20. But ye, beloved. He shews the manner in which they could overcome all the devices of Satan, that is, by having love connected with faith, and by standing on their guard as it were in their watch-tower, until the coming of Christ. But as he uses often and thickly his metaphors, so he has here a way of speaking peculiar to himself, which must be briefly noticed.
He bids them first to build themselves on faith; by which he means, that the foundation of faith ought to be retained, but that the first instruction is not sufficient, except they who have been already grounded on true faith, went on continually towards perfection. He calls their faith most holy, in order that they might wholly rely on it, and that, leaning on its firmness, they might never vacillate.
But since the whole perfection of man consists in faith, it may seem strange that he bids them to build upon it another building, as though faith were only a commencement to man. This difficulty is removed by the Apostle in the words which follow, when he adds, that men build on faith when love is added; Except, perhaps, some one may prefer to take this meaning, that men build on faith, as far as they make proficiency in it, and doubtless the daily progress of faith is such, that itself rises up as a building. 1 Thus the Apostle teaches us, that in order to increase in faith, we must be instant in prayer and maintain our calling by love.
Praying in the Holy Ghost. The way of persevering is, when we are endued with the power of God. Hence whenever the question is respecting the constancy of faith, we must flee to prayer. And as we commonly pray in a formal manner, he adds, In the Spirit; as though he had said, that such is our sloth, and that such is the coldness of our flesh, that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God; and that we are also so inclined to diffidence and trembling, that no one dares to call God his Father, except through the teaching of the same Spirit; for from him is solicitude, from him is ardor and vehemence, from him is alacrity, from him is confidence in obtaining what we ask; in short, from him are those unutterable groanings mentioned by Paul (Romans 8:26.) It is not, then, without reason that Jude teaches us, that no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide.
21. Keep yourselves in the love of God. He has made love as it were the guardian and the ruler of our life; not that he might set it in opposition to the grace of God, but that it is the right course of our calling, when we make progress in love. But as many things entice us to apostasy, so that it is difficult to keep us faithful to God to the end, he calls the attention of the faithful to the last day. For the hope of that alone ought to sustain us, so that we may at no time despond; otherwise we must necessarily fail every moment.
But it ought to be noticed that he would not have us to hope for eternal life, except through the mercy of Christ: for he will in such a manner be our judge, as to have no other rule in judging us than that gratuitous benefit of redemption obtained by himself.
22. And of some have compassion. He adds another exhortation, shewing how the faithful ought to act in reproving their brethren, in order to restore them to the Lord. He reminds them that such ought to be treated in different ways, every one according to his disposition: for to the meek and teachable we ought to use kindness; but others, who are hard and perverse, must be subdued By terror. 2 This is the difference which he mentions.
The participle diakrino>menoi, I know not why this is rendered in a passive sense by Erasmus. It may, indeed, be rendered in either way, but its active meaning is more suitable to the context. The meaning then is, that if we wish to consult the well-being of such as go astray, we must consider the character and disposition of every one; so that they who are meek and tractable may in a kind manner be restored to the right way, as being objects of pity; but if any be perverse, he is to be corrected with more severity. And as asperity is almost hateful, he excuses it on the ground of necessity; for otherwise, they who do not willingly follow good counsels, cannot he saved.
Moreover, he employs a striking metaphor. When there is a danger of fire, we hesitate not to snatch away violently whom we desire to save; for it would not be enough to beckon with the finger, or kindly to stretch forth the hand. So also the salvation of some ought to be cared for, because they will not come to God, except when rudely drawn. Very different is the old translation, which reading is however found in many of the Greek copies; the Vulgate is, "Rebuke the judged" (Arguite dijudicatos.) But the first meaning is more suitable, and is, I think, according to the old and genuine reading. The word to save, is transferred to men, not that they are the authors, but the ministers of salvation.
23. Hating even the garment. This passage, which otherwise would appear obscure, will have no difficulty in it, when the metaphor is rightly explained. He would have the faithful not only to beware of contact with vices, but that no contagion might reach them, he reminds them that everything that borders on vices and is near to them ought to be avoided: as, when we speak of lasciviousness, we say that all excitements to lusts ought to be removed. The passage will also become clearer, when the whole sentence is filled up, that is, that we should hate not only the flesh, but also the garment, which, by a contact with it, is infected. The particle kai< even serves to give greater emphasis. He, then, does not allow evil be cherished by indulgence, so that he bids all preparations and all accessories, as they say, to be cut off.
24. Now unto him that is able to keep you. He closes the Epistle with praise to God; by which he shews that our exhortations and labors can do nothing except through the power of God accompanying them. 3
Some copies have "them" instead of "you." If we receive this reading, the sense will be, "It is, indeed, your duty to endeavor to save them; but it is God alone who can do this " However, the other reading is what I prefer; in which there is an allusion to the preceding verse; for after having exhorted the faithful to save what was perishing, that they might understand that all their efforts would be vain except God worked with them, he testifies that they could not be otherwise saved than through the power of God. In the latter clause there is indeed a different verb, fula>xai, which means to guard; so the allusion is to a remoter clause, when he said, Keep yourselves.
END OF THE EPISTLE OF JUDE
1 It is better to take "faith" here metonymically for the word or doctrine of faith, the gospel; and the sense would be more evident, were we to render eJautou<v, "one another" as it means in 1 Thessalonians 5:13.
20 But ye, beloved, building one another on your most holy faith, (on the most holy doctrine which you believe,) praying by the
21 Holy Spirit, keep one another in love to God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And on some, indeed, have compassion, making a difference; but others save With fear,' etc.
The whole passage would read thus better, when their duty towards one another is specifically pointed out. -- Ed.
2 Though most agree that by "fear" here is meant terror, that is, that the persons referred to are to be terrified by the judgment which awaited them; yet what follows seems favorable to another view, that fear means the care and caution with which they were to be treated; for the act of saving them is compared to that of a man snatching anything from the fire, in doing which he must be careful lest he himself should be burnt; and then the other comparison, that of a man shunning an infected garment lest he should catch the contagion, favors the same view. Hence our version seems right -- "with fear." -- Ed.
3 The doxology is as follows, --
"To the only wise God (or, to the wise God alone) our Savior, be glory and greatness, might and dominion, both now and through all ages."
"Dominion" (ejxousi>a) is the right to govern, imperial authority or power; "might" (cra>tov) is strength to effect his purpose, omnipotence; "greatness" (megalwsu>nh) comprises knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and everything that constitutes what is really great and magnificent; and (do>xa) is the result of all these things which belong to God; all terminate in his glory. The ultimate issue is first mentioned, then the things which lead to it. It is by acknowledging his sovereign power, his capacity to exercise that power -- his omnipotence, and his greatness in everything that constitutes greatness, that we give him the glory, the honor, and the praise due to his name. -- Ed