Respect for the Devil

Jude - Eighth in a series

Jude's statement in verse 8 (see previous post) that the ungodly men speak evil of dignities is elaborated in Jude 9 and 10: 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.

The apostates are experts in their knowledge of man's lower nature but lack spiritual discernment and so they underestimate the real power and strategy of Satan to ruin man and the church.

Had they godly wisdom, they would emulate the archangel who would not personally exhort Satan but stood behind the power of the name of the Lord, which is what we all should do when contending with the devil and his minions.

Because this story about Michael disputing with Satan about the body of Moses is not found in Scripture, commentators have despaired over Jude, as explained by Albert Barnes, a 19th century American Presbyterian minister:

This verse has given more perplexity to expositors than any other part of the Epistle; and in fact the difficulties in regard to it have been so great that some have been led to regard the Epistle as spurious… It has been supposed that the apostle quotes an apocryphal book existing in his time, containing this account, and that he means to admit that the account is true. Origen mentions such a book, called The Assumption of Moses, extant in his time, containing this very account of the contest between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses. That was a Jewish Greek book, and Origen supposed that this was the source of the account here. … Jude here refers to a prevalent “tradition” among the Jews… he has adopted it as containing an important truth, and one which bore on the subject under discussion. In support of this, it may be observed… there were many traditions of this nature among the Jews. (Mat 15:2) Though many of these traditions were puerile and false, yet there is no reason to doubt that some of them might have been founded in truth… an inspired writer might select those which were true… Thus Paul refers to the tradition about Jannes and Jambres as true history. (2 Tim 3:8).

According to Daniel, Michael was one of the chief princes (Dan 10:13), who helped the angel fighting against the princes of Persia and Grecia (Dan 10:20, 21). That nameless angel came to support Daniel in answer to his prayers, and revealed a store of prophecy to him. (Dan 10:14) Thus, we know that angels may be privy to God's mind, and it is no wonder that men at times desire to look to angels for special vision and support. Yet God has clearly stated that we should pray only to Him for guidance and help. If he should send an angel in response to our cries, that is his purview.

We do know that Michael was Israel's protector (Dan 12:1) and that he wrestled against Satan.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him... Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short! (Rev 12:7-12)

How much longer will Satan be permitted to execute wrath on earth? Did Jude ever read John's Revelation? Is there an angel watching over you right now?

We can't know every mystery or even every fact, but we must know the important things and on these we will stand. We need to understand the deadliest threats to the faith and the church which Jude reveals.

Three rebellious types

Jude - Seventh in a series

Three rebellious types are outlined in Jude 5-7, and verse 8 pegs each of the types. This is a history lesson to refresh the memories of those who "once knew this" (Jud 1:5), that is, Jews who would recall their Scriptures, so it seems likely that Jude wrote to fellow Jews who had claimed Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

It is important for any with prior Bible knowledge to remain mindful of truths he or she has known and to build on them daily; otherwise we will become as those who forget and shrink back (Deut 4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11, 19). But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb 10:39)

The three rebellious types are:

  1. The Israelites of Exodus who "believed not"
  2. The angels who broke from their appointed realm
  3. The Sodomites of Sodom and its surroundings.

In reverse order, verse 8 describes each type: they

  1. defile the flesh
  2. despise dominion
  3. speak evil of dignities.

These descriptions are like "Wanted" posters for the rebels who have crept in to the church. If we can identify the outlaws in our midst, we can avoid being taken as their hostages. So, let's take a close look at each one.

Jude 5: I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
Israel's exodus from Egypt was accomplished by a series of miraculous judgments, ranging from swarms of frogs, lice, flies, locusts and grievous hail to massive darkness, and worse, that did not affect the Jews but only the Egyptians. Then, their journey across the dry river bed of the Red Sea whose waters engulfed the pursuing army; the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that led their way; heavenly food rained down for sustenance; water pouring out of a rock for their refreshing — what privilege!

Even so, while Moses was on Mt. Sinai communing with God for forty days, they turned to worship a golden calf made from jewelry they had been given by the Lord as their plunder of the Egyptians for repayment after serving as their slaves. For this rebellion, 3,000 were killed, and none of the generation that continually doubted were permitted to enter Canaan. (Num 14:22, 23; 1 Cor 10:1-5)

Jude is saying that these Jews are analogous to those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus and either saw Christ or knew those who encountered him after his resurrection. How many miracles does one need to experience to secure his faith? Those who have stood near to Wisdom and Light will be judged more severely. (Mat 12:42) This is pointed at the intruders and to any believers who might be drawn away by their provocations.

In Jude 6 we read: And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
This verse may refer to Genesis 6 where the extreme evil in the world that was wiped clean by Noah's flood is explained thus: And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose… (Gen 6:1-4) There are varying views on this passage. Some commentators state that the "sons" referred to were Seth's lineage, but others point out:

  1. Cain's progeny could not have had all the good-looking gals,
  2. the same term is used in Job to describe the angels including Satan (Job 1:6),
  3. the unions produced giants, and
  4. the wickedness on the earth became so massive so quickly that a nearly universal elimination of humankind was necessitated.

We cannot know how the angelic intrusion into earth's marriage beds was "fleshed out" so to speak, but Jude makes plain that God has power to put an end to all such rebellion. Likewise, for any Jew or Gentile who either grew up or came to understand the boundaries of God's laws and then broke away and began tempting others to depart from God's dominion and join in their rebellion, condemnation is assured.

Some commentators explain that Jude 6 refers to the angels who accompanied Satan in his rebellion. (Isaiah 14:12-14; Rev 12:4). On the other hand, the Revelation passage could have reference to Genesis 6. In the Bible, some mysteries are not fully explained.

The connection to Genesis 6 is supported by 2 Peter 2:4, 5, For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell, and delivered [them] into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly... This seems to associate the chaining of the rebellious angels to the time period prior to the great flood.

Jude 7 states: Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
This reference makes plain that the infiltrators of the Christian fellowship were sexual offenders in some aspect. They are described as lascivious (Jude 1:4) and as filthy dreamers (Jude 1:8).

All sexual sin explodes in a flood of tears for the repentant, and a raging, eternal fire for the reprobate.

How to contend for the Faith

Jude - Sixth in a series

The reason Jude gives for writing his letter is to encourage his readers to contend for the true faith, however, nearly the entire text of Jude describes the "certain men crept in unawares." (Jude 1:4)

Verse 4 reads in full: For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are no pointers given in Jude on how to contend for the true faith, as we have come to expect from Christian seminars on evangelism or apologetics. Instead, Jude will advise simple steps to maintain ones personal faith and ones standing in the church: build up your faith by praying in the Spirit, keep yourself in God's love, and maintain a serious focus on the eternal life to come in the one who is all mercy. That is all.

It is possible to contend for the faith once delivered by setting a good example in loving God and man, enabled by prayer assisted by the third person of the Trinity, while cherishing eternal life. Yet, in your simplicity and peaceful hope, know you will be challenged. Perhaps you will be undermined by certain people in your own church!

Since the earliest days, unbelievers have filtered in among the ranks of God's soldiers. Christ warned about the ones who did not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbed in by some other way. (John 10:1) The Lord alone is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), and those who enter by a side door to preach a different gospel (Gal 1:8) are thieves. A broad range of such people come to mind, but for our study, we will consider the "ungodly" ones that Jude warned about (vs 4, above).

Three initial points are made about these:

  1. They were before of old ordained to this condemnation.
  2. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.
  3. They deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

By God's superintendence of Scripture, Jude's very first point predicts the ultimate destination of those who design to ruin God's faithful ones. They are under a sentence of condemnation.

These men have warred on God in two ways, as Enoch described, (Jude 1:15) 1. by their deeds, and 2. by their words or "hard speeches" (rough, offensive).

There is assurance in knowing that rebels are under severe judgment. If they were not, if there is no difference between right and wrong, then there is no meaning in life, but there is.

Question: Are these men reprobate in the theological sense of the word? That is, have they crossed the line beyond which there is no turning back? Is there such a line? Though this question leads on a rabbit trail relative to our focus for this post, it is important to answer.

Is Jude saying that these men were predestined to condemnation? Or, have they simply incurred God's condemnation by their deeds and words? The concept of foreordination to condemnation is a difficult one. If God elects some, does he also choose to pass over others? The Westminster Confession says Yes, based on Scripture (John 6:64, 10:26, 8:47; 1 John 2:19; Mat 11:25; Rom 9:17-22; 2 Tim 2:19, 20; Jude 1:4; 1 Pet 2:8). Recall though, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart when God did not harden it for him (Ex 8:32, et al).

All people have choices, and we can cry out for help to stop behaving rebelliously, or we can choose reprobation, a state from which few ever emerge. We do not know the lines God draws and why. We do know he shows lenience for some and takes into consideration many circumstances. We do know it's impossible to stop rebelling without the help of God, so the best thing to do if you find yourself in a contrary lifestyle is to cry out for God's help. He hears the cries of the lost and has great mercy on weak sinners.

Thus, when Jude points out the need to snatch some from the fire (Jude 1:23), he could be referring to the rebels, not just those affected by their influence.

In two ways, these rebels qualified for judgment: 1. they convoluted the concept of grace by lascivious permissions, and 2. denied the lordship of Christ.

True freedom and abundant life in Christ grant power to overcome sexual lust, gluttony, addictions and consequent falling into worse sin. When we are saved, we are released from bondage to sin and thus from the law because we are enabled to obey God's laws by his Holy Spirit. To say this new inner reserve gives us license to practice the sin we were delivered from is to confuse the cure with the illness or to seize upon deliverance as a sign of privilege rather than mercy. But God is not a God of confusion; sin is bondage and deliverance is amazing grace that right-minded people cherish rather than test or despise.

Anyone who equivocates and engenders such confusion is denying that Jesus has the right to require his followers to be like him, righteous. They co-mingle his mercy with the deadly toxin of self gratification. They deny Jesus Christ is Lord, the only God.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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