The Epistle of Jude
The Epistle of Jude has been well called a preface to the Book of the Revelation, for it describes the apostasy upon which the Anti-Christ will ride to power, the apostasy which climaxes in “The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.”
It was written to assure the saints that, in spite of the dangers around them, they were eternally preserved by God ( V. 1); and also to give them instructions as to how they could preserve themselves from spiritual damage in their conflict with the enemy (Vv. 20-21).
The intention of the writer was to write on another subject altogether, but the dangers confronting the Church forced him to give, instead, a timely warning to the Christians that they should not underestimate the power of the adversary.
Jude opens his Epistle with an assertion to the effect that the saints are made eternally safe through activities of the Divine Trinity; they are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called (by the Holy Spirit). He closes it with their being presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Between the beginning and the end of the Epistle there is a record of a great fight of affliction against a ruthless enemy.
The multiplication of mercy, peace, and love (V. 2) forms a never-failing supply of Divine grace that replenishes the spiritual vitality that is so necessary in the maintenance of God’s testimony in the world.
We are given four views of the apostasy of Christendom through illustrations taken from ancient history. These reveal the paths that lead away from God and truth. They also reveal the spirit that leads men astray, the spirit of defiance and rebellion against God and His Word. These are the rejection of God’s Word through the attraction of the world; the despising of His will through the deception of the devil; the ingratitude of the flesh for God’s bounties; and, the utter disregard of His authority through a combination of all these forces of evil. Let us consider these four declining pathways.
The Pathway of Unbelief
In their denial of the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ there was a definite rejection of the Word of God (V. 4). This is illustrated by Israel when attracted back to Egypt (V. 5). The nation’s whole declension is traced to unbelief.
The Pathway of Disobedience
Lawlessness is ever a mark of an apostate, from it the children of God are redeemed (Tit. 2:14). This is illustrated by the rebellion of fallen angels (V. 6) who kept not their first estate. They broke every restraint by crossing a forbidden boundary and by yielding allegiance to Satan.
The Pathway of Unthankfulness
Man’s ingratitude to God’s goodness reveals the depravity of his nature. This is illustrated by the cities of the plain (V. 7). Those plains were well watered and fertile as the Garden of Eden; moreover, God had recovered these cities through the victory of Abraham over the kings that had defeated them. Yet they were unthankful and unholy. These two characteristics marked the apostates of Jude’s day and in every other day.
The Pathway of Rebellion
In this there is an utter disregard of God’s claims and supremacy. Let us look at seven features of the evil character of the men mentioned here. They are compared to hidden rocks upon which many a ship of testimony has foundered; to waterless clouds that yield nothing but disappointment; to fruitless trees that give no satisfaction to God or man; to raging waves of the sea, boisterous, threatening, and domineering among the Lord’s people; to wandering stars that give neither light nor direction to men, stars that are not in the right hand of the Son of Man, and therefore none of His; to ungodly sinners who carry no savour of Christ, no fragrance of His love, humility, meekness, gentleness, or purity; to a clique who separates itself having not the Spirit, neither the Father, nor the Son.
There are three things which mark them morally: sensuality, rebellion, and evil speaking (V. 8). There are three things that mark them religiously: they despise the blood of Christ, they make gain of religion, and they reject the authority of the Lord. (V. 11).
In contrast to these who yield no glory to God no blessing to man, the Christians are exhorted to perform four solemn duties; the first, to the Scriptures; the second, to themselves; the third, to others; and the fourth, to the Lord.
Their Duties to the Scriptures
The first aspect of the apostasy was the departure from the Word of God. The first duty of the saints is to acknowledge its authority in every department of their lives. They are given a stewardship of truth for which to contend (V. 3). Note that “The faith,” the whole body of revealed truth, once for all has been delivered to the saints. The entire Canon of Scripture was completed in apostolic days and cannot be added to nor taken from. All are to remember that holy men of old lived in the midst of apostasy, and that their trumpet gave no uncertain sound (V. 14). The prophetic utterances of Holy Scripture are tested and proved genuine by their fulfilment. In verse 17 the writing of the apostles of our Lord are placed on a level with the Old Testament as being part of the Inspired Word of God, and their words are not to be forgotten. It is on this foundation alone that the saints are to edify themselves (V. 20). Character that is built upon the Word of God will be like a house standing upon a rock which cannot be moved (Matt. 7:24-25).
Their Duties to Themselves
The second aspect of the apostasy was the despising of God’s will. The second duty of the saints is that they should be guided and controlled by the Divine will. Let us observe the four things mentioned in this connection: building, praying, keeping, and looking. These reveal a definite growth in spiritual intelligence concerning the will of God.
The will of God is revealed in the Holy Scripture: therefore, Jude exhorts, “Beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith.” Conformity to His will should take precedence over everything else. It is this alone that adorns the doctrine of God our Saviour. The ministry of the Word of God is to edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). It instructs the mind in right thinking, it stirs the conscience to right acting, and keeps the heart in right relationship with God. It is a guide to lead us, a guardian to keep us, and a companion to talk with us (Prov. 6:22).
The will of God is discerned in the sanctuary. This is suggested by another statement, “Praying in the Holy Ghost.” He teaches us what to pray for and takes our groanings, the unutterable language of our hearts, and interprets it for us. Praying in the Spirit gives invincibility in our conflict with the enemy (Eph. 6:10-18). According to Jude it establishes our faith in the midst of ruin. Oh, for a greater intimacy with God in order that we may pray in fellowship with His Spirit, according to His promptings, His mind, and His will!
The will of God is desired only in fellowship with God: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” The sun shines for everyone, but if one is content to walk in the shade, he cannot blame the sun. Let us bathe our souls in God’s wonderful love and behold the greatness of it (Eph. 2:4), the manner of it (1 John 3:1), the measure of it (1 John 3:16), and the individuality of it (Gal. 2:20).
Divine love passes all knowledge; its height cannot be scaled (John 3:16); its depth cannot be plumbed (John 13: 13); its breadth cannot be measured (1 John 4:10); moreover, its length cannot be estimated (John 13:1). May the Lord direct our hearts into the love of God, and may we, by His grace, keep ourselves in its light, its warmth, and under its healing rays.
The will of God is only acknowledged in its completeness as we look for His coming: “Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Spiritual men and women cry daily, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Discontented with everything here, they look for the day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.
Their Duties to Others
The third aspect of the apostasy is seen in the ingratitude of men to God’s gifts. They consume His goodness on their own lusts. In the third duty of the saints they are to share God’s bounties, spiritual and otherwise with others, for we read, “Of some have compassion, making a difference.” Here is the exercise of discerning love (V. 22). Pearls are not to be cast before swine; nevertheless, here we have the exercise of holy love (V. 23), a love that stoops, a love that touches, and yet a love that remains undefiled in the saving of the perishing and in the care of the dying.
Their Duty to the Lord
The fourth aspect of the apostasy is the utter disregard for the authority of God. The fourth duty of the saints is to bow with unquestioned fidelity to Divine authority. “Now unto Him be glory.” Here we take our true place before Him and yield Him the adoration of our hearts. We give Him glory when we suffer for Him in meekness and submission (1 Pet. 4:14-16); when we function in the assembly according to the measure of our gift (1 Pet. 4:11); when our glory is in the Lord (Gal. 6:14); when all that we do is done with a single eye to please Him (1 Cor. 10:31); when we receive one another (Rom. 15:7); and, when we seek to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Rom. 15:5-6). Here we yield Him allegiance and ascribe to Him “glory” and “majesty,” for He is King of kings and Lord of lords. To His supremacy we gladly bow.
Accordingly the consecrated heart renders to Him the “dominion,” for it yields to Him subjection. When sin had dominion over us we were subject to its evil influences and obeyed its law. Paul, therefore, shrank from the carnality that imposes dominion over the faith of his brethren (1 Cor. 1:24). Would to God we all would shrink from such an act. Unto God alone be the dominion; He must rule in the conscience of His own without a rival.
In our weakness we acknowledge that “power” is His. We rest in Him knowing that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. His gospel, at the first, reached us as the power of God unto our salvation. We now are kept by the power of God, and the very power that raised up Christ from the dead is to us for every duty in life. Eventually that mighty power will be demonstrated at our glorification, for He is able to subdue all things and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. There was exceeding joy at the birth of Christ when He came to redeem us, and there will be exceeding joy again when He comes to claim the fruit of His own toil and suffering, and to bring us into His home forever.