Jude 23

Jude 23
Hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

The allusion here is not quite certain, though the idea which the apostle meant to convey is not difficult to be understood. By the garment polluted by the flesh there may be an allusion to a garment worn by one who had had the plague, or some offensive disease which might be communicated to others by touching the clothing which they had worn.

To something of this kind the apostle compares the sins of the persons here referred to. While the utmost effort was to be made to save them, they were in no way to partake of their sins, their conduct was to be regarded as loathsome and contagious, and those who attempted to save them were to take every precaution to preserve their own purity. There is much wisdom in this counsel.

While we endeavor to save the sinner, we cannot too deeply hate his sins, and in approaching some classes of sinners there is need of as much care to avoid being defiled by them, as there would be to escape the plague if we had any transaction with one who had it. Not a few have been deeply corrupted in their attempts to reform the polluted. There never could be, for example, too much caution and prayer for personal safety from pollution, in attempting to reform others.

It is, you will observe, not the disease merely, but even the “garment” infected with it, which you are to turn from. That is, everything that may prove an incitement, or an accessory, or by remote and indirect ways an introduction to sin, is to be shunned for the very reasons which urge you to flee from the sin itself. The doing so is cutting off the possibility, by removing the occasions, of guilt.

It is as a person fixing every chink in his armour. It is as a person not allowing himself to touch even a shred of clothing which has lain in the vicinity of the plague.

The wisdom which these illustrations recommend does reflect, it must be owned, somewhat hardly upon many of the indulgences in common life. These indulgences are allowed and entered into, because you cannot prove that there is anything decidedly sinful in them. There is an amusement which no law, either human or Divine, can be brought to condemn. And if there be nothing criminal in it, am I not free, every one asks, to partake of it? But the person who, following the principles of Christianity, is sincerely desirous of advancing his moral improvement will deem it necessary to ascertain first what is its tendency, whither it leads, what shall be its effects on his peculiar condition or temperament. Is it the forerunner, or the means, or the attendant of aught that is wrong? To say absolutely that we are to enter into no situation where we may dread the exercise of any evil influence upon the principles and habits of the religious character would certainly be prescribing what cannot be practised. We should have, as the apostle expresses himself, “to go out of the world.” But still is it not true that there is frequently an uncalled-for, a premature, a rash, and hence a hazardous, intercourse with the world? Are not situations entered upon without due forethought? Are not objects pursued after with avidity, the utility or hurtfulness of which has never been seriously considered? Where the wonder, then, that the garment which no care is exerted to retain pure should, in the very centre of pollution, become polluted?

To the duty of shunning evil there is another which it is incumbent on us to add, the strong language of the text intimating that iniquity is to be the object of our expressed aversion. We are to hate it, and to show that we do so. Hence, if ever there is made in our hearing the attack against our blessed religion, whether through the grave objections of philosophy or the sarcasms of profane wit–if ever those immoral maxims which, for the easier diffusion, are coloured over with the fallacious names of liberality are inculcated in our presence–if ever the character and ordinances of our God and Saviour are lightly spoken of, or those works which His Spirit is sent to destroy are approved and defended before us, let us feel how urgent is the call to make that “confession before men,” which is to be followed with the acknowledgment of our fidelity “before the Father and His holy angels.” In these circumstances, however, we cannot make that confession without showing “hatred” to what opposes the high subject of our confession. And “hatred,” when turned against sin and all the appearances of sin, is the only lawful form under which that passion may be cherished. Nothing is so worthy of our hatred. Ought sin ever to be seen by us, then, without moving aversion and stirring up a holy resentment within us?

In these words the apostle speaks figuratively. He wishes to exhort to abstinence from all and every kind of sin. And to make his exhortation the more easily remembered and the more deeply impressed, he clothes it in metaphor. The religion which preceded Christianity was the Jewish, established amongst a peculiar people for certain wise and intelligible reasons. In this dispensation God taught His people more by signs than words, by ceremonies than by precepts Time will not permit to speak of all the figurative instruction of the Jewish religion. But, in connection with our text, I may speak of the figurative distinctions of clean and unclean. Under this dispensation, then, there were many things considered unclean. Certain animals–as, for instance, swine–came within this evil distinction; and persons with certain diseases, such as leprosy or an issue of blood, were prohibited all intercourse with their fellows during the time the disease lay upon them; and a corpse was considered unclean; and those who might happen to touch it, or to come in contact with persons already unclean through disease or other causes, were themselves for a season unclean.

Now, this calling of some things clean and unclean was designed to notify unequivocally the broad immutable distinction between sin and holiness, their utter, unending contrariety. But our text has a more especial reference to the uncleanness of leprosy. Leprosy in the East was a very loathsome disease, and fitly symbolises sin. And such was the virulence of his malady that none might approach or touch him; for there was uncleanness, not only in his personal touch, but in his garments. The garments became “spotted by the flesh”; they partook of the infection, and brought beneath a ban the unfortunate who might touch them. There appears to have been also an independent plague, peculiarly affecting raiment. Now God commanded His priests to destroy those leprous garments (Leviticus 13:47-52). Do we, then, arrive at an understanding of the apostle’s figure?

Does it not suggest a Christian precept of a like significance, but written in plain, unfigurative language? To hate “the garment spotted by the flesh” is to keep sin at the farthest distance; to avoid those things into which it can by subtilty infuse its fatal poison; things which, though lawful and innocent, may prove by remote possibility the occasion of falling to ourselves and to others. It is to keep far within the border-line which separates holiness from sin; not to venture out among the outposts, lest there be a sudden surprise, but to remain entrenched within the citadel, within which is safety.

The meaning is, that the Jews of old were carefully to avoid every legal pollution, or ceremonial impurity, which rendered them odious to, and avoided by their neighbours, so Christians are most careful to avoid every moral impurity. While they endeavour under grace to save some by gentle methods, and others by fear, they are to take care, lest they themselves should be polluted by others, or infected by coming near them. A physician who attempts to cure the plague, should take care, lest he himself be infected by the persons whom he endeavours to cure.

1 Thessalonians 5:22
Abstain from every appearance of evil.

Revelation 3:4
But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

James 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Hebrews 12:15
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

By this the apostle means every thing that doth defile, though in the least degree; he forbids all affinity and nearness to the errors and vices of these sinners, implying that some sinners are so filthy and unclean, that there is no keeping company with them without defilement; and intimating that Christians in their conversing with erroneous or vicious persons, whom they labour to recover, should take great care that they be not corrupted nor debauched by them, they being only to deal with them as physicians, not as companions.

And others: those that are further gone, not so easily reducible, and in great danger.

Save: labour to save them

With fear: by more severe courses, sharper reprehensions, setting before them God’s judgments against obstinate sinners

Pulling them out of the fire: it is a proverbial speech, the sense is, that as they that are in the fire, and like to be destroyed by it, must not be gently exhorted to come out of it of themselves, but speedily and forcibly pulled out, in consideration of their eminent danger, so they that are more stubborn sinners, being in apparent danger of being destroyed by the fire of their lusts, and being as it were in the mouth of hell, must be more harshly and severely dealt with, by setting the Lord’s terrors before them.

2 Corinthians 5:11
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

Others save with fear: present alarming considerations to arouse them, as you would were they asleep in a house on fire.

Hating even the garment: abhorring and avoiding every thing connected with these transgressions, or tending to defile you. In our efforts to reclaim and save men, great wisdom is needful, to adapt the means used to their various cases. Some must be allured by kindness, and efforts for them should be gentle, as those of a nurse with her children. Others must be aroused by terrors, and urged by the thunders of coming wrath.

Those who contend with you are as brands already in the fire, of which hell fire is the consummation: these try to save by snatching out.

Those who are objects of compassion, help, but let not pity degenerate into involvement at their error. Your “
compassion is to be accompanied with fear of being defiled by them.

Hating even the garment: avoiding the least contact with sin, hating that which borders on it. As garments of the apostles brought good (Acts 19:12) and of the Lord in healing the woman with an issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-21), so the garment of sinners metaphorically, anything brought into contact with their pollution is to be avoided. In the Old Testament, anyone touching the garments of those defiled was excluded, until purified, from religious and civil communion with the sanctified people of Israel. Christians who received at baptism the white garment, in token of purity, are not to defile it by any approach to defiled things.

James 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Let us be admonished, while we cherish and on every fit occasion express the feeling of zeal against iniquity, to make it ever appear that our “hatred” is all the while to the sin, and not to the sinner. Him we compassionate; and we are not to leave him in doubt that he is the object of our sympathy. And let us remember that there is no hope of giving efficacy to our remonstrances against sin, nor of recommending the good cause for the support of which we offer ourselves, nor of honouring the name of Jesus by our testimony to His gospel, as long as we render it hard to separate our zeal for religion from the appearance of a proud struggle for our own superiority. Pride, contempt, and overbearing haughtiness make the sinner feel that you are hostile to his person. He is stirred up, as it were, to the defence of his own interests. Charity is the subduing part of religious zeal. I repeat it therefore, Let there be hatred at the very garment spotted by sin. But show that you have none to the unhappy person who wears it.

Flesh

Flesh is the whole natural or unregenerate man, spirit, soul, and body, as centered upon self, prone to sin, and opposed to God.

Romans 7:18
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

The regenerate man is not in the sphere of the flesh, but in the sphere of the Spirit
Romans 8:9
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

But the flesh is still in him, and he may, according to his choice, walk after the flesh or in the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 3:1‭-‬4
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

Galatians 5:16-17
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

In the first case he is a carnal, in the second a spiritual, Christian.

Victory over the flesh will be the habitual experience of the believer who walks in the Spirit.

Romans 8:2
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Romans 8:4
So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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