EVIDENTLY JUDE‘S ORIGINAL INTENTION was to write concerning ‘the common salvation’, but whilst he was making diligent preparation for this task, he was constrained instead to exhort believers to earnestly contend for the faith. See v. 3, R.V. No doubt his eyes were opened to sec the early signs of the apostacy, and the Holy Spirit led him to write this letter, not only for the benefit of his immediate readers, but for the Church in all generations.
This epistle is, therefore, general, but we might well be exercised to consider it in relation to the local assembly. ‘Crept in unawares’ suggests that it was difficult to distinguish between the true and the false (but ‘the Lord knoweth them that are his’), and it would appear that either the scriptural perception of the brethren had diminished, or there was slackness or compromise in receiving into fellowship. This is where trouble often starts. Jude gives a brief history of the inworking and outworking of this apostacy from its inception to its final judgment, after the true Church has been taken home.
One method of considering Jude is to dwell on the numerous sets of three of which the epistle seems to be made up. The first set is in v. i, and tells us that the epistle is not addressed to a church as a whole, but to the faithful in the church, i.e., to those who are definitely and vitally linked with the Triune God:
(1) Sanctified by God the Father;
(2) Preserved in Christ Jesus;
Next, in v. 2:
Why this combination? The phrases almost invariably used in the New Testament by the Spirit are, to a collective company – grace and peace; and to individuals – grace, mercy and peace. Here grace is omitted and love is added. Grace is that which gives blessing to the unworthy, whilst mercy is that which withholds judgment from those worthy of it.
Evidently a serious view is taken of the conditions, and mercy is necessary. No doubt these three characteristics are essential for those endeavouring to be faithful in such circum¬stances as the epistle describes. Mercy from God – an apprecia¬tion of our own unworthiness begetting humility and mercy towards those about us. Peace – the peace of God and peace with God in us, through us (towards others), and about us (in the church). Love – the love of God multiplied towards us and the motive of all our activities for the building up or cleansing of the church. The multiplication can, of course, only be of God, but it can be through us by the Spirit.
Verse 4, R.V.M., gives the three first evident characteristics of those who have come in unawares, unregenerate men who must not be confused with those spoken of in vv. 22 and 23 :
(1) Turning the grace of God into lasciviousness;
(2) Denying the only Master (Lordship of Christ);
(3) And our Lord Jesus Christ – the fullness of His person.
All three are really denials, hence the first step, as in Eden, is to question the truth and afterwards to substitute error. i. Turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (cp. Rom. 6. i, ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?’) is a denial of the claims of grace. 2. Is denying the claims of Christ as Lord. 3. Is denying the fullness of the person of Christ in the threefold aspect – Lord – Jesus – Christ, i.e., His deity, His humanity and His anointing by God.
Verses 5-7 give a threefold development by pictures from the Old Testament:
(1) Children of Israel – believed not;
(2) Angels – kept not their first estate;
(3) Sodom and Gomorrha-gave themselves over.
This would seem to have particular reference to association with the world; first a yearning, then a definite link and, finally, absolute corruption. The end of all such is solemnly indicated: a. ‘destroyed them’; b. ‘reserved in everlasting chains’; c. ‘suffering the vengeance of eternal fire’.
Jude then applies this to the actual pictures before him, and in v. 8 gives the first practical activities of the error:
(1) Defiling the flesh – sin against self;
(2) Despising dominion -sin against rule;
(3) Speaking evil of dignities – sin against rulers.