DIG: How does this vivid image condemn these men? What is their grumbling like? How do they show their discontentment? How do they speak? What drives their behavior? Who do they go after? Why is Jude describing them to us in such detail?
REFLECT: We are not supposed to judge others, that is left up to Messiah. The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22)? But we are to be fruit inspectors. We must be able to recognize these apostates by their lack of fruit. What do their negative traits say to you about how you want to live your life? What do you need to change? How can you be their polar opposite?
These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage (Jude 16).
For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error (2 Peter 2:18).
The congregations of God will be without excuse if they fail to recognize these apostates when they appear. Over and over again Jude uses very plain language to describe them. What are they like? These . . . pollute their own bodies; these . . . speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; these . . . are hidden rocks; these . . . are ungodly; these . . . are grumblers; these . . . are faultfinders. Jude draws portrait after portrait. He boldly writes of these and their characteristics so that we will know them for what they are, whenever we find that they have slipped in among believers like wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Every generation since the days of the apostles has seen false teachers among their number and wondered if they were living in the days leading up to the Rapture (see my commentary on Revelation Bg – The Sequence of Pretribulational Events). And each generation, aware of the darkness that seems to be gaining momentum, wonders if things could get any worse. Here, Jude describes the last three characteristics of the imposters in the tenth triad. In this picture, he uses two words that were very familiar to his Jewish readers.
The first word is goggustes, and it occurs only here in the New Covenant. These are people who are discontented and complain. Enoch prophesied about ungodly people, and these are the ones he was talking about. They are grumblers (16a). They are always cursing their bad luck. Satisfied about nothing they complain about everything. What they don’t want they’ve got, what they long for they don’t have. Like a constant drip of water on your forehead, it seems like their complaining will never end. Goggustes doesn’t refer to people with a loud, outspoken dissatisfaction, but to an undertone of resentful discontent. This is the same term the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the TaNaKh), uses to describe Isra'el’s complaining against the LORD (Exodus 16:7-9; Numbers 11:1, 14:27-29, 16:41, 17:5 and 10). Whenever someone gets out of touch with ADONAI they are likely to begin complaining about something.
The also verb occurs in Matthew 20:11, of the grumbling of the laborers who saw others receiving a day’s wages for an hour’s worth of work: When they received [their pay] they began to grumble against the landowner (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Il – The Rich Young Ruler). Paul uses the verb to describe the discontented grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness: And do not grumble, as some of them did (Numbers 16:41) and were killed by the destroying Angel (First Cor 10:10). But a still more interesting use of the verb is found in John 6:41, where it is stated that the Jews began to grumble about [Christ] because He said: I AM the bread that came down from heaven. They grumbled at Him because He told them the truth (John 8:45). Ironically, they grumbled at the offer of eternal life, at the declarations of His deity, at the Holy one of Israel whom they said: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know (John 6:42)? The apostates of Jude’s day were the equivalent of the grumbling children of Isra'el and unbelieving Sanhedrin (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Lg – The Great Sanhedrin) of Messiah’s own day, people full of stubborn discontent and sullen disobedience.95 They are still with us today.
The second word is memspimoios. These people are faultfinders against God’s holy purposes and plans (Jude 16b), a fact that Jude illustrated earlier when he compared them with the unbelieving Israelites (Aj), the fallen angels (Ak), the degenerates of Sodom and Gomorrah (Al), and Cain, Korah and Balaam (Aq). The Greek word is memspimoios, from memphomai, to find fault with, and moria, a part or lot. The compound word means blamers of their lot, complaining on one’s lot in life, or discontented. A faultfinder is someone who can always find something to be discontented about in any situation. They can find some fault in the best of bargains, the kindest of deeds, the most complete success, and the richest of good fortune. Godliness with contentment is great gain (First Timothy 6:6), but these counterfeit rebels are chronically discontented with life and with the place in life that ADONAI has placed them. There are few people more unpopular than chronic faultfinders; and anyone who has that tendency might do well to remember that such an attitude is, in its own way, an insult to the LORD.96
Third, they speak with pride and arrogance, yet at the same time they are ready to pander to others if they think they can get anything out of it. For they mouth empty, boastful words, about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage financially (Jude 16c). They are smooth talkers. It is common for them to talk themselves up in front of people they want to impress, but also butter up those whom they think are important (as the occasion demands). They seek the favor of men and reject the grace of God.
Jude reiterates a point about these counterfeit teachers that he has made again and again. Their conduct is governed by their sinful nature. To them, self-discipline and self-control are nothing; to them, morality is only a burden and a nuisance; honor and duty are not even in their vocabulary; they have no desire to serve others and no sense of responsibility. Their only value is pleasure, and their only motivating force are their evil desires. They live their lives by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature (Jude 16d and Second Peter 2:18). The present participle appealing describes their lustful desires as being insatiable. The sinful human nature is what they catch hold of to lead their hearers into sin and away from God. In this regard Yeshua said: The prince of this world is coming, [but] He has no hold on Me (John 14:30b).
But these apostates do not go after just anybody. Like a sexual predator, they have a sixth sense for vulnerable people. Cleverly picking their targets, they entice people who are just barely escaping from those in the world who live in error (Second Peter 2:18). The present participle of escaping indicates an ongoing process. The word entice (deleazousin) repeats the same term as in 2 Peter 2:14, but there it is interpreted as seduce. The word entice is associated with bait for hunting and fishing. So the false teachers are as misleading and seductive like a hunter who attempts to catch his prey.97
Their victims are men and women who, through their own human efforts, are trying to better themselves. They include people who struggle with broken relationships, wrestle with emotional “felt needs” and spiritual problems. Having a deep desire for relief from guilt, anxiety and stress they are seeking answers in life. But that does not mean they are truly saved. In fact, in their dissatisfaction, loneliness, and self-help attempts, they are even more vulnerable to the seductive exploitations of these rebels.98
These Gnostic teachers (see Ac – The Book of Jude from a Jewish Perspective: Purpose) are clouds without rain and autumn trees without fruit because they do not lead people to the truth, but into error. Instead of providing people with the water of life, they only give broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). Thus, in unflinching terms, Jude clearly identified these apostates, while at the same time exposing their character in order to warn believers of their true nature and final destiny. Jude was laying the groundwork to call his readers to action against these ungodly people and their practices.99
Instead of grumbling and complaining, the Word of God urges us to do everything without complaining or arguing (Philippians 2:14); not to live to satisfy our own lustful desires, but rather live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); to cling to sound teaching (Second Timothy 1:13), in the place of empty, boastful words; not flattering others for our own advantage, but preaching the Word (Second Timothy 4:2a); committing the Scriptures to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (Second Timothy 2:2); and contend for the faith that was once for all passed on to God’s people (Jude 3).