The Heretics journey – Jude 11-16

Let me set a scene for you: Colorado Springs in 2006. This is a Christian haven, some would say: The home of more than 300 churches and over 300 Christian non-profits.  Places like Focus on the Family, the Navigators, and The World Prayer center call Colorado Springs their national or international headquarters. Given that reality, what I am about to describe is quite remarkable.  In a six-month period there were 5 pastors in town who hit the news for a variety of reasons.  One pastor came out as an openly practicing gay man, another was caught in an affair, a third was being investigated for possible embezzlement, a fourth was found to have been actively using pornography but the one that made national headlines was a man named Ted Haggard.  He was the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the founding and lead pastor of New Life Church, a mega-church that rivaled some small cities in size.

Mr. Haggard was found to have been sexually involved with a male prostitute and to have a drug addiction.  Five pastors all with serious allegations and/or revelations about their conduct.  I bring this all up, because a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article about Mr. Haggard and his return to ministry in Colorado Springs.  It caught my attention for the quotes of his it contained.  Let me read a few,

In the episode he refers to as “my crisis.” But Mr. Haggard also said that in his sorrow and shame, he accepted too much guilt after the scandal broke.

“I over-repented,” he said.

He dismisses as a “witch hunt” the findings of his former church that he engaged in a pattern of misconduct, including sordid talk and inappropriate relationships. (He said his only fault was cracking a few crude jokes.)

“I cuss now,” he said proudly.

“It’s amazing. People tell me everything,” Mr. Haggard said. “That never happened when we were respectable.”[1]

In fact he goes on in another online article to berate his former church and their worship practices, a church he started and a church that anyone familiar with its inner workings knows that nothing happened without his knowledge, permission and guidance.  Now I cannot judge a person’s heart and neither can you, but I smell a skunk.

Listen to these words from Jude 11-16,

11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.  12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead.  13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.  14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  16 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

Jude has been combating godless men, specifically drawing attention to their lifestyle as one of the marks of their faulty doctrine.  He has reminded his readers that these men are sinners condemned to judgment and so to follow them is insanity, but now he ups the ante and compares them to three representative false teachers in the Old Testament and he is going to follow this up by drawing out 4 allusions from nature to tell his listeners abut the value of these men to the church.

The three archetypes are Cain, Balaam and Korah.  This is where we need to brush up on our history.  Cain and Abel were brothers and sons of Adam and Eve.  Cain brought some produce to God; Abel brought fat of the firstborn of his flock (Gen 4:3-4).  God accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s, to which Cain becomes angry.  The key to the story lies in Genesis 4:7ff, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Jude accuses the godless men of taking the “way of Cain” and that way is a rejection of doing right, it is an embracing of sin, a being mastered by it.  It brings about scheming and trickery, lying and murder, a lack of remorse; in fact it is a cursed way and from Cain’s lifestyle comes a line of arrogant, independent, sinfully boasting people.

Add to this biblical account of Cain, the legends that grew up in Jewish literature that Cain was the prototypical sinner and the instructor of all ungodliness, and in many places he is even called the first heretic and you have quite an insult being cast. To this is added a charge that these men rush for profit into Balaam’s error.  2 Peter 2:15 tells us about those who [They] have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. Peter then goes on to describe the acts of these Balaamites if I may call them that.  They (2Pet. 2:18) mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.

Again if you recall the story of the Exodus journey, after leaving Egypt the Jews are wandering in the desert and the Amorites attack them and are destroyed.  Well, Balak, king of Moab is scared and so he summons Balaam to come and curse the Israelites so that they can be attacked and overcome.  (You can read the whole story in Numbers 22.)  Balaam refuses to go the first time because God tells him not to, but when the return a second time with a sweeter pot (more gold, silver and jewels), then he goes back and talks to God about it again and he heads off with these Moabites.  But along the way, Balaam’s donkey acts rather uncanny and eventually speaks to him as he beats it for failing to walk.  It is at this point that the Angel of God appears and says, (Num. 22:32) “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.”

Now the story never directly goes on to tell us what is reckless, but judging by Jude and Peter’s words, the desire for wealth, no matter what the moral cost is dangerous.  In fact, while the Old Testament story leaves us with the impression that Balaam fully obeyed God for he goes and blesses Israel 5 times, Jesus himself paints an entirely different picture of Balaam in Revelation, speaking to the Church of Pergamum, he says, (Rev. 2:14) Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.

According to rabbinic tradition and these words of Jesus, Balaam was so eager to get the gold that he went on to counsel Balak how to overcome the Jews by leading them into sexual immorality by sending naked beautiful women into their midst.  And again, where Cain was the original heretic in Jewish thought, Balaam was seen as the opposite of Abraham.  Where Abraham was seen as being righteous, Balaam was a “man with an evil eye, a greedy soul, a haughty spirit and destined for hell” (PirqeAbot 5:22).

These are two pretty serious charges so far (rejecting right and counseling wickedness), but that is not all.  There is the third, Korah’s rebellion.  Korah and his followers were Levites upset with being relegated simply to serving in the temple.  They also wanted to serve as priests.  Here are their exact words, (Num. 16:3) They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy; every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” And from this charge, they band against Moses, but here is the verdict, (Num. 16:11) “It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together.” And from this the ground opens up and swallows them and fire falls from heaven and consumes all those allied with them (Num 16:31-35).

By rebelling against God, Korah and his followers assured their judgment.  They were the first schismatics who challenged God’s authority in the nation and just as they died, so Jude says, the godless men have assured themselves of destruction by challenging God’s authority again, specifically by transgressing the moral law and righteous living God expects of his people.  Three invectives, powerful ones, like calling someone today a “Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jimmy Baker.”  Most pastors wouldn’t take kindly to the allusions, but Jude isn’t finished yet.

He goes on to assert that these godless men are blemishes.  This is really a poor translation; a better translation would be to call them rocky reefs.  They are hazards in the ocean which all Christians ought to steer clear of otherwise they are liable to be shipwrecked upon their rocky points.  Furthermore, these men feed only themselves.  They are selfish, hedonistic egotists.

They are clouds without rain and trees without root or fruit.  Essentially Jude says godless men and women, godless teachers whose life doesn’t match the life of integrity that Paul lays out for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy and Titus are useless and worthless to the church.  In a desert country like Palestine where the clouds form over the ocean and appear to be coming toward the land only to pass by without dropping their life-giving rain, so are these men.  They raise hopes but provide nothing of refreshing value.  Where trees are to bear fruit for sustenance and nourishment, these men bear nothing worth feeding on.  In fact their lack of Christian fruit condemns them and should serve as a warning against following such teachers.  Jesus himself said, You will know a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:44). And godlessness, sexual immorality, the denial of Christ, the making light of spiritual truths and realities are all fruit by which we can judge whom we should follow and whom we should avoid.

But godlessness and heresy bears the fruit of wild waves of the sea which causes impurity to rise up and become evident to everyone.  Instead of bring health to the church, instead of bringing benefit, these teachers bring harm and filth, much like the Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandals continue to churn up the rank depravity of her teachers.  So too are these kinds of teachers wandering stars, irregular phenomena that if you follow them will lead you nowhere and will disappear abandoning you in a wilderness desert.  Imagine trying to follow a shooting star, or a meteor.  If you do, eventually it will disappear from sight and you will be lost and that star will not relight itself to lead you back from whence it came.

Jude has been drawing attention to the fact that Doctrine and morality are integral things.  We must watch what we teach and we must watch how we act.  And we must watch what we allow to be taught and how we allow people to act.  These things matter.  Does it strike anyone odd that a man caught in heinous sins, now says that he over-repented, is proud that he cusses and rejects the findings of his own church in regard to his moral integrity?  If we skip verse 15 for a moment and move on to verse 16 this makes total sense.  These godless men are (Jude 16) grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

But should we reject this teaching, and should we seek out teachers who tell us everything is okay and who make our sins appear to be normal and even excusable, then our judgment awaits us on another day and if the warnings of Jude serve as any indication – that judgment will not be nice.

People of God, Sin is insidious. It is dangerous.  It is not to be toyed with or trifled into. IT must be exposed and rejected.  So what is the message of encouragement in this passage?  It is found in verses 14 and 15.  Here Jude refers to Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam.  According to Genesis 5:22, 24 “Enoch walked with God…Enoch walked with God then he was no more, because God took him away.” Enoch is the first righteous man in his generation to escape death.  Now Jude quotes from outside the bible again with these prophetic words of Enoch “See the Lord is coming…to judge everyone and to convict all the ungodly…” (1Enoch 1:9, Jude 14-15) of all their ungodliness.

Enoch was looking forward to the day of Jesus.  You see, Jesus was the first and only righteous man in any generation to conquer death and defeat it forever. And Jesus is the one who will judge everyone and convict all men of their sin.

The good news, the encouragement for us is that judgment is coming and so is conviction.  Everyone will experience judgment, either in this life or in the next. If we don’t experience it in this life we can be assured that judgment and conviction await us in eternity as the negative examples have served to illustrate the past few weeks.  BUT, if we repent and believe, if we live a life of righteousness and avoid the sins of these godless men, if our hearts have been changed and immorality disgusts us, if Christ is dwelling in us and testifying to his lordship and sovereignty comes naturally, if proclaiming truth and hearing it proclaimed is of utmost importance then we are experiencing judgment and conviction in this life and Jesus assures us that this is the work of the Holy Spirit in us now (John 16:8).  And to all those whom the spirit has been given, a promise has been made: He will come back: [He] put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2Cor 1:22).

And what is that guarantee:

The forgiveness of sins – When Jesus called Paul, he gave them this charge: Acts 26:17-18 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Life eternal – John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Righteousness – 2Pet. 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The Holiness of Christ. – Rom. 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

1Cor. 1:30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

And that seems like a good place to end, for Christ is our righteousness, holiness and most importantly our redemption and he causes us to flee from all sin and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  [So] Fight the good fight and take hold of the eternal life to which your were called when you made the good confession (1Timothy 6:11-12). Let you doctrine and you life be an example to the world of Christ’s redeeming work.

[1] By Stephanie Simon, July 24, 2010 “Humbled Haggard climbs back in pulpit”

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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