Apostasy is the abandoning or renouncing of the faith. Apparently, there were apostate teachers in the first century who were urging believers to commit the sin of apostasy. To help the saints identify these dangerous people, Jude reached back to the Old Testament and chose three notorious characters who were undoubtedly familiar to his readers.
Here is what Jude wrote, “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11).
Cain appeared to be a religious man in that he worshipped by offering sacrifices to God, but it was a religion on his own terms. Ignoring God’s stated ways, Cain did want he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. In truth, Cain was a worldly man in disguise which he eventually proved by his actions. Watch out for spiritual leaders who say one thing but do another. To follow them is to go in the way of Cain.
It’s no secret that Balaam had a genuine gift from God. The man was a prophet. The problem is that his gifts were for hire to the highest bidder. The Bible says we cannot serve God and money. Balaam chose money. The biblical model is for ministry to be financed through the giving of God’s people. Watch out for those who seek to manipulate that principle for personal gain. Remember that anointing does not necessarily mean approval. To follow such a leader is to run greedily in the error of Balaam.
Korah was a Levite who allowed a root of bitterness to spring up in his heart. He was in full-time ministry, and yet he coveted the ministry that belonged to another. Korah began a whispering campaign of false accusations against Moses and Aaron, God’s delegated leaders, which eventually drew in 250 levitical priests. They were all judged on the spot in the most terrifying way. To follow leaders who seek authority but refuse to submit to it is to perish in the rebellion of Korah.
Three Old Testament rebels. At first glance, you would say they all had the form of godliness. Cain worshipping. Balaam prophesying. Korah serving. But in all three cases the heart was terribly wrong.
Make sure you know who you are following. Rather than being led in the way of Cain, the error of Balaam, or the rebellion of Korah, make sure you are following leaders who can say with Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Pastor Todd Weston