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Jude 11: Old Testament Apostates, Cain, Balaam and Korah

Jude 11, “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Jude 11 NLT “What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.”

Jude has already given us three examples of apostasy, Israel, the angels that rebelled, and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Jude associates the sin of these apostates with three Old Testament apostates. Each of their lives was characterized by a particular sin that marked them as men who opposed God and misled God’s people. They knew God’s truth, but willingly rejected it!

“Woe” a cry of intense distress, displeasure or horror. It may convey a warning of impending disaster to the hearers. It is an interjection denoting pain, discomfort, and unhappiness.

“The Greek word for “woe” is ouai–it is hard to translate for it includes not only wrath, but also sorrow. There is righteous anger here, but it is the anger of the heart of love, broken by the stubborn blindness of men. There is not only an air of savage denunciation; there is also an atmosphere of poignant tragedy…It is the accent of sorrow, the accent of one who offered men the most precious thing in the world and saw it disregarded. Jesus' condemnation of sin is holy anger, but the anger comes, not from outraged pride, but from a broken heart.” –Barclay

The Apostate Cain:

Verse 11a: “The way of Cain,” the murderer of his brother Abel.

1 John 3:12, “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Genesis 4:3-8, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”

Cain, apparently was a religious man, but he was a natural men, overly proud of his own achievements as a “tiller of the ground” which God had “cursed.” He had no respect for God. He rejected God's instruction about offering an animal sacrifice and as a farmer offered fruit from his fields to God. This was a false offering, with no meritorious value before God. Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God (a sacrificial lamb) a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.” Hebrews 9:22, “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”

Cain is a type of a religious, natural man who believes in God and religion, but after his own will, and who rejects redemption by blood. Compelled as a religious teacher to explain the atonement, the apostate teacher explains it away.

“To Hebrew thinkers Cain was the cynical, skeptical, atheistic, materialistic unbeliever, who believed neither in God or the moral order of the world, and who, therefore, did exactly as he liked.” –Barclay

Jude warns against any such presumption, especially now that we can freely come to God through His own perfect “Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Cain became bitterly angry when God “had not respect” for his offering.

Cain was the first apostate. He tried to come to God by another way. In our day the blood sacrifice has already been made when Jesus sacrificed Himself on Calvary. God's purpose in giving them the instruction of offering an animal sacrifice was to fore-shadow the coming promised Messiah. Cain rejected the blood in an attempt to save himself by the work of his own hands.

We are faced with the same problem today. In our pluralistic society, tolerance is expected, even demanded, and the concept of freedom of religion, which permits all religions, is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that all religions are somehow equally true. They say, “All paths lead to the same God,” as if they have traveled all of them and have come back from the destination. They are not tolerant of those narrow-minded Christians who believe there is only one way, and they object to evangelism, for example, as an insulting attempt to change the beliefs of other people. Yet they themselves want to change the beliefs of people—those who believe in only one way. What does God say?

John 10:9-11, (Jesus said) “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Apostate Balaam:

Verse 11b: “Have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit…”

What do you want on your tombstone?

•W.C. fields, “Better here than Philadelphia.“

•”See, I told you I was sick.”

•My dear mother-in-law, “Her children arise up to call her blessed.” Followed by the names of her children.

•”Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin.”

•“Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”

(1 Peter 2:15).

How would you like to be remembered as a person who caused an entire nation to sin? And you did it for money!

The story is found in Numbers chapters 22-25. The narrative is that Balak, the king of Moab, offered Balaam a large reward to curse Israel. Balaam’s name in Hebrew means, “destroyer of the people.” When he could not curse Israel, he came up with another diabolic plan, sending the women of Moab into the camp of Israel, bringing immorality into the nation, and thereby corrupting and bringing the judgment of God upon them. Failing to turn God against His people, he attempted to turn the people against God.

Another point needs to be made here. This very well could have been an attempt to corrupt the line of Messiah. By the way, all of the men who corrupted themselves with Moabite women were put to death as the Lord ordered Moses to do (Numbers 25:1-6).

Like many of today’s Christian leaders, Balaam had an appetite for money, and success and a desire for recognition. 2 Peter 2:15. “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” He willfully embraced error in spite of the Lord’s warnings and with clear knowledge beforehand that he was doing wrong. In so doing, he foreshadowed the likes of the foolish teachings of those theological liberals.

1 John 4;1-3, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

2 John 9 MSG, “Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.”

The Apostate Korah:

Verse 11c: “And perished in the rebellion of Korah.

The judgments visited upon the Israelites served for a time to restrain their murmuring and insubordination, but the spirit of rebellion was still in their hearts and eventually brought forth the most bitter fruits. Now a deep-laid conspiracy was formed, the result of a determined purpose to overthrow the authority of the leaders who were appointed by God Himself.

Along with Korah in this rebellion were two-hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation who were said to be “representatives of the congregation, men of renown.”. They were highly respected men. And also, along with them, were Dathan, Abriam and On, men who were not Levites; but who were in clear sympathy with Korah’s rebellion. Because of the renown of the men involved—and because they represented a large sector of the congregation—this truly was a dangerous rebellion!

Numbers 16 records the details: Korah, one of the rich leaders of the Levites, and a cousin of Moses and Aaron, felt that he had been slighted and overlooked in the distribution of the highest priestly honors and leadership. So he rebelled against God’s leadership. He envied Moses and Aaron, and also his cousin Elzaphan, who had been put in charge of the Levites, after Aaron's family had become elevated to the rank of Kohanim (Priests). Realizing that despite his riches and influence he alone could do very little to shake the people's faith and confidence in Moses and Aaron, Korah looked for associates in his campaign against them. Korah tried to intrude into that which is sacred, in effect he asked Moses, “Who died and made you God?” or “Does God only speak to Moses, who does he think he is?”

Apparently, Korah thought that he could do a better job leading the people than Moses. But by leading this revolt against God’s divinely appointed leaders, Korah was actually revolting against God. Numbers 16:11, “Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord.” Moses proposed a test to prove the source of his authority. Korah and his followers did not pass the test, and God opened up the earth and swallowed the rebels, their families, and all their possessions. Furthermore, “fire came out from the LORD” and consumed the other 250 men who were party to Korah’s rebellion. The rest of the Israelites were terrified and fled (Numbers 16:31-35).

Please allow me to bring this same principle over to your local church. As a pastor, I have pretty much heard it all! “Who do you think you are, God Almighty?” “Who put you in charge?” One church board said to me once, “We let you do the bulletin, what more do you want?” I believe the Bible teaches that the church is to be led by Elders. But an Elder is a qualified pastor. There is no Scriptural authority for deacon rule, committee rule, or any other counsel or society that has authority in the church, only the pastor.

Listen to God:

Hebrews 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” The pastor is God’s appointed leader.

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”

1 Timothy 3:2, “Sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…”

1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.”

Titus 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound[d] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

1 Peter 5:2, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly.”

These verses teach that God-called pastors (the same office is called elder bishop and overseer have authority over the church. Christians (members) are to submit to this authority. When I honor and submit to them, I am not submitting merely to a man; I am submitting to the Lord and Chief Shepherd of the church.

The church with which I was affiliated as a new believer had a governing counsel. On that counsel were forty-five members of the same family. Well, I guess I had been a Christian for about a year, still wet behind the ears, so to speak. Our youth pastor came to my home quite often to ask me to pray with him that God would remove the pastor. I didn’t know any better so I went along with him, after all he was a Bible College graduate, and I was just a year away from being an atheist. Then a meeting was called of the governing counsel. It was a two-hour meeting where everyone sat around tables, drank coffee and criticized the pastor. As I was leaving the building that night our pastor looked at me with tears in his eyes, and quoted Luke 22:31, where Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Then I wept and determined that I would never again attack a man of God! It has been almost sixty years since that night and I have tried to practice the sincere vow I made that night!

What are the responsibilities of the pastor?

A pastor has the responsibility to shepherd and teach the church (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11,12; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

A pastor has the responsibility to protect the church from false teaching. (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; Titus 1:9-13). They must have the final decision concerning what is taught and by whom, and must judge all things that are taught to make certain it is correct (1 Corinthians 14:29).

A pastor has the responsibility to oversee the entire ministry of the church. (Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Peter 5:1-2). The pastor is the vision maker, he sets the direction. The church officers are the ones who facilitate the vision. The pastor in essence says, Follow me as we follow Christ.” The officers assist in determining the method by which the church accomplishes that goal.

These three apostates:

The Apostate Cain believed if you have religion you do not need anything else. He was a religious man who tried to come to God in his own bloodless way. Cain had religion, but he did not believe in salvation by faith, through the blood of the Lamb…“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

We are not saved by our religion. “Someone may be thinking ‘I thought God invented religion!’ Sorry, but God invented Man and Man invented religion. A relationship with God cannot be found through religion. In fact, religion is the biggest roadblock to seeking a relationship with God. Religion is simply Man trying to reach out to God by doing something that he thinks will please God. If I can do enough, say enough, pray enough, give enough, sacrifice enough perhaps God will show me favor” –

The Apostate Balaam sold his influence and ministry for money. 2 Peter 2:15, “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” The way of Balaam was a readiness to prostitute his high spiritual gifts and privileges for “The wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:14). (Being willing to preach something contrary to God’s Word for personal gain).

The error of Balaam was evidently his willingness to compromise his own standards of morality and truth in order greedily to accommodate those of his pagan patrons.” –

The Apostate Korah unsuccessfully rebelled against God’s appointed leaders. The rebellion of Korah demonstrates the grim consequences of usurping the authority of God and of those whom He has chosen to be leaders of His people. The real lesson of Korah appears to be lost on many in today’s church. Spirit filled leaders are hard to find!

Korah’s rebellion against Moses is a sign, a lesson for us today. Serve the Lord with all your heart and mind, being content with the gifts that God has given you to serve His people. Shun those men of renown who struggle for political power, get away from their tents, because God’s judgment is coming on them. “Quick!” he (Moses) told the people. “Get away from the tents of these wicked men, and don’t touch anything that belongs to them. If you do, you will be destroyed for their sin.” (Numbers 16:26). That is the real lesson of Korah for today!

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV) and The Living Bible (TLB).

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