Contending for the Faith

Over ten years ago I decided to try to memorize a whole book of the Bible. I chose Jude. Yes, I know, it’s only 25 verses. There are chapters of the Bible that are much longer than that. But hey, it was a book!

Since that time I have memorized other things and have had to let some of my memory work go. One of those was Jude. But I’ve been wondering lately if I should’ve let it go because it seems especially applicable these days.

I’ve been thinking about the opening verses of the book which explain Jude’s purpose in writing:

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3

Jude originally wanted to write a very different letter, with likely a very different tone. But something serious had come up and he found it necessary to write them about it. Notice these words: necessary, appealing, contend. These are all strong words. The NIV says he felt compelled and wanted to urge them. The NLT says he must write…urging them to defend.

What caused him to change his purpose in writing? What would have influenced him to use such strong language with those he calls “beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ”? The rest of the letter goes on to supply the reason – false teachers have crept in unnoticed. They are immoral and pervert the grace of God for their own gain. He calls them “hidden reefs at your love feasts”. These were people who on the outside looked like Christians – they participated in the Lord’s Supper; but actually they were hidden reefs – their dangerous and ungodly teachings lurked beneath the surface.

We should always encourage one another and build up one another, reminding each other of the Lord’s great love and the salvation we share in Jesus Christ. But we should also heed Peter’s call to be sober-minded and realize that there have always been and continue to be threats to the body of Christ.

But notice where those threats are coming from. Jude says they are coming from inside the body, not outside. That’s not to say the church isn’t threatened from the outside. There’s an abundance of historical evidence, past and present to prove that. But Jude is urging his beloved to watch out for the threats from within. He tells them to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. That presupposes that there is a standard of faith for which to contend. And who has set that standard? It is God who has established the standards of our faith in his Word.

So Jude finishes with a call for his beloved to persevere:

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” Jude 20-21

What does it mean to build yourself up in your most holy faith? Using Colossians 1:9-11 and 2:6-7 as a guide, I think it means this: grow in the knowledge of God through the gospel, being rooted in Christ and built up in him, always abounding in thanksgiving, and bearing fruit in every good work.

There is a time to contend for the faith. Stay sober-minded then so that when the time comes you may not be caught off guard. And remember that we can contend and remain steadfast because he is faithful and will keep us to the end.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.Jude 24-25

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