corrupt, vile nature, and will be sure never to want followers.
3. He charges them with denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, Jesus Christ our only Master, God, and Lord, called by St. Peter, the Lord that bought them: lessening the dignity of his person, and invalidating what they could the merit of his death and sufferings.
Learn hence, 1. That Jesus Christ, the Master of the world, the Lord of the church, is truly God; he is called the great God, and the mighty God, to show that he is not a God inferior to, but equal to, the Father, and that by nature, not by office.
Learn, 2. That it is an horrid impiety to deny our Lord Jesus Christ, to deny him in either of his natures, or in any of his offices; to deny him either in opinion, or in practice, is a sin that carries a prodigious appearance with it: They denied the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this, and the following verses, our apostle, to deter them from following the pernicious ways of these seducers, sets before them the several examples of God's judgments inflicted in former times upon persons guilty of such crimes as these seducers were stigmatized for, and guilty of; he begins with the Israelites in the wilderness; as they perished through unbelief, after they were brought out of Egypt, so shall revolters perish, notwithstanding their baptism, and fair beginnings.
Learn hence, 1. That God's judgments inflicted on some, are, and ought to be, warnings unto all.
2. That God's ancient judgments were ordained to be our warnings and examples; his holiness is the same as ever, his justice the same, his hatred of sin the same, and his power to revenge it the same as ever; his judgments now may be more spiritual, but they are not less terrible.
Learn, 3. That unbelief will as certainly bring destruction upon Christians now, as it did upon the Israelites of old. Did God destroy them that believed not his power then? no less will he destroy them that believe not his power now.
The next example set before them, is that of the apostate angels, who for their rebellion against God were thrown down from heaven, and are reserved as so many prisoners in chains of darkness, to the judgment of the great day, when their condition will be more miserable than now it is. Now, if God did not spare apostatizing angels, surely he will not spare apostatizing seducers.
Note here, 1. The sin of the angels; they left their first state, namely, their state of holiness.
2. Their punishment; they left their own habitation, they departed from that place of happiness and glory which before they enjoyed; when they changed their nature, they changed their place: the presence of an holy God, is no place for unholy persons.
Note, 3. That the angels are kept in chains, and those chains are everlasting; the chain of God's eternal decree holds them; the chain of their own guilt holds them; the chain of utter despair eternally holds them.
Note, 4. That the day of judgment will be a great day, and at that day the punishment of fallen angels will be far greater than now it is; when heaven's joys are full, then hell's torments will be full, and not before.
Another example of God's severity against sin and sinners, is Sodom and Gomorrah, Adma and Zeboim, who having themselves up to the lusts of uncleanness, were in an extraordinary manner destroyed by fire from heaven, which was a forerunner of that eternal fire of hell, which they are to suffer to all eternity, and so may and ought to be a terrifying example and timely warning to all persons, that they fall not into the like sins.
Learn, 1. That the sin of uncleanness doth exceedingly displease and provoke God to punish above other sins, because it defiles both soul and body; it makes a sty of a temple: and because it is a sin usually accompanied with final impenitency, "none that go into her return:" that is, very few. Whoredom is a deep ditch, the abhorred of God do fall into it.
Learn, 2. That the sin of uncleanness is remarkably followed with vengeanace, even with eternal vengeance: God returns flames for flames, and revenges the fire of lust with the fire of hell.
As if our apostle had said, "Notwithstanding these fore-mentioned examples of God's vengeance upon the unclean Sodomites, and others, yet these heretical seducers, whom he calls dreamers, because they vented their own dreams and phantasies, instead of God's truth, did defile themselves with their filthy practices, teaching that by their Christian liberty they were freed from all civil subjection, speaking evil of those who were set in authority over them.
Here observe, 1. That the doctrines which seducers bring, are not the truths of Christ, but their own dreams. Dreams they are in point of opinion, and dreams they will be found in point of expectation; they promise much, but perform nothing.
2. That dreams of error, or heretical principles, do dispose towards filthy and unclean practices. Filthy dreamers defile the flesh. Avoid error in judgment, if you would escape filthiness in conversation.
3. That lust loves not restraint, libertines despise dominion, sensuality makes men unruly; such are sons of Belail, they cast off the yoke.
4. That such as despise government speak evil of governors: dignities lie open to the lash of the tongue; neither power nor innocency can protect from calumny and imputations, from slander and false accusation: These filthy dreamers despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
Our apostle in the preceding verse having charged seducers with contemptuous speaking against governors and government, in this verse he aggravates the impudence and impiety of it, by the carriage of Michael the archangel towards the devil.
The argument is taken from the greater to the less, and lies thus: if Michael, an archangel, so excellent in nature, so high in office, contending with Satan, an impure spirit, yet used great modesty, without the least indecency of expression towards him; who and what are those that despise dominions, and dare speak evil of dignities?"
Hence observe, That it is our duty to learn the angelic lesson; namely, not to give railing or reviling language to the worst adversary in the best cause, because it proceeds from pride or passion, and because so contrary to the temper and design of Christianity; much more is it our duty to watch against the sins of the tongue, with respect to our governors and superiors, remembering it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the rulers of thy people.
A double crime is here charged upon these seducers by our apostle, namely, pride, in speaking evil of things they know not; and wickedness, in abusing the knowledge they had.
1. Their sin was great in speaking evil of what they did not know, (they reviled dignities and magistrates, the usefulness of whom they knew not) and possibly condemned the mysteries of the Christian faith, which they understand not, notwithstanding they called themselves Gnostics, and pretended to higher degrees and larger measures of knowledge than other men.
Learn, That truth is usually slandered by ignorant and conceited men; because men do not understand the things of God, therefore they do condemn them.
2. Their wickedness was great in abusing the knowledge that they had, and in acting contrary to it. What they knew naturally, or by the light of nature, to be sinful in those things, as brute beasts, did they corrupt and defile themselves.
Here note, 1. That where sin reigneth, it turneth men into brute beasts, Psalms 49:12. Hence they are compared to dogs for filthiness, to swine for uncleanness, to wolves for cruelty; of the two it is worse to be like a beast, than to be a beast: the beast is what God has made it; but he that is like a beast, is what sin and the devil has made him.
2. That it is a sign of a man turned to a beast, to follow the lusts and passions of corrupt nature. Like brute beasts they corrupt themselves. It is just with God to leave them to be led by sense, who will not be guided by grace, and to suffer them to fall into the ditch of beastly sensuality, who forget that they are men.
Our apostle goes on charging these seducers with several crimes; particularly with the malice and envy of Cain, with the sordid covetousness of Balaam, with the sedition and gainsaying of Core: they hate their brethren, and so are murderers like Cain; they have adulterated the truth for base gain, and so have followed the example of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; and as Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, rose up against Moses and Aaron, so they seditiously opposed both magistracy and ministry.
Learn hence, 1. That the practice of wicked men now, and from the beginning, is still the same.
2. That Satan entices his slaves to divers sins; to the malice of Cain, to the covetousness of Balaam, to the sedition of Core.
3. That such as sin now may read their destruction in the destruction of those that sinned before them, Woe unto them! they have gone in the way of Cain, and perished, & c.
Our apostle having set forth these seducers in the foregoing verses by sundry examples, he now comes to set them forth by several similitudes and resemblances.
1. He calls them spots in their love-feasts, (the infamy of their lives being a blemish and scandal to their Christian assemblies,) feeding without fear either of offending God or man.
2. He calls them clouds without water, promising rain, but yielding none; making a show of knowledge, but indeed having none; and they are driven (as clouds by the wind) from one vanity to another.
3. Trees they are, but like them in autumn which have neither leaves nor fruit: nay, trees twice dead, in sin before conversion, and in respect of their apostasy after their conversion, and so shall be plucked up by the roots.
4. They are like raging waves of the sea, turbulent and tumultuous, foaming out at their mouths the filthiness and impurity that boileth in their hearts.
5. Wandering stars, or teachers unstable, departing from the true faith once delivered to them; but for these illuminated and knowing teachers is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
The apostle having described the sin of the seducers in the former verses, declares the certainty of their destruction in the verses now before us; assuring us that Enoch of old, by the spirit of prophecy, did foretell the sins of such persons, and their condemnation also at the general judgment upon the ungodly in general, and on such as speak contumeliously of him and his in particular.
Here note, 1. That the doctrine of the day of judgment is very ancient, foretold by the prophets from the beginning. Man was made an accountable creature, capable of rendering an account of his actions and the sentence of death, denounced in paradise against him for his sin, did necessarily imply it; the drowning of the world, and burning of Sodom, were both types and forerunners of it: though there are Atheists upon earth that do not believe a future judgment to come, there are none in hell: feeling and experience must teach some men that which the Spirit, scripture, reason, and conscience, could never learn them. Enoch prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh.
Note, 2. How Enoch here prefixeth a note of incitement to his prophecy, Behold, the Lord cometh to judgment! implying, that great is our natural backwardness to believe and mind the coming of Christ to judgment; and intimating, that we should always realize the day of our Lord to ourselves, and represent it to our thoughts as certain, and near at hand.
Note, 3. How royally attended Christ will come to judgment: Behold, he cometh with ten thousand of his saints. Christ will be attended only with holy ones at the last day; such as meet him now in purity, shall meet him then in peace. How cheerfully then may saints think of the last judgment, and observe the number of his attendants! Not a few saints, but ten thousand of them. Revelation 5:11 They are called a number which no man can number. This is a comfort against the paucity and small number of those that are now upright with God; in heaven we shall have company enough: God's family when it comes together, will be very numerous, or rather innumerable, Hebrews 12:23.
Observe, 4. The work of Christ at the day of judgment, namely, to convince and judge. Conscience shall then have an exact view of all that sinners did and said: sin will find them out, and testify against them at Christ's tribunal; and whom conscience has convinced, Christ will condemn, and whom he has condemned, he will execute.
Observe, 5. The persons whom Christ will convince and judge, the ungodly. The process of the last day lies chiefly, though not only, against the ungodly; these shall not stand in the judgment, because ungodliness doth chiefly provoke; not but that unrighteousness will then be condemned also, Romans 1:18, and sinners sent to hell for neglecting the duties of the second table no less than the first.
Observe, 6. That not only the deeds of ungodly men, but their words, especially their hard speeches against God and his children, shall be brought into judgment. A wicked tongue is a rugged tongue; it speaks words sharper than swords: pray we for wisdom to make as good an use of the reproaching tongue of an enemy, as of the reproving tongue of a friend; that the sword of the tongue may let out the corruption that is in our hearts, and do us good against the will, and contrary to the intention, of our enemy.
Our apostle having asserted in the former verse, that Christ will at the great day convince and judge all the ungodly; in this verse he declares that these seducers were of the number of the ungodly, whom Christ will certainly judge, because they were murmurers, complainers, discontented with, and always complaining of, their lot and present condition; because they had not as much as they desired, they murmured against God, as if they had nothing; walking after their own lusts, contrary to the restraint of nature, and the laws of God: their mouth speaking great swelling words .
It has been the constant course of heretics to speak high, and talk big, like mountebanks, hoping thereby to set off and put off the better their counterfeited and false wares; he is no wise man, whom great swelling words will seduce from the ways of wisdom. Not the words of the speaker, but the weight of what is spoken, is to be minded; yet though they talked these swelling words to their inferiors, at the same time they could flatteringly admire the passions and actions of others, from whom they expected any benefit or advantage: having men's persons in admiration because of advantage .
Now from the whole of this large character, which St. Jude here gives of these heretical seducers and false teachers, we learn that miserable and most deplorable is the condition of the misled followers of seducing teachers; the seducer follows his lust, and the follower is led by the seducer. Here the blind leads the blind; God pity them both; When teachers offer themselves to us, we should consider who leads them who are so officious to lead us, and follow them only as they follow Christ; no wise man will set his watch by the clock, but by the sun.
Having largely described those seducers, our apostle now comes to exhort those to whom he wrote to beware of them, assuring them that the apostles of Christ, St. Paul, and particularly St. Peter, had expressly foretold of those wicked scoffers that would arise in the church in the last times; which mockers and scoffers he shows were such as without any just cause separated themselves from the church's communion, pretending greatly to sanctity, but addicted to sensuality, and destitute of the Holy Spirit.
Note here, 1. That the scripture speaks much of the sin and sinners that should be found in the latter times; we ought not therefore to be troubled at what is foretold, nor be unarmed when we are so often forewarned. It is a shame for them, who have oft heard and known the doctrines of the apostles, to be surprised by the seducers. St. Jude expects that these Christians, who know what the apostles had delivered, should vigorously oppose all seducers and seduction.
Learn, 2. That a causeless separation from a church of which we are members, is culpable and sinful: a separation from corruptions, and a separation from them that are corrupt, are two distinct things; the former is always a duty, the latter not so.
Learn, 3. That those that separate from the assemblies of the faithful, are unusually sensual, and have not the Spirit; they have not the spirit, either to guide them, or to quicken them, or to comfort them. These are they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
Our aostle having, in the former part of this chapter, warned the Christians of the danger of seducers, he closes his epistle with directions and advice how they may be preserved from seduction, and what means they should use for their perseverance and establishment in the doctrine of Christ.
First, he directs them to build up themselves in their most holy faith; that is, in the doctrine of faith contained in the gospel.
Where note, 1. The faith of Christians is a most holy faith; holy in its principles, holy in its pattern, holy in its encouragements and rewards.
2. That it is the duty, and ought to be the endeavour, of every Christian to build up himself, and others also, in the faith of the gospel; the best way for Christians not to be losers of what they have, is to be labourers for what they want; progress in Christianity is the best means to preserve us from apostasy.
Secondly, He exhorts to prayer, Praying in the Holy Ghost; that is, with holy reverence, with humble confidence, with fervent importunity, with those holy affections and desires which the Spirit of God exciteth in us; the concurrence of the Holy Spirit is necessary both to assistance and acceptance in prayer; it enables us to pray in faith and love, with sincerity and importunity; without the Spirit there is no acceptable praying, and without prayer vain is the pretence to the Spirit. Breathing is the first evidence of life: St. Paul was no sooner converted, but behold he prayed.
Thirdly, He directs that they keep themselves in the love of God; no such way to keep ourselves from error, as to preserve ourselves in that love which God bears to us, and in that love we bear to him; take we care that there is no intermission in the acts of love, and no remission of the degrees of love, but that we be rooted and grounded in love, and then we are proof against seducers and false teachers.
Fourthly, he directs them to look up to heaven, if they would be steady and steadfast in the faith here on earth, Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Here observe, That heaven, or eternal life, is the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mercy it is called, because bestowed on the miserable, that could never merit or deserve it, and because it is the effect and fruit of free and special mercy, and because bestowed on the vessels of mercy, and because it is the perfection and consummation of all mercy; and it is the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, because he purchased it, he prepared it, he exhibits and gives it.
Observe farther, That Christians are to look for eternal life, as the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to believe it, to meditate upon it, to have ardent desires after it, and patiently to wait for it: Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
In these words our apostle directs them how to carry and behave themselves toward those who were seduced, in order to their recovery, namely, after a different manner.
1. He advises to Christian lenity and gentleness, to compassion and tenderness towards some: Of some have compassion.
Learn thence, that though reproofs are to be given to backsliders, yet must they be given in compassion, and with holy grief. Our words must have bowels in them, and proceed not from passion, but from pity.
2. For those that are more entangled, corrupted, and hardened in their errors, he advises that they endeavour to save them with fear; that is, terrify them with the fear of God's judgments and wrath, and by sharp admonitions recover them out of their errors, as Lot was snatched out of the fire of Sodom. There is a time when severity is not only useful, but absolutely necessary, yet necessity must be the mother of severity. Lenity must be first used; if that fails, severity must succeed.
By this the apostle means every thing that doth defile, though in the least degree; he forbids all affinity and nearness to the errors and vices of these sinners, implying that some sinners are so filthy and unclean, that there is no keeping company with them without defilement; and intimating that Christians in their conversing with erroneous or vicious persons, whom they labour to recover, should take great care that they be not corrupted nor debauched by them, they being only to deal with them as physicians, not as companions. Hating the garment spotted with the flesh.
Observe here, 1. How our apostle shuts up his exhortation with prayer; having exhorted them to duty, he commends them to the divine grace, intimating, that the fruit of all must be expected from God, without whose blessing all exhortations and endeavours will nothing avail.
Observe, 2. The person who is the object of prayer and praise, Christ, described by his power.
1. He is able to keep us from falling; that is, from apostasy: he speaks not of his absolute power, so Christ is able to keep us from all sin, but of such a power as is engaged by promise and office; all believers are Christ's charge, and he will preserve them from final destruction.
2. He is able to present us faultless. It is Christ's office to preserve his church until he presents it spotless to the Father, before the presence of his glory that is, at his glorious appearance, when he shall come to judge the world with exceeding joy; on both sides, no doubt, both on Christ's part and ours.
O sweet interview betwixt Christ and believers! he will joy to see us, as well as we rejoice to see him.
Learn, That Christ will one day make a solemn presentation of his people unto God.
2. That when he doth present them, he will present them faultless.
3. That the day in which he does present them, will be a very glorious day in itself, and a very joyful day to all his people; when the impenitent world howl, they shall triumph.
Our apostle shuts up his epistle (as is usual) with a doxology; where observe, 1. The person to whom the praise is given, to God, the wise God, the only wise God, so called because he is infinitely and transcendantly wise; all the wisdom of the wisest of men is nothing in opposition to his wisdom, nor in comparison with it.
Observe, 2. That Jesus Christ our Saviour is worthy to be accounted the only wise God; as he is God, he is called the wisdom of the Father; and in the book of the Proverbs, he is represented under that title, and spoken of as a person, Proverbs 8 . As he was man, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were found in him, he received the habits of all created knowledge and wisdom, together with all other graces without measure.
Observe, 3. As the person described to whom the praise is given, so the description of the praise which is given to this person, Glory and majesty, dominion and power; by which understand, the greatness and eminent excellency of the divine nature, which results from his perfections, and whereby the divine nature is infinitely exalted above all other beings.
Learn hence, That we ought to have such a sense of God's transcendant excellences and perfections as may oblige us to ascribe all things that are honourable and glorious to him, therefore are so many words here used.
Observe, 4. The duration, now and ever. Learn thence, That believers have such large and vast desires for the exaltation of God's glory, that they would have him glorified everlastingly, and without ceasing, not only in the present, but to eternal ages. To him be glory now and ever. Amen.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Jude 1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25