Ways, errors and Rebellions
Jude continues to explain the false teachers who have crept into unnoticed into the church. Jude continues to refer to the false teachers as ‘they’ or ‘themselves.’ Their false teaching on some level has been accepted by the church either because they did not correct the false teaching or what is more likely it wasn’t seen as false teaching at all. Two dangers lie in what I said, the first is that you know it to be false teaching, but you do not correct it. This can happen because we do not want to upset or offend anyone. We need to understand that it does more harm than good. The harm is found because when you do not have a gospel of grace then you do not have the good news (Rom 11:6). In seeking not to upset one false teacher’s errors we actually bring harm to everyone who hears this teaching, this can have an enormous ripple effect. The second is even more dangerous, at least in the first example someone has been able to recognize the false teaching, but the second is more likely in the case of the book of Jude, that it is unnoticed. It is failed to be labeled as false teaching. Next week we will be looking at more of the question at what level does something or someone become a false teacher. But for now, we need to continue to notice that apart from Jude’s application to contend for the faith, he instructs his readers, those called, beloved, and kept, of the errors of these false teachers in the church. He continues to give us their errors with examples and illustrations from the Old Testament. In today’s passage, he gives us three, Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
I. The way of Cain
Jude beings with the statement ‘woe to you.’ As Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, now Jude does the same to these false teachers. Again, he uses three examples from the Old Testament, and out of these three examples, this is the one we have heard about the most. We know the story of Cain and Abel. However, what does it mean to walk in the way of Cain? The story of Cain is found in Genesis 4:1-18. John describes Cain as the wicked one. He says that we should not be like Cain, he murdered his brother, because his deeds were evil, and Abel’s were righteous. John highlights the jealousy between Cain over Abel’s righteous deeds. Cain hated his brother, and John points out that the world will hate believers (1 John 3:12-13). John highlights the sinful nature of Cain. However, Jude speaks the Way of Cain. More specifically he tells them, not to walk in the way of Cain. John I believe is highlighting Cain’s actions, but Jude is highlighting Cain’s direction. This does not mean they are contradictory, but they focus on different things.
But we could spend a large amount of time seeking to look at the story of Cain and Abel. However, I want us to look specifically at the direction, movement, and journey of Cain. And specifically in relation to God. Cain and Abel both bring offerings to God, but God is pleased with Abel, and he had no regard for Cain’s offering. This is the first shift in the narrative, we are told in vs 5 that “Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” Cain, shift his gaze downward, and his heart became angry. Here Cain had assumed he would come to God how he wanted to come to God, rather than the prescribed way God wanted him to make an offering. Cain forgot the important principle in Worship, we worship God. We do not decide what we want, we find out what and how God wants to be worshipped. But the second change is that God speaks to Cain and asked two questions, “why are you angry? Why has your face fallen?” God gives him chance to turn and repent but Cain chooses not to. It began with anger now he refused to listen to God as God speaks grace to Cain.
The third step is that he rebels against God, not only he was angry and then not listen, he did the opposite of what was told him. You see it starts small with anger but grows. But even here we can see a direction that Cain is walking in, away from God and his word. He takes his brother’s life. Instead of ruling over this sin or anger in his heart, he embraced it to the fullest extent, taking the life of his brother in the middle of a field. Cain would rather take his brother’s life than worship God correctly. But it does not stop there, notice how it is not only about Cain and Abel but is more focused on Cain and God. God continues to speak to him and again asks a question, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain answers, but flat-out lies to God. He tells him that he does not know. Now, I am no mortician, however, I’m pretty sure dead bodies do not move themselves. Cain knew where the body is, but he lied to God. God then curses Cain. A quick note here, previously Adam and Eve were not cursed, the serpent was, and the ground was but not Adam and Eve. However, here Cain is cursed. Then Cain, complains against God, which is the fifth step. God continues to show common grace to him. Finally, we see all of these culminate into the destination of Cain’s journey or way. In verse 16 we see that Cain went away from the Presence of the Lord. All of these things build upon one another to the direction Cain wants to be, “away from God.” He finally seeks to make his own home and city, built around himself and his achievements in life.
This is a great danger of false teaching, the subtle steps say just don’t focus on God. But in the end leads to anger, bitterness, hate, and lying. False teaching can lead you anywhere, as long as it is not to the truth. Cain is a fugitive and wander on the earth (Gen 4:14). He has no destination, just not near God. False teaching can just shift our gaze a little, but even one degree on a compass can have a large impact on the end destination. Over 100 yards it would be just over five feet, no big deal write. However, it all adds up, one degree here and another degree there. If you tried to go from San Francisco to Washington, DC. You would end up on the other side of Baltimore. The way of Cain is filled with tiny steps in one clear direction, anywhere away from God.
II. Balaam’s error
Now, here is another interesting story that Jude refers to as he speaks of the false teaching that had crept into the church. Jude says the false teachers, “abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error.” Now, what was Balaam’s error? The story of Balaam can be found in Numbers 22-24. Although a long story it is one of repatriation to show the point. Balaam the Son of Beor was a prophet. He was asked by the King of the Moabites, Balak the son of Zippor to curse the Israelites because they had grown too strong and numerous. He calls upon Balaam because his prophecies have been true in the past, those whom he blesses are blessed and those whom he curses are cursed (Num 22:6). At first Balaam refuses to go, but eventually he goes. He speaks four oracles over the nation of Israel but everyone is a blessing and not a curse as Balak the King of the Moabites requested. The interesting portion of the story is what happens before Balaam meets Balak. On the way there Balaam’s donkey sees the Angel of the Lord blocking the path, and stops, but Balaam is unable to see the Angel of the Lord. He strikes the donkey he has had for many years and even threatens to kill her. Eventually, the donkey talks, because the Lord opened her mouth. Finally, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the Angel of the Lord. Just as the Lord used the donkey to speak his word, he then uses Balaam to speak to the Moabite king. In that situation the Moabite king wants an outcome but is stopped by Balaam who is like the donkey, God used him to speak a blessing over Israel instead of the curse that Balak the king wanted.
Here is where the story is interesting, there is a couple of strange things in the story if we just read those three chapters by themselves. God tells Balaam in a dream to go if he is called (Num 22:20). However, a few verses later God’s anger was kindled because Balaam went. It seems that Balaam did what the Lord had commanded. However, we see in the next chapter 25, after Balaam and Balak return to their houses, that the people of Israel started to go after the daughters of Moab and make sacrifices and worship the Moabite gods. Israel then yoked themselves to Baal of Peor. Just as the anger of the Lord was kindled against Balaam, now it is kindled against the Israelites. Eventually, 24,000 Israelites would die because of this. Then it seems like the story ends. However, we find out later in Scripture how Balaam is connected to the event at Peor. Moses writes in Numbers 31:16, “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.” Peter points out that “a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness” (2 Pet 2:16). Balaam had advised the King of Moab how to try and defeat the Israelites. He could not curse them but he could cause them to sin. Balaam is set as an example, of how God uses wicked men with evil intentions to bless his people (Dt 23:4-5, Josh 24:9-10, Neh 13:2, Mic 6:5), this speaks of God’s sovereignty to be able to use means to accomplish his purposes. But Balaam is also used as the example of false teachers who seek their own desires rather than what they have been called to do by God (2 Pet 2:15-16). The church in Pergamum in the book of Revelation is rebuked because they “hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev 2:14). Jude says this is what the false teachers are doing at this church. The false teachers are seeking to in large their bank account rather than teach the truth. They lay stumbling blocks in front of the people of God so that they will indulge in sexual immorality and false worship. Balaam eventually is put to death by the sword.
Again, it does not take long for us to see how this would relate to the church today. As Jude is telling the church to contend for the Faith delivered to the saints, he warns them of the false teachers who follow the checkbook rather than God’s book. They care more about the bank account rather than the account they have to give to God on the last day. They care more about the number of followers than following God and his word. They seek to make a name for themselves rather than speaking of God’s name. God still uses them, for his purposes, but Balaam’s error was his desire for personal gain, rather than glorifying God. We can see Peter as he exhorts elders to shepherd the flock to
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:2–4).
III. Korah’s Rebellion
Lastly, Jude speaks of Korah’s rebellion. Jude has already mentioned how the false teachers have rejected God’s authority (Jude 6, 8). However, Jude’s reference here helps us understand how the false teachers are rejecting God’s authority. The story of Korah’s rebellion can be found in Numbers chapter 16. Here Korah the son of Izhar, and other men began to start a rebellion in the camp of Israel. There are many of these in the book of Numbers. However, Korah and about 250 men place themselves against Moses and Arron. Their main charge against them is that “[Moses and Aaron] have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you [Moses and Aaron] exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3). In short, they explain that the whole nation of Israel is set apart to be Holy, why do we have men who serve in certain capacities, mainly the office of Priest? Interestingly, Korah was in the line of Levi and as a Kohathite, he had certain duties he was set apart to do (Num 3:28-32, 4:4-15). Korah and his company are not only against Moses and Aaron but against the Lord (Num 16:11, 30). They question God’s way, and what he had instructed in his word. Eventually, Korah and his company are swallowed into the earth as it opened up before them. I am trying my best not to go into too much detail because it is a large and tremendous passage. The purpose of the story is that God did send Moses and he did set apart Aaron to serve as Priest. Korah and his company did not understand the role that the Priests through their sacrifices and the blood that was spilled were how their sins were atoned for. Close to 15,000 people died because of Korah’s rebellion. In Jude you have the truth, “The Faith delivered to the saints” and you have the false teaching of perverted grace and denying Christ. The false teachers are like that of Korah, who rise up and through their false teaching seek to remove those God had appointed to serve the church, at that time the apostles and their teaching, but today the men whom God had appointed as servants as deacons and elders. But I think to take that further, they are rejecting Christ and his authority, it is not only they are going after the shepherds but the chief shepherd, Jesus Christ. They do not understand that if you (hypothetically) remove Christ from the office of Prophet, Priest, and King you are not holy, what is coming to you is to be swallowed up into the earth.
You could go at any point in history and see this story lived out, it is not that people who serve the church are untouchable, but men and women revolt against God’s appointed leaders (Biblical qualified and biblically faithful). There is a warning to those who are teaching God’s word, that there is great judgment awaiting those who lead God’s people astray. But also with that the dangers of what one man’s sin and sinful heart can have on the effect. Notice in all of these examples one man is highlighted, Cain, Balaam, and Korah. But it does not stop with them. Through Cain comes a whole people who seek to walk in the way of Cain. Balaam’s advice lead to the death of 25,000 people, and Balaam had close to 15,000 people. Sin is dangerous and the false teaching started from their heart, a small seed of sin that gave birth to death. Jude’s warning is that we need to see the outcome of these false teachers, but also that we need to contend for the faith. We should not let this creep into our hearts, Christ’s church. We need to lovingly confront this type of false teaching. Showing how it perverts God’s grace and also how it denies Jesus as our master and Lord. We also need to be aware that this teaching is out there, and it often will creep into the church undetected. So do not trust everything you hear but ensure you have your Bibles open to see if the teaching is Biblical.
These opening verses might not be the most pleasant to our ears, but that doesn’t mean they are not necessary. We need verses like this to warn us of the dangers of our sin, and false teaching so we can contend for the faith. We need to hold fast to the truth contained in the Gospel because anything else is not the gospel, it is not good news. We need God’s grace and Jesus as our Lord and master, if we divert from this truth we end up living a lie.