… but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Jude -23
The previous verse stated, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction.” That same thought now continues with, “but others save with fear.” The Greek reads, “in fear.” The idea is that we are to be in fear, and thus watchful, of being stained by their infection while rescuing them. Without such an attitude of care, we ourselves could be brought into whatever has infected them. With this understood, Jude next says, “pulling them out of the fire.”
In his words here and just ahead, Jude is certainly drawing on Old Testament parallels. This one looks back to Zechariah 3 –
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” Zechariah 3:1, 2
Another possibility is that of Lot who was literally pulled back inside his house by the angels and then later forced from Sodom in order to flee the destruction which was to come. This is certainly likely based on what it says in Amos 4:11 –
“‘I overthrew some of you,
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning;
Yet you have not returned to Me,’
Says the Lord.”
The Greek word translated as “pulling,” is harpazó, is referring to yanking someone with force, such as if you were to yank someone back from an oncoming car. It is the word Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to describe what will occur at the rapture. The idea here is that one is to be careful to not get burned while pulling another out of the fire. Something that is so easy to do while evangelizing those caught in sin.
Jude next says, “hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” The idea of the garments “defiled by the flesh” goes all the way back to the Law of Moses. The specific “garment” described today is a chitón. It is the inner garment, closest to the body.
The book of Leviticus describes how to handle the effects of leprosy. One of the effects of this disease is that the garment itself could become a carrier and therefore was to be burned in order to prevent its infectious spread (Leviticus 13). Further, to touch any person, or any article touched by a person with a bodily discharge would render the one touching him or it unclean (Leviticus 15, etc.).
This is the symbolism that Jude is using. We are to “save others with [in] fear,” being on guard not to let their infection spread to us while we are involved in their conversion. When it says, “pulling them out of the fire,” it is certainly speaking of the anticipated effects of their life if they remain unconverted – Hell and the Lake of Fire.
As a side note, to understand the New Testament meaning behind the Levitical laws mentioned above – all which point to Christ, His work, or how it applies to us – be sure to watch the Leviticus sermons on YouTube from the Superior Word. What Israel was commanded in their earthly lives points to spiritual truths in our life in Christ. The entire book is a fascinating study into understanding what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
Life application: In the verse today, we are taught truths that we need to apply to our lives in how we deal with such people. As Christians, we are to –
- Work actively to work to bring about a change in the people around us.
- Make every effort to divert them from the reckless path which leads to hell.
- While doing so, keep free from being entangled in the very sins these people are engaged in.
This verse is a profound call to the Christian to actively engage in battle while being constantly on guard that the battle doesn’t consume us in the process.
Jesus, help us to determine to work daily in bringing about an understanding in others concerning Your holiness and their need to be brought out of the defiled state they are in. We acknowledge our own weakness toward sin, and our dependence on You for protection when we do so. As we tell others about Your salvation in Christ throughout this lost world, please keep us from being entangled in the very sins that we are warning against. Thank You for being with us through this battle. Amen.