III. Have mercy on others
a. who are these “others?”
Jude refers one final group of people at the end of verse 23. Jude writes, “and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude climaxes this section with the worst of the worst. Jude has taught us how to interact with Christians who are doubting, and unbelievers who need the Gospel. Now, here in this verse, we will learn how to deal with individuals who openly oppose the Gospel with their teaching and their lives. In this last section of the passage Jude is describing specifically how his readers were to deal with the fake Christians and those committed to their ways. These are individuals who pretend to be Christians, but really hate Jesus and want to see the Church destroyed. Jude described these individuals as mockers who do not have the Holy Spirit. These individuals are dangerous because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are like terrorists who look and dress like their enemies, but if you give them the chance they get they will blow everyone up.
Let me give you a few examples of what these people might look like.
- False Teachers – These are individuals who teach unbiblical doctrines, yet claim to be Christians. The fake Christians that Jude spoke of could have fallen into this category. Remember, these individuals claimed to be receiving visions that were better than Scripture.
- Hardcore followers of false teachers – These are individuals who have succumbed to the false teachers completely. Unlike the doubters we read about in verse 22, these individuals are totally committed to false teaching. They would not be like the friend who is confused about the Mormon church; they would be like a person committed to converting you to the Mormon church.
- Unrepentant sinners who claim to be Christians – These are individuals who claim to be Christians but by their actions they prove that they are not really Christians. They continue in their sin even after they have been confronted with the truth of God’s word. These people are particularly dangerous because they think that they are Christians, and other might as well.
You could sum up this last category as those individuals against whom we are fighting for the faith.
b. how do we have mercy on them?
Jude tells us that we are to have mercy on these individuals. But this mercy is different than the mercy that we learned about in the previous verse. Jude says that we are to show this mercy “with fear hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” The first characteristic of this mercy is that it is shown with fear. The mercy that we saw in the previous verse was more of an active mercy whereby one gets involved in the life of a person who is doubting. This mercy shown with fear, or to put it another way, it is shown much more carefully. These individuals are extremely dangerous because they are trying to pervert our thinking with their false doctrine. They want us to look at the world they way that they look at the world, and they are going to actively try to lead us away from the truth of the Gospel. Additionally, people like this want us to join in on their sin. They are not happy sinning alone so they try and tempt us to follow them into sin. We have all had friends like this, and we must be very careful with these friends. We must show them mercy, but we must not be too involved in their lives. As I thought about what this would look like practically, I came to the conclusion that the best way to honor Jude’s command is by praying for people like this. We must be concerned for their souls, but we must also be concerned for our own souls. Jude gave us a graphic example of what this looks like when he said that we should hate even the garment stained by the flesh. The word that Jude uses here for stained is actually an extremely coarse word for poop, and the word garment refers to the article of clothing that people would wear under their outer tunic. So, at the risk of sounding inappropriate, Jude is talking about underwear that has been pooped in. This disgusting picture illustrates just how bad these rebellious individuals are. Just as no one wants to get to close to a pair of underwear that somebody pooped in, so we should be wary of getting to close to the spiritual poop of rebellious individuals like we read about in Jude.
If we are going to fight for the faith it is important that we know how to minister to other people. Some people need to be encouraged to join the fight for the faith, others need to hear about the faith for the first time, and still others need to be fought against to protect the faith.
As we deal with people in all three of Jude’s categories we must remember that because of our sin we too were once covered with filthy garments. In fact, we find the same term that Jude used in Zechariah 3:3-5:
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.
Through Jesus all can be clothed in the garments of righteousness. He became the cleansing sacrifice for all you would repent and believe in Him. This is the Gospel message that we must remember, and this is the Gospel message that all men need.