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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Jude 1

 

 

Verses 1-25

THE gleanings of the church respecting St. Jude are few. Du Pin, who spent his life in ecclesiastical studies, says, he had the surname of Lebbeus and Thaddeus, was brother of James the less, and is called the Lord’s brother. He here denominates himself the servant of Jesus Christ, or an apostle.

The Greek church calls him the apostle of Mesopotamia; but Pauline assigns Lybia as his lot. Hegesippus reports that in the time of Domitian, the emperor, two grandchildren of this apostle were alive. The Syrians, we know, still claim him as their apostle. We find records of ancient date, that he preached in Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Persia. In this last country he is said to have suffered martyrdom, being pierced with arrows.

Some persons have doubted, continues Du Pin, of the authenticity of this book, because of the citation of the prophecy of Enoch, from an apocryphal book of the jews. But St. Paul has cited a line from Aretus, a heathen poet, and from Menander. Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33. Also from Epimenides, in Titus 1:12. Several other phrases coincide with heathen authors, as may be seen in the Latin critics.

Origen makes a full use of this epistle in his ninth volume on Matthew, and in his seventeenth homily on Joshua; adding, that “though the epistle contains but few words, yet they are full of energy, and of celestial grace.”

The epistle seems to have been written after all the apostles, excepting John, were dead, and it might not be generally known, yet it is found in all the catalogues of the new-testament books.

1:1. Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ. A title of humility, which does not derogate from his apostolic dignity, he being sent to subjugate the nations to the faith of Christ. To them that are sanctified, by the washing of the new birth, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Titus 3:5. Preserved, or as Peter says, kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation. And called, by the grace of the gospel, and the drawings of the Holy Spirit, to the communion of saints, and to fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. The letter is catholic, addressed to all christians wheresover it might come.

1:3. Beloved, when I gave all diligence, in obedience to the impulse of the Holy Spirit, to write unto you, of the common salvation, I felt the sentiment of Peter, that you may be able after my decease to have a summary of my preaching always at hand; and that you may earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. This phrase, the common salvation, refers to the gospel, the grace of God which hath appeared to all men, and is sent to every creature under heaven. Mark 16:15. Colossians 1:27.

The words of Jude, being laconic, are the more emphatic, that the saints should contend and strive for the faith once delivered or given to the saints. By the faith he means what St. Paul and others often call “the promise made of God unto the fathers, and the oath which he sware unto Abraham.” Luke 1:72-73. The faith, that Christ, the Son of the living God, is the rock on which the church is built. The faith, otherwise the covenant, the commandment, or glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was revealed from heaven. It was Paul’s glory that he could say, on the eve of martyrdom, “I have kept the faith.” This is the faith which Abraham delivered to his children after him, and which David gave in charge to Solomon. 1 Chronicles 28:9-10. The faith confirmed by the prophets, who all gave witness to Christ; the commandment which the Saviour received of the Father to promulgate to men; the faith that must be kept without spot, and unreproveable in the sight of God. The apostles did so: they preached the Lord as the only Saviour, and made no compromise with the mythology of the Greeks.

1:4. Certain men are crept in unawares. Gnostics, jewish sectarians, affecting to be teachers, and living on the people, greedy of gain. Who were before of old ordained to this condemnation: προγεγραμμενοι, fore- written, or foretold. Such is the Vulgate version: qui olim præscripti sunt in hoc judicium. Who were formerly foretold to this judgment or condemnation. Our Saviour said that many false prophets should rise, and deceive many. Matthew 24:10-11. Paul also declared, “The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times many shall depart from the faith. 1 Timothy 4:1. Peter mentions the same false teachers, as associated with the lying prophets of Israel, who privily, like our modern unitarians and socinians, bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. 2 Peter 2:1. Deuteronomy 13:1.

Beza is to be blamed for being unique in translating the word crime, by damnation; for Jude says, Of some have compassion, making a difference. Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire: 1:22-23. And St. Peter also says, after naming scoffers, the longsuffering of God is salvation to all that wait upon him.

1:6. The angels which kept not their first estate, with whom the false teachers and apostates from the faith are here associated. By their first estate we understand their dignity, as archangels, principalities, and powers. Let this warn back-sliders, who fall from sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, lest their end should be like that of fallen angels.

1:8. Filthy dreamers, in carnal grovellings of the mind, and the reveries of heresy and schism. What occupies chief attention in the daytime, is likely to enter into the visions of the night.

1:9-10. Michael, the archangel, contending with the devil. In the gospels the word demon is of frequent occurrence, but here diabolus is used, to show that the contest lay between the prince of angels and the prince of demons. This is quoted from the apocryphal book of the jews, called “the ascension of Moses;” and as Jude knew what was true by the unction of the Spirit, the quotation does not invalidate the inspiration of the book. Undoubtedly, Moses ascended, else how could he appear to Christ with Elijah on the holy mount.

The ancients have a proverb, that “the actions of princes are like great rivers; all men see their course, as they flow in vallies and in plains, but few persons know their source.” This is a beautiful simile, teaching us to suspend our judgment on the actions of kings and their ministers, till we see the full developement of their councils. We may otherwise expose our folly by blaming what is wise and just.

1:11. They have gone in the way of Cain, in hating their brethren, and maintaining a malignant opposition to the truth. They have also run, like Balaam, after the promised gold of Balak. It is the common charge against false teachers, that they love filthy lucre, and do every thing with a view to their own interest.

1:14-15. Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these. The predictions of this holy patriarch, it would seem, were disseminated wide as the ancient world. The Chinese, the Hindoos, as well as the Sibyls of Egypt, of Greece, and Rome, have all transmitted the doctrine of a day of final scrutiny. See on Psalms 50:3. Vola, our northern mother, in the fifty ninth stanza of the Voluspa, now before me, sung of that event; a poem whose antiquity is lost in ancient times.

Sol tekur sortna Sigur fold i mar, Hverfa of himni, Heithar stiornur, Geisar eimi, Bith aldur nara, Leikur har hiti, Bith himin stalfann.

The sun turns pale; The spacious earth, The sea engulphed. From heaven falls The lucid stars; At the end of time, The vapours rage, And playful flame, Involve the skies. — E. H.

1:16. These are murmurers, complainers. And who can be more unhappy than a minister who is not in the spirit of his duty? He cannot look like another man.

1:17. Remember the words which were formerly spoken by the apostles of our Lord. This reading, by Dr. Symonds, relieves the sense.

1:24-25. To him that is able to keep you from falling. This doxology is just the reverse of those bad teachers, who deny the Lord of glory. It celebrates his power and love; he is able to keep and save to the uttermost. It gives glory to the only wise God our Saviour, the great Shepherd who is able to keep his flock, because the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father, and the Spirit reveals him in all his counsels and arrangements as the only wise God. He alone exists of himself, and besides him there is no God. This doxology contains the form of sound words, in which the church has ever worshipped the one true and eternal Jehovah. It is the harmony of sacred song, subsisting between the church above and the church below. They sing the new and unceasing song, to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever.

It can hardly be expected that Zion should enjoy her full choir of praise, without the discord of numerous false teachers, who have crept into the churches unawares. Among these we find Dr. Macknight attempting to disturb all versions, and the order of the words, by reading, “To the wise God alone.” This makes way for the Arian adjection, “by Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, &c.” There were but two Greek copies which contained that reading, as is noted by Beza; and what weight can they have against the evidence of the christian world? The Mons version is, A Dieu notre Seigneur, qui est le seul sage, soit gloire, &c. Montanus reads as the English. “To him be glory, and majesty, and power, both now and ever, Amen.” We shall soon have no bible if we allow the Arians to interpolate as they please.

If we disturb the reading of Jude, we must also subvert the reading of Paul in Titus 2:13; and of Peter in his second epistle, 2 Peter 1:1. We must erase or amend a hundred other places, which declare the Saviour to be the Son of God, and the Lord of glory.

REFLECTIONS.

The design of this epistle is truly apostolic. Writing like Peter to the same people, and a people exposed to the same evils, the sentiments are similar, and the language is bold and strong, as the case required. Jude calls christians the sanctified of God, though surrounded with the most unsanctified of mortals. He may allude to the gnostics, described in 2 Peter 2. But his chief reference is to jews, who crept into the church to eat a morsel of bread, because he quotes in the case of Enoch and Michael apocryphal books, as Paul did concerning Jannes and Jambres. These books were allowed as true among the jews.

Now, though these hypocrites crept into the church unawares, they did not creep in unforetold by the prophets. Moses had warned the church of a root of bitterness, leading to apostasy; and our Lord had said that many false prophets should arise. The character and condemnation of those men were therefore noted to awe the wicked, and to warn the church. Those jews affecting to be teachers, were filthy dreamers; they broached their magic and astrology, largely practised by the baser rabbins, as opportunity served. Magic and astrology are odious to those who believe in providence, as is clearly intimated in the eleventh of Jeremiah. They spake evil of the emperor, and of his governors. This was a thing Michael durst not do against the devil. Why then should we do it against any misguided potentate, whose errors may be few, and his blessings infinite. And it is awful to add, that of all men apostates from the church most resemble the fallen angels who kept not their first estate. They shall therefore have the hottest hell, as we have largely said of Balaam. Numbers 24.

These men aggravated their sin by attending sacraments and love-feasts. What is it that a hypocrite will not do; and what is it that he cannot face? Oh my soul, before thou eatest of that bread, ask thy heart, Do I live in any known sin? Am I a Judas at this holy table, betraying my Master with the kiss of fair words? Am I a spot in this love-feast, and dirty with sin, like the man without a wedding garment? And have I, with regard to past sins, brought forth all the required fruits of repentance? Let me examine myself before I eat, and be awed by the just and ancient judgments here recited.

While hypocrites pull down the church, we must build it up. Our faith in all its mysteries is most holy, in its pardons it is guarded with sanctity. It exhibits a just God, and a Saviour. Let our attainments keep pace with our knowledge, that our ministry may be enriched with ten thousand edifying remarks. Let us be men of prayer, extemporaneous prayer in the Holy Ghost; for God gives the prayer that he may hear it. Let us keep ourselves in the love of God as a son, an adopted son, will keep his father’s love. Let us keep it with the cautious care of riches which endure for ever; and let us keep it ever burning as the hallowed fire of the altar, which on pain of death must never go out. Yea, let us look for all the mercies of redemption to extend to eternal life.

Let us not be uncharitable even to hypocrites; that was a pharisaical spirit which despised others. Perhaps the fear here enforced by Jude may save some; perhaps tenderness may soften others. Let love try; they are not yet in hell, though on the verge of the abyss.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jude 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/jude-1.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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