We are reading and reflecting on Jude 17-25.
Jude gets also tells us how to respond to false teachers and those who are being led astray by them. He’s spoken honestly and directly about the danger. Having been reminded to expect that false teachers will come, and having been encouraged to keep ourselves in God’s love, Jude now tells us what we are to do with the false teachers. He divides them into three groups and says:
And have mercy on those who doubt;
save others by snatching them out of the fire; t
o others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Jude 1:22-23
Jude is addressing three groups of people:
- First, he addresses those who doubt.
He’s probably talking about some who have started to be swayed by the false teaching. They’re wavering in their commitment to Jesus. They have doubts about the Bible, about the Christian faith. They have questions. They want to know if the Bible is true, if they can trust what they’ve heard.
Jude says: have mercy on these people. Be helpful to them. Build relationships with them. Your relationship with them should be characterized by mercy. I’m sure you can think of people who fit into this category. You have the opportunity to invest in their lives if you have mercy on those who doubt.
- Second, he says, “save others by snatching them out of the fire.” These people, it would seem, have gone further down the road with the false teachers. They’re in danger of judgment, characterized by fire. Some have been so influenced by false teaching, Jude is saying, that they are teetering on the edge of falling away. We need to snatch them before it’s too late. When we encounter someone who has departed the faith, we can’t just give up on them. God does restore people. Contend for them. Save them by snatching them out of the fire.
- Then there’s a third group. He says, “to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” I think Jude is talking about the false teachers themselves here. They’ve abandoned themselves to false teaching, but they’re not beyond redemption. Jude says to show mercy to them. Pray for them. Treat them kindly. But also be cautious. Be on guard. He talks about the garment stained by flesh. He’s talking about the clothing worn closest to the body. This is pretty graphic. He’s talking, in essence, about clothing that’s been stained with human waste. Show mercy to them, he says, but be cautious.
Jude’s an important little letter. It addresses an ongoing problem. We face the same issue that Jude addresses. We need to be able to recognize false teaching, and to know how to respond.
- Don’t be surprised.
- Secure your own position by keeping yourselves in God’s love.
- And then reach out to those who are going astray.
This, Jude says, is how we’re to respond when we encounter false teaching.
We can’t afford the luxury of fake seatbelts. Remember: when tested, what’s fake won’t save you. We need what’s real. We need the real gospel, but we also need to know what to do when we encounter what’s false.
Jude concludes his little letter by rooting us to God. At the end of the book he reminds us that, although we have a role to play, our hope is not in our ability to hold on to God, but in God’s ability to hold on to us.
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
There are real dangers, there are false teachers. But what’s fake won’t save you. But there is someone who’s real, and when he grabs on to you you’re safe forever.