Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

May 8, 2019
Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

Jude opens his inspired letter with fairly traditional greetings but then quickly starts the body of the letter with the famous line: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Jude insists that he was ready to write to these brothers and sisters who are loved by God. With these words he shows that not only did God love these believers but so did he. Jude was especially eager to write about their “common salvation.” While we have not yet entered into heaven and the final state, we have in one sense already attained salvation. All born-again Christians share this common salvation and all the benefits of it. Jude had at first intended to write about all of those wonderful blessings of salvation but was interrupted with news of false teachers among these brothers and sisters. So, he felt it necessary to change course and write to the people in light of the present, precarious situation.

The express purpose of Jude’s letter was to exhort those people of God to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Of course, verse four is where we find the details of why this is so much more urgent than other things that may have been discussed in the letter. We learn from that next verse that certain ungodly men had somehow snuck in among the Christians unnoticed. These men were perverting God’s grace and denying the Lord Jesus Christ. A decline into unbelief does not happen immediately, it does not happen overnight. Apostasy is months or years in the making when Christians do not remain alert and steadfast. Allowing a little error here and more false teaching there eventually leads to a perversion of the true Gospel of God’s grace and an outright denial of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

And so, Jude tells the brethren to contend earnestly for the faith. The word “contend” that Jude employs was used in military and athletic contexts. The term “refers to a struggle or intense effort” (Schreiner, 435). Those ancient believers and Christians of every generation, including us today, are to fight for the faith. “The Faith” here is used in almost a technical sense meaning to convey all of what we believe and teach. “The Faith” is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all of the holy Scriptures, all the doctrines of God, historic theology, and the entirety of what we call “Christianity.” We are to fight to stay in our faith-relationship with God, to defend the truths of Scripture, and to promote the Gospel in our communities and around the world. This exhortation is all the more needed in our current day because so many are redefining the Faith or outright abandoning it.

This Faith we are speaking of has been delivered to the saints, that is, the church has been entrusted with these precious truths about God. Jude says that the Faith has been “once for all” passed down from the apostles through every generation signifying that, “No supplements or corrections will be tolerated. The gospel of Jesus Christ has received its fullest explication through the apostles” (Schreiner, 436). It is my responsibility and yours as well, all of us together as the Church, to promote and defend the Gospel of God’s grace and to live by faith in His one and only Son.

Therefore, we have two reasons to contend for the Faith given in these two verses of Jude’s letter. I’ll summarize them in reverse order. First, Christians must contend earnestly for the Faith because it has been given into our trust. We are to safeguard the purity of the Gospel by not only believing and defending it but also by promoting it. Second, Christians must content earnestly for the Faith because there are always ungodly people, from outside and from within the Church, who seek to pervert the Gospel and lead believers astray. Thus, we see both vertical and the horizontal motivators. God has made us responsible for the Gospel and men are seeking to use and abuse the Gospel. Be a believer in the Good News of Christ. Be a defender. Be a proclaimer. Contend earnestly.