But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) But ye, beloved.—Exactly as in Jude 1:17 : “ye” in emphatic contrast to these sensuous and unspiritual men.
Building up yourselves.—Making yourselves firm on the sure foundation of faith, in contradistinction to those “who separate,” and fancy themselves firm in their impious conceits. The notion is not so much that of increasing and completing an edifice as of strengthening its foundations. Faith and its object are here almost identified. To have faith as one’s foundation is the same as having Christ as one’s foundation. “Your faith,” that which has been “once for all delivered” to you (Jude 1:4). “Most holy faith,” as opposed to the most unholy quick sands of the doctrines condemned in this Epistle.
Praying in the Holy Ghost.—Only in this way can Christians make firm their foundation. The Greek admits of “in the Holy Ghost” being taken with the previous clause; but our version is better. The expression “praying in the Holy Ghost” is not found elsewhere. It means that we pray in His strength and wisdom: He moves our hearts and directs our petitions. (See Notes on Romans 8:26.)
(21) Keep yourselves in the love of God.—Not our love of God, but His love of us. Consequently it is not the case that the three great Christian virtues—Faith, Hope, and Charity—are inculcated here, although at first sight we are tempted to think so. God’s love is the region in which those who are built up on faith, and supported by prayer, may continually dwell.
The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.—The mercy which He will show as Judge at the Last Day. By prayer in the Spirit we are kept in the love of the Father for the mercy of the Son.
Unto eternal life.—These words may be taken either with “keep yourselves,” or with “looking,” or with “mercy”: best with “keep yourselves.”
KEEPING OURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF GOD
Jude has been, in all the former part of the letter, pouring out a fiery torrent of vehement indignation and denunciation against ‘certain men’ who had ‘crept’ into the Church, and were spreading gross immorality there. He does not speak of them so much as heretics in belief, but rather as evil-doers in practice; and after the thunderings and lightning, he turns from them with a kind of sigh of relief in this emphatic, ‘But, ye! beloved.’ The storm ends in gentle rain; and he tells the brethren who are yet faithful how they are to comport themselves in the presence of prevalent corruption, and where is their security and their peace.
You will observe that in my text there is embedded, in the middle of it, a direct precept: ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God’; and that that is encircled by three clauses, like each other in structure, and unlike it- ‘building, ‘‘praying,’ ‘looking.’ The great diamond is surrounded by a ring of lesser jewels. Why did Jude put two of these similar clauses in front of his direct precept, and one of them behind it? I think because the two that precede indicate the ways by which the precept can be kept, and the one that follows indicates the accompaniment or issue of obedience to the precept. If that be the reason for the structure of my text, it suggests also to us the course which we had best pursue in the exposition of it.
I. So we hare, to begin with, the great direct precept for the Christian life.
‘Keep yourselves in the love of God.’ Now I need not spend a moment in showing that ‘ the love of God’ here means, not ours to Him, but His to us. It is that in which, as in some charmed circle, we are to keep ourselves. Now that injunction at once raises the question of the possibility of Christian men being out of the love of God, straying away from their home, and getting out into the open. Of course there is a sense in which His ‘tender mercies are over all His works.’ Just as the sky embraces all the stars and the earth within its blue round, so that love of God encompasses every creature; and no man can stray so far away as that, in one profound sense, he gets beyond its pale. For no man can ever make God cease to love him. But whilst that is quite true, on the other side it is equally true that contrariety of will and continuance in evil deeds do so alter a man’s relation to the love of God as that he is absolutely incapable of receiving its sweetest and most select manifestations, and can only be hurt by the incidence of its beams. The sun gives life to many creatures, but it slays some. There are crawling things that live beneath a stone, and when you turn it up and let the arrows of the sunbeams smite down upon them, they squirm and die. It is possible for a man so to set himself in antagonism to that great Light as that the Light shall hurt and not bless and soothe.
It is also possible for a Christian man to step out of the charmed circle, in the sense that he becomes all unconscious of that Light. Then to him it comes to the same thing that the love shall be non-existent, and that it shall be unperceived. If I choose to make my abode on the northern side of the mountain, my thermometer may be standing at ‘ freezing,’ and I may be shivering in all my limbs on Midsummer Day at noontide. And so it is possible for us Christian people to stray away out from that gracious abode, to pass from the illuminated disc into the black shadow; and though nothing is ‘ hid from the heat thereof,’ yet we may derive no warmth and no enlightening from the all-pervading beams. We have to ‘keep ourselves in the love of God.’
Then that suggests the other more blessed possibility, that amidst all the distractions of daily duties, and the solicitations of carking cares, and the oppression of heavy sorrows, it is possible for us to keep ourselves perpetually in the conscious enjoyment of the love of God. I need not say how this ideal of the Christian life may be indefinitely approximated to in our daily experiences; nor need I dwell upon the sad contrast between this ideal unbrokenness of conscious sunning ourselves in the love of God, and the reality of the lives that most of us live. But, brethren, if we more fully believed that we can keep up, amidst all the dust and struggle of the arena, the calm sweet sense of God’s love, our lives would be different. Nightingales will sing in a dusty copse by the roadside, however loud the noise of traffic may be upon the highway. And we may have, all through our lives, that song, unbroken and melodious. That sub-consciousness underlying our daily work, ‘like some sweet beguiling melody, so sweet, we know not we are listening to it,’ may be ever present with each of us in our daily work, like some ‘hidden brook in the leafy month of June,’ that murmurs beneath the foliage, and yet is audible through all the wood.
And what a peaceful, restful life ours would be, if we could thus be like John, leaning on the Master’s bosom. We might have a secret fortress into the central chamber of which we could go, whither no sound of the war in the plains could ever penetrate. We might, like some dwellers in a mountainous island, take refuge in a central glen, buried deep amongst the hills, where there would be no sound of tempest, though the winds were fighting on the surface of the sea, and the spindrift was flying before them. It is possible to ‘keep ourselves in the love of God.’ And if we keep in that fortress we are safe. If we go beyond its walls we are sure to be picked off by the well-aimed shots of the enemy. So, then, that is the central commandment for the Christian life.
II. Now let me turn to consider the methods by which we can thus keep ourselves in the love of God.
These are two: one mainly bearing on the outward, the other on the inward, life. By ‘ building up yourselves on your most holy faith’: that is the one. By ‘praying in the Holy Ghost’: that is the other. Let us look at these two.
‘Building up yourselves on your most holy faith.’ I suppose that ‘faith’ here is used in its ordinary sense. Some would rather prefer to take it in the latter, ecclesiastical sense, by which it means, not the act of belief, but the aggregate of the things believed.-’ Our most holy faith,’ as it is called by quotation-I think misquotation-of this passage. But I do not see that there is any necessity for that meaning. The words are perfectly intelligible in their ordinary meaning. What Jude says is just this: ‘Your trust in Jesus Christ has in it a tendency to produce holiness, and that is the foundation on which you are to build a great character. Build up yourselves on your most holy faith.’ For although it is not what the world’s ethics recognize, the Christian theory of morality is this, that it all rests upon trust in God manifested to us in Jesus Christ. Faith is the foundation of all supreme excellence and nobility and beauty of character; because, for one thing, it dethrones self, and enthrones God in our hearts; making Him our aim and our law and our supreme good; and because, for another thing, our trust brings us into direct union with Him, so that we receive from Him the power thus to build up a character.
Faith is the foundation. Ay! but faith is only the foundation. It is ‘the potentiality of wealth,’ but it is not the reality. ‘All things are possible to him that believeth’; but all things are not actual except on conditions. A man may have faith, as a great many professing Christians have it, only as a ‘fire-escape,’ a means of getting away from hell, or have it only as a band that is stretched out to grasp certain initial blessings of the spiritual life. But that is not its full glory nor its real aspect. It is meant to be the beginning in us of ‘all things that are lovely and of good report.’ What would you think of a man that carefully put in the foundations for a house, and had all his building materials on the ground, and let them lie there? And that is what a great many of you Christian people do, who ‘ have fled for refuge,’ as you say,’ to the hope set before you in the Gospel’; and who have never wrought out your faith into noble deeds. Remember what the Apostle says, ‘Faith which worketh ‘; and worketh ‘by love.’ It is the foundation, but only the foundation.
The work of building a noble character on that firm foundation is never-ending. ‘Tis a life-long task ‘ till the lump be leavened.’ The metaphor of growth by building suggests effort, and it suggests continuity; and it suggests slow, gradual rearing up, course upon course, stone by stone. Some of us have done nothing at it for a great many years. You will pass, sometimes, in our suburbs, a row of houses begun by some builder that has become bankrupt; and there are mouldering bricks and gaping empty places for the windows, and the rafters decaying, and stagnant water down in the holes that were meant for the cellars. That is like the kind of thing that hosts of people who call themselves Christians have built. ‘But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith . . . Keep yourselves in the love.’
Then the other way of building is suggested in the next clause, ‘praying in the Holy Ghost’-that is to say, prayer which is not mere utterance of my own petulant desires which a great deal of our ‘ prayer’ is, but which is breathed into us by that Divine Spirit that will brood over our chaos, and bring order out of confusion, and light and beauty out of darkness, and weltering sea:-
‘The prayers I make will then be sweet indeed,
If Thou the Spirit give by which I pray.’
As Michael Angelo says, such prayer inspired and warmed by the influences of that Divine Spirit playing upon the dull flame of our desires, like air injected into a grate where the fire is half out, such prayers are our best help in building. For who is there that has honestly tried to build himself up ‘for a habitation of God but has felt that it must be ‘through a Spirit’ mightier than himself, who will overcome his weaknesses and arm him against temptation? No man who honestly endeavors to reform his character but is brought very soon to feel that he needs a higher help than his own. And perhaps some of us know how, when sore pressed by temptation, one petition for help brings a sudden gush of strength into us, and we feel that the enemy’s assault is weakened.
Brethren, the best attitude for building is on our knees; and if, like Cromwell’s men in the fight, we go into the battle singing,
‘Let God arise, and scattered
Let all His enemies be,’
we shall come out victorious. ‘Ye, beloved, building and praying, keep yourselves.’
III. Now, lastly, we have here in the final clause the fair prospect visible from our home, in the love of God.
‘Looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’
After all building and praying, we need ‘the mercy.’ Jude has been speaking in his letter about the destruction of evil-doers, when Christ the Judge shall come. And I suppose that that thought of final judgment is still in his mind, coloring the language of my text, and that it explains why he speaks here of ‘ the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ’ instead of, as is usual in Scripture, the mercy of God.’ He is thinking of that last Day of Judgment and retribution, wherein Jesus Christ is to be the Judge of all men, saints as well as sinners, and therefore he speaks of mercy as bestowed by Him then on those who have ‘kept themselves in the love of God.’ Ah! we shall need it. The better we are the more we know how much wood, hay, stubble, we have built into our buildings; and the more we are conscious of that love of God as round us, the more we shall feel the unworthiness and imperfection of our response to it. The best of us, when we lie down to die, and the wisest of us, as we struggle on in life, realize most how all our good is stained and imperfect, and that after all efforts we have to cry ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’
Not only so, but our outlook and confident expectation of that mercy day by day, and in its perfect form at least, depends upon our keeping ourselves ‘in the love of God.’ We have to go high up the hill before we can see far over the plain. Our home in that love commands a fair prospect. When we stray from it, we lose sight of the blue distance. Our hope of ‘the mercy of God unto eternal life’ varies with our present consciousness and experience of His love.
That mercy leads on to eternal life. We get many of its manifestations and gifts here, but these are but the pale blossoms of a plant not in its native habitat, nor sunned by the sunshine which can draw forth all its fragrance and colour.
We have to look forward for the adequate expression of the mercy of God to all that fullness of perfect blessedness for all our faculties, which is summed up in the one great word-’ life everlasting.’
So our hope ought to be as continuous as the manifestation of the mercy, and, like it, should last until the eternal life has come. All our gifts here are fragmentary and imperfect. Here we drink of brooks by the way. There we shall slake our thirst at the fountainhead. Here we are given ready money for the day’s expenses. There we shall be free of the treasure house, where lie the uncoined and uncounted masses of bullion, which God has laid up in store for them that fear Him. So, brethren, let us hope perfectly for the perfect manifestation of the mercy. Let us set ourselves to build up, however slowly, the fair fabric of a life and character which shall stand when the tempest levels all houses built upon the sand. Let us open our spirits to the entrance of that Spirit who helps the infirmities of our desires as well as of our efforts. Thus let us keep ourselves in the charmed circle of the love of God, that we may be safe as a garrison in its fortress, blessed as a babe on its mother’s breast.
Jude’s words are but the echo of the tenderer words of his Master and ours, when He said, ‘As My Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments ye shall abide in My love.’Jude 1:20-21. But ye, beloved — Not separating yourselves from your Christian brethren, but building up — Or edifying one another in knowledge and grace; on, or in, your most holy faith — The true Christian faith, having for its object all the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the gospel; a faith, than which none can be more holy in itself, or more conducive to the most refined and exalted holiness; praying in, or through, the Holy Ghost — By a principle of grace derived from him, and by his enlightening, quickening, sanctifying, and comforting influences, showing you what blessings you may and ought to pray for, inspiring you with sincere and fervent desires after those blessings, and enabling you to offer these desires to God in faith, with gratitude for the blessings which you have already received. And by these means, and through divine grace communicated therein, keep yourselves in the love of God — That is, in love to God, arising from a sense of his love to you; looking for the mercy, &c. — Continually possessing a confident expectation of that eternal life, which is purchased for you and conferred upon you through the mere mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 3:9-10 notes; Ephesians 2:20 note. It is said here that they were to "build up themselves;" that is, they were to act as moral and responsible agents in this, or were to put forth their own proper exertions to do it. Dependent, as we are, and as all persons with correct views will feel themselves to be, yet it is proper to endeavor to do the work of religion as if we had ample power of ourselves. See the notes at Philippians 2:12. The phrase "most holy faith" here refers to the system of religion which was founded on faith; and the meaning is, that they should seek to establish themselves most firmly in the belief of the doctrines, and in the practice of the duties of that system of religion.
Praying in the Holy Ghost - See the notes at Ephesians 6:18.
building up yourselves—the opposite to the "separate themselves" (Jude 19): as "in the Holy Ghost" is opposed to "having not the Spirit."
on—as on a foundation. Building on THE FAITH is equivalent to building on Christ, the object of faith.
praying in the Holy Ghost—(Ro 8:26; Eph 6:18). The Holy Spirit teaches what we are to pray for, and how. None can pray aright save by being in the Spirit, that is, in the element of His influence. Chrysostom states that, among the charisms bestowed at the beginning of the New Testament dispensation, was the gift of prayer, bestowed on someone who prayed in the name of the rest, and taught others to pray. Moreover, their prayers so conceived and often used, were received and preserved among Christians, and out of them forms of prayer were framed. Such is the origin of liturgies [Hammond].Building up yourselves; he compares them to a house, which is to be built up, whereof faith is the foundation: the same metaphor is used, 1 Corinthians 4:9 Ephesians 2:20-22 1 Peter 2:5.
Most holy; so he calls faith, as being the means of purifying their hearts, and working holiness in them; and in opposition to the false faith of the heretics he warns them against, which did consist with so much impurity.
Faith; this may be understood either:
1. Of the grace of faith; and then that is compared to the foundation, as being the first and principal grace in a Christian, and of greatest necessity and use; and then they are here bid to build themselves up in other graces which follow upon faith, as 2 Peter 1:5. Or:
2. Of the doctrine of faith, that on which their faith itself is founded; and then the meaning is, that they should not rest satisfied in what measure of faith they had already attained, but still be improving it, and making further progress in it, not only hold fast the truth of the gospel, the right foundation on which they had begun to be built, but get themselves, by the due study and meditation of the word, more and more confirmed in the belief of it.
Praying in the Holy Ghost; i.e. by the assistance of the Spirit, who teacheth what to pray for, and how; from whom faith, fervency, and all praying graces do proceed. Romans 8:26,27: The Spirit maketh intercession (prays) in us, to note the excitations of his grace; here we are said to pray in the Holy Ghost, to note the concurrence of our faculties.
building up yourselves on your most holy faith; some copies, and the Complutensian edition, read, "our most holy faith"; meaning the doctrine of faith in all its branches, which is holy, a most holy doctrine; which displays the holiness of God, and is a means of beginning and increasing internal holiness in the saints, and of encouraging and exciting them to external holiness of life and conversation: this phrase, , "holy faith", is in use with the Jews (k): and it becomes the saints to build up one another upon this; the doctrine of faith, is a foundation to build upon, particularly what regards the person, offices, and grace of Christ, and is itself of an edifying nature; and they should not content themselves with their present knowledge of it, but seek for an improvement in it; and though they were passive when first built on Christ and his doctrines, and though ministers are greatly instruments in building of them up more and more; yet they are capable of building up themselves, and one another, by attending on the ministry of the word, and by private conversation, with each other, and particularly by
praying in the Holy Ghost; which is a special means of increase and establishment in the doctrine of faith; the Holy Ghost is the author and enditer of prayer, and an assister in it; without him saints cannot call God their Father, nor pray with faith and fervency, or with freedom and liberty,But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Jude 1:20-21. Exhortation to the readers respecting themselves.
ὑμεῖς δὲ, ἀγαπητοί] as in Jude 1:17, in contrast to the persons and conduct of those mentioned in the last verse.
ἐποικοδομοῦντες κ.τ.λ.] The chief thought is contained in the exhortation ἑαυτοὺς ἐν ἀγάπῃ Θεοῦ τηρήσατε, to which the preceding ἐποικοδομοῦντες … προσευχόμενοι is subordinate, specifying by what the fulfilment of that exhortation is conditioned. Yet it is asked, whether προσευχόμενοι is connected with ἐποικοδομοῦντες, or is annexed as an independent sentence to the following imperative; and whether ἐν πν. ἁγίῳ is to be united with ἐποικοδ. or with προσευχόμενοι. These questions are difficult to decide with perfect certainty. Wiesinger and Schott apparently correctly unite ἐν πν. ἁγ. with προσευχόμενοι, and these taken together with what follows. Hofmann, on the other hand, unites ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ with what goes before, and προσευχόμενοι with what follows. In this construction, however, the structure of the participial clause becomes too clumsy; also ἐν πν. ἁγ. becomes superfluous, as ἐποκοδομεῖν ἑαυτούς cannot take place otherwise than ἐν πνεύματι ἁγ. It is true, Hofmann observes that ἐν πν. ἁγ. is superfluous with προσευχόμενοι, and that Jude could not intend to say how they should pray, but that they should pray. But this is erroneous, for τηρεῖν ἑαυτούς here mentioned depends not only on this, that one should pray, but that one should pray rightly, that is, ἐν πν. ἁγ. Wiesinger correctly observes, that the first clause gives the general presupposition; the second, on the other hand, the more precise statement how τηρήσατε has to be brought about.
τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ὑμῶν πίστει] Both the adjective and the verb show that πίστις is here meant not in a subjective (the demeanour of faith, Schott), but in an objective sense (Wiesinger: “appropriated by them indeed as their personal possession, yet according to its contents as παραδοθεῖσα;” so similarly Hofmann).
ἐποικοδομοῦντες ἑαυτούς] When verbs compounded with ἐπί are joined with the dative, as here, this for the most part is used for ἐπί τι, more rarely for ἐπί τινι (see Winer, p. 400 f. [E. T. 535]). If the first is here the case, then ἐποικοδομεῖν τῇ πίστει is to be interpreted, with Wiesinger: “building on πίστις, so that πίστις is the foundation which supports their whole personal life, the soul of all their thinking, willing, and doing” (so also hitherto in this commentary); comp. 1 Corinthians 3:12 : ἐποικοδομεῖν ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον τοῦτον. If, on the other hand, the second is here the case, then it is to he explained, with Hofmann, “their faith is the foundation which supports their life; and accordingly, in the further development of their life it should ever be their care that their life rests upon this foundation;” comp. Ephesians 2:20 : ἐποικοδομηθέντες ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν ἀποστόλων. The first is, however, to be preferred, because, as already remarked, with these verbs the dative mostly stands for ἐπί τι. Both explanations come essentially to the same thing.
ἑαυτούς is not here = ἀλλήλους; the discourse is indeed of a general, but not precisely of a mutual activity; ἑαυτούς with the second person creates no difficulty; comp. Php 2:12.
ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ προσευχόμενοι] The expression προσευχ. ἐν πν. ἁγ., it is true, does not elsewhere occur, but similar combinations are not rare (λαλεῖν ἐν πν. ἁγ., 1 Corinthians 12:3; see Meyer in loc.); it means so to pray that the Holy Spirit is the moving and guiding power (Jachmann, unsatisfactorily: “praying in consciousness of the Holy Ghost”); comp. Romans 8:26.
ἑαυτοὺς ἐν ἀγάπῃ Θεοῦ τηρήσατε] Θεοῦ may either be the objective genitive (Vorstius: charitas Dei passiva i. e. qua nos Deum diligimus; so also Jachmann, Arnaud, Hofmann, and others), or the subjective genitive, “the love of God to us” (so de Wette, Schott, Wiesinger, Fronmüller); in the latter case the thought is the same as in John 15:9-10; this agreement is in favour of that interpretation, nor is the want of the article opposed to it (against Hofmann). This keeping themselves in the love of God is combined with the hope of the future mercy of Christ, which has its ground, not in our love to God, but in God’s love to us; comp. Romans 5:8 ff.
προσδεχόμενοι τὸ ἔλεος τοῦ κυρίου κ.τ.λ.] On προσδεχ., Titus 2:15.
τὸ ἔλεος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν is the mercy which Christ will show to His own at His coming. Usually the idea ἔλεος is predicated not of the dealings of Christ, but of God; in the superscriptions of the Pastoral Epistles and of the Second Epistle of John, it is referred to God and Christ.
εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον] may be joined either with ἔλεος (de Wette), or with προσδεχόμενοι (Schott), or with τηρήσατε (Stier, Hofmann); since the imperative clause forms the main point, the last-mentioned combination deserves the preference, especially as both in προσδέχεσθαι and in ἔλεος Ἰησ. Χρ. the reference to ζωὴ αἰώνιος is already contained. The prominence here given to the Trinity, πνεῦμα ἅγιον, Θεός, Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, as frequently in the N. T., is to be observed. With the exhortation contained in Jude 1:20-21, Jude has accomplished what he in Jude 1:3 stated to be the object of his writing.
 πίστις is the foundation, the θεμέλιος on which Christians should build themselves (more and more), by which the representation at the bottom is that they are not yet on all sides of their life on this foundation.Jude 1:20-23. The Final Charge to the Faithful.—Use all diligence to escape this danger. Make the most of the privileges vouchsafed to you. Build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith by prayer in the Spirit. Do not rest satisfied with the belief that God loves you, but keep yourselves in His love, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which leads us to eternal life. And do your best to help those who are in danger of falling away by pointing out their errors and giving the reasons of your own belief; and by snatching from the fire of temptation those who are in imminent jeopardy. Even where there is most to fear, let your compassion and your prayers go forth toward the sinner, while you shrink from the pollution of his sin.20. building up yourselves on your most holy faith …] Both the adjective, which is nowhere used of faith in its subjective sense, and St Jude’s use of the substantive in Jude 1:3, lead us to take “faith” in the objective sense, as nearly identical with “creed,” which attaches to it in the later Epistles of the New Testament (1 Timothy 5:8 and perhaps 2 Timothy 4:7). The readers of the Epistle are exhorted to take that faith as a foundation, and to erect on it the superstructure of a pure and holy life.
praying in the Holy Ghost] The precise combination is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the fact which it expresses corresponds with St Paul’s language in Romans 8:26, and the almost identical phraseology of 1 Corinthians 14:15. What is meant is the ecstatic outpouring of prayer in which the words of the worshipper seem to come as from the Spirit who “helpeth our infirmities” and “maketh intercession for us,” it may be in articulate speech, it may be also as with “groanings that cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). Here again we may recognise a side-glance at the false teachers. Not those who deserted the Church’s faith for a life of impurity, but those who “built” on it a life of holiness, were capable of that height of devotion which is described as “praying in the Spirit.”Jude 1:20. Δὲ, but) Separating, and building yourselves up, are opposite terms; also animal, and in the Holy Spirit.—ἀγιωτάτῃ, most holy) than which nothing can be more holy. The superlative singular, with great force of exhortation and urgency.—ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ προσευχόμενοι, praying in the Holy Spirit) Ephesians 6:18; Zechariah 12:10; John 4:24. Jude makes mention of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: he also makes mention of faith, of love and hope, in this and the following verses.—προσευχόμενοι, praying) The attention of the righteous is requisite, but much more their prayers, by which they obtain Divine assistance.Verses 20-23. - From these corrupters of the Church, who have occupied his pen so long and so painfully, Jude now turns direct to his readers and brings his 'subject to a fitting close, with a couple of exhortations full of a wise and tender concern. One of the two counsels deals with what they should do for the protection of their own Christian position against the insidious evils of which he has written in words of passion. The other deals with what they should do for the preservation of others exposed to the same seductive perils. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith. The tone of pleading affection appears in the grave and earnest words by which he reminds his readers of the necessity of looking carefully to their own perseverance. As the condition of all else, he names the great duty of personal edification or up-building. They must strengthen themselves on their foundation, and that foundation is their "most holy faith." By this apparently Jude does not mean simply the subjective grace or virtue of faith. Peter, indeed, speaks of the strengthening and development of that as the secret of being neither barren nor unfruitful. But the idea and the phrase seem somewhat different here; for any spiritual gift of their own would be all too weak a security. It is rather the "faith" which has been already mentioned as "once delivered unto the saints" (verse 3), and is now conceived as possessed by the readers. In this faith, of which Christ himself is the Sum, they have a secure foundation for their renewed life, and on this faith they are to establish themselves more and more. Praying in the Holy Ghost. These words go best together, though some attach the term, "in the Holy Ghost," to the former clause. They express a second condition which must be made good, if the readers are to be safe from the seductions which threaten them. Their Christian life, if it is to be proof against these evils, must be fed by prayer, and by prayer of the deepest and most effectual order - prayer which takes its life and power from the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26). Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. The "love of God" must have a sense parallel to that of the "mercy of Christ." It is, therefore, not our love to God, but his love to us. The love which God is revealed in Christ to have to us is that in which they are to keep themselves. So long as they live within its grace they cannot but be secure against the corruptions of men. If they fall away from it, they become an easy prey. And keeping themselves in this love, they are to "look for mercy." They are then entitled to expect that mercy, and the attitude of expectation will itself be an aid to the keeping of themselves in the love. The mercy of the future is here spoken of as specifically the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; Jude having in view that advent of Christ which filled the immediate horizon of the early Christians, and to which they looked with an intensity of expectation to us very partially realizable, as the event which would speedily reveal every man's work and in which mercy would triumph over judgment for the faithful. And this mercy, or, as it also maybe, this expectation, is further described as having nothing less than eternal life for its object and its certain end. So the central idea in this counsel is the necessity of holding by the revealed fact of God's love in Christ. The first two clauses point to the means by which this is to be made good, and the last clause expresses an attitude of soul which is at once an extension of the central duty and a help to it. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire. The readings here are so diverse, and so difficult to determine, that some of our best critics take this to be one of the passages in which we have to recognize a corruption of the primitive text now past certain correction. The Received Text is clearly in error at least in one important term. The word which it renders "making a difference," as if it referred to the readers, is in the same case with the "some," and refers to the persons who are to be dealt with. It is doubtful, too, whether we have three different classes of persons referred to in three distinct hortatory sentences, or only two such classes. The most recent and best of our English students of the text, Messrs. Westcott and Hort, adopt readings which differ in some respects from those of the Authorized, but agree with it in presenting only two classes of persons. The Revised Version, following many good authorities, both ancient and modern, prefers another form of text with a triple division. Accepting this, we have still more than one uncertainty to take account cf. In the first of the three clauses there is the difficulty of deciding between two readings, one of which gives us "on some have mercy," while the other yields the sense "some convict," that is to say, bring their sin home to them, or refute their error. The preference is to be given, on the whole, though with some hesitation, to the former of these readings, which is also the more difficult of the two. There is also the difficulty of determining the precise idea expressed by the participle in the same clause. It appears clear enough that it cannot have the sense assigned it by the Authorized Version, namely, that of "making a difference." But setting this aside, we have still to choose between two ways of taking it. It may have the sense of hesitating or doubting; in which case the class of persons referred to will be those who are not wholly gone in unbelief, but are on the way to it. Such persons are to be regarded as fit objects for anxious, considerate, pitiful treatment. This is a sense which the word undoubtedly bears in several passages of the New Testament (James 1:6; also Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:22; Romans 4:20). It has also the sanction of the Revised Version, which renders it, "And on some have mercy, who are in doubt." But it may also have the sense of contending, and the fact that it has already been so used in the present Epistle (verse 9) is a weighty consideration in favour of this view. The rendering then might be, "Some compassionate, when they contend with you" (so Alford, etc.). In tide case the class referred to will be the contentious, of whom there might be different kinds, some more hopeful and reasonable, others less so. Men of this spirit are to be tried first with kindness and consideration. Even when they oppose you and draw off from you, be pitiful toward them; take a compassionate, helpful interest in them. The second clause is best rendered with the Revised Version, "And some save, snatching them out of the fire." This brings a different class of persons into view - those who have sunk into corrupt courses which will soon undo them, who are already, indeed, in the penal fires of wrong, but yet are not beyond the possibility of rescue if quick and vigorous measures are taken with them. It is generally supposed that Jude has in view here the figure of the "brand plucked from the burning," which occurs in Zechariah 3:2. If so, the position in which this second class stands is represented as one of the last possible peril. The terms are strong and vivid enough for this. They mean that there is no time to lose, that all depends upon the prompt use of efficient measures, however forcible and unwelcome. The third clause then runs, "And some compassionate with fear." It points to a class who are to be dealt with in the same way as the first class. Yet there is a difference between them. This third class of persons is more dangerous to those who seek their good. They too are to be tried with active, helpful pity; but this is to be done "with fear." In their case the life is so treacherous, the error so insidious, that their Christian benefactors incur grave risk in coming to close terms with them, and require to practice an anxious vigilance lest they be themselves led astray. Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. The idea of "filthy garments" occurs in the same passage of Zechariah already referred to, and the term" garment" (here the tunic, or inner robe) is elsewhere used in a figurative sense (Revelation 3:4). Here it points to everything that is in contact with pollution. The clause seems to be added in order to give greater emphasis to the need of "fear" in dealing with men of the kind in question. Not only are their impurities to be zealously avoided, but all the accessories of these impurities - everything, in short, that is in any way connected with them. If this is the case, then this last is the most dangerous and hopeless of the three clauses mentioned. They are those "on whom profound pity is all that we dare bestow, and that in fear and trembling, lest by contact with them we may be brought within the influence of the deadly contamination that clings to all their surroundings" (Plummet). Only the pity which is to be shown them is not mere feeling, but a compassion which implies some active, though anxious interest in their rescue.
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