Having written last Monday about Enoch’s prophecy of judgment against apostate teachers, let’s proceed to Jude’s concrete explanation of what lies behind their false teaching. To do so, we’ll look at verses 8-16 of Jude’s epistle and then examine verse 16 in particular.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (ESV)
As we see in verses 8-13, Jude has already made quite a case for God’s condemnation of these false teachers. And, in verses 14-15, he underscores his assessment by appealing to an ancient prophecy by Enoch. Now he reinforces his message with a final, and more direct, description of their character, using blunt,staccato phrases to emphasize his point.
Jude begins verse 16 by calling false teachers grumblers. This appellation indicates an attitude of finding fault with either God directly or with His ordinances. Several commentators I read believe Jude uses this word to refer back to verse 5, which in turn may allude to Israel’s grumbling in passages such as Numbers 14:27-35. The Numbers passage illustrates the judgment Israel incurred by grumbling against God.
Additionally, the commentators believe Jude is referencing verses 9-10 and the false teachers’ tendency to speak ill of authority figures and/or to directly rebuke Satan and his demons. As we saw in verse 15 last week, speaking ill of humans in authority essentially amounted to speaking ill of the Lord Who placed them in authority (see Romans 13:1-7).
These apostates grumble because they are malcontents. They find fault with God because they just plain don’t like their lot in life. Nothing satisfies them.
Their dissatisfaction leads them to follow their own sinful passions, as we remember from verse 4 and verse 7. In their commentary on Jude 16, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown observe: “The secret of their murmuring and complaining is the restless insatiability of their desires.” It seems like a logical conclusion. So often in 21st Century evangelical circles, we see sexual permissiveness erode doctrinal fidelity, sadly proving this very point.
Motivated by their passions, false teachers become, in Jude’s words, “loud-mouthed boasters.” MacArthur’s Study Notes helped me understand that these teachers have highly developed rhetorical skills, but their actual messages lack the substance of strong Scriptural content. As I read MacArthur’s notes, I thought of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 that insisted on presenting the Gospel in simplicity.
Finally, Jude says, apostate teachers flatter people in order to advance themselves. They show favoritism towards those who will benefit them, rather than than loving all people and ministering indiscriminately. Their favoritism exposes their selfish motives for “ministry.”
Verse 16 leaves no room to question God’s righteousness in condemning false teachers. And next week we’ll see that the Holy Spirit has prepared us for the inevitability that false teachers would infiltrate the church. I hope to show you why this preparation should encourage us to contend for the faith.