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Selected Studies from Jude

Part 1: An Exposition of Jude 3-4


--
D. Edmond Hiebert

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write
to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For
certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus
Christ (Jude 3-4).
Having identified himself as Jude, or Judas (= ), brother of James, and having indicated the spiritual
characteristics of his readers (v. 1), the writer of this epistle at once spoke of the circumstances that led him to write this
brief but stirring letter. He indicated the nature of the communication he had been contemplating (v. 3a), informed his
readers that he was constrained to write the present appeal to contend for the purity of the faith (v. 3b), and set forth the
reason for the change (v. 4).

THE INDICATION OF HIS ORIGINAL PURPOSE


The word beloved ( ) at the very beginning of an epistle is unusual, occurring elsewhere only in 3 John 2.
(The NIV rendering Dear friends is more contemporary but changes and weakens the indicated relationship to warm
friendship rather than to God-prompted love.) Jude at once assured his readers that the unpleasant theme of his present
communication did not negate his personal love for them. His love was grounded in the reality of Gods love and
redemptive purpose for them (v. 1b) and prompted him aggressively to seek to eliminate the dangers which threatened
the beloved. This love is the central motif of the Christian life, indicating at the same time the love of the speaker or
writer for his brethren, and, behind that and more important, the love of God in Christ for all.1
The words while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation offer a glimpse of Judes
affectionate relations to his readers. He skilfully assured them that he would have written even if he had not heard of
the immediate danger threatening them.2 He had intended to write to them on a different subject than the present letter.
Making every effort ( ) portrays him as earnestly and aggressively occupied with a
project that involved his readers. The present infinitive to write ( ) does not determine whether he was already
engaged in writing the indicated letter, or homily, or was only making careful preparation to compose it. The rendering,
I was fully engaged in writing to you (NEB), assumes the former possibility, whereas I was very eager to write to
you (NIV) assumes the latter view. Whether Jude lived to produce the writing he had in view is not known.
The proposed writing was to deal with our common salvation. The expression does not occur elsewhere in the New
Testament, but a common faith in Titus 1:4 offers a parallel. Common ( ) does not denote something ordinary
or inferior but rather what is shared by Gods true people everywhere. Salvation ( ) is a comprehensive New
Testament term, and probably Jude was thinking of preparing an inclusive presentation of all the blessings involved in
the concept. These blessings include the believers past deliverance from the guilt of sin, present deliverance from the
domination of sin, and future deliverance from the very presence of sin. In saying our, Jude placed himself on a level
with his readers in jointly sharing this salvation. It is not an esoteric experience available to only a few privileged,
enlightened individuals.

THE INDICATION OF THE ALTERED PURPOSE


His original intention was set aside. His statement, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend
earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints explicitly expresses the nature of the present letter.
I felt the necessity ( ), literally, a necessity I got, points to an unexpected event which compelled
him to write a different kind of letter. Verse 4 makes clear that the change was due to a report concerning the dangers
threatening the readers. The objective situation among the readers produced an inner sense of compulsion in Jude. The
knowledge of their circumstances laid on him a constraint produced by the law of love, evoking prompt and decisive
action. Clearly Jude felt that there was no one else to step in and do what needed to be done. He was a man
courageously willing to stand in the breach and face the great arch-enemy of God with the truth.3 It was not a
welcome task, but he felt himself divinely called to deal with the situation. Gaebelein remarks, Here is a very fine
illustration at the close of the New Testament of how the Word of God was given.4
Appealing ( ) indicates the character and tone as well as the contents of Judes letter. His approach is not
calmly didactic but hortatory, persuading with authority. In the words of Williams, Jude decided to rouse saints by
rasping sinners. 5 His ability to carry out this changed procedure bears witness to the versatility of Jude as he wrote
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Jude urged his readers to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. To contend
earnestly for ( ) is an expressive compound infinitive which appears only here in the New Testament.
The simple form of the verb ( ), which appears as agonize in its English form, was commonly used in
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connection with the Greek stadium to denote a strenuous struggle to overcome an opponent, as in a wrestling match. It
was also used more generally of any conflict, contest, debate, or lawsuit. Involved is the thought of the expenditure of
all ones energy in order to prevail. Here, as often, the verb is used metaphorically to denote a spiritual conflict in which
believers are engaged. According to Alford, the preposition in the compound gives the purpose for which the fight
is to be waged. 6 The defensive nature of the conflict is made clear by the following dative, for the faith. Mombert
pictures the force of the compound verb as to fight, standing upon a thing which is assaulted and which the adversary
desires to take away, and it is to fight so as to defend it, and to retain it. 7 The present tense indicates that such a
defense of the faith is a continuing duty for believers. But Woods remarks, These efforts are, it is surely unnecessary to
add, of a moral and persuasive nature only; all force of a physical nature being expressly forbidden the faithful. 8
The faith ( ) for which believers are to contend is the message of the gospel, that body of Christian truth
which brings salvation to the soul that receives it. The descriptive modifying phrase, which was once for all delivered
to the saints, makes it obvious that the reference is not to the believers` subjective faith but to the objective truths to
which believers firmly adhere. The Christian church from the very first accepted and taught specific truths as the basic
teaching of Christianity (Acts 2:42; 6:7; Rom. 6:17; Gal. 1:23; 3:23). The reference to such an objective body of
Christian truth which must be preserved from corruption does not suggest a post apostolic origin for this epistle. An
effective defence of the objective faith demands that its defenders continue to build themselves up on their most holy
faith (Jude 20).
Jude called for a positive defence of the faith, not merely the refutation of its opponents. While a negative element is
certainly involved, the true aim in the controversy must be the establishment of the truth rather than the discomfiture of
the opponents. Jude did not indicate how this defence of the faith is to be carried out. Historically Christendom has
resorted to many means in its conflicts with the enemies of the faith; it has used violence, anathemas added to creeds,
denunciations, ostracism, and excommunication, as well as reasoning with those espousing heretical views. An effective
defence of the gospel demands that Gods truths must be embodied in the life of the defender of the gospel. The final
argument for faith in the world is not the argument of words, but the argument of life. 9 To contend effectively for the
faith is costly and agonizing work. It is the duty of every believer to contribute toward the defence and preservation of
the faith. To do so they must show themselves saintly.
The faith for which they must contend is explicitly identified as the faith which was once for all delivered to the
saints ( ), literally, the once for all having been delivered to the saints
faith. All the modifiers stand between the article and the noun as declaring the intrinsic nature of the faith to be
defended. Any faith that does not have these characteristics is not worth defending.
Once for all delivered declares the finality of this faith. The adverb once ( ) does not simply denote a past
occurrence, which was once delivered (KJV). Here it has the usual classical sense, once only, once for all. 10 As
Ward notes, An apt commentary on it would be the Epistle to the Hebrews, concerned as it is with the finality of
Christ. 11
Further, this faith was delivered; it was not something which we have manufactured and discovered for ourselves. 12
It was authoritatively delivered as a precious deposit. It was delivered once for all; it was not given all at once. The
passive participle ( ) does not name the implied agent, but clearly this faith was delivered through Christ
and His apostles. The aorist tense simply records the fact of its transmission, received from a supernatural source. Such
a divinely given faith allows for no subsequent additions, and alterations such as the false teachers were seeking to
introduce. Nor does each new generation need a new revelation, for the foundation truths of the Christian faith are not
negotiable; the need is rather for each generation faithfully to study this revealed faith to see its application to their own
situation in their day.
This faith was entrusted to the saints, a common designation for believers in the early church (e.g., Acts 9:13, 32, 41;
26:10; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25-26; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:1; Eph. 1:1, 15; Phil. 4:21). It pictures them as consecrated to
God by being called out of the world, and therefore called to lead holy lives (1 Pet. 1:15-16). The term does not imply
present moral perfection in the persons so designated, but it implies them as a duty. To each individual Christian,
therefore, the name is at once an honour, an exhortation, and a reproach. 13
As delivered to the saints, this faith is not to be the possession of any one local body of believers, or church officials
within that church. The Christian faith comes down within the Church, is preserved within the Church, and is
understood within the Church. 14 For Jude the term saints marks the contrast between tine believers and the libertines
who are denounced in this epistle. By their lives, and their teaching to seek to justify their immoral conduct, they
revealed that they were not adhering to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Whosoever goeth onward and
abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God (2 John 9, ASV).

THE REASON FOR THE CHANGE IN PURPOSE


For ( ) introduces the explanation for the changed purpose in writing. Jude (a) indicated that the change was
because of the intrusion of certain persons into the churches (v. 4a), (b) referred to the prophetic announcement
concerning these individuals (v. 4b), and (c) stated their basic characteristics (v. 4c).

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The Intrusion of Certain Persons into the Churches (v. 4a)
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed ( ) tersely states the situation that
compelled Jude to write the present letter of warning and denunciation. The verb , a compound form
which occurs only here in the New Testament, basically means to go into and alongside of and settle down alongside
those already there. The term indicates a secret, stealthy, and subtle insinuation of something evil into a society or a
situation. 15 Judes statement records a subtle and crafty intrusion into the churches by people who have no right to be
there because they lack the characteristics of true believers as set forth in verse 1. They mingled with the people of God
and pretended to be true members, but in reality they were wearing a cloak of counterfeit faith and piety. In 2 Peter 2:1 a
kindred verb ( ) is used to picture the stealthy introduction of destructive heresies into the church.
Jude referred to these interlopers quite indefinitely as certain persons ( ), implying that they were a
decisive minority. Yet their presence was a cause of real concern for Jude. Mayor notes that the expression often has a
contemptuous signification as designating a notorious party 16 (cf 2 Cor. 10:10-12; Gal. 1:7). The term seems intended
to distinguish them from the saints in verse 3. Clearly Jude regarded them as the devils tares sown among the wheat
(Matt. 13:24-25, 38-39). He may have known their personal identity, it is clear that he knew about their moral identity.

The Prophetic Announcement concerning These Persons (v. 4b)


The indefinite reference to these persons is made specific by an appositional expression, those who were long
beforehand marked out for this condemnation. Their presence was a fulfilment of what had been foretold long
beforehand ( ). The adverb was used indefinitely to refer to something in the past, whether fairly recent or long
ago. In 2 Corinthians 12:19 the time interval can only be a few days or weeks at most, while in Mark 15:44 it cannot be
more than an hour. But in Hebrews 1:1 the term reaches back into Old Testament times. The adverb offers no difficulty
to the view of Lenski that Judes reference is to the prophecy in 2 Peter 2-3, 17 written only a few years before. More
common is the view that a longer time-interval is implied. In Jude 17 reference is made to the warnings of the apostles;
Pauls prophecy in Acts 20:29-30 may be intended. Or the reference may be to the teachings of Jesus (Matt. 7:15;
13:24-25; Mark 13:22). Still others think the reference is to the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Most probable is the view
that Jude had in mind the Old Testament predictions of such evil men. Wolff suggests that the reference here is to the
age-old prophecy of Enoch which is quoted in verses 14-15, as well as similar utterances in the Old Testament. 18 Judes
adverb leaves room for the fact that at various times predictions concerning the coming of such men had been made.
The coming of these men was long beforehand marked out ( ), more literally, written of
beforehand. The perfect tense denotes that the record, made in the past, still bears its testimony concerning these men.
The King James rendering, of old ordained to this condemnation, does not give the true force of the term. The verb
( ) occurs four times in the New Testament (Rom. 15:4; Gal. 3:1; Eph. 3:3; Jude 4) and never means ordain.
Its basic meaning is written before. The force of the preposition (pro-) in the compound may be understood in two
ways. Schrenk held that the compound here has the sense of the publication of lists of influential people who are
proscribed. . . . though with no suggestion of eternal reprobation. 19 Then the meaning is that the condemnation which
these men bring on themselves had been publicly written down long ago. More probable is the view that the preposition
denotes time, having been written of beforehand. Jude assured his readers that God will deal with these men as has
been foretold. Nor can these people plead ignorance concerning the sure consequences, for they have been warned that
they are headed for this condemnation.
But to what does this condemnation ( ) refer? The expression can be taken as looking back, but verse
3 offers no obvious point of reference. It is better to hold that the word this looks forward; but in what immediately
follows no explicit reference to their condemnation is forthcoming. The expression is general; the sentence awaiting
these men was already in Judes mind and is best understood as unfolded and illustrated by the threefold picture in
verses 5-7. Lenski holds that the word condemnation ( ) denotes result as indicating the official verdict of
guilty that has been pronounced on these men; he holds that their guilt is recorded in the three items which immediately
follow in verse 4. 20 But surely Jude had more in mind than merely establishing their guilt, he was also thinking of the
punishment that awaited them. Alford holds that the context gives a condemnatory meaning, this judgment. 21

The Characterisation of these Persons (v. 4c)


Following his reference to the destiny of these evil intruders, Jude added a brief but weighty description of their
character and conduct.
Ungodly persons ( ) delineates their character. They are devoid of all reverence for God, lacking reverential
awe toward God in thought and attitude. Ungodliness is a basic feature of the people denounced in this epistle. Here the
reference is to their inner attitude, in verse 15 the term depicts their shameful deeds and speech; in verse 18 it pictures
their illicit desires.
Who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness declares how their irreverence expresses itself in conduct. The
grace of our God ( ) does not refer to the abstract doctrine concerning Gods grace but
denotes the proffered gift of God in the free forgiveness of sins. The genitive of our God, standing attributively
between the article and the noun, unites Jude with his readers in their personal experience of this grace; but these
individuals failed to apprehend the transforming nature of this grace. Being devoid of reverence for God and lacking

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any appreciation of His holiness, they professed a wholehearted reception of Gods grace but in daily conduct they
were turning or altering the intended impact of that grace into a license for immorality (NIV). They maintained that
Gods grace freely and abundantly pardoned their sins, released them from the bondage of law, and gave them liberty to
follow freely the instincts and yearnings of their inner nature. Arguing from mercy to liberty, they justified their
antinomian conduct in the name of the gospel, turning this vaunted liberty into licentiousness ( ), or moral
debauchery. The present sense of the participle ( ) marks the continuing practice. Shamelessly they
plunged into the excesses of open indecency, into various kinds of camal defilement and fleshly debauchery.
The statement and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (
) affirms the climax of their sin. The object is again placed emphatically before the
governing participle, and our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ, denying (Rotherham). The identity of the One
denied makes the offense serious.
Scholars debate whether Jude referred to two or only one Person of the Godhead. In support of the former view it is
pointed out that in every other passage in the New Testament where [Master] occurs, except in 2 Peter ii. 1,
it is spoken of God the Father. 22 Further, the adjective only ( ) is elsewhere used of only the Father. Alford also
insists that the two nouns Master and Lord are hardly distinguishable if both are applied to Christ. 23 In favour of the
view that the reference is only to Jesus Christ is the grammatical construction; the use of only one article unites the two
nouns Master and Lord, thus referring to one Person who is appositionally identified as Jesus Christ. The pronoun
our ( ), placed immediately after the second of the two nouns united by and, naturally relates to both nouns and
underlines how Jude and his readers evaluate this Person in contrast to other men. Lawlor notes that the application of
the two terms Master and Lord to Jesus Christ is not mere tautology. was strictly the correlative of slave,
, and hence denoted absolute ownership and uncontrolled power; had a wider meaning either of property
or of absolutism. is a title of honor, distinction, rulership and authority. . . . 24 The two terms underline the
greatness of the Person of Jesus Christ. And Bigg remarks, If Christ may be called , He may also be called
in distinction not from the Father, but from all false masters. 25 This writer holds the view that Jude
was thinking of one Person as the object of the denial.
This glorious Person these immoral intruders blatantly deny ( , are repudiating or disowning). In the
words of Paul, They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him (Titus 1:16). But apparently they
justified their conduct on the basis of their doctrinal views. Kelly remarks, In view of the writers concern for doctrinal
purity in [verse] 3, the charge he is to advance in [verse] 8, and his emphasis on the only God in [verse] 25, it is
tempting to infer that their denial involved some kind of falsification of belief as well. 26 It seems clear that some form
of distortion of monotheism and Christology was involved. It is generally held that these apostates made a theoretical
denial of Christs Deity and Lordship by the form of incipient Gnosticism which they followed. 27

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Footnotes
1 C.E.B.Cranfield, I & II Peter and Jude , Torch Bible Commentaries,(London: SCM Press, 1960), p. 69.
2 Richard Wolff, General Epistles of James & Jude , Contemporary Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1969),
p. 96.
3 George Lawrence Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Co., 1972), p. 40.
4 Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible (reprint, Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), vol. 4, 2d sec., p. 178.
5 Nathaniel Marsham Williams, Commentary on the Epistle of Jude, in An American Commentary on the New Testament , vol. 7
(Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, n.d.), p. 8.
6 Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (reprint [4 vols. in 2], Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), 4:530.
7 G. F. C. Fronmller, The Epistle General of Jude, in Langes Commentary on the Holy Scriptures , with additions by J. Isidor
Mombert (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), p. 13.
8 Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1954),
p. 385.
9 G. Campbell Morgan, Living Messages of the Books of the Bible , 4 vols. (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1912), 4:203.
10 Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. Henry Stuart Jones (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p.
178.
11 Ronald A. Ward, The Epistles of John and Jude: A Study Manual , Shield Bible Study Series (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1965), p. 78.
12 William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude , The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1960), p. 209.
13 Alfred Plummer, The General Epistles of St. James and St. Jude , An Exposition of the Bible (Hartford: S. S. Scranton Co.,
1903), 6:646,
14 Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude , p. 210.
15 Ibid., p. 211.
16 Joseph B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. Jude and the Second Epistle of St. Peter (reprint, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian
Publishers, 1978), p. 24.
4
17 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House,
1966), pp. 621-23.
18 Richard Wolff, A Commentary on the Epistle of Jude (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), p. 57.
19 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament , s.v. , by Gottlob Schrenk (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1964), 1:771-72.
20 Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude , pp. 623-24.
21 Alford, The Greek Testament , 4:531.
22 J. B. Mayor, The General Epistle of Jude, in The Expositors Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Co., n.d.), 5:257.
23 Alford, The Greek Testament , 4:531.
24 Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude , p. 60, n. 57.
25 Charles Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude , The International Critical
Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T Clark, 1910), p. 327.
26 J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude , Harpers New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper
& Row, 1969), p. 253.
27 Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude , The Tyndale New Testament
Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), p. 162.

5
Selected Studies from Jude
Part 2: An Exposition of Jude 12-16
--
D. Edmond Hicbert

These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love-feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for
themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;
wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness
has been reserved forever. And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied,
saying, Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to
convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh
things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are grumblers, finding fault, following after
their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage (Jude 12-16).
Following the epistolary salutation (vv. 1-2), Jude indicated that his present communication was prompted by the
intrusion of immoral persons into the churches, requiring that his readers contend earnestly for the revealed faith in the
light of this dangerous situation (vv 3-4). In verses 5-7 Jude cited three examples to establish that these men were
subjects for the certain judgment of God. Beginning with verse 8 Jude launched his devastating attack on these insidious
intruders. In verses 8-11 he set forth their daring conduct, establishing that they were eminently worthy of divine
judgment. Having depicted their evil deeds, Jude continued his assault on these men with a figurative portrayal of
what they were (vv. 12-13), the prophetic verification of their doom (vv. 14-15), and a summary portrayal of their true
nature (v. 16).

THE FIGURATIVE DESCRIPTION OF THEIR CHARACTER

The character of these apostates, already glimpsed in the picture of their daring conduct, is depicted in verses 12-13 in a
series of five pointed metaphors, all drawn from nature. As Moffatt observes, Sky, land, and sea are ransacked for
illustrations of their character. 1 Each word picture is sharpened by additional descriptive expressions.

They Were Hidden Reefs (v. 12a)


The first metaphorical designation, These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love-feasts when they feast with
you without fear, caring for themselves, is arresting but is beset with difficulties both in relation to the text as well as in
its interpretation.
First is the textual variant concerning the presence or omission of the definite article in the first part of the verse. The
presence of the article is reflected in the above rendering, These men are those who are . . . ( ),
marking a distinct group. The King James rendering, These are . . . ( ), reflects the omission of the
definite article. The presence of the article has early textual support and though modern textual editors are not fully
agreed, they generally accept it as authentic. 2 The inclusion of the article makes the reading somewhat more difficult,
with two different grammatical constructions possible: (1) The rendering these are they who are . . . supplies the
participle with the article, these are the ones being. . ., and so is loosely connected with all five metaphors. (2)
The definite article may be taken with the following participle as substantival ( ), with what
stands between the two viewed as predicative. This is the view of Lenski who renders the construction, These are the
ones feasting along with you as filth-spots in your agapes. 3 But such an involved construction seems out of keeping
with the concise figures which follow in the context, and in effect this rendering eliminates Judes first metaphor. The
former construction is simpler and fully in accord with the context.
A further textual variant appears in connection with the expression in your love-feasts ( ).
Some manuscripts read , deceptions, a reading which may have arisen under the influence of 2 Peter 2:13.
Your love-feasts is undoubtedly the correct reading.

The clause these men are those who are hidden reefs in your love-feasts conveys the setting for Judes first metaphor.
The reference is not to ordinary meals or banquets but to a communal meal eaten by the early Christians in connection
with their church services to express and deepen brotherly love. These love-feasts apparently were held in the evening
at the conventional time of the evening meal and were intended to satisfy hunger. The food was brought by the various
members according to their ability and was shared with those who had little or nothing to bring. They were held in the
home where the local believers assembled. At first these congregational meals were apparently concluded with the
observance of the Lords Supper. Though intended to foster mutual love and sharing among believers, the situation at
Corinth makes clear that these feasts offered ready opportunity for conduct that destroyed rather than fostered the sense
of Christian brotherhood (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Because of such abuses these fellowship meals were soon separated from
the observance of the Lords Supper.
6
The word rendered hidden reefs ( ), used only here in the New Testament, was commonly used from the
time of Homer to denote a rock washed by the sea, a (hidden) reef. 4 It was also used of a reef visible above the
waters. Apparently the term was further used to mean a spot or stain, as an equivalent of the more common term
. 5 Perhaps this usage was prompted by the fact that when a rock rose above the surface of the water it sometimes
appeared as a spot on the water. Most commentators agree that this meaning gives better sense here, appealing to 2
Peter 2:13 for support. While spots makes good sense, Kelly replies that hidden rocks is more forceful, harmonizes
admirably with the writers penchant for vigorous imagery drawn from nature (see 12b-13) and agrees with patristic
exegesis. 6 Thus Judes picture refers not merely to the defiled nature of these men but to their pernicious impact on
believers in the local church, threatening the moral shipwreck of others.
The added words, when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves (
), clarify the scene. When they feast with you ( ) portrays these men as turning the
love-feasts into occasions for their own sumptuous feasting. With you, representing the preposition in the
compound, could mean that these men drew together at a separate table in selfish indifference to the needs of the poorer
members. That they instituted their own separate love-feasts is improbable. Jude seems rather to mean that these men
insisted on participating in these love-feasts, not to express mutual love and concern but to gratify their own appetites.
Their brazen self-indulgence revealed their true character.
Because of its position, the adverb without fear ( ) can be taken either with the preceding or the following
participle, with opinion as to which is correct being equally divided. The Revised Standard Version takes with
what precedes and renders the phrase as they boldly carouse together, making the adverb refer to their brazen
conduct. Or the term may denote their irreverent attitude, where they eat and drink without reverence (NEB). 7 Being
motivated only by the things which they understood naturally (v. 10), they were devoid of reverence for the spiritual
realities intended to be fostered by the love-feasts. If the adverb is taken with what follows, without fear shepherding
themselves, 8 the meaning is that their self-serving activities are carried on without any qualms of conscience.
The words caring for themselves ( ), recall the biblical warnings against false shepherds
(Ezek. 34:2, 8; Isa. 56:11; John 10:12-13). But this need not imply that these men were acting on shepherds in their
churches as some suggest. 9 Judes word order suggests that instead of caring for and nurturing the interests of the
people, their sole concern was to nurture their own interests and schemes. In the light of verse 4, they may have
professed to serve the interests of the people by promoting in word and deed the liberty that the gospel offered, but they
had no true desire to promote the spiritual welfare of the sheep or the concern of the Chief Shepherd.

They Were Waterless Clouds (v. 12b)


Judes second figure, clouds without water carried along by winds, vividly appealed to the experience of the readers.
Kelly observes, The traveller in Syria and Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel is often exasperated by heavy clouds which fail
to dissolve in rain and only augment the excessive heat. 10 The picture is the opposite of that given by Jesus in Luke
12:54.
These men appeared on the scene with their eloquent promises of refreshment and enrichment for those who would
follow them, but they produced nothing that contributed to the spiritual nurture of believers. Like clouds without
water ( ), they proved themselves to be spiritually barren. They aroused great expectations but left
behind no fructifying influence. The figure depicts their ostentatious and deceptive character.
The phrase, carried along by winds ( ), indicates more than their own instability, which
is the sense of the rendering carried about by winds (KJV). The latter would be the meaning if the preposition were
around, back and forth, as in Ephesians 4:14. The compound with , however, conveys the implication of
being carried alongside, off the right course. To follow such men would result in being led astray from the path of
truth and purity. Such a meaning is in accord with the thrust of this epistle.

They Were Autumn Trees (v. 12c)


The words autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted paint a graphic picture of the lifeless condition of these
men. Four attributives expand the figure which presents these apostates as trees. The adjective autumn
( ), used only here in the New Testament, is commonly understood to denote a time of late autumn at the
very end of the fruit harvest, which connotes that these trees have demonstrated their unproductive condition. But Kelly
suggests that since in near east countries the harvest normally falls well before late autumn, the adjective here points
rather to the season when trees shed their leaves, leaving the branches bare and leafless, with all growth sapped, at
the approach of winter. 11 In this case the figure would point to the lifeless nature of these apostates. Three other
adjectives confirm their lifeless state.
The apostates were without fruit ( ), not that their fruit had been removed, but they had not produced any fruit.
They were spiritually barren.
They were doubly dead ( ), stressing the spiritual plight of these men. This figure apparently was
intended to denote trees that were dead in appearance as well as in their inner state. The figure does not prove that these
men had once been spiritually alive but had apostatized into the death of sin. Williams insists, These men give no
evidence of ever having been regenerated. 12 Probably the arresting expression was intended to indicate their present
7
death in sin, being dead while they live (1 Tim. 5:6), which prefigured their eschatological second death (Rev. 2:11;
20:6; 21:8). Their present condition spoke of the fact of their coming second death.
Also they were like trees uprooted ( ), leaving no question of their hopeless state. The aorist passive
participle views the uprooting as already having taken place; judgment had already been exercised against them (cf
Matt. 15:13). An uprooted tree is an Old Testament symbol of divine judgment (Ps. 52:5; Prov. 2:22; Jer. 1:10). These
epithets lead to a natural climax: The apostates were fruitless, lifeless, and rootless.

They Were Wild Waves (v. 13a)


The phrase wild waves of the sea ( ) portrays the restless and unrestrained nature of these
men. Like the continually surging waves, these apostates were restless and untamed in their appetites and passions,
constantly dashing themselves against the divinely ordained barriers of order and morality.
Casting up their own shame like foam pictures the waves in uninterrupted succession dashing themselves on the
beach, leaving behind the debris and filth carried along on their crests. The public activities of these men expose their
own shame ( ), literally, their own shames, the varied shameful acts which they committed.
They were a reproach to the church and repulsive to God and His holiness.

They Were Wandering Stars (v. 13b)


Judes final figure, drawn from the stellar world, has been differently understood. Some understand wandering stars
( ) to refer to the planets, which (unlike the fixed stars by which mariners navigate) change their
position in the heavens and appear to violate the fixed order of creation. More probably the intended reference is to the
comets or shooting stars which flash across the sky and then disappear into darkness. These sensuous men appeared
on the scene, professing to bring new light to the people, but, having broken away from Gods established order, they
were destined to disappear in darkness.
For whom the black darkness has been reserved forever is a phrase that aptly concludes this figurative portrayal of
these apostates with a solemn reference to their sure fate. The double designation the black darkness (
) intensifies the picture of their fate -- separated from God and plunged into the most intense darkness. The
perfect tense, has been reserved ( ), denotes that their fate is firmly fixed and abiding. This is underlined by
the addition of forever ( ), the coming age which has no end, known as eternity. The biblical picture of the
fate of those who spurn the redemption wrought in Christ Jesus must be understood in the light of Gods loving
provision in Christ and His infinite holiness. Gods holiness cannot be flouted with impunity.

THE PROPHETIC VERIFICATION OF THEIR DOOM

Jude, after having described the character of the apostates, undergirded his attack on these sensuous intruders with an
appeal to prophecy (vv. 14-15), showing that their judgment is prophetically established. The emphatic position of
prophesied as the first word in the sentence marks the importance of this prophetic message. Jude called attention to
the prophetic speaker (v. 14a) and recorded the contents of his arresting prophetic utterance (w. 14b-15).

The Identity of the Prophetic Messenger (v. 14a)


In Hebrews 11:5 Enoch is set forth as a unique hero of faith, the first person to be translated to heaven without
undergoing death. Only here in Jude 14 is Enoch explicitly identified as a prophet, unique because he belonged to the
pre-Flood period of human history.
The phrase in the seventh generation from Adam reflects the Hebrew inclusive method of counting, for Enoch was
actually the sixth generation after Adam (Gen. 5:4-20, 1 Chron. 1:1-3). Including Adams generation makes Enochs
generation the seventh. As a devout man who was taken up by God Himself, and as the seventh from Adam
( ), Enoch came to be viewed as a model of righteousness and spiritual knowledge. Assuming that
his translation assured that he was knowledgeable concerning the secrets of the supernatural world, various apocryphal
works came to be ascribed to his name.
The apocryphal Book of Enoch, compiled during the first century B.C. from some apocryphal works belonging to the
last two centuries B.C., exerted a strong and widespread influence on Jewish and early Christian literature. The Book of
Enoch was highly regarded by some early Christian writers like Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. There was a
feeling that Judes use of the book supported its inspiration. But later when the book fell into disfavor in the Western
church, according to the testimony of Jerome, 13 many questioned the Epistle of Jude because of its quotation from the
Book of Enoch.
When Jude wrote, Enoch . . . prophesied saying ( ), he clearly accepted it as a
historical fact. The prophecy is not recorded in the Old Testament, nor mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, but
it is found in the Book of Enoch (1:9) with some variations. 14 It seems clear that early Christian writers assumed that the
quotation was drawn from the Book of Enoch. But this does not mean that Jude accepted the Book of Enoch as inspired

8
or that he approved of all its contents. It simply means that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he accepted the
statement as true.
Such a revelation to Enoch from God is consistent with what is scripturally known about him. Some interpreters like
Macknight, 15 Jamieson, 16 and Coder 17 believe that the name of Enochs son Methuselah (Gen. 5:21, 25), indicates that
Enoch indeed was a prophet. While the name Methuselah is generally assumed to mean man of a dart, others think
that it more probably means man of sending forth, 18 or better, he dies, and it [the Flood] is sent. 19 If this is true,
then the very name given his son embodies an even earlier prophecy by Enoch. According to Hebrew chronology
Methuselah died in the year the Flood came. The Bible makes it clear that the birth of Methuselah was a crucial
experience in Enochs life, marking the beginning of his walk with God (Gen. 5:22). The first revelation to him would
naturally lead to the further revelation of the coming of the Lord in judgment.

The Content of the Prophetic Message (vv. 14b- 15)


Enochs prophecy pictured the manner of the Lords return (v. 14b) and declared its purpose (v. 15).
The clause Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones (v. 14b) declares the manner of Christs
coming. Behold calls special attention to the eschatological scene, while came expresses the certainty of His
coming. In keeping with the prophetic style, the aorist tense ( ) underlines the certainty of the event by
dramatically portraying it as an already accomplished fact. Judes use of the Lord ( ) makes clear that the
returning One is none other than the glorified Jesus Christ.
The words with many thousands of His holy ones ( ) depict the royal manner of His
return, as surrounded by a vast concourse of court attendants. Many thousands ( ) specifically means ten
thousands, but often the plural, as is the case here, was used to denote an innumerable multitude. Holy ones ( )
denotes the moral character of these attendants; the term is broad enough to include saints as well as angels.

Two infinitive clauses depict the activities of the coming Judge. The Hebrew parallelism is well set forth in
Rotherhams literal rendering:
To execute judgment against all,
And to convict all the ungodly --
Of all their works of ungodliness which they committed in ungodliness,
And of all the hard things which they have spoken against him
-- sinners, ungodly! 20
The first stated activity is general, the second specific, pointing out the inevitable consequences of Gods work in
judgment. Two specific concepts, each made prominent by being mentioned four times, are stressed: All conveys the
universality of the Judgment and ungodly underlines the character of those judged.
The words to execute judgment upon all declare the fundamental activity of the Judge. Judgment ( ) points to
the process of examining the evidence and making a resultant decision, pronouncing the verdict on those who are
judged. Upon all ( ) underlines the scope of Gods work; none will be overlooked; none will escape. The
phrase, better rendered against all, denotes that the verdict, based on the evidence, will be down on or against the
guilty here designated as the ungodly.
The specific purpose of the judgment will be to convict all the ungodly for their guilt in deed and word. To convict
( ) involves more than bringing in the evidence; it includes refuting the arguments of the guilty and establishing
beyond all doubt their guilt, to their own shame. They will be proved to be the ungodly, devoid of true reverence for
God in their lives.
Conviction of these individuals will be on two counts. The first count is all their deeds, all their ungodly deeds which
they have done in an ungodly way. As Wolff observes, Ungodly deeds may be performed by persons who have a form
of godliness. Every action that proceeds from an unholy, unrepentant heart is an ungodly deed. 21 Which they have
done in an ungodly way ( ) points not to sins committed in unintentional weakness but to impious deeds
which naturally arose out of their ungodly nature. The second count is related to all the harsh things which ungodly
sinners have spoken against Him. All the harsh things ( ), refers to the mass of rough, hard, and
offensive utterances they have expressed. Their guilt will lie in the fact that they uttered them against Him (
), against the Lord, Christ the Judge. All their speeches in defiance of Christ were placed on record and they will
be held accountable to Him. The unusual position of the words ungodly sinners ( ), placed for
emphasis at the end gives them the effect of an exclamation, godless sinners that they are! 22

THE SUMMARY PORTRAYAL OF THEIR NATURE

Verse 16 completes Judes denunciation of the libertines whose presence in the churches evoked his letter. The word
these ( ), like an accusing finger, once more points out these ungodly men (cf. vv. 8, 10, 12). Since no

9
connecting particle is used, this verse seems clearly to be Judes concluding touch in the denunciation he began in verse
8. It is a summary portrayal of their character and conduct.
Two designations, grumblers, finding fault ( ), depict their attitude of personal
dissatisfaction. The first term depicts them as individuals dominated by a smoldering discontent which expresses itself,
not in loud outspoken outcries, but in muttered undertones. The very sound of the word imitates the low grumbling
denoted. Jude does not indicate the object of their grumbling, but obviously they expressed dissatisfaction with anything
and everything that was not in accord with their desire. He who is out of touch with God is prone to grumble about
anything.
The second term, finding fault ( ), may be taken either as a noun, complainers (ASV), 23 or as an
adjective modifying the preceding noun, as in the rendering above. In either view the first term is general and the second
is more specific, denoting an attitude of dissatisfaction and fault-finding with ones lot in life.
The participial modifier, following after their own lusts ( ), pictures their
course of conduct as governed, not by the Word of God, but by their own lusts, their sinful desires and cravings. The
inevitable result is dissatisfaction with what life brings them.
The remainder of the verse depicts the conduct of these men in relation to others: They speak arrogantly, flattering
people for the sake of gaining an advantage. They speak arrogantly ( ), more
literally, their mouth speaketh great swelling words (ASV), centers attention on their bombastic public utterances. The
word arrogantly ( ), a neuter plural adjective, denotes swollen and extravagant speech. Since Jude in verses
4 and 8 had already pictured these men as repudiating divine authority over their lives, it seems that here their arrogant
speech was not about themselves but was about their arrogant and presumptuous assertions about God.
Their proud refusal to submit themselves to the authority of God was accompanied by a cringing, unblushing
submission to others for the sake of personal gain: flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. Flattering
people ( ), literally, admiring faces, is a Hebraism denoting a flattering admiration of
persons, important individuals whom they sought to impress for the sake of gaining an advantage ( ),
for profits sake (Rotherham), 24 but not necessarily for financial profit. They show warm interest in others, not to help
them but to exploit them for personal advantage. Mayor observes, As the fear of God drives out the fear of man, so
defiance of God tends to put man in His place, as the chief source of good or evil to his fellows. 25 Whenever men
refuse God His rightful place in their lives, they inevitably replace Him with inferior gods of their own making.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Footnotes
1 James Moffatt, The General Epistles, James, Peter and Judas , Moffatt New Testament Commentaries (London: Hodder and
Stoughton, 1947), p. 239.
2 The article appears in the Greek texts of Wescott and Hort, Alexander Souter, United Bible Societies text, Nestle-Aland, and in
Novum Testamentum Graece (Stuttgart: Deutsche Biblestiftung, 26th ed., 1979). R. V. G. Tasker, The Greek New Testament, Being
the Text Translated in the New English Bible (Oxford: University Press, 1964) and Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, eds., The
Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982) follow the Textus Receptus in
omitting the article.
3 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House,
1966), p. 634.
4 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 770.
5 Ibid.
6 J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude , Harpers New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper &
Row, 1969), p. 270.
7 Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Co., 1962);
New English Bible (Oxford & Cambridge: University Press, 1970).
8 Robert Young, The Holy Bible Consisting of the Old and New Covenants Translated according to the Letter and Idiom of the
Original Languages (reprint, London: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.).
9 As Bennett states, The word used implies that the ungodly set themselves up as teachers or church officials, and availed
themselves of this position to live in luxury. W. H. Bennett, The General Epistles, James, Peter, John, and Jude, in The Century
Bible, A Modern Commentary (London: Blackwood, Le Bass & Co., n.d.), p. 337. Note also Robert Robertsons comment: The
false brethren were false shepherds or false leaders, setting themselves up as guides in the Church (The General Epistle of Jude,
in The New Bible Commentary , ed. F. Davidson [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953], p. 1165).
10 J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude , p. 272.
11 Ibid.
12 Nathaniel Marsham Williams, Commentary on the Epistle of Jude, in An American Commentary on the New Testament
(Philadelphia: American Baptist Publishing Society, n.d.), 7:16.
13 Concerning Jude, Jerome wrote: Jude, the brother of James, left a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven catholic
epistles, and because in it he quotes from the apocryphal Book of Enoch it is rejected by many. Nevertheless by age and use it has

10
gained authority and is reckoned among the Holy Scriptures (Lives of Illustrious Men, in A Selected Library of Nicene and Post-
Nicene Fathers , ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace [reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975], 13:362).
14 See Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1909), 2:286, for a display of Judes prophecy
(vv. 14-15) and the prophecy in the Book of Enoch (1:9) in the Greek, Ethiopic, and Latin translations.
15 James Macknight, A New Literal Translation from the Original Greek, of all the Apostolical Epistles, with a Commentary, and
Notes, 6 vols. (London, 1881; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), 6:206.
16 Robert Jamieson, Genesis, in A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments , 6 vols.
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1945), 1:82.
17 S. Maxwell Coder, Jude: The Acts of the Apostates (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), pp. 86-89.
18 Patrick Fairbairn, Fairbairns Imperial Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Historical, Biographical, Geographical and Doctrinal , 6
vols. (1891; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957), 4:234.
19 A. R. Fausset, Bible Cyclopedia, Critical and Expository (Hartford, CT: S. S. Scranton Co., 1902), p. 471.
20 Joseph Bryant Rotherham, The Emphasized New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1959).
21 Richard Wolff, A Commentary on the Epistle of Jude (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), p. 113.
22 Twentieth Century New Testament: A Translation into Modern English (reprint, Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.).
23 American Standard Version of the Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Translated Out of the Original Tongues
(New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1901).
24 Rotherham, The Emphasized New Testament .
25 Joseph B. Mayor, The General Epistle of Jude, in The Expositors Greek Testament , ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, 5 vols. (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.), 5:272.

11
Selected Studies from Jude
Part 3: An Exposition of Jude 17-23
--
D. Edmond Hiebert

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that they were saying to you, In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own
ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you,
beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love
of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who
are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the
garment polluted by the flesh (Jude 17-23).
Following the opening salutation (vv. 1-2), Jude explained that his letter was prompted by the intrusion of immoral
persons into the churches (vv. 3-4). Before beginning his own denunciation of these evil men, Jude assured his readers
of Gods judgment on such individuals by citing three examples of His incisive judgment on aggressive evildoers in the
past (vv. 5-7). Judes sustained denunciation of the present apostates is given in verses 8-16. But Judes pastoral heart
was concerned with not only denouncing the apostates but also supporting and strengthening the saints amid apostasy.
In verses 17-23 he offered three major directives to equip his readers to understand and effectively combat the situation.
Jude called on his beloved readers to have an awareness of apostasy as foretold by the apostles (vv. 17-19), to foster
their own spiritual maturity for security amid apostasy (vv. 20-21), and to act savingly toward those who have been
contaminated by the apostates (vv. 22-23).

THE EXHORTATION TO AWARENESS OF APOSTASY

But you, beloved, ( ) marks Judes shift from his sustained denunciation of the apostates (vv. 8-
16) to his loving exhortations to the faithful members of the church. He urged them to remember the apostolic
prediction concerning the coming apostates (vv. 17-18), and he added a final characterization of the apostates they were
confronting (v. 19).

The Apostolic Prediction of the Mockers (vv. 17-18)


You ought to remember ( ) renders an aorist imperative, remember ye, and conveys a sense of urgency.
Judes readers were to recall the apostolic prediction as conveying needed present guidance. Attention to that message
would assure strength and victory in their critical situation.
The coming of these ungodly people was to be expected. The ancient prophecy of Enoch (vv. 14-15) and the recent
apostolic warning agreed on the matter. The words that were spoken beforehand marks the message as distinctly
prophetic and as retaining abiding validity and value. These messengers were no ordinary men; they were the apostles
of our Lord Jesus Christ, His chosen and commissioned personal representatives. With his use of the full confessional
title our Lord Jesus Christ, Jude united himself with his readers as committed to this same Lord. The expression is
most naturally understood as implying that Jude himself was not one of those apostles.
That they were saying to you indicates that warnings about the future were a recognized feature of the apostolic
preaching. Were saying ( ) implies oral teaching, but the expression readily includes statements that were
conveyed in writing (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18; 4:1-3). Whether the readers had heard the
apostles in person, Jude knew they were familiar with their message. Jude presented the message as a direct quotation:
In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts (v. 18).
The formulation of the prophecy is remarkably similar to that in 2 Peter 3:3-4; the differences between them are minor.
Both use the word mockers ( ), which, as Plummer notes, is a very unusual word, not used by profane
writers, nor anywhere else in the New Testament; in the Septuagint it occurs only once (Isa. iii. 4), and there apparently
in the sense of childish persons. 1 Those who reject the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter generally conclude that its actual
composer drew the term from the Epistle of Jude. But others, like Fronmller, affirm that this verse supplies one of the
chief proofs of the priority of the second Epistle of Peter. 2 Green, however, supports the view that both writers drew
from a common source by appealing to the different use the two writings make of this quotation. Peter applies it to the
mockers who were making fun of the second coming. Jude gives no suggestion that this was the butt of their ribaldry. 3
Accepting the priority of 2 Peter, this writer suggests that Jude had read that letter shortly before feeling constrained to
write his epistle; the situation he confronted brought Peters prediction of the mockers vividly to mind.
The phrase in the last time ( ) indicates that the fulfilment of the apostolic prediction takes
place on or during the time having the character or quality of being last. The reference is to the present Church
Age, the period between the Incarnation and the Parousia. With the first advent of Christ the powers of the future

12
eschatological kingdom entered the scene of human history (Heb. 6:5) and will receive their final manifestation at His
return in glory. The present age has an eschatological character; it marked the close of the preceding preparatory ages
(Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20) and will culminate with the messianic return in salvation and judgment. Christ had taught His
disciples to live in the expectation of His return (Matt. 24:44; 25:1-13). While they did not know when He would come
(Mark 13:32), what they saw around them encouraged them to feel that the end might be near. Certainly the awareness
of apostasy and its significance, which Jude impressed on his readers, is most fittingly applied to the present generation.
Unlike 2 Peter 3:3-4, Jude made no mention of the object of scoffing on the part of these mockers, individuals who
treat with contempt and ridicule things of vital importance. Instead, his stress was on the ungodly character and conduct
of these individuals.
The phrase following after their own ungodly lusts ( )
explains their conduct. Their individual lusts or cravings that directed their course of action are stamped as being
ungodly ( ), literally, of the ungodlinesses. The genitive plural, standing as the last word in the
statement, may be understood as descriptive of their personal lusts, inseparably linked with ungodliness. Or the genitive
may be subjective, meaning that their ungodliness gave rise to their lusts. Thus Williams remarks, From ungodliness as
bad soil grew lusts which were a legitimate product of such soil. 4 It is equally possible that the genitive is objective,
meaning that these mockers were guided by their own lusts for different manifestations of ungodliness. 5 Because of
the plural, the last option seems most probable. These mockers were then portrayed as ever intent on experiencing the
thrills of new forms of ungodliness.

The Final Picture of the Apostates (v. 19)


The evil men intruding into the churches (v. 4) fit the apostolic picture: These are the ones who cause divisions,
worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. For the last time Jude employed the withering demonstrative these (cf. vv. 8,
10, 12, 14, 16). Again he reverted to a three-part identification that marks these apostates as a distinct group.
The phrase the ones who cause divisions ( ) is a rare expression, appearing only here in the New
Testament. The compound participle is based on the verb , to limit, to set a line or boundary, with two
prepositions, , through or making a distinction between, and off, to mark the separation produced by the
distinguishing boundary line. Judes expression pictures these men as those who draw a line through the church and set
off one part from another. 6 How they did this is not indicated.
Some commentators would understand the term to denote the exclusiveness of these men, withdrawing themselves from
others to form their own groups. This view finds support from the use of the reflexive themselves ( ) in some
manuscripts: they who separate themselves (KJV). But the pronoun is weakly supported, 7 and modern editors agree in
omitting it. The view that these apostates were outwardly separating themselves runs counter to the statement in verse 4
and the picture painted of them in verse 12 as boldly pressing forward to participate in the Christian love feasts.
Others think that the reference is to the divisions produced in the Christian community by the disruptive Gnostic
classifications that these men insisted on. They arrogantly regarded themselves as being the spiritually elite, maintaining
that they had intellectually and spiritually arrived and were not bound by the moral requirements and restrictions
necessary for other members of the church. But it is improbable that the sharply defined Gnostic distinctions implied by
this view were already prevalent when Jude wrote.
Jude apparently meant that these men cause divisions by the impact of their conduct and teaching on the Christian
community. Whatever their claims, as others observed and listened to these men, some agreed with them and divisions
were made in the congregation, destroying its inner unity. The result was the direct opposite of the appeal in verses 20-
21 to build themselves up in their faith.
Wo additional features depict the inner state of these men; they were worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. Worldly-
minded ( ), more literally, soulish, or that which pertains to the soul, depicts them as governed only by their
soul, the self-conscious life that animates the body. In biblical usage this adjective relates to the life of the natural
world and whatever belongs to it, in contrast to the supernatural world. 8 The term does not refer to the gross lusts of
the flesh but rather relates to the powers and endowments of unregenerated human nature, man as he is in Adam. Judes
expression stamps these individuals as being governed by their natural powers and impulses rather than by their spirit,
which is the recipient of the Holy Spirit, uniting man to God.
Their soulish state was the inevitable consequence of the following negative, devoid of the Spirit (
, lit., spirit not having). Expositors differ on whether the reference is to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit.
The absence of the definite article or any qualifying adjective does not decide the issue. Jude could not have meant that
these men do not have a spirit, the higher part of their nonmaterial being, nor can the expression mean that man is
dichotomous until conversion, when he becomes trichotomous. 9 If the reference is to the human spirit, the meaning is
not that part of their human constitution had been annihilated but that their spiritual part had become so bemired with
self-indulgence and self-sufficiency as to be practically nullified.
It is simpler here to understand the reference to be to the Holy Spirit, whose presence in the individual was regarded as
the distinguishing feature of the Christian. 10 This view is favored by the occurrence of the term in the following verse.
Huther notes that nothing worse can be said of a man who desires to be esteemed a Christian than that he wants the

13
Holy Spirit. 11 This view goes to the bottom of their situation, explaining most naturally the fact of their ungodliness
and immorality.

THE DIRECTIVE FOR SECURITY AMID APOSTASY

Verses 20-21 offer pastoral guidance to believers amid apostasy. In the words of Litfin, Jude reminded his readers that
the best thing believers can do to withstand the malady is to develop their spiritual immunological resources. 12 The
heart of Judes directive is, keep yourselves in the love of God (v 21a). It is the only direct command in these two
verses; three participial clauses, structurally subordinate to this command, set forth further elements involved. The two
preceding participial clauses (v. 20) indicate by what means the central directive is effected, while the following
participial clause indicates the expectant attitude that flows out of the directive (v. 21b).

The Activities Undergirding Security (v. 20)


Two activities, the first general and the second specific, undergird the central duty. Building yourselves up on your
most holy faith points out the need for continued spiritual growth for security amid apostasy. Building up
( ) depicts this growth under the familiar figure of the erection of a house or temple. The compound
verb points to the superstructure being reared on an existing foundation. The present tense underlines the fact that the
building of a strong and stable Christian character is an ongoing process. The elements of this character-construction are
enumerated in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Failure to maintain such growth spells danger (2 Pet. 1:8-9).
The reflexive pronoun yourselves ( ) makes clear that they are individually responsible for their growth. The
divine bestowal of life imparts the ability and desire to grow, but they must individually cooperate in fostering their
spiritual growth. Regular feeding on the Word of God produces the growth (Acts 20:32) and immunizes against the
deceptions and denials of the apostates.
A building that will withstand the floods of heresy must be built on [the foundation of] your most holy faith (
). The expression can be understood with an instrumental sense and rendered building up
yourselves by means of your most holy faith. 13 But the context makes it preferable to take your most holy faith as
denoting the foundation on which the Christian life is founded. Faith ( ) here is not subjective, the personal
faith that they exercise (which would be a very unreliable foundation), but rather the objective faith which was once for
all delivered to the saints (v. 3). Your most holy faith acknowledges that the readers have personally appropriated
this faith as their own and evaluate it as most holy ( ). The adjective, applied to faith only here in the
New Testament, is a true superlative, not merely elative (very holy). As most holy it is separate and distinct from all
other faiths because of its origin and transmission, as well as because of the holiness it produces in those who build their
lives on it. Because the Spirit inspired this faith, genuine spirituality is its fruit. 14 It stands in marked contrast to the
vile and shifty doctrines which the libertines profess and uphold. 15
Praying in the Holy Spirit, the second activity fostering spiritual growth, characterizes the operation of the inner life.
The development of spiritual maturity is vitally related to the practice of prayer at all times and in all places. Praying
( ) is a comprehensive term and covers all forms of prayer. In usage the term was restricted to prayer
addressed to the gods or to the true God. It thus implies a reverential attitude.
The phrase in the Holy Spirit marks the sphere of the praying, as if immersed in the Holy Spirit and shut off from the
worlds evil. 16 The picture is parallel to Romans 8:26-27, where Paul portrayed the Holy Spirit as prompting,
purifying, and directing prayer in harmony with the will of God. Jude called for praying out of hearts and souls that are
indwelt, illuminated, and filled by the Holy Spirit. 17

The Duty Embodying Security (v. 21a)


The command keep yourselves in the love of God ( ) states the essence of their
responsibility for developing immunity amid apostasy. Keep ( ) as an aorist imperative calls for urgent self-
discipline, while yourselves ( ), standing emphatically forward, again indicates that their own vital interests
are involved. Having experienced Gods love in His keeping grace (v. 1), they must work in cooperation with Him (cf.
Phil. 2:12-13).
The love of God ( ) maybe understood as denoting their love for God or Gods love for them. If the
former, then the call is for them to stand firm and steadfast in their love for God amid defection. More probably the
meaning is that they are urged to keep themselves in the sphere of Gods love. The expression the love of God is
balanced by the mercy of Jesus Christ in the following clause, where the genitive is clearly subjective. Man does not
control Gods love for him, but, as Moffatt notes, His love has its own terms of communion. 18 Jude was asking his
readers consciously to keep themselves in Gods love, like a doctor telling his patient, Keep yourself in the sunshine.
They must be alert to keep anything from clouding their consciousness of His love. Such alertness involves the human
will and so is a proper subject for a command. Jesus told His disciples, Abide in My love, and He indicated that this
was conditioned on their obedience (John 15:9-10). To be conscious of being beloved by God is one of the greatest
protections that the believer can possess. 19

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The Expectation Accompanying Security (v. 21b)
Those who now experience the consciousness of Gods love naturally have an expectant attitude toward the future:
waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. The present tense participle waiting
anxiously for ( ) denotes an eager expectancy, a readiness to welcome what is awaited. Such an
eschatological hope keeps present realities in true perspective.
This hope awaits the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, the mercy that will be bestowed by the One whom believers now
acclaim as our Lord Jesus Christ. The expression is a reminder that salvation is never a matter of personal merit or
achievement but totally a matter of mercy based on the atonement wrought on the Cross. Believers recognize that the
Rapture will be the consummating evidence of His mercy. 20 In using the full confessional title our Lord Jesus Christ
Jude again united himself with his readers in this blessed hope.
The anticipated mercy at the return of Christ will be consummated in eternal life, which means more than endless
existence. Eternal life is qualitative, not merely quantitative. It is life in its highest and fullest sense, life as God has it.
Through faith in Jesus Christ believers already possess eternal life (John 3:14-16,36; 1 John 5:11-12), but the phrase to
eternal life ( ) looks to the final manifestation of that life, consummating in final and complete
conformity to the image of the Lord (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:29).
The riches of these two verses, realized and appropriated, offer an effective antidote to the lures of the apostates. The
Christian life is viewed as having an inward look relating to the development of character, an upward look relating to
communion with God, and a forward look being consummated in final glorification. There is also a carefully formulated
reference to the Trinity -- the Holy Spirit, the Father, and Jesus Christ.

THE DUTY TOWARD THE VICTIMS OF APOSTASY

Jude further counseled his readers, the recipients of Gods mercy, to seek diligently to be the divine agents of mercy
toward those who are weak and are deceived by the apostates (vv. 22-23). The coordinating conjunction and ( )
lays this demand as a parallel duty on those being urged to further their own immunity against infection from apostasy.
The general sense of the exhortation in these verses is clear, but there is great uncertainty concerning the exact reading
of verses 22-23. Some manuscripts distinguish three classes, while others indicate only two. 21 This writer accepts as
most probable the Greek text that marks three classes, as represented in the NASB. 22 According to this reading, Jude
mentioned those who need compassionate aid (v. 22), those whose condition demands urgent effort (v. 23a), and those
whose defilement requires pity with caution (v. 23b). Jude expected his readers to be able to distinguish each group.

Those Needing Compassionate Aid (v. 22)


Have mercy on some, who are doubting marks a distinct group characterized by their intellectual confusion and
uncertainty. 23 Who are doubting ( ), an accusative participle describing this group, may be taken as
disputing or as doubting. The former is the probable meaning if the preceding verb is , convince or
refute, instead of the milder imperative , have mercy on. Then the meaning is that their intellectual
difficulties must be sharply opposed and refuted. If the imperative is have mercy on, the characterizing participle
more probably means doubting, wavering as in Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; Romans 4:20; and James 1:6. The
picture, then, is that of earnest doubters who are unable to make up their minds for or against the truth. In this case the
meaning is a call to deal compassionately with those who are in inner turmoil.

Those Whose Condition Demands Aggressive Action (v. 23a)


The words save others, snatching them out of the fire mark a second group, individuals who are characterized as
being in imminent danger, which calls for aggressive action on their behalf. Save calls for an activity that is strictly
applicable only to God, but God desires to use His people to effect the salvation of individuals in spiritual peril. The
identity of the peril that calls for aggressive action is not indicated.
Snatching them out of the fire calls for strenuous, aggressive action and is apparently a proverbial expression for
rescuing someone from great danger, like snatching an individual from a burning building. The figure seems to suggest
that the one thus rescued has come to see his own peril. The figure out of the fire ( ) has been variously
understood. Some see it as a reference to the present life, others to the fire of eternal hell. Moffatt understands the
reference to be to the fire of immoral temptations set ablaze by these libertine religionists. 24 Others think of the
consequences of sin in this life generally. Lawlor understands the fire to denote the severe chastening judgment of
God on believers for yielding to sin or false teaching. 25 Others, like Coder, insist that the reference is to the fires of hell
awaiting the unsaved. 26

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Those Whose Pollution Requires Personal Caution (v. 23b)
Judes command and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh points to a third
group so polluted that they can only be dealt with in cautious compassion to avoid contamination by their sins. They are
teetering on the brink of ruin, with meager probability of being turned back. Toward such individuals, Christians must
feel pity and compassion and give them loving help insofar as is possible. The attitude enjoined is the very opposite of
gloating over rejectors of the truth because they will get what they deserve.
The outreach to such individuals must be with fear ( ). Fear is here generally understood to denote a sense
of caution or apprehension lest they too be defiled by the pollution. Kelly, however, holds that this fear is not so much
apprehension of being infected themselves (that is covered by the next clause) as the specifically religious dread, or awe
of God, which features so largely in the Old Testament and is so much insisted on in 1 Peter (i. 17; ii. 17, 18; iii. 2,
16). 27 Such reverential awe, springing out of a strong sense of Gods holiness, is the best immunization against
infectious evil.
Such godly fear will prompt an attitude of hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Hating ( )
does not prescribe a malicious or antagonistic attitude but rather a proper feeling of aversion and loathing. Sin is the
only thing which God hates; so ought we. 28 The object of hatred is not the people but their garment, characterized as
polluted by the flesh. The garment ( ) denotes the tunic or inner garment wom next to the skin. Just
as the impurity of a leper contaminated his garment, so the inner moral nature of these individuals defiles their intimate
relationships of life. Flesh here denotes their corrupt unregenerated human nature which has become an active agent
of evil.
Christians cannot be merely indifferent to such men nor avoid them with a holier-than-thou attitude. With a deep feeling
of compassion for them, they are to act helpfully toward them as opportunity affords, but they must ever be careful not
to be brought under the power of the deadly contamination that clings to the practices and surroundings of such
individuals. The zeal to win souls must be combined with holy wisdom and prudence.

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Footnotes
1 Alfred Plummer, The General Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, in An Exposition of the Bible , 6 vols. (Hartford, CT: The S. S.
Scranton Co., 1903),6:662.
2 G. F. C. Fronmller, The Epistle General of Jude, in Langes Commentary on the Holy Scriptures , 25 vols. (reprint, Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), 24:28.
3 Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary , The
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), p. 181.
4 Nathaniel Marshman Williams, Commentary on the Epistle of Jude, in An American Commentary on the New Testament , 7
vols. (reprint, Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, n.d.), 7:19.
5 R. C. H. Lenski, TheInterpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House,
1966), p. 655.
6 Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament , 4vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1946),
1:721.
7 For the evidence see Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece , 26th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979). It is not
recognized as a probable variant in the Greek text of the United Bible Societies, The Greek New Testament , ed. Kurt Aland et al.,
2d ed. (New York: American Bible Society, 1966) nor in The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text , ed. Zane C.
Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).
8 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 902.
9 Edwin A. Blum, Jude, in The Expositors Bible Commentary , ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1981), 12:394.
10 J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles St. Peter and St. Jude , Westminster Commentaries (London: Methuen & Co., 1934), p. 218.
11 Johann Edward Huther, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude, in Meyers
Commentary on the New Testament , 11 vols. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, Publishers, 1887), 10:696.
12 A. Duane Litfin, A Biblical Strategy for Confronting the Cults, Bibliotheca Sacra 135 (July-September 1978):235.
13 Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude , p. 656.
14 Albert E. Barnett, The Epistle of Jude, in The Interpreters Bible, 12 vols. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), 12:338.
15 Plummer, The General Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, p. 665.
16 Ray Summers, Jude, in The Broadman Bible Commentary , 12 vols. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), 12:239.
17 George Lawrence Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Co., 1972), p. 127.
18 James Moffatt, The General Epistles, James, Peter, and Judas , The Moffatt New Testament Commentary (London: Hodder and
Stoughton, 1947), p. 244.
19 Plummer, The General Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, p. 665.

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20 Edward C. Pentecost, Jude, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary , New Testament edition, ed. John F Walvoord and Roy B.
Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), p. 923.
21 Souter, the United Bible Societies Greek text, and Nestle-Aland, 26th ed., accept a text distinguishing three classes. The Textus
Receptus ; Wescott and Hort; Nestle-Aland, 24th ed.; Tasker; and Hodges and Farstad accept a text distinguishing two classes.
22 So also ASV, NIV, RSV, Weymouth, Berkeley, Jerusalem Bible.
23 The KJV rendering making a difference is based on the Textus Receptus , which has the participle in the nominative case
( ), referring to the readers themselves as they deal with various individuals.
24 Moffatt, The General Epistles, James, Peter, and Judas , p. 244.
25 Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude , p. 134.
26 S. Maxwell Coder, Jude: The Acts of the Apostates (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), p. 116.
27 J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude, Harpers New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper
& Row, 1969). p. 289.
28 A. R. Fausset, The General Epistle of Jude, in A Commentary Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testament , by
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1945), 6:654.

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