This epistle has three parts:
I. The inscription, V. 1,2 II. The treatise, in which, 1. He exhorts them to contend for the faith, 3 2. Describes the punishment and the manners of its adversaries, 4-16 3. Warns the believers, 17-19 4. Confirms them, 20,21 5. Instructs them in their duty to others, 22,23 III. The conclusion, 24,25
This epistle greatly resembles the second of St. Peter, which St. Jude seems to have had in view while he wrote. That was written but a very little before his death; and hence we may gather that St. Jude lived some time after it, and saw that grievous declension in the church which St. Peter had foretold. But he passes over some things mentioned by St. Peter, repeats some in different expressions and with a different view, and adds others; clearly evidencing thereby the wisdom of God which rested upon him. Thus St. Peter cites and confirms St. Paul's writings, and is himself cited and confirmed by St. Jude.
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ - The highest glory which any, either angel or man, can aspire to. The word servant, under the old covenant, was adapted to the spirit of fear and bondage that clave to that dispensation. But when the time appointed of the Father was come, for the sending of his Son to redeem them that were under the law, the word servant (used by the apostles concerning themselves and all the children of God) signified one that, having the Spirit of adoption, is made free by the Son of God. His being a servant is the fruit and perfection of his being a son. And whenever the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in the new Jerusalem, then will it be indeed that "his servants shall serve him," Rev 22:3. The brother of James - St. James was the more eminent, usually styled, "the brother of the Lord." To them that are beloved - The conclusion, Jude 1:21, exactly answers the introduction. And preserved through Jesus Christ - So both the spring and the accomplishment of salvation are pointed out. This is premised, lest any of them should be discouraged by the terrible things which are afterwards mentioned. And called - To receive the whole blessing of God, in time and eternity.
When I gave all diligence to write to you of the common salvation - Designed for all, and enjoyed by all believers. Here the design of the epistle is expressed; the end of which exactly answers the beginning. It was needful to exhort you to contend earnestly - Yet humbly, meekly, and lovingly; otherwise your contention will only hurt your cause, if not destroy your soul. For the faith - All the fundamental truths. Once delivered - By God, to remain unvaried for ever.
There are certain men crept in, who were of old described before - Even as early as Enoch; of whom it was foretold, that by their wilful sins they would incur this condemnation. Turning the grace of God - Revealed in the gospel. Into lasciviousness - Into an occasion of more abandoned wickedness.
He afterwards destroyed - The far greater part of that very people whom he had once saved. Let none therefore presume upon past mercies, as if he was now out of danger.
And the angels, who kept not their first dignity - Once assigned them under the Son of God. But voluntarily left their own habitation - Then properly their own, by the free gift of God. He reserved - Delivered to be kept. In everlasting chains under darkness - O how unlike their own habitation! When these fallen angels came out of the hands of God, they were holy; else God made that which was evil: and being holy, they were beloved of God; else he hated the image of his own spotless purity. But now he loves them no more; they are doomed to endless destruction. (for if he loved them still, he would love what is sinful:) and both his former love, and his present righteous and eternal displeasure towards the same work of his own hands, are because he changeth not; because he invariably loveth righteousness, and hateth iniquity. 2Pet 2:4.
The cities which gave themselves over to fornication - The word here means, unnatural lusts. Are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire - That is, the vengeance which they suffered is an example or a type of eternal fire.
In like manner these dreamers - Sleeping and dreaming all their lives. Despise authority - Those that are invested with it by Christ, and made by him the overseers of his flock. Rail at dignities - The apostle does not seem to speak of worldly dignities. These they had "in admiration for the sake of gain," Jude 1:16; but those holy men, who for the purity of their lives, the soundness of their doctrine, and the greatness of their labours in the work of the ministry, were truly honourable before God and all good men; and who were grossly vilified by those who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. Probably they were the impure followers of Simon Magus, the same with the Gnostics and Nicolaitans, Rev 2:15. 2Pet 2:10.
Yet Michael - It does not appear whether St. Jude learned this by any revelation or from ancient tradition. It suffices, that these things were not only true, but acknowledged as such by them to whom he wrote. The archangel - This word occurs but once more in the sacred writings, 1Thess 4:16. So that whether there be one archangel only, or more, it is not possible for us to determine. When he disputed with the devil - At what time we know not. Concerning the body of Moses - Possibly the devil would have discovered the place where it was buried, which God for wise reasons had concealed. Durst not bring even against him a railing accusation - Though so far beneath him in every respect. But simply said, (so great was his modesty!) The Lord rebuke thee - I leave thee to the Judge of all.
But these - Without all shame. Rail at the things of God which they know not - Neither can know, having no spiritual senses. And the natural things, which they know - By their natural senses, they abuse into occasions of sin.
Woe unto them - Of all the apostles St. Jude alone, and that in this single place, denounces a woe. St. Peter, to the same effect, pronounces them "cursed children." For they have gone in the way of Cain - The murderer. And ran greedily - Literally, have been poured out, like a torrent without banks. After the error of Balaam - The covetous false prophet. And perished in the gainsaying of Korah - Vengeance has overtaken them as it did Korah, rising up against those whom God had sent.
These are spots - Blemishes. In your feasts of love - Anciently observed in all the churches. Feeding themselves without fear - Without any fear of God, or jealousy over themselves. Twice dead - In sin, first by nature, and afterwards by apostasy. Plucked up by the roots - And so incapable of ever reviving.
Wandering stars - Literally, planets, which shine for a time, but have no light in themselves, and will be soon cast into utter darkness. Thus the apostle illustrates their desperate wickedness by comparisons drawn from the air, earth, sea, and heavens.
And of these also - As well as the antediluvian sinners Enoch - So early was the prophecy referred to, Jude 1:4. The seventh from Adam - There were only five of the fathers between Adam and Enoch, 1Chron 1:1 - 3. The first coming of Christ was revealed to Adam; his second, glorious coming, to Enoch; and the seventh from Adam foretold the things which will conclude the seventh age of the world. St. Jude might know this either from some ancient book, or tradition, or immediate revelation. Behold - As if it were already done, the Lord cometh!
To execute judgment - Enoch herein looked beyond the flood. Upon all - Sinners, in general. And to convict all the ungodly, in particular, of all the grievous things which ungodly sinners (a sinner is bad; but the ungodly who sin without fear are worse) have spoken against him, Jude 1:8,10, though they might not think, all those speeches were against him.
These are murmurers - Against men. Complainers - Literally, complainers of their fate, against God. Walking - With regard to themselves. After their own foolish and mischievous desires. Having men's persons in admiration for the sake of gain - Admiring and commending them only for what they can get.
By the apostles - He does not exempt himself from the number of apostles. For in the next verse he says, they told you, not us.
These are they who separate themselves, sensual, not having the Spirit - Having natural senses and understanding only, not the Spirit of God; otherwise they could not separate. For that it is a sin, and a very heinous one, "to separate from the church," is out of all question. But then it should be observed, That by the church is meant a body of living Christians, who are "an habitation of God through the Spirit:" That by separating is understood, renouncing all religious intercourse with them; no longer joining with them in solemn prayer, or the other public offices of religion: and, That we have no more authority from scripture to call even this schism, than to call it murder.
But ye, beloved, not separating, but building yourselves up in your most holy faith - Than which none can be more holy in itself, or more conducive to the most refined and exalted holiness. Praying through the Holy Spirit - Who alone is able to build you up, as he alone laid the foundation. In this and the following verse St. Jude mentions the Father, Son, and Spirit, together with faith, love, and hope.
By these means, through his grace, keep yourselves in the love of God, and in the confident expectation of that eternal life which is purchased for you, and conferred upon you, through the mere mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Meantime watch over others, as well as yourselves, and give them such help as their various needs require. For instance, Some, that are wavering in judgment, staggered by others' or by their own evil reasoning, endeavour more deeply to convince of the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Some snatch, with a swift and strong hand, out of the fire of sin and temptation. On others show compassion in a milder and gentler way; though still with a jealous fear, lest yourselves be infected with the disease you endeavour to cure.
See, therefore, that while you love the sinners, ye retain the utmost abhorrence of their sins, and of any the least degree of, or approach to, them.
Now to him who alone is able to keep them from falling - Into any of these errors or sins. And to present them faultless in the presence of his glory - That is, in his own presence, when he shall be revealed in all his glory.