“And angels which kept not their own original estate, but abandoned their proper dwelling, He hath kept in everlasting bonds under gloom unto [the] great day’s judgment; as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having in the like manner with them greedily committed fornication and gone after strange flesh, lie there an example, undergoing judgment of eternal fire. Yet likewise, these dreamers also defile flesh, and set at nought lordship and rail at dignities” (vers. 6-8.)
If we compare this chapter of Jude with the Second Epistle of Peter, we get a very clear view of the precise difference between the two. No doubt there is a great deal that is common in both Epistles; but it is the difference that is of great account in taking a view of scripture, as has been already observed. In these two Epistles there may be many points in common, but the two accounts are thoroughly different. The same thing is true as regards all the testimony that God gives us. The marks of difference are the great criteria.
You will notice that Peter, after alluding to false teachers, alludes to “sects of perdition” (2 Pet. 2:1). The word heterodoxy gives a different idea. There was something of this difference in the minds of the apostles that ought to be in ours, viz.:—a very strong horror of the breach amongst those who belong to Christ and the church that He formed in unity here. There is a certain wilfulness that is particularly offensive to God. People now have so little sense of “wrongness” that they think it a natural thing that people should be justified in doing what they like; but to look at the matter in that sense would be to give up God. Perhaps men can be trusted in matters of ordinary life to form a sufficiently sound judgment as regards certain things, such as being careful of their food and careful of their dress, and also as regards other things that belong to this life. We find that God says little on the matter, except to guard His children from the vanity of the world and the pride of life. Still there is nothing technical or narrow laid down in the word of God. But it is quite another thing, when we consider that Christ died to “gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52), that we should allow ourselves to extenuate a wilful departure from the right course, by allowing our own notions to carry us away therefrom. Persons should not allow themselves to do this kind of thing, nor should they think that they are superior to others, which is generally a great delusion on their part. You will not find that men who are devoted to Christ set themselves up in this way, because we all know that Christ teaches us to count others better than ourselves. That may become merely a foolish sentiment by the separating us from a spirit of power and of love, and of a sound mind. We are to judge of everything by Christ. If we let in “self,” we are sure to go wrong. This readiness to see Christ in everything is a happy thing when it is applied to our dealings with our brothers and sisters. It is not that others are necessarily better than ourselves, it is that we are to count them so in our spirit and in our dealings with them. When Christ is before us, we can afford to judge our sins as stronger than those of others. We are well aware of our faults; but it is only when we are much occupied with others’ doings that we know much about their faults. The great thing is that we are to see Christ as our guide, and we are to judge ourselves in ourselves; we are also to see Christ in others and to love them, and to count them better than ourselves.
There are other senses in which people get into this spirit of sect, and thereby give an improper value to certain views. For instance, with regard to baptism. In modern times, at any rate, and very likely also in ancient times, there is, I suppose, hardly anything that has troubled the church more than this subject. By some people, a superstitious value is given to baptism, causing them, as it were, to despise those who have a reasoning turn of mind, and those who have a strong theory and notions about the Jewish remnant; but, so far as I know, the Jewish remnant has nothing to do with Christian baptism, because the handing it over to the Jewish remnant means giving up our relation to Christ. For Christian people, who are already walking in the ways of the Lord, to be occupied with baptism is, in my opinion, a most extraordinary inversion of all that is wise and right, because Christian people have passed through that experience already. Perhaps, when the ceremony was performed it was not done in the best way, and we may think that, therefore, if we had known then what we know now we might have been more careful in its performance. Baptism is merely an external visible confession of the Lord Jesus, and for persons who have been confessing the Lord for twenty, thirty, or forty years, to be occupied with baptism seems to me to be an extraordinary change from all that is wise. Baptism is an initiatory step; our Christianity begins when we begin our Christian confession—we should, therefore, be going forward, not backward. Baptism has even been used as the badge of a sect, and time would fail to narrate the many other ways in this regard. But here, in Peter’s Epistle, we have a darker thing referred to—“sects of perdition” (2 Pet. 2:1). It evidently was not merely a sect, but a sect of perdition. In this case, the sect of perdition was evidently something very dreadful, and it was apparently against the Lord, because the words are “denying the Sovereign Master that bought them.” This, as we have already remarked, is not “redemption” but “purchase,” and so takes in all men whether converted or not. It is the denial of His rights over all as the Sovereign Master. So, too, Peter begins at once with the flood, the deluge, but there is not a word about that in Jude. This is another great mark of difference to note, the manner in which the denial of the Lord is described, and how we find God’s mode of dealing with this matter. So one sees the propriety of the flood being brought in by Peter, because it was the universal unrighteousness and rebelliousness of the whole world. Jude, on the other hand, was not given to look at that particularly, but at the hostility that is shown to the truth and to Christ. Peter looks at the general unrighteousness of mankind, and so he says: “For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to lowest hell and delivered them up to chains of gloom reserved for judgment, and spared not an ancient world, but preserved Noah, an eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, having brought a flood upon a world of ungodly ones; and reducing to ashes [the] cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, He condemned [them] with an overthrow, having set an example to those that should live ungodily; and rescued just Lot” etc. (2 Pet. 2:4-7). What makes the reference again more remarkable is that Jude speaks of the “angels that kept not their own estate,” but Peter of “angels that sinned,” and who consequently come under the dealing of God. The flood is upon the world of the ungodly, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are turned into ashes for an example to those that should live ungodily; but just Lot was delivered because he was a just man. The want of righteousness brought this punishment upon everyone. It is their general ungodliness, but no doubt there is a particularity which Jude takes up, whilst Peter takes up the universality. This is the marked difference between the two. I have dwelt upon this because it shows what the world of modern unbelief is—what is called higher criticism. For these men have been struck by the resemblance between this Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter; but with all their boasting of unbelief they have not got the discernment to see that there is a marked difference between the two. These men have been caught by the superficial resemblance of the two Epistles; but when you, as it were, lift up the superficial veil in which these Epistles agree, you will find that the colours are different. You will find darker colours in Jude than in Peter, although it is bad enough in Peter, most terribly evil. But it is of a general kind; whereas, Jude was led by the Holy Ghost to devote himself to the peculiar form that wickedness takes when it turns from the grace of God, when it turns to licentiousness.
Hence Jude begins with what is not referred to in Peter at all, and it is for this reason that I read verse 5 over a second time to-night. “I will, therefore, put you in remembrance, though once for all knowing all things, that the Lord, having saved a people”—mark that—“out of the land of Egypt”—that is the sovereign grace that shows the salvation. I am not speaking of it now as eternal salvation. It was sovereign grace that chose Israel; they were not chosen for everlasting glory, but only delivered out of Egypt. That surely shows a manifestation of God’s goodness, Who, instead of allowing them to be oppressed and terrorised over by the cruel Egyptians, smote the Egyptians and delivered His people. They came into the narrower circle in one sense of what were God’s people, in one sense also they were saved; but they gave up the grace, they abandoned God. This latter is what Jude has particularly in view. He looks at Christendom as being about to abandon the truth. He shows that whatever the special favour shown by God, men will get away from and deny it; and further, that instead of using grace to walk morally, they will take advantage of grace to allow of a kind of immorality—they will turn the grace of God into licentiousness.
Peter says nothing about this, but Jude does; so that it is evident that these learned men (who think they are so clever in showing that Jude and Peter are merely imitators of one another, and that it is the same thing in substance in both—that there is no particular difference, that they are in fact the same human picture), do not see God in either. Now, what we are entitled to is to see God in both Epistles, and what is more we should hear God’s voice in both. You see then that Jude begins with this solemn fact that the Lord “having saved a people out of the land of Egypt”—I am giving now the strict force of the word—“the second time” (that He acted) “destroyed those that believed not.” The first act was that He “saved” them, He brought them out by means of the paschal lamb, which was His first great act of “saving.” The first time that God’s glory appeared and He put Himself at the head of His people, He saved them out of the land of Egypt. What was “the second time”? When He “destroyed” them. It is not vague, but it specifically mentions “the second time”; this is the great point. At the time the golden calf was set up, that was the beginning of “the second time,” and God went on smiting and smiting until everyone was destroyed except Caleb and Joshua. That was the second time. This went on for forty years, but it is all brought together in the words “the second time.” God “destroyed them that believed not.” That is the charge brought against them. Their carcases were falling in the wilderness. In Hebrews 3 (as is very evident also in the book of Numbers and elsewhere) there is this threat during their passage through the wilderness. It is one of the great facts of the books of Moses. As regards those that came out of Egypt, they came under the hand of God; some perished at one time, some at another, but all perished in one way or the other, until all disappeared; and yet they had all been “saved” out of the land of Egypt by the Lord.
Oh, what a solemn thing to set this before us now! When I say before us, I mean before the church of God, before all that bear the name of the Lord Jesus here below. This is put expressly as a sample of the solemn ways of God to be recollected in Christendom. Then Jude also refers to the angels. I think the wisdom of that is evident. Peter begins with the angels and then goes on to refer to the flood. I think, therefore, if any person looks at Genesis 6 he will find a great deal of wisdom in Jude’s reference. I am well aware, of course, that there are many that view “the sons of God” in a very different way to what it appears to me. They are sometimes very surprised, and expect one to be able to answer all their questions. I do not assume any such competency. I admire the wisdom of God in that God does not stop to explain. He feels the awful iniquity of what occurred in reference to these angels. They are fallen angels, and of quite a different class to those who fell before Adam was tempted.
It appears there were at least two falls of angels; one was he whom we call Satan—when man was made, Satan tempted man through Eve. Those ordinary evil angels, of which we read in the Bible from Genesis down to Revelation, are not under everlasting chains at all. They are roving about the world continually, and so far from being in chains of darkness, in “tortures” as it is called here, they are allowed access to heaven. You will see that in a very marvellous way in the history of Job. A great many believers do not believe in the book of Job. You will see there “the sons of God” referred to. What is meant by “the sons of God” there? Why, the angels of God. The angels of God appeared before God. We learn from this that they have access, and include not only the good angels but also the Satanic angels. Satan was a fallen angel, but still he was an angel, and when “the sons of God” came, Satan was there too. So that it is evident, from the Book of Revelation more particularly, that Satan will not lose that access to the presence of God until we are actually in heaven. It has not come to pass yet. People have an extraordinary idea in their heads that whatever access Satan had before that time, he lost it—either when our Lord was born, or when our Lord died—but there is nothing of this in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where, on the contrary, it is expressly stated that our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against wicked spirits in the heavenlies. We are not like the Israelites fighting against Canaanites. Our Canaanite is a spiritual enemy in heavenly places, that is, Satan and his host of demons or angels.
But, as we have seen, these are not at all the sins that are referred to here. There is a marked difference. There is a character of iniquity that these angels fell into on earth, and so a distinct difference in their doom. These angels fell into a very peculiar iniquity, which is in a general way spoken of in Peter, but in a special way in Jude. They were put under chains of darkness and not allowed to stir out of their prison. They are not the angels that tempt us now. They did their bad work just a little time before the flood. That fact gives the matter a very solemn character. If people want to know how it was done, that I do not know; but you are called upon to believe, just as much as I am. What Genesis 6 does say is that there were “sons of God” upon earth at that time who acted in a way contrary to everything in relation to God, and which was so offensive to Him that He would not allow the earth to go on any longer, and this is what brought on the flood. No doubt too there was also a general iniquity in mankind that brought the flood upon them. Man was very corrupt and man was vile, but besides that there was this awful violation of the marks that divide the creatures of God in some mysterious manner. Hence God completely destroyed the whole framework of creation, and put an end to them and their offspring, so that every one of them perished. That is what took place then. Of course, you will tell me that they could not perish absolutely. No, I admit that these angels could not perish any more than men such as you; but this is what God did with those angels that behaved in that tremendously wicked manner. They became prisoners, they were put under confinement, not like Satan and his host that tempt us to this day, but these particular angels were not allowed to tempt men any more. They had done too much, and God would not allow these things to go on any longer, therefore there was this mighty interference at the time of the flood, and not only the things that generally inflict men. These are the words, “Angels that kept not their first estate.” Their falling was a departure from their first estate. In this very case Satan had not done so, nor had the angels that fell with Satan. But it was quite another kind of iniquity that caused the flood. These angels left their own habitation and preferred to take their place among mankind to act as if they were men on earth, and accordingly, God has now reserved them in everlasting chains under darkness until the judgment of the great day. Nobody can say that this is true of Satan and his host, but if people should think this, I do not see how they can read these verses and give such a meaning to them. Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years, but their years do not run out until the judgment of the great day comes. Then they will be judged everlastingly.
What makes the matter so striking is that Jude compares this conduct, and this awful opposition to all the landmarks that divide angels from mankind, with Sodom and Gomorrah. We know that the enormity of this wickedness exceeded that even of all wicked people. So here their sin brings them into juxtaposition with Sodom and Gomorrah, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner to these, giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering vengeance of eternal fire” (ver. 7).
When we come back to Peter and see what he has to say on this matter, it is, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned.” Peter does not go further than that. Of course we know how they sinned—that is what Jude looks into. But here in Peter it is general—“angels that sinned.” He cast them down into hell and darkness, but that description does not apply to Satan and his host. Therefore it seems there were two different falls of angels; one, Satan and his followers mounting up in the pride of their hearts to God, the other, these angels sinking down in the wickedness of their heart to man, to man in a very low condition indeed. The difference therefore is most marked. God “delivered them unto chains of darkness to be reserved to judgment, and spared not the old world.” There is a connection between the two narratives, as it is about the same time. Peter marks this very point, and puts it along with God’s dealing with the angels. This however is entirely left out by Jude. Peter says, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth [person].”
How is Noah described? As “a preacher of righteousness.” Noah was not a preacher of grace. The grand truth that Noah proclaimed was that God was going to destroy the world by the deluge. That was exactly the right message. I do not think we are entitled to say he said nothing more, but the characteristic of Noah was that he was “a preacher of righteousness.” This is precisely what occurs in Peter; he does not bring out the grace of God at all, in his chapter. He is thundering at unrighteousness. He is giving with that trumpet of righteousness a very clear sound indeed. He is evidently giving out, in very dark and solemn words, the destruction that shall await the wicked at the great change; and he shows that the same thing has happened before, and he begins, as far as man is concerned, not with Israel saved out of Egypt by God, but looks at the whole world destroyed. He is looking at the universality of unrighteousness, and not at the gradual departure of the people that were saved, saved first and lost afterwards. “He saved Noah, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” Peter then looks at the cities of the plain—more particularly Sodom and Gomorrah. He does not say anything about the special iniquity, but looks at it in a general way. “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned [them] with an overthrow, making [them] an ensample unto those that after should live ungodlily; and delivered just Lot vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Pet. 2:4-8).
So that instead of these two Epistles being alike, one of them a mere replica of the other, and an imitation in a clumsy way, they are both marked by most peculiarly different characteristics. And this is what deludes some men with all their criticism, and all the doctrine of the working of mind and the reasoning of rationalism is entirely outside the mark. Man’s mind sees certain things in a general outside way and reasons upon it, flattering himself that he is doing something wonderful, and that he is bringing light when he is only spreading mist over the precious word of God, nothing but mist and darkness. So that the general difference between the two Epistles is very marked indeed.
Well then, we come now to the bearing of Peter’s words upon the present time. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” That is the practical testimony coming out of it. “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government” It is not, you observe, simply corruptness. No, it is the larger view that is looked at. What would apply to Mahommedanism would apply to Judaism, would apply to heathenism, and would also apply to Christendom. The analogy is, that this particular form of evil requires a particular form of discipline, and that the world will be destroyed not by water but by fire from God in heaven. That is what I think is referred to by the “overthrow,” and the reason of it; “whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord” (2 Pet. 2:9-11).
But when we come to Jude, it is a great deal closer than all this. What he says is, “Likewise also these dreamers.” I do not know any reason for putting in the word “filthy.” You will see the word is in italics. There is a great deal of wickedness where there is nothing wrong in word. It is only in the idea, there may be nothing offensive, yet it is sapping and undermining all that is precious in those people who live in the imagination of their own hearts instead of being guided by the word of God. Why? Because the word of God is an expression of God’s authority, and His will is the only thing that ought to guide us, as well as all mankind. If that is true of man because he is the creature of God, how much more is it true of those whom He has begotten by the word of truth! These latter are therefore called more particularly to heed and learn the word of God. I do not know anything of more practical importance than that. If I were to give, in one word, in what all practical Christianity consists, I should say—obedience; and that obedience is entirely one of faith, not law. It is characterised in quite another way by Peter, “obedience of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:2) not obedience of Adam. Adam’s obedience was that he was not to touch that particular tree, but now that God has revealed His will we are bound by that revealed will. To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin. It is not merely you must not do anything wrong in all those ways of men which show how far their heart is from God, but “to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Talk about James being legal! obedience is his peculiar grace. He is the very one that speaks about “the law of liberty.” The law of Moses was the law of bondage; it was purposely to convict man of sin which he had in his nature, to crush all self-righteousness out of him. Whereas what James speaks of is the exercise of a new life that God’s grace gives us, and of the love that Christ has revealed that we should be after the pattern of Christ. What was the difference between Christ’s obedience and the Israelite’s obedience? The Israelite’s was, Thou shalt not do this or that. But this is not what Christ says. Of course, Christ never did anything that was wrong. Christ was pleasing to God in every act of His life, in every feeling of His soul, in all that constituted walking with God here below. This is exactly what we are called here to do. This is what Peter means when he says, “Elect according to foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification (or, in virtue of sanctification) of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood, of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:1, 2).
The sprinkling is the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, and the reference is to Exodus 24., where Moses takes the book of the law and sprinkles it with blood, and he sprinkles the people too with blood; everything being thus brought under death. It was the great mark of death having its sway. The book and the people were sprinkled with the blood shed, meaning death to any who failed to obey that book. Now the Christian in a way stands totally contrasted with that; when he is converted his first desire is to do the will of God. When Saul of Tarsus was smitten down, his first words as a converted man were, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And this is what occurs even before we get peace. It is so with every converted person. His first desire is to do the will of God. He very little knows himself. He does not know how weak he is. He has got a bad nature counteracting him, but he has yet to learn the operation of the new nature that is in him. How does that new nature come? By receiving the word of revealed grace. I do not say the work of Christ the Saviour, because Saul knew very well that he knew nothing; but mercy and goodness struck him down and gave him a new nature that he once railed at. Paul knew Christ was saving him, but he did not know that we have to learn, not only the word of God, but the experimental way of finding our need of it. It is not only the Saviour that we want, but the mighty work that abolishes all our sins, and brings us to God in perfect peace and liberty through the redemption of the Lord Jesus.It is not only that I am born again; that I am going to be saved by and by, but saved now. This is the proper meaning of the Christian dispensation that produces this desire even before I know that the blood of Christ is screening me entirely. I want to obey as Christ obeyed, not merely to do something like the Jew, but I am doing it now because this nature in me impels me to do it. It is the instinct of the new man. We have a great deal to learn about our utter weakness, and, consequently, about the need of deliverance. So we are elect unto the obedience of Christ, and are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, which gives us the comfortable assurance that our sins are clean gone. Hence the difference is very plain.
Now these “dreamers” referred to, lived in the imagination of their own hearts, and the New Testament is used to help these men very much indeed. When the New Testament is taken up by the natural mind, they proclaim what is called Christian Socialism, which sets up a standard of the gospel and dictates to everybody. You have no right to this large property! You have no right to these privileges that you assume! I am as good as you, and better too! This is the style these men take up with regard to the New Testament, thereby entirely twisting the word in order to gain advantages to themselves and to deny all the truth. It is really dreaming about what ought to be, according to their mind, and to claim everything that they covet from those that are in a dignified position in the world—“likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion and speak evil of dignities.” They defile the flesh by what they convert scripture to. They consider themselves the equals of all, and not only so, but speak evil of dignities, so that there is evidently no fear of God before their eyes at all. And this shows that there is something very lamentable in the perversion of the gospel, the perversion of the New Testament. It is their own bad and selfish purpose that causes them to do this. The whole principle of the New Testament is this: what those that are of Christ do. Well, they feel according to Christ. What is that? Why, it is the principle of love that gives, that does not seek its own. Do you think these kind of men have any idea of giving? They only talk about other people giving. So this is all dreaming, as it is called here. Very justly Jude launches out into these strong terms, “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.”