Snakes in the Garden Jude 11                                                

I picked up an article the other day that explains how to recognize the markings of poisonous snakes.  Reading the detailed descriptions, I was reminded again how important it is to know these markings so we can recognize these snakes. If you had a beautiful garden filled with dew-covered roses and flowers, yet also in your garden were some poisonous snakes, would you tell your children only about the roses?  Would you not warn them about snakes in the garden?

God wants us to know there are snakes hiding in the garden known as the Church, apostates whose doctrines are poisonous, and you’d better learn what their markings are.

“I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17

False doctrine is dangerous. I remind you, Satan is not against religion—he’s in favor of it.  He uses it.  It is his chief tool. 

Jude gives us three “snakes” to be on the lookout for. Stay away from them. They have definite marks.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude v. 4

They have slithered in, hiding in the grass.

An apostate is very clever. Satan is chief among them. But at the beginning of the Church, he learned he must change his strategy.

Early on, Satan thought he could destroy the Church with persecution.  But the more the church was persecuted, the more it grew.  When he tried to stamp out the fire, he just scattered the embers.  We even have a slogan: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Persecution causes the church to grow. 

So the Devil said, “If I can’t beat them from without, I’ll work from within. I will infiltrate.”  He infiltrates through apostasy.

The word “apostate” doesn’t mean an unbeliever or even someone in a cult.  Those are people who are lost until they get saved, not “apostate.”  Apostasy means “to fall away.”  An apostate has received the truth, rejected the truth, begins to ridicule the truth, and after a while actually tries to replace the truth.  He’s an enemy of the truth, a snake in the garden.

There are three types of apostates, and Jude mentions three men, each representing a noteworthy brand of apostasy.

“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 Korah.” Jude 11

Cain—Those Who Pervert the Gospel 

The story of Cain and Abel, two brothers, two sons of Adam and Eve bringing two different offerings, is literally the story of two religions and two destinies, Heaven and Hell. Both came to worship the Lord.  Abel’s offering of a blood sacrifice was an Old Testament picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. But Cain, a farmer, brought an offering representing the works of his hands, his sweat, his own effort. That’s not to say it wasn’t a beautiful offering. I imagine it looked like a county fair, very impressive. But God was not impressed. It did not deal with a substitutionary death.  It represented culture rather than Calvary.

There are two religions in the world, only two:  the true and the false. One is the way of Cain; the other, the way of the cross.  One leads straight to Hell, the other straight to Heaven. Cain brought the works of his hands, culture rather than Calvary.

One mark of apostates is, they have gone the way of Cain, religion without the blood sacrifice, the atonement. 

Across America today, you can go to church year after year without hearing about the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. But God has proclaimed,

“Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Heb. 9:22 

The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

I don’t know what you believe about the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus, but here’s what the apostle Paul believes about it:

“For I delivered unto you that which first I first received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”  1 Corinthians15:3.

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins…”  Romans 3:24-25

Jesus died for my sin and yours.  He became my sin bearer, my substitute. 

The way of Cain is “works” rather than grace, self-effort rather than blood, the way of apostasy. The other is the way of the cross.  Cain represents those who pervert the gospel of Christ.  That’s one snake in the garden.

Balaam—Those who Prostitute the Gospel

“They have gone after the error of Balaam.”  (Jude v. 11)

Balaam, an Old Testament apostate prophet, epitomizes those who make merchandise of the Gospel—and there are many today.  When he was enlisted by the king of Moab to put a curse on God’s people, he refused at first. But the king of Moab knew “every man has his price,” and sweetened the pot.  Balaam caved and told the King, “I can’t curse them, but I sure would like to have this money, so I’m gonna give you some good advice.  I don’t have to curse them.  Just get them to sin, and God Himself will curse them.”  That’s exactly what the heathen king did.  He infiltrated Israel with sex and immorality.

Balaam represents those who sell out, take the message of God, the truth of God, and for personal gain prostitute the office of prophet and preacher.

We have those today who have struck a financial arrangement with the Devil himself and become tools of Satan. Their driving motivation is greed.  Behind all apostasy there is some form of personal gain the apostate hopes to get. 

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you….” 2 Peter 2:1-3

The hardest person to deal with is a religious apostate. He’s good with words.  He’s one of the slickest things around. When a man will trim his message or do anything for godless gain, he’s an apostate. 

Korah—Those who Prohibit the Gospel 

Korah protested Moses, God’s appointed prophet and Aaron, God’s appointed priest. Korah and his bunch didn’t like the idea that God had set up prophetic and priestly authority, an old-fashioned way of doing things where God says “This is right and this is wrong.” 

Understand exactly what they were protesting.  All of this was prophetic. Scripture clearly states that Moses was a type of the Lord Jesus, and Aaron the high priest was a type of Christ, our high priest.  Moses and Aaron picture the prophetic message and the priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Korah rebelled against God’s prophetic messenger, Moses, and God’s priestly mediator, Aaron. Korah rose in opposition to God’s man.  How did God feel about him?

“And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation.  And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them; for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.  And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.” Numbers 16:31-35.

An apostate is on shaky ground.  As a faithful believer in Christ, you’d better be standing on the rock when this begins to happen.

Apostates have received the truth, refused the truth, then not only ridiculed the truth, but actually seek to replace the truth.  Jude said, “Woe unto them.” That’s the reason the book of Jude was written. Jude wanted to say, “Oh, I was going to write a gospel track to you, but it became needful for me to write unto you that you should earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints.”

Learn the marks of an apostate.  Apostates are at war with us.  The Devil is not content just have his false religion.  He wants to slip into the garden like a snake in the grass and destroy what we have.  The Devil hates every gospel preacher.

Don’t think you can just simply ignore apostasy.  That’s the problem today: so much apostasy in the pulpit and apathy in the pew.  People just don’t care.

But more than learning the marks of an apostate, you must learn the truth.  The way to keep from being an apostate and be able to recognize one is to know the truth. 

Years ago I heard a story of a man who applied for a job as a river boat pilot on the Mississippi.  They said, “Can you run a river boat?”  He said, “Of course I can.”  “Can you handle the business affairs and stay in command?” 

“Of course I can.” 

“One other thing, do you know where all the sandbars are?” 

“No, I don’t.”  

“Do you know where the sunken rocks are?” 

“No, I don’t.”   

“Do you know where all the hidden logs are?” 

“No, I don’t.” 

They said, “Well, how do you ever expect to be a river boat pilot?” 

He said, “I know where the channel is.” 

To be protected—immunized—from the apostates, you must know the true way.

You’d better know where the channel is. You must know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and know His Word.