The error of the ancients was going rogue against God. Jude having spoken of ancient times brought his readers back to their present time. He will go on to point out that the error of the ancients is not dead.
“8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. 14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him. 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 8-16–ESV)
The Jews (v5), the Angels (v6), and the Gentiles (v7) all had had some measure of godly truth-experience. Through forgetfulness or outright rejection they went rogue against the righteousness of God and were judged for that. Jude starts this passage by saying: Yet in like manner these people also….
Going rogue does what? Runs from truth.
Relies on dreams…
Dreams are not truths, but things codgered together in the unregulated world of sleep. In this unfettered world the experiences range far and wide from reality.
The false teachers Jude warned about were in a spiritually unfettered world. They relied on dream-type concepts. Dreams don’t make good reality. They may last for a time, but eternal choices made on ephemeral “truths” do not end up well.
Defiles the flesh…
Our bodies are in God’s good world. He has provided everything needful and many things pleasurable. In these bodies are received the due penalty for sin. Choices made in one’s dreams leave marks on and in one’s flesh. Proper pleasures please, but indulgences pollute.
Authority is as real as the flesh on our bones1. Life in proper submission leads to better results. Those who are proponents of the “I will not!” pronouncement are potholes on the road of life. Potholes knock out the alignment and eventually break axles. Don’t be a pothole.
Slanders celestial beings…
Angels are real too and to speak ill of them or ill of their messages is a foolish business. There has been a progression in these four rogue behaviors. Dreams to flesh to rebellion are the first three. These are more easily grasped than this fourth one, but a human does well to look at the past and extrapolate to the future. Past observations should be platforms for faith. While the routine of celestial things is not known to us the reality of it lurks on the edges of our experience. Just as we should not pronounce “I will not!” against the authorities of the world we experience we also should not pronounce judgment on beings and matters we have no means to access.
Who are the rogues?
False teachers: Rogues in the NT church
Jude started with those who were right there among them. The false teachers were in the business of making grand statements and philosophies about things they had no means to understand.
Once when living in my sheltered world as a young boy in Montgomery Alabama my babblings caused my friend from next door to think I had cursed. I knew I had not for to use four letter words was something I had not yet forced myself to participate in2, much less would I since I did not yet know those words. Well the neighbor boy being older and wiser in the ways of the world told me what I had said and that it was bad. I promptly declared to him that he was wrong and that the four-letter word I supposedly said was simply not a bad word. Declarations are not proof so in a reckless attempt to prove my point and to defy him I promptly began yelling this word 3 in my Christian front yard, down by the street, in my nice little neighborhood. Well the older neighbor boy cringed. That was great. “Look,” I thought, “at what I am doing to him! Who-hoo!” I kept yelling it. The cringing boy knew my dad would come and he did. As you might expect he verified that word was bad and I believed my dad. Thankfully my dad had grace that day. I bet if I had defied him I would have learned the lesson that grace does not enable sin (see the previous lesson).
I relate here this story of my defiance because it shapes the character of what the false teachers were doing. When one is born one does not know that certain combinations of four letters are not to be exclaimed or yelled at the top of your lungs. The manner of celestial details are even less accessible to us than that. I was following a defiant reflex when I was yelling those four letters (over and over and over again). These false teachers are following their defiant reflexes when they are more quietly introducing their own viewpoints on things that pertain to the souls of men. They are not using their free will in faith to master their creature instincts. They rather are polluting their lives and other lives with a wicked independence. I was a rogue that day and have been since.
Cain trounced the teaching
Cain was a rogue of the earliest times preceding Abraham and even Noah yet seen and engaged by God’s grace.
He did what he had been taught was wrong. God blessed his brother Abel who had said yes to the same lessons. Cain became wroth and felt bad bubbles in his soul. God in grace came to Cain telling Cain about his free will and his need to master wicked tendencies. What was the way of Cain? What did Cain do with that advice? He abandoned it. He killed Abel. His penalty began shortly thereafter and thousands of years later we know of it.
Balaam was reckless before God
Balaam was a Gentile rogue targeting Israel.
Balaam was a well known sorcerer for hire. His services were available while the nation of Israel was wandering in the desert and trouncing the nations of that period. Once while journeying near Jericho 4 the Moabite king Balak sought Balaam’s services. Balaam’s course in life was before the Lord for all men are. God blocked Balaam’s enterprise declaring it a reckless way of life. The story can be read about in Numbers 22 and the chapters that follow.
Korah rebelled against God’s setup
Korah was a connected Jew who was a rogue of the earliest Jewish era.
In Numbers 16 a group of leaders in Israel were led by Korah5 against Moses. There seemed to be two primary issues in that event: challenge of authority and misunderstanding of holiness. Well there is that theme of rebellion. If that is mixed with disregard for the holiness of God bad things happen. They did. They perished.
What about Jude’s rogues?
Blemishes at times of communion. They participated in sacred rites without any anxiety over the implications of tampering with the holy. Blemishes need Photoshop to be removed. Jude is trying to at least warn them and put them on guard.
Shepherds are to care for sheep, but these shepherds care only for their own skins.
Clouds promise rain which is so needed for successful crops. Clouds that skip the rain are both useless and a disappointment. Proverbs 25:14 says, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.”
Trees that do not produce fruit are dead for their uselessness and then once uprooted die again.
False teachers are worse than useless. They are deceitfully harmful. By the time the injury is felt the damage is done.
The behavior of these men is wild and uncontrolled. The foam of their sin is widespread and bubbles up from the splashing and crashing of themselves on the rocks of peoples lives.
They move around as a comet might. They seem to be a sign, but come and disappear again into the night. They promised much but in their vain thrashings provided nothing except to themselves.
False teachers are unpleasant and unhelpful. Fit for nothing they will come under the judgment of God.
The errors of indulgence, rebellion, and slander were alive and well in Jude’s time. Those styles were injected secretly and though secret they still grew. They still polluted. Those styles being self-styles are alive and well in our era too. The self has them, the family has them, the workplace has them and the church has them. God still comes alongside to rescue. God still says to us, “Sin is crouching at the door. It desires to have you, but you must master it.” Will we master it?
Key concepts to consider from this passage:
- Dreams don’t make good reality
- Eternal choices made on ephemeral “truths” do not end up well
- Proper pleasures please, but indulgences pollute.
- Cain was counseled but abandoned after he abandoned God’s counsel
- Balaam was reckless being controlled by God but never submitted unto God.
- Korah challenged authority and misunderstood holiness and was judged
- False teachers serve themselves and after foaming up wickedness will come under God’s judgment