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Commentaries On The Catholic Epistles by Jean Calvin

Jude 3-4

3. 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.

3. Dilecti, quum omne studium adhiberem ad scribendum vobis de communi salute, necesse habui scribere vobis ad vos hortandos ut certando adjuvetis eam, quae semel tradita est sanctis, fidem.

4. 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.

4. Subingressi enim sunt quidam homines, olim praescripti judicium, impii, Dei nostri gratiam transferentes in lasciviam, et Deum, qui solus est Herus, et Dominum Jesum Christum negantes.

3. When I gave diligence. I have rendered the words spouden poioumenos, |Applying care:| literally they are, |Making diligence.| But many interpreters explain the sentence in this sense, that a strong desire constrained Jude to write, as we usually say of those under the influence of some strong feeling, that they cannot govern or restrain themselves. Then, according to these expounders, Jude was under a sort of necessity, because a desire to write suffered him not to rest. But I rather think that the two clauses are separate, that though he was inclined and solicitous to write, yet a necessity compelled him. He then intimates, that he was indeed glad and anxious to write to them, but yet necessity urged him to do so, even because they were assailed (according to what follows) by the ungodly, and stood in need of being prepared to fight with them.

Then, in the first place, Jude testifies that he felt so much concern for their salvation, that he wished himself, and was indeed anxious to write to them; and, secondly, in order to rouse their attention, he says that the state of things required him to do so. For necessity adds strong stimulants. Had they not been forewarned how necessary his exhortation was, they might have been slothful and negligent; but when he makes this preface, that he wrote on account of the necessity of their case, it was the same as though he had blown a trumpet to awake them from their torpor.

Of the common salvation. Some copies add |your,| but without reason, as I think; for he makes salvation common to them and to himself. And it adds not a little weight to the doctrine that is announced, when any one speaks according to his own feelings and experience; for vain is what we say, if we speak of salvation to others, when we ourselves have no real knowledge of it. Then, Jude professed himself to be (so to speak) an experimental teacher, when he associated himself with the godly in the participation of the same salvation.

And exhort you. Literally, |exhorting you;| but as he points out the end of his counsel, the sentence ought to be thus expressed. What I have rendered, |to help the faith by contending,| means the same as to strive in retaining the faith, and courageously to sustain the contrary assaults of Satan. For he reminds them that in order to persevere in the faith, various contests must be encountered and continual warfare maintained. He says that faith had been once delivered, that they might know that they had obtained it for this end, that they might never fail or fall away.

4. For there are certain men crept in unawares. Though Satan is ever an enemy to the godly, and never ceases to harass them, yet Jude reminds those to whom he was writing of the state of things at that time. Satan now, he says, attacks and harasses you in a peculiar manner; it is therefore necessary to take up arms to resist him. We hence learn that a good and faithful pastor ought wisely to consider what the present state of the Church requires, so as to accommodate his doctrine to its wants.

The word pareisedusan, which he uses, denotes an indirect and stealthy insinuation, by which the ministers of Satan deceive the unwary; for Satan sows his tares in the night, and while husbandmen are asleep, in order that he may corrupt the seed of God. And at the same time he teaches us that it is an intestine evil; for Satan in this respect also is crafty, as he raises up those who are of the flock to do mischief, in order that they may more easily creep in.

Before of old ordained. He calls that judgment, or condemnation, or a reprobate mind, by which they were led astray to pervert the doctrine of godliness; for no one can do such a thing except to his own ruin. But the metaphor is taken from this circumstance, because the eternal counsel of God, by which the faithful are ordained unto salvation, is called a book: and when the faithful heard that these were given up to eternal death, it behooved them to take heed lest they should involve themselves in the same destruction. It was at the same time the object of Jude to obviate danger, lest the novelty of the thing should disturb and distress any of them; for if these were already long ago ordained, it follows that the Church is not tried or exercised but according to the infallible counsel of God.

The grace of our God. He now expresses more clearly what the evil was; for he says that they abused the grace of God, so as to lead themselves and others to take an impure and profane liberty in sinning. But the grace of God has appeared for a far different purpose, even that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we may live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world. Let us, then, know that nothing is more pestilential than men of this kind, who from the grace of Christ take a cloak to indulge in lasciviousness.

Because we teach that salvation is obtained through God's mercy alone, the Papists accuse us of this crime. But why should we use words to refute their effrontery, since we everywhere urge repentance, the fear of God, and newness of life, and since they themselves not only corrupt the whole world with the worst examples, but also by their ungodly teaching take away from the world true holiness and the pure worship of God? Though I rather think, that those of whom Jude speaks, were like the libertines of our time, as it will be more evident from what follows.

The only Lord God, or, God who alone is Lord. Some old copies have, |Christ, who alone is God and Lord.| And, indeed, in the Second Epistle of Peter, Christ alone is mentioned, and there he is called Lord. But He means that Christ is denied, when they who had been redeemed by his blood, become again the vassals of the Devil, and thus render void as far as they can that incomparable price. That Christ, then, may retain us as his peculiar treasure, we must remember that he died and rose again for us, that he might have dominion over our life and death.

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