Jude 1:22-23, “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.”
Continuing on Jude starts this next verse with the word, AND. Some manuscripts don’t but this shows that it is a definite continuation of thought from the previous verse. He is expounding even more with what he established in the previous verse. If you remember, he was warning or exhorting believers to stay centered and walking in the love of God. This keeps us focused and on the right path, but our duties are only beginning with our walk and our position or relationship with the Father.
We stay in the love of God, our Father, so that we may be the vessels He created to influence and to win others who are lost in sin. Remember, we weren’t saved, or born-anew, just to be able to say “I’m going to heaven.” On the contrary, we are to follow in the footsteps AND the commands of Jesus to make more disciples, not of or for ourselves, but for Christ Himself. We are in essence His ambassadors, of Him, the Father AND the Kingdom of Heaven. This takes witnessing, or sharing our testimonies with others of the things we KNOW and believe concerning Christ Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel.
However, we need to also recognize that when it comes to apostasy, of which Jude is writing about, there needs to be some spiritual discernment in the areas and the people to which we are addressing. For instance, the Scriptures are very clear concerning how we are to treat or handle those who are pressing or spreading their propaganda of false teaching and cults.
In the Epistle of 2 John verses 10-11, the Scriptures state, “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.” When I was a young man starting out and still learning the basics of the Word of God, I used to let the Jehovah Witnesses come and give their spiel, but then I would give them what true Bible says about salvation. Yeah, I was a bit cocky and thought I would be able to convert THEM and that is the reason I even searched their so-called bible which isn’t even a true translation. It wasn’t even a paraphrase, yet, no matter how hard they tried, I believe it was the Holy Spirit, the truth is even found within their Bible. See, they had to make it at least somewhat true to get others unschooled and gullible in the Word to win them over!
However, I soon learned more of the Scriptures including the one in 2 John and realized I wasn’t going to change their thinking without some form of miracle. The truth is, they also marked our home as one to avoid because after a couple of times, they stopped coming by and simply passed by! But to a great degree they ARE not just false teachers but also apostates, because they do have the truth, at least concerning salvation right at their fingertips and they refuse to acknowledge the leading of the Holy Spirit.
But we need to consider those who have been innocently misled by falsehoods in their search for the truth. Some choose outright to believe in a lie, but there are those that are “charmed” as it were by the teaching that may to the uninitiated seem reasonable. So in speaking of those who have been innocently deceived, Jude gives us as believers, a couple of distinctions on how to approach them.
The New King James and the older King James versions state that we are to have compassion on some while the New American Standard and some others state to have mercy on them. The meaning is basically the same, but what is missing without a little bit of digging is we can show a compassionate interest, a love for them on an eternal basis that will motivate us to guide, lead or counsel them out of doubts and contradictions towards the divine truth of the Good News of Christ Jesus. In other words, we don’t approach them with bitterness or contempt, but rather a reflection of the Heavenly Father’s love for them when it comes to eternal consequences. This is what discipleship and effective witnessing is for. We attempt, out of love for those misled, to replace their doubts and concerns with firm conviction, by CONVINCING them of the truth. Now you have to understand at this point, this demands a knowledge of the Word of God, being the workman and the vessel that God through the Holy Spirit has chosen to use.
Our lives should be an open book and it should read exactly like the Bible! Remember, we aren’t just talking about some group dynamic or some religious fad, but rather we are talking about eternal consequences that will eventually lead to life or death forever.
Jude goes on to explain that others may need to be snatched from the very fires of judgment and one interpretation reads by sharing with them the fear of the coming judgment. I myself have always found that you win more people with “honey” than you do with “vinegar” as the old saying goes. I’ve seen too many reactions that are negative when you continue to spout “brimstone, hell-fire and damnation.” I’m not saying there might not be an appropriate time for using that kind of “fear” but I am saying you gain a lot more by sharing with them the secrets of God’s unconditional love for them.
When I was first “saved,” it was in a small Pentecostal church and my first Pastor was FULL of hell-fire and damnation and I will tell you this, since he was preaching to mainly saved believers already, it had a tendency of leaving one empty and wanting something more. The next Pastor taught primarily on God’s love and I had never been subject to messages like his before. It changed my whole outlook as well as my perspective on Who God the Father truly is. Don’t get me wrong, he taught on judgment also when needed, but instead of a God standing over you with a wooden spanking paddle, you were able to envision a loving Father just waiting to scoop you up into His waiting arms! It helped me to truly see the character and nature of God, Himself in the Word, including the sometimes hard to read Old Testament! I recognized a Heavenly Father that wanted us to “win the race” rather than One standing over us just waiting for us to make a mistake.
So there are times when we need to witness with strong, resolute warnings and instruction. This is where the spiritual discernment is so important. If we attempt to “save” them in our own efforts, no matter the motive, we will most certainly fail, for we NEED the guidance, counsel and leadership of the Holy Spirit!
But with his admonitions, Jude also gives us warning. This is where the importance in walking in the love of God is so needed. We are to be careful not to be tempted into any types of sin they might be associated with and we need to remember, WITH compassion, they are still sinners themselves. We approach them as God’s creation Whom He loves, but remembering that God still abhors and hates the sin that we do. We need to be careful that we reflect Christ when witnessing rather than trying to win them over by reflecting the world.
Jude says it this way; “hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” If you remember in the Old Testament times the clothing of a leper was considered contaminated and had to be burned. Leprosy has always been analogous with sin and thus whatever touches the flesh is defiled. We need to remember that principle and not let our footing become shaky or unsecure. Again, we maintain that by walking in the love of God.
You know in so many Christian and even religious circles it has become such a cliché to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” The problem is that in the process of “hating” the sin, we tend to also hate by our demeanor and demonstration, the person as well. We do not have to condone sinful behavior even in the slightest, but we always need to keep uppermost in our minds the love God has for His Creation, even the wayward. We need to remember that Christ’s love reach us when WE were in that same wayward state! Jesus associated with sinners in order to win them, but He NEVER stooped to their levels. He always did what He could to show them by demonstration that there is a better way! We have to walk in that same example.
No, it is not easy at first. Even the disciples that walked with Jesus HAD to learn over time. But with the Holy Spirit’s help and determination to follow HIS leading, they learned. We have the same opportunity, but we have to remain focused on the Lord and the leading of His Holy Spirit.
When dealing with people who in essence are defiled because they are still living in sin, we have to remain focused and careful through vigilance, to avoid anything which might prove to be a temptation in our own lives. The best way to avoid falling into temptation is to stay away from any source that could or might tempt you.
As TRUE born-again, spirit-renewed Christians, followers of Christ Jesus, we are to pity and care for the person who knows no better and to do what is within our power to love them and demonstrate God’s love. BUT, at the same time, we need to remember always that God, our Heavenly Father, abhors and disdains any sin. Our motivation, should be to love others into eternity!