From the Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 6

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude (Part 6)

Having illustrated the destruction of the apostates in verses 5-7, Jude returns now in verses 8-13, with verse 16, to the subject of the false brethren who had stealthily made their way into the assembly of God’s people. It is in these verses that he delineates in considerable detail the portrait of these heretics, verse 8 disclosing the opening details.

In like manner also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

In spite of the previous warnings of verses 5-7, these apostate teachers sin after the same pattern, as indicated by the opening words, “In like manner also” or “Likewise also,” the literal translation being, “Likewise nevertheless also.” On the basis of his three analogies in verses 5-7, Jude begins to paint his vivid, warty-word portrait of these false brethren. He arraigns them on three counts: for defiling their own bodies, for rebelling against authority, and for speaking evil of celestial dignities.

There is no word in the Greek text for “filthy,” this being an addition by the translators. The word for “dreamers” may point to the impure and evil thoughts or imaginations of the false teachers, which in turn are put into action. Some, feel, however, that by calling them “dreamers,” Jude is indicating that they supported their evil conduct by claiming divine revelations in their dreams.1

At any rate, the graphic description of the unbridled activities’ of these apostates represents another of Jude’s many triads. First, these ungodly men “defile the flesh” through misuse of it, the flesh itself not being impure. Second, they “despise dominion,” the word for “dominion” being found only three other times in the New Testament (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 2 Pet. 2:10) and meaning lordship. In Jude’s use of the word, it has reference primarily to either the Lordship of Christ or angels, the former probably being the case. Why? because the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ is despised by apostates, and because of the words at the close of verse 4, “and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (NASV). Their despising of authority may, of course, be properly applied to human authority, whether in the realm of civil power, church leaders and discipline, or to authority in general. Nevertheless, in view of what Jude has already stated in verse 4, it seems best to refer these descriptive words to the false teachers’ denial of all ultimate authority and judgment as personified in the Lord

Jesus Christ. One thing, these apostates were against God’s law and thus lawless in their behaviour. Like those in the illustrations of verses 5-7, they were filled with pride and arrogance, as well as jubilant in their professed superior knowledge. Third, they “speak evil of dignities,” these words being a clear reference to angelic beings, the allusion of verse 9 definitely confirming this, coupled with the fact that the same Greek word used in verse 8 appears in both verses 9 and 10 (see 2 Pet. 2:10). The phrase is rendered elsewhere as follows: “and revile angelic majesties” (NASV), and in the New Testament Version to “slander celestial beings.”

Whether good or bad angels are meant is not clear. The natural thing is to assume that Jude is referring to good angels, yet the illustration of verse 9 refers to none other than Satan himself. It seems best, therefore, to interpret these words to refer to angelic beings in general, both good and bad, and including the devil.

Summing up, then, this verse reveals the vile and corrupt character of these false brethren, expressing itself in violent words and deeds.

Although he wrote his brief exposition on Jude’s letter more than fifty years ago, the following comments by Harry A. Ironside on verse 8 are still pertinently fresh:

“Unholy ways always accompany, and indeed spring from, unholy teachings. Hence we can easily understand the readiness with which apostates from the truth give themselves up to what is defiling and abominable. It is noticeable that present-day advocates of that insult to decency denominated ‘free love,’ are in large measure persons who have apostatized from a nominal Christianity, and now can tolerate, and even stand for, what they once would have abhorred. The loosening of the marriage tie, the prevalent evil of unscriptural divorce and all its train of iniquitous practices, find in modern latitudinarian thought and liberal theology earnest defenders. What would once have been rebuked, even by the world, is now pandered to by a Christless pulpit, and so men and women sustaining unholy relations are rocked to sleep in their sins and made comfortable with the vaporings of ‘filthy dreamers,’ while death, judgment and eternal punishment are fast hastening on! The rejection of the inspiration of the Bible places the law of God, as expressed in the ten words from Sinai, among the productions of the human mind, and therefore its code of morals may be spurned and a lower ethical system, more in keeping with present day conditions, substituted. Hence loose standards prevail where Scripture no longer speaks with authority: ‘They have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?

“Coupled with this new standard of morals, so opposed to the purity of Scripture, will be found a pride that brooks no bounds, and vaunts itself against every unseen power. Satan is no longer feared, but his very existence denied on the one hand, or his super-human ability ridiculed on the other.”2

(To be continued, D.V.)

1 Michael Green, The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, p. 168.

2 Harry A. lronside, Exposition of the Epistle of Jude, pp. 27-28.