A while back I did a series of expository teachings on the small letter that Jude wrote to believers. I want to reiterate something from that letter today because of the onslaught of falsehood that is confronting Christians today. Sadly, the ones most affected are the young in the Lord (age has nothing to do with it) and those that don’t, for whatever reason, get in and spend time in the written Word of God.
In verse 3, Jude writes:
“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.”
The word “delivered” in this verse could also be translated, “entrusted.” It was given to us for safe-keeping and to hold on to dearly as one would a keepsake.
Although Jude’s brief letter does not mention his intended readers, it addresses specific concerns about false teaching that was threatening the churches even in his day. Yet it doesn’t seem to have been Jude’s original intention. He stated he wanted to write to encourage believers. However, an urgent concern about false teaching caused him to write this letter denouncing the false teachers and appealing to the Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith” instead. Jude probably wanted this letter to be circulated because false teaching was a serious problem for all the churches. Thus, he specified no particular church or area.
The believers were addressed as “beloved” (also translated, “dear friends”), a term often used by those who wrote with authority to the Christians. (For example, Paul used the term in 1 Corinthians 10:14; Peter, in 1 Peter 2:11 and 2 Peter 3:1; John, in 1 John 2:7 and 3:2.) Jude had wanted to write a joyous letter to believers “concerning our common salvation,” that is, a letter about the Christian faith that he and all believers had in common. Instead, Jude had to set that idea aside because a much more urgent and unhappy topic needed to be addressed. False teachers were threatening the churches, endangering the believers’ faith.
The word “contend,” epagonizesthai, in the original Greek, occurs only here in the New Testament. Often it is used in secular literature to describe the intense struggle in an athletic contest. Jude called the believers to action, to contend for the faith. CONTENDING would not be easy; it called for hard work, diligent study, willingness to stand against society’s desire to water down the gospel, speaking up for the truth and bearing the burden of interpreting the timeless truth to a changing society. The believers could not (and would never be able to) sit back and idly enjoy the mercy, peace, and love of their faith (verse 2). Rather, their Christian faith must be defended against the onslaught of false teaching. “The faith” refers to the entire body of beliefs taught by the apostles and held by the Christians (see Acts 2:42). The teachings of Christ and his apostles had been “once for all” (without change to the content) “delivered to the saints” (to all believers). All Christians had been entrusted with the faith—to keep it pure and to teach it to others. Therefore, all Christians should stand ready to defend the faith as they would defend any prized possession.
Jude emphasized the important relationship between correct doctrine and true faith. The truth of the Bible must not be compromised because it gives us the real facts about Jesus and salvation. The Bible is inspired by God through His Holy Spirit and should never be twisted or manipulated as so often happens today.
DO NOT COMPROMISE
How do ordinary Christians contend for the truth today? Take some time to think about these ideas:
- It is every Christian’s job to study the Bible. Don’t ever imagine that pastors and seminary professors hold a monopoly on this task. Without study, you cannot know what to contend for.
- Knowledge in the brain is only part of contending for truth. Prayer is vital. God gives the Holy Spirit as a teacher. Unattached to God, you may know everything, but understand nothing. Knowledge without wisdom and understanding is empty.
- Many private interpretations fracture the truth of the gospel; Christians must remain unified on the essentials. They must keep everything within the context with which it was written. Associate with a church or a group of believers that loves God and encourages learning. Then use your common resources for the hard work of contending. Lone crusaders invariably create hostile splinter groups.
- Truth must be served as well as studied. Demonstrate the truth by working for it. That old cliché that practice makes perfect has proven to be true. Help with building or remodeling a house, organize a fun night for the neighborhood, start a food pantry, help with youth—all in the name of Christ, the Truth.
There are certain doctrines that we should contend for, those that are central to our faith and salvation (such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, atonement). On others we can agree to disagree (such as Calvinism/Arminianism, charismatic issues, methods for spiritual growth, spiritual disciplines), the areas of the Bible that are neither black or white, yes or no.
I want to continue on with the first part of verse 4 which states:
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed.”
I do however, love how the New Revised Standard Version states this part of the verse:
“For certain intruders have stolen in among you.” (NRSV).
Seriously, that is what they are. They are intruders and as one version states, they have “wormed” their way into our midst.
In this, Jude explained the reason for his compulsion to write this letter of appeal: “certain intruders” (that is, false teachers) had entered the church, “stealing in” among the believers. How could this happen? These may have been traveling teachers who had come and had established themselves in communities and churches with the sole aim of perverting the Christian gospel. (For example, in Galatians 2:4, Paul talked about the Judaizers who had infiltrated Christian groups.) Their teaching didn’t sound so “false” at first; it was subtle and easy to follow, so it had lulled some believers away from the truth. The false teachers knowingly sought to destroy the church from within, believing their way was the only way, working in an underhanded manner to bring in their ideas. But their false teaching would only lead to judgment. Although these teachers introduced their perverted teaching carefully, any deviation from the truth is no longer the truth. For example, many taught that Christians can do whatever they like without fear of God’s punishment. This reflects a weak view of God’s holiness and his justice. Peter explained it this way: “They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them.” – 2 Peter 2:1 (NIV). Both Peter and Jude used the same Greek word, meaning “to smuggle” or “to worm their way in.” Thus these false teachers did not belong in the church and were no better than intruders among the believers.
Today we have the same thing only exponentially in greater numbers and with the proliferation of different social media platforms, the false teaching and false prophesying have become an epidemic against the truth of the Word of God!