3. Why and How (v3-4)
Apparently Jude was going to work on the
compilation of an epistle to these, his beloved brethren in the churches of
Judea, when an emergency arose.
"Beloved ones, I, making every diligent effort to
spend time writing unto you concerning our common salvation, had compulsion to
write to you forthwith and exhort you (or, warn you)...."
The verbs imply that at a time when the apostle
was already dedicating his time to the composition of an epistle, he was
constrained to abandon that task in order to dash off this brief but much more
How was he constrained? There is no clear
indication. Perhaps by circumstances -- the seriousness of the spiritual
emergency facing the flock. Or (and this seems more likely), there was the
imperative of a divine inspiration; like Jeremiah he "could not stay" himself
from the work of the Lord (Jer. 20:9). So, as Peter had exhorted the brethren to
give diligence to make their calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10), Jude now
himself gave diligence to the same end.
Why does he call it "our common salvation":
Paul's phrase "the common faith" (Tit. 1:4)? Not common like daisies on a
neglected lawn, or berries in a hawthorn hedge, but common in the sense of
belonging to all. It was the salvation which saved apostle and convert alike. Or
it may be that, with a slightly differing emphasis, it was cherished as the
saving message for both Jew and Gentile. This seems to be the idea behind
Peter's phrase: "them that have obtained like precious faith with us" (2 Pet.
It is a faith "once for all delivered to the
saints". Here is an emphatic declaration that the Truth in Christ is essentially
the same in all ages -- necessarily so, for God is unchangeable, and human
nature is always the same. So a basic doctrine in one generation must also be
basic in the next.
But here were certain in the Faith who were set
on change, "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness". Such perversions
must be withstood. Therefore, says Jude, "I exhort you to contend earnestly for
the faith". Nehemiah's builders" had every one his sword girded by his side, and
so builded" (4:18). And so always. Jude urges his readers to build (v. 20) as
well as to fight. But 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 labour according to a different system -- not against such, but
against those who have as their deliberate aim the perversion of the Faith
At that time there were such. 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 New Testament (see "The Jewish Plot", by H.A.W.).
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.
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 Judaised 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
(denounced in Jude and 2 Peter) 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"
(Mark 3:28), except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Then why do we have to be
careful about what is licit and what is not?
Rolling a stone uphill is a difficult task, but
anyone can roll a stone downhill. And these utterly unscrupulous men did just
that. No wonder, then, that Jude and Peter were mightily concerned. No wonder
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
"They deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus
Christ", declares Jude scathingly, in words which epitomize Peter's more
sweeping warning and condemnation: "There were false prophets (as Balaam) also
among the people (of Israel), even as there shall be false teachers among you,
who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought
them" (2 Pet. 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" (Matt. 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.
It was probably because the writer had these
Biblical examples in his mind that he wrote of these "certain men" as "of old
written beforehand unto this condemnation".
It is a grim theme.