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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JUDE - Chapter 1 - Verse 3
When I gave all diligence. When I applied my mind earnestly; implying that he had reflected on the subject, and thought particularly what it would be desirable to write to them. The state of mind referred to is that of one who was purposing to write a letter, and who thought over carefully what it would be proper to say. The mental process which led to writing the epistle seems to have been this:
(a.) For some reasons—mainly from his strong affection for them—he purposed to write to them.
(b.) The general subject on which he designed to write was, of course, something pertaining to the common salvation—for he and they were Christians.
(c.) On reflecting what particular thing pertaining to this common salvation it was best for him to write on, he felt that, in view of their peculiar dangers, it ought to be an exhortation to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to them. Macknight renders this less correctly, "Making all haste to write to you," etc. But the idea is rather that he set himself diligently and earnestly to write to them of the great matter in which they had a common interest.
To write unto you of the common salvation. The salvation common to Jews and Gentiles, and to all who bore the Christian name. The meaning is, that he did not think of writing on any subject pertaining to a particular class or party, but on some subject in which all who were Christians had a common interest. There are great matters of religion held in common by all Christians, and it is important for religious teachers to address their fellow Christians on those common topics. After all, they are more important than the things which we may hold as peculiar to our own party or sect, and should be more frequently dwelt upon.
It was needful for me to write to you. "I reflected on the general subject, prompted by my affectionate regard to write to you of things pertaining to religion in general, and, on looking at the matter, I found there was a particular topic or aspect of the subject on which it was necessary to address you. I saw the danger in which you were from false teachers, and felt it not only necessary that I should write to you, but that I should make this the particular subject of my counsels."
And exhort you. "That I should make my letter in fact an exhortation on a particular topic."
That ye should earnestly contend. Comp. Ga 2:5. The word here rendered earnestly contend—epagwnizesyai—is one of those words used by the sacred writers which have allusion to the Grecian games. See Barnes "1 Co 9:24, seq. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means to contend upon—i. e. for or about anything; and would be applicable to the earnest effort put forth in those games to obtain the prize. The reference here, of course, is only to contention by argument, by reasoning, by holding fast the principles of religion, and maintaining them against all opposers. It would not justify "contention" by arms, by violence, or by persecution; for
(a.) that is contrary to the spirit of true religion, and to the requirements of the gospel elsewhere revealed;
(b.) it is not demanded by the proper meaning of the word, all that that fairly implies being the effort to maintain truth by argument and by a steady life;
(c.) it is not the most effectual way to keep up truth in the world to attempt to do it by force and arms.
For the faith. The system of religion revealed in the gospel. It is called faith, because that is the cardinal virtue in the system, and because all depends on that. The rule here will require that we should contend in this manner for all truth.
Once delivered unto the saints. The word here used (apax) may mean either once for all, in the sense that it was then complete, and would not be repeated; or formerly to wit, by the author of the system. Doddridge, Estius, and Beza, understand it in the former way; Macknight and others in the latter; Benson improperly supposes that it means fully or perfectly. Perhaps the more usual sense of the word would be, that it was done once in the sense that it is not to be done again, and therefore in the sense that it was then complete, and that nothing was to be added to it. There is indeed the idea that it was formerly done, but with this additional thought, that it was then complete. Compare, for this use of the Greek word rendered once, Heb 9:26-28; 10:2; 1 Pe 3:18.
The delivering of this faith to the saints here referred to is evidently that made by revelation, or the system of truth which God has made known in his word. Everything which He has revealed, we are to defend as true. We are to surrender no part of it whatever, for every part of that system is of value, to mankind. By a careful study of the Bible we are to ascertain what that system is, and then in all places, at all times, in all circumstances, and at every sacrifice, we are to maintain it.
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