Bible Study Series: The Book of Jude - The Acts of the Apostates
Bible Study: Jude 8-11 Beware the Way of Cain!
By Fraser Gordon
Do you remember the city of Troy? It was besieged for a period of about 10 years without even a dent in the walls. Then the Greek attackers retreated, leaving a small number of men inside a large wooden horse which they had built. The horse was brought inside the city of Troy and that night the Greek men came out and opened the gates of the city to the invaders. It is similar to the church. Persecution that comes from outside the church helps the church grow. But harm mostly comes from within. It was the same for the city of Troy. Even though the attack came from outside the walls, it did nothing to dent the walls of the city. As soon as the attackers got inside the destruction started. Most trouble has come from within the church in the form of false doctrines and false teachers. Jude encourages the reader to contend for the faith, to always be wary and watch for those who would cause havoc and destruction.
Jude gave three examples that we have previously studied; the Israelites in the wilderness, the angels that left their abode, and Sodom and Gomorrah. He now continues with another grouping of three - the dreamers who; defile the flesh, reject authority and speak evil of dignitaries.
Jude 1.8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
Jude describes the characteristics of false teachers and apostles. The Greek word for dreamer is only used twice in scripture, here in Jude and also in Acts 2.17. It means to dream, have visions and sensual images. The false teachers Jude mentions claimed to have God inspired dreams, visions and revelation. They claimed to be given by God to the church. But they are false dreams and visions. It either came from themselves or at worst, a false spirit. Just as it was in Judes day, so it is in our day. Search the Internet and you will find many dreams and visions. Some are true which God gives to his people. The only way to know is to watch carefully and ask: Does it align with God's word and what He has already revealed prophetically, or does it contradict God’s word? They even contradict themselves. Watch and wait whether it comes to pass or not.
These dreamers defile the flesh. There seems to be something wrong with their thought conduct. It is polluted and results in fleshly conduct. They also reject authority, refusing to submit themselves to God's authority, His word, or leaders in the church. The third is that they speak evil of dignitaries. The Greek word for dignitary is glories and points to a non human, angelic being greater than themselves.
Jude 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Jude uses the example of Michael and Satan disagreeing over the body of Moses. We are given a glimpse into something that's not recorded in scripture. However, this event is recorded in the Assumption of Moses. Jude’s example is that Michael, an Archangel, did not fall into sin like false teachers who speak evil of dignitaries, or angelic beings. Moses wasn't allowed to go into the promised land, it records that he died. The Assumption of Moses says that there was a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses but we don't know why. We know that Moses was a murderer so Satan may have had a claim over his body because he was a sinner. Yet we see that he is on the Mount of Transfiguration when he appears with Elijah, and he could be one of the two witnesses that return in the Great Tribulation. The point that Jude is making is that although there was a dispute between Michael and Satan, Michael still honoured Satan’s position as a higher angel. Satan is an angel of the highest order, a cherub, the highest created beings. Michael is an Archangel. He could have called him names but he didn't. What he did do is put the Lord between himself and Satan and said the Lord rebuke you. False teachers speak evil of dignitaries, glories they do not understand. Angelic beings are a higher created order than humans. It is a mark of a false teacher to spout off against dignitaries higher than themselves, and speak evil of what they do not know.
The way of Cain
Jude 1:10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 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 loves the number three! Here are another three examples of the ungodly. Today we're going to look at the first one. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain.
Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the Lord." 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5a but He did not respect Cain and his offering.
Remember that a promise had been given to Eve; that her offspring - the seed of a woman - would crush the head of the serpent. She said I've acquired a man from the Lord. Cain’s name means appointed. She believed Cain was the promised seed, the firstborn of Adam and Eve.
Cain’s pride offering
We're introduced to two boys, Cain and Abel. Cain is a tiller of the ground and Abel a keeper of sheep. In the process of time they bring offerings before the Lord. Cain brings an offering of the fruit of the ground, but remember God cursed the ground. Cain gave from the cursed crops. It was the best that he had, he had worked the ground hard for its produce but his offering was rejected.
Remember as soon as the first sin was committed Adam and Eve knew they were naked. They were conscious of their nakedness immediately so they covered themselves with fig leaves. This is a picture of self righteousness, of man's attempt to cover his need before a holy God. That wasn't acceptable to God, so He clothed them with animal skins instead. God must be the one that covers mankind. He killed the animals and clothed them with the skins. These two boys would have known their parents' history and what was an acceptable sacrifice to God. Cain brought an offering from the cursed ground to God - his best efforts.
Abel’s faith offering
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Both of these boys brought their sacrifices, but only one was offered in faith. Cain is religious. He comes before God in his own way with his own produce. He believes his life is acceptable and sees no need for a substitute. He doesn't apply his offering with faith. Approaching God in faith means that you need a substitute, but Cain doesn't do this. He thinks his own life is good enough and his toil from the ground acceptable to God. But it wasn't, it was rejected. He had no sense of his own sin or the need of a substitute to stand before a righteous God. He could not apply faith because in his own eyes he had no need of atonement.
The false teacher is a religious man like Cain who worships God in his own self effort and goodness. He doesn't preach or teach about his sin nature, or the need of a substitute on his behalf. Jesus the Saviour is left on the sidelines. The false teacher will talk about good works, religion or humanism, but not the need of a substitute. Such is the way of Cain. Abel came with the blood of a lamb and the fat. He saw his need of a substitute and applied faith to the death of the lamb, which God accepted. One lamb for one man. Later with Passover one lamb was for one family. On the day of Atonement, one lamb for the whole nation of Israel. In the fullness of time God sent His Son as the Lamb of God, slain, to take away the sin of the whole world. One lamb for the whole world. Both Cain and Abel had the same upbringing; there was no difference between them apart from their offerings. Cain did not apply faith because he saw no need for a substitute. Abel saw the need for a blood sacrifice and his sacrifice points to the Redeemer who would come to shed His blood on our behalf, that we might live.
Remember that both Cain and Abel were religious. They both brought offerings to God. A Christian is one who has seen his sinfulness and his need of a saviour. He needs to be made right with God and he knows he falls short of the glory of God and deserves judgement. Yet he comes by faith in a substitute. The blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ. He glories in Christ Jesus who was delivered up for our offences and raised for our justification. That is what a Christian is: someone who comes by faith needing a substitute to be made right with God. Such was Abel. Cain saw no need and brought his own produce. The best of what he could bring from the cursed ground. Many religious teachers and people are like Cain. They think they are good enough. They believe that good works or being a member of a church will be acceptable to God. Such is the way of Cain and such is the way of false teachers. They are religious but see no need for a substitute. Beware of the natural man, a religious man who never applies faith in Christ Jesus, the substitute for his sin, and for salvation.
The grace of God
Genesis 5b And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
Cain is really angry with God and also with his brother because his sacrifice was not accepted. How did they know the sacrifice was accepted or not? We don't know whether fire fell, as in previous times, to consume the sacrifice but Cain and Abel knew which was accepted and which wasn't. Cain knew his offering had been rejected. Even so, here we find God's grace. He comes after Cain and wants him to acknowledge his sin.
Genesis 4:6 So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
God is trying to get Cain, the first man born to fallen parents, to acknowledge his sin and come clean. God wants Cain to be honest about his condition and acknowledge what is going on within him. This is the grace of God. He’s been extending grace right from the very first man born to fallen parents all down through time. God is the only one who seeks mankind and asks “Where are you and your sin? What are you doing? Be honest with me. Come clean with me.”
Genesis 4:7 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."
Sin lies at the door. It is pictured here almost like a crouching tiger waiting to pounce. The word for sin and the word for sin offering is the same Hebrew word, Hattā,āt. Sin is right at the door, wanting to rule over you, but a sin offering is right there also, a way made for you to be right with God. Sins desire is for you, but you should rule over it. Such is the way of fallen man ever since Adam and Eve fell. We were all born with a fleshly sinful nature, and that nature is a usurper. It robs you. It will not get any better or improve with time and it puts on many masks. God says you should rule over it, but the fleshly nature rules in us. I'm so thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ that he has included us in His death, burial, and resurrection so the living life of the Lord Jesus Christ, our only hope of glory, can now indwell us. This life should control our members and rule in our midst so we don't have to come under the dominion of sin or the fleshy nature any more.
The first murderer
Genesis 4:8 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 now acts on his anger and becomes the first murderer. The unrighteous will always persecute the righteous. Eve was persuaded, or deceived to sin. Cain couldn't even be persuaded by God not to sin. God questions him “Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?” He tries to get Cain to acknowledge his sin. But he can't, and he acts on that anger and becomes the first murderer. God was seeking honesty, but such is the way of Cain.
Genesis 4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"
God knew where Abel was but He wants Cain to be honest about his condition. Cain lies to God, as though God didn't know what had happened! He said I don't know where he is, am I supposed to be my brother's keeper? Yes he was. He was supposed to be his brother's keeper, but instead he became his brother's murderer.
Genesis 4:10 And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.
The way of pride
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 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.
The way of Cain is the way of pride. He was of the wicked one which refers to him as being like Satan. His offering came from pride, from the best he could produce from the ground, which was cursed. No faith was in his offering because he didn't see his need for a substitute. He came to worship God, but there was no faith applied to the offering, it was an empty religion.
The second thing about the way of Cain is that the ungodly will always persecute the righteous. The way Cain persecuted his brother Abel is a picture throughout time. They persecute those that apply faith to God's provision of a substitute. Such is the way of Cain. Today, as in Jude’s time, false teachers will come. Jude says “Woe to them! They come in the same way, in the same manner, and in the same likeness as Cain. They pretend to be this and they will say that. But their character is like Cain, and they have an empty religion. They will persecute the godly. Woe to those who come in the way of Cain for they will one day be judged by a holy God.
Watch for the person who is like Cain. He is really a religious person who will always come before God according to his own merit.
Next time, we'll look at the warnings in the character of Balaam.