Exercise Spiritual Discernment!
What should be the attitude of the growing Christian toward those who are being influenced by the apostates?
Jude instructed his readers to exercise discernment and to act on the basis of that discernment. He described three different kinds of people who need spiritual help. The New American Standard Bible makes this clear:
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.
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;
Jude 22 (NASB)
These are the people who are wavering. They are probably the “unstable souls” Peter wrote about (2 Peter 2:14). These people are converted, but they are not grounded in the faith.
Our responsibility is to have mercy on them, or show compassion toward them, by seeking to lead them away from the influences of the apostates. This kind of ministry demands a great deal of love and patience, and we must keep in mind that immature believers are like little children who think they know right from wrong. If you say no to them, they will only rebel and become more stubborn!
One of the best ways to draw them away from the false teachers is to magnify all that they have in Christ and to share His love for them in practical ways. Make their salvation so wonderful and the Word so exciting that they will lose interest in the teachings of the apostates. It is not enough merely to refute the false doctrines. There must also be warmth of love that assures the young believer, “We care for you.”
It is an open secret that false teachers prey especially on disgruntled church members. (Note Jude 16—“murmurers” and “complainers.”) It is important that the pastor and the people show special love and concern to new Christians and that they also minister to the mature members of the church, lest somebody stray because of neglect.
Paul sent Timothy to the young believers in Thessalonica so that he might establish them in their faith (1 Thes. 2). Every young Christian needs a more mature believer to teach him how to stand and walk.
“save others, snatching them out of the fire;”
Jude 23a (NASB)
Apparently these are the people who have left the fellowship and are now a part of the apostate group. They need to be snatched out of the fire! The angels took Lot by the hand and pulled him out of Sodom (Gen. 19:16), and sometimes that must be done in order to rescue ignorant and unstable believers from the clutches of false teachers.
There is probably a reference here to Zechariah 3:2 and also Amos 4:11. In the Zechariah passage, the “brand” was the nation Israel brought back from the Babylonian Captivity and resettled in their land. God saw the people as a brand saved from the fire.
In Amos 4, God was reproving the people for not heeding His warnings and judgments—poverty, poor crops, drought, pestilences, war, and even judgments like those that overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. They were as a brand plucked out of the fire, yet they did not appreciate God’s mercy.
“and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
Jude 23b (NASB)
The phrase with fear means “with caution.” In trying to help those who have erred, we must be careful not to be trapped ourselves! Many a would-be rescuer has been drowned himself. When an unstable believer has been captured by false doctrine, we must be very careful as we try to help him, for Satan can use him to defile us. In trying to save him, we may be stained or burned ourselves!
The principle Jude was laying down was that stronger believers must never think they are beyond satanic influence.
Sinfulness is contagious. If we are not in fear as we show mercy to others, we may become contaminated with their “germs.” For example, suppose you want to help someone who is involved in an unclean or worldly practice. If you are not careful, instead of helping that one, you may become contaminated and eventually join him in that very practice. Therefore, in order not to be contaminated, we need to have mercy on others in fear.
The Old Testament Jews had to be very careful to avoid ceremonial defilement, and this included even their clothing (Lev. 13:47; 14:47; 15:17). If a “clean” person touched an “unclean” garment, then he was defiled.
We certainly must love God’s people, but we must also hate sin. Wherever there is sin, Satan has a foothold and can go to work. Defilement spreads rapidly and secretly, and it must be dealt with drastically. If the Jewish priest thought that a garment was infected with leprosy, he had the garment burned.
Sin in the life of a believer is extremely serious. Therefore, Jude commands us to act immediately when we see a fellow brother or sister compromising his or her walk with the Lord.
However, not every Christian is equipped to deal with false teachers or with those they have influenced and captured. It takes a good knowledge of the Word, a faithful walk with God, an understanding of Satan’s devices, and certainly the fullness of the Spirit of God. It also demands spiritual discernment. It is much easier to instruct new Christians and keep them away from the false teachers than it is to snatch them out of the fire.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I am merciful to those who doubt.
I snatch others from the fire [whatever it is that Satan has attacked them with] and I rescue them.
To others, I show mercy mixed with an intense disgust for the old nature.
I flee from the corruptive influence of the old nature and hate even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
I declare this declaration of faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
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