Do (not) follow your dreams
Jude continues to show the ways of the false teachers who have crept into the church. He has told them their two main errors: 1) Perverting the Grace of God into sensuality and 2) denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Last week we saw that they Rejected God’s Salvation, rebelled against God’s authority, and refused God’s created order. Jude showed used examples of the outcome of people and angels who had done the same thing in the Old Testament. He now turns specifically to the false teachers in the church during his day and explains exactly how they are the ones who are doing these things. Now, before we get to this passage we need to have a gentle reminder/warning. That is, during this section, Jude uses words like “these people,” “they,” etc. We should be very careful to read this to only think of the culture outside of the church walls because Jude’s point is that this is happening within the church walls. His warning is not that this might creep into the church if you are not careful, but it has already crept into the church. Now, to take it one step further, we need to be careful that we not only believe that this thinking has crept into the walls of the church, but we need to make sure that this way of thinking has crept into our minds and hearts. It is very easy to sit in an ivory tower and criticize, however, it is very different to ask God to show you the sin in your heart. This does not mean that we do not take note of the way of thinking or are cautious towards these errors, but we should do all three be watchful of the world, weary of the ways in the church but also open to being convicted ourselves of the sins in our own hearts.
Jude begins in verse eight by saying, “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams…” (Jude 8a). Jude gives us the foundation of this false teaching. Thomas Schreiner, who has the best commentary on the book of Jude (in my opinion), says, “The NIV translates the participle enypniazomenoi as “dreamers.” This is fitting as long as the participle is understood to modify all three verbs, and the dreams are understood as the basis for the moral baseness of the opponents.” Although we are quick to read over this portion, we need to understand this is the first and foundation error of these false teachers. Jude is not denying that in the Old Testament that God spoke through dreams (Cf. Jacob Gen 28:12). Jude is emphasized that they relied on their dreams. Reading through the Bible you see that God used a variety of ways to communicate with men and women (Theophanies, visions, dreams, angels, prophets, etc). The focus is not on the means he communicates, it is the words that are spoken. The focus is always on the words, not on the means. Jude points out that the focus of the False prophets is not on the word of God but rather on their own dreams. But also notice that God used these means a lot during the time when the word of God was not complete. Now we have the word of God that is complete we do not need these types of dreams. Now we do not have time to dive into this at this point but if you would like to read any further on it, I would suggest O. Palmer Robertson’s book, “The Final Word.”
Jude’s point is that the basis of their teaching is their own dreams, not the Word of God. We can see a warning for today, how often we base our teachings on our logic, reasoning, feelings, culture, or anything other than the Word of God. Let’s face it if we are honest and even good theologians, we understand that sin has stained every part of us. Sin has affected our minds and our hearts. If we read the word of God and we are never made uncomfortable by it, then we are not reading it correctly. The Scripture should be like a sword that should pierce the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and should decern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12). Again, if we read the word of God and think only that the sins speak of those outside the church then we are not reading the word properly. How often do we listen to what we want to hear? Do we ever find ourselves justifying our actions because of our sinful reasoning and logic? How many times do we follow our heart compared to God’s word? We need to be cautious so that we do not let this thinking creep into our hearts, and also the church. This is a great warning for me personally, but also as I have seen denominations and Christians. When we listen to heart-felt speeches and not the open bible in our hands we are like these false teachers who follow dreams over the word of God. Sadly, many arguments seek to turn to protecting the church building, community, institution, or denomination rather than being faithful and trusting God. They center around numbers declining or ways to grow the church. As Paul instructs us in the book of Romans,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).
Maybe then to take this a step further, and more application than the warning not to follow your sinful logic or heart. Do you know your Bible well? The Bible does not teach us what not to do but it also teaches us how to live. Do you know what God’s revealed will has told us to do? It is easy to use portions of the Bible to justify ourselves and our actions. The challenge is to find and use the whole counsel of God to guide us in our lives. We should be like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12), who heard the message preached to them by Paul and Silas. They did not measure this message against their feelings or emotions, or even what they knew of the bible but they searched the Scriptures. They realized there could be something that did not know. They searched the Bible, not just once, but day after day.
Defile the Flesh
Jude first highlights that these false teachers use their dreams to lead people astray. They defile the flesh. Jude does not give us a long list of these particular sins as he does later in the letter (16). Peter gives a larger warning of what Jude is speaking about, “especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion” (2 Pet 2:10). This phrase of ‘defiling’ is used throughout the Old Testament and speaks of sexual sins. (Cf. Gen 34, Lev 18:24, 27-28). The false teachers are using their dreams to allow for the perversion of the grace of God for sensuality. We are not surprised by this. Throughout the letters of the New Testament, we see two main categories of thinking that are often rebuked; licentiousness (no law) or legalism (adding to the law). Jude explains that the false teachers pervert the grace of God and explain it is okay to defile the flesh.
This is something that we constantly have to be aware and alert of in the church. We can take something good, the grace of God, and misunderstand this. Paul asks in the book of Romans, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2). Now we might not say it exactly like this but how I have seen it worked out in churches is that sin is minimalized. We downplay what sin is. Sin is something that we sweep under the rug. In some way, they pervert the grace of God because they deny their need for grace. If we do not call sin, sin then we do not need to be saved from sin. This is often what we think of when we think of a righteous person. A righteous person does not need a savior because they do not think they sin. The righteous person knows what sin is but they do not believe they sin. Whereas the false teachers in this case just change the definition of sin, they are still self-righteous, having no need for a savior. You can either justify your sins, or Jesus justifies you from your sins.
Jude speaks of the second sin that the false teachers are using their dreams to validate. Now we might think this speaks of rejecting the authorities of church leaders or national governments. Now other verses speak to this. However, Jude is specifically speaking about the Lord’s authority. Two major reasons that help us see this is found in verse four Jude points out that the false teachers deny the only master and Lord Jesus Christ. But also the illustration that is found in verse 9. Jude points out that God is the authority. The hierarchy of these false teachers is that they elevate their dreams, and in doing so they reject the authority of Jesus as the only master and Lord.
A disciple cannot serve two masters. Jesus told his disciples that as they make disciples they are to “teach them to observe all that he had commanded them” (Matt 28:19- emphasis mine). We do not get to pick and choose what is sin and what is not. We do not get to select what commands we need to obey and which ones we do not. This is one of the errors of the false teachers they deny the only master and Lord Jesus. This is one critical thing we can miss, Jude opened and called himself a ‘slave of Jesus Christ’ (vs 1). Martyn Llyod-Jones put it this way, “We are never free. Everyone in the world… is either a slave to sin and Satan or else a slave to Jesus Christ.” Paul explains that we can give thanks to God that we are now slaves of obedience, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18). The false foundation of this teaching Jude is explaining is that they follow their dreams, following the sinner not Jesus as their master. Jude now gives three examples of this false teaching and how the false teachers are pointing to their dreams to lead people to sin. How we need to be careful, Jude points out a very important word in verse 4, ‘only,’ often we do not outrightly reject Jesus as our master but we let other things creep in, and we think we can have two masters, or divide our life up into categories, Jesus is my master over my faith, but not my actions. He is the Lord of my Sunday but not the other days.
Blaspheme the glorious ones
Lastly, the false teachers use their dreams to blaspheme the glorious ones. Now, this is a difficult verse and if left in isolation we will be left with endless possibilities. However, we are not only given this statement, but Jude goes into the example of Michael. Again, we could spend a lot of time in Angelology. But let me summarize Jude’s statement, Michael who is the only named Angel we have in the Bible is known as the prince of the angels (Dan 10:13, 12:1) and the one who leads the army of God in the book of Revelation (Rev 12:7). Michael does not even seek to use the Lord’s name in vain but leaves the judgment of Satan to the Lord (Rom 12:17-19). Now, we understand the basic premise we can dive a bit more into the specific illustration Jude uses. Jude explains that Michael contended with the devil about the body of Moses. Now we are told in Deuteronomy 34:6 that the Lord buried the body of Moses. Jude pulls from another source known as the ‘Assumption of Moses’ which was written about the 1st C BC. IN this source the author claims that Satan laid claim to the body of Moses for two reasons; 1) he was the prince of the world, Michael responded: “The Lord rebuke you, for it was God’s spirit that created the world and all mankind.” 2) because he was a murderer. Now a great deal of debate has gone into Jude’s use of this passage. Simply, I explain just because Jude quotes this portion of the ‘Assumption Moses’ does not mean that this makes the book canonical (Part of the Bible). Michael did not even pronounce a judgment on Satan if anyone has the authority (chief of the angels) and judges Satan (prince of the world). It would be blasphemous because he does not have the authority to do so. Michael was sent by God to perform one thing, to bury Moses, not to judge Satan. The false teachers on the other hand overstep their position. Peter puts it like this:
“Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction” (2 Peter 2:10b–12).
Again, we could spend a lot of time on these verses, but we must think about what this means to us. To my knowledge, no one is walking around blaspheming glorious ones. However, what we can do is that we seek to stand in the place of God. When we seek to pronounce judgments upon other people, we seek to take the place of God. This is the result of the removal of the word as the foundation and replacing it with dreams, visions, or feelings. We are the ones that do not honor God’s name, for he is the perfect just judge, we in turn are claiming, we do not need that judge and will do his job for him.
So what are we to do? The message is simple to look to Christ and his grace. We need not try and alter or change that which is perfect. Christ has already given us the Scriptures, so why then would we turn to our own dreams or desires? Jude makes this point in verse 16. Christ has already saved us from our sin, so why then would we seek to defile our flesh, we have been raised with Christ, so let us walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:4). Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; we would we then reject his authority over our life. Finally, we do not need to start judging others and pronouncing false judgments upon them. We should give all glory and honor to God, and be cautious to follow false teachers or be false teachers ourselves.