The Author. The writer of this epistle was either Judas the Lord’s brother (Matthew 13:55) or Judas the apostle, as both were used of God in the foundational work of the early church. Both had brothers named James. If he was Judas the apostle, it is interesting that he was paired with Judas Iscariot in public ministry (Luke 6:16) which means he knew what it meant to have an apostate within the inner circle. However, another possibility is that the author was Judas the Lord’s half-brother. One tends to agree with this for the following reason: by referring to himself as simply “the brother of James” without any other qualifier, Jude must have meant the most prominent James at the time, which would have been James the Just. See entries for the three Jameses and the three Judases.1 The natural brethren of our Lord, the other children of Mary, were unbelievers before the cross (John 7:5). God allowed that the family of the Lord Jesus would be unbelieving during His lifetime. It was not a family conspiracy that made Him the object of the Christian’s faith. The Lord rejected any such worldly ambitions on the part of His brethren (John 7). It would be through the Lord’s death and resurrection that His natural family would be irresistibly drawn to saving knowledge of Him as Christ and Savior. On the Day of Pentecost they were found with the believing company in the upper room (Acts 1:14).  The Lord had at least four half-brothers and at least two half-sisters (Mark 6:3). We know nothing of the sisters, Joses, or Simon. Much is said of James in the book of Acts, and he is mentioned in the epistles, and wrote his own letter to the twelve tribes. All we have of Juda is this epistle.
Overview of the Epistle. The epistle of Jude is written for the stated purpose of encouraging Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”. It is not an epistle of much doctrine, nor does it contain fresh revelation. Jude writes against the backdrop of the Christian testimony coming under attack, wherein evil has made its inroads among the saints through false teaching and its effect on many who professed the name of Christ. Jude reveals the character of these individuals who seek to corrupt the Christian testimony and shows that God will judge them as He has judged evil in the past, citing a number of examples. He reminds the saints that the apostles have predicted this infiltration of the testimony, and that in itself is an encouragement; all of this is known of God beforehand. Finally, Jude gives positive instructions for the believers as to how they can be preserved from evil while they wait for the Lord to come. While Jude speaks of the corruption and apostasy of the Christian profession, Revelation foretells the judgment that must follow. The two books are morally linked.
Jude vs. 2 Peter 2. A common question arises about the similarity between the epistle of Jude and the second chapter of 2 Peter. These two portions are very similar, but there is a key difference. Peter’s epistles deal primarily with the issues of sin and righteousness, godliness and ungodliness, and therefore he addresses more broadly the unrighteousness of the false teachers that were coming into the Christian profession. Jude sees the unrighteousness (generally), but specifically notices the apostasy; the fact that there was a falling away from a former position. In 2 Peter the false teachers are an insult to righteousness, and in Jude they are an insult to His grace; “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness”. Of the three Old Testament examples, Peter and Jude both use two in common. But in the other case they differ. Peter speaks of the flood which came upon the world of the ungodly, while Jude speaks of the people judged in the wilderness. The world of the ungodly is more a general thing; God judging the world because of general wickedness. Jude notices a people who outwardly occupied the place of privilege, yet turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. Another example is that Peter speaks of “the angels that sinned” whilst Jude notices that they “kept not their original state”. The two go hand in hand, but they view it from a different angle.2
Apostasy and Apathy. An apostate is one who professes to have a knowledge and faith in God and His testimony, and then turns away from it. Such a person can never be saved (Hebrews 6:4-6). This does not mean that a person can lose their salvation, but that they never had saving faith to begin with. A great deal of confusion comes in if we don’t understand what an apostate is, and what a backslider is. A backslider is one with real faith but who gets off the path and goes into sin. Their eternal destiny is secure, but their life may end up being a loss for Christ. Hebrews, 2 Peter, and Jude take up the subject of apostasy at length. If the reader has real faith, is there nothing in those scriptures for their heart and conscience? Yes, all scripture is profitable. Along with actual apostasy is the spirit of apostasy, or apathy. We are warned that the same spirit and principle that apostates manifest can affect those who are true believers.

The word Gnostic comes from the Greek word ‘gnosis’, which means knowledge. The word is used by historians to describe a school of thought. Gnosticism arose from a group of evil workers who claimed to have higher light, special spiritual knowledge, or “secret wisdom”. This movement began in the days of the apostles, and continued into the 5th century. Before John died, the seeds of Gnosticism had been sown; perhaps even before Paul's death (1 Tim. 6:20). John’s epistles are written to defend against the inroads of Gnosticism (2 John 1:7,9). Peter warns of their false teaching, and Jude warns of its moral effect on the Christian testimony. Gnosticism is responsible for not just one heresy, but seven or eight. What is it? In this mystical system, the spiritual world was good, and material world was evil. They rejected the incarnation, because it connects the human with the divine. The Gnostics would try to separate “Jesus” from “Christ”, by making Christ an emanation (a shining out from a source) from God that never truly became flesh, or else was united to a mere man named Jesus at his baptism, but returned to God before Jesus’ death on the cross. In doing so, this evil system annulled the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection. The New Testament anticipates this irreverent and wicked system of doctrine by stating the simple truth of Christ's Person and work.

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Introduction (vv.1-4)

Salutation: Writer and Recipient Introduced (vv.1-2)

Jude, bondman of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to the called ones beloved in God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ: v.1 Writer and Recipient. While he was the half-brother of our Lord, it is beautiful to see that Jude doesn’t even identify himself with our Lord on a natural level. Instead, he humbly identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James. This is a catholic or “general” epistle, in that it is addressed universally to the “called ones”. It is nice to see how such a serious epistle begins with the assurance of our position in Christ. Believers are “called ones” in the sense that we have been separated from the world and its defilement to follow the Lord. We are “beloved in God the Father” in that we have been brought into relationship with God as our Father, and have a conscious sense that we are loved. We are also “preserved in Jesus Christ” in that our whole spirit, soul, and body are under the protection of the same one who laid down His life for us; we are preserved for time and for eternity.
2 Mercy to you, and peace, and love be multiplied. v.2 Greeting. Three things that are available to believers seeking to walk for God in a dark day:
  1. Mercy is God’s intervention and deliverance on the part of His people. Mercy is usually only added when an epistle is addressed to an individual, because the saints collectively are never looked at as an object of mercy, but of grace. Jude is the only exception to this rule, and the reason suggested is that the epistle describes circumstances so grave that the need for “mercy” in the 
  2. Peace refers to settled peace with God (Rom. 5:1), not only with regard to our standing, but also with regard to our circumstances. The circumstances in Jude are the most unsettling naturally, so peace is especially needed.
  3. Love here is the sacrificial and unconditional love of a settled disposition that God has for us. This is the only epistle where love is prayed for in the greeting! It is fitting that in the darkest of days the saints be reminded of God’s unconditional love.
These three treasure are not merely “added”, but “multiplied” to us! There is a compounding nature to those gifts which spring from the heart of God.

Prefatory Comments: the Purpose of the Epistle (vv.3-4)

3 Beloved, using all diligence to write to you of our common salvation, I have been obliged to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. v.3 Purpose of the Epistle. Jude had an intention to write “of our common salvation”. The expression “our common salvation” includes all aspects of salvation. Perhaps this could have been an epistle concerning the blessings and hopes of the Christian, or even a gospel like Matthew or Mark. However, Jude was obliged instead to exhort the saints that they should “earnestly contend for the faith”. The need pressed on Jude by the Spirit was the urgent danger of apostasy. (In v.4, we find the manner of the apostasy coming in, but in v.3 it is what we must do in light of it.) We can “earnestly contend” by walking in the truth ourselves (1 Tim. 4:16, Prov. 28:4) and “in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” counting on God to do the work in the hearts of others, not by arguing or being contentious (2 Tim. 2:14; 23-26). The word “contend” can either have the thought of a fight or of a competition for a prize. It is more the latter that is meant here. It is a dogged determination to hold onto the truth God has given to us. Shammah is a nice example of this in 2 Sam. 23. He valued a field of lentils and earnestly contended for it, and the Lord wrought a great victory. “The faith” here is not personal faith (note the presence of the definite article), but rather the Christian faith; i.e. the whole body of Christian truth. We must know it first in order to contend for it. Jude doesn’t elaborate on what “the faith” is; we must read the other New Testament writers to learn it. This body of Christian truth was “once delivered” in the sense of once-for-all; no one can improve upon the truth. The truth alone won’t keep you; it needs to be coupled with devotion and communion.
4 For certain men have got in unnoticed, they who of old were marked out beforehand to this sentence, ungodly persons, turning the grace of our God into dissoluteness, and denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. v.4 Background Reason. The entrance of false teachers was the occasion for writing. From history we know that the evil doctrine in question was what developed into Gnosticism. This was the great evil system that Paul and John wrote to strengthen the saints against. It was spread by those who had a great deal of exposure to Christianity, but were never real (v.19). One who makes a profession without reality and then falls away from that profession is called an apostate. As to these apostates, John says “they went out from us [apostles]” (1 John 2:19), but Jude says they “crept in. Some apostates leave the profession entirely, others find a system or cult where they can remain comfortably, and work to defile the testimony from that position. But they deny “our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ”. History shows that often things once recognized and rejected by the Church later creep back in! In 2 Peter we see the teaching of these apostates, while in Jude we see their actions. The character of these apostate intruders is something that we are warned of, even in the Old Testament. The Greek word is ‘progegrammenoi’, and it means before-written. “Ordained” is a mistranslation; their character was “marked out” of old by the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament. This is confirmed in verses 5, 6, 7, and 11 where specific examples from the Old Testament are given. No one is ordained by God for condemnation. This distinction is important to understand because some would like to twist this verse to support double predestination. They “got in unnoticed” for two reasons. On one hand their character (v.4b) wasn’t visible immediately. They put on a nice exterior for a while, but eventually a tree can be identified by its fruits as our Lord taught in Matt. 7:15-20. On the other hand, those in responsibility in the Church were not watchful; it says “while men slept, [Christ’s] enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat” (Matt. 13:25). There are two leading features of the flesh brought out here; lust and lawlessness. We see these two features again in vv.8-10.
  1. Turning the grace of God into a license to satisfy the flesh. This is the teaching that, as Christians, we can do whatever we want. It is the sin of using the grace of God against the holiness of God. This evil is not unique to the day Jude lived in. We see it prevalent in the house of God today. We must ask ourselves about every doctrine we are presented with; what is its tendency?
  2. Refusing to recognize the authority of the Lord. Jude owns the absolute authority and lordship of Christ over the believer; but these ones denied it, as they despised every form of authority (vv.8-10).

Warning Concerning Apostate Intruders (vv.5-23)

God’s Judgment on Those who Depart From their God-given Place (vv.5-7)

vv.5-7 God Judges Apostates. In the next three verses we have an encouragement for the faithful by way of reminding them that God judges those who depart from their God-given place. Jude shows from the Old Testament that God has judged in this way before, and therefore proves that He takes apostasy very seriously, and will judge again. There are three examples of this judgment; “that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matt. 18:16). Moreover, in these three examples there is a moral progression . In v.5 we have the root principle of unbelief; refusing to acknowledge the goodness in God’s heart. Then, in v.6 that principle is carried forward into action, and we have disobedience to the God’s commands. Finally, in v.7 we have unbridled lust. First the seed, then the shoots, and at last the full crop. 

Case #1: The Unbelieving Israelites, who Fell in the Wilderness (v.5)

5 But I would put you in remembrance, you who once knew all things, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, in the second place destroyed those who had not believed. v.5 The Unbelieving Israelites. Jude writes to believers who “once knew these things” but they had become faint in their minds and needed reminding. We all need reminding! The first example Jude brings out from the Old Testament is that of the Exodus. The Lord saved a great people by bringing them out of the land of Egypt, but not all of them were believers. After physically saving the whole, He destroyed the unbelievers among them. Though they were all saved out of the land of Egypt, when time passed by, the unbelievers returned to Egypt in their hearts. These fell in the wilderness because they did not really have faith (Num. 14:28-35; 1 Cor. 10:5-10; Heb. 3:16-19). So with apostates. They make a profession, and they occupy the same position outwardly as true believers, but at length they abandon their profession and fall under the judgment of God.

Case #2: The Disobedient Angels who Left their First Estate (v.6)

6 And angels who had not kept their own original state, but had abandoned their own dwelling, he keeps in eternal chains under gloomy darkness, to the judgment of the great day; v.6 The Disobedient Angels. Jude then speaks of a second example of apostasy. The particular case that is described in this passage (also in 2 Peter 2) is almost certainly what Genesis 6:1-2 speaks of. Peter says the angels “sinned”, but Jude adds that they “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation”. Fallen angels are the minions of Satan, who is himself an angel (a spiritual being), and is the leader of the fallen. Many of these fallen angels, called demons, are still free to roam the earth, work their evil, possess people, and engage in warfare in the heavenly places (Job 1:6-7). When Christ appears to judge the world, He will bind Satan and his demons in a temporary confinement, called the Abyss, or Tartarus (Rev. 20:1-2; Isa. 24:21-22; 2 Peter 2:4). The demons know that Christ will do this eventually, yet still they cling to their temporary freedom (Matt. 8:29; Luke 8:31). A subset of these fallen angels went a step further than the rest, in the years before the flood. By comparing with Genesis 6, we gather that the fallen angels referenced in 2 Peter 2 and Jude are the same as the “sons of God” who intermarried with the daughters of men, and copulated, giving birth to a mixed-race of extraordinary ability (Gen. 6:4). They “left their own dwelling”; i.e. came down to inhabit earth. They left their God-given “original state” as sexless beings (Mark 12:25), and began to live as men. This was a level that even Satan and his demons have not gone to. It was this extreme wickedness, and its effect on the earth, that precipitated the great flood of Noah’s day. God expedited the imprisonment of these angels, putting them in chains, and casting them into the Abyss, where they remain until their final judgment. Ultimately, Satan and all the fallen angels will be cast into the Lake of Fire, which is their permanent prison, created by God for their eternal confinement (Matt. 25:41). This is a powerful example of apostasy, and the judgment of God upon it.

Case #3: The Immoral Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (v.7)

7 as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities around them, committing greedily fornication, in like manner with them, and going after other flesh, lie there as an example, undergoing the judgment of eternal fire. v.7 The Immoral Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The third example that Jude gives of God’s judgment on apostasy is that of Sodom and Gomorrah, with the cities surrounding them (five in total), which is recorded in Genesis 19. The lifestyle of the people dwelling in the cities of the plain at the time of Abraham is well documented in the book of Genesis, and referenced throughout the rest of the Bible. Jude notices the their sin was especially wicked in that they not only committed “fornication” but did so by “going after other flesh”. Their immorality was aggravated by the fact that it violated the natural order of creation. This is apostasy in a sense, because they were created as men but fell away from the way God made them. God takes evil seriously, and He will judge it unsparingly, as He did with those cities which were reduced to ashes! The cites are still buried in ashes, and “lie there as an example”. Though that fire was physical, Jude here hints at the deeper and more serious judgment for the wicked after death; “the judgment of eternal fire”.

Characteristics: Dreaming, Defiling, and Despising (vv.8-10)

8 Yet in like manner these dreamers also defile the flesh, and despise lordship, and speak railingly against dignities. v.8 Dreamers, Defiling Flesh, and Despising Authority. The apostate intruders had the same characteristics as the unbelieving people in the wilderness, as the angels who left their original state, and as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The shocking thing is that these were individuals within the Christian profession. Jude refers to them as “dreamers”, in contrast to those who are guided by the word of God.3 Since they don’t recognize the authority of God, this leads to them to live contrary to God’s design, and therefore “defile the flesh”, referring to immoral practices. But God’s authority is not the only authority they reject; they also These ones also “despise lordship, and speak railingly against dignities”. Despising lordship is the root condition of their heart, but railing against dignities is the way it is manifested. Any authority, whether family (Eph. 6:1), assembly (Matt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 16:16), or civil (Rom. 13:1), is not bowed to or accepted. The way a person speaks about those in a place of authority shows the condition of their spirit. How careful we need to be with our spirits and our tongues! Jude then gives an example of one who acted aright.
9 But Michael the archangel, when disputing with the devil he reasoned about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a railing judgment against him, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. v.9 The Example of Michael. Jude references an event that took place in the days of Joshua, but is not recorded in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 34 we read of the death of Moses, and how “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he [Jehovah] buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” (Deut. 34:5-6). The Lord saw fit that Moses body would not be found. We are not told why, but perhaps it could be that, if the bones of Moses were discovered, they could become a relic for Israel to worship. Unrecorded in the Old Testament is a spiritual battle that took places wherein the devil disputed with Michael the archangel about the body of Moses. There is only one archangel mentioned in scripture, and the title denotes a rank of high authority. However high Michael may be in authority, Satan is an angel of superior rank, though he is fallen. Michael did not speak rebelliously or disrespectfully. He acted according to God’s mind and thus could appeal to God’s judgment; “the Lord rebuke thee”. He knew that the time had not yet come for Satan to be cast out of heaven. In Revelation 12 we find that Michael is given that privilege of conducting that war, and gaining the victory. But here he refused to speak injuriously against one with higher authority from God, even though Satan was in a fallen condition. Read more…  David also is another example of one who would not speak evil of his king even though Saul was was in a very bad state, and on numerous occasions shows that he had a respect for Saul because he was “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6).
10 But these, whatever things they know not, they speak railingly against; but what even, as the irrational animals, they understand by mere nature, in these things they corrupt themselves. v.10 Ignorance of Spiritual, Corruption of Natural. In contrast with Michael, these false teachers are relatively ignorant of spiritual things, being void of genuine faith (v.19). Since they cannot understand divine things, they rail (speak ill) against those things. Being without spiritual sensibilities, are they like mere animals? Actually, they are worse. Even “irrational animals” act according to their instincts (called here “mere nature”), but these apostate intruders go against their own nature, corrupting themselves. Whenever an individual departs from their intended purpose, granted by God, to adopt a different lifestyle, they sink lower than animals in their behavior. This underscores a profound principle: when men turn away from God, they descend not just to an equal level but even below that of the animal kingdom.

Three Avenues of Evil (v.11)

11 Woe to them! because they have gone in the way of Cain, and given themselves up to the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. v.11 A Three-fold Warning: Three Apostates. Jude, like the prophets of old, issues a three-fold warning on the apostate intruders. He condemns them on three counts, tying each to an example from the Old Testament.
  1. The Way of Cain (self-will) is shown in that he wanted to approach God in his own way. The sacrifices of Cain and Abel represent two approaches to God. All down through human history, there have only been two approaches. The first approach is to come to God seeking acceptance on the ground of man’s own works; a bloodless sacrifice. Jude speaks of this as “the way of Cain”. The second approach is to come to God on the value of a life offered up in death, which was Abel’s approach. Cain’s way is seen in the introduction of a bloodless gospel; a natural man’s religion of works. This is an insult to the work of Christ, and an insult to the grace of God!
  2. The Error of Balaam (self-interest) was that he was willing to sell his gift or office for money. Balaam was a prophet motived by the love of money. He was a professional. He was willing to do anything, including curse the people of God, “for reward”. This is the kind of corruption that invaded the church after the adoption of a clerical system. In God’s government, Balaam is mentioned among the casualties when the Israelites fought against the Midianites (Num. 31:8). He showed his true colors and suffered death as an enemy of the people of God.
  3. The Gainsaying of Cora (self-importance) was an attempt to throw off God’s order and replace it with man’s order. Korah led a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, challenging their authority. Along with his supporters, he accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the rest of the people. He had no respect for the order that God had established in making Moses the leader and Aaron the priest. Korah was guilty of party-making, in an attempt to gather supporters around himself. Infamously, the earth opened up and swallowed Korah and his followers along with their households, and they were consumed by fire.

A Full Catalog of the Character of the Apostates (vv.12-16)

12 These are spots in your love-feasts, feasting together with you without fear, pasturing themselves; clouds without water, carried along by the winds; autumnal trees, without fruit, twice dead, rooted up; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shames; wandering stars, to whom has been reserved the gloom of darkness for eternity. vv.12-13 Five Metaphors From Nature. Jude next describes the character of these false teachers.
  1. Spots. This is an illusion to sunken rocks with the sea over them. They are a sailor’s nightmare because they are hard to detect and can do serious damage to a vessel. So were the apostate infiltrators. They were attending the saints’ “love feasts”, which were like a fellowship meal. They were there, among the brethren “without fear”, and so bold as to feed themselves and profit from the generosity of the saints.
  2. Clouds. Often clouds bring the expectation of rain. Clouds without water carry the promise of refreshment but don’t perform. So with these false teachers; there is nothing in their ministry that feeds the soul or refreshes the hearts the saints. Further, they are carried by the winds of doctrine; there is nothing stable with them.
  3. Trees. Tress ought to bear fruit, but these do not. They are twice dead: (1) without Divine Life, (2) by apostasy. They are not rooted and grounded.
  4. Waves. These are raging waves of the ocean, unstable and destructive, and “foaming out their own shames”.
  5. Stars. Stars often represent that which gives moral light and provides guidance, but these are “wandering stars”. A wandering star was one that did not obey the predicable path across the night sky. Perhaps it would have been a planet that a sailor could mistake for a star, and consequently be led off-course. These false teachers were like that: unreliable guides. There end would be eternal punishment. While the “lake of fire” speaks of the eternal judgment of God, the “blackness of darkness” gives the thought of total isolation. Both are figurative, else how could it be black if there was fire?
14 And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied also as to these, saying, Behold, the Lord has come amidst his holy myriads, 15 to execute judgment against all; and to convict all the ungodly of them of all their works of ungodliness, which they have wrought ungodlily, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. vv.14-15 The Prophecy of Enoch. Having unfolded the character of the apostate intruders, Jude now speaks of their judgment. He refers to the ancient prophecy of Enoch, who lived in the days shortly before the flood, but was translated “that he should not see death” (Heb. 11:5). Enoch is called the “seventh from Adam”, and the number seven is a completion in the ways of God. Enoch is a picture of the Church, which will be eventually raptured, because it says of Enoch that he “was not, for God took him”. He spoke to the world about the appearing of Christ and the wrath to come. It is amazing to see how in the very earliest prophecies (over four millennia ago) the Spirit of God was looking on the glorious appearing of Christ! As Christians, our intelligent message is that the Lord is going to personally intervene in this world. Compare the seventh from Adam in Seth’s line with the seventh from Adam in Cain’s line (Lamech). It is not for us to root out the tares (Matt. 13:28-30). We might mix up the wheat (backslidden Christians) with the tares. It is the Lord’s work. The so-called “harvest judgment” will take place at the appearing, and the Lord will hold the sickle (Matt; 24:40-41; Matt. 13:14; Rev. 14:14-16). Many sinners have spoken “hard things” against Christ, and their minds are stubbornly closed to seeing their error. When the Lord returns, they will be “convinced” or ‘put to shame’. We may not be able to change their minds, but one day they will know the truth: that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10).
The Book of Enoch. Many wonder about the book of Enoch, which some believe to be quoted by Jude here in vv.14-15. There is really no evidence that the book of Enoch is inspired scripture, or that Jude considered it to be so. It is an apocryphal book written during or just prior to the days of the Maccabees. Many fragments of the book of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is no evidence that Jude was quoting this book. He knew of the prophecy of Enoch, and quoted that prophecy. Another, centuries before Jude wrote, knew of the same prophecy, and wrote an apocryphal book that is full of errors. One example of error is that it states that the flood came upon the earth because it became tilted.
16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their lusts; and their mouth speaks swelling words, admiring persons for the sake of profit. v.16 True Character Revealed. The real character of these false teachers is revealed. They are found to be ungrateful, rebellious, fake, and manipulative. Their true aim is to profit from the saints.

Recollection of the Apostles’ Words about the Last Time (vv.17-19)

17 But “ye”, beloved, remember the words spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they said to you, that at the end of the time there should be mockers, walking after their own lusts of ungodlinesses. vv.17-18 Recollection of the Apostles’ Words. Jude had been speaking of the apostate intruders, referred to as “they”. He now begins to use “ye”, referring to the true believers. It was important for the saints to remember that the intrusion of these evil workers into the Christian testimony was really not unexpected. God had warned of this through “the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is significant that every major New Testament writer (Luke, Paul, Peter, John) warns of coming apostasy, at “the end of the time”. Some would accuse dispensationalists of pessimism when they speak of the increasing prevalence of apostasy, but really it is simple acknowledgment of the testimony of scripture concerning things to come. This gives the believer comfort as the shadows lengthen, that our God knew it all beforehand, and provided means whereby the saints might be preserved (vv.20-23).
19 These are they who set themselves apart, natural men, not having the Spirit. v.19 Natural Men. Jude gives a final description of the false teachers that really encompasses their character. First, they “set themselves apart” as those who desire a place of prominence. But where leaders in the assembly ought to be spiritual men, these are “natural men”. They are guided by their senses, “not having the Spirit”. They are not saved. They elevate themselves to a position above the brethren, but they are not even indwelt with the Spirit! Contrast true overseers in Acts 20:28.

Practical Exhortations: The Christian’s Occupation (vv.20-23)

20 But “ye”, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. vv.20-21 Four Instructions for Our Own Preservation. What can the saints (“ye” is plural) do in spite of these terrible condition? Jude gives four practical exhortations that, if we heed them, will lead to our own preservation. Someone has compared these four things to the four anchors of Acts 27:29, however if we put these four anchors into practice we do not need to “wish for the day”, we can have confidence in God we trust to preserve us.
  1. Collective building ourselves up in the Christian faith. We must begin by establishing ourselves in the body of Christian truth (called “your most holy faith” here, or the “faith once delievered to the saints” in v.3), through the Word of God. This is the only place where “the truth” is called “most holy”, and it is in a dark day. The antidote for apostasy is not looseness in doctrine and practice. Just as an army under attack builds up ramparts or bulwarks, so Christian’s must built themselves up in the truth of God’s Word. How do we build ourselves up? We need the individual aspect, reading and meditating on God’s Word. But we also need the collective aspect; the assembling of ourselves together for mutual edification. We need the gifts to be built up (Eph. 4). In history we see that the tendency is for the church to build up a hierarchy, but it is far better to start by building ourselves up in our most holy faith. Notice that Jude addresses the saints directly, not a clergy.
  2. Praying in the Holy Spirit. Coupled with taking in the word of God is the need for prayer. This is a prayer “in the Holy Spirit”, or prayer that is in perfect accord with the mind of God, through the help of the Spirit that dwells within us (read Rom. 8:26-27).4 It implies a soul in communion with God. If we are not in communion, we must confess whatever sin is keeping us from abiding in Christ. 
  3. Keeping ourselves in the enjoyment of God’s love. The third key to preservation is the maintenance of communion. How do we keep ourselves in the love of God? We cannot compel God to love or hate us. Nor does this exhortation imply keeping up our own affections for God, which would be a form of legalism. Rather, this refers to keeping ourselves in the enjoyment of God’s love for us! The Holy Spirit is working to spread that love abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). The more we enjoy His love, the greater our confidence in Him, and the less we will be tempted to compromise with the world, to listen to the devil, or to indulge the flesh. As with “build”, so with “keep” there is a miliary connotation. A “keep” is the strongest or central tower of a castle, acting as a final refuge under attack. The enjoyment of God’s love is the strongest antidote to evil!
  4. Looking for the Lord’s mercy (including His coming) Finally, the believer is given the expectation of the Lord’s mercy along the pathway, culminating in the Lord’s coming for His saints as the ultimate mercy that ushers us into the sphere of “eternal life” in its future aspect. This hope has a preserving influence in our lives. We already have eternal life as a present possession (that is how John usually uses the expression). But “eternal life” here is looked at as a future possession, when those of us who possess it now will enjoy it in our heavenly, native environment.5 The rapture is part of that “mercy” because of the severity of the apostasy.
A Military Strategy. There may be a military overtone in these four exhortations, as “build” and “keep” imply. We can certainly apply these four exhortations to ourselves as Divine military strategy for our defense against the onslaught of apostasy:
  1. The fortifications – building up ourselves on our most holy faith
  2. The battlefield communications – praying in the Holy Spirit
  3. The inner keep – abiding in the enjoyment of God’s love
  4. The reconnaissance effort – looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference, [And some convict when contending] 23 but others save with fear, snatching them out of the fire [others save, pulling them out of the fire] ; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh [and others pity with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh]. vv.22-23 Instructions for the Salvation of Others. The ancient manuscripts do not totally agree here, making Jude 22-23 difficult to render exactly. In the Authorized version there are two classes of persons, one to have compassion on, the other save with fear. However, using all the ancient readings, it appears that there are three possible categories of persons, not two. See William Kelly’s notes.6 It takes discernment to know how to act toward those who are involved with evil. 
  1. Some (instigators) should be convicted. For those who are disputing against the truth, we are to convict them of evil. In this case it is not a matter of compassion, although our words should be always with grace, seasoned with salt. Rather, The word “dispute” is the same as in v.9 where Satan disputed about Moses’ body. Michael simply said, “the Lord rebuke thee”. These individuals are mere professors, promoting false doctrine and attacking the truth. They are the leaders, doing the work of deceiving. An example would be how the Lord Jesus dealt with the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23. He denounced their hypocrisy and self-will.
  2. Some (deceived) should be rescued. Next we have those who are led astray by deceivers. For those who are taken captive, we are to save, not in the eternal sense (only God can do that), but in the practical sense of delivering them from an evil system. The image is of a stick of wood at the side of a fire that is moments away from being engulfed in flames. We can be God’s firemen as well as fishermen! See 2 Tim. 2:24-26.
  3. Some (stubbornly entrenched) we should have compassion for. There is a third class we are only told to have compassion for. Perhaps we have tried convicting them, tried saving them, but they are fixed in their course. In our compassion we should never think lightly of sin; “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh”. We may endeavor to help them, but it must be “with fear”. The fear is for the soul we are seeking to help (2 Cor. 5:11), but it also should be concerning our own conduct. We can be defiled even when rescuing others, see Num. 19:10.

Conclusion: Prayer and Doxology (vv.24-25)

24 But to him that is able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you with exultation blameless before his glory, 25 to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might, and authority, from before the whole age, and now, and to all the ages. Amen. vv.24-25 Concluding Prayer and Praise. In closing, Jude addresses God in prayer and praise. It is remarkable that this epistle, which paints the darkest backdrop for believers, closes with the strongest assurance of God’s grace and full salvation for the believer. An apostate falls, but a true believer cannot fall. A believer may stumble, but he doesn’t have to. God is “him that is able to keep you without stumbling”. We cannot keep ourselves, but God can! The final destination for the believer is to be before the glory of God, in a condition of moral perfection, and a state of exultation or extreme joy. It’s not as if we’ll just scrape by, only to arrive in a rough condition. No, our salvation will be wonderful in every aspect, and there will be nothing missing. This leads Jude into a doxology or a burst of praise. He addresses the one true God as a Savior God, and through Jesus Christ our Lord. The desire of our hearts is that God would be glorified, past (“before the whole age”), present (“now”), and future (“to all the ages”).
  1. He is not the brother of James the son of Zebedee — John was his brother. That James was cut off from very early days indeed, and John was left latest of all; so different was the issue for these two sons of Zebedee. There was another James (as also another Jude or Judas, besides the Iscariot), “son of Alphaeus,” who is named “James the Little” (Mark 15:40). I do not think that this is the James referred to here, but rather that he is the one who has been called “James the Just”; and I presume that this title was given to him because of his practical pre-eminence. He was a hater of evil and a lover of all that was morally pleasing to God. He comes before us too, in Acts 15, though not for the first time there. – W. Kelly. Exposition of Jude.
  2. We have already noticed this difference between the epistle of Jude and the second of Peter, that Peter speaks of sin, Jude of apostasy, the departure of the assembly from its primitive state before God. Departure from the holiness of faith is the subject that Jude treats. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  3. “… those people who live in the imagination of their own hearts instead of being guided by the word of God. Why? Because the word of God is an expression of God’s authority, and His will is the only thing that ought to guide us, as well as all mankind.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle of Jude.
  4. There is a great deal of prayer that is not in the Holy Ghost. And we are not at all called upon only to pray in the Holy Ghost. Happy is he who does, and happy are they that hear prayer in the Holy Spirit. And where there is prayer in the Holy Spirit all is thoroughly acceptable to God, every word is so. Every word of such prayer expresses perfectly what God means at that time. But there are prayers that begin in the Spirit and do not end in the Spirit. Prayers are often rather mixed, and this is true even of real believers; and sometimes we pray foolishly, sometimes we pray unintelligently! This is never in the Holy Ghost. – W. Kelly. Exposition of the Epistle of Jude.
  5. Is it only by the way? No, it is all along the way, to the very end — “unto life eternal,” the great consummation. This could not be unless they already had life eternal in Christ now; but this mercy of God, “of our Lord Jesus Christ unto life eternal,” looks at the full heavenly consummation. – Kelly, W. The Epistle of Jude.
  6. Now we come to a passage which I feel to be unusually difficult to expound; and the reason is this. The original authorities and the best authorities are all in confusion about it. This is very rarely the case in the New Testament, but it is the case here. All the great authorities are at sixes and sevens in the testimony they give of these two verses (22, 23). …Our Version … looks at two cases only… Now I believe there are three classes, and not two only. … I am certainly open to anything that might be shown to the contrary, but as yet no one has shown it. No one at all. … First of all Jude says, “And some convict when contending.” The fact is, compassion belongs to another class, not to this one at all… “Making a difference,” as in the Authorised, should rather be, “when they dispute.” It is the people that are being convicted who of course make the dispute, instead of the person that shows compassion making a difference among them. It is quite a different idea. … These then are the three classes: a disputatious class to be convicted and silenced — then, those that are to be saved, snatched out of the fire — and, others to be compassionated with fear, hating the garment spotted by the flesh. So that this all tends to complete the picture of the danger to souls. – Kelly, W. The Epistle of Jude.