William Kelly Major Works Commentary - Jude 1:1 - 1:25

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William Kelly Major Works Commentary - Jude 1:1 - 1:25


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Jude Chapter 1



"Jude, servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are (not exactly, 'sanctified,' but) beloved." This may surprise many who have been accustomed to the Authorised Version, but it is not a question of what we have been accustomed to, but of what God wrote. The Authorised Version is an admirable one. Our translators did not mistake the meaning of the Greek word in the text before them; but the text which they had was the common text, and this text is as faulty in its way as the common English Version. This text was transcribed by a number of different hands, and if the writing was not very clear there was always a tendency for the copyist to make mistakes.

I have had a deal of writing pass through my hands, but I hardly have seen any, where there is not some mistake made. Particularly when the writing is a copy of another, it is almost always so, and more particularly when the man whose thoughts and words are copied is above the common people. The way to find out the best Greek text is to go up to the oldest of all, and to compare the oldest of all with the different translations made in ancient times, and if these agree, then you have the right one. But they often disagree, and then comes the question, Which is right? Here the all important question is the guidance of the Spirit of God. We can never do without Him, and the way in which the Spirit of God leads persons who really are not only indwelt by Him, but led by Him, is, - does it express the current of the Epistle? Does it fall in with the line of the apostle's writing?

Well, you see the word "sanctified" may be correct in itself, but the word here should be, "to those that are called, beloved," etc. You observe that the word "called" occurs at the end of the verse. This word "called" is very emphatic. Then he describes them in two different ways. First, here, in the A.V., it is "sanctified," but as now generally accepted by those who have studied the text fully, it is "beloved* in God the Father." "In" is very often equivalent to (indeed, it is a stronger expression that) "by." But I now give it literally, "beloved in God the Father." I confess myself that not only is this reading the most ancient, the best approved by the highest witnesses that God has given to us of His word, but it is beautifully appropriate to the Epistle. The assurance of being "beloved in God the Father," or "by God the Father," comes into special value under two sets of circumstances. If I am a young man very young in the faith, when one is proving the persecution of the world, the hatred of men, Jews full of jealousy, the Gentiles full of scorn, and both animated by hatred against the Lord and those that are the Lord's - what a comfort it is to know that I am beloved "in God the Father." This is the way the apostle Paul addressed the Thessalonians as a company, the only one that he ever addressed in this way. They were experiencing persecution, not in a gradual way as most of the other assemblies had done, but from the very start, from their conversion. We know the apostle himself had to flee because of the persecution that had set in there. "These men that have turned the world upside down have come here also," and a deadly set was made upon them, and so the apostle had to escape. The church there had to bear the brunt of it, and in the very first Epistle that Paul ever wrote, the First to the Thessalonians - that was his first inspired writing - you will find that such is the manner in which he describes them. "Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus to the assembly of Thessalonians in God [the] Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ" (1Th_2:1). And that this was studiously meant is shown by the same presentation of the truth in the opening verse of the Second Epistle, where we find there was still the persecution and the danger of their being shaken by that persecution and the error that had come in through false teachers taking advantage of it to pretend that "the day of the Lord" was actually on them, making out that this persecution was the beginning of that" day," and so greatly alarming the young believers there.

{* ἠγαπημένοις (beloved) AB and several cursives, all the Ancient Versions, Origen, etc. ἡγιασμένοις (sanctified) KLP etc.}

Hence the apostle had to write a second letter to establish them clearly in the bright hope of Christ's coming, and in the lower truth of the day of the Lord. Well, in that Second Epistle we have "Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus to the assembly of Thessalonians in God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ" (2Th_2:1). Now I conceive that the object of the Spirit of God there, by the apostle, was, that as they were so young and so exposed to such an assault upon themselves, which reminded the apostle of the assault which had been made upon himself and his friends, that they should be comforted by the reminder that they were "in God the Father." What could harm them if this were the case? The apostle would not have ventured from himself to say such a thing. None upon earth would have done so. It was God Who inspired the apostle to let them know that wonderful comfort. There are many people who read this and do not get any comfort from it, because they do not apply it to themselves. They have no idea what it means. You will remember that John, writing in his First Epistle, separates the family of God into three classes - the fathers, young men and the babes (for I give the last word as it should be, literally). They are all "children" of God, but the babes are the young ones of the children of God. The young men are those that have grown up, and the fathers are those that are mature and well established in Christ. Well, it is to the babes - and this will help us to understand what I have been saying - he says, "I write unto you babes" (the proper full force of the word), "because ye have known the Father" (1Jn_2:13).

Well, so it is with this young assembly in Thessalonica. It is described by the Holy Ghost as being "in God [the] Father and in [the] Lord Jesus Christ."

In Jude we have the other side. They are not young saints now. It is addressed to comparatively old saints. There might be young ones among them; there would be such, undoubtedly. But he is looking at them as having gone through a sea of trouble and difficulty, and he is preparing them for worse still. He, as it were, says things are not going to get better but worse, and it is to end in the actual appearing of the Lord in judgment, and what is more, the very kind of people who are to be the objects of the Lord's judgment when He comes have crept into the church already. This is a very solemn thing, and it might be alarming unless people were well read and grounded in the truth, and in love. So, therefore, writing at a comparatively late time (not early as in the case of the Thessalonians, but late), Jude writes in these terms - "to them that are called." You observe that I transpose that word, which is a little spoiled by the interpolation of the conjunction "and" before "called." "To them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and preserved." It is not exactly "preserved in." It may be "by" or "for." These are the two alternatives for that word. I do not see how it can be "in"; so that you see it little differs from what we read here. It brings in another idea, and it is perfectly true either way. We are preserved by Christ, and we are preserved for Christ. I have not made up my mind which of the two in this instance is right, because they cannot both be the intention of the Spirit of God. One must be right rather than the other, but I cannot say that my judgment is yet formed as to the choice of these two prepositions, whether it should be "preserved for Jesus Christ," or "by" Jesus Christ, He being the great One that does keep us. But in either case, how beautifully it is suited to a time of extra danger, and of danger too that he was not warranted to say would pass! We say the storm rages now, but the sun will shine shortly. No; it is to be that blackness of darkness of evil which is now coming in among the professors of Christ to get denser and darker until the Lord comes in judgment on them.

Well, how sweet is the assurance, "beloved in God the Father, and preserved by (or for) Jesus Christ" (either way is full of brightness - and the Lord may give us to learn some day which of the two thoughts is His meaning). But there it is, and full of comfort and sweetness, and eminently suited to the circumstances portrayed in this Epistle beyond any Epistle in the New Testament - an Epistle that shows the departure of Christians, i.e., of professing Christians - of those who were once thought to be as good as any. Sometimes, the people who turn away are those that have been very bright. We should not be surprised at that. It is not always the best fruit that ripens most quickly. Sometimes the earliest becomes rotten very soon. This is often the case with those that seem so bright all at once.

I remember being struck with this in the case of a young woman in the Isle of Wight, some forty years ago. Charles Stanley, our dear brother, in his zeal for the gospel was somewhat in danger of fancying people were converted when they were not. At times of revival, people are often apt to slip in; their feelings are moved, they are quickly affected. According to the word in the Gospel, "they hear the word, and anon with joy receive it; yet have they no root in themselves, but endure for a while: for when trial or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they are offended" (Mat_13:20-21); so that we ought not to be surprised. The young woman of whom I speak was employed in a shop, and I was brought to see her as one of these conversions. In a moment she assured me that the old man was all gone, "dead and buried," and other such language she used. This would have been all very sweet had there been any real spiritual feeling; but she had merely caught the truth in her mind, at best.

Now, a real convert having confessed the truth of Christ for the first time, would be greatly tried by many things, failings, shortcomings, and the like. The soul of such a one would be greatly alarmed to think that, even after having received Christ, he found so little that answered to His love, so easily betrayed into levity or carelessness, or into haste of temper, and ever so many difficulties that a young believer is tried by. But the young woman of whom I have been speaking had no conscience about anything at all. All she had was merely an intellectual idea of the truth that seemed delightful to her, and, indeed, it is delightful. It is like those described in Heb_6:5, they "have tasted the good word of God," and there they are, "enlightened" by the great light of the gospel, without being truly born of God. There might be a powerful action of the Spirit of God, and there may be all this without being truly born of God. People who are really born of God are generally tried, and there is a great sense of sin, and they have to learn their powerlessness. All this is a very painful experience; and it is to this state that the comfort of the gospel applies the knowledge of entire forgiveness and clearance from all that we are; not only in spite of what we are, but because of what we are, because of all that God has given us - a new life where there is no sin. There never is anything like this true comfort except in those that have felt the need of it, and that sense of need is what goes along with conversion to God. The Old Testament saints were in that state; and they never got out of it. The New Testament saints began with conversion and came into blessing that was impossible with the law - because the mighty work of redemption was not done. But now it is done; and can we suppose it does not make an essential difference for a New Testament believer? Well! "if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant." Here you have this invaluable comfort for those that have passed through such serious experiences and who have proved their own weakness in meeting it - the liability to be affected by appearances which come to nothing. Fair and smooth words where there is no reality at all - this is what is so trying. And the Epistle shows that people are going to get worse than this.

Jud_1:2, Jud_1:3.

Then (ver. 2) we have, "mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied." This is the only place where mercy is wished to the saints generally. When writing to individuals, to Timothy and Titus for instance, the apostle says "Mercy," but when to the saints generally, "Grace and peace."

Why does Jude bring "mercy" in here? Because they deeply needed the comfort. An individual ought always to feel the deep need of mercy, especially in the face of danger, and also in the sense of personal unworthiness; and now Jude gives the comfort of it to all these saints because of their imminent danger. I do not know any saints more in danger than ourselves, because grace has given us to feel for Christ's honour and name, and to have confidence in the scriptures as the word of God. We should not look at a single word in them as a dead letter. I do not suppose that there is a single person here present - brother or sister - that has a doubt of a single word that God has written. It would be difficult now-a-days to find yourself in such a company generally. People think inspiration is a very lively term, and that we must allow for the errors of those good men who wrote the Bible. What could we expect from such men even if learned? They judge by themselves, not by God, nor by the Holy Ghost. Many of these men have not, I think, abandoned Christianity; but they are darkened by the spirit of unbelief. The spirit of the present day is as bad or worse as in any age since the Lord died and rose. There is one thing that marks it, and, that is lawlessness. A want of respect for everything that is above self, and a determination to have one's own way - that is lawlessness. I do not know anything worse. It is what will characterise the whole of Christendom. Now it works in individuals, and it also works largely in whole companies, but it will soon become the reigning spirit. And that is the distinctive name of the anti-christ, "the lawless one." Christ was the Man of righteousness, Christ is the Man that gives everything its place according to God, and Christ is the One that gives God His place. As to everything and every person, He was the Man of righteousness; lawlessness has nothing but self as its great ambition, a fallen self - man fallen from God. The danger is great in the present day, and so it was when Jude wrote his Epistle. Therefore it is "mercy," not only "peace and love," but "mercy" be multiplied. It is a very emphatic word.

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (ver. 3). It is addressed to those that have learned the value of "the faith." He does not refer to personal faith but to the deposit that the faith holds. It is the thing believed, not merely the spiritual power that believes the testimony. It is therefore called "the faith," distinct from "faith." When did that faith come? The Epistle to the Galatians shows us when faith came and redemption and the Holy Ghost. It is found in Gal_3:25: "For after that faith is come." "I live by the faith of the Son of God."; "Received ye the Spirit by the hearing of faith?" is a distinct thing (Gal_2:20; Gal_3:2). "The scripture hath concluded all under sin" (Jews or Gentiles - the Jews under transgression, but all under sin) "that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came we were kept under law," (Gal_3:22-23). The law was there until the cross of Christ, but then it was affixed to the tree; not only was Christ crucified, but the law came thereby to its end, as far as God's people were concerned. We are now placed under Christ. We are now regarded as being "in the Spirit," for Christ is our life and the Holy Ghost is the power of that life.

Well, here then he says that it was needful that he should exhort them to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints." This is what is on my heart to speak about. How great is, not only "conversion" such as the O.T. people knew before faith came but, the "salvation" which is now, as the apostle Paul says in Ephesians (Eph_1:13), "the word of truth, the gospel of your (not conversion but the gospel of your) salvation"! This is what was added consequent upon redemption. Nobody could have been delivered from hell without being converted; but the "gospel of our salvation" is to make us perfectly happy on earth, to bring us into cloudless peace and liberty while here in this world. It is this that is new, from the cross of Christ. Why, beloved friends, it is new to many children of God now! They are not sure at all, even those that are most real; with many it is only a "humble hope." But through God's mercy, I take it for granted that we have all learned this, more or less, the more the better. I do say that this is an all-important thing. Sometimes, when persons are seeking to come into fellowship, there is an idea of the importance of their understanding the church. How they are to understand the church I do not know. I did not understand it when I first began to break bread. I never saw any that did. I have seen persons that thought they did, and they had to correct their thoughts afterwards. We should not expect this knowledge. Possibly, of the saints in communion who have been in fellowship for forty years, there may be many who have not even yet arrived at a true knowledge of what the church is. But to ask it from a dear soul that has not long been saved! Ah, that is the point - not only "converted," but brought into liberty and peace. I do say we ought to look for that before we get them to the table of the Lord; and we are not on proper Christian ground till we know that we are saved. This is what the gospel gives. It is not a hope of being saved, but knowing it in a simple straight-forward, intelligent, Christian manner. However, the word "intelligence" might leave room for our active brethren to find difficulties! I do not want to put difficulties in the way of any, still less in the way of a soul that is trembling and uncertain.

The great requirement for souls seeking fellowship, and, I think, the only requirement, is that they should be settled firmly on Christ and Christ's salvation as a known present thing. Perhaps we find a person that cannot stand that. I recommend them to hear the gospel. There are plenty of saints who want to hear a full gospel. I do not say a free gospel. A full gospel does not convert many souls. A free gospel may do so. A free gospel may be used to awaken many, to cause exercise, but a full gospel will bring the answer to all these difficulties. Peter, I may say, preached a free gospel, and Paul a full one. Most of the children of God have not got a full gospel. It is essential that they should, before they can take their place as members of the body of Christ. Suppose they come in without it: perhaps the first hymn that is given out is an expression of thanksgiving that every question is settled for ever, and they are thus called to sing about themselves what they do not believe, and do not know about. They sing (in, what I call, a slipshod manner, without any conscience) what may not be true of their state, what is too much for them. Well, all that is a very unhappy state of things, and ought not to be. But if they are brought into the liberty of Christ, before they are received, not expecting from them clearness of intelligence, but knowing that their souls are set free (and nothing less than that should be looked for), then things go on happily. They learn quite fast enough when they come in, provided they have liberty in their souls. The lack of it is the barrier against learning. If I have difficulties about my soul with God for ever, it is no good to tell me about other things; and, therefore, wherever that is passed over lightly, there is a barrier. But as to everything else, well, one thing at a time is quite as much as we can bear, and people who grasp everything at the same moment, I am afraid, grasp nothing. All is apt to be cloudy in their minds, and that is not "the faith that was once delivered to the saints."

"The faith" is not a mere mist. Mysteries are not mists or clouds. Mysteries are the firmest things in the Bible. The N.T. is full of mysteries - mystery "concerning Christ and the church," "the mystery of God," "the mystery of the gospel," "the mystery of the faith." Mystery means what was not revealed in O.T. times; now it is. That is just our privilege. Even Christ Himself, in the way that we receive Him now, is a mystery. Do we simply believe on Him as the Messiah? "Great is the mystery of godliness; God [or, He Who] was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit, seen of angels, preached among Gentiles, believed on in [the] world, received up in glory" (1Ti_3:16). This is Christ as we know Him now. Everything is mystery in Christianity, even the way Christ is received. He was not known so before. It takes in the gospel, "the gospel of our salvation," the clear riddance from all hindrances. Is not the assembly a mystery? Is it not a truth of the greatest moment for every member of the body of Christ to know? And when you have your convert, when the soul is there brought to know the gospel, then show him what the church is, as best you can. Take trouble with him. Do not imagine he knows what he does not know. Where is he to learn if not inside? He will never learn by staying away. The church of God is not only the great place of incomparable blessing and enjoyment, it is also the great school. Well, the soul wants to go to school. Will he find a better school outside?

Even the best of those who are outside - that is, those that are not gathered to the name of the Lord, they are mostly occupied about salvation for themselves, or if not that, about work for others. What can you expect better? They do not know the relationships into which they are brought. Take the question that is now so uppermost in people's minds - priesthood. What an Evangelical would say to meet priestly pretension is, that it is all a mistake to suppose that there are any priests but Christ. Is that where you are? The truth that God has shown us is, that all Christians alike are priests. When you are only on Evangelical ground, it is not the assertion of positive possession of privilege, it is merely denying an error, a negative way of looking at things. Many would indeed admit that we are all priests, but they do not see how it is applied. If they are all priests unto God, they should be allowed to express their praise, and others join (Heb_10:22) "Let us" (not you, he puts himself along with those to whom he was writing - let us) draw "near" into the holiest. Were this really applied, people might want to express their audible praises to God sometimes, and this would be considered disorderly. Do you think that we are always as careful as we ought to be? There are two words of moment in the First Epistle to the Corinthians - the first is, "in order," the other is, "to edification." All things should be done "in order," and "to edification" (1Co_14:26; 1Co_14:40). How are we to judge of what is done? It is laid down in this very chapter. Why do we forget it sometimes?

A question was put to me, whether it is according to scripture that, at what is called an assembly meeting, or other meeting of a similar character, more than two should speak. What is laid down as to this? That two, or at most three, might speak (1Co_14:27; 1Co_14:29). Where there are more, I should be disposed to get away as fast as possible. You are mistaken about your liberty. We have only liberty to do what the Lord says; and I can see the wisdom of this limitation. There might be plenty of time for half a dozen speakers, but still the order is clear, "two, or at most three," There can be no question about the meaning. It certainly does not mean that there might not be half a dozen prayers by different people, but that formal speaking, even of prophets, had its limits. And surely the lesser gifts have not a greater liberty than the greater ones! The prophets had the highest gift, and yet it is said, they were only to speak two or three. The plain meaning of it is that there never ought to be, under any excuse, more than two or three. Too much of a good thing is as bad as too little. If you have too much of what is even good, it is apt to make you sick: you must leave room for proper digestion. Hence the wisdom in the restriction as to numbers.

So it is - what seems to me to be so very plain - that we have not got merely the facts given and the commandment of the Lord, but good reason given. There is perfect wisdom, there is not such a thing as an arbitrary word in all the Bible. All the rules and regulations, commandments and precepts, are pregnant with divine wisdom.

It is a long while since "brethren" first began; but there never was a time when we are more called to see whether we are really "contending earnestly for the faith once for all (not "once on a time," but, "once for all") delivered to the saints." May God forbid that we should ever swerve in the least degree! We are not competent to say what a little beginning of divergence may lead to. It might be apparently a little beginning, but alas, a little beginning of a great evil.

The Lord give us simple fidelity, and in all love to our brethren. I never think of my brethren being merely such as are gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus; and I feel most deeply the undermining that is going on everywhere of things that were once undisputed.

Jud_1:3.

Jude, then, was in full expectation of a departure from "the faith," and that it would be necessary to defend the faith. He evidently had had it on his heart to speak to them of comforting things, things that are always bright and sweet to the believer; but the circumstances called for alarm, for solemn warning. This is never very acceptable to people. They prefer things smooth; but the apostle himself, or the writer, whether an apostle or not - the writer's whole heart would have delighted in dwelling on all that was comforting and strengthening to the soul. But, my brethren, what is the good of that if the foundations are being undermined? This is what you must look at. Therefore he draws attention to the fact that the faith was "once for all delivered." "Once" is an equivocal word. It might mean "once on a time," once at a particular moment; but this is not the force of the word here at all. It means "once for all." And what a blessing it is that we have in this book (and more particularly in the books of the New Testament), the holy deposit which we are called upon to believe, given us in full, "once for all." There is not a truth to be received that is not revealed in the word of God. There is not a difficulty nor a departure from the truth which is not in one way or another there guarded against. We, therefore, never require to go outside the revelation of God; and this explains why God permitted, in the early apostolic days, that there should be a deal of evil. Does it surprise us that there should have been gross disorders among the Corinthians, for instance, even at the table of the Lord? Well, one is naturally struck at first sight by such a fact. How was it that when there was such power of the Holy Ghost, that when there were miracles wrought, that when there were prophets prophesying (the highest form of teaching), that at the same time and place, the saints that gathered on the Lord's Day, broke out into a disorder that we never find even in the present day, or very rarely? How could God more guard us than by allowing it then? It is always a very delicate matter to deal with evil, either of doctrine, or practice, or service, or government, or worship, or anything that you can speak of. It was of the very greatest moment, therefore, that God, in view of the evils that would, some time or another, appear in the church, should allow the germ of the evils to appear then; and, for this reason, that we might have divinely given directions for dealing with the evils when they did appear. Consequently, we are not taking the place of setting up to legislate; but we are not at liberty to depart from the word. This has been given us by the Holy Ghost. We are called to find therein everything that becomes us as saints, and for every part of our work to find a principle, and example too, sufficient to guide us; so that we may never set up any will of our own about a matter, and that we may always find God expressing, in one form or another, His will. What we have to do is to seek to learn from Him, and to apply the result, either to ourselves for our own correction, or to other people for their warning.

Now that is the reason why there is such great moment in Jude's calling to mind that the faith was "once," and "once for all," delivered to the saints. And, as a point of fact, I do not think we shall ever find in scripture such a thing as a mere repetition. Sometimes you may have scriptures that approach very closely, and in the New Testament you could hardly have it more than in these two Epistles of Peter and Jude. But I am about to point out to you, what will appear as I go along still more completely, that, while there are resemblances between these two writers, who are both speaking of the terrible evil that was about to flood the church; and who naturally approach each other, yet there is a marked difference between them. It is always the difference that is the special lesson for us to learn. Where the two approach, it confirms. We can say, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." But where there is a divergence, and a distinction is to be seen in the lessons that they convey, we have evidently more than we might have had if we had only had one of the writers. The same thing is true, not merely in these two Epistles, but in Ephesians and Colossians for example. The resemblance there is so great that a favourite theory of the Rationalists is that the Epistle to the Colossians is the only one that Paul ever wrote, and that the one to the Ephesians is only an enlarged and inflated copy (written, perhaps, by a contemporary of the apostle); and, accordingly, that the latter has not the same divine (though I ought not, perhaps, to use that word) value - that it has not Paul's value. These men do not believe in divine value, they do not believe in God having written these Epistles; but some of them do believe that Paul wrote that to the Colossians, but deny his having written the one to the Ephesians. A very learned man, who translated all the Bible (and, indeed, his is one of the best of the German translations), is one of this school. So that you may learn from this, that there are persons who have laboured all through their lives on the Bible, who nevertheless did not believe the Bible - i.e., really and truly. He, of course, would have entirely objected to such an account being given of him. But what matters what people object to, if it is true! He was a leading man in his day, and I hope that he was not without looking to Christ before his decease. But at any rate, what he did during his life was a sad departure from the truth of God, from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

Having then already dwelt a little upon what is one important and primary element of "the faith," I add, further, that believers are brought into great relationships. Not only are we "converted" and "saved," being brought into peace and liberty, but we are called to realise also that we are no longer merely English persons or French, Jews or Gentiles, but that we are children of God, and that we are such now. We, therefore, turn our backs on our boasting in our nation and our city, and our family, and all these various forms of men's vanity, which is merely boasting of something of the flesh. We are called out of that now. This is also part of "the faith once delivered." In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free (Gal_3:28). What does this mean? It means just what I have been saying.

Well then, again, we are made members of Christ's body; and this is a relationship which so many of God's children are so slow to believe. They think and talk of their being members of the Wesleyan body, or Presbyterian body, or Baptist, of this body, or that body, no matter what it is. Well, they say, to be sure we are members of Christ's body, too! Yes, but if people valued the truth of their membership of Christ's body, what would the other be in their eyes? Simply nothing at all. Where do you find the Presbyterian body, or the Episcopal body, or the Congregational body in the N.T.? Where do you find the Baptist body in the N.T.? There was an approach to this party spirit in the very earliest days - "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas" (1Co_1:12). Well, there you have the germ of it. And these germs never perish. It is not only that blessed germs of truth do not perish and are meant to take root and bear fruit, and consequently they are perpetuated here and there; but alas, evil germs do the same. And what is more, another thing is not a germ exactly, but is a leaven - a corrupt and a corrupting thing that is very palatable, making the wheaten bread to be lighter to the taste and pleasanter for some palates to partake of. And, at any rate, this leaven, whatever may be the case with the bread, is the corrupting influence at work among the saints in two forms. In Corinth it was the corruption of morals; in Galatia it was the corruption of doctrine. There you have it at work. When our Lord was here He confronted the same thing in the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees were the great corruptors morally; the Pharisees were the great religionists, or rather were strong for doctrine. But the Sadducees were sapping all doctrines by denying the truth. There you have the two things again - doctrinal leaven and corrupting leaven; at any rate there was "the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees," however you may describe it. There were also the Herodians - a worldly leaven, a pandering to the Roman court, not merely accepting the Romans as having power and authority from God, but trying to please them in order to make their own position better and their circumstances easier. So that you see what a very weighty truth is this, calling for earnest examination, to take care that we do not infringe upon or weaken our certainty in that faith which was "once delivered to the saints." Are we indifferent about it? Have we an interest in it? Have we only partially received it, and are we content with that? Or are we resolved by the grace of God to refuse everything that is not the faith that was once for all delivered? Are we resolved to receive and maintain that faith in all its integrity? That is what we are called to do.

Jud_1:4, Jud_1:5.

Now this attitude was the more important; "for," as he says, "certain men have crept in unawares." Jude is not quite so advanced, in point of time, as John. When John wrote his First Epistle, the bad people went out - the antichrists went out (1Jn_2:19). But the danger here was that they were within. Certain men had crept in, as it were, unawares. That is, they had fair appearances at first, of course. "They, who before of old were ordained to this sentence" ("condemnation" is not exactly the meaning of the word - "to this judgment") "ungodly men turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying our only Master* and Lord Jesus Christ" (ver. 4).

{* Θεόν (God) though added (after "Master") by KLP 31 Syrr., is omitted by ABC 13 Vulg. Copt. Sah. Arm. and Æthiopic Versions.}

This, you see, is the prominent thing in Jude's mind: so that, under fair appearances, they were undermining moral principles, they were turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. This was the worst evil, as far as morals were concerned, that Jude warns them against in this Epistle; but then this evil is connected with a doctrinal error. They denied two things. In Peter they denied only one. There they denied the Sovereign Master that bought them (2Pe_2:1). Peter does not say that they were redeemed. It is a great mistake to confound being "bought" with being "redeemed." All the world is bought, but only believers are redeemed. Universal purchase is a truth of God; universal redemption is a falsehood. Redemption implies that we have the forgiveness of sins. You see that clearly in the Epistles. Take, for instance, that to the Ephesians, "In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph_1:7). Now it is clear that the great mass of mankind have not redemption through His blood; but they are all bought, and the believer is bought too, and we are constantly exhorted on the ground, not only of our being redeemed, but of our being bought. For instance, the Corinthians are told that they were bought. That is the reason why they should not act as if they were their own masters. We have not any rights of our own (1 Cor. 6). We are not at liberty to say, I think it quite right to go to a Court of Law in order to maintain my rights. No, I am bound, if I am summoned as a witness, to go; I am bound, if people go to law with me, to go. But on the contrary, to insist on my own rights! why do not I rather suffer wrong? That is the way the apostle Paul looks at it. And who is the apostle? The voice of God, the commandments of the Lord.

So that you see I come at once to the question of the faith, if really I believe what I may talk very glibly about as if I did. The difficulty is to find faith on the earth. As the Lord has said, "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" Evidently, therefore, this departure from the faith is supposed by that very question of our Lord Jesus. Only here, the solemn thing is, that it is pressed on those who once bore the name of the Lord. They may go on for a while, for years; and there may be only some little things that one feels here or there, or their departure may not take anything like so terrible a form as here, but the question is, Where will it end? When once we get on the incline of our own rights, our own will; when once we abandon His Sovereignty, and, more than that, that He is not only Sovereign Master but our Lord; who can say what may not ensue?

Now here we get a closer relationship. Peter, in his Epistle, only supposes that universal place of our Lord. Why does Jude add, "denying our . . . Lord Jesus Christ"? Because he looks at that special following of those that are called by His name - on whom the name of the Lord is called. Here, therefore, we find a subtler and a deeper denial than the denial of the Sovereign Master in Peter. That of course was very far outside and very gross - "sects of perdition, and denying the Sovereign Master that bought them." But here, in Jude, it is not only denying the Sovereign Master of the world, of everything; but "our Lord," the One to Whom we belong, the One to Whose name we are baptised, the One Whom we profess to value and acknowledge to be our life and righteousness, and our all - denying Him!

You must not imagine that these things all come out in a short time. There is a little beginning of departure; but when your back is turned to the Lord and you follow that path, where will it end? No man can tell; but the Spirit of God can and does, and He shows that these little departures end in a fearful ditch of the enemy; and so He says:

"But I would remind you, though once for all knowing all things,* that [the] Lord having saved a people out of Egypt's land, in the second place destroyed those that believed not" (ver. 5). Here we have again the same word "once," which as we have already seen is equivocal. It might mean formerly; but that is not the meaning at all, no more than that the faith was formerly given. It means given "once for all."

{* πάντα (all things) ABC2 13 Vulg. Copt. Syr. Arm. and Æthiop. Vv. instead of τοῦτο (this) KL 31 and Sah. Version.}

Well, he says, "once for all knowing," not only "this," but "all about it." The word "this" is now in critical texts changed into "all things," and this is exactly the position of the believer, which is the reason why we are so very responsible. Do you recollect what the apostle John says to the "babes" of the family? "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1Jn_2:20). How did that come to pass? We are not in the habit of regarding babes so wise as this; yet what the apostle says must be true. The only question is - In what sense did he mean that they knew all things? I think the meaning is this. The babe has got Christ just as much as an apostle. Having Christ, he has the truth - all the truth. There it is; and he has also got the Holy Ghost - an unction from the Holy One. Therefore, he has got power in the gift of the Holy Ghost; for a babe has this gift. It is not the privilege only of the advanced learners in the school of Christ. The babes of the family of God have got Christ perfectly. They may draw it out very imperfectly. They may be able to look upon Christ, and speak of Christ in very hesitating terms as far as their intelligence goes, but such is their place and their privilege. Accordingly, Jude presses here their privilege of "once for all knowing all things." Where were they now? They were in great danger. You often see this in the early beginnings of saints. They are very bright at first; they are not easily stumbled by anything they hear from the Bible; they receive it with simplicity, and delight in it. They, then, are knowing all things, in the sense in which the apostle speaks here. It is not a question of intelligence, but of simplicity and of a single eye, and when the eye is single the whole body is full of light. Thus they had it by the power of the Spirit of God, and it was not at all a question of their being great adepts in controversy, or showing a wonderful knowledge of the types, or anything of that kind. I call that intelligence. But this is the singleness of eye that looks to Christ and sees the truth in Christ, and is not troubled by the difficulties that people are always apt to feel when they begin to reason, when love gets cold and they have questions of duty. Then they cannot see clearly; then a trial is made on their faith to which it is not equal; then they begin to get dark, as well as to doubt. This is just where these saints appear to me to have been, whom the writer is here addressing as "once knowing all things." They knew not only the faith, but these terrible things that are coming in.

However, Jude recalls them to their remembrance: "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though once for all knowing all things, how that [the] Lord, having saved a people out of [the] land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." That fact is a very solemn thing for the writer to bring before them; and it was meant to solemnize them, to deliver them from that careless state of soul which takes for granted that, because we have all been so blessed and led into the truth, no harm can happen. Why, on the contrary, beloved friends, for whom do you think Satan has the greatest hatred out of all on the face of the earth? Why, any that are following the Lord with simplicity; any that are truly devoted to the Lord. His great object is to try and stumble such, to turn them aside, to bring difficulties into their minds and make them hesitate. Now, where souls are simple and single-eyed, they have not these difficulties at all; but when they do not go on cleaving to the Lord with full purpose of heart, they begin to forget what they once knew. It is no longer Christ applied to judge everything here; they allow their own thoughts, their own feelings, their own mind, their own conceit, perhaps to lead them; but, whatever it is, it is not Christ, and now He brings this fact before them. Why, look at the history that you have in the very beginning of the Old Testament. God had a people once before us, and, what is more, God saved that people. That is the very thing - He did save them. It was not only that He passed over them in the land of Egypt, but there was His mighty arm at the Red Sea that crushed their enemies and saved themselves, and brought them into the desert that He might teach them what was in their heart, and let them know what was in His. But they went back to Egypt in their heart, and they could see no blessedness in Canaan, the heavenly land to which the Lord was leading them on - to Canaan, type of heaven, the land of God's delight and glory; they could see nothing in it, and they did see that in the desert there were serpents sometimes to bite those that refused to learn from God; and, further, that the Lord, if He hearkened to their lusting after flesh, made the flesh to come out of them as it were through their nostrils, as a judgment upon their not being satisfied with the manna, the bread of heaven. All these things happened, and what was the result? All perished in the wilderness excepting two men: Caleb and Joshua.

Now Jude says, That is your danger. You must remember that you cannot tell for certain whether a person has life eternal. Every man ought to know that for himself; every woman ought to know that for herself. If a person believes that he or she has life eternal in Christ, they are called to follow the Lord with full purpose of heart. And if they do not follow Him so, or if attracted by anything worldly, or by pursuits of their own from day to day, they neglect the Lord and His word, and neglect prayer and all the helps that the Lord gives us, which we so deeply need for our souls - what will be the end of that? Just what Jude is showing them here: "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew all things, how that the Lord having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not."

It turned out that they were not true believers, after all. The same thing applies now: "These things happened unto them for types; and they are written for our admonition."

Jud_1:6, Jud_1:7, Jud_1:8.

"And angels which kept not their own original estate, but abandoned their proper dwelling, He hath kept in everlasting bonds under gloom unto [the] great day's judgment; as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having in the like manner with them greedily committed fornication and gone after strange flesh, lie there an example, undergoing judgment of eternal fire. Yet likewise, these dreamers also defile flesh, and set at nought lordship and rail at dignities" (vers. 6-8)

If we compare this chapter of Jude with the Second Epistle of Peter, we get a very clear view of the precise difference between the two. No doubt there is a great deal that is common in both Epistles; but it is the difference that is of great account in taking a view of scripture, as has been already observed. In these two Epistles there may be many points in common, but the two accounts are thoroughly different. The same thing is true as regards all the testimony that God gives us. The marks of difference are the great criteria.

You will notice that Peter, after alluding to false teachers, alludes to "sects of perdition" (2Pe_2:1). The word heterodoxy gives a different idea. There was something of this difference in the minds of the apostles that ought to be in ours, viz.: - a very strong horror of the breach amongst those who belong to Christ and the church that He formed in unity here. There is a certain wilfulness that is particularly offensive to God. People now have so little sense of "wrongness" that they think it a natural thing that people should be justified in doing what they like; but to look at the matter in that sense would be to give up God. Perhaps men can be trusted in matters of ordinary life to form a sufficiently sound judgment as regards certain things, such as being careful of their food and careful of their dress, and also as regards other things that belong to this life. We find that God says little on the matter, except to guard His children from the vanity of the world and the pride of life. Still there is nothing technical or narrow laid down in the word of God. But it is quite another thing, when we consider that Christ died to "gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (Joh_11:52), that we should allow ourselves to extenuate a wilful departure from the right course, by allowing our own notions to carry us away therefrom. Persons should not allow themselves to do this kind of thing, nor should they think that they are superior to others, which is generally a great delusion on their part. You will not find that men who are devoted to Christ set themselves up in this way, because we all know that Christ teaches us to count others better than ourselves. That may become merely a foolish sentiment by the separating us from a spirit of power and of love, and of a sound mind. We are to judge of everything by Christ. If we let in "self," we are sure to go wrong. This readiness to see Christ in everything is a happy thing when it is applied to our dealings with our brothers and sisters. It is not that others are necessarily better than ourselves, it is that we are to count them so in our spirit and in our dealings with them. When Christ is before us, we can afford to judge our sins as stronger than those of others. We are well aware of our faults; but it is only when we are much occupied with others' doings that we know much about their faults. The great thing is that we are to see Christ as our guide, and we are to judge ourselves in ourselves; we are also to see Christ in others and to love them, and to count them better than ourselves.

There are other senses in which people get into this spirit of sect, and thereby give an improper value to certain views. For instance, with regard to baptism. In modern times, at any rate, and very likely also in ancient times, there is, I suppose, hardly anything that has troubled the church more than this subject. By some people, a superstitious value is given to baptism, causing them, as it were, to despise those who have a reasoning turn of mind, and those who have a strong theory and notions about the Jewish remnant; but, so far as I know, the Jewish remnant has nothing to do with Christian baptism, because the handing it over to the Jewish remnant means giving up our relation to Christ. For Christian people, who are already walking in the ways of the Lord, to be occupied with baptism is, in my opinion, a most extraordinary inversion of all that is wise and right, because Christian people have passed through that experience already. Perhaps, when the ceremony was performed it was not done in the best way, and we may think that, therefore, if we had known then what we know now; we might have been more careful in its performance. Baptism is merely an external visible confession of the Lord Jesus, and for persons who have been confessing the Lord for twenty, thirty, or forty years, to be occupied with baptism seems to me to be an extraordinary change from all that is wise. Baptism is an initiatory step; our Christianity begins when we begin our Christian confession - we should, therefore, be going forward, not backward.

Baptism has even been used as the badge of a sect, and time would fail to narrate the many other ways in this regard. But here, in Peter's Epistle, we have a darker thing referred to - "sects of perdition" (2Pe_2:1). It evidently was not merely a sect, but a sect of perdition. In this case, the sect of perdition was evidently something very dreadful, and it was apparently against the Lord, because the words are "denying the Sovereign Master that bought them." This, as we have already remarked, is not "redemption" but "purchase," and so takes in all men whether converted or not. It is the denial of His rights over all as the Sovereign Master. So, too, Peter begins at once with the flood, the deluge, but there is not a word about that in Jude. This is another great mark of difference to note, the manner in which the denial of the Lord is described, and how we find God's mode of dealing with this matter. So one sees the propriety of the flood being brought in by Peter, because it was the universal unrighteousness and rebelliousness of the whole world. Jude, on the other hand, was not given to look at that particularly, but at the hostility that is shown to the truth and to Christ. Peter looks at the general unrighteousness of mankind, and so he says: "For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to lowest hell and delivered them up to chains of gloom reserved for judgment, and spared not an ancient world, but preserved Noah, an eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, having brought a flood upon a world of ungodly ones; and reducing to ashes [the] cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, He condemned [them] with an overthrow, having set an example to those that should live ungodlily; and rescued just Lot" etc. (2Pe_2:4-7).

What makes the reference again more remarkable is that Jude speaks of the "angels that kept not their own estate," but Peter of "angels that sinned," and who consequently come under the dealing of God. The flood is upon the world of the ungodly, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are turned into ashes for an example to those that should live ungodlily; but just Lot was delivered because he was a just man. The want of righteousness brought this punishment upon everyone. It is their general ungodliness, but no doubt there is a particularity which Jude takes up, whilst Peter takes up the universality. This is the marked difference between the two. I have dwelt upon this because it shows what the world of modern unbelief is - what is called higher criticism. For these men have been struck by the resemblance between this Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter; but with all their boasting of unbelief they have not got the discernment to see that there is a marked difference between the two. These men have been caught by the superficial resemblance of the two Epistles; but when you, as it were, lift up the superficial veil in which these Epistles agree, you will find that the colours are different. You will find darker colours in Jude than in Peter, although it is bad enough in Peter, most terribly evil. But it is of a general kind; whereas, Jude was led by the Holy Ghost to devote himself to the peculiar form that wickedness takes when it turns from the grace of God, when it turns to licentiousness.

Hence Jude begins with what is not referred to in Peter at all, and it is for this reason that I read verse 5 over a second time to-night. "I will, therefore, put you in remembrance, though once for all knowing all things, that the Lord, having saved a people" - mark that - "out of the land of Egypt" - that is the sovereign grace that shows the salvation. I am not speaking of it now as eternal salvation. It was sovereign grace that chose Israel; they were not chosen for everlasting glory, but only delivered out of Egypt. That surely shows a manifestation of God's goodness, Who, instead of allowing them to be oppressed and terrorised over by the cruel Egyptians, smote the Egyptians and delivered His people. They came into the narrower circle in one sense of what were God's people, in one sense also they were saved; but they gave up the grace, they abandoned God. This latter is what Jude has particularly in view. He looks at Christendom as being about to abandon the truth. He shows that whatever the special favour shown by God, men will get away from and deny it; and further, that instead of using grace to walk morally, they will take advantage of grace to allow of a kind of immorality - they will turn the grace of God into licentiousness.

Peter says nothing about this, but Jude does; so that it is evident that these learned men (who think they are so clever in showing that Jude and Peter are merely imitators of one another, and that it is the same thing in substance in both - that there is no particular difference, that they are in fact the same human picture), do not see God in either. Now, what we are entitled to is to see God in both Epistles, and what is more we should hear God's voice in both. You see then that Jude begins with this solemn fact that the Lord "having saved a people out of the land of Egypt" - I am giving now the strict force of the word - "the second time" (that He acted) "destroyed those that believed not." The first act was that He "saved" them, He brought them out by means of the paschal lamb, which was His first great act of "saving." The first time that God's glory appeared and He put Himself at the head of His people, He saved them out of the land of Egypt. What was "the second time"? When He "destroyed" them. It is not vague, but it specifically mentions "the second time"; this is the great point. At the time the golden calf was set up, that was the beginning of "the second time," and God went on smiting and smiting until everyone was destroyed except Caleb and Joshua. That was the second time. This went on for forty years, but it is all brought together in the words "the second time." God "destroyed them that believed not." That is the charge brought against them. Their carcases were falling in the wilderness. In Hebrews 3 (as is very evident also in the book of Numbers and elsewhere) there is this threat during their passage through the wilderness. It is one of the great facts of the books of Moses. As regards those that came out of Egypt, they came under the hand of God; some perished at one time, some at another, but all perished in one way or the other, until all disappeared; and yet they had all been "saved" out of the land of Egypt by the Lord.

Oh, what a solemn thing to set this before us now! When I say before us, I mean before the church of God, before all that bear the name of the Lord Jesus here below. This is put expressly as a sample of the solemn ways of God to be recollected in Christendom. Then Jude also refers to the angels. I think the wisdom of that is evident. Peter begins with the angels and then goes on to refer to the flood. I think, therefore, if any person looks at Genesis 6 he will find a great deal of wisdom in Jude's reference. I am well aware, of course, that there are many that view "the sons of God" in a very different way to what it appears to me. They are sometimes very surprised, and expect one to be able to answer all their questions. I do not assume any such competency. I admire the wisdom of God in that God does not stop to explain. He feels the awful iniquity of what occurred in reference to these angels. They are fallen angels, and of quite a different class to those who fell before Adam was tempted.

It appears there were at least two falls of angels; one was he whom we call Satan - when man was made, Satan tempted man through Eve. Those ordinary evil angels, of which we read in the Bible from Genesis down to Revelation, are not under everlasting chains at all. They are roving about the world continually, and so far from being in chains of darkness, in "tortures" as it is called here, they are allowed access to heaven. You will see that in a very marvellous way in the history of Job. A great many believers do not believe in the book of Job. You will see there "the sons of God" referred to. What is meant by "the sons of God" there? Why, the angels of God. The angels of God appeared before God. We learn from this that they have access, and include not only the good angels but also the Satanic angels. Satan was a fallen angel, but still he was an angel, and when "the sons of God" came, Satan was there too. So that it is evident, from the Book of Revelation more particularly, that Satan will not lose that access to the presence of God until we are actually in heaven. It has not come to pass yet. People have an extraordinary idea in their heads that whatever access Satan had before that time, he lost it - either when our Lord was born, or when our Lord died but there is nothing of this in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where, on the contrary it is expressly stated that our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against wicked spirits in the heavenlies. We are not like the Israelites fighting against Canaanites. Our Canaanite is a spiritual enemy in heavenly places, that is, Satan and his host of demons or angels.

But, as we have seen, these are not at all the sins that are referred to here. There is a marked difference. There is a character of iniquity that these angels fell into on earth, and so a distinct difference in their doom. These angels fell into a very peculiar iniquity, which is in a general way spoken of in Peter, but in a special way in Jude. They were put under chains of darkness and not allowed to stir out of their prison. They are not the angels that tempt us now. They did their bad work just a tattle time before the flood. That fact gives the matter a very solemn character. If people want to know how it was done, that I do not know; but you are called upon to believe, just as much as I am. What Genesis 6 does say is that there were "sons of God" upon earth at that time who acted in a way contrary to everything in relation to God, and which was so offensive to Him that He would not allow the earth to go on any longer, and this is what brought on the flood. No doubt too there was also a general iniquity in mankind that brought the flood upon them. Man was very corrupt and man was vile, but besides that there was this awful violation of the marks that divide the creatures of God in some mysterious manner. Hence God completely destroyed the whole framework of creation, and put an end to them and their offspring, so that every one of them perished. That is what took place then Of course, you will tell me that they could not perish absolutely. No, I admit that these angels could not perish any more than men such as you; but this is what God did with those angels that behaved in that tremendously wicked manner. They became prisoners, they were put under confinement, not like Satan and his host that tempt us to this day, but these particular angels were not allowed to tempt men any more. They had done too much, and God would not allow these things