Now, let us turn together in the word of God to the little book of Jude - and I want you also to find in your Bible, the book of Zechariah, near the end of the Old Testament, the book of Zechariah and chapter 3.
But first of all we'll take our reading from the book of Jude. You'll remember that last week we thought of the subject "The Great Escape", and how we all shall escape apostasy, how we shall escape falling away and backsliding from the most holy faith that we have received from our fathers. And we're going to begin our reading, taking it up where we left off last week, at verse 22. But to get the context let's just look at verse 20: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen".
Zechariah - Zechariah's prophecy and chapter 3, and Zechariah says: "And [God] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan", the accuser, "standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment".
Let us pray: Our Father, we ask Thee in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that Thou wouldst help us as we seek Thy face through the word of God. That Thou mayest guide us through Thy holy word and help us this day, we pray, to see Jesus - the Author and Finisher of our faith. We pray that the Holy Ghost may testify of His teaching and of His person, and that we may be filled with joy as He talks and walks with us by the way. Fill with Thy Holy Spirit, we pray, in Jesus name. Amen.
I've entitled my message today: "Rescue The Falling", rescue the falling. You all know the hymn:
'Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Weep o'er the erring ones, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save'.
I think, possibly, that hymn was inspired by the text that we've read together today. But this text does not outline rescuing the perishing from hell, we're going to see that it has something else within its meaning. It does not talk about those who are falling into hell because they are sinners and because they are outside of Christ, they have never been born again of the Spirit of God - that is not who Jude is speaking of here. If you look at the passage of Scripture you see that the whole context of our little book - as we've entitled it - is the acts of the apostates. Therefore, if we take it out of its context, it becomes a pre-text - as we all know - but we must keep it in its context. We must understand that Jude now, for 20-odd verses, has been describing the characteristics of apostates. And then he turns in our text last Lord's Day to verse 20 and 21, and he tells us how we avoid falling away - he makes the distinction: 'But ye, beloved', you are different and you will remain different by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keeping yourselves in the love of God and looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. And then he continues: 'And of some have compassion, making a difference' - and what he is doing, as we will see, is: he is turning to the apostates themselves, but specifically those who have wandered and followed those apostates. Those who have been laid astray by their false teaching and their false living.
What ought our attitude [to] be to apostates? What ought our attitude [to] be to those who follow apostasy? If we were living in the 1600's, perhaps the clarion cry would be: 'Burn the heretic!' - that is how they dealt with you, if you disagreed with them. They got the faggots, and they lit them, and they burnt you at the stake. But in the light of the New Testament, and in the light of our faith and Paul's epistles, especially in this little book of Jude - what does God say ought to be our reaction to apostasy and those that follow it? Should we be like Elijah and call down fire from God, from heaven, to devour them? Or should we obey the epistle of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 6, 'Rejoice not in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth'? What ought our reaction to be?
We're looking at the little book of Jude, but if you look at the whole of the New Testament scriptures you find that the apostles, primarily, make a distinction between two types of people. They distinguish between the teacher of apostasy and the follower of it. There is a difference to be made, turn back with me a page or two to 2 John and verse 10, and we see in this short epistle, the instruction that the apostle gives us to those who are the teachers of apostasy. He says: 'If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed' - we are to have absolutely nothing to do with the teachers of apostasy. We are not even to give them a daily greeting, or bring them into our home - it's quite clear, it's categoric, the Lord lays it down. But what about the follower? What about the person who has been duped? If we look at this passage in Jude, it is indicated quite clearly that those folk who have been fooled, these men and women and boys and girls who have believed the lie of the apostates, are to be sought and to be won.
Why? First of all, because often they have been caught by ignorance. They do not know the word of God, they do not know the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the apostles that we build upon. But my friends today, it is something worse than that, for the word of God testifies that we are drawn into temptation when we lust from within - and within every person that follows apostasy, it has been the choice of their perverse will not to walk in the paths of God. But what does Jude say we must do to them? Must we pray for the destruction, must we pray that God may judge them? 'No!' is the answer - we are to pray that God will save them.
There are the weak, and there are the wilful. The wilful are those who, Jude says, there is no hope for if they are unrepentant. If they continue to teach their false doctrine, Jude has outlined very clearly that there is no hope - God has condemned them and the wrath of God is upon them. Verse 19 testifies that they are not even in the faith, they don't have the Spirit of God, and therefore God will judge them in a day to come. But who Jude speaks to us about now are those who are weak, believers, those having the Spirit of God, those who have followed false teachers, those who have been led astray - they are saved by the grace of God, but they have come under the influence of corrupt teaching and even corrupt living. He told us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, and these followers, these misled people, have left their most holy faith.
There is, therefore, needed for us - in the day in which we live - what I believe is a very scarce commodity within Christendom today, and it is this: the spirit of discernment. Discernment, being able to discern those who teach false teaching, and those who have followed false teaching - and to say that the word of God teaches that we treat all people the same, in every category, is not correct! It is blatantly ignorant! Many Christians are deceived today, and you may ask the question - as I often do: 'How can they be deceived?'. The answer comes from last week: they have not built up themselves upon the word of God, their most holy faith, they are not men and women of prayer in the Holy Ghost, they are not keeping in fellowship with God, they are not looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Jude says those believers who have wandered astray, those believers who have listened to apostasy, and have walked in Bypath Meadows: Seek them! Win them! And bring them back to their first love and the household of faith.
We often quote in our gathering from Proverbs 11 and verse 30, and Solomon - the wisest man that ever lived - said this: 'He that winneth souls is wise'. I would translate that: 'He who would seek to win souls must be wise'. That is what it means, and do not make the mistake of thinking that I am talking about being saved and lost - for you cannot be. But what I am talking about today is what Jude is talking about, of men and women born of the Spirit of God, who are lost in their sinful backsliding, or lost in false teaching and false living, which is the spirit, or the actuality of apostasy itself. Jude is saying it is our duty to win these people who are led astray! And the New Testament answer to Cain's question, asked of him by God: 'Where is thy brother?', is this: 'We are our brothers keeper'. We are to look after one another in the household of faith - and as James says in verse 20 of chapter 5 of his epistle: 'He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins'. We are to look out for one another, we are to love one another - and to love one another is to come to one another, and to speak to one another honestly about our lives, about our problems, about our sins - and we are to draw one another back to Christ!
Who are we to draw back? And how are we to do it? I want you to look at this little passage that we have looked at today, verse 22, and I want to read it to you today from a different translation, the amplified version of the Bible - which is simply an extended translation, the translator is trying to bring out, by many English words, what the Greek is really saying, so I hope as I read it none of you fall of your seat. Verse 22, listen: 'And refute so as to convict some who dispute with you, and on some have mercy who waver and doubt. Strive to save others, snatching them out of the fire; on others take pity but with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality'. Now the King James version, and the New King James version, have two categories of people in those verses. But the great deal of other versions, and other manuscripts, deal with three groups - not two, but three. And I want to take those three from this passage today, three people that we have to deal with in their sin, three types of followers after apostasy that we have to try and win back to the love of God and the love of Christ.
They are, one: the argumentative disputer; two: the seriously endangered; and three: the sinfully degraded. Let us look at the first one: the argumentative disputer. Verse 22: 'And refute so as to convict some who dispute with you' - the argumentative disputer. Those who differ argumentatively with what we teach, with what we believe about everything concerning the Gospel. We have those who take the name of Christ that do not believe in the virgin birth, we have those who take the name of Christ that genuinely and sincerely in their own heart of hearts have come to the realisation, they feel, that it is impossible for Jesus Christ to atone for sin. They feel it is impossible for a corpse to rise from the dead, it is impossible that Jesus should ascend to heaven, and that one day there is the promise of Him coming back again - and they will argue their case sincerely before you, they are argumentative disputers of the truth of God. Some versions say that they are doubters, but if you look at verse 9 it says there that 'Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed' - he [the devil] argued with the archangel over the body of Moses, and it is the same word that is used here that ought to be translated 'disputer'.
What are we to do with the argumentative disputer? A person, with regards to the truth of God, that can't be taught, that will not see the truth of the Gospel message - what are we to do with them, if they categorically come face-to-face with us and dispute all the truth that we hold so dear? God says, 'Convincingly refute them' - don't bury it over, don't forget about it, and in the spirit of the age of tolerance in which we live say, 'Live and let live'. But it literally means: 'Convict them while you dispute with them' - they can only be rebuked, and we ought to pray that God will change them. Can I ask you: how do you convincingly refute an argumentative disputer if you do not know the word of God? You cannot. That is why Jude tells us, build yourselves up in your most holy faith - you cannot pray that someone will come back to the faith, and the light of the Gospel will dawn upon their soul, if you do not pray in the Holy Ghost! We are to convincingly refute, not just pray, but rebuke! We must point out when wrong is wrong - and it may cause controversy, but it is necessary to be faithful to God. And on occasions the apostles themselves came face-to-face with argumentative disputers, and the word of God testifies that they faced it by convincingly refuting them to their face. We read in 2 John and 3 John that there was a malicious disputer called Diotrephes, one who loved, and wanted, the preeminence, one who went after the apostle John and told all manner of things about him - but we have no [indication] within the word of God that that man was ever silenced. Paul complained of evil workers, claiming to be apostles like he, claiming to have revelations from God like he - but we never find within the New Testament that these people were ever silenced. But nevertheless, as a testimony to the grace and the truth of God, we are told to convincingly refute - that men and women who deny the truth of God, men and women who would trod underfoot the blood, and the cross, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, when they stand at that Great White Throne may be without excuse.
Oh, it is hard today to speak up. It is hard in the age of political correctness to speak of truth, to speak categorically and absolutely of the faith delivered to us, undiluted, unapologetically, not as advice but as a command to: 'Repent, or ye shall all likewise perish'. It is hard! And those who have wandered away from that faith, we must seek to bring them back. It is not good enough to stand by and say, 'It is a sign of the times'. Jude says, 'Make a difference! Go after these people! Have compassion upon them by rebuking them convincingly of the truth of God!'. Dr John MacArthur speaks of a phrase, and a person, that he calls the 'baby Christian'. Do you know who that is? Just as a baby wanders across the floor, maybe in the living room, and there's a penny on the floor, or a bit of dirt - what do they do? They have no distinction, they lift it and put into their mouth - that is what every Christian, perhaps - not every Christian, but most Christians - today in Christendom are doing. Whatever to the eye seems OK, they consume it, they believe it, they work within that system because they feel it's OK - and they are eating things that will kill them spiritually, and dull their spiritual walk with God. We must rebuke!
Dr A.T. Robinson wrote an article for the Southern Baptist magazine, and he described, as I have been describing, the biblical character of Diotrephes within the New Testament - and 25 deacons from various Baptist churches wrote to the editor cancelling their subscription because they contended that Mr Robinson was writing about them. There are disputers, and William Kelly says rightly, listen: 'Christ is generally represented with a halo about His head, and the apostles too, as if every man fell submissive at their feet - but that is just what imagination does. People do not realise all the terrible evils that had to be faced by them - how much more may we expect it now? As the Psalmist said, time was when the work of the sanctuary was regarded as a good thing for a man to have put his hand to, all the fine carved work, all the grandeur of gold that gleamed in the sanctuary - but now it has come to pass that a man is praised because he brake it all to pieces'. I say, in the age in which we live, it is easy to find the Christian who will pull down, but give me a Christian that will build!
There is the argumentative disputer, there is the seriously endangered that you find in verse 23: 'Strive to save others, snatching them out of the fire; on others take pity'. They are seriously endangered, they are in the fire, and we have to go actively and snatch them out of the fire! These are the seriously endangered, they are in more imminent danger, therefore they have to be snatched away before the false teaching grips their soul and kills their heart for God, before the wicked living of these apostates gets hold of them, and they go into their sensuality and their licentiousness. And if we don't save them - and I'm not talking about salvation, they're saved! - but if we don't save them from apostasy, who will? Many use this passage of scripture as a reference to the Gospel and hell, and that may be so - as Matthew Henry says: 'We are to go to the sinner and endeavour to frighten them out of their sins, preach hell and damnation'. But that is not the case in this passage, for the person referred to here has been saved from hell, and the fire that is described is not hell-fire for all eternity but it is the fire of judgement, in verse 7 that you read of - of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, [they] are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. And apostasy, throughout this book, the whole Bible, is often described as fire - now listen: if you imbibe apostasy in your heart, if you imbibe the spirit of apostasy by not reading the word of God, by not praying in the Holy Ghost, by not fellowshipping with God and keeping the love of God in your heart, and by not looking for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ - if you do that, my friend, you're imbibing the spirit of apostasy, and you will be eaten up with fire! That is why the backslider backslides - for whether it is literal apostasy, or the spirit of it in his heart, he has moved away from God and the fire will devour him - and we are told that we must go and literally put our hands into that fire, where they are, and pluck them out!
Turn with me to Zechariah 3 that we were reading together. Zechariah chapter 3 and verse 2, and this is the quotation that you have in Jude, and it's found here in Zechariah - Jude is quoting, again, the Old Testament, as he often does: 'And the Lord said unto Satan', remember Joshua's standing there in filthy garments, the high priest, 'The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?'. And there Joshua is, in his filthy garments, and he has been plucked as a brand from Babylon, which is burning down with sin and sensuality, and literally with the judgement of God's eternal fire - but this man, this believer in God, has been plucked out, and he shows a smittering of filth, and sin, and dirt upon him - but he has been plucked out by the hand of God! Oh, we are to snatch men and women out of falsehood, my friend. We are to lovingly, and compassionately, grab them and pull them out of the dens of iniquity that they are worshipping in! We are to bring them to the truth of God, their most holy faith that they have left - we must snatch them! Thomas Manton said: 'When a fire is kindled in a city, we do not say coldly: 'Yonder is a great fire, I pray God it do no harm'. In times of public defection, we are not to read tame lectures of contemplative divinity' - we are to be in action! Not debating the intricacies of the word of God, but snatching those that need snatched to the truth!
We read in the book of Genesis and chapter 19 and verse 16 of Sodom and Gomorrah, we read of Lot who flirted with worldliness and apostasy - and we read this: that while he lingered as Sodom was being judged by the fire and brimstone of God, that an angel had to lay hold upon his hand, and the Lord being merciful unto him, He snatched him away! I wonder is there a backslider here today and you are lingering? You are lingering in your sin, you are lingering in your spirit of apostasy within your heart - you have been born of the Spirit of God, and you know it, you made a profession in your youth, or your childhood, and you're living outside of God, outside of Christ, outside of hope! But yet you are lingering, and it may take a believer to grab you, and to snatch you out of the fire! And I pray that God, today, would waken you up to your need, and that the Spirit of God would come and snatch your spirit and soul!
Oh, Joshua stood there in filthy garments, accused by Satan, who was throwing all the accusations at him - but what did God do? God says, 'I'll take the garment away', look at verse 4, 'Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment' - and God today, my friend, no matter how far you've gone away from Him, God is able to do it! God is able to clothe you with pure garments, God is able to wash you in the blood of His own dear Son that was shed for you at Calvary - our God is able! He is able, and He can do it for you if you come penitently to Him today, He will cleanse you, He will release you, He will free you!
Believer today, there is an urgency that we need if we are to snatch our friends and our loved ones from the fire of false teaching, false living, false apostasy. It will not do to hear 'wet blanket' sermons. It will not do to preach 'high-faluting' messages, that a man in the street cannot understand. There needs to be a spirit of urgency in our preaching, in our prayers. There needs to be that spirit, whereby the Puritan, learned and scholarly, as he would preach in his pulpit would turn his back as he was gripped and burdened with the burden of the people before him, and he would turn his back on the people and shout to God, 'Oh, Spirit do Your work!'. Is that the earnestness and the urgency that you have, believer? Preacher, is that the way you preach? As someone has said, 'We should preach as though Jesus died yesterday, rose today, and is coming tomorrow'! It is urgent, for the time is short and there are those who are in the fire of this apostasy - whether they be believers or non-believers - and they need to be plucked as brands from the burning!
But thirdly, there is the sinfully degraded. We read of them in the last half of verse 23: 'On others take pity but with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality' - and you can't argue with these people! They are sinfully degraded, they won't listen to arguments, they can't be convicted, they can't be snatched - but they are to be pitied by you, the children of God, but they are to be pitied cautiously. You are to pity them, conscious of their weakness, conscious of their simplicity, conscious of the sinfulness of their sin - my friend, if we could get a vision today of the sinfulness of sin! If we could see sin as God sees it! If we could see sin as Christ felt it! We would snatch them alright - and the thing is, we would be burnt in the process. We need to be careful, because there is a risk in snatching these people, and we may need to pay a [price] - but there is a greater risk as we look at the sinfully degraded in verse 23, we are to cautiously pity them, we are to realise that we can be contaminated by their garments spotted with the flesh, their inner garment that's close to the flesh, contacting defilement. We need to be careful, that when we go to win the sinner, the sinner does not win us! And that means, young people, you don't go to the pub to have a little drink and have a little witness. You don't go to the disco, or the club, to tell others about Christ - you don't do it! - and sit with them and partake in their sin. I'm not talking about giving out tracts, that's not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about people who are living socially in this mechanism whereby they are no different than the world, they say, to win the world - you can't do it! I'm reminded, tragically, of the story of a man - and he was a godly man - who was an evangelist to the street girls in America, prostitutes. And there was one night he went, seeking to win a lost soul on one of the beaches in America, and he went to her with that sincere objective and he has written, listen: 'I went to win her, and she won me!'.
Joshua was clothed in filthy garments, but I read in the book of the Revelation, these are they who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! Christians, what is needed today for the blessing of God upon this land, and upon this corner of the vineyard, is one word - for you now, Christian: repentance. Repentance! 'I have repented' - no you haven't! Unless you have repented day by day, from the moment you were saved, every morning getting up, reviewing your life, saying: 'Lord, I will turn from that today. I will refrain from that, I will live for Thee' - day by day keeping yourselves in the love of God! My friend, my Christian friend, will you repent? Will you turn your life round to God again? Will you give Him your money, give Him your time, give Him everything? Will you win the lost, Christian? Will you convincingly refute, and critically save, and cautiously pity those who are brothers and sisters in Christ, and will you with urgency go to them and bring them home?
Listen to this today, as we finish this little book of Jude, and all the doom and gloom that we read of that is coming in the last day, and is already here, I believe - what a note to end on! That if you are backslidden, or you are a wanderer, or you are in the spirit of apostasy: God is able to meet your need. 'Now unto him that is able to keep you from stumbling', God has the power - He is an all-powerful God - to keep you, to keep you away from sin, to keep you away from backsliding and false teaching. He is a God that has the power to keep, He has the ability to set you before Himself! He is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless, blameless, before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy - like Joshua the high priest, He is able today to strip you of all that filth, and to put you in a new garment, white, washed by the blood of Christ. And my friends today, if we should stand, after running through that finishing tape on that great day, and look into the laser, piercing eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ and hear these words: 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' - do you know why we'll hear them? 'To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory' - to Him be glory, for when we get to heaven it'll be because of Him.
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh tape in his 'Jude: The Acts Of The Apostates' series, titled "Rescue The Falling" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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