An Archangel’s Example 

Michael’s humility demonstrates an attitude essential for Christians serving in ministry.

“But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” (Jude 9) 

Avid readers will be well acquainted with the significance of a literary foil—a character who provides a contrast to another character in the narrative. Foils are often employed to highlight the character development of the protagonist by presenting another character with an opposite personality or series of actions—usually negative if those of the protagonist are positive. This technique can provide depth to a story that the reader would otherwise lack.  

In our text, Jude uses the example of the archangel Michael as a foil to false teachers. 

Jude’s reference to Michael in verse nine most likely draws from a Jewish apocryphal text known as The Assumption of Moses, which is an expansion on the death and burial of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 34:5-6. This apocryphal text describes Michael and Satan disputing over the body of Moses. Commentators largely view the issue as Satan wanting to make a public image of the body of Moses as a religious relic or idol, a sin to which the Israelites were all too prone, while Michael, as one of God’s chief servants, rejected that idea. 

It is important to note that just because Jude references this book, he is not supporting its inspiration or arguing for its canonical status. He is using a story well known to his audience to drive home his point, just as Paul did when speaking at the Areopagus by referencing pagan poets (Acts 17:28). We should be careful not to assume that a reference in Scripture implies that the referenced work itself is Scripture. 

While the context of Jude’s reference is important, it is the attitude of Michael to which he draws the reader’s attention as the primary concern. 

Jude’s description of Michael in verse nine stands in direct contrast to his language in verses eight and ten, in which he accuses the false teachers of blaspheming. Readers of this epistle should immediately recognize that he is presenting Michael as a foil to the false teachers in the surrounding verses.  

The archangel Michael, rather, “did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment.” He did not act presumptively—an attitude of which Jude already indicted the false teachers, fallen angels, and those condemned in Sodom and Gomorrah. Unlike the fallen angels, Michael did stay within his own position of authority. He was faithful to his commission, for which he is commended. 

As for what Jude intended by this reference, there are two primary possibilities. First, he may be highlighting Michael’s submission to the supreme authority of God as a charge against the false teachers’ claim to possess their own authority. In our previous text, these teachers neglected the authority of God’s Word by appealing to their dreams as their source of authority. Michael, who possesses higher authority than any human being, serves as an example of humility, providing both a warning to Jude’s readers and an indictment on those leading them astray. 

The other possibility is that Jude is contrasting the measured speech of Michael with the rash speech of the false teachers. The false teachers “rail against the dignities,” while Michael reserves such judgments for the Lord. Certainly, he opposes them, but he does not take it upon himself to “pronounce a blasphemous judgment,” stating instead, “The Lord rebuke you.” 

In either case, the underlying thrust of Michael’s example is one of submission, humility, and service. He did not usurp the authority or language that belongs to God alone. Jude’s original audience, and we as his contemporary audience, ought to do likewise. 

We are so prone to pride and presumption and often swayed by those in authority, but our proper position before God is as servants, not masters. This is especially important for those of us serving in missions or ministry. We must never claim for ourselves that which belongs to God alone lest we too be guilty of blasphemy. Rather, may we be measured, humble, and fully reliant upon the Lord and his grace. 


Heavenly Father, 
Keep us from rash words and rash actions. May we be marked by measured service and full reliance upon you. May our testimony to the world be one which makes much of you and little of ourselves. 
In your Son’s name, amen. 

Prayer Requests: 

  • Pray for a humble heart of submission to the Lord. 
  • Pray that your witness would not be tainted by personal ambition or the usurpation of authority. 
  • Pray that the Spirit would pierce hard and arrogant hearts as missionaries take the gospel to the ends of the earth.