When Michael withstood the Devil over the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a railing accusation against him. Instead, he simply responded with an appropiate "The Lord rebuke thee.". This is the same response the Angel of the LORD gave to the Devil according to the book of Zechariah when Satan stood at the right hand of Joshua to resist him. An interesting pattern is shown here. First, the chief prince of Israel, the archangel Michael rebukes Satan through the authority of the Lord. Then, the Angel of Jehovah, the pre-incarnate Christ does not even dare to rebuke Satan of his own power but by his Father's. Our Lord knew the day would come when the Devil, the accuser of the saints throughout the ages, would be cast into the lake of fire. But until then, we can only rely on the authority of the Lord and not on our own strength. Whether the Devil, the world, or the flesh is striving with our spirits, we must rebuke any of the three enemies of the believer through the authority of the Lord. Michael's example of not bringing an accusation against the Devil is in direct contradiction to the behavior of those who have abandoned the faith. For in verse 10, they who depart the faith are described as speaking evil of what they do not know. While the Lord was being crucified on the cross, he beseeched His Father to forgive those who reviled Him "for they know not what they do." This too is a fine example of how to deal with those leaving the faith for lasciviousness. In contending for the faith, we must rebuke them who have left in the name of the Lord, but also forgive them for speaking evil for what they do not know, as they know not what they do.
Jude gives an appropiate exclamation of grief over these brute beasts who have corrupted themselves. He uses three Old Testament examples of unbelief and outright rebellion to describe those who have crept into the Church. Of Cain, it is said that they have gone in the way of him. This means that they have ordered their lives after the manner of Cain. Why is Cain used as an example?
Genesis 4:1-12 gives the account of Cain and Abel: "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And 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 slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth."
1 John 3:12 sheds some light onto this example: "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous."
Five things can be said of "the way of Cain": 1. They come to God on their own terms. 2. They see the fruits of their works to be sufficient to obtain God's favor. 3. They are angry with God. 4. They are despise those who have obtained God's favor through faith in a blood sacrifice. 5. They prefer to be a vagabond and a fugitive than to endure God's chastening hand.
To go "in the way of Cain" is to reject God's free gift of grace, and to despise any who accept it. It is to be filled with so much pride that they think grace is owed to them for all the good they have done, and to not receive it is a crime. Cain as a false worshipper refused the acknoweldged way to God through blood sacrifice. He did not see any value in the shedding of blood for the remission of his sins. Apostates likewise, turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, denying the Lord who bought them, the only Lord Jesus Christ.
The second example given is Balaam of which "they have ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.". Balaam's account covers Numbers 22-24 and his influence is seen in the seceding chapters. Balaam's error was that the people who God has willed to bless could be cursed. Using enchantments, Balaam sought to curse Israel through the power of Satan. Eventually he realized that this was futile, but he did not give up on seeking to bring judgement on the Israelites. While Israel could not be cursed, they could be chastised for sinful acts that Balaam counseled them to do (Numbers 31:16). While Jude's epistle makes mention of Balaam's error, 2 Peter records his way. 2 Peter 2:15,16 says: "Who have forsaken the right way and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but had reproof of his lawbreaking, a dumb ass speaking in a man's voice, held back the madness of the prophet. If Balaam's error was that he could curse that which can not be cursed, his way would be characterized by love for unrighteous wages. His way must have been a source of motivation for him to determine to make such a grievous error.
It is interesting that the Angel of the Lord used such an animal as a donkey to rebuke Balaam as a donkey is a picture of a meek and humble servant of an animal. Observe the conversation the lowly animal had with Balaam in Numbers 22:28-30: "Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times? And Balaam said to the donkey because you have made a fool of me: I would there were a sword in mine hand for now I would kill thee And the ass said unto Balaam am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay." The donkey and the words the Lord put in her mouth could be set along side Michael the archangel and his example in rebuking Satan not by his name but by the Lord's. When we deal with false teachers it we must allow the Lord to open our mouths and speak in a meek and humble spirit.
The final description in verse 11 is in reference to Korah who along with 250 men of reknown challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. The sons of Korah were Levites who held a honorable post as ministers to the sanctuary, were not content to hold this position and desired the priesthood. In Numbers 16:3, Korah accuses Moses and Aaron of the very thing that he was guilty of. Fausset's Bible Dictionary says that "Korah's sin answers to that of sacerdotalist ministers who, not content with the honor of the ministry... usurp Christ's sacrificing and mediatorial priesthood; also to that of all men who think to be saved by their own doings instead of by His mediatorial work for us." Moses put some perspective on Korah and the men confederated with him in vv. 8-11: "And Moses said to Korah, 'Hear now you sons of Levi: is it a small thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that He has brought you near Him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? and would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?' " Korah should have been satsified to minister to the Lord and to Israel, but he and his men despised the dominion God placed them under. C.H. Mackintosh writes "This principle is of great importance in every assembly, where Christians are called to work together. It is a mistake to suppose that all the members of the body of Christ are called to places of prominence, or that any member can select his place in the body."
Cain is the example of the false worshipper who denies the grace of God, Balaam, a false prophet with a desire to lead God's chosen people astray and into idolatry and fornication; Korah then, would be the type of false priest who revolts against the authority of Christ and His office of high priest. The Roman Church is most well known for assuming the priestly work which belongs only to Christ. But, we do see traces of the sin of Korah germinating in Protestant churches as well.
The gainsaying of Korah rears its ugly head in Revelation 2:15 at the church at Pergamum. Here, the saints at that assembly tolerated those who hold the doctrine of Nicolaitism, which is the ultimate result that Korah coveted. The word "Nicolaitine" literally means "victory over the people". Korah sought to be victourious over the congregation of Israel. Korah gathered the congregation against Moses and Aaron at the door of the tabernacle (Num. 16:19). But when the Lord showed that He was ready to consume Korah as well as the congregation, the congregation immediately repented of their sin. Thus, Korah perished in his gainsaying; the false teachers described here in Jude while they may not have been put to death as of yet, God who is eternal sees their fate as occurring in the present.