The epistle of Jude was written to “them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ and [to them that are] called.” Jude 1. For what main purpose was this epistle written? To ” . . . exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Verse 3.
With what are we to contend? Well, Jude said, there are ungodly men who creep in unawares, “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 4.
Jude continues in verses 11 and 12: “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core [Korah].” (Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against the authority of Moses and caused rebellion in the Israelite camp. See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 707.)
Jude describes ungodly men further in verse 12 as, “spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” James talks about them as people who are unstable, double-minded. (See James 1:8.)
Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 talk about such ungodly men: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 21:2 states, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” And in Proverbs 30:12 it describes not merely a person or an individual who thinks this way, but it even talks about a generation: “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” We are part of the final generation for whom the warning in I Corinthians 10:12 was given: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Let us consider the examples given in Jude 11 of ungodly men.
Who was Cain? What was the way of Cain? He was one who acknowledged no need of God’s mercy. Do we need God’s mercy today, friends? Oh, we do!
God’s Two Hands
Somebody once said that God has two hands, a long hand of mercy and a short hand of justice. Cain was one who acknowledged no need of God’s mercy. He thought he did not need, nor did he ask for, forgiveness. He was unthankful, and he was not penitent. With his sacrificial offering he expressed no faith in Christ. (See The Desire of Ages, 165.) Unlike his brother, Abel, whose gift was the very choicest that he could bring from the flock as God had directed, Cain brought only of the fruit of the ground. His offering was not accepted by the Lord. He brought a bloodless sacrifice to secure the divine favor. It did not express faith in God. “In every offering to God we are to acknowledge the one great Gift; that alone can make our service acceptable. . . . All our offerings must be sprinkled with the blood of the atonement. As the purchased possession of the Son of God, we are to give the Lord our own individual lives.” Review and Herald, November 24, 1896.
Cain was a man who expressed no penitence for sin. “Cain came before God with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised sacrifice and the necessity of the sacrificial offerings. His gift expressed no penitence for sin.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 72. When we give our offerings, should they be accompanied with penitence?
“He felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Saviour. He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his own merits. He would not bring the lamb, and mingle its blood with his offering, but would present his fruits, the products of his labor. He presented his offering as a favor done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval.” Ibid.
Cain offered partial obedience. He obeyed in building the altar. He obeyed in bringing in a sacrifice. “But he rendered only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out.” Ibid.
Cain thought himself righteous. Now, let us be honest, has there been any time in our walk with Christ that we did not entertain thoughts of being righteous? Did we? There is a great danger that those thoughts can creep into our midst, into our hearts, into our homes.
If we ever want to get to heaven, we cannot be like Cain. That is what the message in the book of Jude is all about. Cain thought himself righteous, and he came to God with a thank offering of fruit only. He would not mingle it with the blood that pointed to the Lamb of God.
Attempting the Impossible
The sense of need, the recognition of our poverty and sin, is the very first condition of coming to God. Cain is like men who make their own efforts to try to save themselves. “He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. Man cannot be saved without obedience, but his works should not be of himself; Christ should work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13). If a man could save himself by his own works, he might have something in himself in which to rejoice. The effort that man makes in his own strength to obtain salvation, is represented by the offering of Cain. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God. When we seek to gain heaven with the merits of Christ, the soul makes progress.” Review and Herald, July 1, 1890.
The ungodly race of Cain had no respect for God or for His commandments. Cain’s descendants chose their own time for work or for rest. (See Spiritual Gifts, Book 1, 60.) “Before the Fall our first parents had kept the Sabbath, which was instituted in Eden; and after their expulsion from Paradise they continued its observance. They had tasted the bitter fruits of disobedience, and had learned what every one that tramples upon God’s commandments [both natural and moral] will sooner or later learn—that the divine precepts are sacred and immutable, and that the penalty of transgression will surely be inflicted. The Sabbath was honored by all the children of Adam that remained loyal to God. But Cain and his descendents did not respect the day upon which God had rested.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 80, 81.
The Mark of Cain
What is the mark of Cain? Did you ever think about that? “God has given to every man his work; and if any one turns from the work that God has given him, to do the work of Satan, to defile his own body or lead another into sin, that man’s work is cursed, and the brand of Cain is placed upon him.” Review and Herald, March 6, 1894. “Satan is the parent of unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion. He filled Cain with doubt and with madness against his innocent brother and against God, because his sacrifice was refused and Abel’s accepted. And he slew his brother in insane madness.” Review and Herald, March 3, 1874.
“Any man, be he minister or layman, who seeks to compel or control the reason of any other man, becomes an agent to Satan, to do his work, and in the sight of the heavenly universe, he bears the mark of Cain.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1087. So there is more to the book of Jude than we thought! Let us summarize the characteristics of Cain which may be found in ungodly men today.
They acknowledge no need of God’s mercy.
They do not express any faith in Christ but depend on their own works.
They present their own fruits, their own works.
They render partial obedience.
They bring a bloodless sacrifice; they do not believe in the blood of atonement or in the work of Christ as their High Priest.
They have no respect for God’s commandments.
They are self-righteous.
They choose their own Sabbath.
Submitting to God
What is the safeguard against Cain worship and against receiving the mark or the brand of Cain? “Had man co-operated with God, there would have been no Cain worshipers. Abel’s example of obedience would have been followed. Man might have worked out the will of God. They might have obeyed His law, and in obedience they would have found salvation. God and the heavenly universe would have helped them to retain the divine likeness. Longevity would have had been preserved; and God would have delighted in the work of His hands.” Review and Herald, December 27, 1898.
So what is the secret, dear friends, of the safeguard against Cain worship? Co-operation with God. The word co-operation comprehends complete submission to the will of God.
Another characteristic of Cain is envy. One of the prominent sins of Cain was that he was envious of his brother. We should remember that, “God dispenses His gifts as it pleases Him. He bestows one gift upon one, and another gift upon another, but all for the good of the whole body. It is in God’s order that some shall be of service in one line of work, and others in other lines—all working under the selfsame Spirit. The recognition of this plan will be a safeguard against emulation, pride, envy, or contempt of one another. It will strengthen unity and mutual love.” Counsels to Teachers, 314, 315.
We should recognize the gifts. God gives them severally as He desires, for He knows what to do with us. It has been said that envy is but the smoke of low estate ascending still against the fortunate. What frenzy dictates, jealousy believes. Now it is important that we go through trials, because we learn little from success but much from failure.
The Balaam Mentality
Now let us consider “the error of Balaam.” Who was Balaam? He was a false prophet, but he was not always a false prophet. Let us identify traits of ungodly men with a Balaam mentality.
- They dally with temptation. “Balaam was once a good man and a prophet of God; but he had apostatized, and had given himself up to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High. He was not ignorant of God’s work in behalf of Israel; and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and to dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to dally with temptation, and urged the messengers to tarry with him that night.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 439.
Sometimes we tempt Satan to tempt us. We go to places where we should not go. Here is a story that helps to illustrate this. Once upon a time the driver for a very rich man died. The rich man did not trust the interviewing or the selecting of a new driver to anyone but himself, so he put an ad in the newspaper that read, “The sky is the limit but only the qualified need apply.” Many drivers applied. After screening the applicants, there were, finally, only three individuals left from which to choose. The employer decided to ask each finalist one last question: “How fast could you drive me from point A to point B? Now point A to point B takes me on a very narrow road across the mountains.”
When asked this question, the first applicant said, “Well, first, you should see my record, Sir. I can take you safely across the mountain on that narrow road three inches away from the edge, and you will not have anything to worry about.” The man said, “That is impressive.”
The next interviewee comes in, and he is asked the same question. The second man replied, “You should see my record, Sir. I can take you from point A to point B as fast as you think you can go, only two inches away from the edge.”
Then he called in the third applicant, and he asked him the same question. In a small voice the third applicant said, “You know, Sir, I believe I can take you safely across that dangerous mountain road by driving you as slowly as possible and as far away from the edge as I can possibly get.” The millionaire exclaimed, “You are hired today!”
- They hope to make God’s service a steppingstone to riches. They mingle the sacred with the profane or with the ordinary. “The fate of Balaam was similar to that of Judas, and their characters bear a marked resemblance to each other. Both these men tried to unite the service of God and mammon, and met with signal failure. Balaam acknowledged the true God, and professed to serve Him; Judas believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and united with His followers. But Balaam hoped to make the service of Jehovah the steppingstone to the acquirement of riches and worldly honor; and failing in this he stumbled and fell and was broken.” Ibid., 452.
It is so dangerous to use the church, even a home church, as a steppingstone for some personal agenda.
- They presume upon God’s mercy. “If Balaam had had a disposition to accept the light that God had given, he would now have made true his words; he would at once have severed all connection with Moab. He would no longer have presumed upon the mercy of God.” Ibid., 448.
- They confuse confession of sin and true repentance from sin. “There are many who fail to understand the true nature of repentance. Multitudes sorrow that they have sinned and even make an outward reformation because they fear that their wrongdoing will bring suffering upon themselves. But this is not repentance in the Bible sense.” Steps to Christ, 23.
They lament the suffering rather than the sin. Balaam, terrified by the angel standing in his path with a drawn sword, acknowledged his guilt lest he lose his life. That is all he was concerned about. He was not repentant of his sin. He was afraid to lose his life. You can repent for the wrong reason, friends.
- They are double-minded. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8. “At the time Balak sent his messengers for him [Balaam], he was double-minded, pursuing a course to gain and retain the favor and honor of the enemies of the Lord.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1116. Some people are doing this today. They are trying to gain favor and honor at the hands of the enemies of the Lord for the sake of rewards that they have received from them.
- They are covetous and time-servers. “Here is a solemn warning for the people of God today, to allow no unchristian trait to live in their hearts. A sin which is fostered becomes habitual; and strengthened by repetition, it soon exerts a controlling influence, bringing into subjection all the nobler powers [of the mind]. Balaam loved the reward of unrighteousness. The sin of covetousness, which God ranks with idolatry, he did not resist and overcome. Satan obtained entire control of him through this one fault, which deteriorated his character, and made him a time-server. He called God his Master; but he did not serve Him; he did not work the works of God.” Ibid.
No Solution for Genuine Rebellion
That is who Balaam was. That describes traits of ungodly men today. God’s servant says she doubts if there is any solution for genuine rebellion. (See Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 21.) And we need to understand, friends, that rebellion is an open sin against God. That is what happened to the angels. That is what happened to Israel. That is what happened to the Jews, and it could happen to anyone today.
Even though our own feelings, ideas and plans may appear good to us, having the best of intentions does not necessarily guarantee that we are in harmony with God’s expressed will. Mrs. White said, “Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving the message of mercy to the world, Christ would have come to the earth, and the saints would ere this have received their welcome into the city of God.” Australasian Union Conference Record, October 15, 1898.
Oftentimes, because we do not know the true condition of our own hearts, we may actually be doing things that are displeasing to God. That is why “It is written” was Christ’s never–failing weapon. “Our only safety is in following the example of Christ.” Review and Herald, October 9, 1894. A clear “thus saith the Lord” and “unto the law and the testimony” should form the foundation of all our decisions. If you follow this counsel, dear friend, you will be safe from the ungodly men who bear the characteristics of Cain or the traits of Balaam.