Book of Jude Part 21 (series: Lessons on Jude)
by John Lowe
And of some have compassion. That is, we should show a compassionate interest in them and try to guide them out of doubts and disputes into a firm conviction of divine truth.
This cannot be intended to teach that they were not to have compassion for all men, or to regard the salvation of all with concern, but that they were to have special compassion for a certain class of persons, or were to approach them with feelings appropriate to their condition. The idea is that the particular feeling to be shown towards a certain class of persons when seeking their salvation was tender affection and kindness. They were to approach them in the gentlest manner, appealing to them with such words as love would prompt. Others were to be approached in a different manner, indicated by the phrase, "save with fear." The class that is referred to here, to whom pity was to be shown, and in whose conversion and salvation tender compassion was to be employed, appear to have been the timid, the gentle, the unwary; those who had not yet fallen into dangerous sins, but who might be exposed to them; those, who would be more likely to be influenced by kind words and a gentle manner than by reprimand. The objective then amounts to this, that while we are to seek to save all, we are to adapt ourselves wisely to the character and circumstances of those whom we seek to save. “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” (1 Corinthians 9:19). When understood in the context of his Christian liberty, Paul was indeed free. But when understood in the light of his Christian responsibility, yet have I made myself servant unto all. With all die freedom in the world open to him, why did the apostle restrict himself so severely? The answer is that I might gain the more. His foremost interest was to preach the gospel and win men to Jesus Christ. Whatever it took in terms of personal freedom, he was prepared to pay the price. It is only fair to point out here that the apostle is not teaching that the end justifies the means. Or that compromise is in order. Certainly, if there was anyone who was prepared to stand rigidly upon matters of principle, it was the Apostle Paul.
Making a difference. Making a distinction between them, not in regard to your desires for their salvation, or your efforts to save them, but to the manner in which it is done. To be able to do this is one of the highest qualifications to be sought by one who endeavors to save souls, and is indispensable for a good minister of the gospel. The young, the tender, the delicate, the refined, need a different kind of treatment from the rough, the uncultivated, and the hardened. This wisdom was shown by the Savior in all his preaching; it was eminent in the preaching of Paul.
And others. Another class; those who were of such a character, or in such circumstances, that a more bold, earnest, and determined manner would be better adapted to them.
Save with fear. That is, by appeals adapted to produce fear. The idea seems to be that the arguments to be used were to be drawn from the dangers faced by these persons, or from their dread of future wrath. It is undoubtedly true, that while there is a class of persons who can be won for Christ by mild and gentle persuasion, there is another class who can be aroused only by the terrors of the law and the possibility of spending an eternity in hell. Every method is to be employed, at the proper time and in its proper place, so that we, by all means, may save some. “Some of them are snatched from the fire: but when they repent, they have mercy upon them. And some of them are scolded for their sins; and on others have mercy when they are convicted; and others save from the fire and deliver them."—Erpen's Arabic. Mr. Wesley's note has probably hit the true sense of it. "Meantime watch over others as well as yourselves; and give them such help as their various needs require. For instance,
1. Some that are wavering in judgment, staggered by others' or by their own evil reasoning; endeavor more deeply to convince them of the truth as it is in Jesus.
2. Some are snatched with a swift and strong hand out of the fire of sin and temptation.
3. On others show compassion, in a milder and gentler way; though still with a jealous fear, lest you yourselves become infected with the disease you endeavor to cure. See therefore that, while ye love the sinners, ye retain the utmost abhorrence of their sins.
Pulling them out of the fire. For example: just as you would snatch persons out of the fire; or as you would grab hold of a person that was walking into a volcano. Then, a man would not use the mild and gentle language of persuasion, but by every word and gesture show that he was deeply concerned, and that concern would turn into action intended to save the person.
*Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. The allusion here is not quite certain, though the idea which the apostle meant to convey is not difficult to be understood. By "the garment spotted by the flesh" there may be an allusion to a garment worn by one who had the plague or some offensive disease which might be communicated to others by touching even the clothing which they had worn. Or there may be an allusion to the ceremonial Law of Moses, by which all those who came in contact with dead bodies were regarded as unclean:
Leviticus 21:11--“Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;”
Numbers 6: 6, 9: 6, 19:11--“All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.”...“And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the Passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day:”...“And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the Passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day:”
*Hating—Even hatred has its legitimate field of exercise. Sin is the only thing which God hates: so should we.
Or there may be an allusion to the case mentioned in Leviticus 15:4,10,17--“Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean…And whosoever toucheth any thing that was under him shall be unclean until the even: and he that beareth any of those things shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even… And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.”
Or perhaps the allusion is to a case of leprosy. In all such instances, there would be the idea that the thing referred to by which the garment had been spotted was polluting, contagious, or loathsome, and that it was good not even to touch such a garment, or to come in contact with it in any way. To something of this kind, the apostle compares the sins of the persons referred to here. While the utmost effort was to be made to save them, they were in no way to participate in their sins; their conduct was to be regarded as disgusting and contagious; and those who attempted to save them were to take every precaution to preserve their own purity. There is a good deal of wisdom in this council. While we try to save the sinner, we cannot loathe his sins too deeply; and when approaching some classes of sinners there is the need of taking as much care to avoid being defiled by them, as there would be to escape the plague if we had any contact with one who had it. The writer of Hebrews concurs: "What do you think a person who shows no respect for the Son of God deserves? That person looks at the blood of the promise (the blood that made him holy) as no different from other people’s blood, and he insults the Spirit that God gave us out of his kindness. He deserves a much worse punishment. We know the God who said, “I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back.”God also said, “The Lord will judge his people. Falling into the hands of the living God is a terrifying thing" (Hebrews 10:29-31).
Some will be persuaded to repent of their sin when reminded of the judgment that awaits those who have despised the grace of God.
This method of contending with the forces of unbelief has its inherent dangers. As believers snatch some from the fire of hell, they must take great care that they are not singed by the flames of that fire. As they move onward in their journey of faith, believers must confront the world with all of its allure. Jesus knew that these circumstances were a very real threat to those who were called to be His. Therefore, on the night before He was crucified, Jesus interceded on behalf of those who followed Him. “I have given them your message. But the world has hated them because they don’t belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world but to protect them from the evil one. They don’t belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. I have sent them into the world the same way you sent me into the world” (John 17:14-18).