Study Notes

Jude 1:11-11


Jude is writing this letter to the church, warning us to contend for the faith against apostates in the church, and reminding us of how so many in the Old Testament fell into apostasy. He has told us that apostates are observable not by their appearance, but by their behavior: they are among us, yet live ungodly lives, using grace as a license to sin. They defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile angelic beings that they don't understand.

Now he says,

Jude 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

Maybe you're not familiar with these three men of the Old Testament. Let's review their respective stories.

1:11 The Way Of Cain

We first read of Cain in Genesis 4...

Gen. 4:1-12 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with {the help of} the LORD." And again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not {your countenance} be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you; you shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."

Why was Cain's offering not accepted? It is important to understand that a standard was set for Cain's parents, Adam and Eve when they sinned.

Gen. 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Gen. 3:21 And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

God, through example (and probably verbal instruction as well), told Adam & Eve specifically that...

Hebr. 9:22 ...All things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Adam and Eve instructed their children in this principle too, instructing them in the method of sacrifices to the Lord. Cain, however, decided to approach the Lord on his own terms, offering the fruit of the ground. But God doesn't want our labor. We cannot do work to find favor with God. Remember that sewing fig leaves hadn't worked for Adam and Eve in covering their sin. We absolutely cannot be saved by the works of our hands or the sweat of our brow. Romans 11 says,

Rom. 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

People who believe that they are going to heaven because they're a "good person," or because they do good things are terribly deceived.

Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

No one can boast before God about their righteousness, because none of us are righteous.

Isa. 64:6 ...All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...

The only way that sin can be taken care of is blood sacrifice. That is why Jesus said,

John 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

It was only the blood sacrifice of Jesus that enabled us to stand before God in righteousness. That is why Jesus said,

John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

If you reject the blood sacrifice of Jesus, you're thumbing your nose at God, who allowed His Son to be killed so that you could have your sins paid for. If you reject that sacrifice, God's wrath abides on you - there is no hope for you. God sees you as evil because you've rejected His loving gift. The apostle John wrote of Cain,

1John 3:11-12 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, {who} was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.

Cain's deeds were evil - he tried to approach God on his own terms. And trying to approach God in a way that has not been directed - trying to come to God apart from the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ - is an abomination to Him.

The Error Of Balaam

Next on Jude's list is Balaam. Balaam's story is told in three chapters: Numbers 22, 23, and 24.

When the Israelites camped next to King Baw-LAWK's kingdom, people got nervous. He sent messenger to a prophet named Balaam, asking him to come and curse the Israelites. Balaam said, "Spend the night, and I'll ask God about it."

Num. 22:12-13 And God said to Balaam, "Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people; for they are blessed." So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak's leaders, "Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you."

Everything would've been great had things been left as they were. But Baw-LAWK didn't want to take no for an answer. He sent more messengers, who were more numerous and distinguished than the last ones. This is where Balaam fell into error: He said, "Okay, I'll check with God and see if he tells me something else."

Num. 22:20-22 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise up {and} go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do." So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him...

Then we have the almost humorous account of Balaam's donkey. She could see the angel waiting to kill Balaam. She off the path and went into a field. Balaam hit her and she got back on the road. Then she pressed herself against the wall, pinning Balaam's foot. He hit her again. Finally, the donkey simply sat down under him. Again he hit the donkey.

Num. 22:28-31 And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now." And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No." Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.

Balaam had finally seen the angel of the Lord.

Num. 22:34-35 And Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back." But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I shall tell you." So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.

When God spoke only blessings through Balaam three times, Balak was infuriated. But Balaam said,

Num. 23:8 "How shall I curse, whom God has not cursed?

Think about Balaam for a moment - he spoke personally with God. He was given the gift of prophecy by God. Numbers 24 tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon Balaam from God.

But Balaam's heart was terribly divided - he was infatuated with the idea of getting rich. And although he could not curse in the name of God, he did get an idea... If Balak could put a stumbling block in front of the Israelites, then God Himself would be forced to curse them.

Because Balaam "loved the wages of unrighteousness (2Pet 2:15), he counseled Balak to tempt the Israelites with the women of Midian. This caused them to intermarry with the Midianites and fall into immorality and idolatry, bringing about the judgment of God.

In Revelation 2, Jesus says to the church in Pergamum,

Rev. 2:14 'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit {acts of} immorality

Balaam tried to get around God's commandment to gain wealth, and caused God's people to stumble in the process.

The Rebellion Of Korah

Finally, Jude lists Korah as an example of apostasy. We read about him in Numbers 16.

Korah was a Levite of the clan of Kohath, one of the ones who was working in the tent of meeting - basically one step below a priest. But Korah wasn't content with that position - he wanted to be elevated, he wanted to be powerful.

Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with 250 leaders of Israel, rose up against Moses' authority. They said, "The Lord is among us all. He's called all of us holy. Why do you get to be the big cheese around here? Why does Aaron get to be the high priest? Why do only his sons get to be priests?"

Moses said, "Tomorrow, the Lord will demonstrate who's who around here." They were to put fire and incense in their censers, and God would demonstrably show who was holy. The next day, God's judgment was swift and obvious:

Num. 16:28-33 And Moses said, "By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men, or if they suffer the fate of all men, {then} the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD." Then it came about as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah, with {their} possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Remember, as a Levite of the clan of Kohath, Korah was one of the ones who was working in the tent of meeting. He was basically just one step below a priest. But Korah wasn't content with that position - he wanted to be elevated, he wanted to be powerful. This is reminiscent of the Corinthian church. Remember Paul's admonition to them:

1Cor. 12:14-18 For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not {a part} of the body," it is not for this reason any the less {a part} of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not {a part} of the body," it is not for this reason any the less {a part} of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

Korah didn't like the fact that someone else had the "good" job, the popular position. He actually wanted to be in ministry, but his motives were for his personal popularity and power. He rebelled against the God-ordained authority, and was destroyed for it.

The Process

Now that we're familiar with these three men, Cain, Balaam, and Korah, let's look again at what Jude says:

Jude 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

You see, this is the process of apostasy: going the way of Cain, rushing into the error of Balaam for pay, and finally perishing in the rebellion of Korah.

Apostates often follow this path of process: God has been revealed to you in truth, but you go the way of Cain - you cease to rely on the grace of God to save you and begin to be "spiritual" on your own terms - not forsaking God, but simply "doing it your own way." I don't need to be in church, I can worship God in the mountains. I don't need to obey the Word of God, because He understands who I am and likes me as I am."

Then you begin to see the financial benefits of further compromise. "If I stop giving to the church, look at all the extra money I have!" Or, "if I just bend the truth a little at work, I can make more money," or, "Look at all these people in the church I can take advantage of! I'll be rich!" The love of money begins to overpower you, even if it means taking advantage of people in the church, ripping them off, or causing them to stumble.

Finally, you end up in the place that Korah found himself in. You actually believe that you're on God's side, that you are actually gong to be used in some sort of ministry, but in actuality, you are in outright rejection of the authority of God's ministers, and therefore in rebellion against God Himself. I firmly believe that many, if not most, church splits are caused by apostates just like Korah. And neither they nor their followers can see it. They actually think they're on God's side. And when your heart is that hardened, you're already dead. There is nothing in your eternal future but judgment.

This is exactly the process of apostasy that Judas Iscariot went through. And unfortunately, so do many in the church today. May we be ever diligent to approach God on His own terms, flee from the love of money, and show complete respect to those who God has placed in authority over us.

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