By James Cornwell
A Reading from Jude 1-16
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ:
2 May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.
3 Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these people slander whatever they do not understand, and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct. 11 Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are blemishes on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved for ever.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with tens of thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgement on all, and to convict everyone of all the 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 and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage.
Today’s epistle from St. Jude echoes many of the exhortations from St. Peter’s second epistle. It contains grave warnings against those who pervert the apostles’ teaching, promulgate erroneous doctrine, live licentiously. To illustrate the character of false teachers, he makes three allusions.
He first mentions Cain, whose infamous fratricide was motivated by pride in his own works and envy at God’s elevation of Abel. As St. Jude puts it elsewhere, false teachers “revile the glorious ones” and “revile whatever they do not understand.” They see their own works as deserving of glory and honor, and therefore their teachings are aimed at destroying others they see elevated above them.
This relates to the third allusion St. Jude employs: Korah’s rebellion. Korah was envious of the elevation of Aaron and conspired with various tribes among the Israelites in rebellion against the rule of Moses. Korah was wealthy and politically well-connected, and he enticed those among the Israelites with his promises of riches and political power to turn away from the will of God. In a like manner, false teachers “reject authority.”
And this flows into St. Jude’s second allusion: Balaam. Balaam is perhaps most well-known for his talking donkey, and also for his inability to curse the people of Israel despite being paid by the Moabite king Balak to do so. However, he is also credited in Scripture with advising Balak to turn Israelite men away from their God by fanning their lust for Moabite women. In a like manner, St. Jude’s false teachers “defile the flesh.”
These examples also underscore our need to be vigilant against false teachers (or worse, against becoming false teachers ourselves): Cain was marked as a murderer, the followers of Korah were swallowed up by the earth, Balaam was slain along with the Moabite armies. The end of false teaching is destruction. Instead, we should cling to the faith once given, resting in the hope of our baptism, in the love of Jesus Christ our Lord.
James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Igbomina (Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
Society of Mary, American Region