Now this attitude was the more important; “for,” as he says, “certain men have crept in unawares.” Jude is not quite so advanced, in point of time, as John. When John wrote his First Epistle, the bad people went out—the antichrists went out (1 John 2:9). But the danger here was that they were within. Certain men had crept in, as it were, unawares. That is, they had fair appearances at first, of course. “They, who before of old were ordained to this sentence” (“condemnation” is not exactly the meaning of the word—“to this judgment”) “ungodly men turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying our only Master2 and Lord Jesus Christ” (ver. 4).
This, you see, is the prominent thing in Jude’s mind: so that, under fair appearances, they were undermining moral principles, they were turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. This was the worst evil, as far as morals were concerned, that Jude warns them against in this Epistle; but then this evil is connected with a doctrinal error. They denied two things. In Peter they denied only one. There they denied the Sovereign Master that bought them (2 Pet. 2:1). Peter does not say that they were redeemed. It is a great mistake to confound being “bought” with being “redeemed.” All the world is bought, but only believers are redeemed. Universal purchase is a truth of God; universal redemption is a falsehood. Redemption implies that we have the forgiveness of sins. You see that clearly in the Epistles. Take, for instance, that to the Ephesians, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (1:7). Now it is clear that the great mass of mankind have not redemption through His blood; but they are all bought, and the believer is bought too, and we are constantly exhorted on the ground, not only of our being redeemed, but of our being bought. For instance, the Corinthians are told that they were bought. That is the reason why they should not act as if they were their own masters. We have not any rights of our own (1 Cor. 6). We are not at liberty to say, I think it quite right to go to a Court of Law in order to maintain my rights. No, I am bound, if I am summoned as a witness, to go; I am bound, if people go to law with me, to go. But on the contrary, to insist on my own rights! why do not I rather suffer wrong? That is the way the apostle Paul looks at it. And who is the apostle? The voice of God, the commandments of the Lord.
So that you see I come at once to the question of the faith, if really I believe what I may talk very glibly about as if I did. The difficulty is to find faith on the earth. As the Lord has said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” Evidently, therefore, this departure from the faith is supposed by that very question of our Lord Jesus. Only here, the solemn thing is, that it is pressed on those who once bore the name of the Lord. They may go on for a while, for years; and there may be only some little things that one feels here or there, or their departure may not take anything like so terrible a form as here, but the question is, Where will it end? When once we get on the incline of our own rights, our own will; when once we abandon His Sovereignty, and, more than that, that He is not only Sovereign Master but our Lord; who can say what may not ensue?
Now here we get a closer relationship. Peter, in his Epistle, only supposes that universal place of our Lord. Why does Jude add, “denying our…Lord Jesus Christ”? Because he looks at that special following of those that are called by His name—on whom the name of the Lord is called. Here, therefore, we find a subtler and a deeper denial than the denial of the Sovereign Master in Peter. That of course was very far outside and very gross—“sects of perdition, and denying the Sovereign Master that bought them.” But here, in Jude, it is not only denying the Sovereign Master of the world, of everything; but “our Lord,” the One to Whom we belong, the One to Whose name we are baptised, the One Whom we profess to value and acknowledge to be our life and righteousness, and our all—denying Him!
You must not imagine that these things all come out in a short time. There is a little beginning of departure; but when your back is turned to the Lord and you follow that path, where will it end? No man can tell; but the Spirit of God can and does, and He shows that these little departures end in a fearful ditch of the enemy; and so He says:
“But I would remind you, though once for all knowing all things3, that [the] Lord having saved a people out of Egypt’s land, in the second place destroyed those that believed not” (ver. 5). Here we have again the same word “once,” which as we have already seen is equivocal. It might mean formerly; but that is not the meaning at all, no more than that the faith was formerly given. It means given “once for all.”
Well, he says, “once for all knowing,” not only “this,” but “all about it.” The word “this” is now in critical texts changed into “all things,” and this is exactly the position of the believer, which is the reason why we are so very responsible. Do you recollect what the apostle John says to the “babes” of the family? “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20). How did that come to pass? We are not in the habit of regarding babes so wise as this; yet what the apostle says must be true. The only question is—In what sense did he mean that they knew all things? I think the meaning is this. The babe has got Christ just as much as an apostle. Having Christ, he has the truth—all the truth. There it is; and he has also got the Holy Ghost—an unction from the Holy One. Therefore, he has got power in the gift of the Holy Ghost; for a babe has this gift. It is not the privilege only of the advanced learners in the school of Christ. The babes of the family of God have got Christ perfectly. They may draw it out very imperfectly. They may be able to look upon Christ, and speak of Christ in very hesitating terms as far as their intelligence goes, but such is their place and their privilege. Accordingly, Jude presses here their privilege of “once for all knowing all things.” Where were they now? They were in great danger. You often see this in the early beginnings of saints. They are very bright at first; they are not easily stumbled by anything they hear from the Bible; they receive it with simplicity, and delight in it. They, then, are knowing all things, in the sense in which the apostle speaks here. It is not a question of intelligence, but of simplicity and of a single eye, and when the eye is single the whole body is full of light. Thus they had it by the power of the Spirit of God, and it was not at all a question of their being great adepts in controversy, or showing a wonderful knowledge of the types, or anything of that kind. I call that intelligence. But this is the singleness of eye that looks to Christ and sees the truth in Christ, and is not troubled by the difficulties that people are always apt to feel when they begin to reason, when love gets cold and they have questions of duty. Then they cannot see clearly; then a trial is made on their faith to which it is not equal; then they begin to get dark, as well as to doubt. This is just where these saints appear to me to have been, whom the writer is here addressing as “once knowing all things.” They knew not only the faith, but these terrible things that are coming in.
However, Jude recalls them to their remembrance: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though once for all knowing all things, how that [the] Lord, having saved a people out of [the] land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” That fact is a very solemn thing for the writer to bring before them; and it was meant to solemnize them, to deliver them from that careless state of soul which takes for granted that, because we have all been so blessed and led into the truth, no harm can happen. Why, on the contrary, beloved friends, for whom do you think Satan has the greatest hatred out of all on the face of the earth? Why, any that are following the Lord with simplicity; any that are truly devoted to the Lord. His great object is to try and stumble such, to turn them aside, to bring difficulties into their minds and make them hesitate. Now, where souls are simple and single-eyed, they have not these difficulties at all; but when they do not go on cleaving to the Lord with full purpose of heart, they begin to forget what they once knew. It is no longer Christ applied to judge everything here; they allow their own thoughts, their own feelings, their own mind, their own conceit, perhaps to lead them; but, whatever it is, it is not Christ, and now He brings this fact before them. Why, look at the history that you have in the very beginning of the Old Testament. God had a people once before us, and, what is more, God saved that people. That is the very thing—He did save them. It was not only that He passed over them in the land of Egypt, but there was His mighty arm at the Red Sea that crushed their enemies and saved themselves, and brought them into the desert that He might teach them what was in their heart, and let them know what was in His. But they went back to Egypt in their heart, and they could see no blessedness in Canaan, the heavenly land to which the Lord was leading them on—to Canaan, type of heaven, the land of God’s delight and glory; they could see nothing in it, and they did see that in the desert there were serpents sometimes to bite those that refused to learn from God; and, further, that the Lord, if He hearkened to their lusting after flesh, made the flesh to come out of them as it were through their nostrils, as a judgment upon their not being satisfied with the manna, the bread of heaven. All these things happened, and what was the result? All perished in the wilderness excepting two men: Caleb and Joshua.
Now Jude says, That is your danger. You must remember that you cannot tell for certain whether a person has life eternal. Every man ought to know that for himself; every woman ought to know that for herself. If a person believes that he or she has life eternal in Christ, they are called to follow the Lord with full purpose of heart. And if they do not follow Him so, or if attracted by anything worldly, or by pursuits of their own from day to day, they neglect the Lord and His word, and neglect prayer and all the helps that the Lord gives us, which we so deeply need for our souls—what will be the end of that? Just what Jude is showing them here: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew all things, how that the Lord having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not.”
It turned out that they were not true believers, after all. The same thing applies now: “These things happened unto them for types; and they are written for our admonition.”
2 θεόν (God) though added (after “Master”) by KLP 31 Syrr., is omitted by אABC 13 Vulg. Copt. Sah. Arm. and AEthiopic Versions.
3 πάντα (all things) אABC2 13 Vulg. Copt. Syr. Arm. and AEthiop. Vv. instead of τοῦτο (this) KL 31 and Sah. Version.