Friday, July 10, 2015

A Threefold Ministry

From Jude 18-25: 
“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.Doxology24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 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.
The epistle starts out by warning the church  against the antinomian false teachers who were leading people into error. There is sufficient evidence in the text, the context, and the historical teaching that those who "pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" were guilty of many kinds of sensuality, but that homosexuality was included. They were warned of "a punishment of eternal fire" "just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire". 
Then, when Jude transitions from his greeting and his warning, he exhorts and encourages the church to persevere as the Lord's "Beloved". His instructions for how to deal with those who've been subjected to false teachers are threefold, and apply just as well for us today: 
1) have mercy on those who doubt; 
2) save others by snatching them out of the fire; 
3) to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

John Calvin writes the following in his commentary on Jude:
"The meaning then is, that if we wish to consult the well-being of such as go astray, we must consider the character and disposition of every one; so that they who are meek and tractable may in a kind manner be restored to the right way, as being objects of pity; but if any be perverse, he is to be corrected with more severity. And as asperity is almost hateful, he excuses it on the ground of necessity; for otherwise, they who do not willingly follow good counsels, cannot be saved.
"Moreover, he employs a striking metaphor. When there is a danger of fire, we hesitate not to snatch away violently whom we desire to save; for it would not be enough to beckon with the finger, or kindly to stretch forth the hand. So also the salvation of some ought to be cared for, because they will not come to God, except when rudely drawn....
"'Hating even the garment'. This passage, which otherwise would appear obscure, will have no difficulty in it, when the metaphor is rightly explained. He would have the faithful not only to beware of contact with vices, but that no contagion might reach them, he reminds them that everything that borders on vices and is near to them ought to be avoided: as, when we speak of lasciviousness, we say that all excitements to lusts ought to be removed. The passage will also become clearer, when the whole sentence is filled up, that is, that we should hate not only the flesh, but also the garment, which, by a contact with it, is infected. The particle καὶ even serves to give greater emphasis. He, then, does not allow evil be cherished by indulgence, so that he bids all preparations and all accessories, as they say, to be cut off."

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