Listen: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

There is a difference of opinion as to how this verse should be translated. I would like to quote Jude 22-23 from the New American Standard Bible, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

We see in these verses three groups of people that need spiritual help. Who are they? Earlier in the epistle we learn that false teachers had made inroads into some of the assemblies of God’s people. Verse 3 describes these evil men, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The rest of the epistle speaks in very graphic language of these ungodly teachers and of the influence they were having on true believers. We believe that verses 22-23 are describing believers who had been led astray by the impostors. One of the most important lessons for us in these verses is that we NOT treat all victims of false teaching alike. We may be tempted to just “write them off”; that is, to simply get rid of them by either ignoring them or removing them from fellowship. But God wants us to be discerning and to make distinctions between them, and then seek to help them according to their specific need.

In the first group we are told to, “have mercy on some, who are doubting.” Some who had listened to the false teachers were starting to doubt what they had been taught from God’s Word. We are told here to have compassion on them. We should approach them in gentleness and seek to recover them from the errors that were causing them to doubt. Galatians 6:1 comes to mind which says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

In the second group we are told to, “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” Those in this class have gone beyond simply doubting; they are in danger of their lives being destroyed by the evil teachings they’ve imbibed. This calls for swift action on our part, though as with the first class we would still come to them in love and in a spirit of meekness, using the Word of God to recover them. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 teaches us how to deal with them, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (NKJV).

In the third group we are told, “and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” It would seem that this class had not only fallen into false doctrine, but also into immorality. We saw in verse 3 that the false teachers “turn the grace of God into licentiousness,” which means they were teaching that God’s grace allows us to live in any way we want. We still need to show mercy to them as with the other groups mentioned, but here we are also told to “fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” We must be careful in our dealings with them so that we too are not defiled by the corrupting influences we’re trying to correct. The last part of Galatians 6:1, which we cited earlier, speaks to this, “…considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  (144.3)  (DO)