This is the 23rd lesson in a series of lessons on the book of Jude. In this lesson I’m going to look at verses 22 and 23 and talk about showing mercy.
Watch the video or scroll down to read a transcript.
Hi. Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is the 23rd lesson in a series of lessons on the book of Jude. In this lesson I’m going to look at verses 22 and 23 and talk about showing mercy.
Let’s start by reading verses 22 and 23.
show mercy to those who are doubting,
snatching them out of the fire,
show some people mercy in fear,
even hating the garment
being polluted by the flesh.
The first word is the word and. The word and tells us these verses are a continuation of what came before them. I’ll talk more about that later.
Then we see a command: “show mercy to those who are doubting”. Notice the word mercy.
Later, we see another command: “show some people mercy in fear”. Notice again the word mercy. Twice in these two verses is a command to show mercy.
In this lesson I’m going to start by talking in a broad sense about what the Bible has to say about mercy.
Next, I’m going to summarize Jude so we understand the context of verses 22 and 23.
Then I’ll talk specifically about what Jude says about mercy in verses 22 and 23.
At the end I’ll talk about what all of this means for you and me living in the 21st century.
Let’s start by talking about what the Bible has to say about mercy.
I used a concordance to search for the word mercy. This is a concordance of the New American Standard Bible. There are 91 verses throughout the New American Standard Bible that contain the word mercy. Obviously, I don’t have time in this lesson to look at all of these verses, so I went through these verses and picked out a few that give us an idea of some of the things the Bible has to say about mercy.
Let’s start at Deuteronomy 13. The context of this is that Moses was giving some instructions to the Israelites. He told them if there was an Israelite city where the inhabitants went after other gods, then they were supposed to destroy that city and all its inhabitants. All of the material possessions were supposed to be gathered into the square of the city and burned. Then he made the statement recorded in verse 17.
Deut. 13:17 “Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers,
The reason the Lord would have been angry in that situation is because the Israelites had worshipped other gods. By destroying the city, its inhabitants, and its material possessions, they would cause Yahweh to turn from His burning anger and have mercy on the Israelites. They needed the mercy because there had been idolatry amongst the Israelites. We see here that mercy is not receiving the punishment that was deserved. This is an example of Yahweh being willing to extend mercy.
Let’s go to Joshua. Chapter 11 is a summary of the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. During that conquest, the Israelites destroyed all the cities in Canaan. After that summary we read the following.
Josh. 11:20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
The Canaanites did not receive mercy from Yahweh because the Canaanites had been very, very sinful for several centuries. When Joshua and the Israelites arrived, the Canaanites were punished for their sins. This is an example of a time when Yahweh did not show mercy.
Jer. 31:20 “Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a delightful child?
Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him,
I certainly still remember him;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,” declares the LORD.
Ephraim was one of the tribes of Israel. Yahweh said he would have mercy on Ephraim. This is an example of Yahweh having mercy.
Let’s go to Daniel. The context of this is King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. They brought Daniel in to interpret the dream and Daniel said the dream meant Nebuchadnezzar was going to be driven away from men and punished. Then Daniel said,
Dan. 4:27 ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’
This gives us an idea of the importance of mercy. The broad context was Nebuchadnezzar was going to be driven away from men and punished for his sins. Out of all the things Daniel could have suggested, he very specifically mentioned showing mercy to the poor. This indicates that showing mercy to the poor or showing mercy in general is important.
Let’s go to the New Testament. This is from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said this.
Matt. 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
The fact that Jesus mentioned mercy in the Beatitudes indicates the importance of mercy.
Next is Matthew 18. This is a parable of Jesus that again teaches the importance of mercy.
Matt. 18:23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
The point here is that our sins that God forgave far exceed anything that another person may have done to us. Therefore, when people come and ask forgiveness, we should be merciful and extend that forgiveness.
Next is Matthew 23. This was Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees.
Matt. 23:23 “ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Think about all the things Jesus could have mentioned here that the scribes and Pharisees were not doing. Out of all those, mercy is one of the things he did mention. Again, this indicates the importance of mercy.
Let’s go to Titus.
Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
Our salvation is on the basis of God’s mercy.
Now let’s go to James.
James 2:13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
This shows us the importance of mercy. What we see in all these verses is that sometimes God extends mercy. Sometimes He doesn’t. Throughout the Bible there’s an emphasis that people should extend mercy to their fellow human beings. That doesn’t mean mercy should always be given. There are times where punishment has to be meted out. The Bible says the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. In the same way parents need to discipline their children whom they love. The Bible is very clear there are times when the church has to remove wicked people from their midst. That’s a time when they cannot show mercy. At the same time, as humans, it is important we are inclined to be merciful, particularly in situations where people have recognized their failings and are trying to do better.
That is some background on what the Bible has to say about mercy. Let’s do an overview of Jude so we have some context for verses 22 and 23.
Let’s go to the beginning of the book of Jude.
Remember, in verses three or four Jude told us why he wrote this book. He wrote because certain people had crept into the church secretly. They were turning the grace of God into sensuality and denying Jesus.
Starting in verse eight, Jude described these men. He had many negative things to say about them. His description went on for eight verses.
Then in verse 17 Jude said, “but you Beloved’s.” At that point Jude started telling his readers what they should do differently. He told them what they should do in light of the fact that these men had crept into the church.
That brings us to verse 20. He said again, “but you Beloved’s.” He continued writing what they should do in light of the fact that these men had crept into the church.
He told them to keep themselves in the love of God.
That brings us to verse 22. In verse 22 he said, “and indeed.” Verses 22 and 23 are a continuation of what people should do in light of the fact that these people had crept into the church and were distorting grace and denying Jesus.
Let’s take a look at what Jude has to say in verses 22 and 23, particularly about mercy.
This verse starts out “and indeed.” This is a continuation of Jude’s instructions on what his readers were supposed to do in light of the fact that people had crept into the church and were distorting grace and denying Jesus.
There are three commands here. The first one is “show mercy to those who are doubting.” This is a command to show mercy, but it doesn’t say show mercy to everyone.
It says show mercy to those who are doubting. Think about the concept of doubting.
Let’s go to the concordance and take a look at the word doubting.
The information in the panel off to the right gives information about the word doubting. It is a translation of the Greek word diakrino.
Then we see various words used to translate that Greek word throughout the New Testament. The translators used the words decide, discern, disputed, doubt, judge, made distinction, misgivings, pass judgment, regards as superior, took issue, and waver.
Verse 22 says “show mercy to those who are doubting.” The doubters may have been people within the church who were asking questions. Maybe they were searching for knowledge. They may have had legitimate questions and concerns that needed to be answered. Maybe they had doubts about the Christian faith that were legitimate and needed to be answered. Jude told his readers to have mercy on those people. Remember, the context of this is that Jude was writing because people had crept into the church who were distorting grace and denying Jesus. Jude told his readers to distinguish between the people who were distorting grace and denying Jesus with malicious intent, and the people who were having legitimate questions about whether or not God actually exists and legitimate questions about the reality of the resurrection.
A second command was to save some. Jude told his readers if there were people in the church who were doubting and had legitimate questions about God and salvation, they were to put forth the effort to answer their questions and bring them to the point where they could legitimately become a servant of Jesus Christ.
Jude also said saving them would be snatching them out of the fire.
Let’s think about the concept of the fire. The fire is a concept that’s mentioned a couple times in the New Testament.
Let’s go to Matthew 18.
Matt. 18:8 “ If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 “ If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
Jesus talked about the eternal fire.
We also see this in Jude.
Jude 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
In the New Testament, there is this concept that there is an eternal fire that is the destination of wicked people.
Jude wrote in verse 22 that his readers were supposed to go out and work with those who were doubting and questioning to try and save some of them. If they saved anyone, they were snatching them out of the eternal fire.
The third command is “show some people mercy in fear.”
Why did Jude say fear should be part of this? Fear is one of those terms that’s very controversial. In our culture and our churches the conventional wisdom today is to downplay fear, the concept of fearing God and being afraid of God. That’s unfortunate because the Bible very clearly teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are told very clearly to fear the Lord.
In these two verses Jude was telling his readers to extend mercy, which we saw is important. It’s something that humans should do. At the same time, the reason people should have fear is because if someone extends mercy to someone who has evil intent, the mercy might end up allowing someone to contaminate the church and do great damage within the church. We are human, so it is likely we will make mistakes and extend mercy at the wrong time or to the wrong person. There is a verse that tells us to remove the wicked man from amongst ourselves. Failure to do that will contaminate the church.
Jude went on to tell his readers to hate even “the garment being polluted by the flesh.” Sin in the church is so serious they were even supposed to hate the garment that was polluted.
What does all this mean for us today? Jude wrote because people had crept into the church who were distorting grace and denying Jesus. We have that same problem today, particularly the part about distorting grace. The conventional wisdom of 21st century evangelicalism very much distorts grace. The conventional wisdom in 21st century evangelicalism downplays sin and the consequences of sin. That is an example of distorting grace and turning grace into licentiousness. Our situation in 21st century evangelicalism is very similar to the one that Jude wrote about. However, Jude also wrote in verses 22 and 23 that his readers were supposed to show mercy to those who had legitimate questions and legitimate doubts about Christianity. For us in 21st century evangelicalism, amidst all these people in our churches who are distorting grace, turning grace into licentiousness, and doing great damage to the church, there are people who have legitimate questions and doubts about Christianity. Those doubts and questions need to be answered. But just as Jude warned his readers to show mercy with fear, so too we need to have a healthy dose of fear. We have to always have in the back of our mind that we are human, and we might make a mistake and extend mercy to someone who actually has malicious intent. We might extend mercy to someone who is actually trying to harm the church and the gospel message.
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