SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video

SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XXXI. THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES.

Companion To The Bible by E. P. Barrows

CHAPTER XXXI. THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES.

1. Seven epistles, that of James and the six that follow, are called Catholic, that is, general or universal, as not being directed to any particular church. They were not all, however, addressed originally to believers generally, but some of them to particular classes of believers, or even to individuals, as the introductory words show.

I. EPISTLE OF JAMES.

2. The question respecting the person of James who wrote this epistle is one of great difficulty. That |James the Lord's brother,| whom Paul names as one of the apostles (Gal.1:19), is identical with the James mentioned by Luke in Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18, and is the author of the present epistle, is admitted by most writers, though not by all. That this James of Gal.1:19 was the James who is named with Joses, Simon, and Judas, as one of our Lord's brethren (Matt.13:55; Mark 6:3), must be received as certain. But whether he was identical with |James the son of Alpheus,| who was one of the twelve (Matt.10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), is a question which has been much discussed and on which eminent biblical scholars are found arrayed on opposite sides. The question turns very much on the interpretation of the words |brother,| and |brethren| and |sisters,| in the passages above referred to. If we take them in their literal sense, as some do, then James the son of Alpheus and James the Lord's brother are different persons. But others understand them in the general sense of kindred or cousins, believing that our Saviour was the only child of Mary. A statement at length of the arguments and objections that are urged on both sides does not come within the compass of the present work. Nor is it necessary. The author of the present epistle is beyond all reasonable doubt the James who gave the final opinion in the assembly of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21), whom Paul names with Cephas and John as one of the |pillars| there (Gal.2:9), and who elsewhere appears as a man of commanding influence in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 21:18; Gal.2:12). If any one doubts his identity with James the son of Alpheus, who was one of the twelve, this cannot affect the canonical authority of the epistle. The position of this James in the church at Jerusalem and his relation to the apostolic college is such that, even upon the supposition that he did not belong to the number of the twelve, his writings must have to us the full weight of apostolic authority. See above chap.30, No.42.

3. The place where this epistle was written was manifestly Jerusalem, where James always resided; and the persons addressed are |the twelve tribes who are in the dispersion| (chap.1:1); that is, as the nature of the case and the tenor of the epistle make manifest, that part of them who had embraced Christianity. There is no allusion in the epistle to Gentile believers.

The dispersion is a technical term for the Jews living out of Palestine among the Gentiles. We need not hesitate to understand it here literally. The apostle wrote to his Jewish brethren of the dispersion because he could not visit them and superintend their affairs as he could those of the Jewish Christians in and around Jerusalem. Some take the term in a wider sense of the Jewish Christians scattered abroad in and out of Palestine, but this is not necessary.

4. With regard to the date of this epistle also different opinions are held. Some place it early in the history of the church -- earlier, in fact, than any other of the apostolic epistles -- before the origin of the controversy respecting circumcision and the Mosaic law recorded in Acts, chap.15; others quite late, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The latter view best agrees with the contents of the epistle. The doctrine of justification by faith, for which Paul had contended, would naturally be abused precisely in the way here indicated, by the substitution of a barren speculative faith, for the true faith that works by love and purifies the heart and life from sin. The age preceding the destruction of Jerusalem was one of abounding wickedness, especially in the form of strife and faction. It had been predicted by our Lord that the effect of this would be to chill the love of many of his visible followers and withdraw them from his service. In truth the descriptions of these unworthy members of the Jewish Christian community which we find in this epistle, in the second of Peter, and in that of Jude, are but the realization, in most particulars, of the state of things foretold in the following remarkable words of the Saviour: |And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.| Matt.24:10-13.

5. For the genuineness and canonical authority of the present epistle we have a very important testimony in the Old Syriac version (Peshito), which represents the judgment of the Eastern churches where the epistle was originally circulated. The remaining testimonies prior to the fourth century are scanty and some of them not very decisive. They may be all seen in Davidson's Introduction to the New Testament, and in the critical commentaries generally.

It cannot be reasonably doubted that the words of Irenaeus, |Abraham himself, without circumcision and without the observance of Sabbaths, believed in God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God| (Against Heresies, 4.30), refer to James 2:23. Origen quotes the epistle as |current under the name of James,| and intimates that some did not acknowledge its apostolic authority. But he elsewhere cites it as that of |James the Lord's brother,| |the apostle James,| |the apostle,| and simply |James.| See in Kirchhofer Quellensamlung, pp.263, 264. Eusebius reckons the epistle among the books that were |disputed, but known nevertheless to many.| Hist. Eccl., 3, 25. Elsewhere he says: |It is regarded as spurious; at least not many of the ancients have made mention of it.| Hist. Eccl., 2.23. But these words cannot be regarded as expressing Eusebius' own opinion; for he himself quotes him as |the holy apostle,| and his words as |Scripture.| See in Davidson's Introduction to the New Testament, vol.3, p.336; Kirchhofer Quellensamlung, p.264.

In the course of the fourth century the canonical authority of this epistle was gradually more and more acknowledged, and in the fifth its reception in the churches of both the East and the West became universal.

|This is just what we might expect: a writing little known at first, obtains a more general circulation, and the knowledge of the writing and its reception go almost together. The contents entirely befit the antiquity which the writing claims; no evidence could be given for rejecting it; it differs in its whole nature from the foolish and spurious writings put forth in the name of this James; and thus its gradual reception is to be accounted for from its having, from early times, been known by some to be genuine (as shown by the Syraic version), and this knowledge being afterwards spread more widely.| Tregelles in Horne, vol.4, chap.25. Davidson suggests that differences of opinion and perplexities respecting the number of the persons called James in the apostolic period, and the relation they bore to one another, and also the fact that the epistle was addressed solely to Jewish Christians, may have made its early circulation comparatively limited. Perhaps we may also add, as he does, its apparent contrariety to the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith, but this is by no means certain.

6. This epistle is eminently practical. If any part of it can be called argumentative, it is that in which the apostle shows that |faith without works is dead.| Chap.2:14-26. The sins which he rebukes with such graphic vividness and power were all preeminently the sins of his countrymen at that age -- hearing God's word without doing it, resting in an empty faith that does not influence the life, inordinate love of worldly possessions and a self-confident spirit in the pursuit of them, wanton revelling in worldly pleasures, partiality towards the rich and contempt of the poor, defrauding the poor of their wages, ambition to assume the office of teaching, censoriousness, a lawless and slanderous tongue, bitter envying and strife, mutual grudging and murmuring, wars and fightings; all these with an unbelieving and complaining spirit towards God. But these are not merely Jewish vices. They are deeply rooted in man's fallen nature, and many a nominal Christian community of our day may see its own image by looking into the mirror of this epistle.

The alleged disagreement between Paul and James is unfounded. Paul's object is to show that the ground of men's justification is faith in Christ, and not the merit of their good works. The object of James is to show that faith without good works, like the body without the spirit, is dead. Paul argues against dead works; James against dead faith. Here we have no contradiction, but only two different views of truth that are in entire harmony with each other, and both of which are essential to true godliness.

II. EPISTLES OF PETER.

7. The First Epistle of Peter was unanimously received by the primitive church as the genuine work of the man whose name it bears. Polycarp, in his epistle to the Philippians, made numerous citations from it. It was also referred to by Papias, according to the testimony of Eusebius. Hist. Eccl.3.39. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, etc. all quote it expressly. It is found in the Syriac Peshito version which contains but three of the catholic epistles. It is wanting in the Muratorian canon, but to this circumstance much weight cannot be attached when we consider how dark and confused is the passage referring to the catholic epistles.

8. The readers addressed in the epistle are |the elect sojourners of the dispersion, of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,| all provinces of Asia Minor. The words |sojourners| -- or |strangers| as rendered in our English version -- and |dispersion| are both the appropriate terms for the Jews living in dispersion. That the apostle, in an introduction of this kind, should have used the word |sojourners| in a simply figurative sense, to describe Christians as |pilgrims and strangers on the earth,| is very improbable, especially in immediate connection with the word |dispersion,| which must be understood literally. We must rather understand the apostle as recognizing in the Christian churches scattered throughout the world the true |Israel of God,| having for its framework the believing portion of the covenant people, into which the Gentile Christians had been introduced through faith, and thus made the children of Abraham. Compare Rom.4:12-17; Gal.3:7-9; and especially Rom.11:17-24. Hence it comes to pass that while Peter addresses them as the ancient people of God, he yet includes Gentile Christians in his exhortations, as is manifest from various passages, especially from chap.4:3.

9. According to chap.5:13 the place from which this epistle was written was Babylon. No valid reason exists why we should not understand here the literal Babylon. The old opinion that the apostle used the word enigmatically to signify Rome is nothing more than a conjecture in itself improbable. It has been urged not without reason that Peter names the provinces of Asia Minor in the order which would be natural to one writing from Babylon; naming Pontus first, which lay nearest to Babylon, and Asia and Bithynia, which were the most remote, last. The question of the date of this epistle is connected with that of its occasion. This seems to have been a |fiery trial| of persecution that had already begun to come upon the Christians of the provinces named in the introductory address. Chaps.1:6, 7; 2:12, 19, 20; 3:14, 16, 17; 4:1, 12-19; 5:9, 10. The exact date and character of this persecution cannot be determined. The majority of commentators assign it to the latter years of Nero's reign, which ended A.D.68. The second epistle of Peter was written not long before the apostle's death, and after the epistles of Paul had become generally known in Asia Minor. As we cannot reasonably separate the two epistles by a great space of time (see below, No.11), we infer that the first was written after Paul's first imprisonment in Rome, say somewhere between A.D.63 and 67.

10. The general tone of the first epistle is in harmony with its occasion. The apostle seeks to animate and strengthen his brethren in view of the |fiery trial| of persecution that had already begun to come upon them. To this end he sets before them in glowing language the greatness and glory of the heavenly inheritance in reserve for them, which was purchased by the precious blood of Christ, and the dignity and blessedness of suffering for Christ's sake, with the assurance of God's faithful presence and protection. With these encouragements he intermingles admonitions suited to their circumstances. He exhorts them as strangers and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts and all the other vices of their former life in ignorance; to commend their religion by a holy deportment which shall put to shame the calumnies of their adversaries; to perform faithfully all the duties of their several stations in life; to be humble, sober, vigilant, and ready always to give a reason of their Christian hope; and above all things to have fervent charity among themselves. The fervent spirit of the great apostle of the circumcision, chastened and mellowed by age, shines forth conspicuously in this epistle. The closing chapter, where he addresses first the elders, then the younger, then the whole body of believers, charms the reader by the holy tranquillity which pervades it throughout -- a tranquillity deeply grounded in that faith which is |the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.|

11. THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER. The address of this epistle is general (chap.1:1); yet the reference which it contains to the first (chap.3:1) shows that the apostle had in mind primarily the same circle of churches. The character of this reference -- |This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in which [two epistles] I stir up your pure minds by way of reminding [you]| -- indicates that the second was not separated from the first by a very great space of time, certainly not many years. The apostle wrote with the conviction that his decease was near at hand (chap.1:13-15). There is a tradition, the correctness of which, however, is doubted by many, that he suffered martyrdom at Rome under the persecution raised by Nero against the Christians. This would be about A.D.67. As to the place from which the epistle was written we have no information.

12. The present epistle is one of the disputed books. Chap.5, No.7, and Chap.6. The question respecting its genuineness may be conveniently considered under the two heads of external and internal evidence.

The external testimony to the present epistle is scanty. Passing by some doubtful references we come first to Origen who says (in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.25): |But Peter, upon whom is built the church of Christ, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, has left one acknowledged epistle; a second also, if you will, for it is doubted of.| In those of his works which are extant only in the Latin version of Rufinus, Origen in a number of passages quotes the present epistle as Scripture. It has been suspected that these passages were interpolated by Rufinus, who took many liberties with the text of Origen; but one of them, which occurs at the beginning of his seventh homily on Joshua, is so peculiar that we cannot well doubt that Origen himself was its author. In allusion to the procession of priests blowing with trumpets when the Israelites compassed the walls of Jericho (Josh. chap.6), he compares the writers of the New Testament to so many sacerdotal trumpeters, assigning to them trumpets for each book, and mentioning every book, as well the disputed as the acknowledged: |First Matthew in his gospel, gave a blast with his sacerdotal trumpet. Mark also, Luke, and John, sounded with their single sacerdotal trumpets. Peter also sounds aloud with the two trumpets of his epistles; James also, and Jude. But John adds yet again to blow with the trumpet through his epistles and Apocalypse; Luke, also, narrating the Acts of the Apostles. But last of all that man came, who said: 'I think that God has set forth us apostles last,' and thundering with the fourteen trumpets of his epistles, overthrew to their foundations the walls of Jericho, and all the engines of idolatry and dogmas of philosophers.| The |epistles| through which the apostle John sounds are obviously his three epistles. The |fourteen trumpets| upon which Paul blows include the epistle to the Hebrews. In this remarkable passage, then, we have an exhaustive list of our present canonical books; and there is no ground for imputing any interpolation to the translator. It may be said, indeed, that this enumeration of the books of the New Testament is made in a popular way, and does not imply Origen's deliberate judgment that they were all of apostolic authority. If this be granted, it still remains evident from the form of the passage that all the books of our present canon were in current ecclesiastical use in Origen's day, whatever doubts he may have had respecting some of them, and that they constituted, along with the writings of the Old Testament, that whole of divine revelation which the Christian churches employed in assaulting the kingdom of Satan.

The testimony of Eusebius himself is of the same general import as that of Origen -- that the first epistle of Peter has been universally acknowledged; but that the one current as the second has not been received as a part of the New Testament; but yet, appearing useful to many, has been studied with the other Scriptures (Hist. Eccl., 3.3); that among the writings which are disputed, yet known to many, are the epistles current as those of James and Jude, and the second epistle of Peter (Hist. Eccl., 3.25).

Jerome says that Peter |wrote two epistles that are called catholic, of which the second is denied by most persons on account of its disagreement in style with the first.| Scrip. Eccl., 1. But he himself received the epistle, and explained the difference in style and character and structure of words by the assumption that Peter used different interpreters in the composition of the two epistles (Epist.120 ad Hedib., chap.11); and from his time onward the epistle was generally regarded as a part of the New Testament.

The reader who wishes to investigate farther the question of external testimonies will find them all given in Davidson's Introduct. to New Test.; and Alford's Commentary, Introduction to 2 Peter. We simply repeat the remark already made (Chap.6, No.3) that although the universal and undisputed reception of a book by all the early churches cannot be explained except on the assumption of its genuineness, its non-reception by some is no conclusive argument against it. It may have remained (as seems to have been peculiarly the case with some of the catholic epistles) for a considerable period in obscurity. When it began to be more extensively known, the general reception and use of it would be a slow process both from the difficulty of communication in ancient as compared with modern times, and especially from the slowness and hesitancy with which the churches of one region received anything new that came from another region. Chap.2, No.5. Jerome does indeed mention the objection from the difference of style between this epistle and the first of Peter; but it is doubtful whether in this matter he speaks for the early churches generally. The obscurity in which the epistle had remained, partly at least because it was not addressed to the guardianship of any particular church, seems to have been the chief ground of doubt.

The internal testimony for and against the genuineness of this epistle has been discussed at great length by many writers. The reader will find good summaries of them in the two works above referred to, also in the critical commentaries generally and the modern Bible dictionaries. If one would come to true results in this field of investigation it is important that he begin with true principles. There are what may be called staple peculiarities, which mark the style of one writer as compared with that of another -- that of John, for example, in contrast with that of Paul. We cannot conceive of these as being wanting. But then we must allow to one and the same writer a considerable range of variation in style and diction, dependent partly on difference of subject matter, and partly on varying frames of mind of which no definite account can be given. If one would be convinced of this, he has only to read side by side the epistle of Paul to the Romans and his second to the Corinthians. Reserving now the second chapter of the present epistle for separate consideration, we do not find in the two remaining chapters, as compared with the first epistle, any such fundamental differences of style and diction as can constitute a just ground for denying the common authorship of the two epistles. For the particulars, as well as for the examination of other objections of an internal character, the reader must be referred to the sources above named. It is certainly remarkable that Peter should refer to the writings of Paul in such terms as to class them with the |Scriptures| of the Old Testament. Chap.3:16. But, as Alford remarks, this implies not that the canon of the New Testament had been settled when the present epistle was written, but only that |there were certain writings by Christian teachers, which were reckoned on a level with the Old Testament Scriptures, and called by the same name. And that that was not the case, even in the traditional lifetime of Peter, it would be surely unreasonable to deny.| We close this part of the discussion with the following words from the same author: |Our general conclusion from all that has preceded must be in favor of the genuineness and canonicity of this second epistle; acknowledging at the same time, that the subject is not without considerable difficulty. That difficulty however is lightened for us by observing that on the one hand, it is common to this epistle with some others of those called catholic, and several of the later writings of the New Testament; and on the other, that no difference can be imagined more markedly distinctive, than that which separates all those writings from even the earliest and best of the post-apostolic period. Our epistle is one of those latter fruits of the great outpouring of the Spirit on the apostles, which, not being intrusted to the custody of any one church or individual, required some considerable time to become generally known; which when known, were suspected, bearing, as they necessarily did traces of their late origin, and notes of polemical argument; but of which as apostolic and inspired writings, there never was, when once they became known, any general doubt; and which, as the sacred canon became fixed, acquired, and have since maintained, their due and providential place among the books of the New Testament.|

13. The object of the present epistle is to warn believers against being led away with the error of the wicked so as to fall from their own steadfastness. Chap.3:17. It contains accordingly extended notices of the gross errors in doctrine and morals which, as we know from the New Testament, abounded in the Christian church near the close of the apostolic period. The second chapter, which is occupied with a vivid description of the false teachers that had |crept in unawares| (chap.2:1; Jude 4), is very peculiar in its contents; and its agreement with the epistle of Jude is of such a character as leads to the inference that the two writings are somehow connected with each other. It has been supposed that both writers drew from a common source unknown to us. More probable is the opinion that one of them had in view the words of the other. A comparison of the two writings will perhaps lead to the belief that Jude's was the original, though on this point biblical scholars differ. It matters not to us whether, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter employed, in a free and independent way, the words of Jude, or Jude those of Peter. Upon either supposition his writing is as much inspired as if he had written independently. The most prominent idea of Peter's first epistle is patience and steadfastness in the endurance of suffering for Christ's sake; that of this second epistle is caution against the seductions of false teachers. Thus each epistle fills an important place in the entire economy of revelation.

III. EPISTLES OF JOHN.

14. THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN bears throughout the impress of its authorship. That it was written by the same man who wrote the fourth gospel is too evident to be reasonably controverted. On this ground alone its genuineness and authenticity may be regarded as established on a firm basis. But the external testimonies to its authorship are also abundant from Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle, and onward. It is unnecessary to enumerate them. In respect to the date of this epistle we have no certain knowledge. The common opinion is that it was written after the gospel, and towards the close of the first century. With this supposition the contents agree. It contains the affectionate counsel of an aged apostle to his younger brethren, whom he addresses as his |little children.| He writes, moreover, in |the last time,| when, according to the prediction of our Lord and his apostles, many antichrists and false prophets are abroad in the world (chaps.2:18; 4:1-3), and there are some who deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (chap.4:2, 3). As to the place of the apostle's writing, if we follow ancient tradition, which makes Ephesus his home in his old age, we may well believe that he wrote from that city, and that the epistle was addressed primarily to the circle of churches which had Ephesus for a centre.

Some of the ancients refer to the present epistle as written to the Parthians. But this is a very improbable assumption, and rests apparently on some mistake. The apostle evidently writes to those who are under his spiritual care; and these are not the Parthians, but the Christians of Asia, to whom also the seven letters of the Apocalypse are addressed.

15. The epistle has unity throughout, but not the unity of systematic logical arrangement. Its unity consists rather in the fact that all its thoughts revolve around one great central truth, the incarnation of the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. With this truth he begins, and he affirms it authoritatively, as one of the primitive apostolic witnesses: |That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.| Chaps.1:3; 4:6. He guards it also against perversion, when he insists upon the reality of our Lord's incarnation: |Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God| (chap.4:2, 3), words which are with good reason understood as referring to a very ancient form of error, that of the Docet[oe], who maintained that the Son of God had not a real, but only an apparent body. The reception through faith of this great truth, that the Son of God has come in the flesh for man's salvation, brings us into blissful union and communion with the Father and the Son, and thus into the possession of sonship and eternal life. Chaps.1:3; 3:1, 2; 4:15; 5:1, 13, 20. The rejection of this truth is the rejection of God's own testimony concerning his Son (chaps.2:22; 5:9, 10), and thus the rejection of eternal life; for out of Christ, the Son of God, there is no life (chap.5:11, 12). But this reception of Christ is not a matter of mere theoretic belief. It is a practical coming to the Father and the Son, and a holy union with them. The proof of such union with God and Christ is likeness to God and obedience to God's commandments. They who profess to know God and to be in him, while they walk in darkness and allow themselves in sin, are liars and the truth is not in them. Chaps.1:5-7; 2:4-6; 3:5-10, 24; 5:4, 5, 18. The sum of all God's attributes is love; and the sum of Christian character is love also. Chap.4:16. But there can be no true love towards God where there is none towards the brethren; and such love must manifest itself |not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.| Chaps.3:11-18; 4:7-11, 20, 21; 5:1. He that loves his brother abides in the light; but he that hates him abides in darkness and death. Chaps.2:9-11; 3:14, 15. All believers have an abiding unction of the Spirit, which enables them to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and keeps them from the seductions of the many antichrists that are abroad. Chap.2:18-27. Such true believers, whose hearts are filled with love, are raised above fear, and have confidence in prayer, and may look forward with joyful confidence to the day of judgment. Chaps.2:28; 3:18-20; 4:17, 18; 5:14, 15. These fundamental truths the apostle reiterates in various forms and connections, intermingling with them various admonitions and promises of a more particular character. He dwells with especial fulness on the evidences of discipleship as manifested in the daily spirit and life. There is perhaps no part of God's word so directly available to the anxious inquirer who wishes to know what true religion is, and whether he possesses it. He who, in humble reliance on the illumination of the divine Spirit, applies to himself this touchstone of Christian character, will know whether he is of God, or of the world that lies in wickedness.

16. SECOND AND THIRD EPISTLES OF JOHN. These two short epistles are so closely related to each other in style and manner that they have always been regarded as written by one and the same person. In considering, therefore, the question of their authorship we take them both together. Though reckoned by Origen (in Eusebius' Hist. Eccl., 6.25) and by Eusebius himself (Hist. Eccl., 3.25; Demonstratio Evangel.3.5) among the disputed writings, the external testimony to their apostolic authorship is upon the whole satisfactory, embracing the names of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Dionysius of Alexandria, Jerome, etc. When we take into account the small extent of these epistles it is plain that no unfavorable inference can be drawn from the silence of Tertullian and others. Nor is there any internal evidence against them. That the man who, in his gospel, studiously avoids the mention of his own name, describing himself as |the disciple whom Jesus loved,| and, in his first epistle, simply classes himself with the other apostles -- |that which we have seen and heard,| etc. -- should in these epistles, where some designation of himself was necessary, speak of himself as |the elder| is not surprising. Compare 1 Peter 5:1.

17. Concerning the date of these two epistles we know nothing. The object of the first seems to have been to set before the lady to whom it was addressed the importance of a discriminating love, which distinguishes between truth and falsehood, and does not allow itself to aid and abet error by misplaced kindness towards its teachers.

In the second the apostle, writing to Gaius, commends to his hospitality, certain missionary brethren, who were strangers in the place where this disciple lived. It would seem that the design of these brethren was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles without charge; that he had in a former letter, commended them to the church where Gaius resided; but that Diotrephes had hindered their reception, and persecuted those who favored them.

Short as these epistles are, then, each of them contains weighty instruction -- the first, in reference to ill-timed kindness and liberality towards the teachers of error; the second, concerning the character and conduct of those who love to have the preeminence, and the abhorrence in which they ought to be held by all who love the purity and peace of the churches.

IV. EPISTLE OF JUDE.

18. The writer of this epistle styles himself |the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.| Chap.1:1. This James is undoubtedly the same man who held so conspicuous a place in the church at Jerusalem, and was the author of the epistle which bears his name. Whether Jude was an apostle, or an apostolic man, like Mark and Luke, depends upon the question respecting the relation which his brother James held to Christ, concerning which see the introduction to the epistle of James. In either case the canonical authority of the epistle holds good. The close relation between this epistle and the second chapter of Peter's second epistle has already been noticed. See above, No.13. It was probably anterior in time to that epistle, but not separated from it by a great number of years. If we may infer anything from the abundant use made by the writer of Jewish history and tradition, the persons addressed are Jewish Christians.

19. Eusebius classes this epistle also among the disputed writings (Hist. Eccl., 2.23; 3.25), yet the testimonies to its genuineness are ample -- the Muratorian canon, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, etc.

It was objected to this epistle in ancient times that the writer quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch (verses 14, 15). To this it may be answered -- (1) that, if this be the case, Jude does not sanction the book of Enoch as a whole, but only this particular tradition embodied in it; (2) that the writer of the book of Enoch manifestly made use of a current tradition, and that, for anything that appears to the contrary, Jude may have availed himself of the same tradition, independently of the book of Enoch. That an inspired writer should refer to a traditional history not recorded in the Old Testament ought not to give offence. The apostle Paul does the same (2 Tim.3:8, 9); and Jude himself in another passage (verse 9).

20. The design of the epistle Jude himself gives in explicit terms (verses 3, 4). It is to guard believers against the seductions of false teachers, corrupt in practice as well as doctrine; whose selfishness, sensuality, and avarice; whose vain-glorious, abusive, and schismatic spirit, he describes in vivid language, denouncing upon them at the same time the awful judgment of God. The apostolic portraiture has not yet become antiquated in the history of Christ's church.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy