“To the only [wise] God.” The word “wise” has crept in here. In all correct texts the word “wise” disappears in this place. It is perfectly right in Romans 16:27. And I just refer to that text to show its appropriateness there: “To God only wise.” I presume that it was this passage that led the ignorant monk, or whoever he was that was copying Jude, to (as he thought) correct it. But we cannot correct. All these human corrections are innovations, and our point is to get back to what God wrote and to what God gave. Everything except what God gave is an innovation, but God’s word is the standard, and all that departs from, or does without, it is an innovation.
Now, in this chapter of Romans, what made the word “wise” appropriate and necessary there, is that Paul refers to the mystery. He does not bring out the mystery in Romans; but after completing the great subject of the righteousness of God, first, in its personal application as well as in itself, secondly, comparing it with the dispensations of God, and, thirdly, in its practical shape—personal, dispensational, and practical—he here adds a little word at the close, “Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery.” The revelation of the mystery—he had not brought this in. But he maintains that this gospel of his was according to it. It was not the revelation of it; but it did not clash with it. There was no contrariety, but that revelation of the mystery was left for other Epistles, Ephesians and Colossians more particularly; Corinthians also in a measure, but chiefly Ephesians and Colossians.
Further he says, “which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by prophetic writings” (or, scriptures, namely, those of the New Testament. I understand that what is called here “scriptures of the prophets” are the prophetic writings of the New Testament, of which Paul contributed so much) “according to the commandment of the everlasting God made known to all nations”—that shows that the Old Testament prophets are not referred to here at all—“for obedience of faith; to God only wise be glory.” That is to say, this concealment of the mystery and now bringing it out in due time—not in Romans, but in what would be found to agree with Romans and confirm Romans when the mystery was communicated to the saints in the Epistles that had to be written afterwards—all this showed “God only wise.” It is in connexion, you see, with this keeping back for so many ages, and now for the first time bringing out this hidden truth, the hidden mystery, as he calls it, to our glory, which is involved in Christ’s exaltation at the right hand of God, and in His leaving the world for the time entirely alone, whilst meanwhile forming the disciples according to the truth of His being in heaven.
In Timothy, however, we have an expression exactly similar to what we have here. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17). There the word “wise” is brought in again in our Authorised Version. There is no reason for it there. So that there is the same error introduced in Timothy as there is in Jude, and both of them brought from what we already have in Romans 16, where it ought to be. Here, we find again, what a dangerous thing it is for man to meddle with the word of God. The apostle is here looking at God Himself, not at what He particularly does. The wisdom of His revelation—that is in Romans. But in Timothy it is, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.” There might be all these pretenders, these gods many and lords many that Paul knew very well among the Gentiles, and Timothy also, and particularly at this very Ephesus where Timothy seems to have been at this very time. There was the famous temple (one of the wonders of the world), called the temple of Diana. Artemis is the proper word, for Diana was a Roman goddess, and Artemis was a Grecian goddess quite of a different nature, although there were kindred lies about the two.
Here, therefore, in Timothy the apostle presented with great propriety and beauty “the only God.” Bringing in the “wise” God introduces quite another idea which does not fall in with the context, it does not agree with it properly. We find just the same thing in Jude. So that the comparison, I think, of the three scriptures will help to show that “the only wise God” belongs to Romans; that “the only God”—Who is presented in contrast with idols and imaginary beings—brings in to Timothy the force of the “only” true God.
In Jude we have “the only God” for a slightly different reason, but one equally appropriate. He is looking at all this terrible scene and at the greatness of the grace of God towards His beloved ones carried through such an awful sea of iniquity and apostasy. But if our eye be fixed on Christ, my dear brethren, it does not matter where we are, or whether we are smooth or rough. Some would make a great deal of the large waves, and I have no doubt that Peter was frightened at the big waves on which he found himself walking, and when he looked at the waves down he went. But if there had been no big waves, all as smooth as glass, and Peter had looked down on the glassy sea, down he would have gone all the same. It is not, therefore, at all a question of the particular circumstances. The fact is, there is no power to keep us, except a divine one, and it is all grace; and the grace that supports on a smooth sea is equally able to preserve on a rough one. Whatever, therefore, may be the special characters of evil and of danger at the present time, all turns upon this: What is Christ to my soul? And if I believe in His grace and in His truth then what does not my soul find in Christ?
“Now, unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy.” For the grace on His part is just the same as if there had been no departure, no apostasy, no wickedness, no unrighteousness of any kind. He wrought His marvellous work of grace for us when we were nothing but sinners. He brought us to Himself when we were no better—unmoved, perhaps, by that wonderful work when we first read and heard about it. But when the moment came for us to believe on Him, how it changed all! And surely the times that have passed over us have only endeared the Lord more to us. I hope there is not a soul in this room but what loves the Lord a deal better to-day than the day on which he, or she, was first converted. It is one of those notions of Christendom that our love is always much better and stronger on the day we were first converted. Never was there greater mistake. There was a feeling of mercy, no doubt; a deep sense of pardoning grace, but, beloved friends, do we not love the Lord for incomparably more than what we knew when converted? Surely that love has grown with a better knowledge of His love, and of His truth. And here we find that His grace is exactly the same, that the grace that brought Him from heaven, the grace of Him, Who lived here below, that died here below, and is now gone back into glory, is without change; and that the exceeding joy or exultation will be unquenched in the smallest degree when the blessed moment comes. “He will set us blameless before the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy.” It is not very much to find where the exceeding joy is. I am persuaded it is both in Him and in us. Perhaps we may be allowed to say, “which thing is true in Him and in you” (1 John 2:8). That was said about another thing altogether—the love that He put into our hearts when we knew His redemption; for until we know redemption there is not much love in a believer. He may have a good bit of affection for the people that he is intimate with, but he is very narrow at first, and till he knows the love of Christ his affections do not at all go out to all the saints. Here then we find, at any rate, this glowing picture of that bright hope, when it will surely be accomplished.
Now, Jude adds, “To the only God.” For who could have met all this confusion? Who could have conceived and counselled all this grace and truth? Who could have kept such as we are through all, remembering our total weakness, our great exposure, the hatred of the enemy, the contempt of adversaries, of all that are drawn away, of all the enticement to go wrong, all the animosities, worst of all, created by any measure of faithfulness? Yet He does keep through it all. “The only God our Saviour”; not only Christ our Saviour. Christ is the accomplisher of it all, but here Jude looks at God as the source, and it is no derogation from Christ. It was the delight of Christ on earth to present God as a Saviour God, and not merely that He Himself was that personal Saviour, the Son of man. So here the apostle desires that we should ever honour God our Saviour, as indeed we find it rather a common expression in those very solemn Epistles to Timothy.
“To the only God our Saviour.” All other dependence is vain, all other boast is worthless. We are intended to rejoice, or, rather more strictly, to “boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
“To [the] only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority, before all time, and now and ever (or, to all the ages).” It is a very interesting thing to note here the propriety with which Jude closes the Epistle. He says, “Be glory, majesty, might and authority, before all time, and now, and for evermore, Amen.” He looks at the full extent of eternity. It is much more precise than what we have in our Authorised Version; and is here given according to the reading of the best authorities, and rightly adopted by the Revisers.
Peter also closes his Second Epistle in what is said to be the same. But there is this distinction, that whilst Peter speaks of “glory both now and unto eternity’s day” (3:18), Jude brings out in the remarkable completeness of his closing ascription what was, and is, and is to be, in all its full eternal character.