Honest and dishonest sinners

Jude - Twelfth in a series

Jude gives three final defining points about the mockers… who walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 1:18, 19)

Some commentators state that the concept of separating oneself from others in the church is to hold back from works of ministry whether by teaching or serving. Historically, at times certain tribes would not join in the larger effort to protect Israel. (Judges 5:16, 23)

Another, John Calvin, says, "He means that they separated from the Church, because they would not bear the yoke of discipline, as they who indulge the flesh dislike spiritual life."

It was not simply that they formed separate factions. Paul points out that there must be divisions in a church at times. The Lord uses differences in opinions to train us in good doctrine, for we must discern what is right in important questions. (1 Cor 11:18, 19) By hearing two sides we must choose, which is a strengthening action.

So, it was not simply that they held separate views; it was much more than that. Their lives were ruled by the flesh. To a new or non-believer, what does that mean? We all have flesh. We all have bodily urges and many needs to fulfill. We are all sensual to some end or desire and that is normal. So what is Jude's point? It is best summed up in Jesus' flat comment, The Spirit is what gives life, the flesh is of no use at all. (John 6:63)

The Spirit is God's Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, given to believers to enable them to live in Christ. All believers have the Spirit, but it is a different matter to be FILLED with the Spirit.

I once heard a sermon that gave four points on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wrote them down:

  • Put away all known sin.
  • Do not grieve the Spirit.
  • Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Be filled with the Spirit.

The first is not too hard to understand, and with the help of the Lord, not impossible to do. We are not conscious of many of our sins, so start with the things you are aware of. If you delay bringing your behavior in line with God's revealed will— the commands and enlightenment we are given in the Bible— you have made a choice to oppose God.

The second point reveals good things about God. Imagine, He is grieved if we fail to conform to his high standards. (Eph 4:29-32) Perhaps we envision him as angry, and this is true when people continuously rebel and commit extremely sinful deeds, but for the Christian trying to be obedient, taking one step forward and two steps back, the Spirit is grieved, an emotion attributed only to those who love us. Don't grieve Him further by giving up on your goal to make progress in your walk with the Lord; go back to step one-- put away your sin, and try again.

What is it to quench? Quenching is extinguishing a fire, to suppress, to stifle. Paul's instruction to the Thessalonians not to quench the spirit (1 Thess 5:19) was encouragement to stay strong in their devotion to Christ. The Spirit makes us zealous to serve and honor the Lord. We can put out this fire by being sensual and attending to the things that support the flesh rather than putting first God's kingdom and righteousness. (Mat 6:33)

Finally, seek greater fullness in your commitment to serve the Lord. We are told in Luke 11:13 that we must ask for the Spirit. Though we receive Him when we first turn from sin and confess belief in Christ, we need to continually be filled: Ask and you shall receive. Be earnest in your desire to have more life! (Eph 5:18; Ps 51:10-12)

The Christian is under strict instructions to be wholly committed and devoted to the Lord:

  • Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)
  • No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
  • Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Mat 8:28)
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:48)

Can the flesh assist us to fully give our hearts to God? No, only the Spirit can move us to zeal and total devotion.

The abundant life promised and flowing freely from Christ (John 10:10) requires being full of the Holy Spirit. The flesh comes under the rule of the Spirit, making it much easier to (mostly!) obey God's commands. And we are promised strength for this goal to follow Christ wholeheartedly: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chr 16:9)

The intruders did not have the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) Like the sincere Christians, they were sinners, but unlike them, they did not worry about putting away their sin. In that sense they were dishonest sinners. The honest sinner acknowledges failure and prays for help to be obedient. The dishonest one is settled in sensuality and sins willfully and without conscience. These ones are even more comfortable in their sin when they succeed in attracting followers. They honestly love it.

Sociopathic spots

Jude - Tenth in a series

Throughout his letter, Jude draws comparisons to Scriptural examples of those who turned from God and led others astray, but whether leaders or followers, all suffered the same consequences.

In verse 12 the ungodly men are described as spots: These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear… (Jud 1:12)

In the Greek, a spot is "a rock in the sea, ledge, reef; a metaphor for men who by their conduct damage others morally, wreck them as it were." (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon or bluletterbible.org) Peter uses a similar word, but his "spots" are related in the Greek to gluttonous men. (2 Pet 2:13) On comparisons between 2 Peter and Jude there is more to come in the next post.

Jude is warning that some who share in communion are impostors. In the early church the communion service was a larger meal than our current practice of tokens enjoyed within the confines of worship. Perhaps it could be likened to a church fellowship dinner.

The fellowship meal is the easiest place for believers to develop friendships with "spots." In a milieu of trust and love that follows common worship, people enjoy conversation and openness; but what if the common worship was not really held in common?

Yet, the impostors, or those claiming identity with Christ for deceptive motives, are very convincing, because they show no fear. In other words, they are without a conscience— or are they? Has God left any without a sense of what is right and what is wrong? When people call evil good, and good evil, (Isa 5:20), are they really convinced of their own lies?

Only God knows the answer to that question, but from the standpoint of living with others in an imperfect world, the answer is yes, they appear and act totally convinced, and it is not possible to reason with such people. Perhaps that is why Jude does not urge his readers to explain God's Word to the deceivers.

Instead, he simply advises believers to stay strong in Christ, and repeats Enoch's words to the faithful: 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. (Jude 1:14, 15)

The person without a conscience will, in the end, become convicted of his or her wrongs. But before that time, he can take away the righteousness of the righteous from him. (Isa 5:23 KJV)

Let us value Jude's warning, for anyone who falls under the spell of the charismatic sociopath will be judged, too. Wrong is wrong. So, stay strong, or become strong, because the Lord is coming!

And when He comes, a host will accompany him. Jesus told his disciples that his angels would be with him for the purpose of gathering his children. (Mat 24:30, 31; 25:31) Saints in the context of Enoch's prophecy, probably refers to angels as Holy Ones, not to people sanctified in Christ. At that time, departed believers will not yet have bodies, but soon thereafter, they will have. We can trust that a resurrection awaits. Stand firm in this belief, hope for the return of Christ, and be on the alert for ungodly, sociopathic fraudsters.

Note, Paul also uses the term saints to describe those with Christ at his return, however, he makes clear they are angels, not departed human souls (1 Thess 3:13; 2 Thess 1:7)

Enlightened by Cain, Balaam and Korah

Jude - Ninth in a series

Ready insight. That is what we get when comparisons are drawn to well-known characters. In Jude 11 we gain deep understanding of the ungodly men by considering three examples from Scripture of like-minded misfits.

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. (Jud 1:11)

The story of Cain brings out a number of traits of a man who would rival God.

  • Carelessly prideful - He did not show proper respect for God by his offering. (Gen 4:3)
  • Vain, temperamental - He was angry that his offering was unacceptable though Abel's had been approved. (Gen 4:5)
  • Obstinate - He did not value God's reproof and assistance to reform. (Gen 4:6, 7)
  • Self-willed - To act out his anger against God's remonstrances, he murdered his brother. (Gen 4:8)
  • Unrepentant - He would not confess his sin and by his words did not consider it punishable. (Gen 4:9)
  • Juvenile - When punished, he whined and moaned. (Gen 4:13)

This is not a man anyone would want to emulate or be likened to. Yet, he does model sins that we commit from time to time; at least, I know I do.

The ungodly men reminded Jude of Balaam in their goal to be paid for supposed religious or prophetic service. Balaam was approached by Balak, a Moabite king, to curse Israel as the nation neared the Promised Land. However, the Lord prevailed upon Balaam to bless his people instead. He was directly charged by the Lord not to curse Israel, and his donkey prevented him from spiritual blindness (Num 22:27, 28). The words he spoke to bless Israel are beautiful:

…from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations… Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! (Num 23:9, 10)… Surely [there is] no enchantment against Jacob, neither [is there] any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Num 23:21-23) … How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, [and] thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side… as cedar trees beside the waters… (Num 24:5 --)

Three times Balak urged Balaam to curse Israel, from one altar to the next, but Balaam instead blessed God's people and refused payment (Num 24:13), prophesying again of Israel's preeminence among the nations: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab… (Num 24:17) So, Balak and Balaam parted ways.

Then, after having been given the very words of God to bless Israel, and even though he had been in communion with the Lord in former times (Num 22:18-20), Balaam nevertheless revealed to Balak how to defeat Israel through luring them to eat food sacrificed to idols and to fornicate. (Rev 2:14) This advice succeeded to an extent, acknowledged by Moses (Num 25:3, 18; 31:16), Joshua (Jos 22:17), Peter (2 Pet 2:15) and John (Rev 2:14), as well as Jude. Balaam wanted his payment after all.

Thus, the evil men who infiltrated the church might find means of subverting some members. Perhaps, like Balaam, they knew God's mind to some extent, yet their motives were not pure. Maybe their proclamations would be successfully contradicted by strong pastors, but there is "more than one way to skin a cat." Where they failed in prophecy, they could succeed in persuasion by appealing to appetites so hard to deny.

In the early church of the book of Acts, the core group desired not to burden the new Gentile believers with regulations but offered four simple rules, two which recall Balaam's means of cursing Israel (Num 25:2, 3): abstain from meat offered to idols and from fornication. (Acts 15:29) The Moabites drew the Hebrews into idol worship by enticing them with meat, so tempting for men who had eaten only manna for nearly four decades. Then, once they had enjoyed the tasty and filling meal, their consciences could not find a reason not to fornicate, as part of the worship of Baalpeor… "Join our love feast!" For the early Christians, the two sins may not have been associated, yet either would gnaw away at conscience, leaving the soul to dessication.

The sin of Core, or Korah, was gainsaying, an old-fashioned word for contradicting or opposing. Core was proud of his ancestry. He was the great grandson of Levi. Why should he not rule along with Moses and Aaron who were his first cousins? (see Exodus 6:16-21)

Needless to say, ministry and calling have nothing to do with pedigree. The concept of men experiencing a call from God to the ministry is an important doctrine that needs to be promoted. While it is true that Christ's church is a "kingdom of priests," the man who would oppose a leader called by God must give good reason based on Scripture, not on personal opinion and boasting.

By considering the stories of Cain, Balaam and Korah, we will have discernment when imposters arise to trouble and harm the church and the body.