Lessons in the Book of Jude
by Bob Burridge ©2013, 2016
Lesson 3: Defying Things Not Understood Jude 8-11
There are many things we don’t understand well.
The wise person admits there are limits to what he understands, and he remembers there was a time when he didn’t know what he knows now. It’s the fool who thinks he’s figured everything out and dares to charge ahead based on that. He has an arrogant and aggressive attitude toward anybody who see things a different way. Rather than listening and learning, he just scoffs at other ideas and ignores what others say. He fails to admit he might be wrong and have more to learn. He’s like one who runs into a field of land mines, laughing in unbelief and derision at the posted warnings. They love to drag others along with them into the mine-field refusing to admit the danger.
People like that seem compelled to pass on their ignorance and dangerous attitude to others. Maybe they think it proves them right if they can convince others to believe them. Or maybe they just want to feel important and powerful, and be the smart ones. Sadly, many who trust them and follow them think they’re getting good advice.
This means that even when we see others who misunderstand things, we need to resist the temptation of going on wild and uninformed attacks against them. A soldier charging ahead foolishly often finds himself rushing into a well set trap. He’s caught in the snare before he even realizes he’s taken the bait. We need to be truly wise, following God’s advice for dealing with error whenever it creeps in among us.
There were infiltrators in the church who had defied God’s ways.
Jude 8, “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.”
These are the infiltrators of the church, the covert agents for evil described in verse 4. There it says, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. ”
Jude had just given three past examples of God’s judgments in verses 5-7. He showed that people cannot get away with their defiance of God, his ways, and his people. Now he shows that these who were troubling the churches in his time will similarly be judged.
He calls them dreamers.
It’s not just that they believe that God talks to them in their dreams. It means that their ideas are dreamed up from within their own fallen souls. They are not submissive to God’s word. They live in a dream world.
Today the media and art world are deeply mired in a philosophy that denies absolute rules, realities, and moral standards. It finds its way into popular songs, art, movies, books, and even today’s religions. Their basic premise is that our own thoughts, dreams, and imaginations are the only realities that should concern us. This subjective way of looking at the world and society has crept into the church in a new charismatic wave. It believes that suffering and evil can be manipulated away if believers will it enough.
Instead of dealing with suffering and sin in the way God’s word prescribes, they have cultish mass prayer meetings, stirring motivational rallies, and superstitious chants and formulas they think will overpower what’s against them, and reconfigure God’s plan itself.
Like the deceivers in the days of Jude, someday these foolishly ignorant wizards will be shaken out of their dreams. They will discover that the world they thought was controlled by their own minds or personal hopes was not as much under their own power as they imagined. They will see that the limited god they tried to manipulate with their rituals, talismans, and prayers, is a sovereign reality for which they had not prepared.
With their perverted foundation they do three particularly evil things.
They defile the flesh. Without a respect for God’s word, they let their fleshly desires grow without boundaries. They justify living immorally and defile their own bodies in ways that displease the God who made them. It is tragic that in this new approach to religion, perversions, sexual liberties, and pornography have penetrated very stealthily into the congregations.
In the days of the New Testament, and among those to whom Peter, Paul and Jude wrote, a belief called Gnosticism was in its beginning stages. It separated the spiritual and physical realities so much that each was thought to have little to do with the other. Like today’s Nihilism and New Ageism, the physical world God created, is seen as inferior or even unreal. By separating the physical from the soul, the sins of the flesh are not seen as being very important.
Gnostics came to seek inner enlightenment as the key to rising above the physical. This freed them either to become ascetics, denying physical pleasures entirely, or, as it was in this case, to become libertines engaging in whatever their bodies desired. They justified it by thinking that the flesh had nothing to do with what was real.
Jude said they also reject authority. Since they believed the real world was an inner reality, and that they were the enlightened ones, they became a law to themselves, and ridiculed those who saw real authority in the world.
But God didn’t create a world to be an anarchy where individuals each did his own thing.
He established the family and charged the husband of the home, the fathers, to be responsible for those in the home, to care for their physical and spiritual needs.
God established the work-place where those hired to do work for a land owner or business owner were required to respect the risk their employers were taking in hiring them and in their business investments. Workers were to put in an honest days labor and show respect for those who hire them.
God established his covenant body, the church. He calls some to be Elders to shepherd the people by teaching them God’s ways. They had spiritual authority over the congregation to guide them into truth and holy living, and to comfort them through their times of suffering. They were to be careful ministers of God’s revealed truths.
In the civil realm, God calls those in rightful places of leadership his “ministers for good”. Romans 13 makes it clear that we are to honor them in areas of civil justice and mutual defense.
However, those infiltrators imagined themselves to be better enlightened than what God’s word says. So they would strike out against these areas of God established authority. Instead of a society ordered in God’s way, they imagine a utopian world without absolute rules or God appointed leaders.
They imagine homes where parents have no real authority over their own children. Kids sue their parents for personal liberties. Ungodly national leaders try to impose their supposed enlightenment to compel parents to discipline a certain way, and make schools teach ideas contrary to those of godly parents who are seen as evil bigots if they adhere to biblical authority. To them marriage itself is defined by the whims of society rather than by the God who instituted it with our first parents in Eden.
Work places become chaotic battle-fields of competition between workers and management. The worker tries to get more than he earns, and the employer tries to pay less than he owes. The state manipulates businesses with rules it imagines to be better than those set by those who own and run them. To force things to conform to their own imaginations these “enlightened tyrants” suppress success and competition in the market place.
The church becomes a loose aggregate of individuals. They come to church to be inspired by rituals, entertainment, organized programs, and parties, but not to be urged to follow God’s ways by Elders with real authority over worship and the sacraments.
Nations themselves become political arenas where special interest groups try to gain power and control the riches of the people. Their goal is to gain support for whatever will make them more rich, powerful, and promote their ideological agendas. Often the courts of the land are manipulated by ungodly lawyers, juries, and judges who have personal agendas rather than a devotion to higher laws.
Jude says they speak evil of dignitaries.
There is some confusion here since some translations interpret the object of the sentence in different ways. The King James says they “speak evil of dignities.” The New King James has, “speak evil of dignitaries.” The English Standard says they, “blaspheme the glorious ones.” The New American Standard says they, “revile angelic majesties.”
The object of the verb “to speak evil of,” “to revile,” or “to blaspheme” is the Greek word “doxas” (δόξας). It literally means “glories”. The word “angels” is not in any of the ancient manuscripts of Jude’s letter. That insertion is more interpretive.
We can understand what Jude means when we recognize that according to Scripture there is only one original source of glory and majesty. That source is God alone. He displays his glory in this world by the things he made, revealed, and established. In this context, it appears to be persons who are being reviled. Considering what he had just said about the authorities God had appointed, it’s likely that this refers to those who hold positions of responsible leadership.
According to God’s law husbands are told to lead their homes as Christ is the loving and self-sacrificing head of the church. Masters are told to treat their workers as God treats us as his servants. Elders are to shepherd the church as
Christ’s representatives, as the Good Shepherd cares for his people. And Paul tells us that civil governors at all levels are to be respected as God’s ministers for good.
Each is to display God’s glory in his particular domain. These evil men Jude speaks of revile not only the concept of authority, but also the dignitaries God sets up to lead us. The New King James Version is more accurate here by translating it that they “speak evil of dignitaries.”
“They speak evil of” is the Greek word “blasphaemou’sin” (βλασφημοῦσιν) from which we get our word “blasphemy”. It is used three times in this short passage. The word means to slander, revile, defame or to speak with disrespect and irreverence. This attitude is characteristic of those who believe they are the most enlightened, but who have no concept of the boundaries set by God’s word.
Jude then used an example to show the restraint
we should have in dealing with evil.
Jude 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ “
He speaks of Michael, the archangel. There are several places where this person is mentioned in the Bible, particularly in Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1; and Revelation 12:7. Most agree that Michael is one of the created angels made to serve God in the spirit realm. As archangel, he is the angel of highest authority. He is often seen as a leader of other angels and a special guardian of God’s people.
Evidently, there was a time when he had a dispute with the Devil. In some way it had to do with the body of Moses. We have no other biblical details about this so it is impossible to know anything more about this. It may have been a dispute over the disposition of the body after Moses died in the wilderness. Or perhaps it was a dispute over what would happen to his body in the resurrection. We have no way of knowing. The details are unimportant in understanding the point Jude is making.
There is an old Jewish myth written in an apocryphal book called The Assumption of Moses. But the manuscripts from which we get this book are in bad shape. The story itself is incomplete. We do not know if this was written before or after Jude wrote this passage.
Clearly what Jude wrote is true because all Scripture is inspired by God, and is therefore kept free from errors of fact, doctrine, and interpretation. The source of Jude’s information is irrelevant. The part of the myth about the dispute over Moses’ body is affirmed as true because God caused it to be included here. All the other parts of the myth in that apocryphal book may be entirely false. We can only know what is true from God’s word, not from legends and other ancient documents.
Jude’s point is to show how Michael dealt with the Devil in this dispute. He did not dare to pronounce against Satan a reviling accusation. This means there was no rash or unrestrained condemning of Satan. Even Michael, the chief of the angels, recognized there were things beyond him. He did not dare to launch out in damnations or curses based upon his own authority, even when it was against Satan himself, one so clearly in the wrong. That was the prerogative of God alone.
All he dared to say was, “The Lord rebuke you.” This care in dealing with evil and with things beyond us is an important lesson. We live in an age where comics make a career of ridiculing those in authority. Jokes about our leaders are common and tempting. They may truly be humorous, even accurate, but they often cross an important line.
Sadly many even teach little children choruses and little songs demeaning Satan. They teach them to do what Jude cautions us against, what even Michael would not do.
The answer we should rightfully give is more powerful than our jokes or ridicule. God will judge all men and rebuke their rebellion in his good time. Our duty is to declare what is right and good according to God’s word, and to admonish those around us to respect God’s truth and ways.
Next Jude applies this principle to the infiltrators in the church.
Jude 10, “But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.”
They revile the things they do not understand. These evil men were acting in foolish ignorance. They acted like animals without understanding, being led only by what they felt inside. Their sin-infected judgment was leading them and their followers toward certain destruction.
Jude pronounced woe on them and cited three examples of rebellion.
Jude 11, “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
The first example is Cain. This first born human failed to bring the kind of offering God required. Instead of a blood offering representing the Savior’s future work, he brought fruit. He became jealous of God’s blessings toward his obedient brother Able, and killed him. His way was similar to those who defy God in every era. He was motivated by self-importance, greed, and jealousy rather than by a love for God’s ways. God cursed Cain for the rest of his life. He was exiled for his crime, and founded a city where his descendants continued his corruption.
The next example is Balaam. He was a very influential man from Moab who was asked and bribed by Balak, King of Moab, to curse Israel as they came near his borders. Though Balaam was tempted, the Lord told him not to pronounce the curse. He rightly said that if God blesses, no man could impose a curse. However, though in one sense he professed to recognize Jehovah as the invincible God over all things, he came up with a plan to cause God to turn his blessing of Israel into a curse. He instructed the Midianites in a method of enticing the Israelites to sin against their God (Revelation 2:14).
Moses commented on this plan in Numbers 31:16, “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”
These infiltrators of the church ask for the same fate that fell upon Balaam. They look for personal gain as they try to sabotage the church from within. They value riches and power above obeying God. They lead others into sin as did the advice of Balaam to Israel’s enemies.
Balaam was killed in battle fighting along with Balak, King of the Midianites, in their battle against Israel. There is nothing but destruction ahead for those who dare to defy God and harm his people.
Finally, Jude spoke of the fate of those who perished in the rebellion of Korah. There came a time in the wilderness when men defied the new regulations God gave. Korah, along with Dathan and Abiram, led 250 men in rebellion against Moses and Aaron. They refused to honor the priests and the limits God had placed upon worship. They wanted to continue the old ways and traditions instead. They came with incense to offer to God in defiance of the revealed law. They rejected the authority God had given to Moses and the Levites (Numbers 16).
There is a parallel here with the infiltrators in the church. They dishonored those God had set up to be responsible for leading the church.
The judgment of God upon Korah and his followers was graphic. Numbers 16:31-35, “Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, ‘Lest the earth swallow us up also!’ And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.”
These are the kinds of woe these infiltrators should expect. Perhaps not physical and supernatural judgments in this life as in these examples. But certainly they will face the wrath of that same God in the final Day of Judgment.
This is the danger Jude is warning about.
There are things beyond our knowledge. We may not understand fully why God orders things as he does. But it is our duty to honor and obey what God has made known. Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Those who dare to go their own way and seek innovations to replace God’s revealed principles, will face the wrath of the One they defy. Those who disregard God’s honor, word, and established order are fairly warned here. But, there is also an assurance to God’s faithful. Those who trouble God’s covenant people are doomed and will not prevail.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)