Situation and occasionArgument
who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality,
have secretly slipped in among you.
Jude immediately moves to the purpose of his letter, a purpose which virtually serves as a thesis upon which his homily rests. He intended to address his brothers and sisters on the subject of the "salvation we share", but given the presence of false teachers in their midst, he now sets out to urge them "to contend for the faith." The reason for this change in subject is that some "ungodly" believers have infiltrated their ranks, believers "who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality."
i] Context: See v1-2.
ii] Background - A general introduction: See v1-2.
iii] Structure: The situation and occasion:
"to write to you about our common salvation."
"to write to you, encouraging [you] to contend for the faith."
gar, "for certain people have crept in among you"
"ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality", as such they deny Christ.
It is not at all easy identifying the heresy infecting the congregations under Jude's care. The aseqeiV, "ungodly" (pseudo-believers??), have somehow pareisedusan, "come in stealthily", and are now undermining th/ pistei, "the faith" (the Christian faith, apostolic truth). In a condensed, but revealing statement, Jude tells us that they are metatiqenteV, "perverting" (turning over, causing to be different from), the grace of God into aselgeian, "licentiousness, sensuality", ie., behaviour, usually sexual, which lacks moral restraint. Kelly argues that the pseudo-believers are libertines - all is of grace without any reference to works / morality. The heresy rests on "the assumption that the truly spiritual person, in virtue of their privileged relationship with God, is emancipated from the ethical restrictions, obligations and standards (particularly in matters of sex) which bind ordinary mortals", Kelly. If this is the point Jude is making, then the intent of his homily aligns with the epistle of James.
By grace alone through faith alone. Central to Jesus' teachings is the truth that through faith a person can appropriate the grace / mercy of God. Left to the gospels alone, it is not easy to discern this truth, but thankfully, Paul the apostle cracks it open for us. As a gift of God's grace, through faith in the faithfulness of Christ, we are justified - its JUST IF I'D never sinned, and this yesterday, today and tomorrow. In our relationship with Christ we stand perfect in God's sight, and so are awarded the full blessings of an obedient son of God. There is nothing we can do to improve our standing in God's sight, and, apart from abandoning our trust in Jesus, there is nothing we can do to damage that standing. When God the Father, the Ancient of Days, looks at us on the day of judgment, he will not see us the way we are, he will see us the way Jesus is, he will see the faithful Son of God. And because he sees Jesus, and not our compromised, disobedient self, he is able to say to us, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." We are saved by grace through faith apart from anything that we may try to do ourselves, or as the apostle put it, "apart from works of the law."
Two errors develop around the doctrine of justification by faith. Paul the apostle focuses on the first error in his letters, particularly Romans and Galatians. It is easy to think that we are saved by believing in Jesus, but that it is then necessary to go on in the Christian life by striving to be holy. We think that in striving to be an obedient disciple we are able to keep sin at bay, securing our salvation into the future and maximising God's blessings. Saved by faith, go on by obedience - "trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." No way, says Paul. In Christ, a believer is already perfect - you can't make yourself more perfect. In fact, if you try to sanctify yourself by obedience, you actually make sin more sinful. In the end, you can end up undermining your faith. Sadly, many a believer has given up their faith because it was just too hard. They tried to be good and ended up being bad and so gave up.
Of course, Paul's argument sounds a bit like he is promoting libertinism, in fact his opponents suggested that the logic of his argument was "why not sin that grace may abound", ie., more sin prompts more grace, more forgiveness. Of course, Paul is no libertine. The truth is that a person infused with the grace of God naturally seeks to live in a gracious way. Sure, not perfect, but gracious, none-the-less. The forgiving person is the person who knows and constantly reminds themselves that they are forgiven by God. Grace makes us gracious; law makes us lawless. When it comes to ethics, Paul's rule-of-thumb is simple, BE WHAT YOU ARE.
The letters of James, John, Peter and Jude address the second error. This is the problem of antinomianism, libertinism, where, either out of opportunity or ignorance, a believer claims that their standing by grace through faith, their justification, means that they have no need to worry about their moral behaviour. As Jude says of such believers, they "pervert the grace of God into licentiousness" and as a consequence deny their standing in Christ. As James constantly reminds his readers, a genuine faith is evidenced in faithful behaviour, rather than immoral behaviour. In the end, the fruit of faith is godly behaviour - no fruit, no faith, cf., 1Jn.3:1ff..
Text - v3
i] Jude's intent, v1. Presumably Jude was preparing to write a positive homily to his brother and sisters (believers under his charge??), but a critical situation has arisen which has interrupted his original plan. The positive topic he intended to speak on is their common / shared salvation. Kelly thinks that this salvation takes the same sense as "the faith which has been delivered / entrusted to the saints", but this "faith" is more rightly the Christian doctrine "they have received from their teachers", Davids*. The "salvation" in mind is properly contrasted "with the judgment and destruction of the opponents", Neyrey; it entails release from slavery, and freedom, v5, being saved from corruption, v25, and this under the favour of God, v4. So, instead of a positive encouraging word, Jude has now set out to "urge / appeal to" his fellow believers, "the saints / God's holy people." He insists, he begs, that they "strive / contend" with every ounce of their being for the truths of the apostolic gospel.
agaphtoi voc. adj. "dear friends" - beloved. The vocative adjective is used as a nominative absolute / of address.
poioumenoV (poiew) pres. part. "although I was [very] eager" - being [all = extremely] eager. The participle is adverbial, treated by the NIV as concessive, but possibly temporal, "while I am making every effort to write you", Barclay. The NEB emphasises the durative nature of the present tense, "I am fully engaged in writing to you", as though Jude is involved in another work on the subject of "the salvation we share" and has drawn aside to address the problem of perverting the grace of God. Leaney suggests this other work could be 2 Peter - but who knows!
grafein (grafw) pres. inf. "to write" - to write. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the verbal sense of the participial construction "being very eager", or even as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jude was "being very eager" about, namely, "to write." Davids. suggests epexegetic, explaining / specifying the noun "eager", "eager to write", given the variant tou grafein.
uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.
peri + gen. "about" - about. Adverbial, expressing reference / respect.
hJmwn gen. pro. "we [share]" - [the common salvation] of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "our common salvation", but it may be treated as verbal, objective, "our shared deliverance", Davids.
grayai (grafw) aor. inf. "to write" - [i found] to write [to you necessary]. The infinitive is technically complementary, completing the verb "I found", although as Davids notes, it functions adjectivally, epexegetic, specifying what is necessary, followed by the dative indirect object "you"; "I am forced to write to you", Moffatt. A present tense variant exists to align it with the variant tou grafein.
parakalwn (parakalew) pres. part. "and urge you" - encouraging you. The participle is probably adverbial, final, expressing purpose, although some translators take it is a substantive, object of the infinitive , "I found it necessary to write an encouragement to you"; "I am forced to write you an appeal", Moffatt.
epagwnizesqai (epagwnizomai) pres. mid. inf. "to contend for" - to struggle for, strive urgently. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jude is encouraging his reader to do, namely, to contend for the faith.
th/ ... pistei (iV ewV) dat. "the faith" - the faith. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to contend for." "The faith" as in "the Christian faith", apostolic doctrine, what is believed rather than belief itself - "the body of doctrine to be believed and preserved", Leaney; "that faith which God entrusted to his people once and for all", REB.
paradoqeish/ (paradidwmi) dat. perf. pas. part. "that was [once for all] entrusted" - [once for all] delivered. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the faith"; "which was once for all delivered", Berkeley.
toiV aJgioiV (oV) dat. "to God's holy people" - to the holy ones. Dative of indirect object, although the para prefix verb "to deliver" takes a dative for a thing handed over, such that "the holy" may also be classified as a dative of direct object of the verb "to deliver over to." "Christians, as those holy to God by contact with him in Christ", Sidebottom.
ii] The reason for the changed intention, v4. We get the impression in 2 Peter that the pseudo-Christians causing all the trouble are Christian teachers infected by heresy, but in Jude they seem to have "crept in" from outside. Still, pareisedusan, "came in stealthily", may not imply that they are outsiders, but rather that they are sneaks. That they were "designated for this condemnation", ESV, may be alluding to some text implying judgment for this sort of person, so Reicke, but it seems more likely to allude to the divine intention to deal with those who damage the apple of God's eye. The "ungodly" pervert with sheer license the divine favour which is bestowed on those who believe in Christ.
Kelly is surely right when he argues that those who have "crept in" "are guilty of antinomianism of the kind against which Paul repeatedly warns his correspondents (and more particularly James!), and which itself resulted from a misunderstanding, or twisting, of his own teaching about God's grace and man's justification by faith, not (apart from) works of the Law." Given the Greek world-view where the dualism of body and soul uplifted the status of the spiritual and disparaged the physical, it would be very easy for believers to adopt a theological dualism which downplayed morality ("works of the law") while emphasising the spiritual elements of faith.
Jude goes on to lay what looks like a second charge on the "ungodly", although he is probably stating the consequences of their flawed theology; "which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master", Peterson. This clause can be translated "deny the only Master (ie., God) and our Lord Jesus Christ", but "deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ", is favoured by most translators. Jude's point is that their behaviour amounts to a denial of Christ, it shows that they have no part with Christ, they are not his, not believers, cf., 1Jn.3:1ff.
gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jude is compelled to write.
tineV pro. "certain [individuals]" - certain [men, people came in stealthily]. "Certain men" serves as the nominative subject of the verb "to sneak in." "What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks", Peterson.
oiJ ... progegrammenoi (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "whose [condemnation] was written about" - the ones having been written about. The participle is best taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "certain men", as NIV, but it could be taken as a substantive standing in apposition to "certain men", "the very people whom scripture long ago marked down for the sentence they are now incurring", REB.
eiV + acc. "-" - toward [this judgment]. Here expressing goal, end-view; "for this condemnation", NAB.
asebeiV adj. "they are ungodly people" - ungodly ones. The adjective serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "certain people." It is likely that these "ungodly ones" present as believers / Christians, but behave irresponsibly. Of course, it must be remembered that there is no perfect Christian. The only sinless son of God is Christ. All believers slip and fall, we all sin, so the issue here is not sin, but overt intentional sinful behaviour particularly related to sex.
metatiqenteV (metatiqhmi) pres. part. "who pervert" - perverting. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "ungodly ones", as NIV.
thn ... carita (iV ewV) "the grace" - grace. The alternative accusative carin is usually found in the NT. By "grace" NT authors usually mean the bestowal of God's undeserved favour through faith in Christ, facilitating "the glorious liberty of the children of God", freedom, forgiveness, .....
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god [of us]. The genitive is usually classified as adjectival, verbal, subjective / idiomatic, "the grace which God bestows."
eiV + acc. "into" - into [licentiousness, sensuality, debauchery]. Here expressing transformation.
arnoumenoi (arneomai) pres. mid. part. "deny" - denying [the only master]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "ungodly ones", "ungodly people ..... who in so doing disown Jesus Christ our only master and Lord."
hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [and lord] of us [christ]. Here the genitive expresses subordination; "Lord over us."