In our discussion of this one-chapter letter by Jude, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, we have seen a number of aspects of our response to the unbelief in the world.
Much of Jude’s material has to do with the content and character of the false teachers which had snuck into God’s people. But in our verses for today we see that Jude’s attention now focuses on how we are to mature in our walk with the Lord.
Let’s continue to look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —
Step #9c- We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Where does evangelism fit into our concern for a world wrapped in unbelief? Obviously we are to protect God’s people from false teachers and we are to work hard at developing our own spiritual lives (vv. 20-21).
Could it be that evangelism — seeking to share the Good News about Christ with those who are lost — is a key to our own spiritual growth? We learn in verses 22-23 that we are to “be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”
Sometimes the last response by Christians towards those who doubt is mercy. We are often tough on those who ask questions, challenge assumptions, suggest alternative ways of understanding doctrines. Perhaps if we showed mercy, rather than judgment, toward such seekers, there might be more seekers. And some who are already seekers might settle on the answers the Bible gives to their questions.
Some lost simply need to be snatched from the fire. What an image! Zechariah 3:2 and Amos 4:11 use this expression. Amos says, “‘I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD.” There are others who need to be shown mercy, but mercy mixed with fear. I’m not sure what the fear refers to. Perhaps a fear that they will return to their wayward lives. Or a fear on the part of the rescuer that he or she might take the path of doubt. But this third group, those who require mercy mixed with fear, ought to elicit in the rescuer a godly hatred of the effects which sin has had on their lives.
At the very least, verses 22-23 seem to indicate that we can and should take different approaches with different people. The gospel remains the same (see verse 3), but our methods and approaches can differ quite a bit depending on the type of person we are seeking to reach. (to be continued)
“Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show.” (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 27)
1. What is one practical way we can show mercy toward those who doubt?
2. Do we see lost people as almost already in the fires of God’s judgment? To snatch someone from the fire indicates imminent danger of being burnt. Do we see our unsaved friends and relatives that way? Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is well worth reading to encourage our seriousness about the extreme danger in which lost people presently are.