It’s not about name calling or ridicule. It’s about an accurate description and it is what we see Jude giving in the next few verses. Jude vividly describes the men who are false teachers and are causing so much hurt in the church. This description of these men helps us to identify dangerous actions and attitudes that can hurt the church in our own time as it was during the time of Jude’s letter. Let’s look at this description in more detail:
The NASB has translated the word: SPILAS in verse 12 as “hidden reefs” which would be a rocky hazard that is hidden by waves. Another version may have translated it as “stains” or “spots” which is the better of the translations because of the context of eating a meal at a feast and the potential stains or spots that can occur from spills of food or drink.
The early Christians often met for a common meal and would call them “love feasts”. We call them “fellowship meals” today. When these certain men came, they were serving only themselves, perhaps even eating greedily while others went hungry. At a fellowship meal everybody brought what they could. Some would bring a little, some a lot; but they all shared it together. For some slaves who were Christians it might have been the only decent meal they regularly ate. The selfishness of these certain menspoiled the fellowship. They spoiled it because they were serving themselves. Literally in the original language they were “shepherding themselves” and it ended up being a disgusting stain on the white shirt of the Christian church.
Jude continues with a list further describing these men:
- Clouds without water – Clouds without water are good for nothing. They bring no life-giving rain and they only block out the sun. They exist just for themselves and for a short time because they are carried along by the wind. They are not stable and sure. The certain men were like these clouds.
- Autumn trees without fruit – By late autumn, trees should have fruit. But these certain men did not bear fruit even when they should. They were like trees that only take instead of give. They are dead and uprooted and serve no purpose.
- Wide waves of the sea – For us, the sea is often a thing of beauty. We stop and notice and take it all in and snap a selfie on the beach. But to men of the past, especially in Biblical cultures, the sea was an unmanageable terror. Isaiah 57:20expresses this idea: But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. These men were busy and active like the raging waves of the sea, but all it brought was foaming up their own shame.
- Wandering stars – Like a comet blazing through the night sky, these men amazed the world for a time, and then vanished into darkness. An unpredictable star was of no value for guidance and navigation just like these deceivers who were useless and untrustworthy.
Jude then gives us an illustration and tells us that Enoch who is described in Genesis 5 and mentioned in Hebrews 11, spoke about men like this. The ancient book of Enoch was not received as Scripture, but it was highly respected among both the Jews and early Christians. In this quotation from the book of Enoch Jude emphasized the words all and ungodly. God is coming to judge all of the ungodly. These men are no exception.
Jude picks up with the rest of this list describing these men for us:
- Grumblers, fault finding, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people – These people were complainers. It seems true that whenever a person gets out of touch with God, they are likely to begin complaining about something. These men knew how to use smooth, arrogant, flattering words to get an advantage over other people. They would say anything, good or bad, to get an advantage.
This list should motivate us to make sure that if a list was made about us then it would not include these things or anything that might be hurtful to the church or the truth about Jesus.
Hey Jude! How would you describe the church today? Write a list for us. Oh wait, you did, and it’s still as accurate and relevant now as it was then!