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CHAPTER XXXVII.
THE DESCRIPTION CORRESPONDING TO KORAH:
MAKING SEPARATIONS. EXHORTATION TO THE FAITHFUL TO BUILD UP THEMSELVES, AND THEN RESCUE OTHERS.

"These are they who make separations sensual, having not the Spirit.

"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have mercy, who are in doubt; and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."—St. Jude 19-23.

FOR the third and last time St. Jude points his finger at the ungodly intruders who are working such mischief in the Church, and gives another triplet of characteristics by which they may be recognized.

"These are they who make separations." This is the first point; like Korah and his company, these men are separatists (οἱ ἀποδιορίζοντες). They do not actually make a schism from the Church, for they frequent the love-feasts and profess membership; but they create a faction within it. Even in the public services of the Church they keep aloof from the poorer members of the congregation. At the love-feasts they feed themselves on the good things which they bring with them, instead of handing them over to the ministers to be distributed among all. And in society they care only 451 for persons of rank and wealth, out of whom they hope to gain something. Worst of all, they claim to be specially enlightened members of the Church, having a more comprehensive knowledge of the nature of Christian liberty, while they are turning the fundamental principles of Christian life upside down. Hence, although they are not actual schismatics, who have gone out of the Church and set up a communion of their own, their tendencies are in that direction. They are, in short, much the same kind of people as those against whom St. Paul warns his readers in the Epistle to the Romans: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent" (xvi. 17, 18). And again in the Epistle to the Philippians: "For many walk of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (iii. 18, 19). A parallel to nearly every clause in these two descriptions might be found in the account of the libertines given by St. Jude. Indeed, the words in which Bishop Lightfoot sums up St. Paul's description might be adopted verbatim as a summary of the description in our Epistle: "They are described as creating divisions and offences, as holding plausible language, as professing to be wise beyond others, and yet not innocent in their wisdom." They are "Antinomians, who refuse to conform to the Cross, and live a life of self-indulgence." "The unfettered liberty of which they boast, 452 thus perverted, becomes their deepest degradation" (Philippians, Notes on iii. 18, 19).

Hooker, in his sermons on this passage, although he adopts the translation of Tyndale, continued by Cranmer and the Genevan Version, "These are makers of sects," yet in his exposition follows the corrupt reading which misled the translators of 1611, "These be they who separate themselves" (οἱ ἀποδιορίζοντες ἑαυτούς), "themselves" being absent from almost all the ancient MSS. and versions. He says, "St. Jude, to express the manner of their departure which by apostasy fell away from the faith of Christ, saith, 'They separated themselves;' noting thereby that it was not constraint of others which forced them to depart; it was not infirmity and weakness in themselves, it was not fear of persecution to come upon them, whereat their hearts did fail; it was not grief of torments, whereof they had tasted, and were not able any longer to endure them. No, they voluntarily did separate themselves, with a fully settled and altogether determined purpose never to name the Lord Jesus any more, nor to have any fellowship with His saints, but to bend all their counsel and all their strength to raze out their memorial from amongst them" (Serm. v. 11). Here there is a double error in the quotation from St. Jude, and therefore considerable error in the exposition of his meaning. St. Jude does not say that these libertines "separated," but that they are "those who are separating," i.e. are habitually making separations or differences. He uses the present participle, not the aorist or perfect. And, as already noticed, he says nothing about separating themselves. So far from implying that they had "a settled and determined purpose never to name the Lord Jesus any more, nor 453 to have any fellowship with His saints," He shows that these men had crept into the Church, and evidently intended to remain there, attending the love-feasts and polluting them, while they put forward the "freedom wherewith Christ had made them free" as a plea for their own licentiousness; thus "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness," and by their conduct denying the Christ in whom they professed to believe. Thus, though they did not formally leave the Church as heretics, schismatics, or apostates, yet they had the heretical and schismatical temper, and were apostates in their manner of life. As Hooker says elsewhere, "Many things exclude from the kingdom of God, although from the Church they separate not" (Eccl. Pol. V. lxviii. 6). These men had left the way of salvation to "walk after their own lusts," but they had not separated from the Church, into which they had surreptitiously obtained admission.

"Sensual" (ψυχικοί). This word has been already discussed in a previous chapter, in the exposition of the passage where it occurs in the Epistle of St. James (iii. 15: see pp. 200, 201). "Sensual" persons are those who live in the world of sense, and are ruled by human feeling and human reason. They stand not very much above the carnal, and with them are opposed to the spiritual. In the triplet, carnalis, animalis, spiritalis, the second term is far more closely allied with the first than with the third. It is possible that the libertines, in their travesty of the freedom conferred by the Gospel, made a special claim to be "spiritual" persons, who were above the restraints of the moral law. They may have held that to their exalted natures the things of sense were morally indifferent, and might be indulged in without fear of loss or contamination; while they 454 scoffed at those Christians who were on their guard against such things, and called such Christians psychical or sensuous, because they were careful about the things of sense. St. Jude tells them that it is they who are sensuous, and not spiritual at all.

"Not having the Spirit." The Revisers maintain this rendering, which does not appear in English versions until the influence of Beza and the Genevan Version made itself felt. Calvin seems to adopt it; but Luther certainly does not ("die da keinen Geist haben"). It must be supposed that the arguments in favour of it are very strong, seeing that the alternative translation is not allowed a place in the margin of either Authorized or Revised Version, nor is recommended by the American Committee. Nevertheless, the points in its favour are well worth considering. This alternative translation is, "Having no spirit" (Tyndale, Cranmer), i.e. no spiritual nature. "Not having spirit" is Wiclif's rendering. This agrees very well with the context. St. Jude has just stigmatized the libertines as "sensuous," or "psychical." Of the three elements in man's nature, body, soul, and spirit, they are ruled by the two lower, while the third, which ought to be supreme, is persistently ignored. They had allowed the spiritual part of their being to become so bemired with self-indulgence and self-sufficiency, to be so much under the dominion of human emotion and reason, that it was utterly inoperative and practically non-existent. Their power of spiritual insight into things heavenly, of laying hold of the invisible world, and of entering into communion with God, was gone. The Holy Spirit was not only absent, but His seat was overturned and destroyed. The facts that "spirit" has neither article nor epithet in the Greek, and that the 455 negative is subjective, and not objective (πνεῦμα μὴ ἔχοντες), are in favour of man's spirit being meant, and of this clause being an explanation of what precedes. These men are sensuous because they have lost all spiritual power. It must not, however, be understood that the absence of article and epithet is any barrier to the rendering, "Having not the Spirit." Phil. ii. 1 is proof of that (comp. Eph. ii. 22; vi. 18; Col. i. 8). Nevertheless, such cases are comparatively rare. The usual expression for the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is either "the Spirit," or "Holy Spirit," or "the Holy Spirit," or "the Spirit of God," or "of the Lord," or "of Jesus Christ," or "of truth," or "of life," etc. Therefore, when we find "spirit" without either article, epithet, or distinguishing genitive, the probabilities are that the spirit of man, and not the Spirit of God, is intended.

It will be observed that the three independent descriptions of the libertines, beginning with the words, "These are," become shorter as they go on. The first is two long verses (12, 13); the second is one long verse (16); the third is one very short verse. It is as if the writer were disgusted with the unpalatable subject which necessity had compelled him to take in hand (ver. 3), and were hurrying through it to the more pleasing duty of exhorting those faithful Christians for whose sake he has undertaken this painful task.

"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." As in ver. 17, the "But ye, beloved" (ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀγαπητοί) makes an emphatic contrast between those whom St. Jude addresses and the sensuous and unspiritual men of whom he has been 456 speaking. He exhorts his readers to endeavour to keep themselves in favour with God by cultivating faith, prayer, and hope; and in this exhortation the main purpose of the letter, as set forth in ver. 3, is fulfilled. The triplet of participles (ἐποικοδομοῦντεςπροσευχόμενοιπροσδεχόμενοι) must not be lost sight of, although the fact that the main verb (τηρήσατε) comes in the middle of them, instead of at the end, somewhat obscures the triple construction.

The expression "building up" (ἐποικοδομεῖν) is in the New Testament never used of actual building, but always in the metaphorical sense of believers being united together so as to form a temple. In this temple Christ is sometimes regarded as the foundation (1 Cor. iii. 11), sometimes as that which binds the structure together (Eph. ii. 20; Col. ii. 7). The notion of building up comes from the preposition (ἐπί), one stone being placed upon another, so that upward progress is made. "The faith" here is probably the foundation on which the structure is to rest; but it would be possible to translate "with your most holy faith," instead of "on your most holy faith;" and in that case the dative would, as in Col. ii. 7, express the cement rather than the foundation. In any case "the faith" is not the internal grace or virtue of faith, but, as both the participle and the adjective show, "the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (ver. 3). It is "your faith," because it has been thus delivered to you; and it is "most holy," in marked contrast to the vile and shifty doctrines which the libertines profess and uphold.

"Praying in the Holy Ghost." This is the best arrangement of the words, although the Greek allows us to take "in the Holy Ghost" with the previous clause, a rather clumsy division of the words, which is 457 sanctioned by Luther, Beza, and the Rhemish Version: "building yourselves upon our (sic) most holy faith, in the Holy Ghost, praying." The expression "praying in the Holy Ghost" occurs nowhere else; but that is no reason why St. Jude should not have used it here. It means that we are to pray in the power and wisdom of the Spirit. In order that we may pray, and pray aright, He must move our hearts and direct our petitions.

"Keep yourselves in the love of God." Not our love of God is meant, but His love of us. This is rendered probable both by what immediately follows—for "the love of God" should have a meaning similar to that of "the mercy of Jesus Christ"—and also by the opening address, "beloved in God" (ver. 1), which St. Jude perhaps has in his mind; for the whole of the verse before us is closely connected with the first verse of the Epistle. God's love is the region in which all Christians should strive to abide, and it is by faith and prayer that this abode is secured. To be conscious of being beloved by God is one of the greatest protections that the believer can possess.

"Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." That mercy which He will show to all faithful Christians when He returns as Judge at the last day. We may compare "looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter iii. 12). Both in this life and in eternity it is mercy that we need and crave. The Psalms are full of this thought, as a reference to the numerous passages in which the word mercy occurs will reveal: see especially Ps. cxxx. And in connexion with this the concise statement respecting the relations of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity to believers must not be overlooked. By prayer in the 458 power of the Holy Spirit we are kept in the love of the Father through the mercy of the Son. "Unto eternal life." It is not a matter of much moment whether we take these words with "keep yourselves," or with "looking," or with "mercy." The first seems to be the best arrangement, "keep yourselves ... unto eternal life;" but in any case the eternal life is reached through the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. With a similar thought the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (ix. 28) writes of Christ's Second Advent as an advent "unto salvation" (εἰς σωτηρίαν). The Divine purpose of both Advents is mercy, and not judgment; but seeing that both Advents are met by some who refuse to believe and repent, judgment is inevitable.

"And on some have mercy, who are in doubt; and some save, snatching out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear." In hardly any other passage, perhaps, does the Revised Version differ in so many particulars from the Authorized. The main changes are the result of changes in the Greek text, which here is in so corrupt a state that the original cannot be restored with certainty. The readings adopted by the Revisers have the advantage of giving us another triple division, which St. Jude is very likely to have made. This triple division is preserved in the Vulgate, and therefore in Wiclif and the Rhemish Version. Our other translators, with Luther and Beza, not finding it in the inferior Greek MSS. which they used, of course do not give it.127127   Nevertheless, Westcott and Hort reject the triple division, and adopt the text of B, "which involves the incongruity that the first οὕς must be taken as a relative, and the first ἐλεᾶτε as indicative. Some primitive error evidently affects the passage" (ii., p. 107). It is difficult to believe that their text is right. With one possible exception, the text adopted by the 459 Revisers seems to be the best that can be framed with our present evidence. It is doubtful whether we ought not to substitute "convict" (ἐλέγχετε) for the first "have mercy" (ἐλεᾶτε). This reading has very powerful support (AC, the best cursives, Vulgate, Memphitic, Armenian, and Ethiopic), and is adopted by many critics. But it may possibly be an early correction of a still earlier corruption, and not a restoration of the original reading. This is one of those passages about which we must be content to remain in doubt as to what the author actually wrote (see above on ver. 5, p. 404).

In any case the writer is giving directions as to how to deal with two or three different classes of persons, who are in danger of being seduced by the libertines; and possibly the libertines themselves are included. We will assume that three classes are named. In the first we are confronted with an uncertainty of translation. The participle rendered "who are in doubt" (διακρινομένους) may also mean "while they contend" with you. Which meaning we prefer will depend partly upon the reading which we adopt for the imperative which governs the accusative. "On some have mercy, when they are in doubt," makes very harmonious sense; for earnest doubters, who are unable to make up their minds for or against the truth, are to be treated with great tenderness. Again, "And some convict, when they contend with you," makes very harmonious sense; for it is those who are disposed to be contentious that need to be refuted and convinced of their error. It is in favour of the latter version of the command that the verbs rendered "convict" and "contend" occur, and in the same sense, in the earlier part of the Epistle (vv. 9, 15). In either case that 460 which is doubted or contended about is "the faith once for all delivered unto the saints," on which believers are to "build themselves up."

The second class are such as can still be rescued, but by strong measures. No hint, however, is given as to their characteristics; we are merely told that there are some who require to be taken with decision, and perhaps even with violence, out of their perilous surroundings, in order that they may be saved from destruction. We may perhaps think of those who, without being in doubt or inclined to dispute about the faith, are being carried away into licentiousness by intercourse with the libertines. The fire out of which they are to be snatched is not the penal fire of the judgment to come, but the state of perdition in which they are now living. We seem to have here, as in ver. 9, a reminiscence of Zechariah iii. 1, where we read, "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" In Amos iv. 11 we have the same figure, and the context there agrees with the suggestion just made as to the kind of person indicated by St. Jude: "I have overthrown some among you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a brand plucked out of the burning." There are some who need to be rescued in the way that the angels rescued Lot, with urgency and constraint (Gen. xix. 16, 17); and it is specially in reference to temptations such as Lot had gone into that such urgency is needed.

The third class is one which must be treated with great circumspection: "and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." This does not mean, as Luther supposes, that we must "let them severely alone, and have nothing to do with them," but that in dealing with evil so insidious and 461 so infectious, we must take care that we are not contaminated ourselves. It is quite possible to approach evil with good intentions, and then, through want of proper humility and caution, end in finding it fatally attractive. We must carefully preserve abhorrence for all that is associated with pollution. In the defiled garment (comp. James iii. 6, where the same word is used) St. Jude appears once more to have Zechariah iii. 1-3 in his mind; but the Greek of the LXX. is there quite different (ἱμάτια ῥυπαρά, instead of ἐσπιλωμένον χιτῶνα). The garment here mentioned is the chiton, or shirt, which came in contact with the body, and would itself be rendered unclean if the body were unclean. It therefore serves well as a symbol for that which has become perilous through being closely connected with evil. But while the evil and that which has been contaminated by it are to be hated, compassion is to be shown to those who have fallen victims to it. To be shown, not merely felt, as is manifest from the word which St. Jude uses (ἐλεᾷν, not οἰκτείρειν). The passages in which this verb (or its more common form ἐλεεῖν) elsewhere occurs in the New Testament prove that it means "to have mercy on, to succour and bring help to," and not merely "to feel pity for" without doing anything to relieve the person pitied (Matt. ix. 27; xv. 22; xvii. 15; xviii. 33; xx. 30; Mark x. 47; Luke xvi. 24; xvii. 13; xviii. 38; Phil. ii. 27). It is specially used of God's showing mercy to those who do not deserve it (Rom. ix. 15, 16, 18; xi. 32; 1 Cor. vii. 25; 2 Cor. iv. 1; 1 Tim. i. 13, 16; 1 Peter ii. 10), and therefore fitly expresses the sympathy which ought to be manifested by the faithful towards the fallen. But in some cases this sympathy must be manifested in fear. It is by acting in the spirit of godly fear that love of the 462 sinner can be combined with hatred of the sin. Without it sympathy with the sinner is too likely to turn into sympathy with the sin. To put it otherwise: All our efforts for the reformation of others must be begun and continued with self-reformation; and therefore St. Jude insists on the necessity for spiritual progress and prayer, before advising as to the treatment of the fallen. It is while we are earnestly detesting and contending against a particular sin in ourselves that we can most safely and effectually deal with that sin in others.

Finally, it must be noted as specially remarkable that St. Jude, after all the strong language which he has used in describing the wickedness of those who are corrupting the Christian community, does not, in this advice as to the different methods which are to be used in dealing with those who are going or have gone astray, recommend denunciation. Not that denunciation is always wrong; in some cases it may be necessary. But denunciation by itself commonly does more harm than good; while other methods, which must be added in order to make denunciation effectual, are often quite as efficacious when no denunciation has been employed. It is quite possible to manifest one's abhorrence of "the garment spotted with the flesh," without public or private abuse of those who are the authors of the defilement.


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