“Certain Men Crept in Unawares”
Jude was one of our Savior’s half-brothers (Matt. 13:55), and James’ full brother. He out-lived all the Apostles, except John. His epistle was written no more than 30-35 years after our Lord’s ascension. The purpose of God the Holy Spirit in giving this epistle to the church is evident from its contents. — Heresies had already sprung up and the church was infested with them (v. 4).
It is a great mercy to us that both Jude and John lived to see those things come to pass that our Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle Peter had prophesied. Had they not lived to see the heresies and heretics prophesied filling the church in those early days, we would never have had the instructive epistles they were inspired to write, equipping us to deal with them. Indeed, the Apostle Paul tells us plainly that heresies must come that the truth of God and the people of God might be made manifest (1 Cor. 11:19).
Jude addresses all he has to say to the church of God’s elect, to all who are born of God (vv. 1-3). Then, through the greater part of these twenty-five verses (vv. 4-19), he describes the terrible character and state of the reprobate. Yet, these things are written to God’s saints for our consolation and instruction. At the end of his letter (vv. 20-25), he reminds us of the safety, security, and blessedness of God’s elect and ascribes all praise to our all-glorious Christ, our God and Savior.
He begins his epistle by describing the common salvation of all God’s elect. He calls it “the common salvation”, because all who are saved by the free and sovereign grace of God in Christ enjoy all the blessings and privileges of grace in common and all embrace one faith, the faith of the gospel.
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (vv. 1-3).
“The faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” the faith of the gospel, the faith that God gives to all his people by the teaching of his Holy Spirit in effectual grace involves certain doctrines (though commonly unknown in today’s religious world), that are now and have always been commonly embraced and proclaimed among those who believe God: election, preservation, effectual calling, and the trinity of persons in the Godhead. — “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called” (v. 1). They are such common things in the household of faith that Jude, like Peter, uses them as a salutation.
God the Holy Spirit inspired his servant Jude to open his epistle with words of tender affection and boundless grace. He speaks of the most weighty, soul-cheering, and essential truths of the gospel in simple, brief, unmistakable terms. In this one, short verse, Jude declares that…
· All who believe God in time were sanctified by God the Father in eternal election,— separated unto God, declared and made to be holy in Christ, and accepted in the Beloved!
· All who were sanctified by God in election were, are, and shall forever be preserved in Christ, our Mediator, unto the time of love, when they are called, preserved in eternity, preserved through Adam’s fall, preserved in the days of their rebellion, preserved after conversion, and preserved unto eternal glory! Blessed be God, those who are preserved in Christ Jesus shall never perish!
Who can describe such grace? God’s elect are preserved in Jesus Christ, before called to Jesus Christ, and preserved in all the after stages of life, when called by grace, until grace is finished in glory. We ought to meditate on these things continually. But we must enter into eternity, and look back over the everlasting hills, through all the path by which the Lord has brought us on our way, before that we can have any real sense and apprehension of the unspeakable blessings contained in these four words, “preserved in Jesus Christ.”
· And all who were set apart by the Father unto himself in Christ and preserved in Christ, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, are, at the appointed time of love, graciously, irresistibly, and effectually called to life and faith in Christ by the omnipotent mercy of God the Holy Spirit. Robert Hawker wrote…
“So infinitely blessed and important is this great grace of the Holy Spirit, in calling, that, until it is wrought, no child of God can have any apprehension, either of God the Father’s love in election, or God the Son’s grace in redemption. It is by regeneration that we are made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world, through lust! (2 Pet. 1:4, 5).”
· Just as the other Apostles (Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Pet. 1:2-9), Jude opens his epistle with a declaration that salvation is the work of God alone, the eternal, indestructible, effectual work of God alone, and the work of God in the trinity of his holy persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And he knew that all who worshipped God would know and rejoice in that which he declared (1 John 5:7-12; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Tit. 3:3-7).
We date all our mercies from eternity. We find their source in the election of grace. It was in Christ that we were chosen, accepted, blessed with all spiritual blessings, and given all grace and salvation before the world began. And it is in Christ that we are preserved and “kept by the power of God.” Therefore, we delight to say, with Paul, concerning all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, “We are bound to give thanks always to God, for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13, 14). “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”
In verse 2 Jude assures us that this common salvation, about which he is writing, brings common mercies to every believer. — “ Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” Mercy from the Father, peace in and from Jesus Christ, and love in and by the Holy Spirit, sweetly flow to us in boundless streams of grace as the fruits and effects of those glorious acts of the Triune God described in verse 1.
The 3rd verse speaks of that common faith possessed by all who have God’s gift of faith in Christ. — “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
What is that faith? The Scriptures show us the answer plainly and fully. — The great and leading doctrines of the gospel in the everlasting love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are written on every page. The Person, glory, blood shedding, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, with redemption only in his blood, and regeneration only by God the Holy Spirit are the foundation of all our mercies. To contend for these, and with earnestness, is to contend for the very life of our souls. Any reluctance on our part to openly profess these glorious truths, or any denial of them by others, is the wounding of the Redeemer in the house of his friends and high treason against the Majesty of God.
Jude draws a clear line of distinction between the elect and the reprobate, between the believer and the religious unbeliever. In verses 1-3 he speaks of God’s elect. In verses 4-19 he speaks only of apostates, describing them as those who walk after their own ungodly lusts, who were of old ordained to this condemnation, sensual, and having not the Spirit. These are two distinct classes of people: the elect and the reprobate.
In verses 4-19 Jude describes those men who are the common foes of God’s elect in every age. In these verses we have one horrid portrait of apostasy drawn out in many characters. The language Jude uses describes one specific class of men who come under the same condemnation. Taken together, as Jude sets them before us, in one view, these apostates form one picture. And they all come to the same condemnation. We shall do well, under God the Spirit’s teaching, to look both at their persons, and their features, and mark them one by one.
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (vv. 4-7).
“Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (vv. 8-13).
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (vv. 14-19).
First, they are said to have been “certain men” (v. 4), which had crept in unawares. Jude is not speaking of infidels, men who totally disown Christ. He is describing certain men, who had crept into the church, men who professed to believe in Christ. These are the very apostates Paul warned us to beware of (Acts 20:29, 30). Peter also gave us warning concerning them (2 Pet. 2:13). But Jude had lived to see some of them arise among the saints of God.
Second, Jude says, they have “crept in unawares.” Like slithering serpents, they come into the church, professing to be lovers of Christ. They worm themselves into the church under the guise of believers. As Satan transformed himself into an angel of light, that he might more successfully deceive, his ministers appear as ministers of righteousness, in a pretence of love for Christ before his people that they might destroy the souls of men (2 Cor. 11:14, 15).
Jude is talking about well-known, highly esteemed men, not just church members, but preachers, teachers, and religious leaders. They were the Korahs and Balaams (Numbers 16 and 22) of their day, famous in the churches, men of reputation.
What swarms have followed those apostates Jude describes! They blaze like comets for a while. Like “wandering stars” as Jude calls them, they make a big show for a time. To them “is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” They are full of promises, empty promises, like “clouds without water.” Like “clouds without water, carried about of winds,” there is no grace in their hearts and no work of regeneration upon their souls. They have a name to live, but are dead before God, “twice dead,” spiritually dead and under the sentence of the second death, “of old ordained to this condemnation” (Rev. 20:6).
Third, they are described as “ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice that there are no charges of immorality. Had their lives been notorious for any breaches of the moral law, surely such would have been mentioned. Had their conduct been notoriously corrupt in any flagrant acts of licentiousness, they would soon have been discovered.
These men are called “ungodly men” because their doctrine was directly leveled against the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. They turned “the grace of God into lasciviousness,” not by using grace as an excuse for ungodly behavior, but by daring to charge the grace of God that brings salvation with leading to lasciviousness, asserting that the gospel of free, absolute, unconditional grace promotes evil behavior among those who believe it. They turned the grace of God into lasciviousness by asserting that the glorious gospel of God’s free grace, which proclaims free, full, complete, irrevocable pardon to sinners through the blood and righteousness of Christ alone, opens the floodgates of sin (Rom. 3:8; 6:1). Again, I say, what swarms follow them!
This “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness” was accompanied with “denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” As we have seen, it is not possible that these men openly denied God’s being, or the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again. Had that been the case, they could not have crept into the church.
How could they be said to deny the only Lord God, except by denying his free grace? Yet, by denying (as multitudes do today) the absolute efficacy of God’s purpose and work, by denying the absolute efficacy of the Father’s purpose and love, the Son’s blood atonement, and the Spirit’s omnipotent call. By denying that our Lord Jesus Christ actually redeemed and saves all God’s elect by his finished work of redemption, they do in effect deny the very being of God. Robert Hawker issued the following challenge in his excellent commentary on Jude…
“Look at this Scripture in every way and direction in which it can be placed, and look for grace from the Almighty Author of inspiration, to have a right understanding of it. And then ask your own heart, what was Jude directed by the Holy Spirit to give all diligence to write to the Church of the common salvation, unless to have guarded the minds of the faithful against the creeping in of such certain men as are here described? What faith but the faith of God’s elect, in God the Father’s everlasting love, and God the Son’s complete, and finished salvation, could the Apostle mean, when he exhorted the Church, ‘earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints’?”
Fourth, the judgment such ungodly men shall forever endure is exactly correspondent to their conduct. — “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (vv. 14-15).
When the Lord Jesus comes with his saints; he will convince them all, not only of their ungodly deeds, but also of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him (John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). Every place in Holy Scripture, which describes the day of judgment, speaks of Christ the Son of God, as the Judge in that day (Matt. 25:31, 32; Acts 10:42; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). He, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, “shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
Read these solemn verses again and again. Ask God the Holy Spirit to burn them into your heart that you may be able in the light of Holy Scripture to understand what is going on in the religious world around us today. Do we not daily hear and read the hard speeches spoken against Christ, and by certain men crept in unawares into the church? Multitudes of famous religious leaders, verbally deny our Savior’s being as God. Others, who would never openly assert such, just as fully deny it by denying the merit and efficacy of his blood and righteousness and intercession, asserting that all is vain without some contribution from man. Such doctrine is the blasphemous assertion that the Son of God is a failure! But that shall never be (Isa. 42:4; 53:11-12). The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ shall never be discovered a miscarriage. His grace shall never be frustrated. “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.” He who satisfied the justice of God for his elect, shall be satisfied by the justice of God in the salvation of his elect.
Nothing could be more suitable than the punishment here denounced upon all such blasphemy. When the Lord Jesus comes in his glory with all his holy angels, showing forth the glory of his grace in the salvation of all his people, he shall, by the overwhelming brightness of his glory, convince all who oppose him who he is and what he has done to their everlasting horror in hell. He shall, in that great day, “execute judgment upon all and convince all of their hard speeches,” which they have spoken against him.
Fifth, Jude tells us that these men are “sensual, having not the Spirit” (v. 19). This is the thing that in all ages distinguishes “between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not” (Mal. 3:18).
Here the Holy Spirit tells us plainly that all who oppose the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in our Lord Jesus Christ are unregenerate and have not been given the gift of eternal life and salvation in Christ by God the Holy Spirit. Such men, as we might expect, “speak evil of those things which they know not; but what they know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. They have gone into the way of Cain; they have ran greedily after the error of Balaam, for reward; and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity. Their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration, because of advantage.”
These are different descriptions of the same, sensual, unregenerate men who have not the Spirit, and yet profess to be worshippers of God and disciples of Christ. Like their father, the devil, they rage against the authority and dominion of God. Like Cain, they presume that their works can and do give them some measure of righteousness and acceptance with God. Like Balaam, they mingle the worship of God with the worship of idols, compromising the truth of God in the name of unity, peace, and brotherly love. Like Korah, they are ambitious, motivated by the gratification of their own lusts, “feeding themselves without fear.”
Jude began his description of these apostate false prophets by telling us that they were “before of old ordained to this condemnation” (v. 4; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). This testimony to God’s sovereignty, so offensive to those sensual people who have not the Spirit of God and so precious to every believer who knows by distinguishing grace his acceptance with the holy Lord God in Christ, his Beloved, is a clear display of the fact that the only distinction there is between the righteous and the wicked is the distinction our God has made by his distinguishing grace (1 Cor. 4:7). For this we shall forever praise him.
Every child of God, in this present Christ-despising generation, is a wonder of grace, a testimony to God’s infallible mercy. We ought to esteem it our highest honor to bear testimony to God’s holy name and wondrous grace in Christ. Our great and gracious God has reserved to himself thousands who have not and will not bow the knee to Baal. “Even so now, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:4-5).
Israel, Angels and Sodom
Jude reminds us of the apostates among the children of Israel who came out of Egypt and perished in the wilderness in unbelief (v. 5). Though they had all the advantages of a temporal salvation, yet, having no part nor lot in the matter of grace and eternal salvation in Christ, their carcasses fell in the wilderness (Rom. 9:6, 7; Heb. 3:16-19).
“The angels, which kept not their first estate,” not being elect angels, were left to the mutability of their own will, fell, and in that fall, were everlastingly condemned. Here again, we find cause for endless praise. Had we not been sanctified and preserved in Christ Jesus by God’s eternal grace, we too would be everlastingly condemned. Had the Lord God left us to our own wills, as he did those angels, we would perish forever (Rom. 9:16). Were it not for the fact that we are yet “preserved in Jesus Christ” even now, we would perish immediately.
What cause we are given for unceasing thanksgiving and praise for God’s electing, preserving grace in Christ! And truly, we may say with the prophet, “except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:9).
The Holy Spirit has given us no record of Enoch’s prophecy. It may have been an oral, rather than a written prophecy. All we know concerning it is the account Jude gives in verses 14-15. But it is a blessed prophecy of our Lord’s glorious second advent. When Enoch is called “the seventh from Adam,” the meaning is that his was the seventh generation of believing men in the earth: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Enoch (1 Chro. 1:1-2).
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (vv. 20-21). — Here Jude assures us of the absolute safety of God’s elect, being “preserved in Jesus Christ,” even in the midst of a reprobate age. This is much the same as Paul’s declaration to the Thessalonian saints in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-14.
When he tells us that we must build up ourselves in our “most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keep” ourselves in the love of God, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,” Jude does not mean that we are our own keepers, or that we can create faith in our own hearts. The Scriptures everywhere teach us that all who are kept are kept by the power of God unto eternal life. Our Lord declares regarding his church, “In that day, sing ye to her a vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it. I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day” (Isa. 27:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:5).
Jude is telling us that we must ever wait for the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit. Ever aware of our need of Christ, we must abide in him, looking to him alone for life, grace, and eternal salvation (Col. 2:6). Let us have a sure, fixed, and certain hope in him regarding all the blessed and glorious events of that great day of God our Savior, ever expecting “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
It is nothing but mercy, mercy alone, and mercy sure that is the hope and expectation of every believing soul. For chosen, redeemed, believing sinners, justified, sanctified, called, and kept in Christ, there is nothing doubtful about the issue of that day (2 Pet. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Isa. 45:24-25). Jude would not have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to give us this confidence were it a matter of uncertainty (Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 3:12).
The mercy, love, and grace we have experienced, we are to show to one another. Jude writes, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (vv. 22-23).
There is nothing found among men so affectionate and tender as the love of brethren in Jesus. The compassion God’s saints show to wanderers and backsliders, to those who are tempted and fallen, and to those who are ignorant and out of the way is sweetness itself. Saved sinners are compelled by the grace we experience to stretch out the helping hand in any way and every way we can to raise up the fallen (2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 6:1-2). Because we cannot know who God’s elect are, until they are called by his grace and given faith in Christ, we seek to save, as from the fire, all who are tottering upon the brink of hell. Though we loathe their sins as we loathe our own garments, which are defiled and spotted when we put them upon our corrupt bodies, we earnestly desire their eternal salvation in Christ.
To God Be The Glory
“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 Savior, be glory, and majesty, dominion, and power, both now and ever. Amen” (vv. 24-25).
He who has all along preserved us is the One who keeps us from falling. It shall be the special and personal joy and glory of Christ our Surety and Substitute to present his Church to himself at the last day. We nowhere read in Scripture of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit presenting the Church before the throne. It shall be God the Son’s, our all-glorious Savior’s, final work as our Mediator to bring his church home as a bride adorned for her husband, and present her to himself before the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28). He “loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy, and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
 It might be helpful for me to give some explanation of verse 9. — Michael the archangel can be, in my opinion, none other than Christ himself, the Angel of the Covenant, the Angel of the Lord. There is but one Archangel, or Prince of Angels (Dan. 10:13, 21), and that is Christ, the Head of all principality and power. The name by which he is here spoken of, “Michael,” means “one who is as God.” We find this name, “Archangel,” only twice in the whole Book of God (1 Thess. 4:16 and Jude 9). In both places there can be little question that it has reference to our Lord Jesus Christ in his mediatoral office.
The only place in the Book of God to which this passage might have reference is Zechariah 3:1-10. The explanation John Gill gave of Jude 9 is, in my opinion, the best I have read. I say that simply because it is completely consistent with the whole teaching of Scripture and specifically with Jude’s message. Gill explains…
“It was to show that the law of Moses was to be abolished and buried by Christ, never to rise again…The law of Moses is sometimes called Moses himself (John 5:45; Acts 15:21; 21:21; 2 Cor. 3:15) and so the body of Moses…The law of Moses was restored in the time of Joshua the high priest, by Ezra and Nehemiah. Joshua broke the law and was charged by Satan as guilty, who contended and insisted upon it that he should suffer for it. So that this dispute or contention might be said to be about the body of Moses, that is, the body of Moses’ law, which Joshua had broken.”
In the dispute Michael, or the Angel of the Lord, our the Lord Jesus Christ, chose not to “bring a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9; Zech. 3:2). Pointing to his finished work of redemption and righteousness as the sole basis of Joshua’s acceptance with God, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke as our Mediator, just as he did in the flesh in John 17 and does now as our Advocate in heaven (1 John 2:1-2), and called upon the Father to rebuke Joshua’s accuser (Rom. 8:1, 33-34).