See background, Lesson, Enoch, Book of. Possible explanation
of certain peculiarities of Jude.
A SERVANT: It is not only a mark of his essential
humility, but also, possibly, a sign of apostleship, for John, Peter, James and
Paul all use the same expression about themselves (Rev 1:1; 2Pe 1:1; Jam 1:1;
Tit 1:1; Phi 1:1). He writes to those who are "kept in Jesus Christ". Here is a
key word of this epistle. It comes five times in 25 vv (vv 1,6,6,13,21; and
there is also another word of comparable meaning in v 24). Used here in the
greeting, it expresses the apostle's confidence that the powers of evil against
which he now has to contend are not being victorious -- but, alas, in the long
run they were.
"Doulos" = bond-slaves. This description emphasizes submission
and dependence on their Lord. It is not a technical reference to a specific
office, but characterizes their willing service of Christ, their divine Master.
The same designation appears in the letters of James, 2Pe, and Jude.
Man's slave becomes free in Christ, and a freeman (like Paul)
becomes Christ's slave (1Co 7:22).
The use of the term "slaves" also suggests the "redemptive"
work of God in Christ: the Israelites were "slaves" in Egypt, who were "bought"
or "redeemed" out of their slavery to become the "purchased possession" of the
Father (Exo 15:16). (See Lesson, Redemption.)
There is some evidence that when an ecclesia of the first
century received a letter from one of the apostles, it was read when they were
assembled at the Breaking of Bread service. Another name for this celebration
was the Agape, or Love Feast (v 12). It was their custom to follow as closely as
possible the pattern of the Last Supper, when a meal shared by all culminated in
the receiving of sanctified bread and wine from the Lord. (WGos ch 192). Some of
the NT epistles bear signs of an awareness in the minds of their writers that
what they wrote would be read to the brethren at such an assembly. Jude is one
of them. No less than six of the key words in the greeting (vv 1,2) appear to
have this in mind:
Thus, the opening phrase of the epistle is seen to be neither
haphazard nor conventional, but carefully chosen so as to focus on a single idea
or worth and importance to those who heard the words read to them.
- "Called" normally refers to those invited to a banquet -- the meal of
- "Beloved" (vv 1,3) is the word "agapetos", specially appropriate
to those sharing the Agape.
- "Mercy" is usually forgiveness. This is a common
NT meaning. Cp the familiar words "for the remission of sins" (Mat
- "Peace" is of course the standard greeting: Shalom. But it also
recalls the words of Jesus as the disciples came away from the upper room: "My
peace give I unto you."
- "Love" is the word agape, identical with the word
for the Love Feast.
- "Multiplied" surely refers to the large number of
assembled brethren, and also to the multiplying of mercy, peace and love to them
through their repeated attendance at the Breaking of Bread
See Lesson, Contending earnestly (Jude 1:3). Note that
"Antipas" could contend for the faith while continuing as members of very
imperfect ecclesias (Eur 1:335). "It is easy for men to deceive themselves that
extremes are an evidence of zeal for Truth" (IC, Xd 61:344).
ALTHOUGH I WAS VERY EAGER: The writer, very
reluctantly, had to leave the exposition of positive themes in order to confront
the negative, and divisive, issues.
CONTEND: Such contention must be against those who
"creep in unawares", not against one's true brethren in Christ who build the
same wall and use the same materials, but maybe lay the stones according to a
different pattern, or labor according to a different system -- not against such,
but against those who have as their deliberate aim the perversion of the Faith
already received. Paul refers to them in blunt ruthless fashion: "false
brethren, unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which
we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage" (Gal 2:4). This
is terrible language, to be matched in a score of other places in the NT. It is
an apostolic theme which has gone seriously neglected, that men of orthodox
Jewry diligently mounted a counter-reformation in their campaign against the
preaching of the gospel. One of their most dastardly methods was the
infiltration of the ecclesias by "false brethren" so that the Faith might be
corrupted from within -- the classic way of bringing down any hated movement.
And it very largely succeeded. Here is an explanation of a phenomenon which has
long called for an explanation -- the decay of Christianity, not in the time of
Constantine, but long before that, even before the apostles themselves had
passed off the scene.
SAINTS: Gr "hagios", the holy ones! (Always appears in
the plural in the NT: no individual is spoken of as a "saint", singular; but all
believers are "saints", collectively, in Christ!) As God "set apart" or
"sanctified" or "made holy" His people in Egypt (Exo 13:2; Lev 11:44), so NT
believers were "made holy" in Christ.
All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with
Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2;
Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term
emphasizes not so much personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should
correspond increasingly to his standing (2Co 7:1; 2Th 5:23), but the objective
"set apart" status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon
him or her through Christ.
Jude evidently became suddenly aware of the nefarious
activities of "certain men (the Greek phrase probably implies 'you know whom I
mean!') crept in unawares", and forthwith this epistle becomes his contribution
to the good warfare to maintain the sound faith and holy living of his brethren
free from corruption. Some of the subverters sought to turn the converts to a
Judaized Christianity in which the keeping of the Law of Moses was every bit as
important as faith in Christ (thus it was in Galatia). Others (who were
denounced in Jude and 2Pe) set an example of evil living, and naturally had
little difficulty in coaxing others to let go their early idealism. "The grace
(forgiveness) of God turned into lasciviousness." Is it not true, argued these
evil mentors plausibly, that "all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men"
(Mar 3:28), except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Then why do we have to be
careful about what is sinful and what is not?
The churches were warned against those who taught and seduced
the Lord's servants "to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto
idols" (Rev 2:14,20). This is called "the doctrine of Balaam", with allusion to
the cynical advice of that true but mercenary prophet -- who earned his
retaining fee from the enemy of Israel by recommending the moral and spiritual
corruption of the chosen people as the best way of bringing about their downfall
(Num 31:16). Now exactly the same policy was being pushed with sinister
cleverness in the midst of the New Israel, and it needed more than Jude to
fulfil the role of zealous Phinehas.
WRITTEN ABOUT LONG AGO: That is, by Peter in 2Pe
AND DENY JESUS CHRIST: Cp 2Pe 2:1. The most remarkable
thing here is that last phrase: "the Lord that bought them". This can only mean
that their knowledge of the Truth in Christ and their baptism into his Name had
brought them within the orbit of his salvation, no matter how cynical their
attitude. They were present at the betrothal feast of the King's Son, but
without a wedding garment. Therefore, on the day of reckoning, their fate shall
be "outer darkness... weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 22:13). "They bring
upon themselves swift destruction", says Peter. And so also says Jude through
the medium of three telling allusions to past judgements of God (vv
Cp with the words from the spurious Book of Enoch: "And it
came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were
born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of
the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us
choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And
Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree
to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.' And
they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind
ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.'
Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon
it. And they were in all two hundred" (6:1-6).
LATER: A year after leaving Egypt Israel came to the
borders of the Land of Promise, but there, because they faithlessly accepted the
discouragements of the ten spies instead of the inspiring confidence of the two,
they were turned back into the wilderness, and that generation perished there.
Inheritance came forty years later.
That unexpected word 'later' seems to refer to the fact that
when Israel came to the shores of the Red Sea, then (even after seeing all God's
signs in Egypt!) they seemed incapable of faith, but murmured against Moses and
against the Lord (Exo 14:10-12). Nevertheless, even in spite of this unworthy
reaction, they were delivered. But when they came to the borders of Canaan and
showed a like (or worse) lack of faith -- the "later" -- now their doom was
pronounced (Num 14:32,33).
See Lesson, Enoch, Book of. Refs to Jewish mythology, cited by
Jude here. Cp v 8: slandering celestial beings, as Book of Enoch does! Cp notes,
2Pe 2. "A link is suggested with the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which refers to
rebellious angels in chains: 'Bind them for seventy years under the earth until
the Day of Judgement'. (Observe the inconsistency of orthodoxy regarding fallen
angels. Here they are kept shut up until the Day of Judgement. In 1Pe 5:8 at
least one of them is at large 'as a roaring lion' -- whose roar nobody has ever
SODOM AND GOMORRAH: There is point also in the mention
of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them (five in all), as intended to
prepare Jewish readers for the devastation of the entire Land. The parallel goes
even further, for just as angels came to rescue Lot and his family out of Sodom,
so also Jesus had warned his disciples: "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed
with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which
are in Judea fell to the mountains..." (Luk 21:20,21).
ETERNAL FIRE: Not that the fire itself is eternal, but
that it is eternal in its consequences, as Peter's phrase implies: "turning them
// 2Pe 2:10-12. Jude goes on to emphasize other features of
this grim parable: All of these phrases link up easily with the purple narrative
of Genesis 19.
DREAMERS: Is it possible that "dreamers" alludes to the
blindness inflicted on them? Or that those contemporaries that Jude wrote
against claimed to have Spirit-guided revelations: "Your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Act 2:17)?
POLLUTE THEIR OWN BODIES: Their sodomy.
AUTHORITY: Always associated wi heavenly powers: Eph
1:21; Col 2:16; cp Rom 8:10.
SLANDER CELESTIAL BEINGS: Implying such accusations
agst angels, ie having sex wi humans (as per Book of Enoch), are
See Lesson, Devil and the body of Moses, the.
Ref to false teaching of Book of Enoch (see Lesson, Enoch, Book of. Michael was supposedly the chief accuser of the "fallen angels". Also,
Michael was -- per other Jewish fables -- the angel chiefly responsible for
escorting the souls of the faithful dead to the Bosom of Abraham.
Cp Zec 3:2. "Devil" prob = the disqualified priests (Ezr
2:62), who dispute wi Joshua about his right to be HiPr. // the Jews of Jude's
day who dispute the claims and rights of the apostles.
BODY: Perh used here as equivalent of "slave" or
"servant" (Rev 18:13). The first Joshua was servant of Moses (Exo 24:13). The
later Joshua was also Moses' servant, in the sense that he served Moses' law.
BLEMISHES IN YOUR LOVE FEASTS, Here, and in 2Pe 2:13, are the
plainest NT allusions to the early church's practice of associating the memorial
Bread and Wine with a meal of fellowship, after the pattern of the Last Supper
in which a normal meal was followed by the Lord's appointed sacrament. Actually
there are many allusions to the Love Feast throughout the NT, but they are
mostly disguised by the fact that the Greek word for the Love Feast, agape, is
identical with that which describes the abstract virtue of Christian love. As a
result, in not a few of the places where the common version reads "love", it
ought rather to read "Love Feast", thus greatly illuminating some important
passages (WGos ch 192). Evidently those whom Jude denounces were at fault in the
same way that certain brethren at Corinth are shown to be (1Co 11:20-22,34).
SHEPHERDS WHO FEED ONLY THEMSELVES: They were turning a
holy meal, which should have been characterized by reverence and sanctified
talk, into a gross self-indulgence dishonoring to the Lord who founded the
function (cp Eze 34:8; Isa 56:11,12).
CLOUDS WITHOUT RAIN, BLOWN ALONG BY THE WIND: Here
again is another unexpected modification of Peter's strong language. He wrote:
"wells (springs) without water, and mists driven by a storm". Jude seems to have
detached the Greek word meaning "without water" and to have attached it just as
meaningfully to the words that follow, but even then he seems to paraphrase
rather than quote. Yet in actual fact the whole point of these modifications of
Peter's text is in order to quote from Pro 25:14: "As clouds and wind without
rain, so is he that boasteth himself in a gift of falsehood (ie, a false claim
to a gift of the Holy Spirit)." This is the very point Jude was eager to make,
for here in the midst of the brethren were deceivers who did falsely boast of
having the Holy Spirit's power and inspiration. But, Jude implies, instead of
spirit there is wind (in Hebrew "ruach" is both wind and spirit): and his word
for "carried about" is deliberately contrived to recall (with a difference) the
word which Peter uses for the compelling power of divine inspiration (2Pe
1:21,18,17; 1Pe 1:13; 2Jo 1:10; Heb 1:3; 6:1; Act 2:2). Thus Jude neatly throws
cold water on specious claims of men who are "without water" (ct Psa
AUTUMN TREES, WITHOUT FRUIT AND UPROOTED -- TWICE DEAD:
Allusion to two of the fig-tree passages in our Lord's ministry. He came to such
a tree in the spring-time seeking fruit and finding none. There were not even
the small immature figs which a normal fig-tree would have carried at that time
of the year (Song 2:11-13). So he cursed it, and that day it died -- an eloquent
acted parable of God's judgment on fruit-less Israel. But these men whom Jude
exposes are described as trees without fruit in autumn. This change of season in
the figure is very fitting. The Lord's ministry had been a fruitless
spring-time. Since then there had been the full summer of the gospel of the Holy
Spirit, and now in what should have been a time of rich fruit-bearing these
enemies of the Faith were spiritually unfruitful. They were "twice dead", in the
sense that they had died to the world in their baptism into Christ, but although
born anew already they had passed into spiritual death.
Therefore there would come retribution, as Jesus had said: "If
ye (apostles) had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye would say to this
sycamine (fig) tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the
sea; and it should obey you" (Luk 17:6). "This fig tree" was fruitless Jewry,
the greatest obstacle in the first century to the apostles' preaching; and
though their faith the fig-tree nation was plucked up by the roots and cast into
the Gentile sea, so that through long centuries it has drifted hither and yon,
swept along by currents and storms, and has at last in these Last Days fetched
up again on the shores of the Holy Land.
SHAME: Plural: a Hebraism, maybe, to suggest 'great
shame'. It would seem that without quotation Jude was alluding to familiar words
in Isaiah: "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose
waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isa 57:20). It is an ebbing tide which leaves
scum and froth and filth lining the beach. So it may be that by this figure, as
well as the preceding one, and also the next one, Jude was hinting that with the
Jewish war impending, Judaism was a retreating tide, in which these "raging
waves" (this word normally describes wild animals) would leave "the sand of the
seashore", the seed of Abraham (Gen 22:17), foul and unattractive.
WANDERING STARS, FOR WHOM BLACKEST DARKNESS HAS BEEN
RESERVED FOREVER: There is an interesting ambiguity here: is this shooting
star (ie, meteor), or comet? The former flashes suddenly through the night sky,
making a brilliant blaze for a split second and then disappearing for ever in a
darkness which now seems all the more intense. The latter swings slowly and
steadily into sight, an impressive spectacle in the heavens for maybe weeks or
months, and then fades away into nothingness as its immensely long orbit takes
it away into the depths of outer darkness. It is probably the comet allusion
which Jude now intends, for not long before the final troubles at Jerusalem,
Halley's comet made an ominous appearance. "There was a star resembling a sword,
which stood over the city" (Josephus 6.5.3). A sign, surely! Those familiar with
Jude's epistle would not be slow to match up the figure with its fulfillment.
Those who promoted a return to Judaism and a re-enslavement to the Law would be
like such a comet... soon to be lost in the oblivion of darkness forever, when
the Temple at Jerusalem was no more!
Jude cites an apochryphal source -- in similar fashion to
Paul's citations of heathen poets (Tit 1:12,13; Act 17:28) (HAW, Tes
ABOUT THESE: Sb "to these". This word makes all the
difference. Jude is now seen to be asserting rather sardonically: These bad men
have a 'scripture' which they esteem highly; then why do they not take notice of
what it says of them? This is what is sometimes called the argument ad hominem
-- coming down to the level of your opponent, accepting for the moment his
assumptions without necessarily agreeing to them, and then proceeding to show
that the 'authority' he quotes disallows the truth of his conclusion. Similarly,
in the parable about the rich man in hell, Jesus took over the main ideas of the
Pharisees about the hereafter, but he was careful to make plain how absurd he
judged them to be (WGos ch 138). So also Jude here, by the way he says: "to
these Enoch prophesied..." In this case the sentiment of v 14 is thoroughly
Biblical, even though the original words in Deu 33 appear in a very different
context. [Jude's "to these" becomes the more effective when it is seen as an
element in a rather scornful repetitious tactic: vv 8 (RV),10,12,14,16. (What a
ct wi Peter's use of "these" -- 2Pe 1:4,8,9,10,12 -- wi ref to "exceeding great
and precious promises"!)]
Echoes once again of Israel in the wilderness (Exo 14:11;
15:24; 16:2; 17:2,3; Num 11:1-6; 14:2,8,11; 16:41; 20:2; 21:5; Deu 1:27, LXX;
9:7; Jos 9:18; Psa 106:25; 1Co 10:10; Joh 6:41,43), and esp of Korah's rebellion
(Num 16:11). That graphic Greek word "complainers" describes men who are not
satisfied with their own lot. And since "their mouth" (their spokesman) speaks
"great swelling words" (used about Daniel in Dan 5:12, LXX), after the manner of
the Judaistic "Satan" who was such a thorn in the flesh to Paul (2Co
11:13-15,22..), this further allusion to Korah (following on v 11) comes in very
appropriately. As also does the final phrase: "having men's persons in
admiration because of advantage" -- those who deliberately sought to work
mischief in the early ecclesias found that it paid to parade the high
qualification of rabbinic education and scholarship which their leaders
Paul's counter to such men was a warning against "fables and
endless genealogies... profane and old wives' fables... profane and vain
babblings... Jewish fables and commandments of men" (1Ti 1:4; 4:7; 2Ti 2:16; Tit
1:14). But Jude had other methods, as v 14 clearly shows: even their Jewish
fables denounce them.
THE MEN WHO DIVIDE YOU: Not "separate themselves" (AV);
instead, "they cut off others". Actually, taken either way, the word implies an
act of separation by those who deem themselves superior in some way or another.
Jude would assuredly find the counterpart to these people alive today. In
differing degrees there are plenty calling themselves the Lord's people who
revel in this practice.
WHO FOLLOW MERE NATURAL INSTINCTS AND DO NOT HAVE THE
SPIRIT: They are "sensual (psuchikos), not having the Spirit". These two
phrases clearly go together, for they are antitheses. "Psuche", soul, is often
used in the NT to describe the natural man and his unworthy inclinations: "The
fruits that thy soul lusted after" (Rev 18:14). "Soul, thou hast much goods laid
up for many years" (Luk 12:19). And in some places there is careful antithesis
between what pertains to the natural man and what characterizes the new man in
Christ. "The natural (psuchikos) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit"
(1Co 2:14). The Word of God "divides asunder between soul and Spirit" (Heb
4:12). Here, then, declares Jude, are men who are in the ecclesia but are not
truly in Christ. It is a searing thing to have to say. And of course he would
have to say the same thing today -- about those who "make
BUT YOU, DEAR PRIENDS: Pointed ct wi the preceding v
denouncing the unspiritual. The first and plainest recommendations bids them
hold firmly to the basic tenets of the Statement of Faith. Your creed is vitally
important: "Build up yourselves in your most holy faith."
But the implication here is a serious one. The foundations of
Christian belief are only foundations. The Lord intends them to be built on. The
follower of Christ who is content to spend the rest of his days with the ABCs of
his Faith, without forging ahead in his spiritual appreciation of the higher
levels of the gospel, or in his efforts to fashion himself into a finer stone
for the Lord's spiritual House, is not really a followers, for he is standing
PRAY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT: One plain sign of growth in
Christ is one's attitude to prayer. But what is this "praying in the Holy
Spirit" which Jude urges? Here is a phenomenon of life in the early church
calling for careful attention: Eph 6:18; 1Pe 4:7; 1Th 5:17-19; Rom 8:26; Act
20:28,31; Phi 1:9; Col 4:2; Heb 13:17. Perh special prayer meetings held by the
elders of the ecclesias on behalf of members of their community in need of
spiritual support. But the problem so often is: What to pray for? All too often
human wisdom is not equal to the occasion. But in first century days the Holy
Spirit was. Here was a divine gift reinforcing and directing the prayers of the
brethren, making good the inadequacy they were only too conscious of. Whether
there is any counterpart to this situation today is problematical, but certainly
in Jude's time that uncertainty need not arise. The brethren were not to neglect
their spiritual aids and duties: they must "pray in the Holy Spirit".
"And perhaps an exhortational point on priesthood might be
helpful. We shall be a kingdom of priests. The work of a priest involved blood,
sweat and tears; smoke, dirty ash, and much manual labour. One washed, but was
never clean for very long, the work was so messy. And the work of cleaning out
the altar, the ground, the ornaments, was never finished. One got one's hands
dirty, immersing them in filth, blood, and broken tissue continually. And one's
neighbours brought their diseases, their lesions, close to one's face seeking
compassion, seeking diagnosis, seeking healing. Lifting; cleaning; scouring;
teaching; eating and fellowship, all in the presence of God. What a picture of
effortful service. Is this not ecclesial life?" (DevRam).
Think of all the cleanup the priests and Levites would have to
do. HOW did they deal with all the mess? How did they get all the blood out of
the garments? Or DID they? As we think about the work of the priests, we have to
naturally wonder: 'Didn't they... sometimes... have to make a clean sweep, a
spring house-cleaning? Didn't they have to stop everything else, and wash down
the whole altar, tabernacle, temple? And wash it again? Didn't they have to make
a perfectly new, fresh start?
I don't know. Did they? Could they? Or did they go on, from
day to day, and week to week, and year to year, accumulating more encrusted
blood and gore, and dirt... and never quite getting clean again, either
themselves, their garments, or their work area? Maybe that's the point: we never
ever really "get clean" again either, in the ecclesia, either individually or
Except... through the cleansing, and sanctifying, of the
sacrifice of our Saviour -- which cleanses the "conscience" (Heb 9:14) and not
necessarily the body.
So there you are: a body (individually) and a "body"
(collectively, and ecclesially) unclean in and of itself, and which life soils
more and more, with each passing day... but... somehow, miraculously... washed
and purified through faith in our Lord.
"Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of
our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who
doubt; snatch others from the fire"... an allusion to the altar, and the
sacrifices?... "and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear -- hating
even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh"... sounds like the priestly
garments?... "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you
before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy -- to the only God
our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our
Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!" (Jude 1:21-25).
KEEP YOURSELVES IN GOD'S LOVE: The "agape", or
"love-feast" (see on vv 1-4). Here the meaning is: 'Keep yourselves by means of
the divine Agape.' [The Greek verb is most commonly used of keeping
commandments; and the preposition frequently has this instrumental meaning: 'by
means of'. And here "theos" without the article has a weaker meaning that with
it, eg "The Word was with God (article) and the Word was divine (no article)"
GOD'S LOVE: "With God, you can do everything. Without
Him you can do nothing. With Him is all joy: without Him is all sorrow. Strive
constantly to get so close to Him that you are totally at one with Him. This is
life. This is peace. This is accomplishment and success. This is the nobility
and beauty and happiness that man was meant to be" (GVG).
WAIT FOR THE MERCY: The Breaking of Bread service
brings present assurance of sins forgiven (Mat 26:28), and holds out a blessed
prospect of future blessedness -- "I will drink it new with you in my Father's
Vv 22,23: "The Greek text in this passage is somewhat
uncertain" (RV mg).
V 22: "Some (you must) reprove, who argue the point
with you." In other words, when there is stubbornness and self-assertiveness,
let such pride and willfulness be rebuked (for the individual's own sake) and
exposed (for the warning and benefit of the rest).
Another allusion to the passage about Joshua the high priest:
"Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zec 3:2). The figure of speech
is appropriate enough to the case of Joshua in filthy garments, for a firebrand
is scorched and damaged but is saved without being burned up. So the right
attitude towards those soiled by worldly and defiling associations is to use
swift and energetic effort to save them before they are past saving.
"And on some (you must) have mercy with fear, hating even the
garment spotted by the flesh." It is right to shrink from the very idea of
"filthy garments", and when others are in disreputable spiritual attire, censure
of such is natural enough. But how much better it is if there be an
understanding forgiveness. Again the allusion is to Zec 3. Joshua doubtless
cringed to think that his high priestly garments, "for glory and for beauty",
were defiled and utterly unworthy of his high office, but the mercy of the Lord
vindicated him. The allusion goes beyond this post-captivity situation back to
Moses' Law of Leprosy. If rigorous washing removed the sign of the plague, then
all was well -- the garment (here the Greek chiton is derived directly from the
Hebrew ch'toneth, the coat worn by a priest) could be worn again. But otherwise
it must be destroyed by fire. Which things are a parable for the reclaiming of
those whose life in Christ has suffered defilement.
There is a ct here in the words for "keep". In v 21, "keep
yourselves by means of the divine Love Feast" indicates a contribution which the
believer can make towards his own spiritual well-being, by the simple act of
presenting himself, though faulty, before the presence of the Glory of the Lord.
But, once there, he is caused to stand faultless, guarded from falling away.
Prophets of the Lord, splendid men that they were, prostrated themselves before
the heavenly Glory, overpowered by a sense of their own unworthiness. Yet Jesus
had bidden his men "watch and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to
stand before the Son of Man" (Luk 21:36). Such faultless standing may be the
disciple's status even now (yet what a contrast with the searing language of vv
12,13), because he has a covering sacrifice of "a lamb without blemish and
without spot" (1Pe 1:19). So Peter might well exhort to diligence "that ye may
be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless" (2Pe 3:14). The Lord's
Righteous Servant justifies many, bearing their iniquities (Isa 53:11), but only
if they give diligence are they guarded from falling away, and so presented
"blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1:8; 2Th 3:13). Yet, also,
some are so set on achieving in the Last Day a credit balance of good marks over
against bad marks that they fail to realise that, both then and now, there are
only two conditions, either faultless or fallen.
TO PRESENT YOU BEFORE HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE WITHOUT
FAULT: The language of this amazing passage is that of the Day of Atonement.
"Before the presence of his glory" pictures the High Priest in the Holy of
Holies. "Faultless, without blemish" describes the sacrifice offered and
accepted, hence the mention of the Glory. But whereas Israel, called to repeat
this ceremony of atonement year after year, heard the commandment: "Ye shall
afflict your souls" (Lev 16:29,31), that is, go fasting all the day, this New
Israel partakes of Bread and Wine "with exceeding joy", thankful for a sacrifice
without blemish offered once for all.
WITHOUT FAULT: Like the bride of Christ: Eph 5:27: "a
radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and
"Let us be bold enough to take this final message in Jude's
Epistle as a literal expression of God's intention and determination regarding
us. It may be difficult for us to rise to the full realization of its beauty, or
to appreciate the lovingkindness of God in thus honoring those whom He is
pleased to accept as His children. But the more we contemplate the vision which
these words produce in our minds, the closer are we drawn to our Heavenly Father
who has shown such condescension to us, and to His Son who has made such a
destiny possible for us. We may certainly include this conception amongst those
true and lovely things upon which the Apostle Paul advises us to concentrate our
thoughts" (FWT 83).
For all this, praise is given to "God our Saviour", but only
"through Jesus Christ our Lord". The highest "glory, majesty, dominion and
power" comes to Him through His glorious Son. Very strangely, the AV omits this
most necessary clause about Christ (it has very strong ms support), and also
"before all time" (lit: before the age) to link with "now and ever" -- this is
the Covenant Name Jehovah, "which is, and was, and is to come" (Rev 1:8). Could
Jude end on a better note?