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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JUDE - Chapter 1 - Verse 4
Verse 4. For there are certain men crept in unawares. The apostle now gives a reason for thus defending the truth, to wit, that there were artful and wicked men who had crept into the church, pretending to be religious teachers, but whose doctrines tended to sap the very foundations of truth. The apostle Peter, describing these same persons, says, "who privily shall bring in damnable heresies." See Barnes "2 Pe 2:1".
Substantially the same idea is expressed here by saying that they "had crept in unawares;" that is, they had come in by stealth; they had not come by a bold and open avowal of their real sentiments. They professed to teach the Christian religion, when in fact they denied some of its fundamental doctrines; they professed to be holy, when in fact they were living most scan- dalous lives. In all ages there have been men who were willing to do this for base purposes.
Who were before of old ordained to this condemnation. That is, to the condemnation (krima) which he proceeds to specify. The statements in the subsequent part of the epistle show that by the word used here he refers to the wrath that shall come upon the ungodly in the future world. See Jude 1:5-7,15. The meaning clearly is, that the punishment which befell the unbelieving Israelites, (Jude 1:5;) the rebel angels, (Jude 1:6;) the inhabitants of Sodom, (Jude 1:7;) and of which Enoch prophesied, (Jude 1:15,) awaited those persons. The phrase of old—palai—means long ago, implying that a considerable time had elapsed, though without determining how much. It is used in the New Testament only in the following places: Mt 11:21, "they would have repented long ago;" Mr 15:44, "whether he had been any while dead;" Lu 10:13, they had a great while ago repented; Heb 1:1, "spake in time past unto the fathers;" 2 Pe 1:9, "purged from his old sins;" and in the passage before us. So far as this word is concerned, the reference here may have been to any former remote period, whether in the time of the prophets, of Enoch, or in eternity. It does not necessarily imply that it was eternal, though it "might apply to that, if the thing referred to was, from other sources, certainly known to have been from eternity. It may be doubted, however, whether, if the thing referred to had occurred from eternity, this would have been the word used to express it, (comp. Eph 1:4;) and it is certain that it cannot be proved from the use of this word (palai) that the "ordination to condemnation" was eternal. Whatever may be referred to by that "ordaining to condemnation," this word will not prove that it was an eternal ordination. All that is fairly implied in it will be met by the supposition that it occurred in any remote period, say in the time of the prophets. The word here rendered "before ordained": progegrammenoi, from prografw—occurs in the New Testament only here and in the following places: Ro 15:4, twice, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning;" Ga 3:1, "Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth;" and Eph 3:3, "As I wrote afore in few words." See Barnes "Ga 3:1".
In these places there is evidently no idea implied of ordaining, or preordaining, in the sense in which those words are now commonly understood. To that word there is usually attached the idea of designating or appointing as by an arbitrary decree; but no such meaning enters into the word here used. The Greek word properly means, to write before; then to have written before; and then, with reference to time future, to post up beforehand in writing; to announce by posting up on a written tablet, as of some ordinance, law, or requirement; as descriptive of what will be, or what should be. Comp. Rob. Lexicon. Burder (in Rosenmuller's Morgenland, in loc.) remarks that "the names of those who were to be tried were usually posted up in a public place, as was also their sentence after their condemnation, and that this was denoted by the same Greek word which the apostle uses here. Eisner," says he, "remarks that the Greek authors use the word as applicable to those who, among the Romans, were said to be proscribed; that is, those whose names were posted up in a public place, whereby they were appointed to death, and in reference to whom a reward was offered to any one who would kill them." The idea here clearly is that of some such designation beforehand as would occur if the persons had been publicly posted as appointed to death. Their names, indeed, were not mentioned, but there was such a description of them, or of their character, that it was clear who were meant. In regard to the question what the apostle means by such a designation or appointment beforehand, it is clear that he does not refer in this place to any arbitrary or eternal decree, but to such a designation as was made by the facts to which he immediately refers- that is, to the Divine prediction that there would be such persons, (Jude 1:14,15,18; ) and to the consideration that in the case of the unbelieving Israelites, the rebel angels, and the inhabitants of Sodom, there was as clear a proof that such persons would be punished as if their names had been posted up. All these instances bore on just such cases as these, and in these facts they might read their sentence as clearly as if their names had been written on the face of the sky. This interpretation seems to me to embrace all that the words fairly imply, and all that the exigence of the case demands; and if this be correct, then two things follow:
(1.) that this passage should not be adduced to prove that God has from all eternity, by an arbitrary decree, ordained a certain portion of the race to destruction, what-ever may be true on that point; and,
(2.) that all abandoned sinners now may see, in the facts which have occurred in the treatment of the wicked in past times, just as certain evidence of their destruction, if they do not repent, as if their names were written in letters of light, and if it were announced to the universe that they would be damned.
Ungodly men. Men without piety or true religion, whatever may be their pretensions.
Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness. Abusing the doctrines of grace so as to give indulgence to corrupt and carnal propensities. That is, probably, they gave this form to their teaching, as Antinomians have often done, that by the gospel they were released from the obligations of the law, and might give indulgence to their sinful passions in order that grace might abound. Antinomianism began early in the world, and has always had a wide prevalence. The liability of the doctrines of grace to be thus abused was foreseen by Paul, and against such abuse he earnestly sought to guard the Christians of his time, Ro 6:1, seq.
That is, the doctrines which they held were in fact a denial of the only true God, and of the Redeemer of men. It cannot be supposed that they openly and formally did this, for then they could have made no pretensions to the name Christian, or even to religion of any kind; but the meaning must be, that in fact the doctrines which they held amounted to a denial of the true God, and of the Saviour in his proper nature and work. Some have proposed to read this, "denying the only Lord God, even (kai) our Lord Jesus Christ;" but the Greek does not demand this construetion even if it would admit it, and it is most in accordance with Scripture usage to retain the common translation. It may be added, also, that the common translation expresses all that the exigence of the passage requires. Their doctrines and practice tended as really to the denial of the true God as they did to the denial of the Lord Jesus. Peter in his second epistle, (2 Pe 2:1,) has adverted only to one aspect of their doetrine—that it denied the Saviour; Jude adds, if the common reading be correct, that it tended also to a denial of the true God. The word God (yeon) is wanting in many manuscripts, and in the Vulgate and Coptic versions, and Mill, Hammond, and Bengel suppose it should be omitted. It is also wanting in the editions of Tittman, Griesbach, and Rahn. The amount of authority seems to be against it. The word rendered Lord, in the phrase "Lord God," is despothv, despotes, and means here Sovereign, or Ruler, but it is a word which may be appropriately applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same word which is used in the parallel passage in 2 Pe 2:1. See it explained See Barnes "2 Pe 2:1".
If the word "God" is to be omitted in this place, the passage would be wholly applicable, beyond question, to the Lord Jesus, and would mean, "denying our only Sovereign and Lord, Jesus Christ." It is perhaps impossible now to determine with certainty the true reading of the text; nor is it very material. Whichever of the readings is correct; whether the word (yeon) God is to be retained or not, the sentiment expressed would be true, that their doctrines amounted to a practical denial of the only true God; and equally so that they were a denial of the only Sovereign and Lord of the true Christian.
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