From the Editor’s Notebook: Journeying Through Jude, part 15

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Journeying Through Jude (Part 15)

Continuing his overall theme of the Christian’s present responsibilities (vv. 20-23), Jude turns from the believer’s personal responsibilities in verses 20 and 21 to his relative responsibilities in verses 22 and 23. Thus these latter two verses have to do with personal evangelism and the compassionate, understanding, energetic, cautious attitude we should manifest toward the dupes of apostates—people bewildered, led astray and mesmerized by the apostates about whom Jude has so effectively warned.

And of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (vv. 22-23).

Every effort should be made to rescue deluded souls, even apostates themselves, for the Christian is a debtor to all. Nevertheless, it seems that the dupes of apostates, not apostates themselves, are those primarily in view.

Regarding verses 22 and 23 there is considerable manuscript variation. One possible rendering is, “And some convict, when contending; but others save with fear, snatching them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” The New International Version translates this brief passage as follows: “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear, hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Personally, I like the helpful paraphrase of The Living Bible which reads: “Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.”

Actually, there is not a great deal of difference in the possible variations of the Greek text. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, a godly discrimination is called for in dealing with individuals deceived by error. Every beguiled man or woman represents an individual case that must be handled with “wisdom that is from above” and not according to some hard and fast rule of thumb approach.

At this point someone might bring up the words of 2 John 10: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed.” This passage applies only to those who wilfully oppose the doctrine of Christ. Such are to be shunned and refused fellowship.

Whether or not the first clause of verse 22, as translated in the King James Version, is accepted, one thing is certain, genuine Christian love is essential in dealing with lost or wayward souls. An attitude of compassion and pity is in keeping with the perfect example of the greatest soul-winner of all, the Lord Jesus Christ. Looking upon the multitudes, we read that “He was moved with compassion on them, because they were faint, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36; see 14:14; 15:32; 18:27 with James 5:19-20; 1 Thess. 3:12-13).

An interesting and possible point of interpretation is suggested by Edward C. Pentecost, who takes the opening words of verse 22 to refer to “Christians who are doubting,” having stated that “Because the words of the apostates were confusing, probably many believers were in doubt as to whether to follow them. Such persons, Jude wrote, should not be slandered or criticized. They should be dealt with in love and mercy — the same way in which the Lord dealt with them (cf. v. 21).

They needed encouragement, not criticism. They needed to be built up, not torn down.”1

Whether or not we accept the standard translations of this brief section, or Pentecost’s interpretation of verse 22, there nonetheless emerge three classes of persons which must be dealt with in three different ways.

First of all, those given to doubt (or arguing) are to be brought to conviction and understanding through the Word of God, whether we take them to be believers or unbelievers. Such need to have the Scriptures brought to bear upon their conscience (see vv. 9, 15; 1 Tim. 5:20; Tit. 1:9, 13).

Second, some need to be snatched from the fire, that is, from the state of condemnation that leads to the fire of hell, and ultimately to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). Energetic effort should be made to warn and deliver such, lest the evil one gets such a hold on them that it will be too late to seek their blessing.

Finally, in dealing with still others, extreme caution is required. When seeking to help a confused, deceived individual, the one helping must be careful not to become contaminated by the sin of the one whom he is trying to assist. “With fear” is literally “in fear,” and a possible translation is, “And on some have mercy in fear…” Sin is contagious and at all times and in every circumstance the Christian must be on his guard (see 2 Cor. 7:1; James 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:17; 3:15; Rev. 3:4).

Many Bible students see a parallel between Jude 22 and 23 and Zechariah 3:1-5. S. Maxwell Coder cites three things in the Zechariah passage which are found here. He notes that “Satan is rebuked for disputing or resisting the salvation of Joshua; Joshua is called ‘a brand plucked out of the fire’; Joshua is seen clothed in filthy garments which are taken from him.”2

For over thirty years the Salvation Army and William Booth in particular were subject to some of the most vile persecution Christians suffered in modern times. But the general lived to see the day when his army would be honored around the world. His own King Edward VII invited him to Buckingham Palace in 1904. All the persecution and trials of the previous decades must have seemed insignificant to Booth as he heard King Edward say, “You are doing a good work — a great work, General Booth.”

When the king asked Booth to write in his autograph album, the old man — now seventy-five — bent forward, took the pen, and summed up his life’s work:

Your Majesty,
Some men’s ambition is art,
Some men’s ambition is fame,
Some men’s ambition is gold,
My ambition is the souls of men.

There’s no doubt about it, this should be one of the chief ambitions of every true child of God. There is an eternal reward for the believer who wins souls to Christ. The Apostle Paul refers to it as the “crown of rejoicing” (1 Thess. 2:19; see also Phil. 4:1), and both preachers and Bible commentators frequently call it “The Soul-winner’s Crown.” As King Solomon of old said, “He that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).

A cheery chorus to sing each day of our lives is Will H. Houghton’s, “Lead Me to Some Soul Today.” The music was written by Wendell P. Loveless, the chorus itself having been dedicated in memory of D. L. Moody, who said, “I must speak to one soul each day about Christ.”

Lead me to some soul today.
O teach me, Lord, just what to say;
Friends of mine are lost in sin,
And cannot find their way.
Few there are who seem to care,
And few there are who pray;
Melt my heart and fill my life.
Give me some soul today.

(To be continued, D.V.)

1 Edward C. Pentecost, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 923.

2 S. Maxwell Coder, Jude: The Acts of the Apostates, p. 119.