GENERAL EPISTLE OF JUDE.
author of this letter calls himself "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and
brother of James," v. 1. This is not James, the son of Zebedee and brother
of John, but James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, Jas. 1, 1; Gal. 1, 19; 1 Cor.
15, 7. This Jude, or Judas, therefore, was also a brother (or cousin) of the
Lord; he was an apostle, and is probably to be identified with Judas Lebbaeus,
or Thaddeus, Matt. 10, 3; Mark 3, 18; Luke 6, 16; Acts 1, 13. The letter seems
to have been written to Christians in Palestine, and since no mention is made of
the destruction of Jerusalem, its date may safely be set at about 68 A. D.
The letter shows evidence of great agitation on the part of the writer, who evidently had cause for the gravest apprehension as to the steadfastness of the Christians to whom he was writing. After the salutation there follows a brief reference to the reason for addressing this letter. The apostle next reminds his readers of some of the great judgments of the Old Testament, at the same time characterizing the false teachers as people that despise the divine authority in order to live according to their flesh, who, however, will receive their punishment when Christ returns to judge the quick and the dead. The readers are urged to remember the teaching of the apostle and to remain steadfast in faith and prayer, full of abhorrence toward sin, but also of true love for the sinners. The letter closes with a doxology.
salutation: V. 1. Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to
them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and
called: v. 2. Mercy unto you, and peace, and love be multiplied. This
is the common form of introduction to a letter of that day and age, but in a
Christian garment: Judas, servant of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James, to
those that have been called, the beloved of God the Father and the preserved of
Jesus Christ. Jude calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, as Paul often does,
although he was called as an apostle. There was nothing of hypocritical pride
about these men which might have caused them to presume upon their rights in
dictating to the people in their charge. Their attitude was rather that of
willing service. That humility was a virtue of Jude appears, moreover, from the
fact that he is perfectly content to be known as merely the brother of the more
illustrious James. The names which he applies to his readers are significant.
They are beloved in God the Father; God loved them from eternity, as a result of
which love He gave them His only-begotten Son, through whose vicarious sacrifice
they have been reconciled to Him and become His dear children. And it is Jesus
Christ who confirms and preserves them; for to Him they belong by virtue of His
atonement and their faith, from Him they receive their strength, as the branches
from the vine. Thus the Christians are members of Christ, children of God,
because faith was kindled in their hearts through the call of the Gospel.
Because the Lord wrought in them the power to heed His call, therefore they have
become partakers of His love and of the confirming power of Jesus Christ, their
The salutation speaks of the highest blessings in the world: Mercy to you and peace and love be multiplied! These are the gifts of God to men in and through Christ. The mercy, the free favor of God, is the basis, the ground of peace, and this is perfected in the feeling of God's love for the believers. Of these wonderful spiritual gifts the Christians should have not only a small, insignificant amount, but the apostle desires that they be poured out upon them in rich measure, that the divine mercy and grace become a source of divine life in them and cause them to partake of the nature of God, to be renewed in His image. This is a declaration and a blessing which at the same time imparts to the believer the spiritual power needed for steadfastness in faith.
exhortation to constancy in faith: V. 3. Beloved, when I gave all diligence
to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto
you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was
once delivered unto the saints. V. 4. For there are certain men crept in
unawares who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men,
turning the grace of our God Into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God
and our Lord Jesus Christ. Here Jude not only gives his reasons for writing,
but also for writing as he did; Beloved, as I was putting forth all earnestness
to write to you concerning our common salvation, I felt constrained (instead) to
write to you, admonishing you to contend for the faith which once for all has
been committed to the saints. Jude had planned to write a letter or a treatise
on the great message of salvation, of the love of God in Christ Jesus, on the
fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith which are intended for all men.
With this intention he was seriously concerned, to it he was giving all
diligence. But he found himself obliged to change his plans, to abandon his
intention, and that by certain news that had come to him, which caused him to
write, instead, of a danger which was threatening the Gospel in the province
where his readers were living. Without going into the discussion of the
fundamental doctrines at all, Jude here briefly admonishes the Christians not
only to be on the defensive, but also on the offensive, to defend themselves and
to contend most earnestly and emphatically for the faith, for the Gospel-truth,
as it was, once for all, delivered to the saints in the teaching of the
apostles. Wherever the apostles had come, they had communicated to men the
joyful news of the salvation of all men through the atoning work of Christ. That
was the summary and basis of all their teaching. To this truth, therefore, the
Christians must cling, for this they must battle with all the power at their
The apostle now describes the danger: For by stealth certain men have slipped in, who long ago have been designated beforehand to this condemnation, ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God to lasciviousness and deny our one Master and Lord Jesus Christ. The false teachers to whom Jude has reference made use of the same tactics that have been employed by their successors ever since. They did not proclaim themselves as the murderers of men's souls, as liars and deceivers. They crept into the congregations unawares, they slipped in by stealth. Gal. 2, 4; 1 Tim. 1, 6; 2 Tim. 2, 16-18; they assumed a pious, a sanctimonious behavior; they affected a great zeal for the Gospel. But, as the apostle says, the judgment which characterizes such men, the condemnation which will strike them, has been predicted in Scriptures long ago. Although professing godliness, they were in reality godless; they perverted the free grace of God into lasciviousness, the lust of the flesh; they turned the liberty of the Gospel into the license which their evil nature craved; they became addicted even to public indecency; and they denied both God, the only Lord, and Jesus Christ the Savior. 2 Pet. 2, 1-3; 2 Tim. 3, 2-8; Titus 1, 10-16.
of the judgment of God: V. 5. I will, therefore, put you in remembrance,
though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the
land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. V. 6. And the
angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath
reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the Judgment of the great
day. V. 7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like
manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh,
are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The
apostle offers a number of illustrations from the Old Testament to show that the
Judgment will finally come upon all deceivers: But I desire to remind you, since
you are perfectly aware of it all, that the Lord, having delivered the people
out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those that did not believe.
The examples of God's wrath and punishment which Jude intended to refer
to had, of course, been included in the instruction which the readers had
received in the doctrine of Scriptures. Therefore Jude feels that it is but
necessary for him to remind them of a few in order to bring out his point; it
was not necessary to write at length. There was, first of all, the illustration
from the history of the children of Israel. God had indeed delivered them from
the hand of Pharaoh, brought them out of the land of Egypt with great might and
with an outstretched arm. But when they were afterwards disobedient and refused
to believe the words which He spoke to them through His servant Moses, He kept
them in the wilderness for forty years until all those had been destroyed and
perished that had left Egypt as adults.
A further example of God's wrath and punishment is that of the evil angels: And angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He has reserved for the Judgment of the great day, with everlasting bonds under darkness. In the beginning God made all His creatures good, including the angels, Gen. 1, 31. But certain of His angels were not satisfied with their position, with their office, with their dignity. They rose up in rebellion against the Lord and left the habitation which the Lord had given them. The punishment of the Lord, therefore, came upon them with almighty force: they are being reserved, or kept, in everlasting chains under darkness, in a state of confinement from which they cannot escape. With God's permission they may move around in the world, but they are still under the doom from which there is no escape; they have been cut off forever from true fellowship with God, from the hope of salvation, 2 Pet. 2, 4.
A third illustration is taken from the book of Genesis: Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having glutted themselves in fornication in like manner as these men and gone after other flesh, are set forth for an example, sentenced to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. So unspeakably filthy were the transgressions of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah that they have become synonyms for all that is unmentionably debased in human nature. And the cities near by, Adamah and Zeboim, Deut. 29, 23; Hos. 11, 8, followed their example and became guilty of like excesses in unnatural fornication, not even hesitating to cohabit with beasts. The curse of the Lord, therefore, Deut. 27, 21; Lev. 18, 23; 20, 15. 16, descended upon these cities and their inhabitants. Fire from heaven fell down and destroyed their possessions even to the last stone, and to this day the Dead Sea is a warning sign of the fierceness of God's vengeance, just as the transgressors are suffering the pains of everlasting fire in hell.
character of the seducing teachers: V. 8. Likewise also these filthy dreamers
defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. V. 9. Yet
Michael, the archangel, when, contending with the devil, he disputed about the
body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The
Lord rebuke thee! V. 10. But these speak evil of those things which they
know not; but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they
corrupt themselves. V. 11. Woe
unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the
error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. V. 12. These
are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding
themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about of winds;
trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
v. 13. raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars,
to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. The apostle now
applies the lesson of the examples quoted by him to the false teachers: Now, in
spite of all, these visionaries also defile the flesh, repudiate lordship,
blaspheme the dignities. The false teachers might and should have known these
warning examples; but they calmly disregard them, and follow similar courses.
They are dreamers, visionaries, whose own imagination deceives them; in their
delusion and blindness they take the unreal for the real. They become guilty of
the most outrageous crimes of sensuality, not only in thoughts and
desires, but also in deeds. At the same time they repudiate, reject, the
heavenly lordship; they refuse to accept and bow down under the rule of God; and
they blaspheme the dignities, the angelic orders, and everything
that has majesty and glory before God.
This insolence is all the greater since, as the apostle writes: But Michael, the archangel, when, disputing with the devil, he debated concerning the body of Moses, did not dare to bring upon him a condemnation for his blasphemy, but said. The Lord rebuke thee! An angel of the very highest order, Michael, had been commissioned by God to bury Moses, Deut. 34, 5. 6, and was challenged by the prince of the evil angels who wanted the body for himself. It was during this debate that Michael, although fully in the right, yet abstained from pronouncing the sentence of condemnation upon the powerful fallen angel. Instead of that he placed vengeance and punishment into the hands of God by calling out over Satan that the Lord should rebuke him.
The insolence of the false teachers, by contrast, has no bounds: But these men, on the one hand, scoff at what they do not know, and, on the other hand, what they do understand by instinct, like the irrational beasts, in these things they are ruined. That is a characteristic attitude of the false teachers. The truth they do not understand, their carnal mind is blind to all true wisdom; and therefore they scoff and jeer at it, Col. 2, 18. On the other hand, they do understand some things by nature, by instinct, just like irrational beasts, like animals, namely, the things pertaining to their fleshly lusts. But their understanding, instead of teaching them the proper care of themselves, is forgotten in their senseless lust, and they ruin themselves, body and soul, 2 Pet. 2, 12.
The apostle now pictures the fate of the false teachers: Woe to them! For the road of Cain they walked, and in the error of Balaam they rushed headlong for reward, and in the rebellion of Korah they perished. The apostle describes the punishment as having already taken place, so certain it is, so surely the woes will come upon these deceivers. Just as the entire conduct of Cain, even to the murder of his brother Abel, grew out of a cursed selfishness; just as Balaam permitted himself to be blinded against better knowledge by the bribe of Balak, king of the Moabites, Num. 25, 1-3; 31, 16, for the sake of filthy lucre; just as Korah rebelled against the Lord in refusing obedience to the Lord's representative: so these false teachers of whom Jude here speaks are guilty of the same transgressions, selfishness, avarice, disobedience. Note the climax in the arrangement of the examples.
The apostle's righteous indignation now breaks forth in his description of the false teachers: These are hidden rocks in your love-feasts, carousing together without fear, feeding themselves, clouds without water driven along by winds, autumnal trees, unfruitful, twice dead, uprooted; wild billows of the sea spuing up their own disgraces, wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness is reserved eternally. Just as the hidden or sunken rocks endanger every boat that comes into their neighborhood, so these deceivers are a constant menace to the believers because they skillfully hide their true nature. They attend the love-feasts of the Christians, such as they celebrated in connection with the Holy Communion, not, however, in the spirit of Christian fellowship, but for the purpose of carousing, without the slightest regard for the reverence which propriety demands, of gorging as true servants of their own bodies. They are like fog-clouds that are driven in from the ocean, but never yield one drop of fructifying moisture. They are like trees in the late autumn, devoid of foliage and fruit and thus doubly dead, uprooted at that. They are like the waves and billows of the great sea, whose very foam brings out the impurities that are carried along by the ocean currents. They are like shooting stars, which rush from their sphere into darkness, never to be seen again. All these comparisons, jumbled as they purposely are, apply to the false teachers. They came into the assemblies of the Christians and were unduly prominent in everything they did. They presumed to be pastors, but they lived off the people whom they swindled, and waxed fat off the spoils, Ezek. 34, 8. In great, swelling words of vanity they promised new wisdom; however, they produced nothing but the old foolishness, Col. 2, 8; 1 Tim. 4, 7; 2 Tim. 2, 16-18. They professed to lead the real Christian life, but they showed nothing but hypocrisy. They were altogether carnal, without one spark of true, spiritual life. Their end would therefore be everlasting disgrace in the darkness of hell. The same description applies to false teachers in our days and to the end of time.
coming judgment upon the false teachers: V. 14. And Enoch also, the seventh.
from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with. ten
thousands of His saints v. 15. to execute judgment upon all, and to convince
all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have
ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have
spoken against Him. V. 16. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their
own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great, swelling words, having men's persons
in admiration because of advantage. The apostle here introduces a quotation: But
there prophesied also for these the seventh from Adam, Enoch, saying, Behold,
the Lord came with myriad saints to execute judgment upon all and to convict all
the godless of all their works of godlessness which they godlessly committed,
and of all their violent speeches which the godless sinners spoke against Him.
Note the repetition of the same word, godlessness, ungodliness, impiousness,
since the apostle aims to drive home the heinousness of the transgression. His
quotation, ascribed by himself to Enoch, the seventh patriarch in line from
Adam, may without hesitation be considered as having been taken from the
apocryphal Book of Enoch; for the possibility of the Lord's having acknowledged
a fact recorded in an apocryphal book is not excluded. Still it may also have
been transmitted to the apostles in some other manner, very likely by the Lord
Himself, in one of His discourses on the end of the world, Matt. 24, 3-26; Luke
21, 5-36. At such a time Jude also was told what Enoch had prophesied concerning
the Deluge and the Last Judgment. With myriads of holy ones, angels, Heb.12, 22;
Matt. 25, 31, the Lord will return on the last day. All men will then have to
appear before His judgment seat to render an account of all that they committed
in this life, Rom. 14, 10-12. Then will the unbelievers and all those that did
not really accept Christ and cling to Him in faith be convicted of their lack of
belief, as shown in their works of ungodliness and in the proud and hard words
which they spoke against the great God. In the case of the unbelievers, not only
of those professedly so, but also of the hypocrites, every evil word and every
wicked work are charged against them, and they will have to bear the punishment
of all their guilt.
That the apostle applies the entire prophecy of Enoch to the false prophets against whom he is issuing his warning is evident from the next words: These are discontented murmurers, walking according to their own desires, and their mouth speaks arrogant things, flatterers to men's faces for the sake of advantage. These characteristics are found in many false teachers even today. They are always grumbling and murmuring and complaining, discontented with God and the world, always bemoaning their fate. And yet they desire to walk only after their own lusts and desires, the satisfaction of their carnal appetites being the highest aim of their existence. The false teachers also were noted for their boastfulness, for their arrogant praise of themselves, of their own abilities and accomplishments. But when it suited their purpose and they hoped to have some advantage for themselves, no one could have excelled them in the abjectness of their flattery to the faces of men. "All the flatterers of the rich are of this kind; and especially those who profess to be ministers of the Gospel, and who, for the sake of a more advantageous settlement or living will soothe the rich even in their sins'." (Clarke.)
admonition to holy steadfastness: V. 17. But, beloved, remember ye the words
which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, v. 18.
how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk
after their own ungodly lusts. V. 19. These be they who separate
themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. V. 20. But ye, beloved,
building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
v. 21. keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord
Jesus Christ unto eternal life. V. 22. And of some have compassion,
making a difference; v. 23. and others save with fear, pulling them out
of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. The apostle here
addresses himself to the Christians in an earnest appeal: But you, beloved,
remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that they told you. At the end of time there will be mockers who walk
after their own impious lusts. The warning of Jude was not the first one which
his readers had received; it was but necessary to remind them of words of solemn
warning, spoken, for example, by Peter, when he wrote that there would come in
the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 2 Pet. 3, 3, and by Paul,
when he told the elders of Ephesus that men would arise of their own selves,
speaking perverse things, Acts 20, 29. 30. Op. 1 Tim. 4, 1; 2 Tim. 3, 1-9.
St. Jude completes the description: These are they that separate themselves, fleshly, not having the Spirit. That is the principal function of the false teachers: they cause divisions, dissensions, offenses contrary to the sound doctrine. They are sensuous creatures, seeking the gratification of their sensual appetites upon every occasion. The Spirit of God does not live in them, since they are servants of the Spirit of Darkness, Rom. 16, 17. 18; Col. 2, 18-23. These words must be kept in mind at all times over against the false teachers that set aside the clear statements of God's holy Word and try to entangle the souls in their nets of unbelief.
True believers have nothing in common with the false teachers and their ways: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, with prayer in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, accepting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Here the apostle offers at least a summary of the treatise which he had in mind before circumstances obliged him to write this letter. He urges the Christians to be established upon, to build themselves up on, their most holy faith, upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and the apostles, Eph. 2, 20; Col. 2, 7. They should continue steadfast in the words of Christ, in the most holy and precious Gospel of their salvation, and let no power in the universe move them from their allegiance, John 8, 31. 32; Rom. 16, 17. 18. And since this is not a matter of the believer's own reason and strength, he will seek and obtain strength from the Lord in daily prayer in the Holy Ghost, who Himself assists us with groanings which cannot be uttered, Rom. 8, 26. 27. In this manner do Christians keep themselves in the love of God, God's most wonderful gift to mankind, John 3, 16. This love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, Rom. 5, 5, and this love of God is bound to awaken love in our hearts in return, 1 John 4, 19. Thus we daily accept the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, His divine favor earned through His own suffering and death, which assures us eternal life by faith in Him, 1 John 2, 1. 2; Rom. 8, 34; Heb. 7. 25. We are certain of everlasting salvation through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.
This certainty of faith will then show itself in our behavior toward our brethren, in brotherly love: And some indeed admonish, making a distinction; but some deliver, snatching them from the fire; on still others have compassion in fear, hating also the garment which has been stained by the flesh. Three classes of weak brethren are here distinguished, and we are to make a distinction in our treatment of them. Those that are uncertain in their faith, always in doubt about placing their trust in the salvation of Christ, we should admonish to put aside their doubts. Others that have almost been led astray by the deceivers, we should snatch like a brand from the burning, Amos 4, 11; Zech. 3,2, tearing them away from the eager claws that would draw them down to perdition. Still others are just on the verge of turning aside from the right way, being inclined to listen to the voice of the deceivers. To such we should offer loving, merciful assistance, Gal. 6, 1. 2. And this should be done in fear, in the spirit of meekness; we should always watch for ourselves lest we also be tempted. In our entire attitude there should not be the least indication of pride and presumption, but only a holy horror of sin, of the spotted garment of the flesh. And as for ourselves, it must be our constant effort to keep the garment of salvation, of the merit of Christ, with which God has clothed us, unspotted both by false doctrine and by carnal life, Rev. 3, 4. 5.
Concluding doxology: V. 24. Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, v. 25. to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Here is both praise of God and wonderful comfort for the believers: But to Him that is able to preserve you from slipping and to set you before His glory blameless in exultation, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, be glory, majesty, strength, and authority before all ages and now and unto all ages. Amen. Where human strength and ability are insufficient, where all our power falls short of the goal, there the almighty, gracious power of our heavenly Father comes to our assistance. He is able to keep us so that our feet do not slip, that we do not stumble and fall. It is through His everlasting mercy that we shall be set before Him on the last day faultless, not in our own righteousness, but in that of our great Champion, and therefore filled with unspeakable joy and happiness. 1 Thess. 5, 23. 24; Col. 1, 22; 1 Pet. 4, 13. He it is to whom our praises rise now and in eternity, the one and only God, who is truly our Savior, both because He was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, and because He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for the sin and guilt of the whole world. To Him we therefore ascribe, in our prayer of praise and thanksgiving, all glory, majesty, strength, and authority, as it was in the beginning, before the beginning of time, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Rom. 16, 27; 1 Tim. 1, 17. Amen, Amen, that is: Yea, yea, it shall be so.