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THE ENEMIES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:1. The servant.—Better, “a servant.” As he does not call himself an apostle, we cannot, without adequate reason assigned, identify him with the apostle Judas. Brother of James.—Which James is uncertain. Probably the James who wrote the epistle. Perhaps he wished, by this indication, to distinguish himself from others, like Judas, not Iscariot (John 14:22, Luke 6:16); the Lebbæus or Thaddeus of Matthew 10:3; Judas, surnamed Barsabas (Acts 15:22), and others. Perhaps Jude claimed authority as the brother of one so honoured as James the Just. Sanctified.—Perhaps “beloved” is the better reading. If “sanctified” is kept, the idea in the word must be “separated”; not “made holy.” To Jude the Christian disciples are
(1) designated or separated in the Father’s love, and
(2) preserved until the time when they could be
(3) called in Christ Jesus. It was a favourite thought of the early teachers that the disciples were chosen, separated, and preserved by God, before their conscious life of discipleship began, in the personal call of the Lord Jesus.
Jude 1:2. Mercy, peace, love.—Compare 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2. Sometimes “grace” is used for “mercy.” All three may be taken as Divine bestowments. Love as the Divine personal affection, finding ever gracious expression. Or the three may be regarded as in logical order; mercy from God to man; hence peace between God and man; hence love of all towards all. Be multiplied.—πληθυνθείν, peculiar, in salutation, to Jude 1:1 and 2 Peter.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jude 1:1-2
True Believers.—The salutation slightly differs from those of the epistles generally, but in the main both the disposition and the expressions of the writer are of the usual apostolic form. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:2, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ. Manuscripts A, B, seven cursives, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and some others have ἠγαπημένοις, which also both Lachman and Tischendorf have adopted. Having weighed all the arguments, we do not see a sufficient reason for the alteration. Besides, the appellation ἡγιασμένοι is more distinguishing when the Church is regarded in relation to the world. Jude was writing to the dispersed Christian Jews, who kept themselves separate from the world. With this the meaning of τετηρημένοις agrees. It was difficult for them, being few and poor, to preserve that degree of independent life which their profession of Christ demanded; by the power and grace of God they were enabled to do so. In the Syriac version we have the addition, “To the Gentiles who are called, beloved of God the Father,” etc. Evidently this cannot be a part of the text, although a very good exposition of it, inasmuch as possibly this apostle intended the epistle for the edification of the Gentile converts as well as the Jewish Christians. The terms ἔλεος, εἰρήνη and ἀγάπη are as comprehensive as any, if not more so, which the other apostles have used. In both his epistles St. Peter only use grace and peace. This also proves that St. Jude was not a slavish copyist or imitator of St. Peter. A very profitable introduction might be worked out from the thought that the apostles regarded their own cordial feelings towards, and their fervent prayers for, those to whom they wrote, and whom they hoped to influence by their writings, of primary importance. To the Christian teacher it is of the utmost importance to stand in the best possible relations to those whom he intends to benefit.
I. Characteristics of the true believers.—There are three, and they include all which pertain to godliness.
1. A Divine act in the soul. The idea of consecration is here intended. But we cannot be acceptable to God without the impartation of purity. When we are set apart for the service and glory of Christ, it must be after the washing of regeneration. Sanctification implies the twofold operation of partaking of the Divine nature and being set apart for the Master’s use.
2. Divine guardianship over the soul. The idea of preservation here is limited to the faith of believers. They were preserved in the holy state which we have before mentioned. We are preserved in the matter of possession—what God has given us, and in the matter of condition—what God has made us.
3. Divine leadership before the soul. This is the call to service, activity, and suffering. Whatever we have to do or suffer, there is a voice which calls us thereto.
II. The blessings of true believers.—The apostolic prayer is that the threefold condition before described might be sustained by a triple stream of goodness.
1. God’s mercy to maintain their purity. The very idea of weakness and imperfection is here implied. By the constant supply of grace the saints are kept from falling.
2. God’s peace to maintain their preservation. Commotion, strife, perturbation of soul invariably lead to loss and disaster. The godly are safe in tumults because the peace of God rules in their heart.
3. God’s love to inspire their life. To work and die for the Saviour, there is only one incentive—the love of Jesus in the breast. There are other considerations, but this is the mainspring.—W. P.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:3. Common salvation.—It does not immediately appear why he uses this epithet “common.” He may only mean, “this salvation which is a matter of common interest to us all.” The best MSS. read, “of our common salvation”; of those things which pertain to the salvation of us all. It is suggested that Jude may intend to distinguish between the “faith,” or “salvation,” which is common to all, and the “knowledge” which was claimed by false teachers as belonging only to a few. Faith once delivered.—Faith is objective—the substance of truth offered to faith. It is assumed that this is well known, and stands within recognised limitations. It was not then embodied in a creed; and we cannot with certainty declare its contents. The apostle Paul frequently refers to a well-known and clearly-defined setting of the primary Christian verities (2 Timothy 1:13-14, etc.). Saints.—Such they were in their calling; and such they were by their separation through belief of the Christian truth. There is special significance in the term “saints” here, because Jude has in mind those who were disgracing the Christian profession by moral licence. He means to suggest a contrast.
Jude 1:4. Unawares.—Finding their opportunity in Christian unwatchfulness. Mischievous teachers get into Churches under false pretences. Of old ordained.—Reference is to previous prophetic intimations and warnings, and not to Divine decrees. The sentence has been well rendered thus: “who were long ago before marked out as on their way to this condemnation.” “Ordained” means “written down,” or “written up”; the “metaphor may come from the practice of posting up the names of those who had to appear in court for trial.” προγεγραμμένοι εἰς κρίσιν. Condemnation.—The denunciation which follows. Their “ungodliness” is seen in the two things which most distressed the later Christian writers:
(1) the association of the Christian profession with sensual indulgences; and
(2) the teaching of perilous error concerning the person of Jesus Christ. In “Lord God,” the name “God” should be omitted. Only one person is meant. “Denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jude 1:3-4
Jude 1:3. The Common Salvation.—It appears that the mind of the apostle was moved, in the first place, to write concerning salvation generally; but on reflection he was constrained to write on one particular aspect, bearing on the temper of the times. The brevity of the epistle testifies that only one special aspect of religion is set forth. It was in view of the general defection among Christians, then so prevalent, he was earnestly moved to write. The case was urgent, as we learn from ἀνάγκην ἔσχον, arising from the necessity of contending earnestly for the faith—ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι. The description given in the epistle of the declension of some, and the false teaching of others, fully sets forth the earnest hope the apostle felt, that a few lines from him might serve the good purpose of conserving the true faith.
I. A designation of the gospel.—“Common salvation.” The gospel had an interest for all. Its integrity was a matter which affected all. Nothing could be of more importance than the general concern which all ought to feel in the matter of the purity of the teaching which was intended to set it forth.
1. Salvation is the great need of all. It supplies a universal want. It reveals clearly the great subjects which have agitated human thought in every age—God, the soul, moral accountability, and futurity. It also leads mankind to the fountain of blessing—God in Christ Jesus. If life is to answer any special end, and if the soul of man is to attain to any particular satisfaction and happiness, the gospel is as great a necessity to the mind as air is to the body.
2. Salvation is a provision for all. It touches the case of every one. There had been a Jewish exclusiveness even on the part of the apostles; but they were taught to “call no man common or unclean,” and that “God is no respecter of persons.” The gospel is free to all, whether Jew or Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free. The gospel, like the sun, is God’s great blessing to all men of every clime and time. Jesus is the “Son of man,” to designate the universality of His mission. He is come to seek and to save the race of man.
II. The sacred trust.—“Once for all delivered unto the saints.” The gospel is in the custody of the Church. 1. The integrity of its doctrines. Those to whom the Spirit has revealed the truth alone can transmit it to posterity. If inspiration has ceased, illumination continues. The gospel as a revelation from God is also taught by Him.
2. The purity of its ordinances. Truth must have forms as channels of transmission. Sacraments and spiritual exercises are essential to the spread of the gospel and the growth of piety. However free Christianity may be in its spirit, it prescribes forms and rites for the welfare of the Church. 3. The consistency of its professors. To walk in the light is the duty of every believer. Christ has ordained that infractions of the laws of His kingdom should receive attention and be visited with discipline. The fruitless and rotten branches must be taken away. The Church has authority to deal with matters of internal order, and also the conduct of its members in the world. The affairs of the kingdom of Christ are now administered by the Church, until He comes.
III. Special duty enjoined.—“Contend earnestly for the faith.” The Church is often thrown into times of particular difficulty, when its efforts are needed to defend its position in the world. The apostolic Church was early called upon to defend its doctrines and practices against false teachers. This is done:
1. By unswerving fidelity to truth. To hold fast that which we have is a duty we owe, not only to ourselves, but to the Church and the world.
2. By a bold confession before men of that which God has done for our soul. Men will be convinced of the efficacy of the means when they see the cure.
3. By being ready to give an intelligent reason for the hope which is in us. The defence of the faith on the ground of truth and justice is a matter that can be accomplished.
Jude 1:4. The Denial of the Divinity of Christ.—The reason is here stated why the apostle chose a particular line to write to the scattered Christians. The case was urgent, because the opposition came not from men who had openly denied the truths of the gospel, but from those who had privily crept into the Church, and were, in name, members of it. The danger was not from without this time, but from within. The use of the three verbs παρεισάγω (2 Peter 2:1), παρεισέρχομαι (Galatians 2:4), and παρεισδύω in the text, plainly shows a systematic conspiracy to subvert the truth. The bold opposition of persecution having failed, the evil one covertly introduced into the Church false teachers. The adroit use of προγράφω, which follows, indicates the impossibility of hiding the evil designs of these false prophets. St. Jude doubtless refers to the second epistle of Peter, and also to the warnings contained in the writings of St. Paul. The figure is taken from the practice of posting up the names of those who were cited to trial, with a description of their crimes. Every corrupter of the doctrines, and every disturber of the peace of the Church, is a marked man. On the notice-board of justice is written, “Wanted,” etc. The κρῖμα is fully described in the following verses. The force of μετατίθημι, which means to alter a thing from its original use, is brought out in the contrast between the grace of God and lasciviousness—the greatest abuse of the greatest favour. In the same way we get the full meaning of ἀρνούμενοι from μόνον δεσπότην καὶ Κύριον ἡμῶν. It was not a denying of the truths of the gospel in general, but the central truth—the Divinity and the Divine mission of Christ.
I. A great crime.—Never was there a time in the history of the Church when this crime should be guarded against more than at present. The days of intolerance are over, and the danger now is of relaxing all obligations as to the truth, and holding that every man is at liberty to believe and teach whatsoever he pleases. The sacred trust committed to the care of the Church is the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Why should men want to change the truth of the living God? Look into the text, and you have the answer.
1. Because the fear of God is not in their soul—“ungodly men.” When the helm is broken, the vessel will drift in every direction. Reverence for God is the first essential of faith in Revelation 2:0. Because to human appearance sin appears less hideous when committed in the name of religion—“turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.” This meant the abuse of that liberty which the gospel confers, and the committal of sin that grace might abound.
3. Because the authority of “our only Master and Lord” is against the licence they would afford the flesh”. Take Christ out of the gospel, and any use might be made of it; but give Him His place in the sphere of Divine truth, and the force against sin is irresistible.
II. An awful doom.—St. John in the Apocalypse sounds the warning in strong accents: “If any man shall add unto them,” etc. (Revelation 21:18-19). A few considerations will show that the punishment of those who pervert the truth, and teach so unto others, must be very severe.
1. It is a defiance of Divine authority. God is contradicted. When this is done, moral government is at stake.
2. It is the greatest wrong that can be done to others. If you do not know the way, say so; but to know the way and direct the man to go in the contrary direction is to cause him harm. To tell people that they are on the road to heaven, when it is known that they are going to hell, must be punished.
3. It is an offence against the love of God, who sent His only Son to make us good, and lead us to virtue.—W. P.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
Jude 1:3. Doctrinal Contention.—As in war they will clear away the houses and the flower-gardens that have been allowed to come and cluster about the walls and fill up the moat, yet the walls will stand, so in all the conflicts that befall Christ’s Church and God’s truth, the calming thought ought to be ours, that if anything perishes it is a sign that it is not His, but man’s excrescence on His building. Whatever is His will stand for ever.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Books of the Olden Time.—Who knows anything about the world’s wonders of books that, a hundred years ago, made good men’s hearts tremble for the ark of God? You may find them in dusty rows on the top shelves of great libraries. But if their names had not occurred in the pages of Christian apologists, flies in amber, nobody in this generation would ever have heard of them.—Ibid.
Influence of Strong Assertion.—The consciousness that Christian truth is denied makes some of you falter in its profession, and fancy that it is less certain simply because it is gainsaid. The mist wraps you in its folds, and it is difficult to keep warm in it, or to believe that love and sunshine are above it all the same. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”—Ibid.
Contending for the Faith.—What do we observe as a fact in Christian Church history? This. Christian doctrine is evidently a great whole made up of many parts. What we seek to find is the harmonious fitting of the several parts, each being held in its proper proportions. But the Christian faith is subject to attacks on its several positions. The attacks have their special characteristics in each age. They should be met by the whole united force of the Church; the common foe met by a common resistance. There is, however, another process going on continually, as Christ’s truth is committed to the charge of weak men. Aspects of truth are in constant danger of being pushed to extremes; and important sides and aspects of truth are in constant peril of being neglected and dropped out of sight. And in this way the proportions of truth, the harmonious whole of truth, may be lost. So there is a continual, and ever-repeated call for the activity of those who will reaffirm the truth that is slipping from view, or qualify the truth that is getting exaggerated settings. That may be the good side of what may be misapprehended, and called heresy and schism. It may be questioned in what sense the whole Christian faith was “once for all delivered to the saints.” All revelations are wholes for the age to which they come; but they are not necessarily wholes to the after-ages of intellectual and moral advancement. The Mosaic revelation was a whole; but in prophetic times its deeper moral features came to view, and the Christian ages have perfected it, fulfilled it, fully realised it. It is a whole now which the Jews of Moses’ time could not by any possibility recognise. Perhaps we may affirm that finality can belong to nothing that bears relation to finite, but ever-unfolding man; and so we can never really look for more than a faith adequate to an age. If your mother’s name were defiled, would not your heart bound to her defence? When a prince is a dethroned exile, his throne is fixed deeper in the hearts of his adherents, “though his back be at the wall,” and common souls become heroes because their devotion has been heightened to sublimity of self-sacrifice by a nation’s rebellion. And when so many voices are proclaiming that God has never spoken to men, that our thoughts of His book are dreams, and its long empire over men’s spirits a waning tyranny, does cool indifference become us? will not fervour be sobriety, and the glowing emotion of our whole nature our reasonable service?—Ibid.
Right Dealing with Unbelief.—You may hammer ice on an anvil or bray it in a mortar. What then? It is pounded ice still, except for the little portion melted by heat of percussion, and it will soon all congeal again. Melt it in the sun, and it flows down in sweet water, which mirrors that light which loosed its bonds of cold. So hammer away at unbelief with your logical sledge-hammers, and you will change its shape perhaps, but it is none the less unbelief because you have ground it to powder. It is a mightier agent that must melt it—the fire of God’s love, brought close by a will ablaze with the sacred glow.—Ibid.
Defenders of the Faith.—This exhortation applies to our circumstances in this period of unsettledness in religious beliefs. It is claimed that the old “faith” has served its day, and some new faith must take its place. Our opinion is that instead of finding a new faith, we are on our way to a better understanding of the old one. We are concerned about the essential truths of Christianity, and willingly renounce the accretions and interpretations by which those truths have been overlaid and obscured. The indications of our modern unrest point to a change for the better.
I. What are we to understand by the faith which was once delivered to the saints?—It is defined as “the common salvation.” Not the doctrine of salvation, but the salvation itself; it is not a theory, but an experience. Faith is the means, salvation is the end. “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). It was common to all the apostles. They might have particular methods, but they certainly had a general result in view. Salvation was the aim in their teaching. They became all things to all men, that by all means they might save some. This salvation is common to all men, and not a matter pertaining to a particular class. It is available for Jew and Gentile. It is for every one that believeth. The essential truths of Christianity, as contained in the New Testament, constitute the faith once delivered to the saints.
1. The faith is Divine in its origin. It is not a production of human philosophy, but the substance of a Divine revelation. The necessity for a Divine revelation appears in the fact that human opinions are so varied and contradictory. When my heart is burdened with the consciousness of guilt, and my soul cries out in its agony, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” I must have a Divine answer. I need to know God’s thought and purpose concerning a penitent soul. The gospel is the Divine answer to human need.
2. The faith is adapted to man’s moral needs. Three truths force themselves upon our notice when we study man in his moral relations:
(1) The sense of guilt and moral weakness;
(2) the liability to temptation and trouble;
(3) the certainty of death and a future state. These exist in all men everywhere. These are the bases of moral needs, and to these needs the gospel responds. The faith responds to the sense of guilt and moral weakness. The fact and experience of sin are common to all men. In every land men are wrestling with the great problem, “What shall we do to be saved?” The gospel is the specific. “It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” This “common salvation” includes two things—deliverance and safety. It delivers from impending danger by a perfect pardon. It fortifies and strengthens the soul against the temptations of all evil agencies, so that it is enabled to stand in the glorious liberty of the gospel. The faith responds to the liability to temptation and trouble. All, irrespective of position or rank, are exposed to them. The only remedy philosophy offers is stoicism. The gospel discovers One who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Apart from this living Christ, one of the deepest needs of human nature is left unsatisfied. The certainty of death is also answered by this faith. Death and the problem of the future hang like a heavy pall over all heathendom. The religious and philosophical systems of paganism throw no light upon the darkness of the grave. But the gospel of Christ tells of Him who died and rose again as the firstfruits of those who slept, who has abolished death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. It inspires men with hope of immortality. It alleviates human bereavement and gilds the future with radiant hope. Blessed gospel! It meets the deepest needs of the human soul.
3. The faith is complete in its contents “once delivered”—i.e. complete. To it nothing can be added. New light, hidden riches, sweetest harmonies, may be found in it. Astronomy may discover worlds of light in the heavens, but it does not add to the universe. Every star was there before astronomers lifted their telescopes skyward. Astronomy may enlarge our knowledge of the heavens, and thrill us with new views of heavenly beauty, but it cannot create a new star. Music cannot add a new tone to the scale. The octave is the final measure of possible tones. Gifted musicians may combine the tones in new relations, and thus give the world sweeter song and more thrilling melody; but in all the witchery of music they will never reach beyond the octave of tones. So with the faith. Theology cannot add to it. The Bible will gain in interpretation, but no new principles can be added to its contents. The foundation of our faith is laid in final power away from frost and wave and storm.
II. To whom was the faith delivered?—“To the saints.” The term refers to character, not to official position.
1. Saints are the depositaries of the faith. Not councils, priests, or popes, but holy men are the trustees of this precious gift. The power and the safety of the faith are not in organisation, or popular favour, or political power, desirable as these may be, but primarily in the character of individual Christians.
2. Saints are the disseminators of the faith. Dissemination is the purpose for which the deposit has been made. Saints hold it in trust for the use and benefit of mankind. Truth must be incarnated before it can become an available factor in the world’s evangelisation. God incarnates the gospel in His saints. This incarnation is the secret of successful evangelism. The old prophets were mighty because their hearts were burdened with the “word of the Lord.” God put His great truths in their hearts, and they were transfigured by the glory of inward truth, and flamed and burned among men. The apostles were resistless evangelists because their souls were thrilled and dominated by the great revelations of Christ, and they could not but speak the things commanded them. The disciples, scattered by persecution, went everywhere. In all their flight they were flaming evangelists. So grew the word of the Lord mightily and prevailed.
III. What is our duty in reference to the faith?—“Contend earnestly,” etc.
1. We must hold to it experimentally and consistently. Not to the theory, but to the practice; not to doctrine merely, but to salvation as a blessed reality. The faith needs not swords to fight for it, but saints to live it. A holy life is the noblest defence of the gospel.
2. We must hold it with courage and resolution. The faith has had to contend for recognition in the world. In the beginning the Jew denied it, the Greek ridiculed it, and the Roman denounced it; but the saints contended for it in spite of all. So now it comes into conflict with the prejudices, selfish interests, and wrath of men. It requires brave, true men to stand by it. The age of chivalry is not yet past. Valiant knights of the Order of the Cross are needed now in defence of the old faith.
3. We must contend for it with simplicity and sincerity. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” etc. Not the weapons of the flesh, not the mere external aids that men are wont to use, not eloquence, learning, wealth, or beauty—these, though highly desirable, are not essential. Simple, sincere Christian lives are the irresistible argument for the faith. I do not undervalue apologetics. Its function is to defend the Bible and set forth the evidences of the Divine authority of the Scriptures. All honour to our “great apologists” for their literary work in defence of our precious faith; but I do insist that an earnest Christian, sincere in heart, true in conduct, pure in speech, and gentle in spirit, is the one unanswerable argument for Christianity. He is “the people’s Bible,” needing neither commentary nor apology. We are to be “defenders of the faith.” Paul’s saying ought to be the conviction of our heart: “I am set for the defence of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17).—W. Hansom, B.D., LL.D.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:5. In remembrance.—That which we have in mind is often well and wisely brought up forcibly before our minds.
Jude 1:6. Angels, etc.—There is nothing in the Old Testament to which this can be referred, unless we take “angels” to be a figurative term for the antediluvians. It is most probably a reference to a tradition which is preserved in the book of Enoch, but whether that book was written before or after the epistle of Jude seems to be uncertain. The passages in the book of Enoch, or the traditions which these passages fix, are as follows: Chap. 7.1, 2—“It happened, after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.” Chap. 15.7—“Therefore I made not wives for you [angels] because, being spiritual, your dwelling is in heaven.” Chap. 18.16—“Therefore was he offended with them [the angels], and bound them, until the period of the consummation of their crimes in the secret year.” (Compare chap. 21.2, 3—“I beheld … a desolate spot, prepared, and terrific. There, too, I beheld seven stars of heaven [angels], bound in it together. These are those of the stars which have transgressed the commandment of the most high God; and are here bound, until the infinite number of the days of their crime be completed.” Compare chap, 87.2, 3.) Estate.—Principality. The term belongs to the Jewish classification of angels, and refers to their power or rule. Everlasting chains.—An evident figure of speech. “Everlasting” suggests “firm gripping,” “severe” rather than merely “continuous.” For other traditions influencing Jude, see Illustrations.
THE ANGELS AND THEIR FIRST ESTATE
Dean Plumptre’s Note on Jude 1:6.—St. Jude’s language, like that of St. Peter, follows the traditions of the book of Enoch, which speaks of fallen angels as kept in their prison-house until the day of judgment; and also those which are represented in the Midrasch Ruth in the Book of Zohar—“After that the sons of God had begotten sons, God took them and brought them to the mount of darkness, and bound them in chains of darkness which reach to the middle of the great abyss.” A fuller form of the Rabbinic legend relates that the angels Asa and Asael charged God with folly in having created man who so soon provoke Him, and that He answered that if they had been on earth they would have sinned as man had done. “And thereupon He allowed them to descend to earth, and they sinned with the daughters of men. And when they would have returned to heaven they could not, for they were banished from their former habitation, and brought into the dark mountains of the earth.” The resemblance between this tradition and that of the Zoroastrian legend of the fall of Ahriman and his angels, and again of the punishment of the Titans by Zeus in the mythology of Hesiod, shows the widespread currency of the belief referred to.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jude 1:5-6
Privileges are always Conditional.—St. Jude is concerned for the maintenance of the Christian life in those to whom he writes. They had been highly exalted in being raised to a spiritual life. Their privilege is intimated in the style of his address to them, in Jude 1:1. But their fall from privilege was possible; continuance of privilege depended on continuance of faith, and on persistent effort to meet the obligations of privilege. Yet they were in a very perilous way exposed to temptation. It took form as the attractive teachings of men who claimed for them a liberty which was only rightly called “licence,” and who shook their confidence in the primary Christian truths which they had received from the apostles. The one thing that filled St. Jude with fear was, that they might presume upon their Christian standing and privilege and think themselves secure. There is no more perilous condition in which any man can be placed than that of self-security. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” St. Jude therefore brings some striking and impressive illustrations of the truth that privileges never have been held, and never can be held, apart from conditions. No created being ever yet had absolute possession of any privilege. It can be lost; it can only too easily be lost. In the paragraph before us the illustrations are taken from two sources—history and tradition.
I. The illustration from history.—The salvation of Israel from Egypt was a remarkable sign of Divine favour and interest which lifted the nation of Israel into a high place of dignity and privilege. But that privilege did not keep the rebellious members of that community from suffering the just judgment of God. Their privilege provided no security against their suffering the proper consequences of distrust and disobedience. Even when He had saved them, in such a glorious and gracious way, the “Lord afterward destroyed them that believed [trusted] not.” “St. Jude’s main object is to warn his readers against that party in the Christian community who, by its abuse of Christian liberty, transformed the gospel of purity into a gospel of wantonness, and to give them a safeguard against such. And the safeguard is this: to hold fast the faith once delivered to them, and to remember the consequences of being unbelieving. For this purpose, no warning could be more apposite than the fate of Jude’s own nation in the wilderness” (Plummer).
II. The illustration from tradition—It is quite certain that St. Jude did not get the illustration of the fallen angels from any Scriptures that have come down to our time, or of which we have any intimation. St. Peter indeed refers to the matter (2 Peter 2:4), but he plainly draws his illustration from the same source as St. Jude. A little thought brings home to us the conviction that it is a matter concerning which men may speculate and imagine much, but can know nothing. The nature, estate, possibilities of angels have not been made the subjects of Divine revelation, and we must not attempt to be wise above what is written. Admitting, however, that St. Peter and St. Jude referred to a very familiar tradition of their day, it is important for us to see that their use of it in a way of illustration does not guarantee the historical truth of it. Such as it is, and whatever it is, it can be used to illustrate and enforce truths and principles. These angels were thought of as highly exalted in privilege. But they had no absolute security of the privilege. They went wrong when they presumed on their privilege, and failed to meet the conditions of dependence and obedience on which the retention of privilege depended. In a similar way a modern minister may illustrate, and press home some truth, by the stories in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, and his using them in no sense implies his belief in their historic verity. The two illustrations effectively enforce the truth, which is true in every age, that “patient continuance in well-doing” alone can guarantee the retention of Christian privilege.
Jude 1:7-11. Denunciation of Moral Mischief-makers.—The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah is suggested by the terrible doom of the fallen angels. The connection of thought seems to be this—Those angels fell through sensual self-indulgence, and their miserable condition is appalling; Sodom and Gomorrah fell through sensual self-indulgence, and the present condition of the Sodomite sinners is appalling. And these false and mischievous teachers are tempting you to just that sensual self-indulgence which must as certainly bring a like appalling ruin round to you. Writing thus, St. Jude rouses himself into a very height of moral indignation which makes him pour forth burning words of denunciation. The danger for Christians lay in the attractiveness, personal fascination, of these mischief-makers, and in the subtlety with which they disguised the real purpose they had in view. To St. Jude they were maskers, “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and with a rough hand he pulls the sheepskins off, and shows us plainly enough the gaunt and hungry wolves within. He bids us look at them as thus fully exposed, and see three things—they are irreverent, sensual, covetous.
I. The moral mischief-makers were irreverent.—It may be that it was characteristic of these teachers that they tried to undermine the authority of the apostles. We know how St. Paul had to vindicate his claims against them. But it is always a sign of the self-willed teacher, and always a cause for the gravest suspicion, that the tone of a man’s ministry is irreverent, either in regard to God or to His servants. The good, sincere man is not irreverent, and cannot possibly be. The self-contained man is almost sure to reveal himself by the tone in which he speaks of dignities. By this fruit you may always know him. They can be no true leaders of men who themselves cannot obey, who “despise dominion.” (The illustration from Michael is treated in a Suggestive Note.)
II. The moral mischief-makers were sensual.—The character of the teaching could be judged by the character of the teachers. Our Lord taught the same truth in the Sermon on the Mount. St. Jude says, “See how these teachers of liberty, which is licence, themselves act in relation to their sensual, animal natures.” The revelation is an awful one; it reminds of Sodom and its shameful sins. “What they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things they are destroyed.” The A.V. rendering is altogether more vigorous than the R.V., “What they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” The teachers of the pure Christianity must themselves be pure. We have a perfect right to refuse any man’s teachings, when he does not match his teaching with his life. Sensual restraint is required by Christianity; sensual licence is the teaching of antichrist. And this truth is as true of the refined sensualities of civilisation as of the coarser and more animal forms that are characteristic of earlier times. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
III. The moral mischief-makers were covetous.—This almost necessarily follows from their self-centredness and self-sufficiency. Covetousness is getting for self, without consideration for the claims of others. The true teacher gets for those whom he teaches; the false teacher gets for himself. The three illustrations taken from Old Testament Scriptures impress this self-centredness which is sure to make a man covetous and grasping. Cain thought what he could get; Balaam considered what would pay; and Core [Korah] aimed to secure personal credit. We are right in testing all would-be teachers by the spirit which they show in doing their work. The Lord “pleased not Himself.” The apostle said, “We seek not yours, but you.” No man can ever do the work of Christ if he is possessed and ruled by a passion for serving himself.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
Jude 1:8. The Course of Sin.—After citing the above examples of impenitence and punishment, the apostle returns to the τινες ἄνθρωποι of Jude 1:4, and proceeds to show an exact parallel between them and both the fallen angels and the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain. To distinguish them, however, a term is applied—ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι, the exact application of which is open to a diversity of opinions. Beza, Grotius, and a host of other expositors take the word in a figurative sense, meaning idle and delusive fancies, in the same sense as Joseph was called the dreamer by his brethren. Some such idea is attached to the word in the A.V., where it is qualified by the word “filthy.” There is nothing in the original to indicate this except the context. In Acts 2:17, we have καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ὑμῶν ἐνύπνια ἐνυπνιασθήσονται—“and your elders shall dream dreams.” When Jude calls the false teachers dreamers, it appears to us that the Gnostics of his day claimed supernatural illumination. The apostles claimed inspiration, and to meet this they assumed the same Divine authority. The R.V. has, “in their dreamings”; but this appears a forced translation of the participle, considering the case and the gender. Once more the apostle refers to their sodomy—σάρκα μὲν μιαίνουσι, which is a strong expression to denote an unnatural method of gratifying lust. By κυριότητα we understand apostolic authority; and by δόξας the apostles themselves. Translating according to our view—‘In like manner indeed also these, the dreamers, pollute the flesh, set at nought authority, and blaspheme the excellent.’ The course of sin is much the same in all places and at all times. Its marks are the same on the spirit of the fallen angels, the inhabitants of Sodom, and the false teachers in Asia Minor. The chameleon may change its colours, but not its nature. Whereever sin touches there is a black spot. In the text the course of sin is threefold.
1. The abuse of natural instincts. God has placed in the body appetites and passions. In this respect man is on the same plane as the animal. Singularly enough, the animal is above man in the observance of their requirements. Neither gluttony, intemperance, nor incontinency has invaded the animal creation. Vicar Pritchard, of Llandovery, had a goat, which followed him through the town. At one period he was in the habit of frequenting public-houses. On one occasion some young men forced the goat to drink beer until it was drunk. The next day, when the vicar entered a public-house, the goat remained outside the door, and would on no account enter. The vicar learnt the lesson, and became a reformer of no mean order. The history of sin is read in the perversion of the natural man.
2. The denial of Divine authority. God has spoken in every age and to every man. Nature and Providence, as well as Revelation, have spoken in His name. Inspired men have delivered His commands, but sin has refused every voice, and rejected every message. The denial could not be made effectively without substituting error for truth, and forms of immorality for holiness.
3. The persecution of the excellent of the earth. Every virtue has been assailed in the persons of the virtuous. Every weapon has been used to torture and destroy the godly, in whose life the glory of God shone. If human nature is perverted, if the authority of God is contemned, and if the best characters are destroyed, what must be the consequence? Expulsion from heaven, and an abode with devils in the lake of fire!—W. P.
Jude 1:9. Michael and the Devil.—We can hardly suppose that the interview between Michael and Satan was communicated to St. Jude by the Holy Ghost, because such a novel revelation would have rather startled his readers than illustrated the truth he was setting before them. To treat it as a fable without foundation in fact would have weakened the argument of the apostle. Some think that the reference is to Zechariah 3:1, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan,” etc. But there was no reference then made to the burial of Moses, and the similarity in the expression is too slender a foundation to connect the two. Origen mentions an apocryphal book called Ἀνάληψις τοῦ Μωσέως, which was extant in his time. That the apostle quoted from that book is not improbable, although there is nothing in the narrative before us to warrant the belief. Then there is the other supposition, that among the traditions held by the Jews there was one relative to a controversy between the two chiefs of the opposing angels about the burial of Moses. As these traditions were largely taught in those days, it may be that the apostle simply reads a lesson to the false teachers from their own teaching. They brought railing accusations against the apostles, which even an archangel dared not, as the higher and final judgment awaits all. An accusation of blasphemy is the strongest, as blasphemy is a sin of the deepest dye, which, when made against the Holy Ghost, is unpardonable. The apostle therefore conveys but one lesson by his reference to the dispute about the body of Moses, viz. that the final judgment is reserved in God’s own keeping.
1. The text teaches that there are two orders of spirits in conflict concerning matters affecting the human race. Not only angels are ministering to the necessities of the saints, and devils using influence to destroy them; but the corner of the veil is lifted up in the text, that we may mentally see the battle-field on which these powerful spirits meet to contend for their side. The fact administers to the strength of our faith. Satan brings accusations against us, as was the case with Joshua; but the angel defends us, and hands over the accuser to a higher judgment.
2. The text teaches that controversy must be confined to its proper limits. This leads us to reflect on the spirit which has too often animated the controversies which have taken place between the polemics of the Church. Men have assumed so much authority as to consign their opponents to a literal fire and an eternal hell. In this they have assumed the function of judge. Michael was right, but he did not go further than controversy. However certain one may feel that he is contending for the truth, he must not utter imprecations on the head of his adversary.
3. The text teaches that judgment belongs to the Lord alone. The term “rebuke” implies far more than correction or admonition; it means to censure. Here we take it to indicate that God only has the power of final decision, and to Him must the prerogative be ascribed. Omniscience, impartiality, and power belong to Him. Christians must not avenge themselves, for vengeance belongs to the Lord.
4. The text teaches also another valuable lesson, viz. that the strongest side of controversy is an appeal to God. Bring your adversary into the presence of his Maker, and leave him in the Divine balance. He who can refer his matter to Him who is light, and in whom is no darkness, has his cause justified by the fact of his readiness to abide by God’s word.—W. P.
Dispute over the Body of Moses.—St. Jude evidently refers to something that was familiar to his readers. Now the Bible preserves nothing that can conceivably be twisted into the support of such a legend as this. “No tradition, precisely corresponding with this statement, is found in any Rabbinic or apocryphal book now extant, not even in the book of Enoch, from which Jude has drawn so largely in other instances (Jude 1:6; Jude 1:14). Œcumenius, indeed, writing in the tenth century, reports a tradition that Michael was appointed to minister at the burial of Moses, and the devil urged that his murder of the Egyptian (Exodus 2:12) had deprived him of the right of sepulture; and Origen states that the record of the dispute was found in a lost apocryphal book, known as “The Assumption of Moses”; but in both these instances it is possible that the traditions have grown out of the words of St. Jude, instead of being the foundation on which they rested. Rabbinic legends, however, though they do not furnish the precise fact to which St. Jude refers, show that a whole cycle of fantastic stories had gathered round the brief, mysterious report of the death of Moses, in Deuteronomy 34:5-6. It should be carefully noticed that the name Michael, for an angel or archangel, does not appear until Daniel 10:21. And it is in the book of Enoch” that he is prominent, as the “merciful, the patient, the holy Michael.” Perhaps, however, we are wrong in seeing any reference to the material body of Moses. John Bellamy makes a novel suggestion, which may receive some consideration, as he bases it on a careful examination of the original Greek. He says that the word “archangel” is a compound word, and means “the first messenger.” He thinks the reference is to John the Baptist, who was the “first messenger” of the new dispensation. The word “body” refers to the Messiah, as foretold in the shadows, types, and figures of the books of Moses; these shadows, types, and figures being called the “body of Moses,” the whole assemblage of all things that had respect to the manifestation of the Redeemer. The word “devil” should be translated Satan, “an adversary,” and really represents the rulers and Pharisees who resisted John’s teaching and Christ’s. “Thus we find that there was no celestial being called by the term ‘archangel,’ sent down from heaven to dispute with the devil about the fleshly body of Moses—no devil from hell, according to the vulgar opinion hitherto understood, to dispute with an archangel; but that it was the ‘arch-messenger,’ i.e. the first messenger; and that the word diabolo, rendered “the devil,” was applied as a collective noun singular to the assembled body of Pharisees, the adversary of the mission of the Baptist, the declared, interested enemy of the gracious Redeemer.” “Let those who suppose the contention was about the material body of Moses recollect that the material body of Moses had been buried in a valley in the land of Moab about fifteen hundred years, when it was said that Michael and the devil contended about it. A contention for the material body of Moses never took place between these two immaterial beings.” Thus mystically John Bellamy deals with the passage; but probably sober-minded Bible students will regard this spiritualising explanation as extravagant and unreasonable, and will prefer the simpler suggestion of a familiar legend, used by way of illustration.—H. B. D.
Jude 1:10. Presumption.—Dr. Bloomfield renders this verse as follows: “But those fellows, of things such as they have no knowledge of, they speak railingly; and, on the other band, such things as they do know—naturally, or sensually, as the irrational animals—they corrupt themselves therein.” At first sight it would appear that the meaning of the apostle is simply twofold; the holy truths of apostolic teaching, which the false teachers did not comprehend, they treated with scorn; the natural instincts, which they enjoyed in common with the brute creation, they abused. But on looking at the context we are inclined to think that there is a connection between the blasphemy of Divine things and the perversion of natural instincts. The parallel passage in 2 Peter 2:12-13 says: “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time.” Dr. Peile develops the brevity of the expression thus: “In those things they first vitiate, then destroy themselves; first vitiate the thing (or doctrine, by abuse), and destroy themselves in that abuse.” St. Peter had before said of them: “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” One of the perversions was their covetousness, and through feigned words they made merchandise of the saints. One would infer that they sold indulgences, and pretended to absolve the people from their sins on payment of money. It also appears that there were other practices of such a forbidden nature that no apostle would disgrace his epistle by the mention of the same.
I. The presumption of ignorance.—The virulent opposition of the false teachers to the truths taught by the apostles, and their setting up opinions of their own as the standard of morality, was typical of a course of action from which the Church has in every age suffered. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” This class of ignorance is to be distinguished from the absence of knowledge. He who has never heard the gospel must be ignorant of it; but in his case there is no assumption against its truths. On the other hand, false teachers were wilfully ignorant of the principles of Christianity because they were opposed to their corrupt practices. It was what Charnock calls practical atheism. In this age, when religious knowledge is so general, much of the opposition to the teaching of the Church starts from the same source. We must wake up to the fact that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. Faith in the truths of Revelation is impossible without a change of heart. The first step is to convert men, and then educate them.
II. The sin of presumption.—Those who have presumed to teach religion to others, whether their teaching has been a distorted gospel or some opinion of their own, have led people to the committal of sins far more heinous than is found in the heart of a heathen land. The morality of literal ignorance is far better than that of false teaching. This we have seen in the rise of various sects, some of which survive until the present day. Julian the apostate was a very violent opponent of Christianity, whose teaching led many into various immoralities. In the face of the boldness which is abroad, avowing that certain unnatural and immoral courses are lawful and desirable, the duty of the Church is clear. As the darkness flies from the light, so libertinism will not stand the presence of a high moral character. Therefore we think that the first concern of the Church is to utterly forsake all questionable practices, and confront the world with the virtues of the life of Jesus Christ.—Selected.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:7. Giving themselves over.—ἐκπορνεύσασαι; the ἐκ denotes the intensity of their lust, which would be gratified at all hazards. Strange flesh.—Other flesh; præter naturam; Romans 1:0. Eternal fire.—As eternal is a spiritual quality, and fire a material substance, the association of the two terms must be figurative, and suggestive of moral truth. Vengeance.—Is of course “just punishment,” not “unrestrained feeling.”
Jude 1:8. Filthy dreamers.—Omit the adjective. We call similar persons “mystics”; and with such there is always peril of neglecting the moral claims of religion. “Under the plea of spiritual perfection, these men have indulged in carnal pollutions, have sinned against themselves, have held tenets subversive of all civil authority and constituted government, have formed degrading conceptions of heavenly glories, or of glorified beings, as saints and angels, reducing the hope of the Church to the sensual delights of a Mahometan paradise.”
Jude 1:9. Michael the archangel.—For the legends concerning him, see Illustrations. See Zechariah 3:2; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; Revelation 12:7. There can be no doubt that an unhistorical incident is here cited as a warning; and our theories of inspiration must be such as can admit this fact.
Jude 1:10.—“What they do not know, and cannot know, they abuse by gross irreverence. What they know, and cannot help knowing, they abuse by gross licentiousness.”
Jude 1:11.—Three examples of similar wickedness. The stories of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. The root-evil in each case is covetousness. There were singular Rabbinic legends associated with Cain. Balaam’s advice to seduce Israel to moral evil is in mind (2 Peter 2:15). “A strange legend placed the souls of Korah and his company in Gehenna, but represented them as not being tormented there.”
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:12. Spots.—Lit. σπιλάδες, rocks; Vulg. maculæ (compare 2 Peter 2:13). “Rocks in your love-feast, causing stumbling and shipwreck.” Feeding themselves.—Seeking their own interests; getting their satisfaction out of leading you astray, forwarding their own purposes. Clouds … trees.—Figures of useless things, that may be noisy and may make a show, but prove wholly mischievous (compare 2 Peter 2:0). Twice dead.—When it fails to yield good fruit, and when it wholly loses vital sap.
Jude 1:13. Raging waves.—With evident allusion to unrestrainedness of sensual passions. Wandering stars.—Figure from the shooting stars, or the comets. Suggestive of the shortlived fame and baleful influence of these false teachers. “They too were drifting away into the eternal darkness.”
Jude 1:14. Enoch also.—Here is almost a verbal quotation from the apocryphal book of Enoch, or from the tradition embodied in that book. See Illustrations. Seventh from Adam.—Some symbolical importance attached to this numbering which cannot now be recovered.
Jude 1:15. Execute judgment.—To exercise universally judicial administration. This must not be taken as a quotation from inspired Scriptures.
Jude 1:16. Persons in admiration.—Or loudly praising persons for the sake of what they can get out of them.
Jude 1:18. Ungodly lusts—Lit. “after the lusts of their own impieties.”
Jude 1:19. Separate themselves.—Carrying with them a certain following, and so making schisms and sects. Sensual.—Better “sensuous.” The Spirit.—Who, if He dwells in us, surely controls the natural ambitions and passions. The word for “Spirit” is without the article in the Greek, so it may mean simply “unspiritual.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jude 1:12-19
Three Types of Mischief-makers.—In Jude 1:11 three men are introduced as types from the Old Testament history of the men who were putting the faith and purity of the Christian Churches in such grave peril. They are Cain, Balaam, and Korah. But it is evident that St. Jude had more in his mind associated with these names than we can find in the Scripture records. Round these three names Rabbinical and other legends had grown up, and in the Jewish mind there was a kind of horror at the mention of these names. It was saying the severest thing that could be said of the mischief-makers to liken them to Cain, or Balaam, or Korah. The Rabbinic legends represented Cain as the offspring, not of Adam, but of Sammael, the evil spirit, and Eve, and as the parent of other evil spirits, and therefore as connected with the idea of foul and unnatural impurity. The point prominent in the remembrance of Balaam is his scheming to ruin Israel through enticements to sensuality. And a strange Rabbinic legend, while it placed the souls of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Gehenna, represented them as not tormented there. The paragraph now before us divides into three sections.
I. The Cain type of mischief-makers (Jude 1:12-13).—We need not follow those precise suggestions which come from the legendary additions; we may keep to those which connect with the Scriptural narratives. Then the Cain type represents self-seekers. Cain did not want anything absolutely wrong. His want was unworthy, and revealed an unworthy disposition, simply because it was so utterly self-centred and selfish. And there ever have been men in Christ’s Church, who proved to be most serious mischief-makers, not because they have done things positively wrong, but because they have brought such a self-seeking spirit into it. Nothing more surely, or more utterly, spoils the peace of Christ’s Church, than the presence of a member who is merely “seeking his own things.” Such a man, like Diotrephes, “loves to have the pre-eminence,” and will be sure to push and strive to get it. Precisely what the self-interested man cannot bear is to have any favour shown to a brother, an Abel. Rejoicing in a brother’s blessing or success he cannot do. The poor soul can do nothing but rejoice in his own; and fret—and fret other people—if neither success nor blessing come to him. St. Jude is intensely severe in dealing with the Cain type of mischief-makers. They appear at the love-feasts, when everybody ought to be mindful of his brother, and finding every way of expressing brotherly love; and in a sharp sentence he shows the selfish men sitting at the feast, “feeding themselves without fear.” If there are any delicacies on the table, they have got them. If their neighbours right and left have had for a long while empty plates, they neither see nor care. We know the men only too well. The Church of to-day is troubled with their presence and influence. St. Jude likens them to four things; declares how certainly they must come into Divine judgment; and vigorously denounces the spirit which is so manifest in their conversation and intercourse. The four things to which they are likened are:
1. “Clouds without water,” self-contained, that have no blessing for anybody. Aggravating clouds, that show themselves as grandly as they can, wandering about the sky, but never break and pour refreshing rains upon the thirsty earth.
2. “Trees whose fruit withereth.” Aggravating trees! Watch them in spring-time—there is good show of blossom; watch them in summer—the fruitage seems enlarging; come to them in autumn—there is nothing for you: all is shrivelled. A tree for show, that had no blessing for anybody in it.
3. “Raging waves”; this suggests a darker side of the selfish man. He is always fussy, always worrying, always wanting to put everybody else straight; always mounting up like the waves, and making a great noise, and doing nothing, only showing his own noisy helplessness.
4. “Wandering stars,” who will come into no sort of order, persist in taking their own way, and will surely find the woe of being out of God’s order. Then St. Jude declares how certainly all self-ordering, self-seeking men must come into Divine judgment, taking his sentences (Jude 1:14-15) almost precisely from a familiar literary work of his day, known as the book of Enoch. It is precisely the same basis of Divine judgment that our Lord presents in His judgment parable, and in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Those who did no ministry were the self-contained, self-interested professors. The rich man was wholly self-satisfied, and never once thought of ministering. The great judgment of God falls upon those who, while bearing the Christ-name, were nothing to anybody, and did nothing for anybody—even as Cain. And upon them St. Jude pours out his denunciations, as well he might. See these men in any Christian Church. They are the grumblers, the dissatisfied, the boasters. They are the men who make much of the rich, flatter them, to get what they can for themselves out of them. “Their mouth speaketh great swelling words.” Alas! how often we have heard them! You would think the world was made, and the Church founded, entirely for the honour of these men. And they have “men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” They are “courtiers, flatterers, and parasites.” The temper characterised is that which fawns as in wondering admiration on the great, while all the time the flatterer is simply seeking what profit he can get out of him whom he flatters. There is no real Christian life unless the Cain spirit is wrought out of a man; unless self is dethroned, and sonship and brotherhood enthroned.
II. The Balaam type of mischief-makers.—A portion of Jude 1:16 evidently is suggested by the remembrance of Balaam. It is not essential to the selfish man that he should seek money only; but where there is gain-seeking there is an additional power for mischief-making in Christ’s Church. The gain-seeker is always a selfish man; but the selfish man is not always a gain-seeker. Balaam always had his eye upon the rewards of divination, and he could do mean and shameful things under the inspiration of that gain-seeking. Illustration may also be taken from Simon the Sorcerer, and from Demas. The love of money is partly a bad bias of natural disposition; but as such the Christian professor is bound to resist it and work it out. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Let the covetous, grasping spirit get into any Christian community, it will speedily effect its spiritual degradation and ruin. All high and holy motives fade away when the sordid ones are forced to the front.
III. The Korah type of mischief-makers.—These are the credit-seekers, who are sharply defined by St. Jude as “they who separate themselves.” They are the schismatics and sectarians. They want to be first. They can only get first by being “otherwise” in something. All sects that have broken off from the fellowship of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church have been led into their separateness by some Korah-typed man. For all true freedom of thought and life, within due bounds of authority, the Church provides, and this freedom should suffice for all who are humble-minded, and supremely want the honour of Christ, and the unity and blessing of God’s people. Credit of superior knowledge, or of keener spiritual insight, will soon make a man masterful within the Church of Christ, and there are always weak souls who are easily carried away by the positiveness, the dogmatic tone of the over-confident man.
These three types of Church troublers have been found in every age, and are found among us to-day. But he whose supreme aim is “the glory of Christ” can be no “self-seeker”; he whose great concern is being a blessing to others can be no “gain-seeker”; and he whose whole effort is devoted to securing the welfare of the community can be no mere credit-seeker. We must not be after the pattern of Cain, or of Balaam, or of Korah. “One is our master, even Christ, and all we are brethren.”
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
Jude 1:14-15. The Book of Enoch.—That there is a very close resemblance between this passage and the book of Enoch
(2) will be seen by comparing the following translation: “Behold He comes with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done, and committed against Him.”
Jude’s Use of the Book of Enoch.—As the book of Enoch had probably been in existence for a century before St. Jude wrote, and was easily accessible, it is more natural to suppose that he quoted here, as in previous instances, what he thought edifying, than to adopt either of the two strained hypotheses:
(1) that the writer had received what he quotes through a tradition independent of the book of Enoch, that tradition having left no trace of itself in any of the writings of the Old Testament; or
(2) that he was guided by a special inspiration to set the stamp of authenticity upon the one genuine prophecy which the apocryphal writer had imbedded in a mass of fantastic inventions.—A. Plummer, D.D.
Book of Enoch by Different Authors.—One of the most curious remains of early Christian literature that have come down to us is the Apocalypse, or book of Enoch. It is the product of different authors. The main bulk of the work, describing the visit of Enoch to paradise, and the vision of the future history of the world which was revealed to him there, was written by a Jew about 30 B.C. The rest of the work has been proved by Hilgenfeld to have been composed by a Christian at the beginning of the second century. It is this part of the book which has been assigned by Ewald and others to the first century before Christ, and regarded as evidence that the leading conceptions and terms of Christianity were already familiar to the Jewish people before the coming of Christ.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:20.—This gives positive teaching. It answers the question, What can sincere and earnest believers do to guard themselves from the insidious influence of evil men, and imperilling surroundings and influences? The answer in the general is thus given—Faith is strengthened and preserved by growth in the Christian life, prayer of the meditative and fervent type, cherishing the sense of the personal divine love, and keeping up hope of the fulfilment of the promise in Christ Jesus. Most holy faith.—This can only mean, a recognised and accepted set of first principles and truths, on which the apostolic stamp rested. Most holy faith as opposed to the most unholy quicksands of the doctrines condemned in this epistle. By building up is more especially meant, “strengthening the foundations.” Praying in the Holy Ghost.—An expression not found elsewhere. “What is meant is the ecstatic outpouring of prayer in which the words of the worshipper seem to come as from the Spirit who ‘helpeth our infirmities.’ ”
Jude 1:21. Love of God.—In the sense of His love to us. See John 15:9. Looking for.—With a special anticipation of your Lord’s coming.
Jude 1:22. Making a difference.—The A.V. appears to have been taken from the later MSS. The R.V. gives the reading which has earlier and better authority, but its English is somewhat involved: “And on some have mercy, who are in doubt [margin ‘while they dispute with you’]; and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” The subject is the discrimination with which it was necessary to treat Christians who were not well established in the faith. There is a wise blending of tenderness and severity. Hating the garment.—That is, avoiding all familiarity with them, as they would avoid touching the garment infected from the flesh of one who had died of pestilence.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jude 1:20-23
The Believer’s Daily Endeavour.—St. Jude seems to have been almost carried away by the intensity of his feeling as he wrote of the mischievous influence of the false teachers. There was in him much of the spirit of the Jewish Zealot, as there was also in his brother James. The former part of his epistle is full of the fiercest denunciations, but it would have been in every way a mistake if he had carried it on to the end in the same spirit. Warnings may be most necessary and most valuable; but they are not wisely left to stand alone. In moral as well as religious training counsels as to what should be done must always blend with warnings as to what should not be done. “What to do” is even more important than “What to avoid.” Christian teachers need always to keep in mind the lesson of their Lord’s illustration of the house that was “empty, swept, and garnished,” but not filled up with good spirits, and so easily came to be the abode of more and worse spirits than dwelt in it at first. Turning out evil never can suffice. St. Jude therefore closes his epistle with positive advice to the Christian disciples, and suggestive directions concerning their daily life and daily endeavour. First, however, reminding them that the conditions of peril in which they found themselves had been anticipated by the teachings and prophecies of the apostles, who had given them the sure test by which to judge all who claimed to be teachers. The teacher is at once judged and condemned if his life shows licence of sensual indulgence; and the teaching is at once declared to be false, they who offer it “have not the Spirit,” if its practical influence is to relax the strictness of Christian purity, and give believers licence for any forms of sensuous gratification. It must never for one moment be lost from the Christian view, that the holy is the true, and the self-indulgent is the false. No excuse, no disguise, no persuasion, can ever make an unclean, sensual, or sensuous thing Christian. Christ is righteous. Christianity is righteousness. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” It is the absolute and universally applicable test of all claimants to be teachers to-day as truly as in the days of St. Jude. Eloquence is nothing, emotional fervour is nothing; righteousness is everything. A man’s work must stand this test—Does it lift men into a higher plane of Christian restraints, wise mastery of life, and holy living? But St. Jude felt that it was not enough to say this, and to say this firmly. He must also give plain indications concerning that holy living. He must remind them of the things that should be in their daily endeavour, if they were to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” And the thing that more especially arrests attention is the skilful way in which St. Jude makes his counsels cover all the departments of the Christian life. He has a suggestive word for each, and so in effect intimates that if the whole man is every day brought into the obedience of Christ, fully used in the effort to gain and to maintain the righteousness that Christ requires, the man will be absolutely safeguarded from the subtleties of false teachers, whose offered licence can be no possible attraction, and from the surroundings of evil, which can only be influential on the carnally-minded man. St. Jude has four practical counsels related to the daily Christian endeavours. One concerns the intellectual Christian life—“building up yourselves on the most holy faith”; one concerns the emotional life—“praying in the Holy Ghost”; one concerns the practical Christian life—“keep yourselves in the love of God”; and one concerns the imaginative Christian life—“looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” St. Jude’s covering in this way every department of the Christian life reminds us that we have to make an entire sacrifice of ourselves, make of ourselves a whole burnt offering, a living sacrifice; reserving nothing, but laying body, soul, and spirit upon the altar. The absoluteness of our safety from all evil depends on the entireness of our consecration.
I. Our daily endeavour concerns the intellectual Christian life.—“Building up yourselves on your most holy faith.” We are familiar with apostolic advice as to the raising of an edifice of good character on the foundations of a Christian profession; but that is not in the mind of St. Jude. He is advising a continual daily endeavour to strengthen the foundations of faith; to get clearer, fuller, firmer apprehensions of the great Christian verities, the primary Christian principles. There is a necessary Christian knowledge. Growth in knowledge is necessary even to security of Christian living. Our Lord said, in His great prayer, “This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” And St. Peter bids disciples “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” St. Jude speaks of “our most holy faith” as if in his day the primary Christian truths had been arranged into some sort of creed, which was well known, and which bore upon it the stamp of apostolic authority. No such creed is given in the New Testament, and no such creed remains among the Church traditions; but it is not difficult to gather from the various apostolic writings those truths which were common subjects of instruction by all the early teachers. It will be found that they mainly concern the person of Christ, and include His claims to Messiahship, His proper humanity, His essential Divinity, His personal sinlessness, His resurrection from the dead, His present claim to service. And perhaps it has not yet been sufficiently apprehended that one of the truths most deeply impressed on the apostolic mind was the absolute demand Christ made that He should be served by righteousness. St. Jude advises the disciples to make daily endeavour to get clearer apprehensions of these primary truths and principles, and a fuller recognition of their practical applications to life and conduct. It is easy to see how directly our security will depend on our systematic growth in Christian intelligence. Let a man be content with what he knows of Christian truths, and he will surely find that what he knows gradually fades down and becomes ineffective, unable to offer any sort of resistance to the subtle forms in which error may assail. The laws of mental life apply to religious truth. Only by enlarging our scientific knowledge can we keep the scientific knowledge we have. If we will not go on, we must inevitably go back. And good truth loosely and ineffectively held can present little or no effective resistance to the insidious attacks of intellectual error. We need to find out how to make a wise daily endeavour to add to the sum of our Christian knowledge; not satisfied with the mere luxury of some religious sentiment, and the satisfaction of having felt some feeling, but determined that we will see some truth more clearly, or grip some truth more firmly—that, and that alone, would be “building ourselves up on our most holy faith.”
II. Our daily endeavour concerns the emotional Christian life.—“Praying in the Holy Ghost.” Many people in these days seem to have made up their minds that the Christian life is nothing but an emotional life, and so their daily endeavour is simply to arouse and increase emotion. And when effort is made to check the extravagance and get the emotional element to keep its fitting proportions, it is readily assumed that injury is being done. The emotional side of human nature is the cause of our gravest anxieties. The history of Christ’s Church reveals the fact that neither heresies nor inconsistencies have ever wrought mischiefs in the Church comparable for one moment to those wrought by the exaggerations and extravagances of religious emotion. For proofs reference may be made to Isaac Taylor’s books, The History of Enthusiasm and the History of Fanaticism. But the exaggeration unto perilous weakness must not prevent our pleading, under the leadership of St. Jude, for a daily culture of Christian emotion. There ought to be a daily glow of feeling, a fervour in our practical piety. That is indicated in the expression, “Praying in the Holy Ghost”; for what is peculiar in that sentence is not “praying,” but this particular kind of praying, “in the Holy Ghost.” No other New Testament writer uses the same term, though St. Paul indicates how we are helped by the Spirit in our prayer. What St. Jude has in mind is this—if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we shall be subject to His impulses, and especially His impulses to prayer. Let us take care that we respond to those impulses, never resisting or quenching the Spirit. His work is largely a work in Christian emotion. He will inspire it; but He will tone it, and limit it, and keep it in wise bounds. So often men respond to the Spirit’s impulse, but fail to respond to the Spirit’s checks. They start with the Spirit, and then get altogether beyond Him; they, as it were, take the bit in their teeth, and are away on their own line, but are trying to persuade themselves and others that they still have the Holy Ghost. Praying then represents the emotional side of Christian life; we are to make daily endeavour harmoniously to culture and to express religious emotion. We are to pray in the impulse of the Holy Ghost; but we are to pray in the limitations of the Holy Ghost. Our praying, our whole emotional Christian life, is to be absolutely kept in the sphere of the Holy Ghost. And St. Jude intimates that in this will be found our best security from the influence of false teachers. In exaggerated religious emotion the sectarian, and the teacher of moral licence, have always found their most promising seed-beds.
III. Our daily endeavour concerns the practical Christian life.—“Keeping yourselves in the love of God.” That will keep us in the love of God which will keep us in any right human relations. How does the wife keep herself in the love of her husband, the child in the love of the home, the friend in the love of the friend? There is no new condition for the maintenance of our relations with God our Father. The Lord Jesus told us very plainly how He “kept Himself in the love of God.” “I do always the things that please Him.” It is the universal law for all Christ’s disciples. The daily endeavour to live a life of practical obedience and service can alone “keep us in the love of God.” Jesus said, “If a man love Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” This counsel of St. Jude’s is needed in every age, as a caution against the errors into which men readily fall. It is so easy to overpress the intellectual element in Christian life, and become merely doctrinal and sectarian, spending all the force of our regenerate life in contending for opinions, and making particular settings of truth the occasion for separations and wranglings and bitterness. And it is so easy to overpress the emotional element in Christian life, and waste our spiritual strength in sighs and groans and feelings, and imagine that we are unusually pious on the ground of our religious excitements. Therefore our Lord and His apostles so constantly urge upon the disciples that religion is practical. It is the conduct, the tone, the doings, the maintaining of right relations, the putting of good principles into practice. St. John stamps for ever the Christly claim to real, practical, daily, godliness of doing when he says, “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He [Christ] is righteous.” And He was righteous in this, that “He went about doing good.” Never be afraid of doing—that is the expression of your new life in Christ; for it is that alone which can keep you in the love of God. Doing in order to make a claim upon Divine favour is hopelessly wrong. But doing to express our sense of Divine favour is hopefully right. It is what God looks for. It is what the world asks of all professors. You may hear the voice of men around you every day, saying to you—“Have you faith, and new life through faith? Then let us see it; show it in your works.” Righteousness, service, and charity before men; obedience, submission, and holiness before God—these alone can keep us in the acceptance of men or in the love of God.
IV. Our daily endeavour concerns the imaginative Christian life.—“Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Essential to the completeness of human nature is the imaginative faculty, on which rests the possibility of conceiving the future, and creating an inspiring hope. Only in imagination has the Christian anything before him. Perfect holiness and happy heaven are our hope. No doubt hope well-grounded, but still hope only, the creation of our imaginations. Faith says a hope “that maketh not ashamed.” But how seldom do we put it to ourselves that the culturing of the Christian imagination—and that is done by feeding and exercising it—is part of our daily endeavour. Look down on the book of truth we must. Look in on the moods of the soul we must. Look around on the duties of the hour we must. Look on and away to the “battlements of the Golden City,” and the “markets of the Golden Year,” we must. The man who keeps hope bright, well proportioned in its culture to the other Christian faculties, will be secure against the subtleties of evil. He is satisfied with the substance of things hoped for. Our daily endeavour as Christians—in which lies the assurance of our safety in the midst of the enticing and entrancing evils of the day—concerns our all-round and harmonious daily culture. We are minds—but not minds only—and must grow in apprehension of truth. We are feelings—but not feelings only—and must nourish all hallowing emotions. We are actions—but not actions only—and must sanctify our doings. We are hopes—but not hopes only—and must keep imaginations filled with the visions of the “King in His beauty” and the “home over there.” In a word, we must be “complete in Him.”
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
Jude 1:20-21. The Secret of being kept.—Thus arranged the participles represent the means by which the injunction is followed. Compare 1 Peter 1:13, which is exactly similar in construction and closely akin in sentiment. Jude is the prophet of the apostasy. He sounds the final note of warning. The key-word is “kept.” Those who embrace the faith and contend for the faith are preserved unto the day of presentation; those who reject and oppose the faith are reserved unto the day of retribution. Those who kept not their first estate, and are kept for judgment, are contrasted with those who keep themselves in the love of God, and are kept by His power. There are two sides to this keeping—a divine side (Jude 1:24) and a human side (Jude 1:20-21). The words preserve and persevere are so much alike that one can be spelt from the other; and so if we are to be preserved, it is equally true that we must persevere. How to persevere is the subject of this text. The text itself supplies the divisions:
1. The great duty and privilege—keep yourselves in the love of God.
2. The way to do it—building, praying, looking. We begin with the three means of perseverance:
1. A perseverance of growth. Building up yourselves on your most holy faith means carrying up character and conduct toward perfection. The foundation is laid, which is Jesus Christ. We have simply to add stone to stone and story to story, and use material consistent with the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Faith seems to stand here, as it often does, for the truth held in faith; what is believed and the belief of it both being included. And the disciple is to go on adding to faith, virtue, etc., until the whole life is complete (see 2 Peter 1:5-7). Two conditions are essential to this growth:
(1) growing knowledge of the word of God, which supplies the material for faith;
(2) growing obedience of the word, which incorporates the truth in the life. The word is the quarry from which obedience takes the blocks that are built into conduct. To study the Scriptures daily and practise what we learn builds this building up, and nothing else will; it also insures that right material shall be used.
2. A perseverance of prayer. As the word of God supplies the truth to be embraced by faith, so prayer supplies the energy and force to appropriate truth, and incorporate it into our life. If the word of God is the quarry, prayer is the power which turns the stone into building material and puts it in its place. The phrase is peculiar, “praying in the Holy Ghost.” Elsewhere the Holy Ghost is represented as praying in us (Romans 8:26-27). Both representations are true. Here the Spirit of God is represented as an atmosphere necessary to prayer. We can only persevere in prayer as we abide in the Spirit. A worldly atmosphere stifles prayer. We must breathe in the Spirit, and then prayer is the breathing out of the Spirit unto God. Here again is a twofold condition of praying: first there must be daily fellowship with the Spirit, or we shall not have the spirit of prayer; and again there must be daily exercise of prayer itself as communion with God. Such prayer becomes both a protection from temptation and a means of assimilation to God.
3. A perseverance of hope (compare1 Peter 1:1-13; 1 Peter 1:1-13). Hope looks forward into the future. The final consummation of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ waits to be revealed. We are pilgrims journeying toward a better country, and are passing through an enemy’s territory. Here we are to have only our tent; our permanent home is beyond. Hence the importance of fastening our gaze upon the city which hath foundations. All apostasy comes from looking at the past or at the present. To dwell on past attainments makes progress impossible. To be absorbed in the present is to follow the spirit of the age, always contrary to God. If faith provides the quarry and prayer the energy for building up Christian life, hope presents the ideal of the structure, and teaches us how to build. It becomes to us a perpetual, inspiring, heavenly vision, and the building grows into conformity with it. We are now prepared to appreciate the injunction, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” This suggests, first, that our only hope is in positive culture of holiness. Negative resistance to evil is not enough; we must overcome evil with good. We must learn the “expulsive power of a new affection” which drives out evil and replaces it by good. Ulysses sought to escape the sirens by being bound to the mast of his vessel. Orpheus drowned their voices with his lyre and sacred songs. Secondly, it is in the love of God; not our love to Him, but His love to us, that we must find keeping power. Archbishop Ussher, when an old man, lacked animal heat, and he used to seek to be constantly bathed in sunshine. When too feeble to go out of doors, he would be wheeled in his chair to an eastern window in the morning, a southerly window at noon, and a western window toward evening, and abide in the sunshine.—A. T. Pierson, D.D.
Jude 1:21. Keeping in the Love.—St. Jude wrote his epistle with an evident and direct purpose. He found, as St. Paul also found, that in Churches formed among the Gentile peoples there was exceeding danger lest the truth should be debased through the self-indulgence, the immoralities, and the false teachings by which such indulgences and moral evils were supported. St. Jude pleads with those on whom he could exert an influence, that they should “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints”; and, in very vigorous language, he denounces the iniquity of these inconsistent and unworthy professors. Then, in the closing of the epistle, he gives the principle on which alone members can be guarded from surrounding evils. The text is part of a loving and faithful persuasion of the believers.
Our most pressing Christian duty.—It may often be helpful to us to gather up the various claims and requirements of a religious profession into some very simple, but suggestive and inspiring principle. There are, in the New Testament, many, various, and minute injunctions and counsels for the guidance and regulation of a Christian life; and yet we cannot fail to observe that the apostles seem much more anxious to implant, and thoroughly establish, quick, living truths and principles, than to take the mere shaping and moulding of the details of Christian conduct into their control. They would rather make the tree good, and leave the fresh, strong, healthy sap to fashion its own leafage and flowering and fruiting. And it is well that we should follow apostolic models, and seek with much more anxiety to culture into vigour and health godly principles, than merely to fashion into set forms the minute details of Christian relations and Christian conduct. Let us make the tree good, and we need not fear for the fruit. But here we are met by a seriously hindering difficulty. There is not usually among Christian people a proper faith in the quickening, inspiring, controlling, and guiding power of established moral principle. Even good people persist in asking exactly what they ought to do in such and such circumstances; and so we have, again and again, to throw men back on the power of simple first principles. If we really know what the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is, what the foundation laws of the new spiritual kingdom are, then we cannot fail to be delicately sensitive in all the details of Christian conduct, to that which becometh the gospel. Our Christian duty is here set before us, not in a series of minute and carefully adjusted counsels, but in one simple, comprehensive, searching, yet glorifying principle—“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Our Saviour pressed this upon His disciples as if it were the very essence of their duty, “Continue ye in My love.” And the apostle Paul states what he had found could be the glorifying principle of a life—of a right noble and heroic life—when he said, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” Our text means in part—
1. Keep yourselves in the full conviction of the truth of God’s love.—That truth is the one special and distinctive revelation of God that was made to us by Christ and in Christ. That is the “life and immortality which He brought to light by His gospel”; for our future can only be properly seen in the light of God’s love. That is the central foundation truth of the Christian religion; it is the thing in which it differs from all other religious systems; it is the one truth concerning which we ought to be unspeakably jealous. Before Christ came men had some weak notions that love was one of the Divine attributes, but it was only one of them, and by no means prominent, certainly not the ruling one. The apostle John clearly marks off the Christian man from all the rest of the world by this as his peculiarity, “We have known and believed the love which God hath to us.” To believe in the love of God, and to come into the forgiving, cleansing, quickening, correcting, sanctifying power of that love, is to become a Christian. And this is but another way of saying it is “coming to Christ,” it is “believing on Christ.” We may have expected to find such a counsel in the sacred word as this—Keep yourselves in the justice of God; or this—Keep yourselves in the holiness of God; or this—Keep yourselves in the commandments of God. But there is nothing of the kind, because for renewed, right-hearted Christian men and women “justice” is quite safe, “holiness” is quite safe, the “commandments” are quite safe, if only they will “believe in the love which God hath unto them.” And yet what a half-fear there is in some of our hearts that this cannot be sufficient, that to state things in this way is to imperil something very vital. But that can only be because we do not fill the word “love” with the fulness of its meaning. We have a half-fear that love is weak and easyful. Thinking of frail human love, we fancy that it may do things that are not absolutely right; it can carry away on its impulses the judgment, the conscience, and the will. Men and women do, too often, make their fond affections excuse unworthy things. And therefore, even when we speak of God’s love, some of us feel as if we must shore the weak thing up, and buttress it with notions—theological notions—of His justice, His moral government, His holiness, and His law. And because our hearts are filled with these unworthy and hindering notions, we cannot receive the fulness of the revelation of God’s love to us in Christ Jesus. We will not let Christ show us how just, how holy, how searching, how inexorable, that love of God is. We should be satisfied if we could see it as Christ saw it, if we could feel it as Christ felt it. What is love as applied to God? What is the love of God as it is shown to us in Christ? The answer is this—You must know what the love of the Man Christ Jesus was, when He tarried among the ignorant and the suffering; and watching Him, correcting, counselling, comforting, you will learn the greatness and the graciousness of the love of God. You will see that love can reprove, can chastise, can say, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” to an erring disciple. You will see that love keeps rods for smiting, and refining fires for cleansing. No law, no judge, is so inexorable as love, which will not take its strong, stern hand off its beloved, until they are “whiter than snow,” cleansed so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. Love is the corner-stone, on which the whole superstructure of the faith rests securely. It underlies the exceeding great mystery of the Incarnation. Love is the very life and strength of the day by day earthly humiliation. Love is the all-satisfying explanation of the great Atonement. Love gives the life-force to the message of grace sent forth from the cross to every creature. We preach Christ. We set Him forth in all His thousand-fold forms of grace, in order that we may bring sinful men to know and believe the love which God hath unto them. Now St. Jude tells us that of this great truth we must be, personally and individually, most anxious. You and I must take care that we keep in the love of God. We must never let any theories, any teachings, any passing excitements of the hour, any exigencies of theological opinion, any class or sectarian sentiments, put in peril, or cast into the shadow of neglect, this first of Christian truths. We must be jealous with a godly jealousy over any aspect of the Divine Being which men may try to press in the front of this. In the sphere of Christian doctrines remember that this is the absolute first of truths—“God is love.” “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God.”
2. Keep yourselves in the comforting assurance of God’s love.—We should be able to say, not only, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me,” but also, with an actual, present application, “He loveth me, and giveth Himself for me.” For that love is actually over us and around us now; it wraps us about, as an enfolding and enveloping atmosphere; in it we live, and move, and have our being. If it be indeed so, then we hold the secret key that unlocks the meaning of all our cares, all our trials, all our losses, all our perplexities, and all our fears. We make our mistakes; we come into calamities; we stumble in our waywardness; we walk where the road is rough, and the clouds hang down low and darken; we lift burdens on our own shoulders; we have to carry burdens for others: but in all these things let us “keep ourselves in the love of God.” He rules and overrules. He, just like the holy father, trains His children through their mistakes and follies. Our lots in life may be very suffering ones, very anxious ones; but however dark they may be, let us never doubt God’s love to us. In that assurance we may find unfailing consolation and strength. “The light of that love is our guide through the gloom”; and with fuller, deeper feeling than even the ancient psalmist knew, we may sing and say, “When my father and my mother forsake me”—which, to many of us, is the almost impossible of earthly calamity—“then the Lord will take me up.”
3. That we put ourselves under the daily constrainings of God’s love.—Here in our common earthly relations there is no persuasion urging us to goodness like the daily influence of a true and faithful love. How that dear earthly friend, that beloved companion of our life, moves and sways and inspires us, guards and keeps and purifies us! We feel as if we could not do wrong and disgrace that love. We must be beautiful for the honour of that love. We cannot go where our beloved one would be grieved to find us. We cannot speak what would pain our friend to hear. That earthly love is, in gracious measures, a sweet and sanctifying influence. But how much more should this be upon us the constraining power of the love of God! Surely His love should be the supreme impulse to holy living, the inspiration of all high Christian attainment, the constraint of all holy and earnest labour. The apostle Paul is the great human example of the holy, devoted, self-denying Christian, and he can only explain the Divine beauty and consecrated energy of his life—as we ought to be able to explain ours—by saying, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” That I may be very direct and practical, let me show you that the counsel of the text bears this further persuasion upon you—Beware lest anything should take you from under the shadow of God’s love. I need only suggest what things may do this. Pride of heart will. All forms of subtle self-reliance will. There is a tender gentleness, a gracious humility, a trustful dependence, a self-forgetting love, about everybody who really believes in the love of God, and lives in the sanctifying warmth of it. If you have lost these things, or at least, if you have lost the bloom off these things, if you feel very well satisfied with yourselves, and very confident that you can stand steady in your own strength, then you may be sure that you have come from under the shadow of the love. For it has this for its peculiarity—it always makes men meek, dependent, gentle. Pandering to the appetites and passions of the body, or to the pride of the intellect, will be sure to take you away from the love. That love can only dwell with the temperate, the pure—the saintly ones, who walk in white—the self-restrained, the modest; so that, if any of us are determined to be self-indulgent, or if we will cherish conceit of our intellectual superiority, the love will be sure to remove afar off. All the manifold phases of unbrotherliness put in peril our relations with the Divine love. For if we do not “love our brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen?” Unwatchfulnesses and wilful disobediences also take us away from the love. For the Master Himself said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments; and My Father will love you.” So it is made quite plain for us all that God’s love is no weak thing. It is, indeed, a most searching thing, a most sensitive thing. It is most quickly grieved. It is wounded with a rough touch. It may be hurt by our commonplace, every-day Christian frailties. If we fear that we have got away from that life-constraining love of God, let us hear the voice of His servant, calling us back under the shadow, and bidding us “keep ourselves in the love of God.”
The Sense of God’s Love.—If you had been born a Jew, it would not have seemed strange to you that you had to hear continually about God’s law. It was daily read. There were times of special rehearsal (Josiah, Nehemiah). As born a Christian, it is not strange that you should continually hear about love. This is the central force of the gospel; it wields the moral power, the “bands of a man.” The love that is characteristic of the gospel gathers round the revelation of the Father. Divine Fatherhood was shadowed over in Judaism; it was there, but it was not made prominent. It takes the first and front place in Christianity. Fatherhood is clearly seen in the patriarchal religion. And that was the universal religion of its day. Fatherhood is in Judaism; and realised at least by the pious and spiritually-minded Jew. But Fatherhood gains a fuller meaning in Christianity. The gospel is really this—the power of God’s love on human souls.
I. The beginning of the Christian life is the revelation to the soul of the love of God.—It seems that a special revelation was needed to teach men God’s love. Nature alone cannot teach it, because of its uniformity; Providence alone cannot, because of its perplexity; Judaism could not, because of the sternness of its law; and heathenism could not, because of its coarse polytheistic and sensual associations. The difficulty of receiving it lies in our own natures, enfeebled and degraded by sin. Our consciousness of sin makes us think God unloving, just as the erring child thinks the father cruel, and the faithless man with the one talent thought his master hard and unjust. As revealed, the love of God is no mere statement; it is an exhibited love, exhibited in a recovering purpose, in a priceless gift, in a mysterious sacrifice. But, as revealed, it needs appropriation by us. When appropriated it becomes a power to change our spirit and our life. It changes our views of God, life, duty, eternity, etc. We see all in the light of “crucified love.”
II. The continuance of Christian life depends on keeping up the sense of God’s love.—That alone can keep us sincere and earnest. Love is more exacting than law, more inexorable than law. Love is jealous lest its object should lose one of the smallest blessings of obedience and goodness. Love is jealous lest its object should find and experience one of the sorrows that attend upon evil. Illustrate by the greater jealousy over a son than over an apprentice. Nothing will keep us so pure, so steadfast, and so humble, as urging upon us, ever afresh, the assurance of God’s love.
III. The one effort of our Christian life should be to keep in the sense of God’s love.—In our earthly life we know the help and the joy of keeping in the love of mother, wife, or friend. It must be more helpful and more blessed to keep in the love of God. To lose the light of God’s love is more—far more—than losing the sunlight off the flowers. How shall we keep in the love?
1. Cherish every loving thought of God that may be suggested to you.
2. Walk in righteousness, and you will ever be in the smiles of the love.
3. Watch over all your opportunities of heart-fellowship with Christ, for friendship needs communion.
4. Cultivate the child-spirit. Illustrate by our Lord putting the child in the midst of the men. No doubting in the child-heart. But can this counsel apply to all, “keep in the love”? Do we all believe the love which God hath unto us? Are any living on in sin, because they do not believe the love? Have you felt how God’s love to sinners shines forth from Calvary? I beseech you then, Come into the love, that we may be able to say also unto you, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
Jude 1:22-23. Mercy for the Victims of Evil Influence.—The beautiful turn of these verses exhibits in full force the Christian disposition of St. Jude. The former part of the epistle, taken by itself, conveys the impression that the apostle was a mere declamator and denunciator—a master of withering censure. But now the very men whom he had severely reprimanded are to be sought and reclaimed. We have no room to give the learned criticism of the text supplied by our great scholars. The Revisers have accepted it, with a marginal note, to remind the reader that the first part is doubted. After carefully reading the pros and cons, we see no valid reason for rejecting the portion in dispute, nor is there any difficulty in the rendering. “Those disputing with you, have mercy upon them; and save some, by snatching them as brands from the burning; have mercy on some with caution; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” The method of treating the three classes on Christian grounds is laid down here, and is as applicable to-day as it then was.
1. The doubters. They are to be treated with consideration and kindliness. Doubt is sometimes the result of imperfect training, or a misapprehension of the truth. There was a class then who were not able to judge between the teaching of the apostles and that of the false teachers. They needed a tender treatment to bring them to a knowledge of the truth. This is a very large class in our own day. They say, “We do not know what to believe.” Then they will adduce what they have heard against the Church, in opposition to the teaching of the Church. This is not a hopeless class by any means. Patience, perseverance, and compassion, accompanied by lucid teaching, will lead them into the way of truth. Many, who once were disputers, are now firm believers of the truth.
2. Scoffers. There was a class, not the leaders of the schism, that had been led away, to whom warning must be adminstered. To reclaim them terrible earnestness was needed, just as a man plucks the brand from the burning, which he desires to save. The suggestion is that the authority of the truth be used. Not persuasion, but admonition, exhibiting the power of the truth. The scoffer is a man who ridicules tenderness and love, but is a coward before the attacks of the sword of the Spirit. Let him know that there is a God in heaven, and a judgment at whose bar he must soon stand, and his conscience will tremble and make a coward of him. No asperity or bitterness is to be used, but forcibly bring home to him a sense of his guilt by the earnest care for his soul which your manner will manifest. We do not hear of many scoffers converted in our own day, owing to the loving manner which the Church assumes towards everybody. Let the arrow of conviction have its own barb, and let it fly.
3. The sensualists. They must be approached with fear, or with caution. By these the apostle must mean the false teachers themselves, who preached sodomy, and other forms of immoral practices. Although sunk very deep in sin, they were not to be abandoned; yet, inasmuch as their garment was defiled by sin, they were not to be approached too nearly or too tenderly. They were within the bounds of conviction, although very near the circumference. The lesson for the Church to learn is to approach men according to their condition. Somebody in a hurry gave a tract on the sin of dancing to a man with two wooden legs. We fear that worse mistakes, if possible, are committed frequently. When the Saviour preached to publicans and sinners, His method was simple, and His message loving; but when He preached to the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees His manner was more dignified, and His message more authoritative.—W.P.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Jude 1:24. Able to keep you.—Whatever may be said about your self-efforts, the supreme truth is that God can keep, and your supreme hope should rest on the assurance that He is keeping. Falling.—Better stumbling, or the mistakes that may lead to a fall. Of His glory.—That associated with His second coming.
Jude 1:25. Only wise God.—Better “to the wise God alone.” R.V. “to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Both now and ever.—R.V. “before all time, and now, and for evermore” “Before all time” is exactly “before the whole æon,” “for ever” is literally “unto all the ages or æons.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jude 1:24-25
God’s Work in Souls.—This beautiful doxology breathes of the apostolic spirit seen in others. See Romans 16:27; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; and 1 Timothy 3:3. The additional words, διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν, are not contained in many MSS., although most recent editors have included them in their text. We are inclined to omit them, but not on strong grounds, principally on the ground that their presence in the text does not well agree with the incisive style of this apostle. We have placed σοφῷ in brackets, because internal evidence is against it. We think that σωτῆρ here, as at 1 Timothy 2:3 and Titus 1:3; Titus 3:4, refers to God the Father, and not to Jesus Christ, whose name probably was not in the original, but inserted in the margin, and later incorporated with the text.
I. Supplication.—“Now unto Him who is able to guard you from stumbling, and to place you before His glorious presence with exceeding joy.” The fervent desire contained in this word starts as if with the consciousness of the presence of the seductive teaching of the false teachers.
1. God is able to guide His people. “He will give His angels charge over thee, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” It is the Spirit that guides into all truth, and prevents stumbling against error. “Lead us not into temptation,” is one of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, because the faithful are liable to commit sin under pressure. “I will guide thee with Mine eye,” is a promise to those who walk in the narrow path.
2. God is able to consummate the work of grace. The end will be glorious, because the saints will be perfect. The presentation at court will be made with greeting. The congratulations of heaven will be with “exceeding joy.” There are many sources of joy, but redemption will exceed all others in degree and duration. The words of the parable are identical—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant; … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
II. The ascription.—“To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and through all the ages.” That is, let the God of glory and majesty be revered and praised in time and in eternity.
1. Praise the being of God. He dwells in light, and in Him is no darkness. The effulgence of the Divine presence is “light inaccessible.” In creation and redemption there is a reflexion of that glory—“The heavens declare the glory of God,” etc. His greatness—majesty—is unsearchable. He is incomprehensible. A sense of His greatness mingles reverence with praise—“My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
2. Praise His government. His dominion is from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. The idea is that His kingdom is co-extensive with all creation. His power or authority is paramount. Rebellion is temporary; He must rule until all enemies are under His feet. Even the last enemy—death—will be vanquished. The Christian is never without joyous strains when he meditates upon the works of Jehovah. See the concluding paragraph of Psalms 103:0—W. P.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
Jude 1:24. The Steadying Power of Christ.—The work that Christ does in souls that are exposed to malign influences, and even to active temptations, is sometimes misconceived, and even misrepresented. It is thought that Christ is with us in the temptation, to guard us from it, to defend us from its evil influence. It is altogether truer, and it is certainly deeper and more searching to say, that Christ is in us, the inspiration and the help in our battling with and overcoming the temptation. A doctor may actually deal with a disease which afflicts us; but it is altogether a higher type of doctor who deals with us, and so nourishes our vitality that we can successfully throw off the disease. It is something on a slippery day to cling to a friend’s arm, and be kept from stumbling. But it is a much greater thing to be made so steady in limb, and so self-controlled in movement, that we can walk the slippery highways without fear. Christ keeps from falling by His grace in us steadying us.
The Aim and Hope of Christ.—“To present you faultless.” R.V. “To set you before the presence of His glory without blemish.” St. Jude’s precise point is usually missed. It is when the continuous sanctifying work of Christ is thought of. It is true that when “sanctified wholly” we may be presented faultless. But St. Jude means that Christ wants to present His people as those who have not fallen, under the enticements of the world, the flesh, the devil. Christ makes us clean when we come to Him, and He is willing to give such grace that we may step into heaven clad in unstained garments. His grace is sufficient for that; and that is what He wants. Should not that be what we want—that Christ should present us as virgin souls, kept pure, always pure, through His abounding grace?
Moral Purity: what it is, and what it gains.—Notice how we have here the great end to which this upholding leads—“Able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” To Jude, then, that future had three salient points. The great range of mountains, as it were, towered up into three peaks, each of them smitten by the sunlight, and so made visible across the waste. And these three are, after all speculation and revelation, the sum of what we really know about that blessed heaven to which we aspire—“faultless before His presence—with exceeding joy.” As to the first, it indicates moral purity. The word is the same as is used to describe the physical perfection of the sacrificial lamb, which was to be “without blemish,” and is thence transferred to describe the immaculate holiness of Christ’s manhood and of His servants, who are one day to be “holy and without blame before Him in love.” The unspotted and unblemished lamb was the type—Christ Himself. So not only may we be kept without stumbling here; but the foulest and the darkest of us, in whose nature sin may seem to be most deeply engrained, may humbly expect to stand in His presence “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” Here the nature may be one field of black, broken only by narrow and short streaks of contradictory light; but yonder all the foulness may be discharged from it, and sin lie behind us, an alien power that has nothing in us. That is the first of the mountain summits, up to which the good hand of the Lord our God may lead us, devious and tottering though our steps be there. And the second of them lies by the side of the first, equal in altitude, equal in radiance—“before His presence.” If we are to connect that clause directly with the one which precedes it, it is intended to heighten the conception of the purity. If it is without blemish when it is submitted to the searching of that fierce light, it must be unblemished indeed. But if we take the words not to be thus connected, but to present a separate though cognate thought, they present the hope of a complete immersion in, and illumination by, the glorious presence in which we shall walk. Purity is the condition of that. We must be blameless in order to stand in the presence of God. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”—A. Maclaren, D.D.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jude 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26