“And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (New King James Version).
“There are some doubting souls who need your pity; snatch them from the flames and save them. There are others for whom your pity must be mixed with fear; hate the very clothing that is contaminated with sensuality” (New English Bible).
In these two verses Jude is not addressing the apostates, Jude says they are, “twice dead, pulled up by the roots.” They are ordained to eternal condemnation! He is writing about those who are being deceived by the apostates, true believers listening to the false teachers are causing them to doubt.
Those who have been corrupted by false teachers need, more than anything God’s forgiveness and our patience. They are doubters who need to be assured by God’s truth. So the mercy of God’s mercy is not to be hoarded, nit just to be enjoyed by those who know Christ, but it must be shared with others.
James 5:19,20, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Verse 22: “There are some doubting souls who need your pity.”
The difficult Greek of this passage has challenged scholars for ages; and, even today, there is no unanimity on how it should be rendered. I have included two translations to try to come to an agreement on the true meaning. The difficulty is in verse 22, “Making a distinction (difference)” and “Those who have doubts.”
“The general meaning of this exhortation is supposed to be, ‘Ye are not to deal alike with all those who have been seduced by false teachers; ye are to make a difference between those who have been led away by weakness and imprudence, and those who, in the pride and arrogance of their hearts, and their unwillingness to submit to wholesome discipline, have separated themselves from the Church, and become its inveterate enemies.’” –Adam Clarke
There are many believing, sincere people who have doubts. I remember an elderly man named Gus, who always worried that he had done something in his past which God could not forgive. I counseled with him frequently, assuring him that God forgives everything in our past. I showed him in God’s Word how that our sins were forgiven forever. But every two or three months he would be back again with the same doubts.
Perhaps you are having the same doubts about your past before becoming a believer. Listen to what God says:
Isaiah 43:15, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
Micah 7:18-19, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” And Revelation 21:1 says, “There was no more sea.” God hides our sins in the sea, then He does away with the sea!
Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.
I went through periods of doubt about my salvation, even when I was in Bible College. Since then I have recurring doubts about eternity, but I know that Jesus lives in me, and I have the power of the Holy Spirit as my life guide.
Do not condemn yourself if you have doubts, many of God’s greatest preachers had doubts:
Charles Spurgeon wrote: “I think, when a man says, ‘I never doubt,’ it is quite time for us to doubt him, it is quite time for us to begin to say, ‘Ah, poor soul, I am afraid you are not on the road at all, for if you were, you would see so many things in yourself, and so much glory in Christ more than you deserve, that you would be so much ashamed of yourself, as even to say, 'It is too good to be true.’”
Martin Luther, “At one point, the crushing doubt in his calling led to such an intense depression that he wrote, “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.’”
John Calvin wrote “Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.”
We are living in the last days, when so much of our society is fighting Christianity and the Bible, that it causes many believers to begin to doubt their faith. So we in ministry need to cut them some slack and have patience with the honest doubters.
Verse 23a: “But others save with fear…”
Jude is taking about those who are flirting with false doctrine, those who have followed false teachers and are very close to committing themselves to error, but have not taken the final step. They must be convinced of the error of the apostates before it is too late.
“Some of them you must argue out of their error, while they are still wavering.” –Barclay
“Save” is an present imperative, a command calling for them to continually have a Spirit enabled evangelistic mindset. Save and snatching bring to mind a spiritual intervention, much like families do when one of their loved ones is trapped in addiction to some substance of abuse and are in grave danger. The were to have the attitude of a parent who sees their child in the path of an oncoming car and runs to snatch and rescue them from harm's way.
Please understand how really serious spiritual error is! When you rescue Christians from the false teachers, you are “Pulling them out of the fire! hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” Even some of the false teachers themselves can be saved! But you must be afraid, even while you are trying to influence them, because you could be infected with the disease of sin and unbelief! However, it is our purpose to save as many as possible!
1 Corinthians 9:19-22 MSG, “ Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”
Verse 23b: “Pulling them out of the fire.” Zechariah 3:2, “A brand plucked from the fire?”
Jude compares believers caught up in the teaching of false teachers to loved ones caught in a burning building. And he does not advise those true Christians to try to put out the fire, but to get our loved ones out of the fire. Even after they are safe, the smell of smoke is still on their clothes.
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego coming out of the fire unscathed: Daniel 3:27,28, “The king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.” So if we snatch our friends and loved-ones out in time, they may not have any lasting effects from the apostate teachers. And they will be a testimony that one can survive with no lasting effects.
It is spiritually dangerous to stay around apostates and others who steadfastly reject and oppose the Gospel of Christ. If there is opportunity to witness to them, it should be done with the greatest of caution, “snatching them out of the fire,” as it were, and being careful not to get burned ourselves in the process.
We should not even listen to the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge. 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.” Exposing ourselves to such people and such teaching is risking spiritual disaster! 2 John 1:9, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
“Firemen today literally do this rescue work. Do Christians? A fireman is to physically rescue a temporal life, whereas believers are spiritually rescue an eternal soul! What's the upshot? The church of Jesus Christ should be packed full with spiritual firemen and firewomen. The fireman in the firehouse are always on duty, on high alert to rescue victims. Let me ask you dear reader (and I ask this of myself as I write): ‘Are you always on duty, ready, able and willing to throw the rescue line out to those in danger of perishing eternally?’” –A.T. Robertson
Verse 23c: “Hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
“Hating,” means to dislike strongly, to have a strong aversion to or to detest.”
“Garment” refers to a close–fitting inner vest, an inner garment, an undergarment or in some contexts to any garment.
The garments refer to the undergarments (underwear), which are pictured as stained or soiled! These individuals had become so corrupt that in a sense even their undergarments were defiled. While we are not to hate the sinner, we ought to feel an aversion and loathing for their sin. God hates sin and so should we! In the Old Testament we note that the clothing of a leper was considered contaminated and had to be burned.
“Just as no one wants to handle someone else’s dirty underwear and be defiled physically, so we should be extremely wary of getting too close to the spiritual defilement of those corrupted by false teachers. Even in bringing the gospel to committed apostates, saints must exercise great caution and wisdom. cf: Matthew 10:16, ‘Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’”–John MacArthur
2 Peter 3:14,17,18, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless… beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
So we witness with urgency! Some who have been swayed by the error of the apostates need immediate attention. Remember Jude is writing to believers! “To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1). So these are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but are flirting with false teachers. He is indicating that a believer can live so close to damnation as to be singed by the fires of hell.
Amos 4:11 NLT, “I destroyed some of your cities, as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Those of you who survived were like charred sticks pulled from a fire. But still you would not return to me, says the Lord.”
Everyone is different! We do not deal with all people in the same way. There are those who are flirting with falsehood and are playing with fire. There are those who are attracted to error and are easily seduced by false teachers. There are those who are wavering, just on the brink of committing themselves to the apostates, but are still hesitating, not sure of what to believe.
Be sure of your own salvation: 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
Be bold in your dealing with them: Titus 1:9 NLT, “He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.”
Job-one for the Christian, defending what we believe: Philippians 1:15,16 MSG, “It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message…”
Expose them: Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
“Christians cannot be merely indifferent to such men (false teachers), nor avoid them with a holier-than-thou attitude. With a deep feeling of compassion for them, they are to act helpfully toward them as opportunity affords, but they must ever be careful not to be brought under the power of the deadly contamination that clings to the practices and surroundings of such individuals. The zeal to win souls must be combined with holy wisdom and prudence.” –Hiebert
Let’s just take a last look at our text: “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh”
“That word ‘save’ is taken from the Greek word sozo. In this particular verse, it is used in the present imperative tense, which means the Greek calls for immediate, fast, and continuous action. This is not a mild suggestion that Jude is making to his readers. This is a strong command to take action and to do it as fast as possible. The word ‘fear’ is from the Greek word phobos. In this particular case, it evokes a fear or a strong dose of respect for something that is life-threatening, dangerous, or alarming. Jude uses this word ‘fear’ to let us know that believers who continue in sin place themselves in a very precarious, dangerous, and alarming situation. This is no game. 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. With the full meaning of these Greek words, Jude 23 could be translated: Because of the alarmingly dangerous state that some believers are in, I urge you to take immediate and fast-acting measures to see them delivered and rescued. And if they don't quickly respond, don't stop! You need to keep up your sense of urgency until you are convinced that they are rescued from this precarious situation...
There is no doubt about it! This verse places a heavy responsibility on us to do whatever we can to bring this deceived person back to a place of safety. Jude speaks in a commanding tone of voice to let us know that we don't have a choice in this matter. We must act fast, act deliberately, and be continuous and unending in our efforts until we are certain that these straying brothers and sisters are back in safe territory again. So if you know a friend or loved one who is allowing serious sin to continue in his life, pray for him. Then go to him and express your concerns in love. Love that person enough to speak the truth to him. Act fast on his behalf, and do what you can to save him. Otherwise, he may eventually make mistakes that will bring disaster and destruction upon his life. That's why Jude commands us to take action right now. The possible consequences are too serious to ignore. We must do everything within our power to save and rescue believers caught in the snare of sin as quickly as possible.” ºRick Renne
The July 2, 1956 issue of the Time Magazine in its opening paragraph of the article entitled “Religion: The Navigator” was as follows – “Dawson Trotman clambered back into a motorboat one day last week after two hours of waterskiing on Schroon Lake, N.Y. He was dog-tired, but before he settled down he asked one of the two girls in the boat, Allene Beck, if she could swim; when she shook her head, he traded places with her so she would be in a safer spot. Minutes later the speeding boat bounced on a wave, and both of them, the 50-year-old man and the girl, shot into the water. He swam to her and held her head above water until the boat could circle back and she was hauled aboard. But as hands reached down to seize Trotman’s hand, he sank out of sight.” Dawson Trotman died by drowning, as he saved the life of another in the throes of death. The caption under his picture in the article appropriately summed up his life as it read “Always Holding Someone Up.” The article also aptly concluded with “He lived to save others” and “His death was just the way he would have planned it.”
Fanny Crosby wrote “Rescue the Perishing” in 1869, here are two verses from that wonderful old hymn:
Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV) and The Living Bible (TLB).