22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
So, yesterday's verses were talking about what we need to do to protect ourselves. Build ourselves up in faith (read the Word of God), pray in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God, and wait anxiously for the 2nd coming. In today's verses, Jude moves on to what we do for those who have been led astray. Judging by the context of the entire chapter, and according to David Legge's sermon, Jude is talking here about other believers - others who profess to share our faith or were at one time on the right path, but have gotten off into the ditch, possibly without realizing it. From the sermon:
We are to look after one another in the household of faith - and as James says in verse 20 of chapter 5 of his epistle: 'He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins'. We are to look out for one another, we are to love one another - and to love one another is to come to one another, and to speak to one another honestly about our lives, about our problems, about our sins - and we are to draw one another back to Christ!
He goes on to divide these people into three categories, based on the verse.
Category 1 - Argumentative disputer: Those who differ argumentatively with what we teach, with what we believe about everything concerning the Gospel. We have those who take the name of Christ that do not believe in the virgin birth, we have those who take the name of Christ that genuinely and sincerely in their own heart of hearts have come to the realisation, they feel, that it is impossible for Jesus Christ to atone for sin. They feel it is impossible for a corpse to rise from the dead, it is impossible that Jesus should ascend to heaven, and that one day there is the promise of Him coming back again - and they will argue their case sincerely before you, they are argumentative disputers of the truth of God.
And what do we do with these people?
God says, 'Convincingly refute them' - don't bury it over, don't forget about it, and in the spirit of the age of tolerance in which we live say, 'Live and let live'. But it literally means: 'Convict them while you dispute with them' - they can only be rebuked, and we ought to pray that God will change them. Can I ask you: how do you convincingly refute an argumentative disputer if you do not know the word of God? You cannot. That is why Jude tells us, build yourselves up in your most holy faith - you cannot pray that someone will come back to the faith, and the light of the Gospel will dawn upon their soul, if you do not pray in the Holy Ghost! We are to convincingly refute, not just pray, but rebuke! We must point out when wrong is wrong - and it may cause controversy, but it is necessary to be faithful to God.
Oh, this is an answer I did not like. This is so, so difficult for me. I am very much one to "live and let live" or to feel that no amount of arguing will change their mind any more than their arguments will change mine, so why waste my breath? Or I lack confidence in backing up what I believe and I keep my mouth shut for fear of sounding foolish.
Category 2 - Seriously endangered: They are seriously endangered, they are in the fire, and we have to go actively and snatch them out of the fire! These are the seriously endangered, they are in more imminent danger, therefore they have to be snatched away before the false teaching grips their soul and kills their heart for God, before the wicked living of these apostates gets hold of them, and they go into their sensuality and their licentiousness. And if we don't save them - and I'm not talking about salvation, they're saved! - but if we don't save them from apostasy, who will?
There needs to be a spirit of urgency in our preaching, in our prayers. There needs to be that spirit, whereby the Puritan, learned and scholarly, as he would preach in his pulpit would turn his back as he was gripped and burdened with the burden of the people before him, and he would turn his back on the people and shout to God, 'Oh, Spirit do Your work!'. Is that the earnestness and the urgency that you have, believer? Preacher, is that the way you preach? As someone has said, 'We should preach as though Jesus died yesterday, rose today, and is coming tomorrow'! It is urgent, for the time is short and there are those who are in the fire of this apostasy - whether they be believers or non-believers - and they need to be plucked as brands from the burning!
Category 3 - Sinfully degraded: They are sinfully degraded, they won't listen to arguments, they can't be convicted, they can't be snatched - but they are to be pitied by you, the children of God, but they are to be pitied cautiously. You are to pity them, conscious of their weakness, conscious of their simplicity, conscious of the sinfulness of their sin - my friend, if we could get a vision today of the sinfulness of sin! If we could see sin as God sees it! If we could see sin as Christ felt it!
...we are to cautiously pity them, we are to realise that we can be contaminated by their garments spotted with the flesh, their inner garment that's close to the flesh, contacting defilement. We need to be careful, that when we go to win the sinner, the sinner does not win us!
So, so hard. It is so much easier for the Christian to be pulled down into the old sinful nature than it is to pull the "sinfully degraded" person up. I find it hard sometimes because we spend a lot more time with my husband's family and friends than with mine, and his family and friends are not Christians. It is all too easy for me to slip into using some bad language (when the kids aren't around), or having a couple too many drinks on a Saturday night, for example. Generally speaking, I don't, but occasionally I catch myself, and it's not always easy to take that step back and say "OK, time to call it a night," or whatever the case may be.
Anyway, this post has turned out longer than anticipated (again), but I suppose the main thrust of the whole thing is that we ARE responsible for each other in God's family. We can't just say "let him go his way and I'll go mine" and expect that to be good enough. But I think it is important to note the order in which Jude gives us these reminders. First, look to our own spiritual health, as our verses yesterday said, and THEN we can rebuke or confront (in love and compassion) and have confidence in our knowledge of the truth and the foundations of our faith when it is necessary.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Jude 1:24-25.