From the Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 12

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude (Part 12)

The Duty of the Saints (vv. 17-25)

In the light of growing apostasy, what are true believers to do and how are they to conduct themselves as conditions throughout Christendom become worse and worse prior to Christ’s return for His Church? It is in this third and last main section of Jude’s brief letter, which begins at verse 17, that he tells us what our responsibilities are, these nine verses having three major thrusts of subject matter. His first emphasis centres on:

The reminder of the prophecies (vv. 17-19). The passage reads as follows:

But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These are they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.

From describing the apostates, Jude now turns to give instruction to God’s people, providing them with clear guidelines as to how they should behave in view of the presence of apostate teachers, as well as how to avoid falling into their errors.

To help us understand the connection of these verses with the preceding context, Michael Green has helpfully pointed out that “There is, in fact, a close parallel between verses 17-19 and verses 5-16 which preceded them. In each case there is an exhortation to remember; in each case Jude begins by addressing the heretics in condemnation. But the tenor of the passages is different. Verses 5-16 expose and condemn the sin of the heretics, and the Enoch citation is adduced to seal their doom; whereas verses 17-19, while laying bare once again the character of the opposition, have a different purpose, to encourage and reassure the faithful.”1

The presence of ungodly teachers should neither surprise nor confuse the saints, for the apostles had previously declared that this situation would develop. For instance, at Miletus, Paul had warned the Ephesian elders “that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30, NKJV). Later, similar warnings about apostates and apostasy were written to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4) . Peter wrote about the same matter (2 Pet. 2:1-3; 3:3-4), the quotation in Jude 18 being a loose rendering of Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:3, as well as representing a concise statement of Paul’s warnings.

Thus Jude calls upon his readers, and upon all true believers, to “remember” the words of the apostles regarding apostate libertines, “remember” being the first imperative employed by Jude and “ye” being in the emphatic position. Jude himself made no claim to be an apostle.

While in verse 17 God’s people are exhorted to remember the faith, in verses 18 and 19 they are called upon to recognize the foes. In verse 18 the verb for “they told” is in the imperfect tense, thereby stressing the fact that the apostles repeatedly told the faithful “that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts” (NKJV).

“The most remarkable passage in the New Testament dealing with the specific subject of mockers in the end of the age,” wrote S. Maxwell Coder, “is Il Peter 3:1-3, which may be regarded as a divine commentary on Jude’s statement. ‘Beloved … be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.’

“The word translated ‘scoffers’ in Peter and ‘mockers’ in Jude is found nowhere else in the Bible. A mocker holds up to scorn the teaching of the Word of God. One such teaching particularly disliked is the promise that Christ will one day return to earth. They will say: ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.’ Peter reveals that this attitude is the result of willing ignorance. The Word is heard and understood, and then by a deliberate act of the human will it is rejected and held in derision.”2

The expression “in the last time” (v. 18) is equivalent to Paul’s similar phrase — “in the last days” — in 2 Timothy 3:1. Actually, “the last days” began with the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2) and will continue until His return. They are referred to as the “last days” because in them God is continuing to complete His purposes for His people. Peter and the writer to the Hebrews properly speak of “the last time” as already present, whereas Paul states that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” By “times” the apostle means seasons of various kinds, and as the “times” in which we are living draw to a close they are indeed becoming hard, difficult, painful, grievous, fierce (Matt. 8:28) or savage, as the word for “perilous” may be variously translated.

These same apostate teachers who are likened to brute beasts in verse 10 are now said in verse 18 to “follow their own ungodly desires” (NIV). Again, Jude’s stress on their ungodly character harks back to Enoch’s prophecy (vv. 14-15) and even to verse 4. As to the closing words of verse 18, Coder maintains that there is a striking word-picture here pertaining to these false teachers who are led about by their lusts. He states that they are like an animal “led about with a ring in its nose. The animal walks obediently after its master; these walk after their ungodly lusts. Neither the captive bull nor the apostate enslaved by sin has any choice. He must go wherever he is led. He is in bondage. He may talk of liberty from traditional moral restraints, and despise the believer who lives a life of true holiness in the fear of God, but the apostate is himself a bondslave to corruption (2 Peter 2:19).”3

In verse 19 the word for “separate” is found only here in the New Testament and means to mark off or to make separations. Martin Luther translated it, “those who make factions.” Resident in the word is the idea of setting up boundary lines, thereby making false distinctions among Christians. Not only did this sort of thing give rise to factions, but these false teachers looked upon themselves as superior to others in the church.

Having commented on this subject, Harry A. Ironside wrote: “There is a spiritual and carnal separation. The former is separation from evil at the call of the word of God, when to longer continue in some particular association would be unfaithfulness to Christ. The latter is walking apart in fancied superiority, led on by pride and vainglory. This is what marks out the class Jude is portraying, in the day of their power.”4

While these apostate teachers prided themselves as being spiritually superior, claiming not to be bound by mere Biblical standards and despising true Christians, Jude calls them “sensual.” This word does not refer to their lasciviousness and lusts already pointed out in verses 4 and 16, but to the fact that they were natural men, that is, devoid of any spiritual understanding whatsoever (see 1 Cor. 2:14, where the same root word is used and there translated “natural”). Thus Jude takes quite a jab at those who considered themselves among the spiritually elite. Not only were they not the spiritual intelligentsia they thought they were, Jude goes on to state that they did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. In other words, they were not saved (Rom. 8:8-9); they were counterfeit Christians.

(To be continued, D.V.)

Heart Longings

Oh, that today my clothes may be vestments, my meal a sacrament, my house a temple, my table an altar, my speech incense, and myself a priest unto the Most High God.

Come in, O strong and deep love of Jesus, like the sea at flood tide, cover all my powers, drown all my sins, sweep away all my cares, lift up my earth-bound soul, and float it right up to my Lord’s feet, and there let me lie — a poor broken shell, washed up by His love, having no virtue or value, and only venturing to whisper to Him that, if He will put His ear to me, He will hear within faint echoes of the vast waves of His own love, which have brought me where it is my delight to lie, even at His feet for ever.

—Charles H. Spurgeon

1 Michael Green, The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, p. 180.

2 S. Maxwell Coder, Jude: The Acts of the Apostates, p. 103-04.

3 Ibid., p. 104.

4 Harry A. lronside, Exposition of the Epistle of Jude, p. 51.