God in His love, mercy, and grace has told us in His word how to keep from stumbling in these days of apostasy. In Jude 17-25, Jude gave four instructions to follow if we would stand firm, not stumble, and resist the apostates: (1) Believe God’s Word (17-19), (2) Build our Christian life (20-21), (3) Battle for backsliders (22-23), and (4) Behold the Lord (24-25).
If we are to keep from stumbling in this age of apostasy then we must remember that the Lord warned us through His apostles (17-19), remembering what the apostles said - that in the last days, mockers would come who would deny and depart from the word of God, and remembering why the apostles said it – because the apostates want to divide and deceive the church. We must believe the Word of God if we are to keep from stumbling.
Not only are we to believe God’s Word if we are to keep from stumbling, we must also build our Christian lives (20-21). With forces at work to tear us down and destroy us we must always be at work repairing and building up. Each Christian must be involved in building up his own spiritual life and also that of the local assembly. The Christian life is built on the faith or body of truth which was once for all handed down to the saints which is the Word of God and prayer in the Holy Spirit which is prayer based on the Word of God and obedience to the Word of God.
But what should be the attitude of the grounded and growing Christian toward those who are being influenced by apostates? Should he rise up in pride and arrogance and say, “To hell with those who are in deception and opposition”? Or should he in a spirit of humility, correct and teach those being influenced by apostates so that they may be rescued? Jude instructed his readers to exercise discernment; to act on the basis of that discernment; and to battle for backsliders (22-23). Jude described three kinds of church members who need spiritual help: (1) the doubting (22), (2) the deceived (23a), and (3) the defiled (23b).
The doubting (22). These are the people who are wavering. These are the ones who are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14). These people are converted but are not grounded in the faith – the Word of God. They are children who have no discernment and who cannot perceive danger because they cannot yet tell the difference between preaching and teaching that comes from error, craftiness, deceitful scheming and adulterating (watering down) the Word of God from preaching and teaching that is sound, pure, and in the manifestation of the truth.
Those who are doubting are those who have begun to listen to the lies of the devil through his ministers as they disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness and misinterpret and distort the Word of God. It is always the devil’s first tactic to cast doubt on what God has really said. “Indeed, has God said” is still the devil’s first strategy for causing people to stumble. “Indeed, has God said” that Jesus Christ is the only way? “Indeed, has God said” that we are not to be bound together with unbelievers? “Indeed, has God said” that homosexuality is wrong? “Indeed, has God said” that fornication is wrong?
Just before the end of 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a report indicating that a significant percentage of American evangelicals reject the biblical claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation. According to the report, 52% of American Christians believe that "at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life."Surprisingly, 37% of those specifically identified as evangelical Christians agreed, rejecting the claim that Jesus is the only Savior and identifying at least some non-Christian religion or religions as leading to eternal life (www.albertmohler.com).
And no wonder, when popular, powerful, and highly influential so-called evangelical leaders distort and doubt the truth of God's Word themselves, will not those who trust them and believe them believe the same errors that they preach? When Billy Graham denies that Jesus Christ is the only way or Rick Warren claims that religious pluralism is the answer to the world's problems, will not many begin to believe the lie of the devil and doubt the Word of God?
Do you begin to see the magnitude of the problem in our churches when we live in a day when it is possible that over half of American Christians can believe that “at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life”? These people of necessity must doubt God’s Word in order for them to believe this kind of lie.
Our responsibility towards those who are doubting is to have mercy on them, or show compassion toward them, by seeking to lead them away from the influences of the apostates and into the unadulterated truth of God’s Word. This kind of ministry requires a great deal of love and patience – (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Ephesians 4:11-16; Galatians 6:1). This is a pastoral responsibility, a corporate responsibility, and an individual responsibility. We are all to be so grounded in the faith (Word of God) that we can detect, correct, and refute false doctrines, but we must also be so guided by the Holy Spirit that for those who are doubting, we deal with them in love, gentleness, patience, and kindness – all fruits of the Spirit.
The deceived (23a). These are the people who have moved beyond doubting to actually believing the lies of the apostates and who must be dealt with in a stronger and more severe manner – “Save others, snatching them out of the fire.” These people need to be taken by the hand and pulled out to safety in a forceful manner. The deceived must be reproved severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth (Titus 1:13-14). The deceived are in real danger of not having been truly saved. They are in real danger of turning away from the truth by not only doubting God’s Word but by also receiving the lies of the apostates as truth itself. They need to be confronted with the truth and the error of their ways – “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Those who don’t love truth and haven’t received the truth will be deceived by the apostates and will be judged for their wickedness – (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). They need our help and they need to be snatched out of the fire.
The defiled (23b). The defiled are those who have doubted God’s Word, been deceived by the lies of the apostates, and are living their lives based on lies disguised as truth. The defiled are dangerous. The defiled have the potential to defile others, even those whom would presume to help them. The phrase "with fear" means “with caution.” In trying to help those who have erred, we must be careful not to be trapped ourselves! Many a would-be-rescuer has been drowned himself.
The principle that Jude was laying down for us is that stronger believers must never think that they are beyond satanic influence and we are to remember the words of the apostle Paul – “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Even while serving the Lord and seeking to rescue others, we may become defiled by those we want to help.
We certainly must love people, but we must also hate sin. The Bible here in Jude uses graphic language to warn of sins sickness – “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” This is speaking of soiled and stained undergarments – not a pretty picture! Defilement spreads rapidly and secretly and must be dealt with drastically. This is why there is such a great need for discipline within the church and why the Lord commands it in his word – there is far too much at stake – the glory of the Lord is at stake and the souls of men are at stake. We must take these instructions seriously.
“Indeed, has God said” is still one of the devil’s primary means of deception. He causes people to doubt what God has said and then he can exchange the truth of God for a lie, thereby deceiving people and after that one can live his or her life by that lie, preaching and teaching it as though it is God’s truth. The church should never be a breeding ground for apostasy but should be the pillar and support of the truth! And by the grace of God that is what we will be!
Will we battle for backsliders?