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.
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.
Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” ~ Jude 1:5-8
Previously (Jude 1:3-4), Jude explained how false teachers distort the concept of divine grace in order to lead Believers into sin. Now, in vv. 5-8, Jude uses three examples to reveal the nature of sin so that Believers are better able to see behind the façade presented by false teachers and false doctrines. (Many of these themes are also covered in 2 Peter 2 in very similar fashion: revealing, therefore, the importance of this subject for the church.)
In 1 John 2:16, John argues that sin falls into three categories.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” ~ 1 John 2:16
Jude makes the same argument, but, through three examples, adds illuminating detail as the three categories are applied specifically to the problem of false teachers and false doctrines: “believed not” (The Lust of the Eyes); “kept not their first estate” (The Pride of Life); “giving themselves over to fornication” (The Lust of the Flesh).
Let us examine these examples to grasp their implications for the battle against false teachers and false doctrines.
Rejecting God’s Perspective | The Lust of the Eyes
“…the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” ~ Jude 1:5b
The event Jude refers to in this verse occurred when the Hebrews refused to enter Canaan, The Promised Land, because giants lived there (Numbers 13-14). God told them He would give them victory over the inhabitants of Canaan, but they did not believe Him. The people disbelieved the ability of God, who had parted the Red Sea, defeated the mighty Egyptian military, and won numerous battles on the way to Canaan. They believed their eyes, in their present circumstance, more than they believed God, despite what He had done for them in the (recent) past.
By trusting their eyes more than God’s “eyes”, they denied God’s deity. If human eyes are more trustworthy than God’s “eyes”, then human perspective—i.e., the human view of life—is also superior to God’s perspective: mankind can “see” better than God can. Consequently, God is not sovereign: man is sovereign.
The fundamental problem with those Hebrews was not their fear of giants. The fundamental problem with those Hebrews was their unbelief in God.
As a result, except for Caleb and Joshua, who both had believed, God did not permit any of those Hebrews to enter Canaan (Numbers 26:64-65). Instead, over a forty-year period, every one of them was destroyed, leaving their children to inherit The Promised Land.
It is important to note that though the time-period certainly seems long, they did not die “natural deaths”; for both Caleb and Joshua remained strong and lived for several more years. God could have sustained the rest likewise, but He removed His blessing from them; only keeping them alive long enough to successfully raise a new generation to be their replacements.
Application. False teachers would be foolhardy to enter a church/Christian-group and tell Believers to stop believing in God. Such an obvious attack would easily be repelled. Instead, false teachers/doctrines encourage Believers to trust in their own understanding: to believe what they can “see”. Accordingly, when the culture claims that evolution is true, false teachers encourage Believers to see the creation account, in Genesis 1-2, as just a story, not something to be believed literally.
Alternatively, Believers are encouraged to stretch the creation account to make it accommodate evolution. Why? Because we “understand”, i.e., we can “see”, that evolution is “true”. So God’s Word—and, therefore, God Himself—becomes subservient to man’s understanding. And so, by that way of thinking, God is no longer sovereign.
The lust of the eyes is not just wanting the things we see/perceive as desirable. More fundamentally, the lust of the eyes is relying on our perception of reality as a more valid, more trustworthy, source of information than God’s Word. When Eve was tempted to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, she was attracted by its beauty and, in assessing what to do with the fruit, she valued that information as superior to God’s instruction not to eat it. She trusted her eyes, her perception, her understanding more than she trusted God’s Word. Hence, she ate the fruit, she sinned (Genesis 3).
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” ~ Proverbs 12:15
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” ~ Proverbs 14:12
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” ~ Proverbs 21:2
To resist false teachers/doctrines, we must stop relying on our eyes, our perception, our understanding to determine how to navigate life. Instead, we must put our trust in God’s eyes, God’s perspective, in God’s Word. If God is really sovereign, if God really does exist, then His perspective is far superior to mine and, therefore, it would be absolutely irrational not to trust Him.
Rejecting God’s Preeminence | The Pride of Life
“…the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, [God] hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” ~ Jude 1:6
In this verse, Jude gives us a glimpse into the heavenly realm. As revealed in Isaiah 14 and Revelation 12, satan and the angels who supported him, tried, unsuccessfully, to take over heaven. They rebelled because they were not satisfied with the domain (estate) of authority to which God had appointed them. So they left their appointed jurisdiction (their habitation), in search of a higher dominion of their own choosing.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” ~ Isaiah 14:12-15
This was the pride of life: the rejection of authority in order to determine one’s own position in life. Those angel’s did not want God to rule over them, they wanted to rule over themselves (or to choose their own ruler). They wanted to be the architects of their existence; they wanted to chart their own course through the universe.
Application. Again, in using this example, Jude reveals the subtlety employed by false teachers/doctrines. False teachers/doctrines would never try to teach Believers to rebel against God, to attempt to become God themselves (though there are some pagan religions that teach that). Any false teacher would be laughed out of the congregation with such an approach.
Rather, as Jude shows us, their approach is much more cunning. Instead, false teachers/doctrines teach Believers that if they have enough faith they can do anything they want. Typically, this false tenet arises from a deliberate distortion of Christ’s teaching as shown below:
“And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” ~ Luke 17:6
However, false teachers/doctrines omit the attendant Scriptures which complete the teaching, such as
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 7:21
In other words, faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed, must be employed to accomplish God’s will, NOT man’s will. Therefore, Believers cannot exercise faith in God to accomplish their own desires. One cannot by faith in God make oneself rich, or make oneself healthy if those outcomes are not God’s will.
Moreover, there is no Scripture that states that all Believers should be materially wealthy and physically healthy. On the contrary, Scripture emphasizes spiritual wealth and spiritual health. We know many saints were poor (2 Corinthians 8-9); we know Paul had an infirmity (2 Corinthians 12); we know Jesus Christ had no place of His own to “lay his head” (Luke 9:57-58).
Nevertheless, this false teaching is quite successful and even endemic in modern churches. It is appealing because it gives the illusion of self-determination. It seduces believers into thinking that they, through exercising so-called faith, can define their own limits for their lives:
If they are poor, they can “faith” their way to wealth, according to their own wills.
If they are sick they can “faith” their way to health, according to their own wills.
All the while ignoring the fact that God plays the decisive role in all outcomes. And disregarding that Christian living is ALL about yielding to God’s will.
“Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” ~ James 4:2-3
Undoubtedly, the Bible teaches us to exercise faith. However, that faith is not to be exercised to accomplish our wills. Faith is not to be exercised to take us out of God’s will for us. Faith is not to be exercised to have us leave our first estate, to abandon our God-appointed habitation. Rather, faith is to be exercised to accomplish God’s will for us.
Faith is to be exercised to excel in the habitation in which God has ordained us. No one comes into the world by accident. God has appointed each soul to a unique set of circumstances and limitations and opportunities. God intends that we navigate through life from that starting point by faith and in accordance to His will, not ours. God defines our goals and God defines the path by which we get to those goals.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, he heareth us:” ~ 1 John 5:14
Rejecting God’s Proprietorship | The Lust of the Flesh
“…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.” ~ Jude 1:7
In this verse, we are reminded of the extreme depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, Jude points out a particular result of their depravity that is sometimes overlooked. The men of Sodom were aware that the “men” who were visiting Lot and his family, were not “normal” men, i.e., that they were strange (i.e., different, not human) flesh. The men of Sodom knew that they were really angels.
In the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in Genesis 19, the men of Sodom wanted to rape Lots visitors. But they miraculously made all the men of Sodom blind, in an effort to disable the mob that had surrounded Lot’s house. This awesome miracle surely made the men of Sodom aware that Lot’s visitors were not regular men. But, disturbingly, this display of God’s power did not dissuade them; as the persisted throughout the night—in their actual physical (and spiritual) blindness—trying to find the door to Lot’s house, so that they could break in and fulfill their heinous plan.
Even though stricken with blindness, the men of Sodom remained entangled in and driven by their disgusting passions. They were completely given over to the lust of their flesh.
The fact of owning or the legal right to own something
However, beyond the nauseating perversity of the men of Sodom, is the complete irrationality, even ridiculousness, of their behavior. Firstly, the men of Sodom could have fulfilled their evil passions among themselves, there was no functional need to go after “strange” men. Secondly, being struck with blindness should have caused them to rethink the wisdom of their actions: if the “strange” men had the power to strike them all blind, surely they might be able to do something even worse.
Jude, in this example, highlights both the depth of their depravity and the absurdity of their behavior. The men of Sodom had ceased thinking and were totally given over to their flesh. They had elevated the urge of the flesh over the surge of facts before them. They had dismissed the rightful ownership that God, as the Creator, had over their entire being. They had disregarded their obligation to serve God with their bodies.
“Know ye that the LORD He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” ~ Psalms 100:3
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” ~ Romans 14:7-8
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Application. False teachers and/or false doctrines often lead to sexual immorality of some sort. One reason for this is that many false teachers/doctrines promote appetites as “natural” and “God-given”. Thus, they teach that the curbing/limiting/controlling of appetites is “unnatural” and “ungodly”.
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of [the false prophet] Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel… to commit fornication.” ~ Revelation 2:14
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication…” ~ Revelation 2:20
To make this drivel palatable, it is necessary that false teachers/doctrines first de-emphasize both the knowledge and the authority of the Scripture. It is easy to prey on Believers who do not know God’s Word.
In our present context, congregations are currently very vulnerable because there is generally a tremendous deficiency in the knowledge of God’s Word (The Bible). Indeed, young Christians are especially vulnerable because they typically know even less Scripture than the rest of their congregations. Therefore, they are often the first victims on which false teachers feast.
Believers with little knowledge of Scripture have no anchor to keep them steady, safely moored, when the winds of false doctrine blow.
“Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land… My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: ” ~ Hosea 4:1, 6a
“Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge… ” ~ Isaiah 5:13a
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
To overcome the lust of the flesh and the false teachers/doctrines that promote it, we must know God’s Word. And, rather than give in to our appetites, we must subdue them so that they are under God’s control and fed in ways prescribed by Scripture.
Our appetite for sex is given to us to be used in marriage as an expression of love, and with consideration for our spouses.
Our appetite for food is given to us to gain sustenance to strengthen us physically to do God’s work. Over-eating often disables us from being able to do God’s work; especially when we get older and our bodies begin suffering the consequences of our excesses. There are pastors (and laity) that had to retire early because of ill-health directly resulting from obesity/gluttony. God still had a purpose for them, but they were unavailable as a consequence of their flesh.
Our appetite for rest is provided to enable us to physically perform God’s work. And, just like over-eating, slothfulness has deleterious consequences on our health, which over time make us less available to do God’s work.
By God’s grace, and through the knowledge of His Word, we must never allow our appetites to enslave us. We must never become so subjugated to our appetites that we seek to feed them at all costs.
“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” ~ Romans 6:19
Lust of the Eyes or Lust of the Flesh?
It is useful, at this point, to highlight the distinction between the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. The lust of the eyes has to do with human perception. It involves processing information and making value judgments. The error therein lies in two implicit assumptions:
- That the information gathered is complete and accurately represents the truth;
- That we can correctly process the information gathered to determine the truth.
Both assumptions are fundamentally incorrect since we cannot always gather and/or correctly process all the information due to our innate geographic, temporal, intellectual and spiritual limitations. Paul, for example, tells us that Believers are in a spiritual battle with rebellious angels in high places (Ephesians 6:10-20). We have no innate means by which to access this spiritual world and the only weapons we have are provided by God: Faith and The Word.
Conversely, the lust of the flesh has to do with bodily appetites. It involves feeding bodily impulses without Godly limitation. In its most fundamental forms, the lust of the flesh manifests itself in unabated appetites for sex, food and/or rest, which result in the corresponding sins of sexual immorality, gluttony, and/or laziness (slothfulness). The lust of the flesh does not inherently require/involve thoughtful reflection (i.e., the processing of information). Hence, for example, people will knowingly eat themselves into sickness. Similarly, the men of Sodom were undeterred by blindness in their dogged search for sexual thrills.
Nevertheless, despite their differences, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes, often work together to lead us into sin. For example, in Genesis 3:6, Eve was attracted to the fruit by all three.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” ~ Genesis 3:6
Another example is substance abuse, which starts out as a lust of the eyes, the body has no need for drugs, so drug users begin by making a judgment on its value. After they start using the drug, however, most become chemically dependent on it and it becomes a lust of the flesh, which is usually very difficult to overcome, even when they no longer regard it as valuable/beneficial.
Finding False Teachers | Fingering False Doctrine
Our text closes (v.8) with a summary of the work of false teachers, who are referred to as “filthy dreamers”. False teachers “defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities” (Jude 1:8). In other words, false teachers promote carnality, reject God’s authority and denounce men/women of God.
“Dignity” generally refers to someone to whom glory/honor has been imparted because he/she belongs to God and is empowered by God
The presence of false teachers/teaching in a congregation of Believers can be determined by carefully observing the lifestyle/conduct and values of the members.
Are members of a congregation preoccupied with their flesh? After meetings/services, do members take the time to fellowship, to encourage each other to discuss God’s Word? Or is everyone usually hurrying off to get to restaurants or to attend to other appetites?
In the decisions of members of a congregation, who has the authority? Do people refer to their opinions, or the opinions of others, as the deciding factor? Or do the members refer to Scripture? Is it “This is what I think…” or is it “This is what The Bible says…”? How can we claim that God has authority in our lives is we don’t know what He says (His Word) and/or we don’t do what He says?
Who are the leaders of the congregation? Are the godliest men in the highest positions of leadership? Or are the leaders ones with no more knowledge and/or application of Scripture than the rest of the congregation? Are the leaders living exemplary lives or is their conduct questionable?? What value does the congregation place on the godly (those who know God through His Word, and practice God’s Word in their daily lives)? Does the congregation promote the godly or ignore (or even denounce) them?
False teachers/doctrine can be identified. The only remaining question is whether or not we care to identify them and contend for the faith. It is easier to go along with the status quo than to challenge it. And standing up for truth requires that we ourselves know the truth.
However, to fail to contend for the faith is to be derelict in our service to Christ. Christ calls us and has gifted each Believer (Ephesians 4) in order to edify (to build up, to strengthen) the church. Therefore, to the extent that we fail to do so, is to the extent that we have abandoned our calling.