From The Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 7

From The Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude (Part 7)

Continuing his written portrait of apostate teachers, Jude states in verse 9:

Yet Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Here, the conduct of apostates is seen in sharp contrast to that of Michael, the archangel guardian of Israel, who did not use violent speech even to the devil. The argument is that if Michael respected some measure of dignity in Satan, how much more should men. Michael, whose name means “Who is as God” or “Who is like unto God?”, is mentioned in the Old Testament by Daniel (Dan. 10:13; 12:1) and again in the New Testament in Revelation 12:7. In the Bible he appears as the archangel, there being no reference in the Scriptures to a plurality of archangels. Along this line Harry A. Ironside has stated, “It is important to observe that we never read of archangels in Scripture. Men may so talk, but God’s word never. The word occurs only in the singular. Michael … is the archangel. Gabriel, for instance, is never so called. Some have sought to identify Michael with the Son of God Himself. But as there is no word from the Holy Spirit that declares such an identity it is unwise to theorize. In the writer’s judgment the evidence is all the other way.

“Michael appears in the book of Daniel as ‘the great prince that standeth for the children of thy (the prophet’s) people’; that is, of Israel. In Revelation he appears as the leader of the angelic hosts driving Satan from the heavens when his days of accusing the brethren are ended. Here he is seen contending for the lawgiver’s body; and in 1 Thess. 4 he seems to be a distinct being, whose voice (as Israel’s prince) will be heard in connection with the shout of the Lord and the trump of God at our Saviour’s coming to gather His redeemed to Himself in the air. It is noticeable that in Dan. 10:13 he is called, by another angel, ‘Michael, one of the chief princes’; a title, it would seem, utterly inconsistent with Him who was known of old as ‘The Angel of the Covenant’ —now as our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.”1

There is no record anywhere in the Scriptures of the event to which Jude refers in verse 9. However, relying on a note in the church fathers, some Bible scholars assume a connection between this passage and an alleged appendix to the apocryphal book, The Assumption of Moses (the situation is similar to 2 Tim. 3:8 in reference to Jannes and Jambres), which gives the story of the dispute over the body of Moses after his death, resulting in his triumphal “assumption” to heaven. The devil claimed the body on the ground that Moses was a murderer (Ex. 2:11).Why, then, did Michael contend for Moses’ body? Some say it was because of the prophet who would arise like Moses, and Satan wanted to use Moses’ body, but this interpretation is farfetched. Furthermore, it would be pointless to relate these details to the Mount of Transfiguration, where Moses appeared with Elijah, since Moses’ natural body would not be at stake there. At any rate, whatever significance there may be, it seems best to relate the reason for such a dispute to Revelation 11:1-13, where the two prophets — Moses and Elijah — are spoken of (see Deut. 34:6). If indeed Moses is to be one of the two witnesses who will be slain and raised again in what appears to be the first half of the tribulation period, then his natural body would be at stake and on this basis Satan might have had good reason to contend for it. It has also been suggested that the devil may have wanted to stumble Israel by setting up Moses’ body as an object of veneration, much as Israel was led astray in worshipping the golden calf set up by Aaron (see Ex. 32) and later venerated the brazen serpent which Moses had made (see 2 Kings 18:4).

In verse 10 Jude repeats, in similar fashion, what he mentioned in verse 8:

But these speak evil of those things which they know not; but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

While professing to have superior knowledge, these false teachers were in reality devoid of the Holy Spirit and in their natural state they neither knew nor understood the truth and wisdom of God (see 1 Cor. 2:7-16). They have no understanding of spiritual realities and, in their ignorance, they “speak evil” of those things about which they are blind. While, like the “brute beasts,” they possess instinctive knowledge about physical life, this they pervert. The Apostle Peter does not limit his comparison to the sort of knowledge they possess, but likens both their persons and conduct to that of “brute beasts” (2 Pet. 2:12). The condemnation of their moral perversion in particular runs throughout Jude’s letter.

“How ironical,” comments Michael Green, “That when men should claim to be knowledgeable, they should actually be ignorant; when they think themselves superior to the common man they should actually be on the same level as animals, and be corrupted by the very practices in which they seek liberty and self-expression. Jude is stating profound truth in linking these two characteristics together. If a man is persistently blind to spiritual values, deaf to the call of God, and rates self-determination as the highest good, then a time will come when he cannot hear the call he has spurned, but is left to the mercy of the turbulent instincts to which he once turned in search of freedom.

And those instincts, given free reign, are merciless. Lust, when indulged, becomes a killer. For a modern commentary on this theme, see Albert Camus’s play, Caligula.”2

(To be continued, D.V.)

Comments on the Creeds

Let us never speak disparagingly of creeds. Preachers who in sweeping statements condemn “man-made creeds” are not thereby manifesting as much spirituality and intelligence as some might suppose. While it is true that we go to the inexhaustible fountain of the infallible Word of God for doctrine, nevertheless we may well thank God that in early centuries when the cardinal truth of the Deity of Christ was viciously attacked, strong men like Athanasius investigated the doctrine in the. Word, and stood in the breach. The results of these painstaking investigations were beautifully expressed in three important creeds, The Nicene Creed of 325, The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, and Symbolum of Athanasianum. There were few Bibles in those days so long before the invention of printing. Arians and Semi-Arians were many and powerful, and even the emperors of Rome supported them. We can come to no other conclusion than that these creeds were ordered by the providence of God to the eternal glory of His Son, and for the reaffirmation of the doctrine of the Deity of Christ.

—Donald. M. Hunter in
Our Hope,
February 1948

What They Don’t Tell You About Darwin!

Neither the biographers of Charles Darwin, nor writers on Evolution, relate the following story of the last days of Charles Darwin, as told by Lady Hope, at meetings in Northfield, Mass.: “It was on a glorious autumn afternoon, when I was asked to go and sit with Charles Darwin. He was almost bedridden for months before he died. Propped up with pillows, his features seemed to be lit up with pleasure as I entered the room. He waved his hand towards the window, as he pointed out the beautiful sunset scene beyond, while in the other hand he held an open Bible, which he was always studying. ‘What are you reading now?’ I asked. ‘Hebrews’ he answered. ‘Still Hebrews. The Royal Book, I call it.’ Then, placing his finger on certain passages, he commented on them. ‘I made, some allusion to the strong opinions expressed by many on the history of creation, and then their treatment of the earlier chapters of the Book of Genesis. He seemed distressed, his fingers twitched nervously, and a look of agony came over his face as he said: ‘I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them.’ Then he paused, and after a few more sentences on the holiness of God, and ‘the grandeur of this Book,’ looking at the Bible which he was holding tenderly all the time, he said: ‘I have a summer house in the garden which holds about thirty people; it is over there (pointing through the open window). I want you very much to speak here. I know you read the Bible in the villages. Tomorrow afternoon I should like the servants on the place, some tenants, and a few neighbours, to gather there. Will you speak to them?’ ‘What shall I speak about?’ I asked. ‘Christ Jesus,’ he replied in a clear, emphatic voice, adding in a lower tone, ‘and His salvation. Is not that the best theme? And then I want you to sing some hymns with them. You lead on your small instrument, do you not?’ The look of brightness on his face as he said this I shall never forget; for he added: ‘If you take the meeting at three o’clock, this window will be open, and you will know that I am joining with the singing’.”

—From the Christian Witness

1 Harry A. Ironside, Exposition of the Epistle of Jude, p. 29.

2 Michael Green, The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, p 171.