Dear radio friends,
Jude is concerned—very concerned—about the members of the church. Evidently, that against which Peter had warned in his letters was now coming true. Ungodly men crept into the church and now were having a large impact on the members of the church. The faithful were being influenced by the lifestyle and teachings of these lascivious men. It is for that reason that Jude is strong in his denunciation of these men. In the last several verses he likened them to the worst of sinners. They were like the wicked Israelites whose bodies fell in the wilderness on account of their unbelief. They were like the fallen angels who had rebelled against God and were now reserved in chains under darkness. They were like Sodom and Gomorrah, cities that were defiant in their horrible sexual perversions against God. And the judgment and ultimate punishment that fell upon those sinners would fall also upon these ungodly men that were plaguing the church of Jude’s day.
The same is true of those who in unbelief indulge in such sins today even when they go under the guise of Christianity. These are reserved by God, ordained by Him, unto this condemnation. Their punishment is sealed. Jude brings this up, of course, so that those weak believers who might be apt to follow them in their sins might be sufficiently frightened by their end.
Now Jude proceeds to explain to the church just how horrible the sin was that these men were committing. He uses the final example of Sodom and Gomorrah mentioned in verse 7 and presses home his point in verses 8-10. These are the verses we consider in today’s broadcast. They read: “Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. 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.” These ungodly, lascivious men were defiant in their disobedience against God and His Son, Jesus Christ. They blasphemed them, railing on the power and glory of Jesus Christ.
THE DEFIANCE OF FOOLISH DREAMERS
I. Their Open Defiance
In our last broadcast we were careful to point out that the prevailing sin of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah was their defiance against God. The apostle Paul, in Romans 1, condemns the sins that characterized these people. He writes in the last verse: that they, knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such sins are worthy of death, not only do them but take pleasure in others that do them. Such is defiance: when a person challenges the right and authority of God to command him. He challenges the power of God to destroy him for doing what he does. He believes that God is powerless to command and to punish. It is this sin, Jude writes, that characterized the ungodly men who are now in the church plaguing it with their sin.
Notice how our text begins: “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh.” In other words, Jude writes, “Just like Sodom and Gomorrah these ungodly men in the church defile the flesh.” Just as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah defied God by carrying on in their sinful behavior with no fear of God, so also these men defy God. This revealed itself in this, first of all: they despise dominion. What that phrase means is that these men refused obedience to the One who rules. In other words, they despised, they rejected, the rule of Christ in their lives. They denied the Lordship of God and of Christ. This goes back to what Jude writes at the end of verse 4, “denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” They refused to acknowledge and bow before the rule of Jesus Christ. That was their act of defiance.
And in that connection Jude adds: they speak evil of dignities. The Greek word for dignities makes reference to glories. As such it refers to the glorious attributes both of God and Jesus Christ. They mock, scoff at, deride the attributes of God and Jesus Christ that make up Their glory. Again, in short, this means they not only ignore the rule of God and of Christ, but they mock Them in Their rule. They blaspheme the attributes of God.
Now this needs a bit of explanation in order that we might understand what the defiance of these men was. You see, it was not as though they were wandering about from house to house railing on God and on Jesus. These men were disputing with faithful church leaders, including Jude himself no doubt. They were arguing against other faithful members of the church as well. In these disputes those who were faithful to Jesus Christ and to God pointed out their error by pointing them to who God is and who Christ is. These men wished to contend that God was a God of love who did not judge them and frown on them in their chosen lifestyle. When they were pointed to the truth that God was also righteous and had established His commandments and in His justice would judge men according to the standard of His law, these men vehemently denied God. When pointed to the truth that God was holy and demanded that we be holy as He is holy, these men spoke evil of this glory of God’s holiness. In this way these men were speaking evil of the glory of God and His attributes. And when it was clearly pointed out that they were denying the very reason Christ had come into this world, that is, to deliver us from the sins of our flesh and to make us holy, they would deny such a Christ too. In this way they were despising Christ’s rule or dominion. They made mockery of the God and the Christ they were called to serve by denying the God and Christ of Scripture.
Jude describes this haughtiness, this defiance, in this way in verse 10: “But these speak evil of those things which they know not.” Of course this was true of them. When God’s people are saved in the blood of Christ, their hearts are changed by the Spirit of Christ in them. They come to know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. That knowledge gives them an understanding of Christ in all His rule and all the glorious attributes that characterize Him as God. That is a given. These ungodly men in the church were still lost in the darkness of unbelief. They were reserved by God in those chains of darkness. This means there was no true knowledge of who God is or who Christ is. This is why they spoke evil of those things that they know not. They did not know God. They did not know Christ. They did not know of their dignities, that is, their glorious attributes. They did not truly know what it meant that Christ ruled over them, exercised dominion over them. They did not know Him as their Lord and Master.
Because there was in them no true knowledge of God, no true faith, these men could readily mock and scorn God’s people when they appealed to God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice, or when the saints argued that Christ ruled in sovereign power over His people and demanded of them that they walk in holiness as well. Today too there are many who claim to be Christians but who know nothing about God. They talk of God as a God of love who would not hold anything against anyone. God is not offended by what we do, but loves us unconditionally. Love overrides all. But there is no knowledge of how God’s love stands in perfect harmony with God’s holiness and justice. And we can go down the list of God’s attributes. Many insist that God is not immutable. He changes His mind. God is never angry. God does not send the bad things of this life. There is a prevailing ignorance of who God is and therefore who Christ is too, and what Christ has truly accomplished for us in our sanctification.
Because they do not know God, because they are not truly converted, because Christ does not work in their hearts by His Spirit, they defile themselves with fornication, giving in to their sexual appetites and then saying, “Don’t judge me! Jesus is my Savior! I am not ruled by laws! I am free to walk in the way I feel, and don’t you dare judge me!” That is what Jude refers to when he says in verse 8 that they defile the flesh. He simply makes reference back to their lasciviousness.
But we ought not to overlook the relationship between this and the phrases following. While defiling themselves with the sin of fornication, they despise dominion and speak evil of dignities. Their sin of licentiousness—their lack of sexual restraint—led them to blaspheme God and the work of Christ.
Jude accurately describes this defiling of the flesh in the latter part of verse 10: “But what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” Jude wants us to take a step back and truly examine what is true of those who walk in open fornication in all its forms. They are as brute beasts, that is to say, they are as irrational beasts, animals that do not have the faculty of reasoning. But animals do know what to do sexually in order to reproduce. God has created that knowledge in them naturally. These ungodly men had no true knowledge of God. But they did have a knowledge of what it takes to reproduce sexually. But in these things, God’s Word here tells us, they corrupt themselves, they destroy themselves. By means of defiling their flesh they work for themselves condemnation before God for which they will be destroyed. Again, we cannot overlook Jude’s scathing condemnation of the sin these men who had crept into the church were committing. Jude loathed their sin because God loathes this kind of sin. Certainly, this comes as fair warning to our society. But also to the sinful flesh in us that is attracted to this sin so prevalent in society and in the church of today.
II. Their Utter Foolishness
In their disputations against the saints these ungodly men went to an extreme. There is a point when debating the truth of a matter a person can go beyond the limits of proper debate. Perhaps that person becomes angry and is filled with hatred toward the one with whom he carries on a disputation. Then he begins to make accusations that are not true but with which he rails on another. This can be true of those who have the truth on their side as well as those who do not. The example Jude uses in verse 9 of our text addresses the way that these ungodly men handled themselves in their dispute with the church. They brought railing accusations against the saints, the church, and really against God Himself and Christ the Lord of the church.
The saints were called by God to contend for the faith. This they were doing. They disputed with the heretics in the church. But during the course of their dispute their accusers began to rail upon them. They did not use sound reasoning, but they accused the faithful falsely. Instead of using arguments to defend their point they went on the offensive and began to accuse the faithful of wrongdoing. The railing accusation that was brought against the church was this: the church was guilty of unloving condemnation of others. The church was judgmental and harsh. The laws of Moses were abolished by Christ. Now these hard-nosed people do not let others live in their liberty.
Jude brings to light the utter foolishness of this type of argument by bringing up the example of Michael in his disputation with the devil. The devil is the great deceiver. His name means liar. The devil uses every device available to argue against the truth. The disputation the devil had with Michael the archangel was over the body of Moses. Now, this example Jude raises needs some explanation because it is not recorded anywhere in Scripture other than here. That does not make what Jude writes here spurious or questionable. Jude simply draws from something that was common knowledge among the Jews. Satan disputed—not with God, of course. Who could argue with God? But Satan argued with Michael, one of the chief angels among the rank and file of good angels who defend the cause of God’s people. We read the account of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy 34. God led Moses, a perfectly healthy man at the age of 120, onto Mt. Nebo and there took the earthly life of Moses. The death of Moses is indeed unique. God took Moses’ life and then buried him in a valley of Moab. Yet, no man knows where God buried Moses. Neither may we think of this burial by God as God carrying the body of Moses to a grave and then burying him. God is not a man. There was no human burial. Not only was Moses’ death unique, therefore, but also his burial. Something took place with the body of Moses that would cause the devil to contend with Michael over that body. The only explanation to this is that Moses’ body was not given to see the corruption of the grave. Through the special death and burial of Moses, God must have prepared the body of Moses to be received up into heaven—just as God had done with Enoch in translating him and Elijah who, body and soul, was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire.
This would be the reason for the disputation the devil had with Michael. The devil argued that God had no right to keep Moses’ body from the corruption of the grave or to be taken into heaven. He had no right because the ground of a person’s resurrection is that of the death and resurrection of the Savior. Christ earns for God’s people the resurrection and the life. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our bodies cannot be raised. Well, in the Old Testament Christ had not yet come and accomplished that work in His resurrection. So the dispute. Satan accused God of unrighteousness. Of course, we know better. God sees us righteous in Christ from eternity. He chose us eternally in Christ. He viewed the Old Testament saints in the blood of the coming Messiah. But Satan disputed that. If Satan indeed could thwart God’s eternal plan and Christ would not accomplish salvation, then Moses’ body had no right to be in heaven already.
And his argumentation from that point of view, though fallacious, nevertheless held some weight. For that reason Michael refused to bring railing accusation against Satan but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” God will deal with you as He sees fit. God may not be questioned. He will indeed rebuke you. But these ungodly men in Jude’s day were fools. They had no fear of God before their eyes. In their foolishness and error they did bring railing accusation against the faithful in order to make themselves appear to be right. One receives the impression that they took the attitude that the louder they talked, the more right they would appear in people’s eyes.
III. Their Wicked Dream
But these men were dreamers! They thought that what they were standing for was true, though it was not true, just as when we are dreaming we think something is reality when it is not. These men foolishly argued for something that was as false as false could be. It was not reality. They were dreamers. They believed that defiling the flesh was perfectly fine though it stood blatantly against God’s law. This is why we say their dreams were wicked dreams. What they thought was right was contrary to the law of God. And their railing accusations against those who were faithful were empty threats.
But there was one other way these men were dreamers. They believed that they were not going to meet with condemnation or punishment for what they did. Jude says that in those things in which they commit such folly they destroy themselves! They witness against themselves and their destruction is sure. No one who speaks out against the God and the Christ of the Scriptures will escape destruction.
Again, we find in this a word of encouragement to the saints. These men may in their disputing despise Christ’s dominion; they may speak evil against a holy and just God. Their arguments might bring accusations against God’s faithful. They may attempt to dispute with us in order that they might continue in their sin. But we need not be intimidated by them. They seal their own destruction in this way. And God will indeed preserve His church—but that in the way of contending for the faith.