22 “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
We have, in verses 22 and 23, three tactics in dealing with error:
1. Show mercy to the wavering heretic.
2. Use boldness with the confirmed heretic.
3. Use caution in showing mercy to heretics.
And on some have compassion,
The object of compassion here is on apostates. These are people who waver in their doubts about the Word of God. If apostates show positive volition toward the Word of God, the believer should respond positively to them.
making a distinction;
The purpose of rebuke is correction and restoration, not condemnation. Our approach to apostates must have the “distinction” or discernment of having “compassion” on them.
but others save with fear,
Jude recommends two separate courses of action in dealing with apostates. (1) For some, we show “compassion,” and (2) others, we attempt to save by resolute warning.
The “others” here are non-Christian false teachers. Christians are to approach false teachers “with fear” (caution) for their souls.
pulling them out of the fire,
Apostates stand on the brink of eternal damnation–hellfire.
hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
The “flesh” here refers to the total man, psychological man, and the sin capacity.
“Hate” is a legitimate exercise when it comes to apostasy.
The “garment” is proverbial, referring to avoiding even the most remote aspect of apostasy. It is important in dealing with apostates because of the possibility of contamination with their false beliefs.
Spiritual discernment is necessary for dealing with the victims of doubt.
There is a sense of judgment necessary in dealing with people who fall into or are falling into apostasy. It is possible to drive people into apostasy by our attitude.
There is a difference between doubt and disbelief. Those in the category of doubt need to be treated with distinction.
Doctrinal defilement spreads quickly, so it is important to “hate” theological error.
Passion flows out of compassion. The Greek word for “compassion” occurs 31 times in the New Testament but is only translated as “compassion” three times. It is translated as “pity” or “mercy.” We need a capacity for mercy. Mercy is not natural to us. We are cruel and live according to the law of the jungle. We do not want to be bothered with false teaching. Our attitude is, “let them go to hell.” We are the best Christians some people know, but they will never hear it from us because we have no compassion.