Contending For The Faith
Contending For The Faith
Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you in regard to our common salvation. [But] I found it necessary and was impelled to write you and urgently appeal to and exhort [you] to contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints [the faith which is that sum of Christian belief which was delivered verbally to the holy people of God].
Jude instructs us to "contend" for the faith. In the Greek, his expression is vivid and sets before us a picture of the effort necessary to carry on this fight. For Jude, the very foundation of the Christian faith was being attacked by the false teachers of Satan. Only a strong counterattack would be acceptable.
From the Greek word for "contend" (epagognizomai), we derive the English word "agony" or "agonize." This is the effort we should expend as we undertake this counterattack. The Greek term is associated with strife and vigorous combat. It was used as a description of the struggle between wrestlers. The Greek is a "compound" word having a preposition added to the root verb form. The preposition gives us the "earnestly" of the KJV phrase ("earnestly contend"). This shows the intense force felt by Jude which compelled him to write this epistle. The verb is in the Greek present tense, which indicates a continuous action and compulsion on Jude&s part -- and on ours!
The New Testament makes it clear that we fight not against flesh, but against the demons of Satan. This spiritual combat is both an individual and a corporate battle. The church must fight, but so, too, must each individual Christian. Jude&s epistle is addressed to both groups. This is not a passive service to God -- not just attending Church and responding in the positive if asked, "Are you a Christian?" Jude&s attitude is one of aggressively telling people about the faith of Jesus Christ.
Faith, here, is not the personal belief and experience which brings personal salvation. Instead, faith represents the entire body of teachings which have been passed onto the Church. Paul calls this the "pattern of sound teaching" (1 Tim 1:13) and the "truth of the gospel" (Gal 2:5). These teachings come from Jesus and the Apostles who have received and heard it directly from Christ and have received it from the Holy Spirit. These teachings are the words of the New Testament of the Bible (1 Cor 11:1; 15:3-8).
The "faith" is complete. It has been given "once for all!" The New Testament represents the sum total of God&s revelation to us about Jesus Christ, salvation, and how to live our lives as Christians. This is our "doctrine." It is complete and final (Heb 1:1-4). This is our Canon.
This "faith" was under attack by false teachers. Jude&s concept of contending involved opposing the false doctrines. But, the epistle writer goes farther. Contending for the faith involves leading a positive life which is conducted in faithfulness and obedience to the Gospel message. It is a life which brings the reward of victory -- eternal life (1 Tim 6:12). The Bible&s message is easily corrupted in an individual life by self-centeredness, unloving behavior, a sensual lifestyle, and distorted doctrine. Jude urges his readers to follow the true teachings of the Gospel in a form which will bring glory to God and which will preserve the true meaning of Scripture. Jude would accept no alteration to the content of the faith message. When we contend for the faith in response to God&s Word, we should accept no lower standard than did Jude. We should warn, exhort, and save others from false error whenever and wherever possible.
Notice that the emphasis is not on the contention but on the faith. We are not to be bullies or become obnoxious. The Gospel offends without our help. Those under conviction are often offended by the content of God&s Word, for it convicts the soul of its sin. We must remember that in all things we are to contend with the lovingkindness of God. It is the Gospel message which should be contentious, not the Gospel messenger. We deliver a message rooted on the unshakable foundations of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. As the proclaimers of this message, we need not be offending.
We are each a minister of the Gospel. Jude would have us to preserve the sacred deposit of Christian truth found in God&s Word. All believers must speak and act as Christians. This is Jude&s view of contending for the faith.
It should be our view as well. In a nutshell, what Jude calls for is that we speak and act like Christians all the time!