Defence From Abounding Corruptions


As has been well said, "the epistle of Jude develops the history of the apostasy of Christendom from the earliest elements that crept into the assembly to corrupt it, down to its judgment at the appearing of our Lord, but, as moral apostasy, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness." It is remarkable indeed that the very evils which distinguish the end of the last days were found, and in prominence, in the apostolic age. As in everything else which has been committed to the hands of man in responsibility, there was immediate failure; and, as may be gathered from this epistle, not only failure, but also what was really defection from the truth, for there were those among the saints, mingling with them in their assemblies, who were "denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." It was not the same state of things of which John writes, where he says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us," for these were manifested apostates. Here, though apostate in heart, they kept their place in the assembly and feasted with the saints in their love-feasts, "feeding themselves without fear," and who even separated themselves, like the Pharisees, into a special class in the assembly. All this Jude plainly points out, and for our warning; and it is for us all to challenge ourselves as to whether this prophetic epistle does not present a faithful picture of the state of things which exists in our own day. Alas! the correspondence between the present and this past day cannot fail to be observed by the most simple of the children of God.

Assuming then that it is so, we may proceed to consider what are the means of defence. The first is, to remember the words of the apostles, how that they had before spoken of the incoming of these sorrowful iniquities. (See, for example, Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 2:18-23.) The Lord Himself sought to fortify His disciples in the same way. He said to them, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. … But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them." (John 16:2-4.) Again, "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before." (Matthew 24:24-25.) In tender concern, therefore, for our weakness, the Lord, through His servants, has forewarned us of what we have to expect in the midst of His professing people. And two important things follow: first, that it is only in the light of the Scriptures that we can read aright the state of professing Christianity; and, secondly, that if we are not acquainted with the teaching of the Word of God, we are liable to disappointments and deceptions of every possible kind. The crying need of the moment, and we would earnestly press it especially upon young believers, is to be diligent in studying the Bible, in order to be acquainted with the words of the apostles. How could the present state of Christendom, for example, be estimated aright apart from the light given to us through the Lord's messages to the seven churches?

Even the knowledge of the Scriptures will not avail apart from state of soul; and thus there is another thing to which Jude points. After reminding those to whom he was writing of the correspondence between present corruptions and the apostolic predictions, he says, "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." It is to this he summons every believer who desires to be outside of prevalent errors and moral corruptions, to be in the mind of God, and to be dwelling in the holy circle of His love, even while treading the pilgrim path, awaiting eternal life in its full fruition according to His eternal counsels. And the first thing to which He exhorts us is to be edifying ourselves. The foundation has already been laid in the revelation of God in Christ: in His death, resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of God - in the truths of Christianity; these it is which constitute our "most holy faith," that is, the things which we have believed. But we cannot rest there; we are to go on to build up ourselves on the foundation. The apostle Paul speaks in a similar manner in the presence of errors of another kind: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in Him: rooted and built up [being built up] in Him, and stablished in the faith," etc. (Col. 2:6-7.) To remit diligence, therefore, in self-edification is to expose ourselves to the subtle dangers of error of every kind. As Nehemiah's safety lay alone, when surrounded with enemies without and traitors within, in straining every nerve to build up the walls of Jerusalem, so ours will consist in diligent attention to our spiritual nourishment, edification, and growth through feeding upon the Word of God in the power of the Spirit.

As in so many places in Scripture, edification is connected with prayer. Building yourselves up - "praying in the Holy Ghost." This is of all moment for every believer; for if the study of, and meditation upon, the Word of God be carried on apart from praying in the Holy Ghost, there will be no real profit or edification. Light may be increased, but light without power will only tend to self-exaltation. It cannot be too earnestly pressed that a state of soul (and state of soul is acquired through that realised dependence which expresses itself in prayer) is absolutely necessary for being built up on our most holy faith. Neglect of this is a fruitful source of danger, as may be often seen in the case of some who give themselves to the pursuit after light without watchfulness over their spiritual condition. Such souls are an easy prey to Satan, and their fall into his temptations becomes a warning to every passing pilgrim. The apostolic admonition should, therefore, be very seriously heeded by those who desire to be acceptable to the Lord. Combined with "praying in the Holy Ghost" is, "keep yourselves in the love of God." Indeed, these are not separate exhortations, but each clause of these two verses forms part of the whole state required: that is, it is a fourfold expression of the spiritual condition requisite to repel the evil influences around. The word "keep," in the clause now under consideration, is in a past tense, and its meaning is, Be in that state, or, have yourselves kept in the love of God. This - the love of God, that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us - is to be the atmosphere and home of our souls, that holy circle in which we are to live and move and have our being, a circle into which no enemy can intrude, and where all is light, life, calm, and blessing.

Dwelling in this circle, we are to look "for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." We are still in the wilderness, and we are thus made to feel, as we press onward, our weaknesses. All that we need while upon the journey will be cared for by our Lord Jesus Christ; and He will administer the mercy suited to our condition every step of the way until we reach the home of eternal life - the Father's house. This is what we understand by the expression before us - that in all the perils around, and in all the conflicts of the spiritual life, in the sorrows and the afflictions which attend our path, we shall be made to feel our need of mercy; and when our eyes are raised to the Lord we discover that He is ready to bestow it, and will be ready to bestow it until we see Him face to face. This is, indeed, His priestly service; and we may, therefore, as the apostle exhorts us, "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" - all the journey through, as pointed out, unto eternal life. And it may be added that the glorious prospect opened out to us will but encourage us to seek to be in the state here indicated. "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Now, therefore, if we are found appropriating the death of Christ (John 6:54), we may enter upon the enjoyment of eternal life through the knowledge of the Father and the Son, in that blessed home of divine affections; but not until we are raised up "at the last day" shall we be found in the condition suited to the home on which we shall then enter. Now we bear the image of the earthy, but then we shall bear the image of the heavenly, be conformed to the image of God's Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

To be in the state described in these verses is the best defence against all error; and we consequently fortify ourselves against all attacks, even if we are not thereby rendered invincible to them, when we correspond to it. But it needs diligence, purpose of heart, to pursue after it. The Lord Himself encourage our hearts to seek it; and then we shall possess a holy discernment between good and evil (vv. 22, 23), and be enabled to unite with Jude in his ascription of praise unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy: yea, "To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."