Hold firm to the faithArgument
Jude now rounds off his argument as one sows, so one reaps, cf., Neyrey. Jude has fully described the lifestyle of the "ungodly" libertines who have infiltrated the church and who now await their due judgment. The apostles had long reminded the church that "scoffers" would infest and divide the fellowship of believers. Yet, against the "ungodly" stands Jude's readers, "the beloved" - the faithful ones, those who love one another and wait with hope for the mercy of God. Jude's readers stand in direct contrast to the "ungodly", and to this end, he encourages them to build themselves up in the faith, keep themselves in love, and wait expectantly in hope. Yet, "the beloved" must also look beyond themselves: to show pity on these doubters, these waverers, and work to snatch them from the fire of judgment. Of course, in seeking to bring them back into Christ's flock, Jude reminds his readers that it is easy to be infected by their libertarian ways, and to this end, the "beloved" must maintain a holy dread of their corruption
i] Context: See v1-2.
ii] Background - A general introduction: See v1-2.
iii] Structure: Hold firm to the faith:
The prophetic teaching of the apostles, v17-19:
"in the last times where will be scoffers."
A word of exhortation, v20-23:
"build yourselves up", v20-21;
"be merciful to those who doubt", v22-23
To reinforce his warning against the heretics troubling the congregations under his care, Jude reminds his readers of the prophetic warning by the apostles that in the last days there will be those in the church who mock the apostolic traditions, v17-18. This leads Jude to offer his third critique of the heretics, namely that they lack the Spirit of Christ, v19. The heretics may present as spiritual, but they are driven by worldly considerations; they are not driven by Biblical principles, but by worldly / secular principles - they create Christian doctrine out of their own whims / natural instincts. "These are the ones who split the church, thinking only of themselves. There is nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!", Peterson.
In v20-23 Jude presents a word of exhortation. It presents in two parts: First, a word for personal action, v20-21 - refocus on God's love through faith and prayer, daily looking to God's eternal mercy in Jesus Christ. Second, a word for community action, v22-23 - strive to correct the heretics and their dupes: those thinking of adopting the flawed doctrine of the heretics, those who have adopted it, and those who proclaim it.
v] Homiletics: The danger of syncretism
By the late second century, the Platonic secularisation of the many in the Christian church had developed into the heresy known as Gnosticism. Those Jude confronts in his epistle represent the early exponents of what was later to be a full-blown perverted heresy. Bishop Irenaeus, 130-202AD, writing in the latter half of the second century, notes how the Gnostics viewed Biblical ethics as a necessary activity for the unspiritual, but they, on the other hand, were saved because of their spiritual nature and so didn't need to worry about the finer points of morality. This way of viewing the Christian walk enabled them to attend the gladiatorial games, seduce women and eat meat offered to idols.
The inclination of believers to adopt a secular world-view is known as syncretism, a danger which infects the church in every age. Today, in Western societies where Biblical ethical principles are being replaced by the socialist ethic of equality, many Christian leaders are increasingly promoting the socialist isms / shibboleths of our age, and this against the clear teachings of scripture. Equality is a foundational Biblical truth - we are all one in Christ, male / female - yet, when equality is detached from freedom and applied as a social principle, it ends up as fascism. Socialism has proved, over the last one hundred years, not to work, yet Western civilisation, having thrown away its Biblical rudder, seems destined to founder with its flawed replacement.
For Jude, the "ungodly" have abandoned a Biblical rudder and chosen to steer the church by a secular philosophy that gives them a supposed spiritual superiority without the need to apply themselves to the constricting demands of godly living. As far as Jude is concerned, they are without "the Spirit." We do well to remember how Jesus warned that in the last days the church would be infested with false prophets.
Text - 1:17
Hold firm to the faith, v17-23: i] The prophetic teaching of the apostles, v17-19. Turning now to the recipients of the epistle, "the beloved", Jude reminds them that the apostles long ago spoke of those who would infiltrate the church and cause trouble. Jude presents what looks like a quote, although no exact quote can be found in the New Testament. None-the-less, the quote certainly aligns with apostolic warnings, cf., Acts 20:29f, 1Tim.4:1f. The "ungodly" are believers who have allowed themselves to be carried away by their "natural instincts", their "worldliness", and as such are now devoid of "the Spirit", ie., no longer believers. As already indicated, many commentators argue that the "ungodly" are gnostics, but the heresy of gnosticism didn't fully develop until the late second century. The "ungodly" have more likely adopted a pre-gnostic platonism, the Greek philosophical world-view of the day.
de "but" - but/and. Neyrey gives weight to the adversative nature of this postpositive conjunction, as NIV, although it is also clearly transitional, indicating a step in the argument / paragraph marker.
agaphtoi voc. adj. "dear friends" - beloved. The adjective serves as a vocative noun, as NIV, "beloved ones." Jude seems to pick up again from v3-4.
twn rJhmatwn (a atoV) gen. "[remember] what" - [remember] the words. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to remember."
twn proeirhmenwn (prolegw) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "foretold" - having been previously spoken. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the words"; "the words which were spoken beforehand." "You must remember the statement of the apostles", Barclay. As noted above, Jude is referring to the general teaching of the apostles regarding the last day, the days between the ascension and return of Christ. These days will be marked by skepticism and license, along with the rise of false teachers, cf., Mk13:5.
uJpo + gen. "-" - by [the apostles] - Expressing agency.
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of [our] Lord" - of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the Lord's apostles", or verbal, subjective / idiomatic "the apostles appointed by the Lord" / who were sent by the Lord."
hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - of us [jesus christ]. The genitive is adjectival, relational, or idiomatic / subordination, "Lord over us."
oJti "-" - the words that [they were saying]. Here epexegetic, specifying what "words were said by the apostles", namely, "the words they were saying to you."
uJnin dat. pro. "to you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.
oJti "-" - that. Variant reading, serving to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the apostles were saying, namely that "in the last days ....."
ep (epi) + gen. "in [the last times]" - at [last of the time]. Here a temporal use of the preposition, usually expressing duration of time, "time within which / during"; "in the final period", Berkeley. A phrase used in the LXX for the last days, the time before the end. For a Christian, it is the period of time between the ascension and return of Christ, ie., we are in the last days.
poreuomenoi (poreuomai) pres. mid. part. "who will follow" - [mockers will be] going, walking. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "mockers, scoffers, jeerers"; "there will be mockers who go by their own impious passions", Moffatt. Here the "mockers" refer primarily to those who mock the established moral order of the church.
kata + acc. "-" - according to. Possibly expressing a standard, "in accordance with", but more likely adverbial, possibly means, "whose lives are guided by their own impious passions", Berkeley.
twn asebeiwn (a) gen. "ungodly desires" - [their own lusts] of ungodliness, impiety, irreverence. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "lusts, desires", usually taken as verbal, objective, "lusts for ungodliness", but attributive seems more likely; "Godless desires", Phillips.
ou|toi pro. "these" - these. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Again, probably a disparaging use of the pronoun.
oiJ apodiorizonteV (apodiorizw) pres. part. "the people who divide you" - [are] the ones causing divisions. Hapax legomenon (once only use in the NT). The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative; "these people are already making you turn against each other", CEV. Heresy, by its very nature, causes cliques and thus divides the church.
yucikoi adj. "who follow mere natural instincts" - natural, unspiritual, worldly people. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative, standing in apposition to "the ones causing divisions."
mh econteV (ecw) pres. part. "do not have [the Spirit]" - not having [the spirit]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative, standing in apposition to "natural, worldly people." Obviously the "ungodly" claim to have "the Spirit", presumably providing a legitimate basis for their radical freedom, cf., 2Cor.3:17. True freedom recognises the lordship of Christ and thus prompts a faithful attention to his Word, rather than a libertarian disregard for it.
ii] A word of exhortation, v20-23: a) Built up in Christ, v20-21. In direct contrast to the condemnation of the "ungodly", Jude sets out to encourage the "beloved" in their Christian walk. They are to "keep" themselves "in the love of God .... for eternal life." As an example of short-talk, Jude is probably expressing Jesus' instruction that we abide in God's love by keeping his commands, the key command being faith, a faith in Christ for salvation which exhibits the fruit of love. We probably should follow the NIV when it suggests that the two participles "building up" and "praying", v20, are instrumental and so serve to tell us how to "keep" / "abide" in God's love, namely, by being strengthened in our study of the word of God, apostolic truth, the gospel, and by our prayerful walk with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We daily undertake this walk as we wait for God's grace in Christ to bestow upon us the blessing of eternal life.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrasting point.
epoikodomounteV (epoikodomew) pres. part. "by building [yourselves] up" - [you, beloved] building up [yourselves]. The main verb of the sentence covering v20-21 is thrhsate, "let keep / you must keep", v21, an imperative. So, this participle, as with proseucomenoi, "praying", can be treated as attendant circumstance and therefore imperatival, "build yourselves on your holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit", Moffatt, so Barclay, NAB, REB, CEV, NJB, Phillips, Cassirer. The NIV treats the participles as adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, "by ....", but the participles may also express manner, or even be temporal, "as (while) you build yourselves upon your most holy faith and are worshipping by the Holy Spirit", Berkeley. However we approach these participles, the focus of Jude's exhortation is "keep yourselves in the love of God."
th/ ... pistei (iV ewV) dat. "in [your most holy] faith" - in the [most holy] faith [of you]. The NIV treats the dative as local, sphere, with the NRSV opting for space, "on your most holy faith", although Davids opts for reference / respect, "with respect to", "Christians are to build the church .... 'with respect to your most holy faith." Presumably "the holy faith" is the apostolic teaching of the church, and so "built up on" seems best; "make your most sacred faith the foundation of your lives", REB. This "faith" is holy in that it "comes from God", Bauckham.
en + dat. "in" - [praying] in [the holy spirit]. Local, expressing sphere, "in the sphere of the Holy Spirit", so Davids, but it is likely that Jude is reflecting the early Christian use of the term in the Gospels, Acts and Paul's epistles, where praying in the Spirit means "in the control of / under the power of the Spirit"; "under the inspiration of the Spirit", Bauckham. The sense moves close to instrumental, means, "by the power of the Holy Spirit", cf., Rom.8:26f; 1Cor.12:3; Gal.4:6.
en + dat. "in [God's love]" - [keep yourselves] in [the love of god]. Local, sphere, seems best; "in the sphere of God's love." The genitive "of God" is usually treated as adjectival, verbal, subjective, of God's love for us. Possibly Jude has in mind the words of Jesus in Jn.15:9-10 where Jesus encouraged his disciples to abide (menw, "to remain, abide) in his love; "let my love be the place where you dwell", Cassirer. This is realised by keeping (threw, "to keep, guard") his word / commands; "it is through keeping true to my commandments that my love shall be the place where you dwell", Cassirer. And this is the divine command, that we rest in faith for our salvation on Jesus, Lord and Christ, and that we express this in our love for one another (ie., the fruit of faith is love), 1Jn.3:23.
prosdecomenoi (prosdecomai) pres. mid. part. "as you wait" - waiting, anticipating [the mercy]. The NIV treats the participle as adverbial, temporal; "while awaiting the mercy of the Lord", Berkeley, but possibly again attendant circumstance and therefore imperatival, "you must await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ", Barclay.
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of [our] Lord" - of the lord [of us]. The genitive is usually viewed as adjectival, verbal, subjective / idiomatic, "the mercy which the our Lord bestows." The genitive "of us" is adjectival, possessive / relational, "our Lord", or idiomatic / subordination; "Lord over us."
Ihsou Cristou gen. "Jesus Christ" - Standing in apposition to "the Lord."
eiV + acc. "to bring you to" - to [eternal life]. Here expressing purpose, end-view / goal, "for eternal life", but possibly result, "..... the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ through which (as a result of which) you will receive eternal life", Barclay. It does though seem better to link this prepositional phrase with the imperative "to keep"; "keep yourselves in God's love eiV (the end / goal of which is) eternal life, as / while we wait for the mercy of God which is realised in Jesus Christ."
b) Be merciful, v22-23. Jude's instructions continue with three imperatives, eleate, "have mercy", sw/qete, "save", and eleate, "have mercy." The three imperatives are usually taken as three separate injunctions on handling believers who are struggling with the faith: "Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven", Peterson. It is also possible that we have a two part injunction on the proper handling of the "ungodly", here identified as the "doubters / waverers." Jude encourages "the beloved" to "take pity on" them by seeking to bring about their salvation, rather than leaving them to their damnation in the fires of hell. Yet, in taking pity on them, the beloved must do so under the fear of the Lord - with a "religious dread", Kelly. The "ungodly" are polluted by their sin, and the beloved must take care that they are not infected by it - they must not become a libertine to save a libertine.
ou}V men ... ou}V de .... ou}V de "-" - [and] on the one hand certain ones [wavering have mercy on] and on the other hand others [save by snatching them out of the fire], and on the other hand others [have mercy on in fear, hating even the garment having been stained from the flesh], v22-23. A coordinate comparative construction compiled as a three-part list. Although a three part construction is likely, it is possible to read it as a simple adversative comparative construction, men .... de .... which presents two different ways of handling the "ungodly", here the "doubters, waverers"; "on the one hand [have mercy / pity on those who are doubters and (de, as a connective) save those snatching out of fire], but on the other hand [have mercy / pity on those, with fear, hating even the garment having been stained from the flesh]. "Some who cannot make up their minds, you must treat with pity. Some you must rescue by snatching them from the fire. With some you must deal with mingled pity and fear", Barclay.
ou}V pro. "those" - who. Here the pronoun is used as a substantive, "the ones who" = "those", but when used in a men .... de construction, as here, it takes an indefinite sense, "certain ones ...... others ....... others"
diakrinomenouV (diakrinw) pres. mid. part. "who doubt" - doubting, wavering. The participle is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive use of the pronoun ou}V, "[have mercy on those] who are wavering in their faith." Phillips opts for an adverbial use of the participle modifying the imperative verb "to have mercy"; "there are some whom you must pity because of their doubts." The sense of the word here is unclear. It may refer to those who doubt, waver in their faith, those influenced by the "ungodly", so "be merciful" in the sense of reach out to them and draw them back to the apostolic faith; "there are some doubting souls who need your pity", REB. Yet, the word may also be alluding to those who argue against apostolic truth and separate themselves from the fellowship of believers, ie., the "ungodly" themselves, cf., v9, in which case, Jude is calling on his readers to have "pity" on them rather than have "mercy" on them; "there are some contentious troublemakers for whom you should feel nothing but pity." A variant reading has elegcete, "convince / refute", which certainly makes more sense, "convince some who doubt", but of course, this is often the very reason why a variant appears in a textual tradition. The early church fathers regarded the whole sentence as suspect and so tended toward the sense "work to snatch some from the fire, and have mercy on them when they repent" - makes sense, but!!!
aJrpazonteV (aJrpazw) pres. part. "by snatching them" - [and others save] snatching away. The participle is adverbial, probably instrumental, expressing means, "some you must save by snatching them from the fire", Phillips, as NIV. Presumably the fires of hell.
ek + gen. "from" - from [the fire]. Expressing separation; "away from."
en + dat. "with [fear]" - [and others have mercy on] in [fear]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modal, expressing manner, "fearfully", "religious dread, or in awe of God, which features so largely in the OT", Kelly.
misounteV (misew) pres. part. "hating" - hating. The participle is adverbial, expressing means, "by means of." Holy dread is nurtured by shunning sin.
kai "even" - and = even. Ascensive, as NIV.
espilwmenon (spilow) perf. mid./pas. part. "[the clothing] stained" - [the garment] having been stained. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "garment"; "the very cloths which their deeds have soiled", Phillips.
apo + gen. "by" - from [the flesh]. Here expressing cause, "because of", or a rare use of agency instead of uJpo, "by". Obviously "sinful flesh." "Just as leprosy can be spread by an infected garment, so, ... too-close a contact with the heretics can spread their contagion", Hamann.