J. N. Darby.
The point in the Epistle of Jude is departure from original standing, and contains strong warning to us in the last days. It is not the same as 2 Peter, where you see the angels judged for having sinned. In Jude it is apostasy: "They kept not their first estate." In 1 Peter we get the judgment of God's people (the house of chap. 4). It is the government of God exercised towards His people. In 2 Peter it is His government exercised against wickedness. The general character of apostasy is Cain, of ecclesiastical error Balaam, of gainsaying Korah. The mention of these things is meant to be a warning, and an admonition - "crept in" practically abusing the grace of God. He warns against such; v. 12.
Why is mercy introduced here? v. 2. Because they needed the mercy, they were no longer addressed as the church, but as individuals. In all the closing writings of the New Testament, the church is looked at as a thing judged (that is, the professing thing on earth). God is judging it as contrary to His mind. If God's judgment is on the church, I cannot look to it for judgment; its judgment is worth nothing to me. He was going to write to them about the common salvation, but was obliged to write on this particular subject, because they were in danger. We have lost what he was going to write, but we have gained what he did write by the guidance of the Spirit. If the first estate is not kept, there may be long patience, but there is no remedy. And when God comes in to judge, He always goes back to the first departure from the original standing. Thus Stephen, when speaking of the departure and sin of Israel, goes back to the golden calf, their first departure; Acts 7. We must go back to the original to judge the present state. "I planted wholly a right seed." Verse 4 shews the character is suited the enemy to take at a particular time. Those who had "crept in unawares" are those on whom the Lord will execute judgment when He comes. Enoch prophesied of these; v. 14, 15. The same set of people who in the apostle's days were coming in, the Lord will judge.
They deny the only Lord (despot, Master). The same word is used in 2 Peter 2:1, "denying the Lord that bought them." He bought the world, just as Joseph bought up all the land of Egypt and the persons too for Pharaoh - like a slave bought. I will not know you apart from your master. It has nothing to do with redemption. It is His claim over them, but these "crept in unawares," and refuse to admit His claim.
331 As to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered" this would be rather defending the faith which we have than attacking that which is false. If I see the mischief coming in, I stand out against it, setting my face as a flint. There is no good in your raising the devil if you cannot lay him. There is no use in your meddling with evil if you are not called of God to do so.
"Once delivered," that is, I must go back to the beginning) to the original faith as it was delivered. In these days it is all-important to inquire what was from the beginning. You have certainly got what is in the New Testament, what was in the beginning. If I abide in that, I abide in the Father and in the Son; 1 John 2:25. Verses 14, 15, Enoch's prophecy, the first testimony of God. Here we find that God had from His first testimony contemplated the apostasy of the church; just as in Deuteronomy 32 at the commencement of Israel's history, He foretells what the end would be. At the starting-point the apostasy was thought of. It strengthens faith to see this. I am not surprised at any evil that may come in. I am not looking at what He has put out of His hand, but at that which is in His heart. The tendency of the path all around was to shake faith. "Will ye also go away?" A person never sees beyond what he is. He cannot judge beyond the moral state he is in. A person may have light as to mere knowledge, but not as to their judgment of things around.
There is responsibility as to being clean in your walk. "Contend earnestly" for it. It may be in stating the truth - not only to teach but to convince gainsayers, v. 11. In Cain we get the first principles of apostasy, natural religion and evil, the world and hatred to that which is true. In Balaam we get religion for gain, selling his services for reward, and fornication (seducing God's people), and idols. In Korah we get open rebellion, the full apostasy, the denial of Christ in His titles as Priest and King. Cain is the man in whose family the world was set up with a natural false worship. The Balaam and Korah forms of evil are going on both together. With Cain it was the utter blindness toward God. What answers to the gainsaying of Korah now? It is open infidelity, such as we find in Colenso and the Oxford "Essays and Reviews." The error of Balaam for reward. Balaam's was religious seduction, taking the name of the Lord, and the real inspiration comes from the devil. "Stand here while I meet [the Lord] yonder." The words, "the Lord" are introduced by the translators. He was really going to seek enchantments, as we learn from Numbers 24: I. He was professing to get his inspiration from the Lord, whilst really inspired by the devil.
332 In Balaam we get him selling what he really received from God to the devil for reward. Jezebel is the principle of national religion. Jezebel had no business with Israel at all. It is the Jezebel character of evil rather than that of Balaam now. "For reward" is the point here. We get the other in Pergamos; Rev. 2. He had a certain and remarkable knowledge of Jehovah, but could not do what he liked - an awfully wicked man - with the love of reward, power, and gifts. "Feast with you, Feeding themselves," etc. They like the credit of being with God's children. Those who had crept in were feasting themselves at their feasts of charity, like those against whom the apostle warns the Philippians, "whose god is their belly." Another thing which characterised them was the absence of all conscience, "feeding themselves without fear." Compare Ezekiel 28, the prince of Tyre. Conscience is always awake when we have to do with God. It may be sometimes reproved, but it is always awake.
Verse 19. Without God's Spirit. "These be they who separate themselves. They are like the Pharisees. "Stand by thyself. Come not near me, for I am holier than thou," Isa. 45:5. The word "Pharisee" means "separatist." Here they are those who had crept in. In 1 John 2 the antichrists are distinguished by having gone out.
Verse 20. That which characterises the faith amidst all the evil is that it is a "most holy faith." "Praying in the Holy Ghost." The great difference between those who were really saints and those who had crept in was having the Spirit; the others were described as "sensual [natural], having not the Spirit." The presence of the Holy Ghost in the saints is what characterises the Christian state and the Christian church in this dispensation. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." "He that is spiritual discerneth all things." We do not make half enough of the fact that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. No Spirit, there is no life, nor spiritual understanding. Prayer is not only dependence, but expressed dependence, absolute confidence too. "In everything by prayer … let your requests be made known unto God." It may be perhaps foolish requests. It is the emptying out of the heart to God. It does not say that you will receive all your request, but that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." It is another thing to go and talk with Him about His interests.
333 There is another thing needed - absolute confidence in God, asking in the name of Jesus, being in the current. If the words dwell in us, we shall ask aright. Moses says to God, "You brought Israel out. What will You do for Your great name?" Until the Lord Jesus comes the state will be evil. The last bit of the hill is the steepest: but climb, never mind, and "as thy day so shall thy strength be." The days in which we live are perilous times, but the Lord is just as sufficient for perilous times as any other time. The power of the Spirit is always accompanied by a sense of weakness and difficulty, and therefore the need of mercy. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." It is here the mercy needed along all the path, mercy reaching to the end and carrying us into everlasting life. It is not the same as Philippians 3 - looking for the Saviour, that is, actual deliverance. Peter speaks of the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. "Building up yourselves" is individual here. It is not building the church, but individuals.
Again, He says, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" practically. It is one thing to know the love of God as a general truth - "God so loved the world"; but it is another thing to know myself as the special object of it. It is knowing myself as the special object of it that I get here. We get the two things in Ephesians 1:4-5. In verse 4 it is the general truth that we should be "holy and without blame before him in love." In verse 5 the special thing is, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself." We get the same thing of the love of Christ. He "loved me and gave himself for me." Verses 22, 23. It is a man who will not let an evil in to hinder the enjoyment of divine love. When a man is ensnared, "have compassion"; but if he goes on recklessly without conscience, have "fear."
Verse 24. There is a power able to keep the saints above circumstances. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only (wise) God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Faultless as to our walk, our life. He is able to keep one. "Exceeding joy?" Yes. We must not lose sight of that, that there is a power efficient to keep us from falling. We are apt to get into Romans 7 as a practical state. There is an evil nature and it will out. "That ye may not do," etc. The Spirit hinders you from living after the flesh; v. 23. "Saving saints." He sees the saints in conflict, but above the circumstances. A saint above circumstances knows how to abound and to be hungry. We do not realise sufficiently that the power is there to keep us from falling - in all things more than conquerors, that is, over circumstances.
334 It is a great thing to have the inward consciousness of the love of God, that I walk in the perfect consciousness that God loves me. "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved," etc. It is power as regards my walk, that I have the present and immediate consciousness that God loves me. I get a double character of His love - His nature. And all that He does flows from love. But it is another thing to be the personal object of His love. "He loved us and washed us." "Loved me and gave himself for me." God's love was manifested, and that in His general character. He might have had servants, but that would not satisfy Him.
If you have the character of Antichrist in the Epistles of John, you get the opposite element in Jude. "They went out from us." It is open apostasy. Denying the Father and the Son is anti-Christian; denying that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22) is apostate Judaism. This is not the case with Jude. There I see, not the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, but Christendom - Christians looked at as general profession, and the corruption is in that. They "crept in" (v. 4), not "went out"; 1 John 2:19. They not only denied the Master, but turned His grace into lasciviousness; v. 4.
"To convince all that are ungodly among them," v. 15. Even when He executes judgment, it is still "among them"; every character of evil is taken up to the very end. Enoch prophesies of these who have "crept in." They denied the character of Christianity, without open apostasy; as in Philippians, they were "enemies of the cross of Christ." The judgment is on those who have got in, though of course there will be a judgment on others.
335 "Denying the only Master" (despotes) (v. 4) is the comparison of a master who has bought a slave in the market that will not own him. The earliest evil bears its fruits to the end - they ought to have been purged out, but, as a fact, they remain to the end. Cain is natural religion; Balaam, ecclesiastical corruption; and Korah, opposition to Christ's royalty and priesthood. We have to look not only for open infidelity, but to moral persons moving on amidst Christendom and "gainsaying."
"Looking for the mercy" (v. 21) is striking. You cannot get into an evil that you do not find Christ for you in it; you cannot give up your Isaac without getting him in resurrection. If in trial we look to God, we receive fresh revelations. The disciples gave Him up as a living Christ, and they got Him as a glorified Christ. The mercy throws the soul on the patient goodness of Christ, and of this goodness, if we are spared the evil, we are the expression. If I feel that I belong to a system that has all gone wrong, I feel myself cast on the mercy of God. Do not get out of the place where the sense of divine love can keep you in the sense of divine holiness. See 1 Thess. 3:12-13. If I walk with God, there must be holiness. Christ Himself is the perfection of good in the midst of evil. Elijah goes to heaven in the midst of apostate Israel. In that case we have an Elisha. This mercy keeps the tone of the heart right. There must be real faithfulness, not pretension; but we must be looking on to the end, when things will be right; but now things are gone so wrong that I want mercy at every step.
One single beautiful word I would add. "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." Christ has come of a woman and come under law, He has come into a place of ruin where the law has made transgressors. The Pharisees separate themselves (v. 19); they set themselves up.