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.” ~ Jude 1:9-10
The warnings against false teachers continue. In this segment, the focus is placed squarely on authority and knowledge. Specifically, the text contrasts real authority based on real knowledge, versus false authority based on false knowledge.
WAR IN THE HEAVENLIES | “…The Lord rebuke thee.”
Upon Moses’ death, the devil tried to take Moses’ body for reasons not made clear to us. God dispatched the archangel, Michael, to secure Moses’ body and a dispute with the devil results. The key here is Michael’s approach. As an archangel, God imbued Michael with both great power and great authority. How would Michael go about using his authority in his battle with the devil? Michael, we are told subdued his own authority, relying on The Lord’s authority instead. In other words, Michael magnified Jesus instead of himself, even though he had the occasion to demonstrate his power and importance. When challenging the devil, it was more important to Michael to look to Christ Jesus rather than to himself.
Crucially, our text leaves out many details. And the reason for doing so is twofold. The first is simply to keep our focus on the main message of choosing humility over hubris.
The second reason for the lack of detail is to emphasize our own lack of knowledge. Nowhere else in Scripture gives us any insight on the details surrounding Jude 1:9. We don’t know why there was a battle over Moses’ body; we don’t know why God sent Michael; we don’t know when it happened or how long the dispute lasted. And since the details are not afforded us, we should avoid speculation (if the details were important for our spiritual growth, God would have provided them for us).
What is crystal clear, however, is how little we do know about the details of the spiritual warfare going on around us. We don’t know, BUT Michael did know. And BECAUSE of his knowledge, he depended on Christ rather than on himself.
WAR IN THE CHURCHES | “But these speak evil of those things which they know not…”
False teachers often claim “secret”/“superior” knowledge. This strategy is an old one, rearing its ugly head as far back as with the Gnostics who gained influence in the church within just a few decades of Christ’s ascension. And they might not have even been the first ones. Scripture warns against those who claim “special knowledge” that changes the gospel message presented in Scripture:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” ~ Galatians 1:6-9
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” ~ Romans 16:17-18
Jesus foresaw the problem that those who claim “special” knowledge would cause in the church. Accordingly, He makes it clear (Matthew 23:5-8) that ALL Believers have equal access to the truth and we are all on the same level, no one has authority over another; no one is superior to another. No Believer has knowledge that isn’t equally available to every other Believer.
“But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” ~ Matthew 23:5-8
No disciple can truthfully make any claim that by scholarship, or otherwise, he has elevated his knowledge beyond the reach of lesser disciples. The understanding of God’s Word, therefore, is solely due to the agency of The Holy Spirit. And, God’s Word is sufficient: no additional revelations are necessary.
No disciple is master over another. Rather, Christ is Master over us all.
Despite the teachings of Scripture, however, this error remains a major problem in the Church, from major organizations like the LDS (Mormons) to local congregations where the word of the pastor/bishop supersedes the teaching of Scripture.
How many times have we heard the special revelation “God told me…” followed by something that goes against the teachings of The Bible?
False teachers leverage their supposed special revelation/knowledge into authority: making themselves superior to the unenlightened. Since they have special revelation/knowledge it is easy to argue that they are most suited to lead/direct those who don’t. Unlike the archangel Michael, special revelation/knowledge leads to pride rather than humility; special revelation/knowledge leads to self-glorification rather than glorifying Christ.
Notice that since Scripture tells us that knowledge is available to ALL Believers, then any so-called special revelation/knowledge must be false; or in the words of Jude “…these speak evil of those things which they know not…”. God’s revealed truth is available to all disciples in His Word, The Bible.
We must fight to maintain God’s truth in our local congregations. We must oppose those who would claim to have knowledge and authority beyond that which is given to us in the Bible.
The archangel, Michael’s approach contrasts with that of false teachers. His knowledge led to humility: he yielded his authority to Christ. The knowledge claimed by false teachers leads to pride: they grab authority that is not theirs to have.
WAR IN THE ‘FLESHLIES’ | “…but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.”
The last clause in our text highlights the hallmark of false teachers: corruption. False teachers do not serve Christ, they serve themselves and therefore corruption is always the eventual result of their ministry.
“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” ~ Galatians 6:8
Things that are known naturally instead of spiritually are things of the flesh: our lusts. Having sown to their flesh, false teachers are eventually corrupted by their flesh and their ministries eventually demonstrate that corruption in the form of sexual sins, financial improprieties, power struggles (including nepotism) and so on. Just as brute beasts are subject to their appetites, so false teachers are eventually enslaved to theirs.
As much as Jude condemns false teachers, the real indictment is against those of us who allow them to flourish because we are too lazy to fight, too lazy to learn the scriptures, too comfortable with the status quo. There are no false teachers where there aren’t also lazy Christians. The Berean Believers were commended because they checked the scriptures to make sure that what Paul was preaching to them was indeed true: they were not lazy: they were dedicated servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should be careful to follow their example.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea… These were more noble… in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” ~ Acts 17:10-11