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The Epistle of Jude

Dr. Daniel W. Paterson


Jude is something of a unique epistle. Although other New Testament Scriptures give various details relative to the apostasy, in Jude we have the whole course described. Certain men have crept into the Christian profession (verse 4), that is the start. Enoch's prophecy to execute judgments upon all (verses 14, 15) declares the finish. And of course we are now in days of apostasy, so this epistle has a special voice to ourselves.

It is delightful to trace that there is a company who have found mercy, even though this apostasy is all around them. They are beloved in God the Father (verse 1) as in the Revised Version and J. N. Darby translations. Three times they are addressed as beloved (verses 3, 17, 20) and they are exhorted to keep themselves in the love of God. It seems like John's writings dropped into the middle of Jude, suited ministry for closing days as we might glean from the mystic reference in John 21: 22. This little company who have found mercy, and look for mercy (verse 21), are set to work. They have to contend earnestly for the faith (verse 3) and to build themselves up on their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. In other words they are not to get over occupied with the apostasy but rather take heed tothemselves and to the doctrine (1 Timothy 4: 16). In so doing they both save themselves and those that hear. It is "those that hear" which are our special interest in this paper. If we have contended earnestly, if we have built up ourselves, if we have prayed, then there is bound to be a genuine concern for others, and this brings us to the verses 22 and 23 of Jude. Are-there two classes in these verses or three?

Here is the King James version translation, "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"-two classes. The J. N. Darby translation is substantially the same but in a footnote he adds, "I am disposed to think . . . the passage should read . . . And some who dispute, correct: and some save, snatching them out of the fire with fear, hating . . . etc. Perhaps this is the best reading. He tells them in fact to make a difference. If men contested, he put them to silence; if not, he saved- them with fear, snatching them out of the fire, hating every trace of evil". Again he sees two classes. There is however still a further suggestion. This comes from W. Kelly. His translation reads: "And some convict when contending, others save, pulling them out of the fire, and others pity with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh"-three classes.

A consideration of the manuscripts and the differing authorities for these differing translations is probably beyond most of us, but there is another factor which would seem to weight in favour of the W. Kelly translation. Looking at Jude as a whole it is manifest that he has a predilection for groups of three.

Here are a few examples:

(1) These who creep in are ungodly, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (verse 4)

(2) Three examples of judgment, Egypt, angels and Sodom and Gomorrha. (verses 5,6, 7)

(3) Three further examples quoted, Cain, Balaam and Core. (verse 11)

(4) Those who defile the flesh, despise dominion and speak evil of dignities. (verse 8)

(5) The saints are beloved in God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ and called. (verse 1)

(6) Mercy, peace and love are invoked upon them. (verse 2)

(7) Of three activities, building, praying and looking are present imperatives. (verses 20, 21)

(8) The doxology at the close is before the whole age, now and to all the ages. (verse 25)

Let us then look again at W. Kelly's translation.

There is the first group, "And some convict when contending".

And then the second group, "Others save, pulling them out of the fire".

And then the third group, "Others pity with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh".

I am indebted to a brother for putting it briefly this way:

DISPUTERS: convict

DITHERERS: pull them out of the fire

DEFILED: pity them

This classification is also so true to everyday Christian experience that it seems to be a translation worthy of our consideration and judgment. We have disputers with us every day perhaps, they are to be convicted, though even apostles did not always accomplish this, as we see with a Diotrephes and Alexander the coppersmith. But at least we can seek to bring the Word of God to bear upon every such case. Then, happily, from time to time, we do see souls delivered from ecclesiastical systems of bondage, for God's testimony and praise.

But then there are others, like those held in the grip of the Eastern apostasy of Islam where we can only pity them and pray for them, and trust that the Lord will raise up a witness for Himself in situations quite beyond us.

What has prompted this paper is the evident need with us all to be more concerned for others. If we are really in the positive gain of Jude's exhortations as to ourselves it will inevitably make us more concerned in our relations with others. The suggestions of three groups seems eminently suitable and acceptable and it is offered for the judgment of the reader.