Verse of the Day: Jude 23
“save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” – Jude 23
The book of Jude is the shortest book in the Bible, but says a lot about what we, as Christians, need to do as well as be careful of. He wanted to write about their ‘common salvation’, which was a very positive idea, but he felt compelled, by God, to encourage his brothers and sisters to stand firm in the faith. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1:3. This was important because people were sneaking in to speak against what the Christian faith was all about. “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4. These are dangerous people who have secretly entered the Church fellowship with the purpose of deceiving believers to believe the same ungodly things they did.
Jude then uses a term that fully explains what he meant. Licentiousness or lewdness is not a sign of weakness but one of willful disobedience. Licentious people do things that are really wild. Some look upon God’s grace and kindness as an excuse to sin, saying, in effect, His kindness does away with law, so we are free to do as we please. Essentially, they suppose that, somehow or other, the more they practice sin, the more grace they will receive. And they also deny Christ. It is not that they say Christ never existed or is not the Savior. It is that everything they say and do, everything they believe, contradicts God’s way. If one denies a statement, he is contradicting the person who says it. Jude is using “deny” in this sense. The false teachers contradict Jesus Christ in all things. They can appear to be doing what they are supposed to, but inside deny the truth of God.
However, Jude knew this was happening. Therefore, instead of writing, at this time, about their ‘common salvation’ he felt it important to help them contend for the faith, to come against what the false teachers were teaching, and remind them of the truth of the Gospel. He was not saying to speak against the false teachers, but their teachings. He gave several examples of similar actions; the angels including Lucifer, the unbelievers in Sodom and Gomorrah, and those who were rescued out of Egypt and denied God, the one who rescued them. Jude then tells them “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” Jude 1:14-15.
Then Jude encourages them to keep themselves in a manner that is pleasing to God. “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” Jude 1:17-19. He is telling his readers that these activities described above were prophesied by Jesus’s apostles. It simply means they foretold it before it came to pass. In essence, it was inevitable. Paul was quoted by Luke in the Book of Acts, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves’ men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30. But he told them to keep themselves in God’s love. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21. Jude has finished what he had to say about the ungodly, and now turns to more positive teaching. For the second time he calls them dear friends, and on each occasion, it is in contrast to the false teachers. He encourages them to build up the faith they have in Christ, pray in the Holy Spirit, and wait anxiously for Christ’s mercy and the eternal life He has promised.
But he also reminds them of their mission here. “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude 1:22-23. Having exhorted his readers on how to behave in general and encouraging them as to their hope, Jude now turns back to the issue of the false teachers and their followers. How should they treat these people? Are they to be hated, fought, feared, or simply shunned? Jude implicitly rejects all of these approaches toward teaching considered to be false and thus misleading many Christians. But also, as said so clearly in our focus verse, we are to rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives, but loving those trapped in those beliefs and practices. While the doubters may not have been sure who was right and thus may have held back from committing to either set of practices, some were already getting involved with the practices of the teachers Jude is opposing. Jude’s counsel is to “snatch” them ‘from the fire’ and ‘save them.’
This is what we are called to do, help the doubters understand the truth and accept it, and declare the reality of what they are doing to those who are purposefully practicing what is wrong, knowing that it is wrong, so they can stop their sinful practices. Chuck Smith wrote this regarding this idea. “You can’t witness the same way to everybody. People are different, people have different temperaments. Some you’ve got to scare the hell out of them. Others are drawn by love. Some with compassion, making a difference, others, by fear, pulling them out of the fire. I mean, what does that mean? Now, it means that we have got to be led by the Spirit as we deal with people, hating even the garment that has been spotted by the flesh, pull them out of the fire. But hate the garment spotted by the flesh.”
Our purpose is to bring people into the faith of God and help them to grow such that they can then do the same. We are not called to simply do the do’s and not do the don’ts. We are called to help people become believers, and believers that spread the truth of the Christian life, helping others to grow in the faith.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.