Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:Judges 1:3
He that bids us 'contend for the Faith once delivered to the Saints,' tells us that we should do it by 'avoiding the spirit of Cain, Corah, and Balaam'; and by 'building up ourselves in the most holy Faith,' not pinning it upon other men's sleeves. Praying 'in the Holy Ghost,' not mumbling over matins. Keeping 'ourselves in the love of God,' not destroying men because they will not be of our Faith. 'Waiting for the mercy of Jesus Christ'; not cruel, but merciful.
—Cromwell's Declaration to the People of Ireland (1650).
The participation which we have of the knowledge of truth, whatsoever she is, it is not by our owne strength we have gotten it; God hath sufficiently taught it us in that he hath made choice of the simple, common, and ignorant to teach us His wonderfull secrets. Our faith hath not been purchased by us: it is a gift proceeding from the liberality of others. It is not by our discourse or understanding that we have received our religion.
—Montaigne (Florio), ii. 12.
References.—I. 3.—J. Clifford, The Christian Certainties, p. 107. R. W. Dale, Fellowship with Christ, p. 88. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1592. H. S. Seekings, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 321. W. M. Sinclair, Simplicity in Christ, p. 27. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 133. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 347. H. Allen, Penny Pulpit, No. 1640, p. 165. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 424. Church Family Newspaper, vol. xiv. p. 832. Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 144. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Jude, p. 87. I. 4, 8.—Ibid. vol. vi. p. 203. I. 5-7.—Ibid. p. 377. I. 6.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 86. 7.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 33.
In Luther's Table Talk this passage occurs, 'I often think with amazement what a battle there must be between the devils and angels. I think that the angels must often give way for a time, while they fight for us' [Ich halt, das die Engel auch offtmals ein weil unterligen, cum certant pro nobis].
—E. Kroker, Luther's Tischreden, p. 295, No. 586.
Reference.—I. 11.—B. J. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 153.
Masked Perils of Spiritual Life and Fellowship
The ungodly men who had crept unawares into the Christian community are likened by the Apostle to sunken rocks which amid smooth seas and under fair skies prove fatal to the mariner. But these hidden rocks present themselves in moods, theories, and sentiments, as well as in false brethren; and against these subtlest perils we must diligently watch. We seek now to indicate several of these submerged reefs.
I. The quest of spiritual power whilst forgetting the uses of such power is one of these hidden rocks. Miss J. M. Fry made the following statement at a recent religious gathering: 'Many persons are actuated by mere vanity in desiring the attainment of spiritual power'. We understand how wealth may be desired for mere vanity: not with an appreciation of its uses, but out of the passion of possession and the desire of display. Intellectual power be coveted from the same motive. Spiritual power should be sought so that the ignoble elements of our nature may be effectually purged, that the sanctification of our faculties may be complete, and that all our work for God and man may be efficient. To lose sight of these practical uses is to fall into a subtle snare of refined selfishness and vanity.
II. The cultivation of character in the artistic spirit is a snare of the spiritual life. He who has understood the teaching of Christ never forgets that the good is the beautiful, and that the two must be sought in this order. He remembers that loveliness of character is first a question of essence and not of form. To cultivate moral beauty in the spirit of art and fashion is to make shipwreck on the coral reef of a silver sea.
III. Sensuous enjoyment may insinuate itself into spiritual culture so as to become a peril. It might be thought that there is little to fear from sensuality in a fervent spiritual life: it would seem so essentially coarse and vulgar as not to be susceptible of concealment or decoration. But it is not so. The 'love-feast' became an orgie, and the heavenly love of the individual saint may imperceptibly degenerate into dangerous sentimentalism and profane passion.
IV. To cultivate fervent devoutness apart from practical life is another peril of the spiritual. Contact with the realities of the worldly life is necessary to the health, and sanity of the soul, to the strength and soundness of our piety.
V. Talking too much about our spiritual life may prove to its detriment. A French critic writes: 'Beware of an artist who talks too well of his art. He wastes his art in talk.' And it is as certainly true in regard to religion. There is much that is sacred and secret about the experiences of the soul, and it is dangerous to violate its delicacy.
—W. L. Watkinson, The Ashes of Roses, p. 224.
Autumn Trees Without Fruit
In the Revised Version of the New Testament the expressive phrase, 'Autumn trees without fruit,' takes the place of the obscure rendering, 'Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit'. Possibly the thought underlying this almost contradictory combination of terms is that of a tree yielding fruit that never comes to perfection, but remains on the boughs, shrivelled, good for nothing but to be burned. The new rendering is, however, a great gain. It presents, concisely and graphically, the main thought of the writer in words that cannot be misunderstood: 'Autumn trees without fruit' are trees without fruit at the very time when they ought to be full of fruit. St. Jude's words are a picturesque description of character. In his days such trees were growing in the innermost enclosure of the garden of the Lord. But there are 'autumn trees without fruit' outside the Church as well as within its borders.
I. The glory of the autumn is that it is the fruit-bearing season, when our eyes are gladdened by the sight of
Vines with clustering branches growing,
Plants with goodly burden bowing.
Amidst the abounding autumnal increase, a fruitless tree in an orchard is an anomaly, a surprise. Why has the tree no fruit in autumn? It would be easy to draw out the parable in detail, and to show how each reason finds an analogy in some fault of character. It is, however, more important to remind those whose lives are in the springtime, that the teaching of this text is rather for them than for those whose years are in the sear and yellow leaf. How often the tree is fruitless in autumn on account of some disaster that befell it in the spring or early summer!
II. A twofold judgment must be passed on 'autumn trees without fruit,' whatever be the cause of their barrenness. (1) An autumn tree without fruit is a grievous loss, a bitter disappointment to its owner. (2) An autumn tree without fruit is also a failure in itself, inasmuch as the great purpose of its existence is unfulfilled. In both these respects it is a striking but sorrowful emblem of every human life that yields no fruit of praise to God and blessing unto men.
III. From a verse in St. Jude's short epistle the conditions of fruitfulness may be learnt: 'Ye, beloved, rooting yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God'. (1) The roots of a tree need moisture and nourishment, also room to grow. (2) Prayer is an essential condition of fruitfulness. (3) Finally, to keep ourselves in the love of God is essential to our bearing fruit that is ripe and sweet and mellow.
—J. G. Tasker, God's Garden, p. 115.
References.—I. 12.—H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 797. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 98. I. 12-18.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 203. I. 13.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 288. I. 14, 15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii. No. 1307. I. 19.—Spurgeon, Ibid., vol. iv. No. 167. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. pp. 43, 44. I. 20.—M. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 309. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 719. I. 20, 21.—T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 277. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 395. C. D. Ball, The Saintly Calling, p. 163. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Jude, p. 97.
St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles
Our text is taken from the Epistle of St. Jude, this being the day on which we commemorate St. Simon and St. Jude. It is not of their work that I desire to speak; let us concentrate our minds upon the exhortation of our text. This brief injunction is charged with tenderness, though not with that alone. In the same breath it whispers of the love of God, and of the responsibility of man. This very short Epistle is for vigour surpassed, perhaps, by no portion of any other. Its matter and tenor are most striking, and in large part awfulness is the tone of it. Short as it is, it finds room for some statements not found elsewhere in Scripture, or only darkly intimated, such as those respecting the angels who lost their first estate, and Michael the archangel, and the fresh particulars respecting Enoch and Balaam. Its warnings are of the most thrilling and unqualified character. As we read through the short, sharp, incisive sentences we wonder how they must have smitten the ear of those to whom they were originally addressed. Yet the outcome of all is a sentence breathing tenderest solicitude and the warmth of love itself. It seems that a fearful apostasy was in the very air all around, and the writer of the Epistle trembled with fear lest it should find a harbour in the heart of those whom he now so earnestly warns. And he sums up all in these sentences of pleading counsel, 'Ye, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves on the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life'. There are many places and relationships in our human life, in which it is honourable and a privilege to be—how suggestive to bring them one and all into comparison with this position, the position of being 'in the love of God'. This is supremely best.
I. What the Love of God is.—Far, infinitely far from being a word only, or a vague profession, it is so great a necessity, that if it were once withdrawn in every sense, our own hold on life would be lost. Through many a channel it streams. There is the love which He has for all He has made; for us, as He made us, and as He would see us again. It is a creative, parental, guardian love. How good it is to be—at present still inalienably—in this love! There is the pitying love which He has for us as sinners, for a whole saddened, suffering, sinful world—and this love, so real, so commanding, overweighs all. How good to have the resort and refuge of this love! There is the fostering, welcoming love, which He has, to receive and to help first repentant conviction, first penitent tearfulness, first practical endeavour, first symptoms of the returning prodigal. Oh, how good to have the help of this love! I There is the love which He has to those who have strayed from the Lord, who have fallen, who have denied Him! and whom He would receive again, with tenfold pitying grace. There is the love which He has to a company of brethren and sisters in the truth, in Christ. Oh, how needed is this love!
II. The Fulness of Sense in which We may be in it.—The love of God is so vast, that there is no risk of not being entirely surrounded by it, safely wrapped in it—bathed in it. The love of the creature has danger in it; but in and to the love of God, you may literally give yourself up, 'spirit, soul, and body,' with a safe and a blessed abandon. The love of God has no fickleness, no uncertainty about it. 'The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.' Nothing 'shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.'
III. We may Keep in it for Ever.—Of all else that is innocent, honourable, good, and great, in which we may rest, we have to say (as when some morning awakes us), it is time to be getting up! But never, never so, if our place of folding is 'in the love of God'. In it, work and rest, sleep and wake, day to day, and night to night, while you live even here below; and when you last lie down to sleep 'in' it, let the morn awake you, it will be still to find you 'in' it; 'in' it satisfied; 'in' it 'clad in bright and deathless bloom;' 'in' it, for ever supremely blest! So then, 'keep yourselves in the love of God'—in the one only way of doing so, by giving yourself afresh to Him Who alone can 'keep you'.
References.—I. 21.—J. W. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. p. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii. No. 1286. J. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 218. I. 22, 23.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 200. I. 23.—C. Perren, Revival Sermon in Outlines, p. 260.
Security and Glory
I. The first thought for our consideration is God's provision for our security and glory. 'Unto Him that is able to keep you from falling.' The more accurate translation, which you will find in the revised version of the New Testament: 'To guard you from stumbling.' The word here translated 'keep' is a strong word. It is even impregnated with a strong military flavour, and suggests the picture of an armed force. In the centre stands one whose life is threatened by fierce and hostile bands, but by his side stands an invincible Warrior pledged to protect him from all evil. 'To guard you from stumbling.' That does not mean that we can expect at present to be guarded in such a way that we shall be absolutely sinless. The stumbling here spoken of is akin to falling, and marks failure of a very grievous type. It is such a stumble as leaves our life halt and maimed, takes the power out of us, and renders us a prey to the evil one. Such stumbling as this God can save us from. The exercise of this power depends on the human response to it. 'He is able.' Why then are there some that stumble? Not because God's power is deficient, but because they withdraw themselves outside the circle of His power. 'And to make you stand before the presence of His glory faultless in exceeding joy.' The word translated 'blameless' does not necessarily mean 'without sin'. It is sometimes used in the Scriptures of men that are true and pure in heart, though there may be defects in the details of their life and conduct. But in its present position it can mean nothing but 'sinlessness'. II. The passage next introduces us to the fundamental petition of this guarded and glorified life. 'Unto Him—the only wise God our Saviour—be glory and majesty, dominion and power.' (1) This ascription of glory is not made to God simply as God, the Creator of heaven and earth. It is to God our Saviour that Jude invites us to sing. (2) 'Glory!' that is the infinite essential perfection of God, God as He is in His own eternal brightness, in the glory of His person and His essential nature. (3) 'Dominion!' The word here translated 'dominion' means 'power over'. (4) 'And power!' The word here translated power means the power that belongs to rightful authority. Of course in a certain sense, glory and majesty, dominion and power belong to God already. But in another sense, they are not fully realised until they are loyally acknowledged from one end of the universe to the other, until every soul joins in the praise, and God is glorified by all His creatures.
—John Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. III. p. 145.
References.—I. 24, 25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 634; vol. xxxix. No. 2296; and vol. lii. No. 2994. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Jude, p. 105.
Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.
But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
And of some have compassion, making a difference:
And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.