Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Exposition of Jude: Part 22 of 25

Note: This is an occasional, verse by verse series of expositions through the book of Jude that started in May 2007! You can read previous commentaries under the label “Jude Exposition” below. You can also listen to my sermon series through Jude here.

Jude 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:

Jude had the last to say about the false teachers in v. 19. With v. 20 he turned with final exhortations to address believers. Those exhortations continue in v. 22.

The heart of this verse is a command: “have compassion” or “have mercy.”

One thing we might point out in this verse is the fact that modern translations tend to render it a little differently than do translation based on the traditional text. Compare:

NIV Jude 1:22 Be merciful to those who doubt;

NASB Jude 1:22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting;

The issue is both the translation and the case of the participle. The verb from which the participle (diakrino) comes can mean “to discern,” “to make a difference,” or “to doubt.” Is it nominative (as in the traditional text): have compassion/mercy making a difference? Or is it accusative (modern text): have compassion/mercy on those who doubt?

It might not surprise the reader to find out that I prefer the traditional rendering. Jude is calling for the believers to be compassionate. As Christians, we are to be merciful. We are to be moved by the plight of sinners. We are not to be cold and indifferent to the plight of our fellow human beings.

Nevertheless—and I think this is very consistent with what we have read throughout Jude—we are also to be discerning. Some will take compassion and mercy as a license for taking advantage of our good will. They will take the offer of divine mercy from Christ’s ambassadors as license to presume upon the grace of God.

A few years ago the evangelical blogger Tim Challies Challies defined discernment (making a difference) as “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”

He then added:

“When we practice discernment, we are applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. We are attempting to understand the words of the Bible and trusting God’s Word to give clarity so we might see things as God sees them. Our goal in discernment is to do just this: to see things through God’s eyes through the Bible and thus to see things as they really are. Like wiping the steam from a mirror, we seek to remove what is opaque so we might see with God-given clarity.”

Jude exhorts his hearers to be large-hearted in extending compassion, but also to exercise discernment.


• How does a believer extend mercy or compassion?

• How has mercy been extended to us in Christ?

• What areas of the Christian life particularly call for discernment?

• How would one exercise discernment in considering marriage, in choosing a career, in choosing a church, in establishing doctrinal convictions?

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