“But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
This is one of the few passages in Scripture where we have individual combat between two angels. We have the fallen angel, Satan and the elect angel, Michael doing battle. Satan is the leader of all fallen angels (demons) and Michael is the highest ruler among elect angels. (Daniel 10:13) Michael is also called the prince of Israel, which would indicate that he is the guardian angel of the nation Israel. (Daniel 10:21, 12:1) He leads the elect angels in the Angelic Conflict and is always the angel who stands against Satan. (Revelation 12:7)
Michael disputed with Satan about the body of Moses, which is the only mention of this in Scripture, so we must relate it to our subject of apostasy. The Greek word for dispute is “dialego,” and it means strong contention.The story of Moses’ death is found in Deuteronomy 34:6, but does not mention this particular event. Obviously Satan had an evil intent in wanting the body of Moses and we can only conjecture what it would have been. But Michael, as God’s representative, came to confront Satan. In this battle, Michael had certain restraints placed on him. He could not go beyond the restraints that the Lord had set for him, and these restraints had to be compatible with the Angelic Conflict.
At the time of the struggle for the body of Moses, Michael did not dare bring an accusation against Satan. He had to commit the battle into the Lord’s hands and he had to use the Word of God (the Lord rebuke you, Zechariah 3:2). Michael had to operate on the basis of grace and depend on Bible doctrine. God would not permit Michael to use his “angelic muscles.” He would not permit him to do anything that would destroy the grace principle of the Angelic Conflict. The maligning (railing) act of judgment on the part of Michael would have caused Michael to abandon grace. Remember, the Angelic Conflict is about proving to Satan and his followers that God’s grace is all-sufficient for salvation and for the spiritual life, which reinforces the fact that God is always fair in His dealings with everyone.
So the application to apostasy is just this - it is not our job to run around trying to straighten out every false teacher. That job belongs to God alone, as illustrated in this verse. Michael understood that it was God’s job to rebuke Satan, not his. The same holds true for rebuking false teachers and those who follow them. We are simply to identify them and avoid them. Identification of false teachers involves using discernment and is often misconstrued as judging others. A mature believer must have the ability to discern truth from falsehood and this involves evaluation of a person’s message and motive. Judging others personally is forbidden in Scripture, but when believers discern a false message, a false motive, a dangerous pattern of behavior, a lack of spiritual values, a lack of interest in knowing God and His Word in a person or persons, they are commanded to strictly avoid personal, close, or intimate association or relationships with them. Failure to comply with this command from God will bring discipline and self-induced misery. (II Corinthians 6:14; II John 9-11)
“But these men revile the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.”
One of the first attitudes of an apostate is to malign, and this maligning is based on ignorance. There is some maligning which is accomplished as a mental attitude sin and expresses itself as a sin of the tongue. It is deliberate and is willing out of hatred, bitterness or jealousy to assassinate the character of another. The maligning here is described under the word revile.
Revile is the Greek word “blasphmeo,” which means to malign. It is a sin of the tongue and, as this category indicates, it is maligning based on ignorance, lack of knowledge of the facts. Apostasy is in the business of “no facts” but saying a great deal about which they know nothing. Here they are speaking with dogmatic ignorance. There are two kinds of ignorance: the ignorance of the apostate unbeliever found in I Corinthians 2:14 and ignorance of the apostate believer found in I Timothy 4:1. The apostate believer is ignorant because of his own negative volition toward Bible doctrine.
So first of all we have an attitude on the part of apostates: they are maligners, they are gossipers, they judge but they are totally ignorant of the facts. The second part of verse 10 deals with the distortion based on subjectivity. The things which they know by instinct is a reference to human knowledge (gnosis) in the case of the unbeliever apostate or the believer apostate. In this case they have learned only human viewpoint. Which they know is the Greek word “epistamai,” which means knowledge gained by contact, or knowledge gained by practice. It is used here for human perception resulting in human viewpoint. The Greek word for instinct is “phusikos,” which means produced by nature or inborn.
Unreasoning animals is a reference to thought – in this case negative thought. The Greek word means “not thinking,” and it is a reference to being “unreasonable” or even “absurd.” The human viewpoint on which apostates operate leads to subjectivity of thinking (unreasonable or absurd). The Greek word for animals is “zoon,” which means a creature: “unreasonable creatures.” In this context the word is used for someone who is human but is so distorted in the soul that whatever knowledge is there cannot be observed objectively. It is human viewpoint which leads to distortion of application. So the living creatures that are unreasonable here are really those people who, through subjectivity, are unable to see life from the standpoint of divine establishment, or from the standpoint of any system of divine laws. By these things they are destroyed uses the Greek word “phtheiro,” for destroyed which means to corrupt, to be depraved, to spoil or to ruin. Apostasy ruins, corrupts, and leads to depravity.
“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
The first thing that leads an apostate astray is approbation lust. Approbation lust is seeking approval from God, self or others. Lust in general is the overwhelming desire for something; a passionate desire; an uncontrolled, overwhelming desire which originates from the sin nature and gains the cooperation of your volition. Lust turns a believer into a tricky and deceitful person. Lust destroys the believer's motivation to glorify God and replaces it with self-promoting motivation.
The illustration of approbation lust is Cain who is a type of organized religion. Like many unbelievers with a religious trend, Cain was a legalist. He attempted to be saved by what he did. He is the first case of an attempt to secure salvation by his works. God rejected Cain’s works, which caused Cain to have mental attitude sins. Though he acknowledged the existence of God, he rejected the truth from God in favor of his own truth. He thought that God would accept his offering of human works for salvation, instead of the grace solution represented by a blood sacrifice. This of course is a perfect illustration of an apostate. (Genesis 4:3-6)
The illustration of materialism lust is Balaam. The story of Balaam illustrates the apostasy of using “the ministry” for personal gain (materialism lust). Balaam was a believer under emotional revolt of the soul. And this type of emotion controls the soul, as it did in the case of Balaam. The Greek word for error is “plane,” which means deceit or delusion. Balaam was in a state of self-deception, self-justification and self-absorption. False teachers have deliberate motives, which include monetary greed, sensual pleasures, luxurious lifestyles, power, and fame. They actually train themselves in the art of greed and lust.
The illustration of power lust is Korah. Korah was a Levite who joined a revolution against Moses (Psalm 106:17). Korah was very jealous of Moses and Aaron. He was a first cousin to Moses and Aaron. Moses was the civil leader and Aaron was the high priest. Korah wanted the priesthood strictly for the supposed power it would bring him. It was an attempt at a “power grab” and those who were in revolt against Moses were in emotional revolt. Emotion controlled their souls. Korah is used in Jude as a picture of power lust in apostasy. Power lust rejects duly constituted authority and seeks to overthrow that authority.
“These are men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”
We have five analogies to apostasy in these verses: