The epistle of Jude bears a very strong resemblance to 2 Peter 2:
1-3: 14, which lies upon the surface and must be apparent to every
reader. Both refer to very evil men, who come in amongst the saints,
and both unmask their true character. Both quote Old Testament examples
by way of illustration and warning; and amongst the examples both
mention the angels that sinned, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Both remind us
that even holy angels would not assume authority as these men do. Both
quote the case of Balaam. Both use a succession of very vigorous and
graphic similes to impress us with their terrible evil and sin. And
both turn to account what they have to say about the evil, by using it
to urge the saints on to that which is good.
Yet with all these resemblances there is an underlying difference
which we must endeavour to seize. In Peter the men in question are
false teachers, who themselves are going
to destruction, and who influence for evil and drag with them to
destruction unstable souls who, by making a profession of Christianity,
have left behind them in an outward way the corruptions of the heathen
world. In Jude the evil men are not spoken of as teachers in the same
definite way, but the position of antagonism they take is even more
pronounced. They are marked by regular
in keeping with this the angels who await judgment are spoken of not
merely as sinning, but as not keeping their first estate; that is, in
other words, apostatizing. Jude therefore seems to contemplate a state
of things just a degree worse than that which Peter contemplates.
The Apostle Paul also warns us as to the character of the last days
in 2 Timothy 3: 1-4: 5; giving instructions to the servant of God in
view of that which he predicts. The words used differ very slightly.
Paul, and Peter also, speak of "the last days." Jude speaks of "the
last time." John also in his first Epistle speaks of "the last time ;"
only there it is more accurately, "the last hour," and a somewhat
different sense is attached to the word, for they were in the last hour
when he wrote. No fresh "hour" was going to intervene between the time
of his writing and the coming of the Lord, which will take place when
the Antichrist has appeared. Already many lesser antichrists had
appeared as forerunners of the great one to come. Each of the other
inspired writers, Paul, Peter and Jude, looks on to the coming of the
Lord as the final sweeping away of the evil.
Jude addresses himself to the "called" ones; that is, to those who
are genuinely the called people of God, and that without distinction.
He does not write to the saints composing any particular assembly nor
to Jewish believers as distinct from Gentile ones: all saints are
before him. He views them in a twofold way: first in relation to God
the Father, and then in relation to Jesus Christ. The word "beloved"
seems to be better attested than "sanctified." They, and we, are
"beloved in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ."
How very beautiful is this note!-the first that is struck in this
Epistle. The saints universally are addressed, as called out from the
world. All are
beloved in God the Father, as begotten of Him; and as under the mighty hand of Jesus Christ all are
true saints of God are the objects of Divine love, and in spite of all
the evil which may invade the Christian circle they will be preserved
to the end. Moreover, mercy and peace and love are to be multiplied to
such, though evils multiply around them. What encouragement there is in
all this! How assuring and how fortifying! In the strength of it we can
proceed to consider the evils that are exposed and predicted.
Jude had purposed to write a treatise concerning "the common
salvation," but found himself turned aside from that design to write
this short Epistle exhorting rather to the defence of the faith. This
is a remarkable confession and quite unique. The "common salvation,"
that is, the salvation in which we all participate, is indeed an
inexhaustible theme, and it may well be that on another occasion Jude
fulfilled his original purpose, though not in an inspired way. As a
matter of fact an inspired exposition of that salvation was already
available in Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and in the inspired Word God
does not repeat Himself. There was, however, still a niche in Scripture
which required to be filled, so Jude's original thought was set aside
and he was honoured of God in being pressed into the service of filling
It was now needful that those called of God should be exhorted to
contend for the faith. It was given only to the Apostles to authoritatively
faith, and commit it to the inspired Writings. It was given to few,
comparatively speaking, to be pastors and teachers and give
instruction in the faith. How likely then that the mass of believers should jump to the conclusion that
the defence of the faith and contention for it was
also the business of but a few. Hence the need for this word of
exhortation. Is it not extraordinary and reprehensible that with this
exhortation before us there should today be so many who consider that
contending for the faith is no concern of theirs, and would like to
relegate it to a few who have high scholastic qualifications or some
kind of official status?
The faith is unspeakably precious. It embodies all we know of God in
Christ. If it goes, everything goes, as far as we are concerned. Hence
it must be held in its integrity at all costs, and not only held
passively but contended for actively. The faith has been "once
delivered unto the saints." There are three things in that statement
which need to be carefully noted.
First, the faith has been
discovered. It is not something which has been worked out by men and
added to bit by bit, as the "sciences" have been, but something handed
over by God through His Holy Spirit. The sciences have been built up by
observation and experiment and reasoning. The faith has been revealed
of God that our faith may receive it.
Second, the faith has been once delivered; that is, once for all.
The delivery of it took some little time. It "began to be spoken by the
Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him." However, by
the time that Jude wrote, the delivery of it was finished: the circle
of revealed truth had been completed in the Apostolic writings. The men
of science are always awaiting fresh discoveries: they have very little
that is certain, and settled beyond all question. We have a faith
delivered once for all. God has spoken. His Word has 'been committed to
writing, and we await no further revelation. It cannot be amended,
though it may be rejected. We receive it, desiring help of God that we
may increasingly understand it.
Third, it has been delivered
to the saints. It was not delivered to the Apostles and prophets, but delivered
saints. Thesaints consequently are its custodians, and not merely
prominent or gifted men amongst the saints. This is a fact of deep
importance. The faith addresses itself to the faith of every one of us.
Each of us is to receive it and understand it, and each of us is to be
set for its maintenance and to contend for it as may be necessary. In
the light of this one can see how disastrous has been the idea that it
was right to have in the church a special class of men officially
appointed, whether as priests or ministers, to whom all such things
belong. It has been a master-stroke of the adversary, for where that
idea has prevailed the great mass of saints have been put out of action
in the conflict of faith, and kept in a state of spiritual infancy.
Every true believer then should contend for the faith, and contend
having a vital interest in it. Details of how we should contend are not
stated by Jude in this short Epistle. Elsewhere we find that we must
avoid all carnal weapons, and that our spirit should be that of the
meek and lowly Jesus whom we serve (see 2 Cor. 10: 4; 2 Tim. 2: 24,
25). Jude does give us instruction as to how we should fortify
ourselves in the faith which must be preliminary to contending for it.
But that comes toward the end of the Epistle.
With verse 4 there begins his exposure of the state of things that
was developing, which made his message so urgent. Men of a very
depraved type had crept in unawares-ungodly, turning the grace of God
into utter license, and denying the great Master whom they professed to
serve. In reading John's first Epistle we saw how there were
antichrists who "went out," whilst the men of whom Jude speaks "crept
in." The former were apparently men of a high class type, intelligent
and philosophic, who took their departure when their notions were
refused. The latter were anything but high class, men of a dissolute
type, who used the grace of God as a cloke to cover up their sin.
We sometimes hear people today objecting to the doctrines of grace
on the ground that they may be abused. The answer to that is that they
have been abused, and the abuse was in full swing before the first
century had reached its end; and that the Scriptures tell us of the way
they were abused, but that, instead of recommending us to drop the
doctrines of grace, they urge us to contend for them!
In verses 5-7, we have three cases cited, which show how the
irrevocable judgment of God lies upon the kind of evil that these
ungodly men were committing. In the case of Israel it was plain and
unbelief, and the unbelievers were destroyed
in spite of the fact that at the outset they participated in many
privileges. In the case of the angels, their sin was in one word,
totally abandoned their original place and state. That is apostasy: and
for any creature to do that, whether angel or man, is to be hopelessly
doomed. Sodom and her sister cities gave themselves up to utter
license, breaking through boundaries that God had set, and their judgment is eternal. Three awful warnings!
Now the men that Jude was denouncing were marked by similar things.
They defiled themselves by fleshly sins, and at the same time were
characterized by an arrogant refusal of authority. This leads up to the
remarkable verse about the contention between Michael the archangel and
the devil. What Jude cites is quite unrecorded in the Old Testament.
The devil, though now fallen, was once a high dignity in the angelic
realm, and until he is finally dispossessed by God his dignity is to be
respected. Even so high an angelic dignity as Michael respected it. He
did not take it upon himself to rebuke him, but left the Lord to do it.
In passing let us learn from this not to do ourselves what even
Michael shrank from doing. How often we may hear people speak of Satan
in a very light and mocking way, and we may have done it ourselves. Let
us not do it again. Satan is a spirit being, who once held a leading
place, if not the leading place, in the angelic hierarchy. Though
fallen, he still wields immense power, which we cannot afford to
despise. Yet, under the sheltering power of our Lord we need not fear
Verse 10 contains a very trenchant indictment. Men who are ignorant
as well as arrogant usually fall to abusing what they do not
understand. These men not only did this but they also corrupted
themselves in things of nature which they did understand. The New
Translation is rather striking here, "But what even, as the irrational
animals, they understand by mere nature, in these things they corrupt
themselves." Things spiritual they rail at: in things natural they
corrupt themselves. Truly a terrible indictment!
Now the course of these men, and more particularly perhaps of the
evil that characterized them, and which would be perpetuated in their
successors, is graphically sketched in verse 11. Again three cases are
cited from the Old Testament, which exactly set the position before us.
In this matter there is nothing new under the sun. Again and again evil
takes the same forms, runs the same course, and comes to the same end.
Jude does not mince his words. These men and their successors have
nothing but woe before them.
The beginning of their course is a going in the way of Cain. This is a way of
self-will in the things of God. Cain
was the first to take that way, and his name is left upon it. He would
approach God, and this in itself was good: but he would do it in his
own way, and not in God's way. Now, by His action in clothing our first
parents with coats of skins, God had indicated that death was His way,
and Abel's faith had seized this. Cain had no faith, only his own
thoughts. Why should not God be satisfied with the way that seemed
right to Cain? He would take his own way in self-will.
These men trod the way of Cain, and it is still immensely popular.
Multitudes there are who prefer their own thoughts to God's Word. Why
should not God be pleased with their efforts and their approach? As
long as they recognize Him, may they not draw near and worship Him as
they please? At any rate that is what they intend to do. Alas, still
they go in the way of Cain; and there is a woe at the end of it.
To "run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward" is the next step. This is sheer
self-seeking in the things of God. Religion
of a sort is indulged in, and it becomes a profitable business. Balaam
was a spiritist medium, who adopted so much as was profitable to him of
the true knowledge of God. That was the error that Balaam practised.
The error that he taught, and by which he ensnared many of Israel and
brought them under the judgment of God, was that of sinful alliance
with the idolatrous world. And in all that he practised and taught the
one thing before him was money-making-the love of reward.
Our Epistle speaks of "the way of Cain" and "the error of Balaam;"
it is in 2 Peter that we read of "the way of Balaam." But in both
Epistles the thought connected with him is the same, for in Peter we
find him described as loving "the wages of unrighteousness." His course
there is described as "madness." Alas! his madness has had many
followers from the day in which Jude wrote to our own. The evil men
that Jude was exposing "ran greedily" after his error, and we believe
those two words are still applicable to very many. It is a striking
fact that Balaam and his evil teaching appear in the Lord's address to
the church at Pergamos (Revelation 2), inasmuch as that church sets
forth prophetically the epoch when the church accepted the patronage of
the world, and the corruptions of the Roman system began.
In that system we see religion as a money-making power carried to
its highest pitch. Years ago in Spain we saw a paper in which it was
pointed out that all the supposed benefits which Rome offered from
birth to death cost money; that in fact there was nothing without it.
Moreover after death it was still money, money, for there was purgatory
to be shortened. The title of the paper, translated into English, was
"The religion of money." The
history of Rome through the ages furnishes us also with many and
terrible examples of men who have turned the grace of God into
lasciviousness, just as Jude says. Many other forms of error have a
strong strain of money-making in them, though not perhaps to the same
Finally there is the gainsaying of Korah, the details of which are given to us in Numbers 16. Korah's sin was
self-assertion in the things of God, and
it brought upon him swift destruction. Cain lived many a year after he
took his self-willed way. Balaam lived for sufficient time to do much
havoc in Israel by his error, and for a time at least his self-seeking
seemed to be profitable. But the self-assertion of Korah was met by
rapid and drastic judgment.
This is the third and final stage in the progress of the evil that
fills Christendom today. We believe that we speak soberly when we say
that terrible examples of it abound on every hand. Never were men more
confident of themselves and of their powers in matters of religion.
Korah asserted himself as against Moses and Aaron: today men who call
themselves Christians are quite prepared to assert themselves against
Christ. "Jesus Christ" say they, "thought this and said that. But we
know better now as belonging to this enlightened age." A very sinister
sign! Judgment cannot now be long delayed.
Let us, who love the Lord Jesus Christ, see to it that in everything we are subject to
His will, that we
seek His glory and not our own, and that instead of asserting ourselves we assert
His rights. Thus we shall be pleasing to Him.
If verse 11 sketches for us the development and end of the evil
leading to apostasy, we come back in verses 12 and 13 to the men who
embodied the evil in Jude's day, and there is a further exposure of
their character in a series of graphic figures, the meaning of which we
must attempt to seize.
They were "spots" in the love-feasts of these early Christians. It
appears that the word translated thus has the meaning of a jagged rock
especially one with the sea washing over it. So these evil men who had
crept in unawares, and who now were boldly taking their place in the
social life of the believers, were a terrible menace, just as is the
sunken rock which endangers the ships. To feed themselves was their
passion, not to feed the flock. Jude warns us of their true nature so
that we may avoid them.
Then, changing the figure, they are like clouds borne along on the
winds, yet without water. In the land where Jude wrote the clouds were
welcome as giving promise of rain. So these men had the appearance of
bringing refreshment to God's weary heritage; but they had nothing to
give, being themselves impelled by Satan's power, of which the wind is
Then again they are like trees "whose fruit withereth," or,
"autumnal trees." Now it is in the autumn that we expect to find fruit
on the trees; but they are without fruit. These men are marked by
promise without performance, for they are twice dead-first by nature
and then as coming under the judgment of God. In speaking of them as
rooted up, Jude no doubt views them prophetically as having come under
They are also like waves of the sea raging and foaming, for they
were uncontrolled save by the power of Satan; and it was their own
shame that they displayed. The word, we are told is in the plural
"shames"; and means the things which were a shame to them, and not that
they felt any shame in them. Probably they did not, but gloried in them.
Fifthly, they were Like wandering stars or meteors, in that their
light was soon to be quenched in the blackness of darkness for ever.
This again speaks of judgment, and brings us back to the point we
reached at the end of verses 11 and 12. We all know the speed with
which the meteor sweeps across the heavens and burns out into darkness.
Thus it would be with them. They had no steady light to give.
We find then that the last words of each of the three verses (11,
12, 13) indicate judgment; and now in verses 14 and 15 Jude tells us
plainly how the judgment will fall upon these apostates. It will be by
direct intervention of the Lord, appearing in His glory, which had been
predicted even from the days of Enoch.
All the information that Scripture affords as to this remarkable man
is found in very few words, yet those words are full of significance.
Genesis v. tells us of the exalted character of his life, walking with
God for no less than three hundred years. It tells us also of his
glorious finish, translated into God's presence. Hebrews 11 tells us of
his faith, the power of both his life and his translation. In Jude we
discover that he was a prophet, and, as far as we know, the earliest of
all the prophets.
The first prophet spoke of the closing scenes as regards man's day,
when the Lord will come with myriads of His holy ones for the execution
of judgment. His words make it very evident that when He does come
man's iniquity will have reached its climax, and be so open and
flagrant that judgment by conviction and execution is inevitable. The
repetition of the word
ungodly in verse 15 is very
striking. It will be a case of ungodly men doing and saying the most
ungodly things in very ungodly fashion. At His coming the Lord will
convict them, bringing home their guilt to them so that they have to
acknowledge it: then He will execute judgment upon them.
From the very earliest times then it has been a revealed truth that
the Lord Himself will appear to deal with man's unblushing evil; though
not until New Testament times did it appear that the Lord Jesus is the
Jehovah who is to come. He will not come because the Gospel has
prepared the world to receive Him, as so many still think. He will come
to cleanse the earth by judgment, attended by His saints. Other
scriptures inform us who these saints are, and how they reach the
heavens in order to come forth with Him. The Gospel will have
accomplished its appointed work in gathering saints out of the world
for heaven. Then judgment will take its course.
We have further description, and exposure of these men who crept in
unawares, in verses 16 to 19. It is really very remarkable how the
Spirit of God labours to make their character clear to us so that we
may be able to identify them. They are said to be murmurers and
complainers; that is, unsatisfied persons with grievances; the reason
of it all lying not in those against whom they have the grievance, but
in their own lusts. Their lusts so dominate them that nothing would
satisfy them. They talk great things-about themselves no doubt-and they
love grandiose language, while at the same time they fawn upon and
flatter influential people in order to get something out of them for
their own benefit. What a contemptible picture all this presents to us!
Jude also bids us remember the things that had been said by the
Apostles of the Lord before he wrote this Epistle. It is in 2 Peter 3:
3 that we read about mockers coming in the last time walking after
their own lusts, but evidently the other Apostles had testified to the
same effect. The men that Jude had in view were of that stamp: they
were sensual or natural men, not having the Spirit. To have the Spirit
is the infallible mark of really belonging to Christ. Jude describes
them also as "they who separate themselves." It is very much open to
question whether the word "themselves" is really in the original, and
the R.V. puts it simply "who make separations." The Holy Spirit is the
power of unity. These men without the Spirit were the fomenters of
disunity. With this word Jude's description of them comes to an end.
A darker picture of ungodliness it would be impossible to conceive.
The description begins with the turning of the grace of God into
lasciviousness, and the denying of the only Master and Lord. It ends
with the making of divisions, as being utterly destitute of the Spirit
of God. Yet they had crept in among the saints unawares. Still God
would find them out, and as apostates they will perish.
Now Jude does not only enlighten us as to the evil; he uses it as an
incentive to the diligent pursuit of what is good, as far as we are
concerned. In verse 20 he again appeals to the true saints of God, and
he indicates what is to mark them in the presence of all these
difficulties. His instructions fall naturally under four heads.
First, we are to build ourselves up on our most holy faith. Note the
wording carefully. It does not say that we are to build up the faith.
We have already seen in the Epistle that the faith is committed to us
as a perfect and completed thing. It needs no building up: we can add
nothing to it. It is we who need the building up. We may have received
the faith, and taken our stand upon it in faith. That is the right and
true beginning, but we must not stop at that point; we need to be built
up on it so that it becomes our very life. We can never be too fully
instructed in it or too solidly established on it. Jude speaks of it as
"most holy." We have not got today a most holy place as Israel had of
old: we have instead a most holy faith. It is not to be trespassed upon
or tampered with. None shall do so with impunity. Only fools rush in
where angels fear to tread.
Let us recall at this point that the main burden of the Epistle is
that we should earnestly contend for the faith. Our being built up on
it is undoubtedly a prerequisite for this. Some folk, who love a fight
for its own sake, would rush into conflict on behalf of a cause which
they understand but imperfectly, if at all. But this is not to be the
way of the called ones who are beloved in God the Father and preserved
in Jesus Christ. The faith must be the
basis on which we are built up before it becomes the
which we fight. And the more we are really built up on it, the more we
shall be morally and spiritually equipped to enter into the conflict.
In the second place there must be this "praying in the Holy Ghost." Not, "
to the Holy Ghost," as though we were to conceive of Him as an Object of faith, outside ourselves. It is "
in" Him that we are to pray. Now prayer is the expression of dependence upon God, who
ourselves. We are very dependent, and we are to know it, and confess it
practically in prayer. In this we shall be the very opposite of the
ungodly men whom Jude has described to us. They feel themselves to be
entirely sufficient unto themselves, and because of it they despise
dominion and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Our prayers however are to be in the Spirit; that is, we are to pray
as those who are controlled by the indwelling Spirit, and who
consequently ask for the things that are according to His mind. Prayer,
which springs from the Holy Spirit acting in the hearts of the saints,
is sure to be both fervent and effectual.
In the third place we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. In
the consciousness and warmth and power of it we are to dwell. We are
persuaded of course with Paul that nothing "shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:
39). His love has a firm hold on us, and He will never let us go. But
we are also to have a firm hold upon it in the quiet recesses of our
hearts. We are to be bathed in it, just like a bucket or other vessel
which has been flung into the ocean. Then it is in the ocean, and the
ocean is in it. So if we keep ourselves in the love of God, the love of
God will be in us, imparting its beautiful character to our lives.
Again let us remind ourselves that this is said to saints who are
exhorted to contend earnestly for the faith. In the warmth of
contention nothing is easier than to get irritated, and even to lose
one's temper. If we keep ourselves in the love of God, our spirits are
lifted above irritations that proceed from awkward or evil men and
their reasonings. A believer may find himself entangled in controversy
with men who are far more than a match for him on the intellectual
plane, but if he is himself well built up on the faith, and if praying
in the Spirit, he keeps himself in the love of God, he will not come
off second best in the conflict. He may not convince his opponents, but
any bystanders will be aware that they have witnessed something greater
than mere intellectualism.
In the fourth place, we are to be looking for the mercy of our Lord
Jesus Christ unto eternal life. There is much that we have today, but
there is more to follow. We are people with a prospect. The evil men
may multiply around us and the full apostasy may approach, but we have
a wonderful outlook and great expectations in the coming of the Lord.
We look for His coming into the air, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:
15-17, when He will receive His saints to Himself. This great action of
His is described as
mercy. We do not deserve it, any
more than we deserved to be forgiven or redeemed. But we are going to
get it, simply on the ground of mercy. It will be an act of mercy,
crowning all the other acts of mercy that have characterised His
dealing with us. And it will land us unto eternal life in its fullest
sense. We shall then not only have the life, but also be in the scenes
where that life has its home and expands to the fullest extent.
But the exhortation is that we keep actively looking for this
wonderful consummation. We are not to set our expectations upon
improvement either in world or church. We are not even looking for
revivals-though God may in His mercy grant something of that sort, and
if He does we shall rejoice and thank Him. No, we are looking for the
coming of the Lord; and the more brightly that hope burns within our
breasts the more shall we rightly sustain the conflict for the faith.
Judes' four exhortations, then, concern respectively, the faith, the
Holy Spirit, the love of God, and the coming mercy of our Lord Jesus
Christ. In regard to these we are to be building up, praying, keeping
ourselves, and looking. These exhortations are very personal, appealing
to each who loves the Lord.
In verses 22 and 23 we get further exhortations as to our attitude
towards two different classes of people; designated as "some" and
"others." These are neither the evil man denounced in the Epistle, nor
the God-fearing saints to whom the Epistle is addressed.
The "some" of verse 22 appear to be people who have to some extent
been affected or ensnared by the evil men. Such must be carefully
distinguished and treated with compassion. The "others" contemplated in
verse 23, have evidently become more deeply involved in the evil and
contaminated by it. Even these however are to be saved if possible,
though the one who would rescue them must set about it in a spirit far
removed from self-confidence. He must fear the fire that threatens to
devour them, and hate the flesh that has defiled them. Only if he goes
about it in that spirit will he escape being burnt or defiled himself,
and so be able to rescue them.
This is a very important word for us, for we are naturally very
inclined to treat alike all who are in any way implicated in such
ungodly things. We may discern the evil and feel most strongly against
it and so be very ready to lump all together, the misled with the
misleaders, leaving them in their defilement with nothing before them
but the fire. This must not be. We must remember the word, "making a
When we come to verses 24 and 25, how delightful is the contrast
with all that has preceded! We come out from the darkness of human
wickedness and apostasy, and even from the contentions and efforts of
true saints in the presence of the evil, into the clear light of the
power and glory of God. Our eyes are lifted to "Him that is able to
keep you from falling." Here, and here only, is real rest for the heart.
We are to contend for the faith, building up ourselves on it, and we
are to labour to rescue others from defilement and doom, but we can
find no repose in ourselves or our efforts. We may have grace to keep
ourselves in the love of God, at least in some degree, yet we can only
find rest in the fact that He is able to keep us from falling, and
present us faultless before the presence of His glory.
Since He is able, we have only ourselves to blame for any tumbles we
get on the way. Yet though we may tumble we shall not ultimately fall.
We shall be presented in the presence of His glory when forth it
shines, and not even the light of that glory shall discover a fault in
us. How amazing! How excellent! What a triumph for the grace and power
Nothing remains but to bow in the presence of that Saviour-God,
through the Lord Jesus, and ascribe to Him glory, majesty, dominion and
power, both now and to all ages. Amen.