"Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation…."
The word beloved, with which the verse begins, is an indication of the warmth of feeling which characterized the writer towards those whom he addressed. "Jude does not merely talk about love; he displays it, both in the repeated affectionate address of beloved (3,17,20) and also in the serious warning and stern rebuke he administers throughout the Epistle. Christian love is not sentimental acquiescence in what others are doing; it is no substitute for conviction" (Jude, Michael Green, p. 158). Love doesn’t look the other way or remain silent when error arises and seeks to lead other Christians away from the faith. Jude was making every effort to write to these Christians about their common salvation, that is, the salvation available to all but denied to none who comply with the conditions therein. It is also commonseeing that God only offers one plan of salvation and only one way to be saved (Acts 4:12).
"I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly"
What made this contending for the faith a necessity, was that these Christians were being threatened by false teachers (Jude 4). Jesus and His apostles plainly told us that Christians must always be on their guard, for the threat of error and apostasy, even from professed Christians within the church is always a danger (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1 "there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies"; 3:17 "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness"). The phrase contend earnestly is defined as, "To contend about a thing, as a combatant" (Vine p. 233); "Literally, to wrestle, and as here figuratively used, denotes the extreme efforts which are to characterize the faithful in their defense of the truth" (Peter, John and Jude, Guy N. Woods p. 385); "to struggle for" (Strongs); in other words, we must be prepared to fight for the purity of the faith. "Jude’s word implies an ongoing ‘wrestling match’ in which he wants us to become involved. This will be unpopular, because it is commonly assumed that since Christianity is a faith based on love, it can say only nice, comforting things. The evidence throughout the Bible is that being faithful to God’s Word means bringing hard, unpopular warnings as well as bright promises" (2 Peter and Jude, John R.W. Stott p. 176). "Jude uses the word epagonizesthai in order to emphasize that the defense of this faith will be costly and agonizing; the cost of being unfashionable" (Green p. 160).
Tired of Contending?
We live in a world today in which is seems that many people are tried of sacrificing and want to avoid confrontation over matters of truth. Years ago David Edwin Harrell Jr., wrote, "Again and again, those who start with a commitment to truth become weary along the endless trek through barren deserts of debate, bickering, and Biblical legalism, and opt for peace and unity (at any price). Some become too sweet-spirited to stomach the bitterness that is part of division. Some become tired of the long and tedious discussions of seemingly trivial subjects. Some long for the enlightened company of those who do not honor the truth. Some become exasperated by their human inability to find a final resting-place, to fight the last battle and lay their armor down. They retreat in dismay. So many are overwhelmed by the responsibility for division that every man shoulders when he picks up his Bible to read it as the literal and comprehensible word of God. Over and over again in the history of Christianity the weary have dejectedly begun the long and fruitless journey toward compromise and unity (at any price)" (Vanguard Magazine).
- Contending for the faith means that we will always face false doctrine. Too many people want a time in which they can stop fighting error, but such a time is only found after this life. As the congregations in the first century were hit by one error after another, the same thing will happen in our lifetime (2 Peter 2:1).
- People complain about arguing and being vocal in our preaching, but the same argument never seems to be made against those who teach error. People tell us to avoid preaching on controversial issues, but why should we? Everyone else is talking long and hard about these very subjects. Those who teach error are very aggressive, confrontational, and argumentative (Acts 15:1-2), but it only seems that being aggressive, uncompromising, and vocal is a crime when one is standing for the truth.
- We don’t want to be quarrelsome when spreading the truth (2 Timothy 2:23), but this doesn’t mean that we are sinning when standing for the truth brings us into confrontational situations. Paul wasn’t quarrelsome, but often found himself involved in debates with those in error, "when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them" (Acts 15:2); "I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus" (1 Corinthians 15:32); "I opposed him to his face" (Galatians 2:11).
- Being gentle in correcting those who are in opposition (2 Timothy 2:25), may include rebuking them (2 Timothy 4:2), opposing them(Galatians 2:11), and using some strong language (Acts 13:46), challenging people and putting them on the spot (Acts 26:26-27),and exposing their wrong attitudes or sinful conduct (Acts 8:20-22).
- The word contend earnestly should remind us that Christians are involved in a spiritual warfare, a battle from which the devil will not retire and thus we cannot give up. This is a battle in which the stakes are extremely high, our own souls and the souls of others are on the line (1 Timothy 4:16). Hence, elders are called upon to silence those who are deceiving the faithful (Titus 1:9-11). There are times when preachers must "reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:13), and "instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines" (1 Timothy 1:3). The above commands are clear and "once we have decided that there is a course of action to follow, and that we know that the motives from which we are acting are as pure as they can be, we must contend. We must be ready for people to tell us ‘not to be so negative’, and to face them with Jude’s command here" (Stott p. 177).
For the Faith
The term faith in this passage does not mean one’s personal faith, rather here the term is used objectively for the gospel, the truth, sound doctrine, the teaching of Christ or what the New Testament contains, that is the sum of all that which Christians are to believe and obey. The term is used this way in other passages, such as, "a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7); "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy" (Galatians 1:23).
From this statement we can conclude that: 1. There is an organized system of truth called "the faith"; and there is only one system of truth. 2. It is possible to understand and know the faith, otherwise, how else could one contend for it? 3. Every Christian can understand the truth, every Christian can see the truth alike, for every Christian is commanded to fight for the truth and oppose false teachers. 4. The faith will be attacked constantly and in every generation. 5. The saints have the responsibility of defending and proclaiming it against all foes. "Everything which He has revealed we are to defend as true. We are to surrender no part of it whatever, for every part of that system is of value to mankind. We must at all times, in all places, under all circumstances, and at every sacrifice maintain the faith we have received" (Spiritual Sword, October 1970, pp. 28-29).
- No other faith will be given, no other revelation will be provided. There is one faith (Ephesians 4:5), and God doesn’t simply come now and then and correct everyone who is wrong. The church is given the specific job of defending the faith and opposing error (1 Timothy 3:15).
- There will always be opposition to the faith, both from within and without the church (Jude 4). The reason the truth has to be preached so consistently and uncompromisingly, and the reason that error needs to be dealt with so decisively is because when people are spreading error, they act in an unethical manner (Galatians2:4 "sneaked in to spy out"; Romans 16:18 "by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting"; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
- Only those who continue in the faith will be saved! "if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23); 2 Timothy 4:2-4; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9; 2 Peter 3:16-17).
- We must contend for the faith, because those who contend in spreading error are not remaining silent! "They are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach" (Titus 1:11). We must contend for the faith, for error has the tendency of sneaking in by the back door, and trying to covert and gather adherents secretly and deceptively (Jude 4). Members will typically encounter error before the preacher or the elders hear about it in a congregation, thus the truth must be preached constantly and diligently.
Once For all delivered
- Once for all does not mean "once upon a time", but rather, one time for all time. The faith is closed in its content, God isn’t revealing any new truth, for the faith contains all the truth that Jesus promised (John 16:13). We must contend for the faith because since the first century man has constantly tried to add or subtract teachings to and from the faith. In the Corinthian letter, people denied the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12); in Galatians they tried to add Old Testament practices to the New Covenant (Galatians 5:1ff), in the Colossian letter there was the constant threat of philosophy, the worship of angels, or some "new spirituality" (Colossians 2).There will always be people who either want to supplement the truth, or dilute its content (2 John 9-11). "The same debate continues today. It is commonplace to remove elements of biblical teaching which are culturally embarrassing" (Stott p. 173).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503)644-9017