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.
(Jude 1:9-13 KJV)
In the preceding verses Jude describe the false teachers and enemies of Christ which have infiltrated the church, “creeping in unawares”. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, they deny the gospel of substitution, they defile the flesh, despise authority and speak evil of the apostles, pastors and church leaders without any just cause. Their motive in discrediting the true preachers is to exalt themselves and draw away disciples to themselves.
(Vs. 9.) There is some controversy over what is meant by “the body of Moses”. Some say it is the body of his laws. Calvin said, “It is beyond controversy that Moses died and was buried by the Lord, and his grave is concealed according to the purpose of God, that neither he nor his grave become an object of worship and idolatry” (Deut. 34:1.6). Evidently Satan, who encourages men to idolatry, will-worship and creature-worship, desired otherwise. The devil disputed with Michael over Moses’ body. Michael dared not speak more severely against Satan than to deliver him to God to be restrained and rebuked. Michael was not afraid of Satan, nor did he honour and respect this condemned reprobate; but he chose to leave judgement and condemnation to him who alone has the right and wisdom to deal with principalities and powers!
The argument is from the greater to the lesser: that is; if Michael dared not give a railing word against Satan, how great is the insolence of these men who speak evil of God-ordained authority in whatever realm!
(Vs. 10.) These men, though they profess faith and piety, are natural men, without spiritual understanding. Men have a large share of natural knowledge of things physical, material, civil and even moral. But, being dead in trespasses and sin, they neither receive nor understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7). Therefore, like brute beasts, they speak evil of the ministers of the gospel, sit in judgement on the Scriptures, take upon themselves to govern and disrupt the church, and in general deal with the great mysteries and interpretation of spiritual things which they do not understand.
(Vs. 11.) “Woe unto them.” This is a declaration of deserved condemnation and a prediction of what shall befall them.
They have gone in the way of Cain.” This was the way of envy. Cain envied the acceptance of his brother’s offering. These men envied the gifts and success bestowed on true ministers. Cain’s way was the way of hated. He rose up and killed his brother rather than admit his own error.
“They ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” Balaam’s great error was covetousness, or an immoderate love for money. False teachers are usually motivated by a love for applause, filthy lucre, or self-glory.
“They perished in rebellion like that of Korah” (Num. 16:1-3). As Korah contradicted Moses and Aaron, these men oppose the ministers of Christ, whom they would discredit and cast out that they might themselves rule.
(Vs. 12,13.) Hypocrites, false teachers and religious opportunists are “spots in your love-feasts”! Early Christians evidently met together for feasts of fellowship, unity and brotherly love to encourage one another, to edify one another and to strengthen one another. These deceivers came among them to feed themselves, to promote their own positions and to sow discord.
“They are clouds without water.” They are compared to clouds for their great number, their sudden rise, their darkness, their stormy character, their elevating themselves in high positions and their being puffed up with pride, as well as their sudden departure and destruction. But mainly they are said to be clouds without water because, though having the appearance and promise of rain, they are without any grace, truth, or blessings.
“They are trees withered, without fruit, and twice dead.” They are without leaves that provide shade and without fruit such as grace, love, humility and joy. “Twice dead” seems to imply that they are not only dead in sin, as all natural men, but also judicially blinded or given over by God to a corrupt mind!
“They are raging waves of the sea.” This shows their great swelling pride and their frothy, showy, empty words, which are nothing but a noisy, empty, blustering ministry that ends in shame.
“They are wandering stars.” The reference is probably to falling stars, which dazzle the eyes for a moment with a sudden light and then plunge for ever into darkness.
Henry Mahan is pastor of
Thirteenth Street Baptist Church