Salutation

1:1 From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. 1:2 May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!

Condemnation of the False Teachers

1:3 Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

The faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints – This expression seems, in the minds of many commentators, to look back over a relatively long period, to the time when the faith was first ‘entrusted’ to God’s people.

Christian ‘tradition’ is essentially a doctrinal, rather than a liturgical or ecclesiastical, tradition.

‘Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies, but not for the truth. We should count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture than for his inheritance; for a box of counters than for his box of title deeds.’ (Thomas Watson)

‘Some Christians who once championed sound doctrine beat a retreat one in a while and from stratospheric heights announce that they will not “stoop to controversy”. When a man contends for the faith in New Testament style, he does not stoop!…Contending for the faith is not easy. It is not pleasant business. It has many perils. It is a thankles job, and it is highly unpopular in this age of moral fogs and spiritual twilights. This is a day of diplomats, not prophets. It is nicer to be an appeaser than an opposer. It is the day of Erasmus, not Luther; of Gamaliel, not Paul.’ (Vance Havner)

‘Though we should not be of contentious spirits, yet we ought to contend for the Word of God. This jewel is too precious to be parted with. Prov 4:12. ‘Keep her, for she is thy life.’ The Scripture is beset with enemies; heretics fight against it, we must therefore ‘contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.’ Jude 3. The Scripture is our book of evidences for heaven; shall we part with our evidences? The saints of old were both advocates and martyrs for truth; they would hold fast Scripture, though it were with the loss of their lives.’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

Thomas Manton: “What must we contend for? For every truth of God, according to its moment and weight. The dust of gold is precious; and it is dangerous to be careless in the lesser truths: There is nothing superfluous in the canon.”

Jude says here that his original intention was to write about the salvation that all Christians have in common, but that task had to be set aside because of the current threats to the fellowship of believers. Note, then, that there is a place both for exposition and apologetics. ‘In view of this situation the need was not so much to expound the faith as to rally Christians in its defence. Certain men who had insinuated themselves into the church were busily engaged in turning the grace of God into an excuse for open immorality and were denying the only true God and Jesus Christ the Lord (Jude 1:4 ). These men were immoral in life and heretical in belief.’ (DSB)

‘Controversy in religion is a hateful thing. . .But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.  It was controversy that won the battle of the Protestant Reformation. . .There are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit. . .It is a plain Scriptural duty to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”.’ (J.C. Ryle)

1:4 For certain men have secretly slipped in among you—men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe—ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
1:5 Now I desire to remind you (even though you have been fully informed of these facts once for all) that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe.

The Lord delivered his people out of Egypt – Some early manuscripts have ‘Jesus’ instead of ‘the Lord’.  Even if the correct reading is ‘the Lord’, Jude may well have been referring to Jesus, as the analogy with the previous verse (where ‘Jesus Christ’ is identified as ‘our only Sovereign and Lord’) shows.  See this article.

1:6 You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence, he has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment of the great Day.

The angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence – This detail is added to the otherwise similar teaching of 2 Pet 2:7.  Both passages link this angelic sin with that of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Peter also links it with the story of Noah.  We can thus narrow the reference down to Gen 6:1-4, where the ‘sons of God’ leave ‘their proper domain’ and come to earth and father children (the Nephilim giants) by human women.  Although the Genesis passage does not refer to the punishment of these angels, Jewish commentaries on that passage agree that they were bound and thrown into the Netherworld (cf. 1 Enoch 18:14-19:3) – 2 Peter’s ‘Tartarus’.  See this article by Michael Heiser.

Eternal chains – Arguing that the punishment of the wicked is endless, Lloyd-Jones points to this verse, and observes that ‘we are told in Revelation 21:8 that unbelievers will be cast into the same place as those fallen angels and will share their fate.’  But the present verse does not support the contention, because its sense is that these unrighteous angels have been kept ‘in eternal chains in utter darkness’ until ‘the judgement of the great Day’.

1:7 So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire.

Pursued unnatural desire – So also ESV.

Sarkos heteras
The expression sarkos heteras is, lit., ‘other flesh’.  It is variously translated:-

NIV, Good News, – ‘perversion’
NASB – ‘went after strange flesh’
RSV – ‘indulged in unnatural lust’
NRSV – ‘pursued unnatural lust’
AV – ‘going after strange flesh’

1. Some think that it refers to the Sodomites lusting after the flesh of angels:-

Green: ‘Jude may mean that just as the angels fell because of their lust for women, so the Sodomites fell because of their lust for angels (sarkos heteras indeed!).’

So also NBC.  Hillyer appears to favour this view.

In favour of this interpretation is the fact that Peter has just referred to the sexual sin of angels for human women, and it would make good sense to move on to an instance of human lust for angels.

It is urged against this interpretation that (a) we would not expect angels to be referred to as being, or having, ‘flesh’; (b) the Sodomites did not know that they were lusting after angels: they thought that Lot’s two visitors were men.

Lucas and Green are clear that ‘the sin intended by the men of Sodom was emphatically not that of lust after angels, since they had no idea of the spiritual significance of their visitors.’

2. Many commentators think that it refers to the homosexual lust of the Sodomites:-

Davids: ‘it is…likely that Jude too is thinking of homosexual activity as the “different type of flesh” (different, not from themselves, but from the women they were supposed to desire). This would be in line with the general Jewish rejection of homosexual relations.’

Lucas & Green: ‘it seems inescapable that the sin of Sodom was an attempted homosexual gang rape.’

In either case, a homosexual element is present, in that the Sodomites desired sex with persons they supposed to be men.

Now displayed – ‘So, according to Wis 10:7, the wickedness of the Cities of the Plain “is still attested by a smoking waste” (NEB); Josephus says that “vestiges of the divine fire” can still be seen there (BJ 4.483); and according to Philo, “even to this day the visible tokens of the indescribable disaster are pointed out in Syria—ruins, cinders, brimstone, smoke and murky flames which continue to rise from the ground as from a fire still smoldering beneath” (Mos. 2.56; cf. Abr 141).’ (Baukham)

Eternal fire – pyros aiōniou.  ‘Jude means that the still burning site of the cities is a warning picture of the eternal fires of hell.’ (Baukham)

‘Their fire is eternal in that that their destruction was complete, and, unlike most burned cities in Palestine, they were never rebuilt.’ (Davids)

Ellis maintains: ‘When Jude 7 refers to Sodom undergoing the judgment of “everlasting fire” it does not mean that Sodom is ever burning, but that the effect of the burning lasts forever.  (in Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, Joshua W. Anderson. Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism (p. 132). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

Based on the NIV translation- ‘An example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire’ – I had previously commented, in responses to Ellis’ interpretation: ‘the argument of some annihilationists, that because the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was immediate, rather than everlasting, so the destruction of the wicked will not be everlasting, strikes me as weak.  One event can act as an ‘example’ of another, without the two having to resemble each other in every respect.’  However, the NET© translation given here supports the view of Ellis, by clarifying that the ‘punishment of eternal fire’ was suffered by Sodom and Gomorrah.

1:8 Yet these men, as a result of their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and insult the glorious ones.
1:9 But even when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil and debating with him concerning Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a slanderous judgment, but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
1:10 But these men do not understand the things they slander, and they are being destroyed by the very things that, like irrational animals, they instinctively comprehend.
1:11 Woe to them! For they have traveled down Cain’s path, and because of greed have abandoned themselves to Balaam’s error; hence, they will certainly perish in Korah’s rebellion.
1:12 These men are dangerous reefs at your love feasts, feasting without reverence, feeding only themselves. They are waterless clouds, carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit—twice dead, uprooted; 1:13 wild sea waves, spewing out the foam of their shame; wayward stars for whom the utter depths of eternal darkness have been reserved.

Autumn trees – ‘Trees which have no fruit at harvest time have failed to fulfil the function for which they exist (cf. Mt. 7:15-20; Mk. 11:12-14). Uprooted is a picture of judgment (cf. Ps. 52:5; Je. 1:10; Mt. 3:10). These men are twice dead because they have tasted spiritual life (as well as physical life) and rejected it (cf. Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).’ (NBC)

For whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever – ‘”Reserved” seats in hell! Did you ever think of that?’ (Spurgeon at his Best, 364)

1:14 Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, 1:15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
1:16 These people are grumblers and fault-finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain.

Exhortation to the Faithful

1:17 But you, dear friends—recall the predictions foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1:18 For they said to you, “In the end time there will come scoffers, propelled by their own ungodly desires.” 1:19 These people are divisive, worldly, devoid of the Spirit.
1:20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, 1:21 maintain yourselves in the love of God, while anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings eternal life.

Keep yourselves in God’s love – Cf. Jn 15:9f.

1:22 And have mercy on those who waver; 1:23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; have mercy on others, coupled with a fear of God, hating even the clothes stained by the flesh.

Final Blessing

1:24 Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence, 1:25 to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity. Amen.

What kind of ‘falling’ is envisaged here? Not the falling into temptation, or adversity, or spiritual depression – the best of Christians are prone to these things. No – the context determines that it is apostasy which is in view here (see 17-23). So the application of this verse is not, ‘trust in God and he will look after you’. It is, ‘persevere in the faith, and get others to persevere as well.’

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