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. (Jude 1:11 NASB).
In reading Jude this weekend, a new aspect of this verse jumped out at me. Notice within the verse, there is a progression. Jude found it necessary to contend for the faith and urge the saints to whom the letter is addressed to contend for the faith, and contend against “ungodly people who have crept in.”
Jude means people who are false Christians, and teachers who teach false doctrines. The ungodly always grow in satan and never grow in grace.
These ungodly people are not immediately noticeable. Why? They creep in. Creeping indicates stealth, a purposeful attempt at NOT being noticed. They do unseen damage to the faith meanwhile.
However they do not remain unnoticed forever. The ungodly are subject to a certain progression that is indicated in the Jude 1:11 verse.
First, they “go.” Going brings to mind John’s wonderful verse from 1 John 2:19.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Here is Strong’s on the word “go” in Jude’s verse–
to go: 4198 poreúomai (from poros, “passageway”) – properly, to transport, moving something from one destination (port) to another; (figuratively) to go or depart, emphasizing the personal meaning which is attached to reaching the particular destination.
The very act of going (out from the faith into personal sin or loving the world, or both) indicates they are likely ungodly. I say likely because sometimes we have a person who wanders briefly, a prodigal. Sometimes someone persists in a sin for a short time and seems to be going, but repentance and grace brings him back. (James 5:19-20). That’s why it’s important to be patient with those who are sinning, and it’s why the Spirit-inspired the writers wrote about the actions to perform within the church to help that person. If a brother truly is a brother or a teacher truly is of God and you go through the actions that Matthew 18:15 or Luke 17:3 and other verses tell us to do, and they repent, they will grow in grace once again and will not leave the faith.
If the person refuses to listen and persists in their ungodly way it will become evident. Cain’s example is not brought up simply because he was the first human murderer. Cain’s murder of his brother occurred after an internal wandering from the truth and a probable unseen-by-Abel rebellion against God. However it was seething inside Cain. Genesis 4:3 and Genesis 4:5 shows us this. When God addressed Cain’s sin directly, and in our case today, if a brother or sister or pastor might bring it up to the person, Cain’s rebellion, anger, jealousy, and hatred of God came out and was seen in his talk and in his subsequent actions.
We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:12)
Pulpit Commentary says of the Jude verse–
As in 2 Peter 2:15, the darkest passages in the Old Testament history are again appealed to. While Peter, however, refers only to a single instance, Jude introduces three, and prefaces the whole by a Woe! such as the Gospels repeatedly attribute to Christ himself. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain; rather, they went in the way of Cain. The phrase is the familiar one for a habitual course of conduct (Psalm 1:1; Acts 9:31; Acts 14:16, etc.).
But what is the point of the comparison? Cain is supposed to be introduced as the type of murderous envy, of the persecuting spirit, or of those who live by the impulse of nature, regardless of God or man. In 1 John 3:12 he is the type of all that is opposed to the sense of brotherhood, the murderer of the brother whose righteous works are an offence to him; but in the present passage he is introduced rather as the first and, in some respects, the most pronounced example of wickedness which the Old Testament offers – a wickedness defying God and destroying man.
Sometimes if I bring up something to a person gently and lovingly, even though I’d posed it in the best possible way and have the best possible relationship with the person, they become angry. If the person accepts what I’m sharing and after prayer and searching the bible they repent, I have won my sister. This is a great feeling because to me it is visible evidence of the grace of the Spirit working in Jesus’ Body. If the person remains angry and in fact become even more harsh or lashes out, (like Cain did) I know there is a deeper sin there. Wasps are fine unless you poke their nest. Look for the immediate and the subsequent reaction to a correction, it is the more telling part of the process.
The second part of Jude’s process of go-rush-perish is the break point. After a person goes the way of Cain, they begin to rush. Some translations say rush headlong. Here, Strong’s defines the word more clearly for us in the Greek–
to rush: pour out, gushed (1), poured (5), rushed headlong (1), shed (3), spilled (1).
The picture that comes to mind of the pouring out is of a river that once was held back, but then breaches a dam, and spills out everywhere in a tumble of a powerful rush, leaving destruction in its wake.
Pulpit Commentary continues exposition of the Jude verse, now focusing on the rush to Balaam:
And ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. The “error” in view is a life diverted from righteousness and truth. The verb rendered “ran greedily,” or “ran riotously,” is a very strong one, meaning they “were poured out,” and expressing, therefore, the baneful absoluteness of their surrender to the error in question…
Here, Hebrews 6:4-6 helps us. For the ungodly person to have wandered from the truth and then rushed headlong into unrighteousness and darkness and finally and absolutely is revealed to have succumbed to error, evil and sin, they cannot come back.
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
We are not talking about Christians losing their faith. No one who is a true believer will ever lose their place in heaven. (2 Corinthians 1:22). We are talking about the unmasking of the ungodly. Those whom we thought for a time were truly righteously saved, who looked saved and who acted saved but who begin to wander from the truth, don’t self-correct via repentance and don’t correct via a rebuke, and are seemingly suddenly not a believer anymore.
The final end of the people of which Jude wrote is that they perish. Here is the Strong’s definition of the word perish as it’s used in verse 1:11–
perish: 622 apóllymi (from 575 /apó, “away from,” which intensifies ollymi, “to destroy”) – properly, fully destroy, cutting off entirely (note the force of the prefix, 575 /apó).
Words like perish fully, entirely, and with force should engender a shudder from even the most mature and secure Christian. The fate of those who we decry, like Beth Moore, or Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen is a fate in which we derive no pleasure.
More to the point, for us today here are two take-away thoughts.
First as always we must check ourselves. Are we drifting from the Way?
For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I am not guilty of turning from my God. (Psalm 18:21)
When you pray, pray not only for the Lord to keep you in His statutes, but to keep you on the center line of His narrow Way!
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:27)
Second, after checking ourselves, check your friends and loved ones. Are they turning from the Way? Are they, as Jude warned, ‘going’? If it is a matter of a temporary swerve, snatch them back as of from the fire, as Jude said in verse 1:23.
Speak openly and honestly about sin, judgment and hell, so that sinners can flee it. ~John MacArthur
Sin is a process, sometimes it’s a process leading to a revealed apostasy. Sometimes it is a process that leads to a revealed glory of the Lord as He brings a wayward one to repentance and restoration. Read Jude and camp on it for a while. I’ll end as Jude does,
24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.