False Teachers and the Art of Murmuring – Exegesis of Jude 16

“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” Jude 16

As Jude continues his description of apostates he begins to give specific descriptions of the character of these men and women. I am going to break down each one of these descriptions piece by piece in hopes that it will give you wisdom to discern. These “hidden reefs” sneak into churches, so my hope is that this will enable you to spot these individuals and stop the spread of their heresies.

The first description Jude uses is “grumblers”. This is one of the first Greek words that I taught my children in reference to Philippians 2:14, because, as most kids do, they like to grumble and whine when they want something badly. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” The Greek word used here is the same one Jude uses in verse 16. The word is “goggustes” and literally means “to murmur”. This is a secret discontent that lies deep within the one who beholds it. This sin that dwells in the hearts of all men comes from a lack of contentment. Within the context, an apostate is one who has a lack of contentment in God. These apostate men and women have an insatiable desire for the things of this world. They want money, prestige, and power, and all the fleshly desires that come with it (sex, big houses, fine foods, nice cars, being on magazine covers or TV shows, etc…). When these apostates don’t get what they want they become angry. As James tells us, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel; You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 1:1-3

Sinful man gets angry when it doesn’t get what it wants and will even go as far as murder to get the things that they lust for. Where there is murmuring, there will be an idol manifesting itself in a depraved heart for all to see. In fact, the implication of “goggustes” is that signs of this inner discontent will begin to manifest on the outside. In the church they will be the ones who like to talk under their breath when they do not get what they want. They will be malicious gossips. As it progresses these apostates might approach a bible teacher or a pastor and complain to them about what they didn’t like about the sermon on a regular basis. They might try to dig up dirt on individuals that oppose them so as to discredit them. Make no mistake, these apostates are agents of discord, and though they might sneak into the church, it is only a matter of time before their true intentions are revealed. Murmurers speak with the accent of Hell. The confines of Hell will one day be filled with malcontent people who will seethe in anger over not getting the desires of their depraved hearts. Brothers and Sisters, it is very easy for believers to mimic this trait of apostates. We should be content in our circumstances, not emulating those who are destined for destruction. The accent of the redeemed should be one of praise and thanksgiving, not murmuring.

The next word Jude uses is “mempsimoiros” (finding fault). It is a combination of Memphomai, meaning “to blame” and moira, meaning “an allotment/apportioned amount”. Properly, it means, “a complaint over an allotted portion.” They are people that will blame you for their sins and failures, never accepting responsibility for themselves. We live in a society that is ripe with “mempsimoiros”. There are people who commit crimes that state the reason they carried out these evils was because they had a rough childhood. While having gone through a rough childhood might be true, they ultimately made a decision to choose a life of crime. The crimes they committed did not choose them, they chose the crimes. This is why no one will have any excuse when they stand before God at the Great White Throne judgment. Every unbeliever cast into Hell will be guilty of choosing rebellion against the Lord of all creation.

The next label Jude puts on an apostate is one who is “following after their own lusts”. The Greek word “poreuo” means, “to journey/to walk” but within the context it denotes “to walk in one’s own ways” or better yet from a contextual perspective, “to walk according to one’s moral preferences.” As you have probably deduced, the moral preferences here are their “own lusts”. The Greek word used is “epithumia” which happens to appear only a handful of times in all of scripture in a positive context. It is predominantly used regarding evil desires. “Epi”, is a prefix that intensifies the meaning of the word. It is simply defined as, “focused on”. The second half of the word is “thumia”, which derives from “thumos”. If you remember Ephesians 4:31 “thumos” is “rage/wrath”. It is a passion/anger that boils up and over, and then recedes. This word is not always used in a sinful context as it is used in Revelation 16:19 regarding God pouring His wrath out on Babylon. Since Greek words can have more than one meaning the context always determines the usage. In this case “epi” intensifies “thumia” and gives us the translation of “lust”. Lust is nothing more than desire out of control, which is why God can exercise “thumos” in regards to anger and we cannot. In His righteous state He can control every emotion so that it never deviates into sin. He being the Alpha and Omega of holiness cannot be tempted to sin because it is not in His nature. Man on the other hand has a natural disposition for evil. In the case of false teachers, they are controlled by their appetites. In my fantasy novel, “Athanasia: The Great Insurrection” there is a wicked pirate by the name of Bremus who is talking to the Pirate King Sprasian. Bremus has a lust for blood, power, and gold. Sprasian asks Bremus, “Are you really satisfied by the lifestyle we lead?” To which Bremus responds, “I am never satisfied, that is why I must keep doing it.” This is the road that lust will take you down, one of diminishing returns. The more you commit a sin, the less satisfaction you receive, which necessitates that you must do the act more and more in an attempt to fill the void. The problem is that lust cannot be satiated. Jude is showing us the path to lust in verse 16. Lust starts with discontent for the will of God by the simple act of murmuring about present circumstances. It always comes from an idol that we construct in our depraved hearts. That deep discontent begins to manifest itself in actions. And those actions never satisfy. If you read my book you will see a flashback of Bremus in his youth where he hated being poor. He was the son of a tent maker, and he coveted the great wealth of those who came to purchase tents from his father. He began to murmur against his father for not charging more or cutting back on the quality which eventually led to a confrontation that ended their relationship. Bremus’ idolatrous love for money bred discontent. His discontent led to his murmuring, and his murmuring led him to cheat his father’s customers, which eventually led him to become a murderous pirate to try to fulfill his lusts. He was never satisfied as he repeated the same destructive cycle over and over again. These apostates, like Bremus, are fully given over to their sins. There is no escape as these sins will eventually destroy them and lead to a day of reckoning with the Lord Almighty.

Next, apostates speak “arrogantly” and are “flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” In this verse (with the exception of epithumia) I believe that Jude is pointing to apostates as being wind bags (i.e. people that like to talk a lot). They carry out their evil deeds most often with their mouths. The Greek word for “arrogantly” is huperogkos. The “u” transliterates to a “y” making it “hyper”. Hyper means “beyond” and ogkos means “swelling”. Properly, it means, “greatly swollen” or “bloated”. Jude is using the word in a figurative sense to denote someone who speaks very highly of themselves. They like to talk about themselves and their achievements all the time. Every word spoken is an exaggeration coming from pure narcissism. A false teacher is not a beacon of humility, they are swelling with pride like their father Satan. Jude then uses another verb “thaumazo” (flattering) to describe a false teacher’s speech. It literally means, “to marvel/wonder at”. In context, this speaks to apostates “marveling” at people like you and me. They tell us how great and faithful servants we are of the Lord for the sole purpose of gaining “opheleia”, which means, “profit” or “advantage”. False Teachers literally exaggerate how wonderful you are so that they can get something from you in the future. What is the advantage they seek? More often than not it is money. If you confront an apostate about their error they will begin by flattering you so that you will start to think too highly of yourself. This is meant to stop you from exposing their heresy and warning others of their true intentions. Don’t buy it. A centered believer does not need the accolades of man to function. We seek the approval of our King. It doesn’t mean that we as believers should not commend one another on achievements, it means that we must use discernment to see if someone is trying to use us to their advantage. Is it any wonder that Solomon says in Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Solomon used lying and flattery in same sentence to reveal to us that flattery is in fact a prevarication. The false teacher does not believe a word of what he is saying to you. He just wants an advantage and in the end it is for your ruin.

We must confront apostates using the word of God as our guide. There are so many that have fallen under the spells of false teachers and only the word of God is able to remove the scales from their eyes.

Whatever comes out of the mouth of a false teacher is meant only to destroy. Never forget this.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Author: thomascoutouzis

I was born in the United States as a second generation Greek. My family comes from the Island of Kalymnos which is the island next to Patmos (Where the apostle John wrote Revelation). My wife Kathy is of Korean descent and we have two wonderful children, Chloe and Micah. We live in a small town outside of Raleigh, North Carolina called Fuquay Varina. The Lord redeemed me as a young boy as my mother (who was a believer) shared the Gospel with me. If I had to categorize my denomination I would most likely fall into the Reformed Baptist realm with some differences over non-essential doctrine. I am an expositional bible teacher who attends Fellowship Baptist Church in Willow Springs, NC. For the last few years I have been taking God's word and teaching it on outlets like Twitter and Wordpress. I am also a fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' fantasy novels. As such I am writing a fantasy series full of adventure, while weaving deep theological truth into the story and characters. My first book, "Athanasia: The Great Insurrection" is available in both ebook and paperback currently. I am hoping to release the second book in the series, "Athanasia: The Unknown Lands" around September of 2018.

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