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The Catholic Epistle Of Jude

I have been obliged to write to you

Edwin N. Cross


Greeting and Purpose

1 . The author and his readers, vs. 1,2

2. The letter he did not write and the one he wrote, vs. 3,4

The Peril of Apostasy

3. Three warnings:

i.) in Egypt, ii.) Angels, iii.) Sodom and Gomorrah, vs. 5-7

4. Analogies of Judgment applied, vs. 8

5. Diatribe against the false teachers, vs. 9-13

6. Enoch's prophecy applies to them, vs. 14-16

7. Apostles' words apply to them, vs. 17-19

          The Precautions against Apostates

8. What Christians must do, vs. 20-23

          The Resource in a day of Ruin

9. What God is able to do, vs. 24-25


This brief book has been described by one commentator as 'The Acts of the Apostates' It is a broadside against the pernicious infiltration of false teachers and their licentious corruptions. These early unnamed assemblies to whom the epistle was addressed stood in danger. A vehement condemnation of the evil was urgently required, together with positive instruction for the true edification of the saints. Jude does not spare his words. With a true pastor's heart he summons a range of examples which firmly and conclusively assassinate the characters of the sly and evil men that were assailing the testimony at that time. The authenticity of Jude's short letter was early challenged, and we can understand how it was that it should be attacked. Several objected to it because it seemed to have certain peculiarities which needed careful consideration, principally whether or not Jude quoted from Apocryphal literature so much favoured by Gnostics in the second century. For this reason a prejudice was raised in the minds of some against the epistle.

The letter itself is well attested for being written in the time of the Apostles and New Testament prophets. It is listed in the so-called Muratorian fragment (written c. 175 AD). It was undoubtedly well known to Tertullian 0150-230) and Clement of Alexandria uses proof texts from it (?160-220) and may even have written a commentary upon it. Origen (185-253) spoke of it as 'short indeed but filled with words that have been strengthened with heavenly grace.' The assembly in Smyrna in writing a letter to another assembly c. 155/156 quotes from it. All this is clear evidence to its acceptance right back to the 2 nd Century. We certainly have no doubt as to its inspiration and its place among the sacred writings.

It has been suggested upon comparing 2 Pet. 2:2,4,5,11 & 17 and Jude 4-18 that both writers were combating common error which arose at Corinth and had spread. It may be that Peter had sent a copy of his 2nd epistle to Jude who then wrote in a similar vein to those assemblies among which he had a personal service and interest[1]. His great aim is to warn, 'Beware of Apostates!'

The incipient Gnosticism that arose early on in the churches was a widespread energetic evil threatening to corrupt the testimony to Christ. Jude shows the development of the apostasy of Christendom, from its earliest features that then crept in unawares to corrupt the assembly, on to its shameful conclusion in judgment at the appearing of the Lord Jesus. This leavening process is not arrested but continues to the end. Ample prophetic detail of this is given in the Book of Revelation. Jude's style, though brief, scans the critical features of the apostasy with energetic rapidity. Nevertheless it has immense weight and extensive bearing. The dangers of religious syncretism gave rise to a number of epistles, Colossians being the foremost example. By this we see that God triumphs over evil by providing us with precious communications of His word for our instruction, which are still profitable at this late stage of the day of grace.

The place of writing and the destination are alike unknown. The date of writing. assigned by the scholars, is between 67 and 80 AD. Peter's second epistle was written 67 - 68 AD and it may well have been that on receipt of that letter Jude wrote to those believers with whom he had a close connection and interest. The difference between the Epistle of Jude and the Second epistle of Peter is that Peter speaks of sin whereas Jude of apostasy. Peter predicts that false teachers would arise (2 Pet. 2:1, 3:3) and Jude states that they had come in (vA.


Greeting and Purpose

Verse 1:

The author calls himself 'Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.' Jude describes himself as a bondslave of Christ. His service in this letter would not be superficial but for the lasting benefit of the Lord's people. If, as is commonly deduced from the Biblical evidence. he is a half-brother of the Lord, he takes no advantage of this relationship when addressing his readers. The reference to the apostles seems to imply that the writer was not one of them, though modesty could have led him to write as he did. But the weighty issue of the day surely would have constrained him to assert the authority of his apostleship if he were one. The only Judas who elsewhere in the New Testament is said to have had a brother called James is Judas the brother of the Lord. James (Jacobus) was a half-brother of our Lord. (Matt. 13:55, Mark 6:3). While during His earthly life the brethren of the Lord Jesus did not believe on Him (Matt. 12:46ff. Mark 3:32ff, Luke 8:19ff & John 7:3-9), they are found among the disciples at the beginning of Acts (1:14) and James became a foremost leader in the assembly at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13, 21:18ff, Gal. 2:9).

The writer's name, the same essentially as Judah, or Judas, means praise. There is nothing worthy of praise found among men, yet this writer concludes, as we shall see, with a triumphant doxology of praise. What Israel should have expressed in the praise of God has now been committed to those in a new relation to God. The church of the living God is the habitation of God through the Spirit out of which praise and worship should arise. Alas! as Israel had failed, so too the church as we shall observe.

He addresses his readers as sanctified (some editors give beloved), preserved and called. These three descriptions are in fact true only of true Christians. They alone are sanctified (or beloved), preserved and called. They were continually the objects of divine love and care; their preservation meant they would be kept safe from harm. God's watchful care would guard them in turbulent times. To some they were persons of no account, but God had chosen them (1 Cor. 1:26) and would sustain them and provide for them to walk worthy of their calling (Eph. 4:1). The church was being confronted with false teachers, so this clear description was of vital significance. These three features actually distinguish a believer from the unbeliever. Today it is important to know what makes a true Christian. I deduce from the many OT references within such a short space that they are primarily Jewish Christians. The fact that these are brief references and allusions and not full-length quotations shows that the recipients were familiar with the subject matter. A few words conveyed to the reader the entire concept the author was wanting to convey. Although they were Jewish in origin, the letter is not specifically addressed and is therefore a General or Catholic Epistle. Error is seldom localised or confined to one point in history but spreads and leavens all it touches.

Verse 2:

Mercy and peace and love are prayerfully desired to be multiplied unto the readers. These Divine provisions in difficult days need to be carefully evaluated and rightly esteemed in our souls. They do not simply exist in this letter as introductory small talk before Jude gets down to the substance of his letter. One peculiarity about this greeting is that it is the only occurrence of mercy being prayed for saints as a group. When Paul writes to individuals such as Timothy and Titus he includes mercy, otherwise we find grace and peace.

The additional need of mercy arose on account of the severity of the test before them. The spirit of antichrist, spoken of by John in his epistles, was active then as now, and was a spirit of lawlessness and rebellion. We live in a post-deferential society and disrespect for the truth of God as well as disrespect for authority as well as personal dignity means that mercy is an essential blessing needed in greater measure today. May it be multiplied to the saints in fullest measure sparing them from more trial than is good for their spiritual development.

Verse 3:

Jude had wanted to write a more pleasant letter, in fact it seems as if he had already begun to prepare one about the general principles of the Christian faith. But the pressing emergency had to be addressed. He recognised the problem and is constrained to write. We all like pleasant letters, but when needs demand they must be faithfully addressed. He was in earnest to write about the common salvation. What a grand subject to write on. I suppose we have his desire answered in the epistle of Paul to the Romans. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it was God's power unto salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). Of course not every religious message is the gospel of our salvation (Eph 1:13), but the word of truth that brought the gospel was the declaration that Christ had paid the full price to effect our eternal salvation. Any gospel that doesn't give settled rest and peace in respect of our eternal security is not the common salvation.

The positive and practical challenge of the letter was to contend (agonise) for the faith, the truth, once delivered to the saints[2]. This phrase is interpreted as being the body of Christian truths taught by the apostles (Acts 2:42) as it has now be given to us (Gal 3:23). This doctrine was delivered by revelation and inspiration, it was not discovered by the labours of theologians, nor is it to be developed by man's ingenious intellect. It is the doctrine to be contended for, not to be changed nor mutilated, nor denied. Contending for the truth is not popular today, especially if some friends have strayed and the necessity now exists to deal with the departure. 'Put up with thin s no matter what. Better keep things the way they are, rather than rock the boat'. This is not the inspired writers modus operandi. He takes up the issue manfully and exhorts his readers to a course of faithful action. To ignore the ingress of evil and evil teachers would quickly corrupt the church and weaken its testimonial effect. Worse still, it would bring dishonour upon the name of Christ.

The fidelity of one of the Old Testament saints strikes me as being an example of Jude's work. There was portion of the inheritance God had given his people and the Philistines were ready to take it. It was only a lentil patch, not much to many I suppose, but 'he stood in the midst of the ground and defended it' (2 Sam. 23:12). The inheritance of the saints is not to be trifled with nor taken lightly. It is God-given truth. Doctrine is substantial and was important to the New Testament writers. It was not a theological triviality for them, it was a vital part of their life. To them it mattered. Orthodox faith rightly held, issues in godly living. It is this aspect with which Jude is primarily concerned in his epistle. He had been obliged by the Spirit's operation to impress upon the recipients of this short letter to stand in defence of the truth of God. There would be a struggle in order to maintain the body of Christian truth. We should note the force of once 'aircce' meaning 'once for all time' and not 'once upon a time'. What was given at the beginning has authority over us today. Jude regards the apostolic tradition as normative for the children of God. The departure of the assembly from its primitive state is evident everywhere. But Jude is not here concerned to deal with outward separation from the departure but is pressing the importance of the holiness of faith that must be manifested in our lives.

God has graciously granted a recovery of that faith in the recent two centuries. As we pass into the New Year, what do we bring with us of that recovery? Have we frittered the rich inheritance away and turned back to the corruptions in Christendom? We cannot presume that God will graciously grant another recovery of the faith once delivered, We might also consider the deviations that have marked those professing to have recovered truth! Can it possibly be that we hold and practice things differently to what was recovered? Divisions and divergences have arisen over the years. Those Christians that have in some measure taken up the call to leave I

Babylon and return to the Divine centre have themselves become in need of reviving. What must they do? There must be a return to the Word of God and a forsaking of the accretions of error and malpractice that has been allowed these past hundred years or more.

Verse 4:

No false teacher comes along to the meetings of Christians with a name badge stating 'I am a 'false teacher''! They do not immediately declare their blasphemy against Christ. In fact many deceive themselves too (cf. 2 Tim. 3:13). Peter forewarned that this would occur (2 Pet. 2:1). Here an insidious incursion had occurred, some had crept in stealthily. In the early days of the assembly this was not possible, in fact none dared join himself to the saints unless they were real (Acts 5:13), but the rot had early set into the public testimony committed to man. Jude says, 'these men got in unnoticed'. This subtle intrusion has its counterparts today, and we are obliged by the holy standards required in God's house to be vigilant. Not only had they crept in unawares, but then they assumed the place of being teachers. But they were not teachers of the Word of truth.

A serious misrepresentation of the doctrine of grace also characterized the false teachers. they maintained that God's grace and abounding pardon allowed them to do evil. This was not new or isolated. Nor was it destined to be expunged from the church's history. Paul in Romans 6, which of course has abiding lessons for all Christians, deals with the matter. The tragic thing is that these first century false teachers had been marked out before; their conduct had been foretold in writing (progegrammenoi). Prophetic Scriptures spoke plainly about them. They were not pre-programmed to this as if God had predetermined them for judgment. Doubtless they were vessels fitted for destruction, but it was their own sins, committed in responsibility, that fitted them for condemnation. God's verdict could only be unfavourable towards such people.

The reasons are threefold:-

a)       they were ungodly, impious and irreverent. This word (asebeiV) is a key word in Jude occurring several times. It suggests a lack of respect for God and deference for divine things. They were in some ways practical atheists, even if they professed a faith in God!

b)      They turned the grace of God into lasciviousness (licentiousness). Their behaviour was outrageous; wholly shocking to public decency. Their shameless deeds were marked by wanton violence and unrestrained vice. This, in spite of their pretence to be using Christian liberty, only demonstrated that they were lewd fellows of the baser sort.

c)       They denied the Lord and Master by their behaviour. It should be noted that the word 'God' does not occur in the oldest MSS, so that the whole clause refers to Christ. It is also to be noted that there are two different words used for 'Lord': despothn and kurion. Their repudiation of Christ as the 'only' Master (despothn) consisted in what they did more than in what they said. But we may also consider that they challenged the uniqueness of Christ's authority over His own.

The believer is instructed by God to deny 'ungodliness and worldly lusts' (Titus 2:12). Today the same kind of evil conduct is openly tolerated and in some cases even applauded in some denominations of Christendom. It shows that there is no subjection to the authority of Christ, yet the very hallmark of the true believer is manifested in obedience to the Word of God. 'If you love me,' said the Lord, 'keep my commandments' (John 14:15).

The Peril of Apostasy

verses 5 - 7:

They were once for all fully informed as to the subjects Jude treats, but they needed reminding and especially needed having the moral significance and their responsibilities applied to their local circumstances. How often this is the case with us. We learn the truth, we are revived in our souls, we labour with renewed energy, but then a lapse occurs and we need to start again at the beginning. Jude refers them to the history recorded in the Pentateuch. Romans 15:4 tells us that these things were written for our instruction. These histories have moral lessons for us and we need to learn them.

in these verses Jude gives his first set of three examples:

·         Israel, a people saved out of Egypt, was marked by outward deliverance but few had inner, spiritual reality
(1 Cor. 10:5). In Numbers 13-14 the unbelief of the people is described: 'Them that believed not.' All except Joshua and Caleb (Num. 14:38). Faith is a crucial spiritual requirement, the lack of which is at the root of all disobedience. Jude is not referring to a precise instance, he has in mind a whole series of events in Israel's history in the wilderness, similar to the record given in 1 Corinthians 10. The pull of the world of Egypt they had left behind was a continual snare to them. The world today continues to offer its temptations to christians: but faith would enable them to victoriously overcome this snare (see
1 John 5:4).

·         The next example is taken from Genesis 6:1-4. The angels did not keep their first estate, so now they were being kept for judgment (cf. Isa. 24:21-22). These are an example of the most exalted beings, if they too can fall then we must take great care ourselves. Angels are not above obeying God's word, neither are we! The fact that they abandoned their own domain instead of keeping their proper rank (princedom - Wycliffe trans.; principality - RV) conveys the idea of revolt and disobedience without indicating the form it took. God has an order in His creation. He has given men and women a place too. This is shown in their modest dress, the long hair of women, their silence in public worship and prayer and the short hair of men, the audible part in worship and prayer. Where these are not heeded there is disobedience to the Word of God.

·         The third example is taken from the cities of sin. Genesis 13:10 furnishes us with the detail, Ezekiel 16:46-50 gives more information about Sodom and Gomorrha[3]. There was a well-watered plain at Zoar but that did not make the people grateful or satisfied. Sexual perversion marked them, going contrary to creation's order, whether with men or angels. Satan has ever laboured to corrupt the testimony of the church in this manner. The plain lesson that we must learn is that the destruction of the cities because of their vice serves as a vivid example of those who undergo the judgment of eternal fire because of such sins. They lie there as a corpse on display, laid out before all

verse 8:

'In like manner' the false teachers continue in their path of assured judgment, they are undeterred by the preceding examples. Evil imaginations were translated into defiling actions. Following their own perverse fancies, they were guilty of sensual indulgence. The evil characteristic underlined throughout is a spirit of self-willed rebelliousness.

The verse suggests the self-assertiveness of these interlopers and their revolt was expressed in violent words. They had a high opinion of themselves and despised all 'beneath' them. Their dreaming may be taken as an indication that they had forsaken reality for unreality. How many a false teacher would rather regard his dreams as directive and revelatory than God's sound and inerrant Word. What would these dreamings lead to? - stains and moral defilement. Here the moral pollution was sexual perversion, the previous verse giving some indication of the gravity of their excessive indulgence in unnatural acts. Every part of the man was corrupted: they defiled the flesh, using their bodies for low sensual gratification. Then in relation to their bearing towards earthly authority, their souls despised lordships. Pride wrought its work in their behaviour in regard to the realm of spirits. The false teachers spoke evil of glories, which I assume suggests angelic powers. Thus in every sphere or relationship sustained they were marked by contempt of everything they regarded beneath themselves.

verses 9 - 10:

These verses shew the distinct and striking contrast between those who speak evil of dignitaries and the archangel Michael. This section gives an interesting polarisation of concepts: the official dignity[4] of Satan and the elevated dignity of the highest of the elect and holy angels.  His deference is commended as exemplary and should certainly be a voice to us in regard to our speech. How often we hear Christians speaking glibly or flippantly about Satan and devils and such like, whereas our speech should be marked by sobriety and thoughtfulness. The lesson we receive from verse 9 is that even the archangel would not rail against Satan, whereas these people would readily criticise anyone in authority. They clearly had no reverence of authority higher than themselves, whether in heaven or on earth. The Lord Jesus alone is qualified to thus address the adversary (cf. Mt. 4:3-10, Mt. 17:18). They speak against what, in their ignorance or spiritual blindness, they do not understand. They have an instinctive knowledge of physical life. However, they betray a moral perversion and corrupt themselves. The false teachers were as irrational animals, acting illogically, without reason, by natural instinct (cf. 2 Pet. 2:12, brute beasts). But their behaviour, far from giving satisfaction, was their ruin. In their ignorance and wilful senseless course they damage themselves.

The information in this verse does not appear in the Old Testament. But Deuteronomy 34:5-6 tells us that the Lord buried Moses. A spurious book called the Assumption of Moses[5] is said to give this as revelation or history, but we can only reply from what God has given us in His book, the Bible. We have not followed cunningly devised fables and are sure that God has communicated His will and preserved to us what is essential for our earthly pathway.

Israelites knew Michael to be the highest angel (Dan. 12:1). Apocryphal works and Jewish tradition have four or more Archangels, but Scripture lets us know only of one. But how did Jude get his information? We might also ask how did Paul get his information about the names of the magicians who confronted Moses (2 Tim. 3:8)? It is clear to me that the answer lies in our belief regarding inspiration. God is able to reveal His will and details of history otherwise lost to mankind. God has also revealed that these two spiritual beings will be in conflict again in a coming day (Rev. 12:7-9), but then Michael will express himself and act firmly to expel Satan from heaven down to this earth.

The generally accepted explanation about the scene revealed here is that Satan claimed charge over Moses' body because Moses had sinned and as such he had had power over him (cf. Heb. 2:14). It has also been suggested that he wanted to use the body an object of superstitious veneration and idolatry. Michael's response is precisely the same as we find in Zechariah 3:2 where Satan is found resisting the high priest, Joshua: 'The Lord rebuke thee.'

verse 11:

'Woe to them' Jude's imprecation of doom is full of solemn meaning. The Lord Jesus in the days of His earthly ministry could be heard uttering the same 'woe unto them!' (e.g. Lk. 6:24). How often we use this word in a casual manner, but Paul uses it without levity when he says 'woe if I preach not the gospel' (1 Cor. 9:16).

Jude next compares the false brethren with three Old Testament characters who had become traditional examples of wrong doers. These men represent the genealogy of apostasy.

1)                 Cain's way (Gen. 4:1-16) was to be an unbelieving and carnal worshipper. He was also the first murderer, who went out from the presence of God. As Cain cared nothing for his brother, so these cared nothing for their brethren and perhaps even envied them. in Hebrews 11:4 Cain is represented as the very opposite of a believing man. He was the prototype of the kind of people Jude's readers would encounter.

2)                 The feature that marked Balaam most clearly was his greed for filthy lucre. His error as an avaricious religionist (Numbers 22-24) was that he used his knowledge of the truth of God to further, if he could, the work of Satan and be rewarded for so doing! The false teachers of whom Jude writes rushed greedily after this wrong. Paul had to face such men in his turn and so instructed Timothy that true gain was godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 3:3-10). Some thought that increased financial wealth gained by peddling the word was a token of their piety, but John applauds the brethren who had gone forth for the sake of the Name, taking nothing of the gentiles (3 John 7). These ones were devourers of the people (cf. Rev. 2:14): false teachers only interested in their fees. They willingly taught what they were paid to teach, and if any of them were asked the reason when they changed their doctrine. They might answer it was only their master's voice. The one who paid the piper called the tune!

Jude's third example is Core (Korah of Numbers 16). His sin was gainsaying: that is he was a religious usurper. This leads to full-blown apostasy and consequent destruction. Core exalted self and effectively denied Christ's rights as priest and king. He gained notoriety because he railed against the God-given authority of the leaders in Israel. So in Jude's day there were men who were insubordinate to the Apostles and proper authority in the assembly (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12,13; 1 Tim. 5:1; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5 etc.). Of course there is equality among the saints. 'One is your master and all ye are brethren' is a very significant doctrine of the Lord, but these false teachers were corrupting the mutuality of the brotherhood under the guise of the specious plea that one was as good as another. Brethren, yes, but we are 'to esteem other better than ourselves' (Phil. 2:3). It seems as if they had set themselves up in competition to what God had established, as Diotrophes did in 3 John 9,10. They were self-opinionated troublemakers and Jude identifies them. They were to be rejected, and this is implied by the history of Korah's rebellion. The only way of escape was entire repudiation of Core and separation from him. This reference to Core would almost certainly have signalled to Jude's biblically literate readers the course of separation.                                

verse 12:

In Ephesians 5:26 we see the bridal beauty of the assembly is unmarred by spots; she is untainted by immorality. Some scholars think the word for spots might better be rendered as 'sunken rocks' (spilos), not unlike icebergs lurking with hidden danger. This was what the ones Jude writes about were like whilst revelling at the love feasts (agapai). These feasts appear to have been a common evening meal among the Lord's people in the early years of the church, which was concluded with the Lord's Supper. It seems the point of contact between the love feasts and the Lord's Supper is that there was also a sacred character to these meals and they were intended to be expressive of the unity of the Lord's people and their union with Christ as their Head. These apostates were spots or disfigurements in the christian company; false brethren had inveigled themselves among the saints at this early date but they had no link with the Head. They were pasturing themselves, tending their own wants, seeking their own things. These intrusions were false shepherds without an atom of love for others. The situation is reminiscent of the shepherds that 'have fed themselves, and not fed my sheep' in Ezekiel 34:8. Not only do they neglect the sheep, but furthermore they lead them astray.

Jude continues to heap up the invective against these evil men. He has strong words for these intruders, and he scours creation for apt illustrations of their wretched character, likening them to clouds, trees, waves and stars. As clouds they bring promise of God's blessing but there is not a drop! Today we have the same characteristic, whether it is in the charismatic movement or in any other new religious movement: there is a prospect of great blessing, but it is just a bubble. In Proverbs 25:14 we read, 'Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and winds without rain.' We expect rain from clouds, and so we might expect good instruction from these teachers, but we find none. The supposed advanced teaching with its new light has really nothing to offer the christian at all.

The end of this verse brings out with colourful metamorphic comparisons the deceitfulness and useless character of these men.  Jude now speaks of them as trees. They are autumnal, fruitless, twice dead, rooted out. There is a great deal of discussion about these lively expressions, particularly about the exact meaning of 'fyinopwrina'. The Authorised Version has 'whose fruit withereth', whereas Newberry favours 'autumnal' in his interlinear. The word is a composite one meaning 'end of the fruiting' i.e. the harvest is past and the branches are bare. These teachers were also empty in respect of fruit bearing. By their lack of fruit they were revealed as worthless (cf. Matt. 7:20). They were doubly worthless and rooted up.

verse 13:

These antagonists were wild, raging intimidating characters. The next metaphor Jude uses is 'foaming out' to describe the seaweed and refuse borne on the crest of the waves and deposited on the seashore. They toss up only the refuse that consists of presumptuous and blasphemous words and produced nothing but flotsam and jetsam.  But he goes further and looks to the sky for his next metaphor.  He speaks of these would-be 'illuminators' and says they are like comets or shooting stars, not exactly on an aimless meander but like planets moving on a fixed path, set in their pernicious ways, wandering from the way of truth and following a path of error and deceit. They have no light to give and only a fearful gloom and murkiness of spiritual darkness is reserved for them forever. Their doom there is a perpetual exposure of their shame for they abide eternally unforgiven and forever unatoned for, with nothing to cover their sins and shame.

verses 14,15:

Enoch, the seventh from Adam (Gen. 5:18), walked with God unto all pleasing. It may be of further interest to compare the seventh from Adam through the line of Cain, where we see an entirely contrary course. Enoch commenced his path as a pilgrim shortly after his 65th birthday when his son Methuselah was born. He lived in a world ripening for judgment and walked in separation from the world and in communion with God. This did not isolate him from the realities of the scene in which he walked. Rather it empowered him to walk and serve God without a false step amidst a crooked and perverse generation. God gave him a service man-ward to fulfil: he was a preacher of righteousness who prophesied and warned of coming wrath. Under inspiration, Jude gives us the prophecy originally given to Enoch.

The 1st or 2nd century fiction called 'The Book of Enoch' is an imposture that has borrowed from the inspired record. It contains quotations and allusions that are none too accurate, which in itself shows Jude did not copy from the book of Enoch. The translation from the Ethiopic[6] by George Schodde in 1881 has the following for the alleged copy by Jude in verses 14 and 15: 'And behold, he comes with myriads of the holy to pass judgment upon them, and will destroy the impious, and will call to account all flesh for everything the sinners and the impious have done and committed against him' (Enoch 1:9). A careful comparison will show that Jude does not use the same words as the apocryphal book. In fact the doctrine of the Book of Enoch has the Lord executing judgment upon his saints! Of course there will be a review of our conduct and also the ways of the godly remnant at the judgment seat of Christ, but there can be no execution of judgment upon them. Such teaching which is quite contrary to the rest of what Scripture teaches regarding those washed from their sins by the blood of Christ. I notice that almost all modern commentators (Benton, Baukham, Blagden [1910] and Green, for example) suggest that Jude copied from Enoch's book.[7] Happily there are some of the contrary part, namely, Darby, Gaebelein, Heijkoop, Kelly, McShane, etc.

verse 16:

The false teachers are murmurers, that is grumblers with a spirit of smouldering discontent. They do not mind swelling words that flatter themselves or their paymasters. This feature tells of their arrogance in their speech. James the brother of Jude roundly condemns the complaining tongue, and Paul also speaks of this feature as marking the Israelites in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10) In Philippians 2:14 he further shows that to grumble is a mark of an unconverted man. 

verse 17:

Remember! The first of a series of imperatives used by Jude. The departure from the truth was expected. Forgetfulness of apostolic and biblical teaching is a major cause of spiritual deterioration. In 2 Peter 3:2 we read 'us the apostles of the Lord' who gave their commandment, whereas Jude[8] speaks of 'your apostles' who had predicted or 'spoken before' (often repeated and well-known warnings) of these false teachers. The mention of Apostles reminds us of the foundation upon which the assembly has been built (Eph. 2:22). They no longer exist on earth, but their teaching does. What they had learned from Christ they communicated to the saints and the saints continued in that same teaching and fellowship (Acts 2:42). Further disclosures came from Christ concerning the assembly and its proper hope as well as its conduct whilst waiting for the Lord's return. These instructions or revelations came to the Apostles and Prophets, since when there have been none but only impostors who were soon found out (Rev 2:2). The choice is clear: between apostolic orthodoxy and those governed by their own word or contemporary heresy with its ever-shifting teachers of departure.

verse 18:

These mockers were making fun of serious matters, walking in their own ungodly lusts. This word tells us of their blatant self-centeredness; they were full of themselves. They were nothing but bombastic people trying to impress others and ingratiate themselves with those they thought important (James 2:1).

verse 19:

This verse shows us that the false teachers were separating themselves. That is not to say they had left the meetings of the saints, but made insidious distinctions between themselves and others. They carried on their corrupting work from within. They made separations by their false course; doubtless accusing the saints who abode in the truth of being the real cause of the division! Jude tells us further that they were sensual - yucikos has a distinct meaning describing a life controlled by the yuch. It denotes that which belongs to the animal life, or is controlled by the appetites and passions of the sensuous nature. They were absolutely in an unrenewed state.

The Precautions against Apostates

verse 20, 21:

The Christian life is contrasted with that of the errorists. True Christians hold fast the faith, which others reject. They have the Holy Spirit, pray and keep near to God whilst waiting for the Lord to return. These verses give the Christian attitude in contrast to pseudo-christian conduct, suggesting a fourfold activity of the spiritual life: building, praying, keeping and looking, or service, dependence, vigilance and watching. Building themselves up on their most holy faith; a distinctive and stable foundation. Prayer, that essential exercise of Christian life and one means of building. keeping: this is vital to maintaining the fortress against the forces of evil and false brethren. Looking: safety lies in the love of God and the cherishing of the expectation of the prefect enjoyment of eternal life will maintain a Christian in this world.  All rests upon mercy.

verse 22, 23:

Here is a very interesting part of the epistle which has a bearing upon how we handle false teachers and their associates today. It has also proved to be a challenge to learned translators. Our knowledge of the original text seems very uncertain. But given that Jude is predisposed to triads it seems that he would have three categories in mind rather than two. It is a very rare occurrence in the NT that the textual authority is so varied. The main division in the manuscript evidence is between the majority manuscripts, which give three clauses, and those that omit some words and so give but two clauses. The Authorised Version and J.N. Darby's New Translation give two categories but William Kelly,[9] the New International Version and others give three.

The three clauses could be read as follows:

1.   and some convict when contending (or, when they dispute),

2.   others save, snatching them from the fire,

3.   on others have compassion ...

Even when evil rages Christians are to endeavour to apply every remedy to recover those who have erred. Each case presents a different challenge. The mode of dealing with each is to be different according to the mind and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We may count upon Him to guide and give us, as circumstances vary, to act according to His will. The importance of the test as to our spiritual ability when evil manifests itself is not to be underestimated. God will have us act with priestly skill, and in grace, not according to legal and punitive measures. Service in this field needs spiritual persons. The complexity of a situation means that nearness to Christ alone can bring us through the test. Some of the cases to be confronted are the self-willed protagonists of a false way, others are foolish or innocent dupes on whom we are yet to have compassion and pity. We must seek to aid the recovery of these taken in the snare. If possible, every effort must be made to win them back. This has been God's desire in respect of His erring earthly people Israel too, cf. Amos 4:11 or Zech. 3:2. Should it not also characterise the saints in this day?

The Resource in a day of Ruin

verses 24, 25:

The closing doxology in Jude is entirely in keeping with the rest of the subject of our inspired epistle. It lifts the spirit up to the supremacy of God over all. It tells us that God is able to guard and protect His people (you) from falling and make them to be sure-footed and steady when all else is in agitation and unstable. The dangers of living for the Lord surrounded by a religious world characterised by false teaching and seductive morals are not to be underestimated. This God can also keep us spotless, that is, unblemished in a sacrificial sense. We are not able to do this ourselves in our own strength.

Can I be filled with praise even when false teachers are troubling the church? Certainly! Shall I let heresy stop me from being in the atmosphere of God's love? Certainly not! The believer's portion is exactly opposite to the apostates. He is kept from falling; a blessed contrast to the abounding apostasy previously described. To this God alone be all the glory for ever. He is the unique God and Preserver of the life of His people. The Lord Jesus is referred to as the Saviour sixteen times in the New Testament, and the Father is so described eight times. The prophet Isaiah makes it plain that there is no Saviour but God (Isa. 45:27). He alone is worthy of glory (the radiance of light) and kingly majesty. He alone has the dominion (everything in His control) and authority (ability to do anything He pleases) to which all must bow and which is effectively engaged in the sustenance of His people whilst toiling and suffering here in this world.

In spite of all the exercise the false and evil teachers brought, Jude can conclude his letter with 'Amen!', setting a confident seal to his closing ascription of praise, knowing that God will undoubtedly do what will bring glory to His name.


[1] There is no indication that one copied from the other as is sometimes suggested. We firmly believe that both were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Reference by one to the other in no way affects the matter. Consider Luke's reference to other matter in order to write his gospel with method (Luke 1:2,3).

[2] Mr Darby wrote a helpful selection of articles which have been collected under the title: 'The Faith once delivered to the saints'. An attractive paperback book has been published by our colleagues at GBV (Good News Publications) Germany - available from Chapter Two, London. Write for a free copy. 

[3] In Luke 17:27 the Lord gives us a description of Noah's world then ripening for judgment, the people married, etc. and in v. 28 the same course of eating and drinking is described for these cities but marriage no longer takes place

[4]Nevertheless the Devil is morally far below the Archangel, which fact does not in the least deprive him of his present authority or throne (cf. Mt. 12:24, Lk. 4:6, Jn. 12:30, 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4, Rev. 2:13).

[5]I have not had the opportunity to examine this book, but have weighed various commentators in order to reach my conclusions.

[6] No full extant Greek or Aramaic version exists, as far as I know. Ed.

[7] If you have further concerns or uncertainty I recommend that you read J. N. D's 'collected Writings', vols. 6:151-5; 19:83; 23:38, 32:193-4 where he writes about his own researches into the subject and arrives at a clear and decisive conclusion.

[8] The bearing of Jude's language on the question of who the author of this epistle was makes it clear to me that we may certainly conclude he was the Lord's half brother and not one of the apostles called James.

[9] See 'Lectures on the Epistle of Jude' by William Kelly p153, 154