Enemies in the Church (3)
Let us worship God.
“The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
“He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.”
“O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.”
Let us pray.
Oh Lord our God we come unto thee mindful of the greatness of our need, we do need thee every hour. We pray our Father that thou wouldst work in us that which thou pleases and give us grace to rejoice in Thee, even though thy will confounds our will. Make us joyful in The word that by thy Spirit we may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Guide us all the days of our life into faithfulness, into joyful service, and into communion and community in Christ. In His name we pray, amen.
Our Scripture this morning is Jude verses 8-16, our subject ‘Righteous Judgment,’ Jude 8-16.
“Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.”
Irreverence is the scene Jude now sites as basic to the ungodly. In fact in particular the sin of those who pretend to be true believers and are not. In verse eight, the Authorized Version, reads: “filthy dreamers” and ‘filthy’ is italicized which means it is not in the Greek original. But the word is used here implies a loss of reality of the sinful nature. Their dreaming, or false imagination, or fallen imagination, leads to first a contempt of the flesh, or of man’s humanity. They want to see man as far more than man.
Second, they despise dominion. Dominion; ‘kyriotēs’, from the word Lord, ‘kyrios’ in the Greek, refers to angelic offices in a number of passages such as Ephesians 1:21, Colossians 1:16, and II Peter 2:10. These alien peoples in the church want authorities other than the God-given ones.
Third; ‘dignities’ refers to other authorities in the Biblical scheme of things, and they are despised by these enemies of the faith who speak evil of them. In verses nine and ten, we find a clear statement about the use of language which ties in very clearly with what James had to say about the tongue. When the archangel Michael was contending with the Devil about the body of Moses, and we know nothing about that episode, he did not dare make a railing accusation against the Devil, simply saying: “The Lord rebuke thee.” Judgment is the prerogative of God, where God empowers us and requires us to render judgments, then we can do so. Otherwise, like Michael, we leave it to God. Very clearly, judgment is to be exercised only as God permits it, and Michael’s restraint here is very telling and instructive.
It is a bit shocking for us in the namby-pamby twentieth century to go back to the end of the first century and the beginning of the second, at the time when the second generation of Christians, and some of the first, comprised the church. What we find was required at the communion service would make it virtually impossible for church members now to take communion. Because they were plainly told that if you dislike anyone here in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, and you think ill of them, or you are critical of them, you cannot take communion for God will bring His judgment upon you if you do. Now that’s how strongly what Jude is talking about here was practiced by the early church. Not even Michael the archangel could criticize Satan, it was God’s prerogative. God can condemn, and anyone whom God appoints through law-abiding channels to give judgment has a right to give judgment, but no-one else. Well the Gnostic element in the church was especially discernible because they were the fastest on the draw with a judgment about someone else.
In verses nine and ten we find a clear statement about the use of language which ties in clearly with what James had to say about the tongue. Michael’s restraint in these verses is very telling, very instructive. The enemies of Christ who are within the church are very ready to speak evil of those things which they know not; their only source of knowledge is like that of animals, simply a physical one. They have no religious insight, and in their judgment on others: “…they corrupt themselves…,” quite a statement! We are all sinners saved by grace, but if we judge one another what do we do? We corrupt ourselves Jude says, which is quite a statement.
In verse eleven, Jude says that such people run frantically and wildly in the very ways of Cain, Balaam, and Core. These three are examples of men who should have known the truth clearly but were totally wedded to error by their sin. Cain is a type of unrighteousness, Balaam of deceit and covetousness, and Core of rebellion against godly authority. Such people are against all godly authority because they refuse to acknowledge any authority except their own. Can you imagine what would happen to most Bible-believing churches today if they applied this standard, or the standard of the early church in the generation after the Apostles? You cannot partake if you harbor judgment and ill-will towards anyone else in the fellowship of Jesus Christ.
Well, all such are a blight on the church scene. Their presence at the church love-feasts, or dinners, is an ugly one. Apparently they fed themselves gluttonously, although unwilling to help. They were clearly like clouds without water, they were unfit to be regarded as at all giving nourishment, they were like a drought in the church. They were also, verse twelve tells us, dead trees: “…without fruit, twice dead…,” because rootless. The reference to feeding themselves without fear is to Ezekiel 34:2,8, as pretended leaders they were to feed the flock, not to be parasites on it, which they were. In their self-importance they felt entitled to whatever they wanted.
I’m reminded of one man I knew when I was a student at the university who later went into the ministry of a very prestigious church. And one of the first things he did was to have his secretary pass out to all the members a list of the things he wanted for Christmas, and before purchasing they were to check with the church secretary to make sure that no-one else had reserved that as their present. I’m happy to say that his misconduct in time put him out of the priesthood.
In verse thirteen, Jude continues his description of these pretenders to the faith. In their false claims to wisdom, they are comparable to: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame.” They are thus a troublesome hindrance to the church; they are also like: “…wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” The reference is to dead heavenly bodies, lifeless and barren, which are visible in the sky but useless. That’s an interesting verse to me because it tells you a great deal about the ability and observation of people at that time. They’re not too many people now who can identify the planets and the stars at night. But in those days people could identify all the planets and hundreds upon hundreds of stars. And they could even discern, and this is what the verse refers to, that here and there it had to be some kind of dead asteroid or a star that was hurtling through space. Of course, there were no urban lights at night to cut the night vision, and in summertime people slept out on the flat roof-tops, and it was easy to learn the sky at night.
Then in verses fourteen and fifteen, Jude refers to a statement by Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who prophesied of these saying:
“Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. ”
At this point is important to call attention to the fact that in verse nine we have a reference to Michael which appears only in an apocryphal work, the assumption of Moses, and here in verses fourteen and fifteen, a reference to Enoch which appears in the Book of Enoch, both apocryphal books. Was Jude quoting from them? Or rather, was not Jude citing two historical statements which were well-known and used by apocryphal writers also? We know that the apocryphal so-called ‘gospels’ did quote from the legitimate ones. Jude was citing a source used by others as well.
Jude then summarizes his views of these heretics. These are murmurers he says in verse sixteen, “…complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” Their priorities are all man-centered. One scholar, JE Huther, noted that Jude depicts these intruders as teachers of the worst sort, and as destructive in nature. To quote him: “…these words indicate their emptiness, and the fact that being thus empty they are born along anywhither, and consequently are unsafe to follow.” Interesting that quotation because of the use of a word we no longer use; ‘anywhither.’ ‘Anywhere,’ we would say. But at any rate, these are men whose goal is personal advantage. At this point it is important to contrast what Jude says here with what Michael said to Satan in verses nine and ten. Michael says to Satan simply “the Lord rebuke Thee.” Whereas Jude very bluntly condemns the false teachers with strong language, we must recognize that Jude can do this because Jude by inspiration is speaking for God. God himself is rebuking these Gnostic teachers; Jude’s words are more than his own. We, even more than Michael, must watch our tongue.
Jude calls attention to the evil character of these false leaders. First; they are grumblers, complainers, whose pretense to greater holiness is based upon their supposed sensitivity. Nothing pleases them against themselves. If you were to go back and read the surviving writings of these Gnostics, both those in the church and outside the church (and they both sounded the same) you would be amazed at their pretentiousness and their stupidity. They were deluging everyone with super-scientific, super-philosophical terminology that very few would ever be able to follow, and overwhelming them with their supposed wisdom.
Second, then; these false leaders are malcontents whom nothing pleases because they believe nothing and they are determined to bring down the truth, to bring down the faith. Third, their soul guide is their passionate love of advantage. We must conclude then, righteous judgment as our Lord said in John 7:24, is necessary, it must be exercised by the leaders of the community and only upon a few occasions by the members also. Let us pray.
Our Father we give thanks unto thee for thy words through thy servant Jude. We would pray that thou wouldst burn these words upon our hearts, minds, and being. That our speech may be godly speech, that our tongue may be controlled by our faith. Guide us in the way that we should go, speak to us the word that we need, and make us strong in thy truth, in Christ’s name, amen.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder