Verses 22-23 show the amazing mercy of God. We have felt His righteous anger toward these apostates expressed through Jude yet now He calls us to reach out to them to lead them to salvation. And we see our Lord Jesus doing this with some of the Jews in apostate Judaism as we will see later. "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." Sometimes the best defense is offense. But as explained below, how we relate to them depends on how deeply they are entrenched in their false teachings. Jude seems to distinguish between three kinds of people here:
1) V. 22- "And have mercy on some, who are doubting" – This may refer to people who have been influenced by false teachers and are confused about the gospel but are still open. Some commentators say this may even include new believers who are not grounded in God's Word as seen in Galatians: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!" (Gal.1:6-8) And there are many professing (versus possessing) "Christians" in churches everywhere who are vulnerable to false teachings heard on TV , radio, books or even false teachers in the church. Here we need to mercifully and gently share the gospel with them. Nicodemus seems to fit into this category among apostate Judaism. He was open to truth and Jesus gently led him to salvation. (See John 3:1-16; 7:48-51; 19:38-40) Ken Boa used to teach Sunday school at a mainline denominational church and gently led many "professing Christians" to salvation.
2) V. 23- "Save others, snatching them out of the fire" – Jude is not saying that we can save anyone; only God can save the lost. But He uses believers as a means of salvation and even commands us to be His primary means of salvation as seen in the Great Commission and many other Scriptures. But these people have already bought the lies of the false teachers and are headed to hell unless someone "snatches them out of the fire" (again God being the Savior and the believer being His means of salvation). This is not done gently or mercifully as with the confused and doubting as seen above but requires us to confront them with the truth. Again Jesus is our model. He spoke strong words of rebuke to the Jewish leaders in Matthew 23 and later on we see "many even of the rulers believed in Him" (John 12:42). (In the chronology of the gospels Matthew 23 precedes John 12). We see this need for confrontation of false teachers and those they are leading astray in 2 Cor. 10:1- 11:14 where Paul uses battlefield imagery (weapons of warfare with power to demolish strongholds – the lies of false teachers) because: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully" (or "you happily put up with whatever anyone tells you" 2 Cor. 11:3-4). These weapons of warfare are probably similar to the ones Paul uses in Ephesians 6:13-20 – the armor of God: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, and prayer. James says the same as Jude and Paul: "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
3) V. 23 – "and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." – ["When we get close to the hard core souls committed to their deceptions we are in serious danger because these apostates are deeply deceived, profoundly deceived. Very often they have been trained to articulate their system. They know how to give the answers. They're subtle and satanic. They are the missionaries of error. And when you get near them, it's a dangerous place to be. You can't get intimate and accepting with these people, you have to understand they are the most adept enemies of the truth, they are the most highly skilled agents of the kingdom of darkness. And you don't want to get anywhere near their corruption." John MacArthur] The polluted garment probably refers to sexual sins as the Greek word for garment refers to under clothing. The idea is that if you hang out with these folks in your desire to lead them to Christ, you may fall into their sinful lifestyle. In fact John's second epistle tells us to never let a teacher of false religion in your home (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses; Mormons; etc): "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine [is disloyal to what Jesus Christ taught], do not receive him [do not accept him, do not welcome or admit him] into [your] house or bid him Godspeed or give him any encouragement. For he who wishes him success [who encourages him, wishing him Godspeed] is a partaker in his evil doings." (2 John 10-11) The church in Sardis died because they made friends with false teachers within the church: "But you have (only) a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments." (Rev. 3:4) Yet the Lord still calls us to reach out to them and mercifully confront them with the truth of the gospel. His long-suffering kindness and mercy is extended to some of His greatest enemies. I think of Paul before his conversion – a true enemy of Christ! (Acts 9)
Vv. 24-25 – Ultimately we do not have to fear losing our salvation in this dangerous rescue mission of apostates for our Lord promises to keep us to the end. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen". ["If God doesn't keep me, I can't keep myself. I'm not good enough to save myself and I'm certainly not good enough to keep myself. I will never be worthy of salvation. I wasn't in the past, I'm not now. Let me put it another way. If you could lose your salvation, you would." John MacArthur] Scripture calls us to have an assurance of our salvation both subjectively and objectively; i.e., both because God tells us objectively (in His Word) how to receive salvation and that we can know subjectively (personal experience) that we are saved. God's Word tells us that Jesus is the way, not a way, but the only way, and that if we trust His atoning work on the cross (taking the wrath of God for "my" sins and for "your" sins) and receive Him as our Savior (John 1:12) we will be saved from hell and unto eternal life (Rom. 10:9-13). Then God's Word assures us in many verses that if we are saved He will keep us for all eternity: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39) And He wants us to know we are saved (not hope, or wonder if); that we are His sons and daughters forever and for this truth to be our greatest joy even in the midst of painful (but brief) trials "in this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4)."He who believes in the Son of God [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] has the testimony [possesses this divine attestation] within himself. He who does not believe God [in this way] has made Him out to be and represented Him as a liar, because he has not believed (put his faith in, adhered to, and relied on) the evidence (the testimony) that God has borne regarding His Son. And this is that testimony (that evidence): God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life. I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, yes, eternal life." (1 John 5:10-13) Truly one of the greatest doctrines in the Bible is the doctrine of eternal security – to know that we know we are heaven bound and nothing or no one can snatch us out of His strong, loving hands. (John 10:28-29)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What is your main take away from the message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?
2. Do you know anyone in your church who may not be a true born-again Christian? If so, are you willing to heed Jude 22 and show God's mercy by sharing the gospel with them?
3. Are you Scripturally prepared to share the gospel with a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon if they knock on your door? Make sure you don't let them in or listen to their false doctrine per 2 John 10-11.
4. Do you know someone who is in a false religion and are you willing to go to them and share the gospel?
5. Do you have both an assurance of your salvation now (1 John 5:10-13) and an assurance that God will never let you go? (Jude 24-25; Rom. 8:38-39; John 10:28-29) Does this truth give you joy even in hard times?
In Christ Alone
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt of life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Written in 2002, "In Christ Alone" was a collaborative effort between Stuart Townend and fellow songwriter (and now good friend) Keith Getty.