Jude 4

Exposing the False Teachers

Likewise also, these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil and disputing about the body of Moses, dared 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 come to know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain and have run greedily after the error of Balaam for their reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.

These are spots on your feasts of charity when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. Clouds they are without water, carried about by 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. (Jude 8—13, 21st Century KJV)

After giving three examples of rebellion against the will of God and the subsequent descriptions of God’s judgment, Jude continues to describe the godless false teachers of his day. He has already given the reader a brief description of them in verse 4:

They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (NIV)

1. Perversions of the Apostates, verse 8

Now, Jude expands on this description using three powerful verbs: pollute, reject, and slander.

  • Pollute. By using the phrase “In the very same way,” Jude links the behavior of these false teachers to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. This sin of polluting matches the homosexual acts of verse 7. Whether Jude limits their sin to just that or other sexual sins is unknown, but we get the idea that these false teachers engaged in sexual excess.
  • Reject: Jude observes that these men reject authority. There is a difference of opinion as to what “authority” Jude has in mind. Calvin suggests Jude is referring to civil magistrates, while other expositors think he was referring to church leaders. Perhaps Jude had all kinds of authority in mind, especially their rejection of Christ’s authority over them.
  • Slander: Finally, these godless men “slander celestial beings.” Jude doesn’t say how or why they do this. Given when we know of them so far, perhaps in their materialistic and worldly lifestyle they deny the very existence of all spiritual beings, both good and evil.

2. Pattern of Michael, verse 9

Michael is one of only two angels named in all of Scripture. The other one is Gabriel. “Michael,” literally translated means “one who is like God” is portrayed by Daniel as the guardian angel of the Jews (Dan. 12:1). In Revelation, Michael is seen as a “warrior angel” who does battle against the devil (Rev. 12:7—9). This verse has caused some great debates in theological circles from the days of the early church. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Didymus of Alexandria, early church fathers all, have written that Jude is quoting from something called “The Assumption of Moses,” an apocryphal book, of which only a few fragments remain.

The fact that Jude freely quotes from not one but two apocryphal books led some in the early church to question the inspiration of Jude. However, Jude merely quotes from the books, he doesn’t claim they are authoritative or inspired. His point in quoting from these sources seems pretty obvious; his readers would doubtless have been familiar with them, inspired, folklore or not, and the false teachers should have learned from the example of the archangel Michael. In the “Assumption of Moses,” the Devil claimed the right to the body of Moses because of Moses’ sin of murder. In spite of Michael’s high position, power and dignity, he refused to argue with or slander the Devil, but rather referred their dispute to God, the Highest Authority.

The point, as Barclay said is:

If the greatest of the good angels refused to speak evil of the greatest of the evil angels, even in circumstances like that, the surely no human may speak evil of any angel.

3. Practices of the Apostates, verse 10

“Yet these men” is statement of extreme contempt and shows how Jude felt about them. They, unlike Michael, presume to speak evil about things they don’t know anything about. These “dreamers” have some knowledge, but mock at things they know nothing of. As Jude says elsewhere, in verse 19,

These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

They may have some knowledge, but they are completely devoid of Divine knowledge. This reminds us of the words of Paul:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

From the Scottish Psalter Hymnal, we read this version of David’s psalm, 14:

The God who sits enthroned on high,
The foolish in the heart deny;
Not one does good: corrupt in thought,
Unrighteous works their hands have wrought.

Without God’s guidance and spiritual discernment, people are abysmally ignorant of reality and can rely only instinct; only on what they see. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes came to the same conclusion. He called it “folly” or “vanity.”

4. Past Judgments Upon the Apostates, verse 11

This verse begins with Jude imitating Jesus as He pronounced His series of “Woes” in the Gospels. No other New Testament writer did this. If we break this verse down, the trio of rebellious religious rebels looks like this:

  • Cain: the worshiper who gave too little;
  • Balaam: the prophet who prayed too often (about the same thing)
  • Korah: the minister who professed to much (claiming equal authority with Moses and Aaron)

Note the progression here, their sinful rebellion goes from the relatively minor (improper worship) to more serious (improper praying), finally to overestimating their own importance. Jude says there is no hope for people like this. Each verb, “have taken,” “have rushed,” and “have been destroyed” are all in the aorist tense, indicating a complete action. Arndt and Gingrich, masters of Greek, have said this indicates that Jude is saying because their sin is so certain, their punishment is so certain, that he regards it as having come upon them already. These false teacher, in Jude’s estimation, are the walking dead.

5. Predicted end of the Perverts, verses 12-13

With striking eloquence, Jude piles figure upon figure to describe the apostate teachers in detail, ending in their end.

  • Blemishes at your love feasts. There are two ways to translate spilas (blemishes, NIV). It can be rendered “rocks” or “hidden rock,” as the NASB reads, or “spots” or “blemishes,” as the NIV and KJV, among others, have translated it. Either translation puts the apostates in a bad light: if they are likened to “hidden rocks,” Jude has mind the “shipwreck of faith,” so they are dangerous to genuine believers. If “blemishes,” Jude indicates a “defilement.” The Love Feast” was a big meal that accompanied the Communion service in the early church. The idea Jude is putting forward is that merely fellowshipping with such persons can jeopardize the stability of genuine faith by corrupting all who come in contact with them.
  • Shepherds who feed only themselves. What a way to describe a person; selfish and self-centered, caring only for their own needs and wants. False shepherds who care nothing for the flock.
  • Clouds blown by wind without rain. Literally, these false teachers are “waterless clouds,” promising rain but delivering nothing.
  • Twice dead trees. Jude compares the apostate teachers fruitless trees, long past harvest. Not only have these trees not born fruit, they have been uprooted—twice dead.
  • Restless sea. For us today, the sea is a vision of beauty, but to ancient man, the sea was a place of terror and fear. The prophet Isaiah also compared the sinner to the sea: But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. (Isa. 57:20). The false teachers are restless, moving from place to place, leaving behind what the restless sea leaves behind on the seashore: foam and scum.
  • Wandering stars. This is the final metaphor to describe the apostate teachers. Stars can be helpful because the illuminate the darkness, All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, but in the case of the false teachers, they are so erratic, they illuminated nothing. The emphasis, however, is not on the word “stars,” but on the concept of “wandering.” It’s root is the same root for the word “error.” J.B. Moffatt calls these men “erratic comets or shooting meteors, who have deserted their proper orbit and broken away from the regulations of the Lord.”

These false teachers, because they are out of orbit, have to moral center, and are burning themselves out is sin, heading for a place of complete blackness forever.

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