“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3
Jude was well aware of the infiltration of false teachers which threatened the church and realized he had to address this treacherous and rapidly spreading cancer by writing a warning to believers (Jude 1:1). He was first compelled to write believers regarding their “common salvation“. According to great theologian Martin Luther, Jude’s letter was purposed to be a letter of exhortation; 1”To hew a clear path for your feet in the faith that has once already been preached to you. To be on guard and continue on the right path.” But, because of a more dire necessity (the threat of false teachers), Jude changed the letters context to a stern admonishment; he urged believers to “earnestly contend” for the faith (Jude 3). What made these threats even more perilous was the fact that these false teachers were creeping into the church unnoticed (Jude 4). The word “unnoticed”, in the original Greek, pareisduo, is defined; to settle in alongside of“, this implies false teachers were gaining trust among church leaders and comfortably moving up the ranks to teaching positions. John Calvin wrote; 2“He (Jude), teaches us that it is an intestine evil; for Satan in this respect is also crafty, as he raises up those who are of the flock to do mischief, in order that they may more easily creep in.”
According to Calvin, it is the work of Satan and since his evil realm is a force to be reckoned with, Christians must adorn themselves with the armor of God and prepare for battle against his nefariousness. (Eph. 6:13-18). The Webster dictionary defines the word “contend”; to strive in combat; fight. In the original Greek; epagonizomai (ἑπαγωνιζομαι), defined; to conduct a strenuous defense of a belief. Jude was not riling Christians up to be inappropriately offensive or contentious toward others with their beliefs. But rather, he was warning believers to vehemently defend the very truth they had come to know and to refrain from the error that these false teachers attempted to corrupt the church. For Jude to change the epistles initial intent of the content, demonstrated just how pernicious he believed these threats truly were.
In fact, throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, heresy and apostasy were a commonly repeated occurrence. The apostle Paul, for example, spent much of his time writing to various churches refuting the plethora of doctrinal error and upheavals caused by false teachers. We can read throughout the book of Acts, that false teachers (Judaist Jews) followed Paul from city to city, riling up the people against him, while ardently attempting to negate the true Gospel. In fact, many theologians believe the “thorn” in Paul’s side, the messenger from Satan, were actual false teachers who constantly harassed him throughout his missionary journey’s (2 Cor. 12:7). Pastor John MacArthur commenting on this verse, concurs with this interpretation; 3“This (the thorn), was sent by God to keep him humble. As with Job, Satan was the immediate cause but God was the ultimate cause. Paul’s use of the word “messenger” (Greek; angellos or angel) from Satan suggests the “thorn in the flesh” (lit. “A stake for the flesh”) was a demon person, not a physical illness.” Despite this agonizing reality, Paul never wavered from tenaciously and boldly proclaiming the Gospel wherever he ventured.
Today, nearly 2,000 years after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, false teachers are prevalent in the church and increasing in number. Tragically, many theological seminaries, institutions where sound biblical truth was taught, have become very liberal or post-modern in didacticism; even denying many core beliefs of Christianity. Many well-intentioned students enthusiastically enroll at these seminaries with sound presuppositions of biblical truth. But, quickly run into a proverbial brick wall of non-believing professors who cleverly subvert God’s truth and propagate damning lies. And, via thorough inculcation, they capitulate by accepting lies as truth, thus crippling their ability to discern actual biblical truth. But, praise be to God for the seminaries that hold fast to biblical truth and refuse to compromise, regardless of cultural pressure.
So, why should we “earnestly contend” for the faith? One reason is out of our love for Christ! Because Jesus Christ’s merciful immolation on the cross enabled us to reap the glory of obtaining blissful eternal life in perpetual adoration and praise of God! The wrath of God appointed for our sins, because we were dead in them, was adequately absorbed by Christ’s sacrifice, therefore we should be consumed with thankfulness (1 John 2:2, 4:10)! Jesus accomplished it all for us; a one-time sacrifice on our behalf, so there is no longer any sacrifice necessary for sin (Heb. 10:12, 14, 18).
Amazingly, even our turning to Jesus is because of His sovereign election; Jesus declared; “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). Or, another way of putting it; we chose Him only because He “first” chose us. The same concept applies to our love for Christ. We love Him, because He “first” loved us (1 John 4:19). Isn’t that astonishing? Both our salvation and love for Jesus Christ are only made possible by God’s grace through faith. And even the required precious faith to believe is a gift from God. (Eph. 2:8). It is out of love for Jesus Christ and the hope in His eternal promises that motivates and drives our actions. This attitude and desire is deeply rooted inside of us because we are prompted by the indwelt Holy Spirit. A believer “contends” for the faith because God implants that ability and desire in the heart. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things (John 14:26), prepares and urges us for battle against false teachers, who, ultimately are Satan’s implements. All believers can possess the weapons for defending against the enemy; we just have to adorn the Word of God, and endure the scars of battle and fully trusting in God’s spiritual weaponry. (Eph. 6:11-18). Pastor John MacArthur once stated that “…all religions apart from Christianity are Satanic in origin…”. They are cleverly devised systems designed to discredit to nullify sound doctrine while misleading people down erroneous paths, which appease sinful flesh. Frightfully, Satan surreptitiously inserts false teachers into a church, hoping to wreak havoc by causing all sorts of issues such as disunity, doctrinal disagreements, strife, false teaching, etc.
We must fervently pray for God to empower and embolden us by the power of the Holy Spirit, for His service (Eph. 6:18). We have the ability to utilize His word to successfully defend the truth, combat error, guard Christ’ church against the numerous attacks which attempt to prevail against it. Even if we must suffer for doing what is right, it is not out of the ordinary; Scripture affirms that suffering for Christ is to be expected. (2 Tim. 3:12, 1 Pet. 3:14, 17, 4:1, 12-13, 19). Furthermore, it is every Christians’ duty to be prepared to contend for the faith, because one day his or her faith will indeed be challenged. Quite frankly, I believe every Christian’s faith will soon be challenged as this nation’ morality continues to dissipate and Christian values are adamantly opposed and targeted with ever-increasingly mockery, ridicule, and contempt for their faith in Christ. President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Al Mohler, who has his finger the pulse of this nation’s issues declared messages to all Christian’s warning them of the imminent persecution to befall them.
In light of these various multi-faceted threats and the apparent overwhelming nature they present, we can overcome anything this world conjures up. Because, Scripture states; “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). This, my friends is a promise by God that we can be assured of victory, no matter how bleak the circumstance seems or how out-numbered we appear to be.
God’s people have always been a remnant, a minority, aliens, and ultimately persecuted. So rejoice, be glad, and be thankful, because of His future promises which await, and follow the Apostles example as they rejoiced in the fact that they were considered worthy to suffer for Jesus name. (Acts 5:41). One day, hoping to hear Him say; “Well done, good and faithful slave… Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matt. 25:21). Amen!
1 Commentary on Peter & Jude, pg. 290.
2 Calvin’s Commentaries on Jude, Vol. XXII, PG. 432.
3 The John MacArthur Study Bible, commentary on II Corinthians 12:7, pg. 1783 NKJV.