1 Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are beloved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: ^2 mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.
A servant means one who is at the disposal of Jesus Christ for service in his cause, here for the special service of warning and counselling fellow-Christians. A brother of James (see Introduction) is a unique addition; no other N.T. writer mentions his family in this way. He writes to those who have been called, and who have accepted the divine call. But they are not left to their own resources; they are beloved by God the Father (literally in God the Father,' a Greek phrase which means dear to Him or loved by Him) and kept safe (same word as in Revelation iii.10) by Jesus Christ. In the original called comes last in the clause, so that the three following words answer in reverse order to the 2 description of the Christian position; mercy underlies God's calling of those who owe everything to His undeserved pity (see on 1 Peter i.3), those who are preserved by Jesus Christ may enjoy peace of mind, and God's beloved may count upon fresh experiences of His love. Multiplied is explained on 1 Peter i.2. The phrase reappears in the second-century Martyrdom of Polykarp, where the Smyrniote church prays: Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied.' Now for the occasion of the letter (3-4).
3 Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you on the subject of our common salvation, but I am forced to write you an appeal to defend the faith which has once for all been committed to the saints; ^4 for certain persons have slipped in by stealth (their doom has been predicted long ago), impious creatures who pervert the grace of our God into immorality and disown our sole liege and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Beloved (for I love you too; so in 17, 20), I fully intended to write a treatise on our common salvation (shared by all true Christians). The present letter is an urgent special appeal to the readers to defend the faith by adhering to it (see 17-23). For while the faith has been finally and fully entrusted to the saints (i.e. to those called and set apart by God for Himself), 4a novel abuse of it has been surreptitiously introduced by certain persons (the Greek has the same scornful tinge as in Galatians i.7).
This is the danger which has roused Judas to put his friends upon their guard. The peril is not caused by any persecution stirred by Jews or by the Roman Empire. Neither is it an attack upon the principles of Christianity by some outside critic. It is an insidious distortion of Christianity from within, due to the influence of some who claimed to be members of the church. Judas denies their claim. They have slipped into the church somehow; instead of being called by God, they are doomed. Their ultimate doom has been predicted long ago (the thought of 1 Peter ii.8). But meanwhile they are working mischief, these impious creatures, by their practices and their principles; they make the freedom of a Christian man a pretext for loose living, and they compromise the full divinity of Christ. The perversion of our (He is not their) God's grace into immorality means that a forgiven, spiritual person is above the moral law, free to indulge the impulses and instincts of life, since nothing done in the flesh can stain the inner spirit. The only difficulty here lies in identifying the particular form of this error to which Judas is alluding (see Introduction).
The other charge is less clear. Jesus had spoken of those who might deny him before men, but this meant Christians who disowned their Lord under the stress of persecution. It was also possible to speak of Christians denying their God by misconduct which contradicted the truth of his religion (so Titus i.16). But in his favourite book of Enoch (xxxviii.2, etc.) the denial of God had the specially ominous sense of disavowing Him openly for sinister ends; it was the dark antithesis to true belief. So Judas uses it here of crrorists who took some view of the person of Christ which he regarded as infringing its fullness, as, e.g., when some held that Christ meant a heavenly aeon or spirit which only descended upon the human Jesus at the baptism and withdrew from him before the crucifixion. This view was the result of a dualism which regarded the divine nature as too pure to be directly connected with anything so vital to the flesh as birth and the suffering of death. It was sincerely designed to pay honour to the divine Christ, but Judas sharply characterizes it as a repudiation of him altogether. He never alludes to this again; other aspects of the errorists occupy his attention in the rest of the letter. Whatever their tenets about Christ were, however, he regarded them as implicitly disowning our sole liege (generally used elsewhere of God) and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Remember the terrible warnings against such a sinful course in the past history of the People of God (5-7).
5 Now I want to remind you of what you are perfectly aware, that though the Lord once brought the People safe out of Egypt, he subsequently destroyed the unbelieving, ^6 while the angels who abandoned their own domain, instead of preserving their proper rank, are reserved by him within the nether gloom, in chains eternal, for the doom of the great Day -- ^7 just as Sodom and Gomorra and the adjacent cities, which similarly glutted themselves with vice and sensual perversity, are exhibited as a warning of the everlasting fire they are sentenced to suffer.
A courteous reminder of what they had heard from scriptures like the Pentateuch and the book of Enoch, read aloud in church-worship. The present situation throws light on these old lessons, so familiar and so sombre. First there is the doom that befell the unbelieving Israelites who proved sceptical when the promised land was set before them -- an incident which had powerfully impressed Christian (1 Corinthians x.5; Hebrews iv.7 f.) and Jewish piety as an outstanding example of unbelief and lapsing.
There may be a warning here for the errorists, some of whom thought that their baptized adherents were immune from any risk or danger, in virtue of their profession of faith. But the direct warning is for the readers; people may once be saved and yet fall away subsequently into an unbelief which ruins them, as will be the case with you, if you listen to these insidious creatures. Let therefore none presume upon past mercies, as if he were now out of danger' (Wesley). This is hinted, but no more than hinted. It is not till the close of the tract that Judas urges (ver.20) the truth that any sense of security for Christians involves a serious moral and spiritual discipline.
At present he hastens to recall a second, equally notorious instance of punishment for disobedience; 6 it is the fall of the angels who had abandoned their own domain in heaven, instead of preserving (literally, keeping) their proper rank. This is the famous legend of the later Judaism, based upon Genesis vi.1 f., and popularized for Judas and his friends as for Peter (see on 1 Peter iii.19) by the apocalypse of Enoch, which tells how the angels or sons of God' conceived a passion for the daughters of men and conspired to break away from their heavenly domain. Though spiritual beings, with their domain (Enoch xv.7) above, they abandoned (Enoch xii.4) high heaven. Judas recollects the very language of Enoch also in depicting their punishment. They are reserved (literally kept -- a grim play on the word) by God for the doom of the great Day of the last judgment (a phrase used in Revelation xvi.10), imprisoned within the nether gloom, in chains eternal. The great Day of judgment.' occurs in another connection in Enoch (Greek text of xxii.11), but the tragic tale of the rebellious angels yields the main points of the allusion here; thus God orders them to be bound fast in the valleys of the earth till the day of their judgment' (x.12), and in liv.4 f. huge iron chains are forged to fetter them till that great Day of final doom when they are to be cast into the burning furnace.'
A ghastly human parallel to the sin and punishment of the apostate angels is now cited, in the O.T. tale of Sodom and Gomorra and the adjacent cities (Zoar, Admah, and Zeboim, according to the O.T.). Their inhabitants had been guilty not only of vice like the fallen angels who had lusted after women, but of sodomy, sensual perversity (Genesis xix.5). And look at their punishment! The land is still smoking with the subterranean fire in which they burn till they are flung finally into the everlasting fire they are sentenced to suffer like the fallen angels (see above) at the last day. A solemn warning to all!
According to Enoch (lxvii.12), the punishment of the fallen angels is a testimony for the kings and the mighty who possess the earth,' but Judas does not limit the range of the warning. Under the Gehenna ravine, including the site of the cities of the Dead Sea, a subterranean fire was supposed to burn, and the volcanic phenomena proved to the religious mind the lasting punishment of the district. The land still smells of fire,' Tertullian writes (Apolog., xl.), and any fruit borne by the local trees can only be looked at; once touched, it crumbles into ashes.' Such was the Jewish belief, as Josephus witnesses in his Wars (iv.8, 4): The land was burned by lightning for the impiety of its inhabitants. Still there are vestiges of that fire, and the traces of five cities are still to be seen.' This Palestinian belief underlies the remark about the cities being exhibited as a warning of the everlasting fire. It is due to the fact (see on 2 Peter ii.6) that in this awful hollow, this bit of the infernal regions come up to the surface, this hell with the sun shining into it, primitive man laid the scene of God's most terrible judgment on human sin. The glare of Sodom and Gomorrha is flung down the whole length of Scripture history. It is the popular and standard judgment of sin' (G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of Holy Land, p.504).
The gross irreverence of these religious visionaries at the present day (8-10).
8 Despite it all, these visionaries pollute their flesh, scorn the Powers celestial, and scoff at the angelic Glories. ^9 Now the very archangel Michael, when he disputed the body of Moses with Satan, did not dare to condemn him with scoffs; what he said was, The Lord rebuke you! ^10 But these people scoff at anything they do not understand; and whatever they do understand, like irrational creatures, by mere instinct, that proves their ruin.
These pseudo-prophets claimed to have revelations and visions (of what they were allowed or ordered to do or to ask), i.e. to be specially inspired, but this merely meant loose living and disrespect for angels, the two sins of which Sodom and Gomorra had been guilty. The close connexion of sex and religion produced moral aberrations which 8 Judas calls a pollution of the flesh; the primitive love-feasts (ver.12), where men and women met in exalted fervour, gave opportunities for indulging such passions. So-called spiritual' men might urge and did urge that the ordinary restraints of the sexes were abolished by the new freedom of the Spirit, and that the impulse to promiscuous sexual intercourse was a genuine expression of the love-spirit in the community. Religious communism for some enthusiasts meant free love as well as no property.
Disrespect for angels is less intelligible; in the primitive church it was usually angel-worship which was the danger. Kuriotes(a generic singular) here, as in Ephesians i.21 and Colossians i.16 (where it is rendered angelic Lords), denotes a class of higher angels, who are also termed Glories; but we can only guess how the errorists depreciated the angelic hierarchy in their theories or practice. Possibly they were precursors of the later sects, who taught that Christians must follow Christ in despising and repudiating the angels who had made the created world with its passions; the human soul in returning to its spiritual orbit scorns these inferior angels and has also the right to regard human actions in the present order as morally indifferent (see Introduction). At anyrate, it is the open contempt for angels which excites the anger of Judas, 9 who proceeds to argue that these errorists might well learn a lesson from the archangel Michael. He alludes to the legend told in a Jewish apocalypse called the Assumption of Moses; when God commissioned Michael with his angels to bury the body of Moses, after his soul had been taken to heaven, the devil appeared to claim the body as a material object belonging to his sphere as the Lord of matter whereupon Michael mildly replied (in the words of Zechariah iii.2, the rebuke of the angel to Satan), The Lord rebuke you! 10 No unmannerly scoffing here, even from an archangel to the devil! But these people dare to scoff at anything they do not understand (i.e. at the celestial hierarchy). It is a side-stroke at the pretensions of these votaries to superior insight into the mysteries of creation and the moral order, and also a reminder that they might well learn respect and reverence from the angels whom they affected to contemn. If the glorious archangel would not revile even the devil for his insolence, who are these low-minded creatures to disparage the holy angels by whom, under God, the law was given and the universe ruled as well as made?
The closing words are stern, but no sterner than the language often used by men like Luther or Wesley who had to encounter such antinomian perversions among their followers. Even the gentle Ruysbroeck, despairing of the fanatical mystics in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries who advocated and practised libertinism, was moved to declare, They perish like mad dogs.' These mediaeval votaries of the Free Spirit defended their gratification of any appetite on the speculative ground that such desires were all part of the one divine Matter. Their precursors in the days of Judas started from a less pantheistic view, but some of their followers at anyrate were prepared to draw the same practical conclusion, and Judas roughly dubs them brutes (irrational creatures); they have only the animal instinct for physical self-gratification, and that proves their undoing at the end.
Note on the Assumption of Moses.' -- This was an apocalypse written about the beginning of the century, in which the dying Moses predicted the future of his nation and in which his death was described (though this closing part has been mutilated). It specially appealed to Judas for two reasons. (i) It contained assertions of the creation of angels and of the world by God. Thus a quotation has been preserved giving the original finish to Michael's rebuke; he said to the devil, For from His holy Spirit we were all created,' and also, From before God went forth His Spirit and the world was created.' No lower origin for angels or for the universe, as these errorists alleged! (ii) It contained also apt words of protest against secular religion and selfishness, as Judas recalls in ver.16.
A passionate denunciation of their practices (11-13).
11 Woe to them! they go the road of Cain, rush into Balaam's error for what it brings them, and perish in Korah's rebellion. ^12 These people are stains on your love-feasts; they have no qualms about carousing in your midst, they look after none but themselves -- rainless clouds, swept along by the wind, trees in autumn without fruit, doubly dead and so uprooted, ^13 wild waves foaming out their own shame, wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved eternally.
Like other N.T. writers, he brands the errorists by comparing them to some notorious O.T. characters. Balaam's error is clear; Balaam was the prototype of false teachers who inculcated lax principles of morality (this is the point of the comparison in Revelation ii.14) and made a good thing out of their pseudo-religion, as did these errorists and others (1 Timothy vi.5 -- the principle of these unprincipled creatures being that religion is a paying concern'). Balaam also had dreams and visions, and he had tried to defy angelic authority. The sinister reputation he had acquired in the later Judaism lies behind this reference of Judas; ambition and haughtiness are his characteristics in the Pirke Aboth (v.29), and this recurs below in ver.16 (their talk is arrogant).
Korah is not mentioned elsewhere in the N.T., but he was the typical rebel against divine authority in the church these highflying teachers of the inner Light who claimed that their revelations were above criticism, naturally disclaimed the right of anyone to guide or rule them, and again resented the opposition of the church-leaders to their views (which is one of the points of murmurers in ver.16). Judas predicts their ruin at the hands of God as the result of their rebellious, insubordinate attitude.
The road of Cain sounds less relevant. In Jewish tradition he had become the type of self-seeking men as well as of sceptics who refused to believe in any moral retribution or in the after-life. The latter does not fit these errorists exactly, though some denied that any bodily excesses could be punished in' their case after death; the former trait of unbrotherly egoism may be what Judas means, 12 in the next verse, by quoting from Ezekiel xxxiv.8, they look after none but themselves. Literally this is, they shepherd [indulge] themselves alone,' referring to their greedy conduct at the love-feasts (like the people whom Paul had denounced at Corinth in 1 Corinthians xi.20-22); such grasping behaviour might be termed the Cain-spirit, especially if it carried the deeper suggestion of murdering the souls of men by their conduct, and thereby ruining themselves -- which would be the result of taking the road of Cain, according to Wisdom x.3, where Cain, falling away from God's wisdom in his anger, perished himself by his fratricidal passion.'
The love-feasts were charity suppers in the primitive church, where the members gathered for a common meal to express their fellowship as a household of the faith. The food seems to have been provided out of the church funds or by the wealthier members. But what happened at Corinth evidently happened elsewhere; selfishness and bad behaviour spoiled the simple meal. Instead of sharing alike, some snatched at the food before others arrived (i.e. slaves or humble tradesmen who could not attend till the day's work was done). So one goes hungry while another gets drunk.' The pushing and grasping members took advantage of others. Judas is angry not only at these errorists daring to attend the love-feasts, but at their callous, cavalier conduct there. They were spots and blots on the proceedings anyhow. For spots is a better rendering of the Greek term spilades here than squalls' or sunken rocks.' They were out of keeping with true Christians in a church meeting. But, worse than that, they have no qualms about carousing in your midst, bold creatures that they are, attending to no one but themselves -- a flagrant violation of what a love-feast meant!
Sky, land, and sea are then ransacked for illustrations of their character. No refreshment of the soul comes from these rainless clouds, swept along by the wind of impulse; they are like trees in the late autumn (the season when fruit was expected) that are without fruit.13 Such men, Judas adds, are doubly dead (i.e. dead in sin before they were baptized and dead through their subsequent misdoings) and so uprooted finally (see on ver.10). They make a great splash and noise in the church, with their arrogant talk (ver.16), but it only brings out their own shame, exposing their frothy, restless and discreditable aims. Finally, there is no light or guidance to be derived from such wandering stars, erratic comets or shooting meteors, who are doomed to a dark fate (see ver.6). The notion of stars being punished is a reminiscence of the book of Enoch (xviii., xx., etc.), where the nether gloom is the punishment of stars (i.e. angels) who have deserted their proper orbit and broken away from the regulations of the Lord.
But Judas does more than recall Enoch; he cites the book triumphantly as an inspired prophecy of these loud, licentious mischief-makers, whose doom had been predicted long ago (ver.4) in its message. Here is the actual prediction (14-16):
14 It was of these, too, that Enoch the seventh from Adam prophesied, when he said,
Behold the Lord comes with myriads of his holy ones, ^15 to execute judgment upon all,
16 For these people are murmurers, grumbling at their own lot in life -- they fall in with their own passions, their talk is arrogant, they pay court to men to benefit themselves.
In the book of Enoch (lx.8), 15 Enoch is described as the seventh from Adam. The quotation is from a prediction (i.9) of God's intervention against impious members of the People; it is free, and the words about the harsh things said against God are taken from a later passage (xxvii.2). The holy ones are angels, for the author of Enoch was thinking of Deuteronomy xxxiii.2, where God's coming is with ten thousands of his holy ones.' Even in applying the passage to the errorists of his day Judas uses language already familiar to his readers in the Assumption of Moses, where (v.5, vii, 7, 9) 16 the vicious religionists are called grumblers, whose talk is arrogant, and who pay court to well-to-do or influential people. No other N.T. writer uses the word for murmurers. It refers to the discontented spirit which, according to Judas, led them to object to angels (ver.8), and also, like Korah (ver.11), to chafe under the refusal of the church authorities to recognize their pretensions. Probably this was one expression of their grumbling at their own lot in life; they were recalcitrant to men as well as insolent to God.
Judas views their whole religious position as a restless, arbitrary defiance of the divine order in the universe and in the church. Their one guide was their own passions; no other power could sway their self-indulgent lives. Arrogant enough in their criticisms of providence, they were also toadies, courting important or wealthy Christians (the charge hinted in ver.11) for personal ends. This last charge is added to the general denunciation drawn from the heated oracles of Enoch. It is curious that George Fox found a similar trait in the English Ranters of his day (these lewd persons and their wicked actions'), who were antinomians openly. It was the manner of the Ranters, he notes in his Journal (1654), to be extreme in their compliments' to anyone in high position or authority. These highly superior elect' apparently had an eye to the main chance, in a variety of ways.
Judas now reminds his readers that the Christian apostles as well as Enoch had foretold the rise of such errorists (17-19).
17 Now, beloved, you must remember the words of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: ^18 they told you beforehand, At the end of things there will be mockers who go by their own impious passions.' ^19 These are the people who set up divisions and distinctions, sensuous creatures, destitute of the Spirit.
For true members of the church the apostles are authoritative.18 Either this quotation is from some writing which has not survived (see on 2 Peter iii.3), or it is a summary of traditional warnings like 1 Timothy iv.1 f., that the imminent end of things would be heralded by the rise of scoffing, loose-living religionists within the churches, who derided the stricter moral code of the apostolic faith.19 Here the allusion is to the precursors of the gnostics, who divided mankind into three classes, (a) the spiritual,' who, as being possessed of the Spirit, were sure of salvation, (b) the sensuous, or ordinary persons in possession of the psyche merely, who might or might not be saved according as they used their freewill, and (c) the material or worldly class, who were incapable of salvation. The highflying errorists regarded themselves as belonging to the first class, and generally derided the ordinary church-believer as belonging to the second. They hold,' says Irenaeus indignantly (i.6, 2-3), that good behaviour is necessary for us members of the church (being merely sensuous), since otherwise we cannot be saved; they themselves will be saved, however they behave, because they are by nature spiritual.' So Judas attacks these errorists for dividing men up into classes determined by God, and throws their language back upon themselves; they are the sensuous,' using the term in a derogatory sense (as in James iii.15), almost equivalent to sensual.' They claimed that their possession of the Spirit exempted them from the ordinary restrictions of morality; the pure inner spirit could not be stained by the passions of the flesh, any more than gold by mud! Judas repudiates the notion that any enlightenment gave the right to follow the impulses of nature unchecked, and denies outright their claim to a monopoly of the Spirit; they are destitute of the Spirit, for all their arrogant pretensions to the higher life!
Mockers denotes their contemptuous rejection of the moral laws of God; they would also show insolent airs of superiority towards Christians who still believed that the spiritual life was bound by ethical principles. Bunyan, in Grace Abounding (44, 45), tells how the seventeenth-century sect of the Ranters, who claimed similar freedom from moral laws, derided the stricter Christians. These would condemn me as legal and dark, pretending that they only had attained perfection that could do what they would, and not sin.' One of them gave himself up to all manner of filthiness, especially uncleanness . . . and would laugh at all exhortations to sobriety. When I laboured to rebuke his wickedness, he would laugh the more.'
Judas now turns (20-23) to the positive duty of church members, explaining how they must in their lives defend the faith (ver.4), which these errorists impugned by such loose principles and practices.
20 But do you, beloved, build up yourselves on your most holy 20 faith and pray in the holy Spirit, ^21 so keeping yourselves within the love of God and waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that ends in life eternal. ^22 Snatch some from the fire, ^23 and have mercy on the waverers, trembling as you touch them, with loathing for the garment which the flesh has stained.
The faith is the faith which has been once for all committed to the saints (ver.3), i.e. the body of Christian belief, the apostolic confession of faith; it is most holy as opposed to the demoralizing creed of the errorists. Instead of abandoning it for any so-called higher spiritual' life of enlightenment, you must build up yourselves on this common basis; the fabric of the church depends upon it for consolidation. Also the real experience and possession of the holy Spirit inspires prayer, not any proud sense of superiority to others or any false independence towards God. Prayer is love in need appealing to Love in power, and the upbuilding of the church depends upon this living intercourse between God arid His People.
Christians are beloved by God (ver.1), 21 but this experience is a reality as they fulfil the conditions and so keep themselves within God's love, which has its own terms of communion. This standing alone justifies a quiet hope of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1-2). Such an expectation is for those only who know they do not deserve life eternal, and who yet have endeavoured to meet the moral and spiritual demands essential to it in the faith of Christ. The Lord is coming (vers.14, 15) for judgment on the impious. Only in the humble, prayerful, dutiful fellowship of the church is any hopeful outlook on that final scrutiny possible.
This positive sentence is followed by a sentence on the duty of counteracting the propaganda of the errorists. They themselves may be beyond reach, but some of their deluded followers may and ought to be rescued. When the power of reclaiming the lost dies out of the Church,' said Sir John Seeley, it ceases to be the Church.' Judas recognizes this impulse and power as vital to a genuine Christianity; the Church is not to enjoy itself in the thought of its own privileges, but to stretch out its hands to those who are caught in the pernicious teaching which is abroad. The original text has been preserved by Clement of Alexandria and Jerome as well as in the Philoxenian Syriac version; afterwards it was expanded into the later text in one form or another.
Snatch some from the fire is' another (see on ver.9) reminiscence of Zechariah iii. (ver.2); rescue forcibly some weaker natures who can be pulled out of 23 the fire of immoral temptations set ablaze by these libertine religionists. Others are hesitating, not yet wholly committed to the false teaching; instead of scolding them, have mercy on waverers; deal with them in a spirit of pity; have mercy on them as you hope for mercy yourselves from Christ.
Only, such rescue efforts have their dangers. There have been sad cases of people engaged in rescue work who have been actually drawn into the very sins which they were endeavouring to defeat; in trying to lift others, they have been pulled down and stained in the mud (see on James i.27). So do your work among these misguided people, trembling as you touch them, not allowing pity for the sinner to make the sin seem less heinous, but loathing the garment which the flesh has stained -- another reminiscence of the story in Zechariah (iii.4). Foul traces of sin must not be permitted to fascinate the mind of the Christian who has to deal with them in rescue work; to avoid the possibility of being tainted by contact with them, you must maintain an instinctive aversion to them. This was a favourite text of Oliver Cromwell's. When he quoted it to the New Parliament of 1654, he observed that Judas uttered the counsel, Save some with fear, pulling them out of the fire,' when he reckoned up those horrible things done haply by some upon mistakes.'
The warning against contamination is absent from the similar injunction in the Didaché (ii.7: You shall hate no man, but some you must reprove, for some you must pray, and some you must love more than your very life'), but then the Didaché contemplated a much less serious position of affairs.
The pastoral closes with a doxology (24, 25), arising out of what has just been said. The danger of making a slip and falling away from the faith, in the effort to help others, as well as in the general practice of personal religion, leads Judas to end as he began by exalting the power of God.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from slipping and to make you stand unblemished and exultant before his glory -- ^25 to the only God, our saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for all time: Amen.
This is the third doxology in the N.T. which opens to him who is able; the others are in Romans xvi.25 and Ephesians iii.20. Unblemished (from such stains as are mentioned in ver.23) is much, but exultant is more -- exultant because they are unblemished, and exulting in the power and goodness of the God who has brought them through the strain and stains of this world. To stand before his glory alludes to the final scrutiny at which the divine mercy (21) issues in life eternal. The term (free) from slipping (never elsewhere in the N.T.) occurs in 3 Maccabees vi.39 (on them did the Lord of all manifest his mercy, 25 delivering them one and all free from slipping.' God is termed the only God, our saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, in opposition to the teaching of the errorists (see Introduction); the one (ver.4) effective saving power in this world of corruption works through Jesus Christ as the Church confesses him. Here at the end as at the beginning (ver.2) the pastoral is echoed in the Martyrdom of Polykarp (xx.), written from the church of Smyrna, where the doxology runs: Now to him who is able to bring us in his bounteous grace to his heavenly realm by his only-begotten Child Jesus Christ, be glory, honour, dominion, and majesty for ever.'