The Epistle of Jude: 1-4

Welcome back to my study/review of The Epistle of Jude. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Jude 1-4 

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.


Here we begin our study of the Epistle of Jude. I will primarily be relying upon free online Commentaries (the idea of a study like this is both to do it, and to demonstrate *how* to do it easily and affordably.) You’ll almost exclusively see me studying with free online resources such as The Pulpit Commentaries and Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, both of which are online and free. I also make ready use of Wikipedia – which is free and usually provides links to, and citations for, helpful on-topic sources. That said, if you are willing to spend some money, there are a couple of good recent commentaries that are available for purchase, which you might want to consider:

Jude: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) – by Herb Bateman
Jude and 2 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Gene L. Green

I do not think you *need* the most recent commentaries to do an adequate study of two thousand year old Scripture, but they sometimes can be helpful. It’s worth remembering that a lot of the New Testament’s study (and the Old Testament) were re-shaped by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s. We now have a better understanding of what a 1st century person might have believed that we had for centuries prior. Many online commentaries are older, and pre-date that discovery, so occasionally the older commentaries will indicate widely held beliefs which changed as a result of these 20th century discoveries.

Prelude out of the way, we’ll jump in with Ellicott:

(1, 2) Address and greeting.
(1) Jude.—As to the Jade who here addresses us see Introduction, I.

The servant of Jesus Christ.—Better, a servant of Jesus Christ. There is nothing to show that these words indicate an evangelist, although it is more than probable that he was one: his writing this Epistle is evidence of the fact. The words may have a side reference to the ungodly men against whom he writes, who are not “servants of Jesus Christ.” As he does not say that he is an Apostle, the inference is that he is not one. Contrast Romans 1:1 (where see Note on “servant”); 1 Corinthians 1:12 Corinthians 1:1Galatians 1:1Ephesians 1:1Colossians 1:11 Timothy 1:12 Timothy 1:11 Peter 1:1 (where “Apostle” is used without “servant”); and Titus 1:12 Peter 1:1 (where “Apostle” is added to “servant”). Excepting St. John, whose characteristic reserve accounts for it, Apostles proclaim themselves to be such in stating their credentials. Hebrews and the Epistle of St. James must be set aside as doubtful, or be admitted as illustrations of the rule. Philippians 1:11 Thessalonians 1:1; and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 are not exceptions: St. Paul is there combined with others who are not Apostles. The same may be said of Philemon 1:1. Moreover, there St. Paul naturally avoids stating credentials: he wishes to appeal to Philemon’s affection (Philemon 1:8-9), not to his own authority.

And brother of James.—This is added not merely to explain who he is, but his claim to be heard. It is almost incredible that an Apostle should have urged such a claim, and yet not have stated the much higher claim of his own office: the inference again is that the writer is not an Apostle. Only one James can be meant. After the death of James the brother of John, only one James appears in the Acts (Acts 12:17Acts 15:13Acts 21:18)—James the Just, brother of our Lord (Matthew 13:15), and first Bishop of Jerusalem. (See Introduction, I.) The brother of so saintly a man, one of the “pillars” of the Church (Galatians 2:9), and holding so high an office, might claim the attention of Christians.

To them that are sanctified.—A reading of very great authority compels us to substitute beloved for “sanctified”; and the whole should probably run thus: to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and preserved for Jesus Christ. Some prefer to take “in God the Father” with both participles: beloved, and preserved for Jesus Christ, in God the Father. The love is such as has existed from the beginning and still continues.

Here, in the first verse, we have a couple of triplets: a three-fold designation of the writer himself, as “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,” and a three-fold designation of his readers, as “called, beloved, preserved.” In the next verse we have another triplet.

By God the Father.—Better, in God the Father. He is the sphere in which the love is displayed: it is in God that Christians love and are loved. The expression, “beloved in God,” is unique in the New Testament. St. Paul sometimes writes “God our Father” (Romans 1:71 Corinthians 1:3et al.)and at first this was the more common expression; sometimes “God the Father” (Galatians 1:1Galatians 1:3et al.).

And preserved in Jesus Christ.—Better, preserved for Jesus Christ: i.e., preserved to be His in His kingdom. This preservation has gone on from the first, and continues (John 17:2John 17:12John 17:24).

Called.—The word is used, in St. Paul’s sense, for all Christians—all who have been called to a knowledge of God and of the gospel. (Comp. Romans 1:7; and see Note on 1 Corinthians 1:24.)

(2) Mercy unto you, and peace, and love.—Another triplet, which possibly looks back to the one just preceding: called by God’s mercy, preserved in peace, beloved in love. The addition “and love” is peculiar to this Epistle. “Mercy” and “peace” occur in the opening greetings of 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 John. The three are in logical order here: mercy from God to man; hence peace between God and man; hence love of all towards all.

Be multiplied.—By God. The word, as used in salutations, is peculiar to 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude.

The note above comments on what it means to be the “brother of James.” The James referred to is widely believed to have been the same James who was “the brother of Jesus.” Therefore, Jude is also a brother of Jesus.

Matthew 13: 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

Mark 6: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215 AD) wrote in his work “Comments on the Epistle of Jude” that Jude, the author, was a son of Joseph and a brother of Jesus. 

As discussed in the introduction post on this Epistle, there is some scholarly debate as to whether “brother” means a literal brother, or whether it might be broadened to include cousins. The most widely held view is that the four brothers of Jesus are half-brothers, sons of Joseph from a prior marriage, but not of Mary.

The note above comments on Jude’s use of triplets in the first two verses:

Author’s self-description: Jude, servant, brother
Author’s description of audience: called, beloved, kept

You might wonder why the author refers to himself as Jude, rather than Judas. The Pulpit Commentaries addresses that question before delving into the language of verse 1:

Jude 1:1

Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James. The Epistle opens with a designation of the author which is brief, consisting but of two terms, only remotely, if at all, official, and having nothing exactly like it in the inscriptions of other New Testament Epistles. The writer gives his personal name Jude, or rather, as the Revised Version puts it, Judas. For while in the New Testament the Authorized Version uses the various forms, Judas, Judah, Juda, and Jude, the Revised Version, with better reason, adheres to the form Judas in all cases except those of the tribe and the son of Jacob. The name was a familiar one among the Jews, whose stock of personal names was limited. This is seen in its New Testament use. Not to speak of its occurrence as the name of the son of Jacob, and as the name of two individuals in the line of the ancestry of Jesus (Luke 3:26Luke 3:30), it appears as the name of several persons belonging to New Testament times. These include one of the brethren of the Lord; the apostle who is called in our Authorized Version “the brother of James,” but who may rather be “the son of James” (Luke 6:16John 14:22Acts 1:13); the traitor Iscariot; the writer of this Epistle; the rebel leader of Galilee (Acts 5:37); the man of Damascus to whose house Ananias was directed to go (Acts 9:11); the delegate, surnamed Barsabas, who was sent with Paul and Barnabas from the mother Church to Antioch (Acts 15:22Acts 15:27Acts 15:32). The writer attaches a twofold designation to his personal name. First, he terms himself “a servant of Jesus Christ,” as the Revised Version puts it, not “the servant of Jesus Christ,” with the Authorized Version. The curious fact has been noticed that this passage and Philippians 1:1 (in which latter, however, we have the plural form) are the only passages in which the Authorized Version inserts the definite article in the designation of the author of any New Testament book. He gives himself thus the same title as is adopted by the James whose name heads another of the Catholic Epistles, and who is taken to be his brother. It is not certain, however, what breadth of meaning is to be ascribed to the phrase. The term, “servant of Jesus Christ,” or its cognate, is used as a general description of the Christian believer, apart from all reference to any particular position in the Church (1 Corinthians 7:22, etc.; Ephesians 6:6). It does not carry a strictly official sense. It seems never to designate the apostolic office as such, unless some qualifying clause is added. It stands without any such addition, it is true, in Philippians 1:1 and James 1:1. But in the former it is applied to two comrades, one of whom is not an apostle; and in the latter the person so described is in all probability not one of those who appear in the lists of the apostles. In other passages (Romans 1:1Titus 1:12 Peter 1:1) it is coupled with the official term “apostle.” It is claimed by some of the best expositors, however, that in this passage, as in some others, it has an intermediate sense, meaning one who, while not an apostle proper, was charged with the apostolic work of preaching and ministering. If that is so, the writer presents himself as one occupying the kind of position which is assigned to Barnabas, Timothy, and others in the Book of the Acts. But he describes himself further as the “brother of James.” The title has nothing like it elsewhere in the inscriptions of the Epistles, and, as the particle which connects it with the former clause indicates, it points to something not merely additional, but distinctive. The distinction is the relationship to another person in the Church, better known and more influential than himself. For the James here mentioned is generally, and we believe rightly, identified, not with the brother (or son) of Alpheus who appears among the twelve, but with the Lord’s brother, who is represented by the Book of the Acts as in pre-eminent honour and authority in the mother Church of Jerusalem. Jude, therefore, might have called himself the “brother of the Lord.” He abstains from doing so, it is supposed by some, because that title had become the recognized and almost consecrated name of James. Or it may rather be that he shrank from what might seem an appeal to an earthly kinship which had been sunk in a higher spiritual relationship. The choice of the title is at the same time a weighty argument against his belonging to the twelve. Unable to put forward any apostolic dignity or commission as his warrant for writing, and as his claim upon his readers’ attention, he places himself beneath the shield of the more eminent name of a brother, who also was the author of an Epistle in all probability extensively circulated before this one was put forth. Those to whom he writes are also most carefully described. The terms of this threefold designation are unusual and somewhat difficult to construe. The text itself is not quite certain. The Received Text and our Authorized Version give the reading “sanctified,” which has the support of one or two documents of good character, and is still accepted, chiefly on the ground of intrinsic fitness, by some scholars of rank. It must be displaced, however, by the reading “beloved,” which has on its side three of the five primary uncials (the Vatican, Sinaitic, and Alexandrian) as well as important versions and patristic quotations, and is accepted by the best recent authorities. This, however, gives us so unusual a combination, “beloved in God the Father,” that some are driven to the conclusion that the preposition has got somehow into a wrong place. Dr. Herr pronounces the connection to be “without analogy,” and to admit of “no natural interpretation;” and the great critical edition of Messrs. Westcott and Herr marks the clause as one which probably contains some primitive error. Taking the terms, however, as the vast preponderance of documentary evidence presents them, we have three brief descriptions of the readers, all sufficiently intelligible, and each obviously in point. The most general of the three descriptive notes is the “called.” The idea of a “call” pervades all Scripture. It appears in a variety of applications, of which the most distinctive is that of a call into the Messianic kingdom. This call is ascribed usually, we may perhaps say universally, to God himself In the Gospels we find the term “called” contrasted with the term “elect” or “chosen” (Matthew 22:14), so that the call is of uncertain issue. On the other hand, in the Epistles, at least in Pauline passages of great doctrinal significance (Romans 8:28Romans 8:30Romans 11:29, etc.), the election appears as the cause, the call as the result; and the latter then is of certain issue, or, in the language of theology, effectual. It is held by many that throughout the Epistles, or at least throughout the Pauline group, the term has uniformly the sense of a call not merely to the membership of the Church, but to final salvation. Whether this is the ease, and how the usage of the Epistles is to be harmonized with that of the Gospels, are questions which require further consideration. It appears, however, that in the Epistles the idea of the election and the idea of the call often lie so near each other that they seem to be different expressions of one Divine act, and that an act which makes its object sure. In passages like the present, the “called” seems parallel to the “elect” of the inscriptions of 1 Peter and 2 John, and probably has the deeper Pauline meaning—a meaning which has its roots no doubt in the Old Testament conception of the certain election of a believing remnant under the theocracy (1 Kings 19:18Isaiah 59:20, etc.). The parties addressed are described more particularly as “beloved in God the Father.” The difficulty which is felt by the best interpreters of the present day in explaining the preposition “in” as it stands in this unusual connection, appears also in the renderings of the old English Versions. Tyndale and Cranmer, indeed, follow the Received Text, and translate “sanctified in God the Father.” The Genevan also gives “sanctified of God the Father.” But Wickliffe and the Rhemish Version follow the other text (which is that of the Vulgate), and translate it, the former, “to thes that ben loued that ben in God the fadir;” the latter, “to them that are in God the father beloved.” The difficulty is met by a variety of doubtful expedients. Some cut the knot by imposing upon the preposition the sense of “by” or the equally alien sense of “on account of.” Some take it to mean “in the case of God,” or “as regards God,” which comes nearer the point, but is yet short of what is intended. Others would render it “within the sphere of God,” understanding the readers to be described as the objects of the writer’s love—a love which is no mere natural affection, but inspired by God and of spiritual motive; the objection to which is that it is out of harmony with the other designations, which describe the readers from the view-point of the Divine care. The idea, therefore, seems to be that they are the objects of the Divine love, that they have been that and continue to be that in the way of a gracious union and fellowship with himself, into which they have been introduced by God the Father. The preposition, therefore, has the mystical force which it has in the familiar phrase, “in Christ”—a force which it may also have where God is the subject. All the more so that the title “God the Father” seems to refer usually, if not exclusively, to God as the Father of Christ. The third clause describes the readers, according to the Authorized Version, as preserved in Jesus Christ. Here the Authorized Version follows Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish Version. That rendering has also been adopted by some recent interpreters of importance. It is wrong, nevertheless. For there is no instance elsewhere of the carrying over of a preposition from one clause to another in such a connection as this. Not less mistaken is Wickliffe’s “kept of Jesus Christ.” The Genevan Version, however, gives the correct rendering, “reserved to Jesus Christ,” and the Revised Version translates it very aptly, “kept for Jesus Christ.” The verb is the one which is used in 1 Peter 1:4 to describe the inheritance as “reserved.” It occurs frequently in the Gospels, somewhat rarely in the Pauline Epistles, and there oftenest in those of latest date (1 Timothy 5:221 Timothy 6:142 Timothy 4:7). It occurs with marked frequency in the Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. It is most characteristic of 1 John, 2 Peter, and Jude among these Epistles. The idea is that of being preserved by the Divine power until the coming of Christ—a preservation of which there was the more need to be assured in face of the falling away which threatened the Churches, and had indeed begun in some. Christ prayed his Father to keep, through his own Name, those that were given him (John 17:11). Paul prays God to keep his converts blameless unto the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). These designations tell us nothing of the locality or circumstances of the readers, but limit themselves to spiritual characteristics. The relations in which the several clauses stand to each other is also a matter of dispute. The Authorized Version makes them coordinate clauses, “To them that are sanctified … and preserved … and called.” It is better to take the “called” as the subject, and the two participles as the qualifying epithets, translating, with the Revised Version, “To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” But it perhaps best represents both the force and the order of the original to render it, “To them that are beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ, called ones.”

After the greeting, Jude wastes no time getting to the point. Continuing in Ellicott in verse 3:

(3) Beloved.—“Very unusual at the beginning of an Epistle; Jude 1:2, is the only other example It indicates, possibly, the writer’s wish to be brief and get to his subject at once; and, as his subject is a very unpleasing one, he hastens to assure his readers of affection for them, to prevent his strong language from offending them.

When I gave all diligence.—Better, in giving all diligence: i.e., in having it much at heart. Wiclif and Rheims are nearly right. The expression is unique in the New Testament—2 Peter 1:5 is similar, but the Greek for “giving” differs in verb and tense from the word used here.

Of the common salvation.—The best MSS. insert “our”—of our common salvation: i.e., of those things which pertain to the salvation of us all. (Comp. Titus 1:4.) Some would take these words after “it was needful for me to write unto you.” The Authorised version is better.

It was needful for me to write unto you.—Better, I found it necessary to write at once to you, St. Jude had intended to write on general grounds; then the circumstances stated in Jude 1:4 made him write immediately for the special purpose of warning them against a pressing danger. The “at once” comes from the tense, which is present in the first clause, aorist in the second. That St. Jude had intended to write a longer letter is pure conjecture, for which there is no evidence.

Contend for.—The word is a graphic one, implying standing over a thing to fight in its defence. You must fight as well as build (Nehemiah 4:16Nehemiah 4:18).

The faithi.e., that which is believed by Christians: not the expression of the doctrine, nor the holding of it, but the substance of it.

Once delivered.—Rather, once for all delivered. No change in it is possible. (Comp. Galatians 1:8-9.) By “the saints” are meant all Christians; comp. Acts 9:13 (where see Note), Acts 9:32Acts 9:41. The word is used advisedly here, in marked contrast to the libertines now to be denounced.

The note above does a good job of analyzing each phrase within the verse. We should see in the use of the language “contend for” that this letter is a strong call to action, and as we will see, also a strong rebuke.

The Pulpit Commentaries adds the following for verse 3:

Jude 1:3

The author’s reason for writing. The statement of this is introduced by the conciliatory address, beloved—a form of address found twice again in this short Epistle (Jude 1:17Jude 1:20). It occurs at great turning-points in all the Catholic Epistles, except for an obvious reason in 2 John. (See James 1:16James 1:19James 2:5 (who couples the term “brethren” with it); 1Pe 2:11; 1 Peter 4:122 Peter 3:12 Peter 3:82 Peter 3:14, 2Pe 3:17; 1 John 3:2, 1Jn 3:21; 1 John 4:1, 1Jn 4:7, 1 John 4:11; 3Jn 1:2, 3 John 1:53 John 1:11.) It is frequent also in the Pauline Epistles. It is only here, however, and in 3 John 1:2 that it is introduced so near the beginning of an Epistle. The statement itself contains several expressions which demand notice. The phrase which the Authorized Version renders, When I gave all diligence, is better rendered, while I was giving all diligence, with the Revised Version. In this particular form it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; but it has close parallels in 2 Peter 1:5 and Hebrews 6:11. The noun is the same as is translated “diligence” in Romans 12:8, and “business” in Romans 12:11. It is not certain whether the phrase expresses action here as well as earnest desire; but it indicates the position of the author, whether as seriously bethinking himself to write, or actually engaged in the task, when he had occasion to send the counsels given in this Epistle. The subject on which he had thought of addressing them was the common salvation—the term “salvation” meaning here neither the doctrine nor the means of redemption, but the grace of redemption itself. And this grace is designated “common,” or, as the better reading gives it, “our common salvation;” not with reference to any contrast of Jew with Gentile, but simply as a grace open to all, and in which writer and readers had an equal interest (comp. Acts 2:44Acts 4:32; and especially the “common faith” of Titus 1:4). The “like precious faith’ of 2 Peter 1:1 is a stronger expression, and probably points to a distinction, formerly existent, but now removed, between Jew and Gentile. The next phrase is rendered too weakly by the Authorized Version, It was needful for me to write unto you. Neither does the Revised Version quite bring out the idea when it substitutes, I was constrained to write unto you. What is in view is an objective necessity; certain circumstances which had arisen and imperatively demanded writing. So that we might translate it, “necessity arose for me to write,” or, “an emergency occurred constraining me to write.” He was thus induced to write in the way of exhorting them. The particular subject of the exhortation is described as the duty of contending earnestly for the faith; the contention being expressed by a strong term somewhat analogous to that used by Paul in Philippians 1:27, and the “faith” being taken, not in the subjective sense of the quality or grace of belief, but in the objective sense of the things believed. This “faith” is declared to have been delivered once for all (so, with the Revised Version; not once delivered, as the Authorized Version puts it, which might mean “once on a time”) to the saints. It is not stated by whom the deliverance was made. The unexpressed subject may be God, as some suppose who point to the analogy of 1 Corinthians 11:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:3; or it may be the apostles, as others hold who look to the analogy of such passages as 1 Corinthians 11:22 Peter 2:21, and especially the seventeenth verse of the present Epistle itself. The main point is, not the author or the instruments of the deliverance, but the fact that such a deliverance has taken place. What has been transmitted is carefully defined, not, indeed, as a system of doctrine, but at least as a sum or deposit of things necessary to be believed. This is said to have been given once for all, so that there is no repetition or extension of the gift. It is described; further, as committed, not to the Church as an organization, nor to any particular office-bearers, but to the saints in general.

Now we get to the point of the letter in verse 4. Continuing in The Pulpit Commentaries:

Jude 1:4

It has been inferred that the writer had been actually at work upon another Epistle, when he felt it necessary to give it up and compose this one. That is not a certain inference from the previous verse. What that verse makes clear is that it had been Jude’s purpose to compose an Epistle on the general subject of the common salvation, and that something emerged which made him change his plan and write a letter dealing with certain specific matters of urgent importance, and hortatory in its form. The circumstance which led to this change is here stated—it was the appearance of a corrupt and insidious party in the Church. For, he says, there are certain men crept in unawares; or, as the Revised Version more forcibly renders it, privily. The verb describes the men as men who had no rightful standing in the Church, but had made their way into it secretly and by false pretences. Compare Paul’s description of the “false brethren unawares brought in, the came in privily to spy out our liberty. which we have in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 2:4); but especially the picture which two of the latest Epistles give of the “false teachers who privily shall bring in damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1), and those who “creep into houses and lead captive silly women” (2 Timothy 3:6). The men thus generally described are next designated more precisely as those who were before of old ordained to this condemnation. So the Authorized Version renders it. But the point is more correctly caught by the “even they who” of the Revised Version. The men just spoken of in general terms are immediately described as the very men to whom something more precise applies, which is now to be stated. There is some difficulty, however, as to the exact sense of the statement. The term which is translated “ordained” by the Authorized Version is of doubtful interpretation, the doubt turning on the question whether it has a temporal or a local reference. The latter idea seems to be expressed in Galatians 3:1, where the verb means either publicly placarded or openly set forth (“evidently set forth,” according to the Authorized Version). For the most part, however, the temporal sense prevails, and that this is the sense here is confirmed by the fact that the verb is connected with the temporal adverb “of old.” It has been contended that the biblical figure of a book of the Divine counsels is at the basis of the expression here, anti that it should be rendered “ordained” (with the Authorized Version), in the Calvinistic sense of “foreordained.” But this is opposed by the fact that the term here rendered” of old” is not applied in the New Testament to the eternal purpose of God. The reference, therefore, is to ancient prophecy, and the term means “who were of old written of,” “who were of old set forth,” as the Revised Version puts it, or “designated” in prophecy. The writer does not specify what particular prophecies are in view. Hence some take them to be predictions of the evils of the last days spoken of by the apostles, such as we find recorded in the Pastoral Epistles and in 2 Peter. But the force of the phrase “of old,” in its present connection, points to what is of ancient date in the stricter sense. The Old Testament prophecies, therefore, are probably those referred to, and the fact that mention is made by-and-by of Enoch as one of the prophets of old, makes it likely that the predictive sections of the book which bears his name are also in the author’s mind. The phrase, “to this condemnation,” explains that unto which these men were prophetically designated in ancient time. The noun denotes usually, if not invariably, the judgment of a judge on something wrong, and here, therefore, it seems to have the sense of penal judgment or condemnation. It is not quite apparent what judgment is intended. It is supposed by some that the writer is looking to the unhappy relations of these men to the Church, and finds in these relations and in the moral conditions thereby revealed the judgment ‘of God upon them. It is more probable that he refers to the penal retribution, of which he is immediately to give examples. Three strokes are added to the picture of the men. These bring out in darkest outline both their character and their faith. There is first the general description of them as ungodly men—impious men, in whom there is no spirit of reverence, as the adjective literally implies. The same note appears in Peter’s description (2 Peter 2:52 Peter 2:6). (Compare the use of the same term in Romans 4:5Romans 5:61 Timothy 1:92 Peter 3:7.) This ungodliness is next shown to take the form of an immoral perversion of spiritual privilege—turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness. By the grace of God is meant the whole gift of redemption offered in the gospel. It is called here the grace of our God; the turn thus given to the expression indicating at once the dear and intimate relation to God into which the writer and his fellows in the faith have been introduced, and their shuddering sense of the shameless use to which his gift was debased. The thing to which that grace was perverted is described by a word of wide and evil application, denoting every species of unbridled conduct, but particularly unblushing licentiousness. The same ungodliness in these men is further declared to rise to a denial and disavowal of all Divine claims upon them. The Revised Version, which is more rigorously true to the original here than the Authorized Version, gives an alternative rendering, denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ, in the text, but denying the only Master, and our Lord Jesus Christ in the margin. The question is whether God and Christ are separately mentioned as both objects of the denial, or whether Christ alone is referred to; both the titles, Master and Lord, being applied to him. The question is not easy to decide. Among the strongest arguments in favour of the latter view are the two considerations that the attitude of these men to God has been already stated in the previous clause, and that in 2 Peter 2:1 we find both the verb and the noun which are used here applied to Christ. On the other side, it is urged that the parallel in 1 John 2:22 favours the double reference here; that the title hero rendered “Master” is never applied to Christ except in the single instance of 2 Peter 2:1; that the epithet “only” is used more properly of God, as in verse 25 of this same Epistle; that it is difficult to distinguish between the two titles, if both are referred to Christ here; and that the analogous expression in the Book of Enoch (48:10) is to be considered. The case is stronger on the whole on the side of the twofold subject being in view. But it is further asked whether this denial of God and of Christ is meant to be a theoretical denial or a practical. It is the practical disavowal of God, which appears in a godless and unbridled life, that seems chiefly in view. But there is no good reason for excluding the idea of corrupt doctrine or teaching. The latter is not expressed, it is true, in the terms adopted in the Epistles of John. Neither is there anything to warrant the supposition that the writer was thinking of Simon Magus in particular, or of Carpocrates, or any of the early Gnostics—a supposition entertained both by the earliest Christian writers and by some in our own time. But it is possible enough that the seeds which were to develop into the pronounced Gnosticism of a later time were already sown, and that in such speculative error Jude saw the ally of a life which was regardless of all Divine restraint.

Jude is not specific as to the party of people he is addressing, however, we can learn a lot from how he describes them. He tells us:

  1. They crept in unnoticed
  2. They were long ago designated for this condemnation
  3. They are ungodly
  4. They pervert the grace of God into sensuality
  5. They deny Jesus Christ

The first note reflects an intentional infiltration of the Church. We should never be surprised by attempts at infiltration because Jesus warned about it during His ministry.

Matthew 13: 24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

Paul describes a different infiltration in the Letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 2: But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The infiltration described here by Paul seems to imply a faction who wants to impose legalism. What Jude describes is the other extreme – infiltrating to use teachings re: grace as a pretext for condoning sexual immorality. We know that Paul also encountered this heresy, also, based on his writing in Romans 6:

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Jesus addressed this even more succinctly in the Gospel of John:

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Nevertheless, the Church then and now continues to be plagued by this heretical teaching. One term often applied to those who teach that grace provides a freedom to sin freely, particularly sexually, is “antinomianism“:

Antinomianism (Ancient Greek: ἀντί [anti] “against” and νόμος [nomos] “law”) is any view which rejects laws or legalism and argues against moral, religious or social norms (Latin: mores), or is at least considered to do so. The term has both religious and secular meanings.

In some Christian belief systems, an antinomian is one who takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of asserting that the saved are not bound to follow the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments. Antinomians believe that faith alone guarantees eternal security in heaven, regardless of one’s actions.

The distinction between antinomian and other Christian views on moral law is that antinomians believe that obedience to the law is motivated by an internal principle flowing from belief rather than from any external compulsion. Antinomianism has been considered to teach that believers have a “license to sin” and that future sins don’t require repentance. Johannes Agricola, to whom Antinomianism was first attributed, stated “If you sin, be happy, it should have no consequence.”

Examples of antinomians being confronted by the religious establishment include Martin Luther’s critique of antinomianism and the Antinomian Controversy of the seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay Colony. The charge of antinomianism has been levelled at Reformed, Baptist and some Nondenominational churches.

By extension, the word “antinomian” is used to describe views in religions other than Christianity:

What does it mean that Jude describes these infiltrators as “designated for this condemnation”? The Commentary note does a good job explaining, but I’ll attempt to add a little more.

One way to look at this – and it’s a view bolstered by the Tares in the Wheat parable quoted above – is that God knew all along that they were coming, and they will not prevail in this false teaching.

Isaiah 37:26

“‘Have you not heard
    that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
    what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
    crash into heaps of ruins,
27 while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
    are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
    and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
    blighted before it is grown.

Isaiah 48:5 I declared them to you from of old,
    before they came to pass I announced them to you,
lest you should say, ‘My idol did them,
    my carved image and my metal image commanded them.

Another way to view the idea of “patterns of behavior,” which fits well with the idea that God sees this coming, is that Jude was asserting a type of typology. These false teachers are thet picture of something that always ends badly for its practitioners, eventually.

Jumping ahead a little bit, Jude may have a verse in mind from a pseudepigraphal book – 1 Enoch. We can guess that he might because he will quote from 1 Enoch directly a few verses from now.

1 Enoch 1:

9. And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of ⌈His⌉ holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy ⌈all⌉ the ungodly:

And to convict all flesh
Of all the works ⌈of their ungodliness⌉ which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners ⌈have spoken⌉ against Him.

The epistle gets more interesting from here, with Jude next asserting Jesus acting within the Old Testament.

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