In the preceding verse believers are exhorted earnestly, boldly and faithfully to hold to, stand by and contend for all that pertains to the faith. This will not be easy, for there are enemies without and within the church who, motivated Satan, will seek to pervert, compromise and destroy the true gospel of redeeming grace as it is purchased by and revealed the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Vs. 4.) The most treacherous and subtle enemy is the one inside the church (2 Peter 2:1; I Tim. 4:1-3). Satan sows his tares among the wheat. He does this in the night while men sleep, in order that he might corrupt the church. They creep in unsuspected and under false profession (Matt. 7:15; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).
"They were long ago ordained to this judgement." The church is not tried, nor the Lord Jesus betrayed, nor the gospel challenged except according to the counsel and will of God (John 19:11: 17:12; Ps. 109:7, 8). Those who creep in, infiltrate the church and corrupt the truth are foretold and their judgement is foretold. They, too, serve the purpose of God (Rom. 9:17; Prov. 16:4).
"They are ungodly men who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness." They abuse salvation by grace by living a life of sin and encouraging others to take an impure and profane attitude toward sin (Rom. 6:1-4, 15; Titus 1:16; 2:11-14).
The true gospel is denied, the true grace of the Lord God is denied and the true redemptive work of Christ is denied by these men, if not in words, yet in works. Election is unto holiness (Eph. 1:4). Our calling is a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9). Righteousness is not only imputed but also imparted to us by his grace and Spirit (I John 3:10). Those who use the grace of God as an excuse to sin or a cloak for their evil deny Christ and his gospel.
(Vs. 5-7). "I remind you of what you already know that if any trifle thus with the grace of God, this contempt for his grace and glory of his Son will not go unpunished." This he proves by three examples.
1. The people of Israel were the chosen nation, a special people; yet, notwithstanding their wonderful deliverance out of Egypt, because of their unbelief, rebellion and evil, God destroyed them in the wilderness! No outward privilege and profession will screen a rebel from the wrath of God. God will make sever examples of those who despise his grace. The fountain of all their evil and sin was unbelief.
2. The angels enjoyed a higher state than Israel. They were free spirits who enjoyed the light and presence of God. They were high,honourable and happy; yet by deserting their posts of honour, being unwilling to be subject to God, they were turned out of heaven and reserved without hope unto eternal condemnation. Wherever they go, they drag their chains of bondage. To depart from the grace of God is to be for ever damned (Heb. 6:4-6).
3. Sodom and Gomorrha is a more general example, testifying that God will judge and punish all the ungodly without difference! To pervert the gospel of God, the grace of God, or the laws and designs of God will bring eternal condemnation. These men were given up to homosexuality and strange flesh (Rom. 1:26-28; Lev. 20:13).
In these examples unbelief, pride and fleshly corruption are found in creatures who had at one time or another enjoyed a revelation from God and special privileges of common grace, and were exposed to his truth. Take heed, brethren, lest these be found in us (Heb. 3:12; 10:38, 39).
(Vs. 8). "Likewise," or in the same way as in the above examples, "these filthy dreamers" (false teachers), who creep into the church, are guilty of three great errors: they "defile the flesh, despise authority and slander dignities"!
1. They are called "filthy dreamers"; for what they taught was not the Word of God, but their own thoughts, imaginations and dreams, which came to them in their sleep of death and darkness (Jer. 23:25-28). They defiled the flesh by unclean practices and behaviour.
2. They despised the commandment of Christ, the rule of Christ and his Word. They chose to do as they pleased, unrestrained.
3. They spoke evil of the apostles, pastors and church officers, refusing their leadership and dishonouring them (Heb. 13:17).