recently, my daily reading brought me to the Book of Jude. i remember a note i took a couple of years ago concerning the need to study Jude though i had never gotten around to it. while reading, the purpose of this epistle is quickly ascertained; the infiltration of false teachers into the church. verse 11 wildly leaped out to me for further study, “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” (KJV, Tyndale 1987). i want to expound upon these three areas Jude points out as the motivation of “certain ungodly men.”
not much is known as to the identity and origin of the man named Jude. he introduces himself in the Book as the brother of James. other accounts have Judas listed as the son of James. some speculate he was one of the half-brothers of Jesus. several sources believe that this may be Thaddeus, as having the name Jude or Judas would have been taken in negative connotation by the other apostles and writers, prompting them to utilize a nickname. due to the extreme anonymity of this author, we cannot pinpoint an exact timeframe for the writing. still, it is estimated to be written sometime after the second letter of Peter, between 67 and 80 A.D.
that being said, within fifty years of the formation of the church, certain ungodly men preached for their benefit. they used their position and taught what the people wanted to hear to gain admiration. i compare this to doctrines of this day. men have removed scripture from their pulpits and taught what their seminary or traditions have passed down to them. i have been guilty of “preacher worship” and have had to repent. we like to be comfortable and not pursue all of the wonders that the Bible holds because we can’t fit it into our schedules. “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). this also applies to the Word of God, the best gift ever! “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). when is the last time you read the scriptures for yourself with respect and urgency at the coming of the Lord and the current condition of humanity? we read a verse, drink our coffee, and go back to binge-watching our show.
the first of the three motivations for false teachers is listed as “they have gone in the way of Cain.” the first murderer of the Bible grew envious when God accepted his brother’s sacrifice, and his was not. Cain brought a gift out of his garden, possibly not the most appealing assortment, and God knew that he could do better. was it the blood sacrifice that God was looking for? i’m not sure, but i know that grains were later accepted as tithes. the fault, and the way of Cain, was in his response. filled with jealousy, he killed his brother in much the same way as false teachers slander those whose righteous offerings are an offense to them. they want to be seen and regarded as the best but do not want to bring a proper sacrifice. these certain ungodly men have a persecuting spirit toward the brotherhood.
next, we have listed, “ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” Balaam’s story begins in the Book of Numbers, chapter 22. he was a prophet for hire. he could not curse God’s people on behalf of the wicked King, but he did divulge the information that Balak needed to tempt them into sin. the extent of his legacy is a talking donkey. the Pulpit Commentary relates Balaam’s greed and error compared to “men losing themselves in riotous excess for the sake of worldly advantage” and the “debasement of his character and perversion of his gifts.”
lastly, we read Jude describing “the gainsaying of Core.” gainsaying is translated as rebellion or treason. Core is Jude’s translation of the name Korah and refers to the uprising against Moses after the exodus from Egypt. several accounts refer to Korah being left out of the decision-making process. being an outspoken and prominent man, this began to grow a root of bitterness with him that would cause him to challenge the leadership of Moses. Korah convinced around 250 people to follow him, and they were all ultimately destroyed. he believed that Moses asked too much of them and convinced others to follow his example of holiness and worship. this insurrection was in direct violation of the holy ordinances established by God, not Moses, and the Lord punished them for their contempt. the way to approach self-thoughts versus divinely appointed authority is through the Word of God, prayer and fasting, and communication. if there is no conflict between the Bible and leadership teachings, you will do well to accept and support it happily. do not begin to recruit others to your cause, for “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Samuel 15:23).
Jude warns of these mockers who would walk after their lusts, but how are we supposed to protect ourselves from false teachings and to believe a lie? in verses 20-23, Jude describes a way of escape. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” it would seem to me that the way Balaam “ran greedily” or poured himself out (Strong’s 1632) to error, we are to inversely pour ourselves into the work of the Kingdom. we will not fall to deception if we’re praying in the Holy Ghost. if we are exercising the mercy and compassion of Jesus, we are making a difference and do not have time to jealous our brethren to the point where we murder their reputation. if we commit to pulling souls out of the fire, we will not let bitterness overcome the submission to our covering.
Jude ends his letter in verses 24 and 25, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” despite your very best efforts toward the work of the Kingdom, you may find yourself tempted or following a path that leads away from true doctrine. Jude’s words are encouraging in these times that Jesus can keep you from falling. remember, “let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4). when judgment comes, i pray that you have held fast to the truth, and he will “present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!”