Jude Commentary

v.3 “In this passage there are certain truths about the faith which we hold.

(i) The faith is something which is delivered to us. The facts of the Christian faith are not something which we have discovered for ourselves. In the true sense of the word they are tradition, something which has been handed down from generation to generation until it has come to us. They go back in an unbroken chain to Jesus Christ himself.

There is something to be added to that. The facts of the faith are indeed something which we have not discovered for ourselves. It is, therefore, true that the Christian tradition is not something handed down in the cold print of books; it is something which is passed on from person to person through the generations. The chain of Christian tradition is a living chain whose links are men and women who have experienced the wonder of the facts.

(ii) The Christian faith is something which is once and for all delivered to us. There is in it an unchangeable quality. That is not to say that each age has not to rediscover the Christian faith; but it does say that there is an unchanging nucleus in it—and the permanent centre of it is that Jesus Christ came into the world and lived and died to bring salvation to men.

(iii) The Christian faith is something which is entrusted to God’s consecrated people. That is to say, the Christian faith is not the possession of any one person but of the church. It comes down within the church, it is preserved within the church, and it is understood within the church.

(iv) The Christian faith is something which must be defended. Every Christian must be its defender. If the Christian tradition comes down from generation to generation, each generation must hand it on uncorrupted and unperverted. There are times when that is difficult. The word Jude uses for to defend is epagonizesthai, which contains the root of our English word agony. The defence of the faith may well be a costly thing; but that defence is a duty which falls on every generation of the Church.”[1]

 

v.4 “After stating the destiny of these men, Jude describes them as ‘impious’ or ‘ungodly’ (asebeis), a term often used of notorious sinners. This general word is made more specific by the two specific charges that follow. First, they ‘change the grace of our God into a license for immorality.’ Evidently their understanding of grace and perhaps of the forgiveness of sins led them to feel free to indulge in all forms of sexual depravity (aselgeian, cf. comments at 2 Peter 2:2). Second, they ‘deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.’ Exactly how they deny Jesus Christ, Jude does not say.”[2]

v.6 “The Jews had a very highly developed doctrine of angels, the servants of God. […]

“The Jews believed in a fall of the angels and much is said about this in the Book of Enoch which is so often behind the thought of Jude. In regard to this there were two lines of tradition.

“(i) The first saw the fall of the angels as due to pride and rebelliousness. That legend gathered especially round the name of Lucifer, the light-bringer, the son of the morning. As the Authorized Version has it, Isaiah writes, ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!’ (Isaiah 14:12). When the seventy returned from their mission and told Jesus of their successes, he warned them against pride, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Luke 10:18). The idea was that there was civil war in heaven. The angels rose against God and were cast out; and Lucifer was the leader of the rebellion.

“(ii) The second stream of tradition finds its scriptural echo in Genesis 6:1–4. In this line of thought the angels, attracted by the beauty of mortal women, left heaven to seduce them and so sinned.

“In the first case the fall of the angels was due to pride; in the second case it was due to lust for forbidden things.

“In effect Jude takes the two ideas and puts them together. He says that the angels left their own rank; that is to say, they aimed at an office which was not for them. He also says that they left their own proper habitation; that is to say, they came to earth to live with the daughters of men.

“All this seems strange to us; it moves in a world of thought and traditions from which we have moved away.

“But Jude’s warning is clear. Two things brought ruin to the angels—pride and lust. Even although they were angels and heaven had been their dwelling-place, they none the less sinned and for their sin were reserved for judgment. To those reading Jude’s words for the first time the whole line of thought was plain, for Enoch had much to say about the fate of these fallen angels. So Jude was speaking to his people in terms that they could well understand and telling them that, if pride and lust ruined the angels in spite of all their privileges, pride and lust could ruin them. The evil men within the church were proud enough to think that they knew better than the church’s teaching and lustful enough to pervert the grace of God into a justification for blatant immorality. Whatever be the ancient background of his words, Jude’s warning is still valid. The pride which knows better than God and the desire for forbidden things are the way to ruin in time and in eternity.”[3]

vv.8-9 “The men Jude attacks spoke evil of the angels. To prove how terrible a thing that was Jude cites an instance from an apocryphal book, The Assumption of Moses. One of the strange things about Jude is that he so often makes his quotations from these apocryphal books. Such quotations seem strange to us; but these books were very widely used at the time when Jude was writing and the quotations would be very effective.

“The story in The Assumption of Moses runs as follows. The strange story of the death of Moses is told in Deuteronomy 34:1–6. The Assumption of Moses goes on to add the further story that the task of burying the body of Moses was given to the archangel Michael. The devil disputed with Michael for possession of the body. He based his claim on two grounds. Moses’s body was matter; matter was evil; and, therefore, the body belonged to him, for matter was his domain. Second, Moses was a murderer, for had not he slain the Egyptian whom he saw smiting the Hebrew (Exodus 2:11, 12). And, if he was a murderer, the devil had a claim on his body. The point Jude is making is this. Michael was engaged on a task given him by God; the devil was seeking to stop him and was making claims he had no right to make. But even in a collection of circumstances like that Michael spoke no evil of the devil but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ If the greatest of the good angels refused to speak evil of the greatest of the evil angels, even in circumstances like that, surely no human being may speak evil of any angel.

What the men Jude is attacking were saying about the angels we do not know. Perhaps they were saying that they did not exist; perhaps they were saying they were evil. This passage means very little to us, but no doubt it would be a weighty rebuke to those to whom Jude addressed it.”[4]

v.10 “Jude says two things about the evil men whom he is attacking.

“(i) They criticize everything which they do not understand. Anything which is out of their orbit and their experience they disregard as worthless and irrelevant. ‘Spiritual things are spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). They have no spiritual discernment, and, therefore, they are blind to, and contemptuous of, all spiritual realities.

“(ii) They allow themselves to be corrupted by the things they do understand. What they do understand are the fleshly instincts which they share with the brute beasts. Their way of life is to allow these instincts to have their way; their values are fleshly values. Jude describes men who have lost all awareness of spiritual things and for whom the things demanded by the animal instincts are the only standards.

“The terrible thing is that the first condition is the direct result of the second. The tragedy is that no man is born without a sense of the spiritual things but can lose that sense until for him the spiritual things cease to exist. A man may lose any faculty, if he refuses to use it. We discover that with such simple things as games and skills. If we give up playing a game, we lose the ability to play it. If we give up practising a skill—such as playing the piano—we lose it. We discover that in such things as abilities. We may know something of a foreign language, but if we never speak or read it, we lose it. Every man can hear the voice of God; and every man has the animal instincts on which, indeed, the future existence of the race depends. But, if he consistently refuses to listen to God and makes his instincts the sole dynamic of his conduct, in the end he will be unable to hear the voice of God and will have nothing left to be his master but his brute desires. It is a terrible thing for a man to reach a stage where he is deaf to God and blind to goodness; and that is the stage which the men whom Jude attacks had reached.”[5]

 

v.14 “Enoch, who ‘walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away’ (Gen 5:24), is not specifically called ‘the seventh from Adam’ in the OT. But in Genesis 5 and also in 1 Chronicles 1:1-3, he is the seventh in order (counting Adam as the first). Here, however, Jude quotes not Genesis but the Book of Enoch (also called ‘The Ethiopic Book of Enoch’)—the longest of the surviving Jewish pseudepigraphical writings and a work that was highly respected by Jews and many Christians. Those who wonder about the propriety of Jude’s quotation of this noncanonical book should note that he does not call it Scripture. Paul also quoted from noncanonical writers statements he considered true. See Acts 17:28, where he quoted Cleanthes and Aratus (Phaenomena 5); 1 Corinthians 15:33, where he quoted Menander (Thais 218); and Titus 1:12, where he quoted Epimenides (De oraculis).”[6]

“There is no doubt that in the days of Jude, and in the days of Jesus, Enoch was a very popular book which every pious Jew would know and read. […]  The fact is that Jude, a pious Jew, knew and loved the Book of Enoch and had grown up in a circle where it was regarded with respect and even reverence; and he takes his quotation from it perfectly naturally, knowing that his readers would recognize it, and respect it. He is simply doing what all the New Testament writers do, as every writer must in every age, and speaking to men in language which they will recognize and understand.”[7]

 

vv.17-23 “Specifically, Jude tells the believers to do three things. (1) They are to remember that the apostles themselves had predicted the kind of false teaching they are now experiencing (vv. 17 – 19). From a human standpoint, these false teachers have ‘secretly slipped in’ (v. 4). But God knew all along that they were coming. Thus this reminder reassures Jude’s readers that God knows what is happening in their midst. He is still in control. (2) Jude’s readers are to devote themselves to their own spiritual growth (vv. 20 – 21). They must not allow the false teachers to deflect them from their own development in the faith. (3) Jude’s readers are to reach out to those affected by the false teaching (vv. 22 – 23). Withdrawal into their own private spirituality is not enough; Jude’s readers must do what they can to reclaim these people before it is too late.”[8]

 

vv.22-23 “Jude has urged his readers to make sure that their own faith is securely established (vv. 20 – 21). With their own spiritual condition secure, they can now reach out to others whose position is not so certain. Thus he exhorts his readers to engage in ministry to those in the community who are being attracted, to one extent or another, by the false teachers.”[9]

 

 “Jude turns his attention to yet a third group of people: ‘To others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.’ The strength of the language at the end of the verse suggests that he is now thinking of the false teachers themselves, or at least of church members who have given their allegiance to them. The ‘mercy’ that Jude commands here may, then, be pity and sorrow for their dreadful condition (as Luther thought). But it is more likely that the mercy is to be exhibited in prayers for them. Even those who have abandoned themselves to the false teaching are not beyond redemption, and Jude wants believers to continue to intercede for them.  

“But their mercy must be tempered by ‘fear.’ […] believers are to fear the subtle influence of the false teachers. As they ‘show mercy’ to them, they must at the same time be cautious in their contact with them, fearing that they too might catch the contagion of false teaching.”[10]

v.24 “Jude’s message of warning and doom might have depressed and discouraged his readers. Beset by so much false teaching and immorality, how can Christians ever reach heaven? The answer lies only in the power of God. So this doxology, surely one of the greatest in the NT, reminds us of God’s ability to bring every one of his own safely to himself. God ‘is able to keep [us] from falling’ (or ‘stumbling’). Furthermore, he is able ‘to present [us] before his glorious presence [lit., `his glory’] without fault’ (amomos, used of Christ as a faultless lamb in 1 Peter 1:19; cf. comments there). ‘With great joy’ (agalliasei) is the response of Christians for their completed salvation.”[11]

“Jude’s doxology is a fitting conclusion to his letter/sermon. He has warned the church of a serious and threatening outbreak of false teaching. He has called believers not simply to ‘batten down the hatches’ and ride out the storm, but to reach out redemptively to those who are falling away. Believers can do that because their position with the Lord is secure: He has the power to preserve them intact until the Day of Judgment.”[12]


[1] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2000) 178-179.

[2] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[3] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2000) 183-184.

[4] Doug J. Moo 2 Peter and Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 187-188.

[5] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2000) 188-189.

[6] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[7] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2000) 197-197.

[8] Doug J. Moo 2 Peter and Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 280.

[9] Doug J. Moo 2 Peter and Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 285.

[10] Doug J. Moo 2 Peter and Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 288-289.

[11] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[12] Doug J. Moo 2 Peter and Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 301.

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