The Way of Cain, Balaam, and Korah

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11)

The little Letter of Jude begins with a call to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (3). That call is followed by a warning—God’s people must be vigilant in their stand against apostasy.

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4).

These “certain people” are described in vivid terms throughout the rest of the letter (10,16,19). Such people need to be spotted for who they truly are so that the church is not deceived and ruined by false teaching and immoral behavior. One practical God-breathed strategy for the defense of the faith? Learn the lessons of history (Jude 7,11).

  • “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities…” (Gen 19)
  • “They walked in the way of Cain…” (Gen 4:1-8)
  • “…and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error” (Num 22)
  • “…and perished in Korah’s rebellion” (Num 16)

Jude assumes that Christians have learned (or will learn) these Old Testament stories. He believes the lessons of the past can be an aid in the struggles of the present. And he expects Christians to wisely avoid traveling in the same foolish direction.

What might this dangerous “way” sound like today?

  • “I want what I want when I want it, and I’ll do whatever I must to get it.”
  • “If I don’t get what I want when I want it, I’ll give full vent to my frustrated spirit.”
  • “I know what God said, but…”
  • “Why should I listen to or follow you?”

Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). Even as Christians in the 21st century, we would do well to learn the preserved lessons of the past.

This sermon was delivered on January 27, 2013.

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