Snakes Around the Water - Part 6

by Wayne Barber

Wayne BarberIf we are living in God's Word, allowing His Spirit to lead us in prayer according to His will (as Jude tells us in verses 20 and 21), being kept in His love instead of allowing the world to dictate our identity, and looking forward to His soon coming, then God's Truth will become much more important to us. It becomes so important that we will be watching our brother's back because we realize the presence of false teachers-the snakes around the water.

One of the sweetest things that Steven, our son, said to me when he was serving on our staff with me was, "Dad, don't worry; I've got your back". If believers would watch each other's back when it comes to the lure of false teaching and wrong thinking, just think of how much stronger and solid the Church would be. In the last few verses of his book Jude is going to show us what to do when one of us falls into the trap of false doctrine. If you've ever hunted elk, then you've noticed that when the cow elk sense danger that they surround the bull and walk him into cover. Oh, that the Church could learn this lesson!

First, Jude tells us to be merciful to those who are listening but haven't given in to false teaching. Remember that those who fall to false teaching are those who live and lurk in the shallows and are not willing to go deeper into God's Word. They are trying to get the best of both the world and the Church and therefore are the perfect prey to the snakes who are the false teachers who hunt in those shallow waters.

Verse 22 says, "And have mercy on some, who are doubting." The phrase "have mercy on some" uses the Greek word "eleeo ". This word refers to the Divine compassion of God that none of us deserve and is only produced by Christ Himself living in and through us. It is in the imperative mood, which means that this is not optional but is a command. The first reflex that we should have when Christ is living through us is to show compassion on those who are doubting. "Have mercy on some" shows us that not all will fall into the trap of false teaching, but some will when they hang out in the shallow water.

The word for "doubting" is the word "diakrino ", meaning to struggle to distinguish between two things. Here it would be to struggle to discern between what is Truth and what is error. It comes from two words that draw a picture for us. They are "dia", which means "through" or "between", and the word "krino ", which means to judge-to make a distinction between two things determining that this is this and that is that. You see, when we do not study God's Word and we hear error, we begin to doubt what we thought we knew. Doubting causes us to leave the path of simply trusting God's Word, and, as a result, the winds of false doctrine move us from where we belong. So, Jude tells us to show mercy when you see your brother or sister in the Lord begin to stray from their walk in Truth.

Secondly, we are to rescue those who are believing false teaching. Verse 23 tells us to "save others, snatching them out of the fire." When Jude says "save others" he now refers to a different group. I believe that he speaks of those who are now on the slippery slope of false doctrine. They are not just listening to it but are now becoming convinced that what they are hearing is right. Remember that the false teachers don't build their teaching on God's Word but on that which appeals to the flesh. I think that this group has fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. So, he says, "Save others".

The word for save is the word "sozo ", which means to rescue them from danger. This is in present tense and is again an imperative command. This indicates that the rescue won't happen in a moment but will involve a consistent and a persistent effort. This is the group has bought the lie and are entering the fires of false doctrine.

The word for snatching in this phrase is the word "harpazo ", which means literally to seize or pluck something or someone out of something else. It is the word that is used in 1 Thess. 4:13 to describe being caught up with Jesus in the clouds at the rapture of the Church. Jude refers to the false teaching they are embracing as fire. Fire destroys; fire hurts; it is used possibly to express the loss of joy and the loss of experiencing Christ in their daily lives.

False doctrine is a serious threat to the lives of those who profess to be believers. Some are listening and as a result beginning to doubt, but others are slipping into the destructive fires of false teaching. Show compassion to those who are listening and teach them the truth, but raise the level of intentional effort for those who are feeling the heat of the fire.

Thirdly, we are to approach those who are deeply embedded into false doctrine with extreme caution. This third group will be the toughest to ever rescue from the grip of false teaching. In a careless effort to rescue them one can fall into their trap because their doctrine is appealing; that is what attracted them in the first place. Jude says "and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh" (v. 23b). Mercy is in this case coupled with fear.

The word for "fear" is the word "phobos" and means "dreadful horror". The horror is not so much in what they are believing (and therefore living) but the thought of falling into the same trap while in the rescue effort-as Jude says, "hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." The word hating is the word "miseo " and means to detest; to abhor, and therefore abstain from. It is present active and points to the fact that this detesting is present throughout the effort to rescue the ones who have fallen into the trap.

The word "garment" is the word "chiton", which refers to an inner tunic worn beneath another covering. I see it as the garment of the flesh that can so easily pull us away from God's Truth. This garment is already polluted, translated from "spiloo ", which means it is stained. It is polluted by the flesh (from the Greek, sarx); this refers to the mindset of lawlessness that is still resident in all of us. We all have a tendency to want to believe in false doctrine because it feeds our fleshly desires. Humanism, legalism, whatever "ism" it is, our flesh loves it. Some are listening to it; some have begun slipping into its fires; some are steeped into it and want us there with them. They all need the mercy that only Christ can produce but in each case the risks must be understood as we seek to rescue them.

Jude says in verses 24-25, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." Folks, the devil wants our minds. If he can accomplish that, then he can cripple our walk and render us ineffective. Watch out for the snakes that prey on those who only dwell in the shallow water of God's Word!

Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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