The Peril of Apostasy, Jude 4-19
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
Jude realized that the need was not so much to expound the faith as to rally Christians in defence of the faith. There had secretly slipped into the churches ungodly men who were immoral in life and heretical in belief; for other types of evil influence see Gal. 2. 4, 5; 2 Cor. 11. 26; 1 Tim. 4. 1. Jude describes these men and denounces their heresies. They are described as (1) ungodly, (2) perverters of grace, (3) denying the sovereignty and Lordship of Christ, 2 Pet. 2.1.
Apostasy Described, v. 4,—their craftiness, character, conduct and contention. An apostate is an ungodly man, destitute of reverential awe towards God. He may not be iniquitous, criminal or depraved, but is of his father the devil, John 8. 44. Even a born-again person may embrace some heresy, but cannot become an apostate. An apostate may have received light but not life. They deliberately reject the truth, 2 Thess. 2. 10; Luke 8. 13; 2 Tim. 3. 5. They refuse to submit to God, acting independently of, and in opposition to, God.
The grace of God has never reached their soul nor controlled their conscience. When grace is perverted into licence to sin, apostasy has come in. Theologians apply the name "antinomi-anism" to this phenomenon of lawlessness. These men argued that, since they were under grace, the law was irrelevant and its ethical demands no longer obligatory. They were marked by blatant immorality. They denied the Lord and Master in a two-fold way, in doctrine and in life, 1 John 2. 22-23. They denied His universal sovereignty, pre-existence, Saviourhood and Messiahship. They represent Him as a mere man neither pre-existent nor virgin-born, and deny the resurrection of our glorious Lord.
Jude diagnoses the malignant disease that saps away spiritual virtue even as a surgeon detects a hidden cancer that is depleting physical vitality.
Apostasy Dealt With, vv. 5-7.
History is devastating in its witness to the fact that ruin follows the corruption of truth. Jude begins his words of caution by a scriptural reminder, v. 5. He discloses the gravity of the dangers that threaten faith's fidelity, and shows the downward progress of apostasy, Tit. 1. 16. The things described in verse 4 are illustrated in verse 11.
The seven examples enumerated supply a solemn warning to us. The purpose is to deliver us from that careless state of soul which takes for granted that no harm can happen.
The Disbelief of Israel, v. 5b. Israel was highly privileged and began well, 1 Cor. 10. 1-4; but unbelief manifested itself when the time of testing came. They were saved from Egypt only to be destroyed later because of the corruption of their faith. Why did they disobey God? The book of Numbers depicts their attitude. They were governed by the lust of the flesh, the mind of the flesh and the will of the flesh. They despised the manna, they disregarded all the gracious deliverances given by God, and their presumption and unbelief ended in destruction, Heb. 3. 18, 19.
God is Sovereign to save and destroy, James 4. 12. As Christians we are instructed not to be ignorant of these things and not to lust after evil things, 1 Cor. 10. 6. Israel fell through infidelity and rejection of the provision and purpose of God for them.
Disobedient Angels, v. 6. This is the second picture from Old Testament history of past judgments upon apostates. Angels were marked by anarchy against God's sovereignty. Here is presumption in the supernatural realm. Their fall was due to pride, rebellion and lust for the forbidden thing. They were not content to keep the estate given them by God. They had their own initial distinctive order as purely spirit beings, but abandoned their proper sphere of dwelling by cohabiting with mortal women, Gen. 6. 1-6; "sons of God" in the Old Testament is useo exclusively of angels, Job 1. 6; 2. 1; 38. 7.
Giants in those days were the progeny of these unholy unions. Israel is spoken of as a son of Jehovah, Exod. 4. 22; Isa. 43. 6. The angels' assertion of self-will, and the assumption of independence, led to acts of self-indulgence unworthy of their elevated standing, leading to their downfall.
The lesson is clear for the arrogant false teachers. These angels were too arrogant to "keep" their position, so God "kept" them in punishment. We are warned not to be high-minded or haughty, for divine righteousness demands final retribution.
The Degradation of Sodom, v. 7.
Notorious for their sin, these cities were destroyed by the fire of God. The godless inhabitants of the plain have been a byword for infamy down the ages. The city of culture and commerce became the synonym for sensual corruption, and is proverbial to this day.
"In like manner" implies a resemblance to the sin of angels; there was a degradation of nature. Since these cities are mentioned in connection with apostasy, the inference is that they were guilty of this great sin. Sodom became a stronghold of the powers of darkness, the city of corruption, which ridiculed the restraints of righteousness and paved the way for the vengeance of eternal fire. Lot had to be rescued from the doomed city—a saved soul but a lost life. Our Lord foretold that the conditions prevailing in the last days would be as they were in ancient Sodom, Luke 17. 28-30. Gomorrah's godlessness was a fearful manifestation of the depths of depravity to which a degraded humanity can sink.
Apostasy is Defiant, vv. 8-10. Jude here compares the evil men of his day, v. 8, with the false prophets whom Scripture condemns, Deut. 13. 1-5. These prophets corrupt the nations and seduce the people from their loyalty to God. The false teachers failed to heed the warnings of history, vv. 5-7, seen in their "dreaming state" —as natural men who are spiritually asleep; their sexual immorality — "defile"; their insubordination — "despise authority", and their slander —"speak evil of dignities".
These moral lepers, stained with evil imagination and inflamed with inordinate desire, became more depraved than brute beasts. Vice and virtue, corruption and comeliness, can never harmonize in the same society.
Presumption is illustrated in verses 9-10. In contrast to those who despise earthly and heavenly dignities, Michael durst not rail, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee". He did not treat the devil flippantly, nor did he reply rudely to him. The false teachers despise and defy all authority and rail at things they do not understand. "Physically they became immoral; intellectually they became arrogant; spiritually they became disobedient to the Lord", M. Green.
Apostasy Displayed, vv. 11-13, in
the conduct and catastrophe of this trio; "Cain" —rationalism, "Balaam" —mammonism, "Korah"— anarchism.
"The way of Cain" is false religion. "The error of Balaam" is false ministry. "The gainsaying of Korah" is false worship and rebellion against God's authority", H. Ironside.
displeasure: cain. This is the way of envy, hatred and malice; the fatal fruit of it is murder. Trace the downward steps in the initial calamity of sin's entrance into the first family, Gen. 4. 1-7.
His offering revealed human thought as opposed to divine revelation. A religious natural man who rejects blood redemption.
His offence: human wilfulness as opposed to the divine will, v. 5. He resented the rebuke, because it wounded his pride and wicked jealousy.
His opportunity, v. 6: human pride instead of true humility.
His outrage, v. 8: human hatred as opposed to divine love. He even repudiated responsibility for his crime.
His obligation, v. 9: human hostility to divine responsibility.
His objection, v. 13, reveals remorse but not repentance; cowardice always cringes.
His outgoing, v. 16: human loneliness preferred to divine fellowship, he completely abandoned God.
His occupation, v. 17: human achievement without reference to divine standards.
His offspring, vv. 17-24, seemed to flourish without God but judgment overtook them.
duplicity: Balaam, the man who played a double game. He bartered between two masters, and perished in quest of the lure and lust of material renown. He was governed by greed and seduction, making merchandise of the things of God, Num. 22-24. He involved Israel in idolatry and immorality at Baal-peor, 31. 16. Balaam, and many like him in this generation, stifled his own convictions and led astray those directed to him. He represents a super-sensuous religion bereft of divine morality: "ran greedily after" like a torrent that has burst its banks. This describes the reckless godlessness, the price men pay as they rush after gain like Balaam.
defiance, korah. Here is a religion bereft of divine revelation. Numbers 16 tells of Korah's "gainsaying"; it consisted of his despising and resisting the authority that God had delegated to Moses and Aaron.
His selfish ambition, v. 3: "Ye take too much upon you". He was possessed of a domineering disposition and challenged the divine appointment, presuming to know a more suitable person for the task.
His self advancement, v. 10. He was not a priest, neither were any of his rebellious company. He rose up against the God-appointed way of worship. This has its answer in Unitarianism today. They need no mediator between God and themselves, for they believe that all men by nature are children of God.
This trio was against the Word of God. Cain ignored it; Balaam opposed it, and Korah rebelled against it. Apostates chose the way of Cain, instead of the way of Christ, the error of Balaam instead of the truth of Christ, perishing like Korah rather than the life of Christ.
The Apostates Character Described, vv. 12-16. They are marked by spiritual sterility, vv. 12, 13. Here are further characteristics of apostasy, telling of the selfishness, helplessness, fruitlessness, shamelessness and the hopelessness of apostates. "Hidden rocks", R.V., in their love feasts: wrecking them; shepherds feeding themselves, like the evil shepherds of Ezekiel 34. 2 neglectful of their flocks; "clouds" like sandstorms of the desert: empty, useless, unstable, Prov. 25. 14; autumn "trees" with faulty roots and rotten fruits; "waves": restless, unsettled, frothy, v. 13; "twice dead", once by nature, a second time by apostasy, visibly proved dead.
"Wandering stars", v. 13, from which no one can take reliable bearings, plunging into ever-deepening darkness and eternal destruction, Matt. 8. 12. Their shame and their deception reveal their lack of spiritual reality, Isa. 57.10.
Enoch's prophecy told of the doom of the opponents of truth. A judgment day is coming at Christ's second advent when every enemy will be destroyed.
The final count in this review of sin is having "men's persons in admiration", and how true this is today, Job 32. 21, 22. May we not be deceived and led astray by these ministers of Satan, 2 Cor. 11. 13-15.
Apostasy is Deluding, vv. 18-19. In
verse 16 we have three descriptive terms of things which blight humanity. Now they are asked to remember the past teachers of truth, v. 17. The apostles taught what the mockers would be like, and when they would appear. They scorn the teaching of the Word of God, and are led about with their own lust. In verse 19 is another threefold cord telling of their actions — "separations"; appetites —"sensual"; dominated by their senses and without the Spirit, having no experience of God. To be continued