The Salutation (Jude 1-2)
There seems no good reason to doubt, and every reason to believe, that the writer of this solemn yet comforting letter is the “Judas the brother of James,” mentioned in the list of the apostles, as given twice by Luke (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). Matthew referred to him as “Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus” (Matthew 10:3), and Mark simply as “Thaddeus” (Mark 3:18). John distinguished him in a special way by speaking of him as “Judas…not Iscariot” (John 14:22). It is evident, from the way Paul wrote of James, the son of Alpheus (the brother of Judas), that he was a close relation to the Lord Jesus. After mentioning his first interview with Peter, he said: “but other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). James the great, the son of Zebedee, had met a martyr’s death earlier than the visit here referred to. Therefore it is clear that James the less is meant. The term “the Lord’s brother” does not necessarily mean the same in Greek as it does in our language. It often implies just a very close relationship. Lot is called Abram’s brother, when actually he was his nephew (Genesis 14:16). Yet if Jude had wanted to boast of his close relation to the Lord as man, he would not have written of himself as he does here, “Jude, the
servant of Jesus Christ.” He had known Christ by ties of kindred common to few; but he knows Him as such no more. He gladly owns Him as God’s anointed, his Lord and master. Another might have used the term brother; but writing of himself, Jude is simply the “slave of Jesus Christ.” James spoke of himself in the same way— “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).
What a withering rebuke are these two lovely examples of devotion to Christ to those who thoughtlessly speak or write of “our brother Jesus,” or use similar terms, all calculated to detract from the glory of Christ. His own words to His disciples, after washing their feet, were, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and
ye say well; for so I am!” (John 13:13). How abhorrent is the pride that leads some to call themselves Christ’s “brothers,” as though He were merely a creature like themselves!
It is true that in infinite grace, as the captain of our salvation, “he is not ashamed to call [us] brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren” (Hebrews 2:11-12). But this is a very different thing from calling Him “Brother,” or speaking of ourselves as His brothers. If any object to this, let them search the Scriptures and see if anyone ever spoke of or to Him in such a way. James and Jude, who had every right to call Him “brother” scrupulously avoided such familiarity and called themselves His slaves. This is made all the more prominent in Jude’s letter, as he immediately added for the purpose of identification, “brother of James.”
He addressed himself to the “called” ones of God. It is a common title given to those whom grace has saved. The Lord’s words to His disciples while on earth were: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Some consider it a hard saying, when He declared, “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65). All believers are called by His grace, as was Paul (Galatians 1:15), and are drawn to Christ from a world controlled by the wicked one (1 John 5:19). What unspeakable grace is bestowed, for who is it He calls? Those who have some goodness to plead? Some merit to commend? No. He calls those who are utterly vile and corrupt, those who are completely lost. All such are “called unto the fellowship of his Son” (1 Corinthians 1:9). “And whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). There can be no failure here. He who called has justified, and will bring every called one to glory for eternity.
Such are “[beloved of] God the Father” (Jude 1). The King James version reads, “sanctified by,” but editors generally favor the former. Both statements are true, but Jude is emphasizing our place in the affections of the Father. Do we know the measure of that love? Our Lord Himself declared it when He said, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me” (John 17:22-23). This is the measure of the Father’s love to every child of grace. There are no degrees in His affection for His children. The feeblest and the strongest are alike “[beloved of] God the Father” as truly as His Son is the Beloved of His heart.
From this flows our preservation—”Preserved in Jesus Christ.” Whatever may be the difficulties of life, however great the trial of our faith, in the love of God we are preserved by the One who has saved us. He it is who, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). Were it not for His preserving grace not one saint would persevere. “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). There is no ground for self-confidence, or fleshly elation. Such grace calls for reverent and adoring gratitude, and a walk that corresponds to the lovingkindness lavished on creatures so unworthy.
Jude used a different greeting from that of the other apostles. It is not “grace and peace,” nor yet “grace, mercy, and peace,” which he invoked upon the saints, but “mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied” (2). They were already enjoying these precious things; he wanted them abundantly increased, so their souls would be filled with holy joy. Every saint needs mercy while passing through a world like this. Peace is his portion while abiding in Christ. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). In the enjoyment of this peace the soul can pass quietly on its way amid all the strife and evil of the day, resting in Him who is over all. Love is the outflow of the new life. God is love, and the divine nature in the believer can only produce love. This love is very different from mere sentimentality, as the Epistle goes on to show. “Love in the truth” (2 John 1; 3 John 1) is that which is according to God.
Abundant is the provision for each tried saint. If mercy, peace, and love are ever lacking, it is not due to a stinted supply of grace, but rather a failure to enter into what is freely given to all who receive with thanksgiving what our God so delights to give. He never abandons a trusting, honest soul to its own resources, but has promised to meet every need according to His riches in glory, through Christ Jesus. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Never will that time of need be over until we reach our heavenly home where strife and warfare are past forever.
The Faith Once for All Delivered (Jude 3)
Carried along by the Spirit, Jude sat down to write. His own heart was filled with the joy of God’s salvation, and as he put pen to parchment, he would have been glad to write of this salvation common to every saint. But the same Holy Spirit who caused him to give all diligence to write, directed his mind as to the theme he must emphasize—a note of
exhortation urging believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered” (3).
The faith mentioned here is not saving faith, but rather the truth of that salvation, with all that accompanies it. This abiding faith has been given never to be added to. It is the faith “once delivered unto the saints” and no new revelations will be given to complete this truth. Like John, Jude turned the saints back to “that which was from the beginning.” There may be evolution in theology, for theology is simply the reasoning of man’s mind as to the things of God. But there is no evolution in regard to the truth. God has given His last word on the subject. It is for this truth we are called to contend.
This simple expression shuts out all the pretentious claims of new prophets, seers, and revelators. False are the claims of misguided enthusiasts who boldly declare themselves sent of God and add to His words. The signs and wonders that may accompany such pretensions are no more remarkable than those of the antichrist yet to come. The simple-hearted believer turns away from them all, and exclaims with holy confidence, “The faith has been once for all made known. Neither assumption nor miracle will induce me to accept any additions to it.” Many seekers have been attracted by the false claims of cult leaders that angels have appeared to them and given them secret spiritual teachings. The faith once delivered needs neither angelic nor human additions. It is perfect and complete, and the man of God will refuse all other and newer revelations.
The apostle Paul was given the responsibility of completing the Word of God. He was the chosen servant to whom the mysteries hidden from past ages were made known (Colossians 1:24-27). After having completed the outline of divine teaching, he wrote, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Jude added no new doctrine to what had already been presented, but exhorted those who had received this sacred truth to contend earnestly for it. Even John, in the book of Revelation, sets forth no additional line of teaching, but shows what the outcome is to be in regard to the conflict between truth and error. It is fitting, therefore, that Jude’s letter should be so placed in our Bibles as to form a preface to the book of Revelation. He gave a graphic and solemn picture of the evils (already springing up among the saints in those early days) that in Revelation are portrayed in all their hideous development.
The second letter of Peter bears a close resemblance in many particulars to that of Jude. They are so similar that some who never look below the surface have surmised that one might be but an imperfect copy of the other. To the spiritually-minded there are, however, marked differences despite the striking similarity. Peter warned of false teachers, corrupting those who are not established in the truth. If false doctrine and damnable heresies are not refused, they will bring to their followers swift destruction. But Jude was concerned more with the ungodliness that results from forsaking the truth. He warned against the grace of God being turned into lasciviousness.
Men may belittle sound doctrine, and ridicule the notion that a system of belief is of any importance in regard to a man’s behavior, but Scripture shows that there cannot be proper behavior apart from soundness in the faith. The couplet, “For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight; / He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right,” expresses what is in the minds of many, that life will never be right unless the truth of God is accepted and prevails in the heart. Therefore, there is great need for Jude’s exhortation, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to contend for the faith.
The admonition is addressed, not to leaders alone, but to all the called in Jesus Christ. Since the faith was delivered to the saints as a whole, each one is responsible, in a time of departure from the truth, to contend earnestly for all that God has revealed. The believer is viewed as a soldier. He is called on to fight for what is of prime importance in God’s sight. As Shammah defended a patch of lentils, the food of God’s people (2 Samuel 23:11-12), so the Christian should boldly defend the truth against all enemies. If Christians were zealously guarding the treasure committed to the whole church, evil workers and false teachers would be unable to obtain a foothold. But because of the indifference of many believers, ungodly men are able to entrench themselves in the church.
It is one thing to contend, but quite another to be contentious. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). These verses indicate the spirit that is to characterize the one who would contend for the truth. Firmly, yet with tender compassion for those being led astray, he is to stand for all that God has revealed. When a bad, carnal spirit takes possession of someone, he is powerless to help or bless others. And it should always be remembered that in contending for the faith, the soul of the sinner has to be thought of as well. It is not enough to uphold the doctrines of Christ—actions must commend the truth that the lips proclaim. The phrase in Ephesians 4:15, translated “speaking the truth in love,” has been literally rendered, “truthing in love.” It is far more than speaking the truth that is in question— it is the truth lived out in all we do. Unless this is characteristic of the one who contends for the faith of God’s elect, the utterances of his lips will be in vain.
Clandestine Workers (Jude 4)
From the days of Simon Magus to the present it has always been the object of Satan to secretly introduce evil workers into the assemblies of God’s saints, and deceive the unwary and lead them astray. And Satan has never been lacking in those who would do his devious work.
The truth of God, if not submitted to, has a hardening effect on the one who is familiar with it. To trifle with what God has revealed is an affront to Him, and has dire consequences. Jude next warned the people of God against such men, who have a mental acquaintance with the truth but whose ways are not in accordance with that which they profess to hold. Secretly they have slipped into the assemblies of the saints, and have managed to deceive His people, but they are not unknown to God. “Before of old [they were marked out] to this condemnation” (4).
Ordained (kjv) is too strong a word here, and fails to give the true thought. Far be it from God to ordain any man to acts of impiety and ways of deceit! But He had of old marked them out, declaring by His prophets that such men would arise. He described them clearly, so that they might readily be recognized. And He pointed out that their end is judgment.
They are described as ungodly men. This term
ungodly is used five times in Jude’s Epistle, the other four instances occurring in the quotation from Enoch. It means refusing subjection to God, and acting independently of and in opposition to Him. “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). All men in their sins are ungodly. Jude wrote of those who by profession claim to be delivered from their sins, but who actually are still in them, and secretly turning others to their own iniquitous ways.
The grace of God has neither reached their souls nor controlled their consciences. They make that very grace an occasion for lasciviousness of speech and life. Such evil workers have abounded in all ages since the gospel was made known. But the remedy given in Scripture is never legality, but rather a bowing to the truth of man’s need of the very grace he has been misusing. The sinner who judges himself before God and finds his need met in that wondrous provision of grace, will not turn from such unmerited favor. It is the unrepentant “professor” who has never seen himself in the light of God’s holiness that Jude is referring to.
In what ways do men turn “the grace of our God into lascivious-ness”? They do so by going on in their own ways, gratifying the lusts of the flesh, while professing to believe in the grace that does not impute sin to the justified soul. This is what has been well-named
antinomianism. These perpetrators deny “the only Lord God [Master] and our Lord Jesus Christ.” They don’t necessarily deny Him at all times with their lips—often they are found professing to know Him, but denying Him by their works.
We do not need to look far to find such men. Christendom today abounds with them. They are often in the seats of honor, professing allegiance to Christ while ignoring His Word and even treating the Scriptures with contempt and assumed superiority. Nothing is too holy for their profane reasonings to set aside. “From such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
At no time in the past history of the church have Jude’s words applied with greater force than in the present age. In Romanism, emissaries make strenuous efforts to allure the unwary by presenting a softened, subdued Catholicism to non-Catholics. They emphasize whatever is Scriptural, or ethically and esthetically lovely in the teachings of the Papacy, and carefully cover the more disgusting dogmas and practices of that apostate church. In Protestantism, the boldest infidelity and skepticism are proclaimed from thousands of pulpits, and minor sects of all kinds are everywhere spreading their pernicious and soul-destroying errors. Therefore the man of God needs to be alert and vigilant—determined to stand for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Many false teachers would say that it makes little difference what a man believes if he lives well and is sincere. Scripture teaches, however, that the gospel alone is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The Holy Spirit has pronounced a solemn curse against any—even an angel from Heaven—who brings a different gospel. Living a “good life,” according to the divine standard of holiness and uprightness, is a delusion and an impossibility, apart from the sanctifying power of the truth of God. And so we find that where false teaching prevails, ungodliness abounds. Indifference to evil teaching, and genuine love for Christ and His truth cannot coexist in the same breast. Neutrality in such a case is a crime against the Lord who has redeemed us to Himself.