Contending Earnestly for the Faith
“Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (Jude 1:3).
Jude tells us he was “eager to write… about the salvation we share.” He wanted to write a different kind of letter, one that expounded on our redemption in Christ. However, the Holy Spirit led him to write a defense of the faith, exhorting believers “to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” Lenski writes, “Jude says that in the midst of his plans for writing to his readers on a larger subject he all at once found himself compelled to write this letter in which he urges them to keep on contending earnestly for the faith delivered once for all to the saints…. News had unexpectedly reached Jude that heretics had crept into the congregations; he finds that he must act at once, and he does so by means of this letter.”1
Jude leaves no Christian out. Every believer must realize that they have been called to battle. Jude was a soldier of the cross. The imagery of the soldier is used many times in Scripture to depict the Christian. Paul said, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). Several truths stand out in this verse.
We Must Contend for the Faith
“Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (v. 3). Notice to whom Jude addressed his admonition. In this verse he uses the word “you,” showing that these instructions are for every believer. All believers have been entrusted with the faith—to keep it pure and to teach it to others. We should all stand ready to defend the faith in the same way as we would defend any prized possession. Many Christians are of the opinion that the faith was given to pastors, theologians, and seminary professors to protect. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our silence is one of the best advantages the enemy has. Silence will do more to aid the enemy and hinder the cause of Christ than all of Satan’s other methods of attack. As Christians we are all responsible to “contend for the faith.” We all have the same obligation. As soldiers of the cross, we are commanded by God to both declare and defend the truth.
While apostasy and false teaching threatening the church is the main theme of the epistle, it is not where this epistle begins in the sense that Jude’s desire was to write of “the salvation we share.” “Religion” has done much to confuse the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. However, while man’s religions have come up with a variety of different plans of salvation, God’s Word makes it clear that there is only one way to Heaven. “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Men get to heaven by way of Jesus Christ; God provides no other way in His Word. Speaking of Jesus Christ, the Word of God says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jude had been set free from the bonds of sin and now he was a “servant of Jesus Christ,”and the joy of his heart was to preach the gospel and faithfully content for the faith.
Notice that Jude says, “I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith” (v. 3). Salvation was heavy upon Jude’s heart, but God had other plans. The word “necessary” carries the idea of “constraint.” The Holy Spirit constrained Jude to expose apostasy instead of writing about salvation. Notice that it was not up to Jude to decide what he was going to write. Peter tells us that “above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
The trend in many churches today on all sorts of programs, while basically ignoring doctrinal heresy. We live in a day when religion is eaten up with the spirit of getting together. Ecumenicalism is rampant and apostasy is nearly full blown. There needs to be an emphasis on winning the lost to Christ, on returning to executing the marching orders given by Christ to the church: “Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20). At the same time, we must be careful not forsake sound doctrine.The distorted modern teaching on love has become an ecumenical excuse for the unequal yoking of everyone and everything that comes down the pike. When the Holy Spirit stressed the need to contend for the faith, He was not diminishing the importance of salvation and reaching the lost, but He was stressing the need to stand for the truth and to preach the whole counsel of God. This ought to serve as a strong warning to those who excuse false doctrine and ungodliness to get a crowd. When a believer is submissive to the leading of the Spirit of God, he or she will speak and teach the whole counsel of God, no matter who is listening.
Notice that Jude exhorts us to essentially exhort others. The faithful believer must exhort, appeal to his hearers. Paul charged Timothy to, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). The word “appealing” means “to use words or arguments to incite to good deeds.” It carries the idea of admonishing, encouraging, and walking along side. In our day, when Christian’s stand against sin and apostasy they are branded as intolerant, unsocial, unloving, and contentious. Having said that, I do agree that some Christians are unloving and contentious in their stand and that ought not be. The biblical idea of exhortation means much more than simply speaking the truth. It is speaking the truth plus walking alongside of and encouraging those to whom we speak. It is not enough to simply speak about what is wrong. “Contending earnestly for the faith” involves encouraging and helping people grow in the Lord; it is disciple making.There is a perfect balance between truth and love. As Paul said, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Biblical love will manifest itself in truth and action. “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth”(1 John 3:18). A Christian without compassion will do much damage to the cause of Christ.
Jude commands that we “contend earnestly for the faith” (v. 3 NKJV). The word “earnestly” carries the idea of “zealously; persistently; eagerly; with real desire.” It speaks of being relentlessly committed to something. Too often the gospel is presented in such a fashion that it almost makes the sinner feel that he or she is doing God a favor by getting saved. People are led in a cheap “1-2-3 repeat after me, 4-5-6 hope it sticks” prayer. And then they are sent out without having been discipled to get others to repeat the same little ditty. Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). This is a sad truth about many professing Christians. They have repeated a prayer, but nothing has changed. Biblical Christianity calls for absolute commitment. It is something that we are to be earnest about. Solomon said, ”whatever you do, do well…” (Eccl. 9:10 NLT). Christianity is worth doing right! may we who call him our savior give ourselves wholly to him.
Jude commands us to “contend.” The word “contend,” (epagonizesthai), occurs only here in the New Testament. “The word speaks of a vigorous, intense, determined struggle to defeat the opposition. Our word ‘agony’ is the English spelling of the noun form of this word. The Greek athletes exerted themselves to the point of agony in an effort to win the contest. With such intense effort does Jude say that saints should defend the doctrines of Christianity.”2 Jude calls us all to action, to contend for the faith. Contending will not be easy; it calls for hard work, diligent study, willingness to stand against the dilution of the gospel and sound biblical doctrine, speaking up for the truth to a changing society. The 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: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
The Christian life is a war in which we must daily contend with the enemy. Paul likened the Christian life to that of a soldier on the battlefield. In Ephesians chapter 6 Paul uses such terms as “stand,” “fighting,” and “resist” to describe the intensity of our conflict. The Christian life is not one of ease and comfort. Rather, it is all out war, and Satan is the aggressor. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Notice the word “fighting.” This is not a war that is fought from a distance. It is up close, in our face, hand-to-hand combat. Christians must strive against Satan and his messengers as we “contend for the faith.” Our Lord commands, “… Engage in business until I come back” (Luke 19:13 ESV). The term “engage in business” means to “busy oneself with, or to trade.” The Christian soldier is conducting business for Christ until He comes. Sitting in prison awaiting his execution, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Is that true of us? Our love for the Lord Jesus Christ compels us to stand for truth. The defense of the faith is the duty of every child of God.
Contending for the faith is necessary if we are going to see people come to saving faith in Christ and to be victorious. Listen to Peter’s words: “Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be maligned because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with made-up stories. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep” (2 Pet. 2:2-3). Notice that Peter referred to the false doctrine of the apostates as “depraved ways”and then warned that “many will follow their depraved ways.”
If there was ever a need for contenders, it is now. Everything that we hold near and dear is being threatened. In Foxes Book of Martyrs, there is account after account of fearless Christian defenders of the faith who paid with their lives. May we also be known as fearless Christian defenders of the faith. As believers whom God has raised up, willing to stand for the truth at any cost!
Jude presents us with the important relationship between correct doctrine and true faith. The truth of Scripture must not be compromised because it provides us the real facts about God, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation. The Bible is inspired by God and should never be perverted or manipulated.
The Faith Has Been Delivered
We were to contend for “the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (v. 3). The “faith” spoken of here is not the personal faith by which one is saved. Rather, it is the entire revelation from God; the whole body of truth as contained in His Word. Men and women down through the ages have attempted to add to and take away from the body of doctrine. This accounts for the great number of pseudo-Christian cults that are present today. This is why we stand so strongly on the Word of God as it was given to us. the bible is our sole authority in all matters of faith and practice – sola scriptura. “But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this word is the gospel that was proclaimed to you” (1 Pet.1:25). The Bible contains the mind of God, the condition of man, and the clear, simple plan of salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ is the wonderful and glorious theme of the Bible. His salvation shines forth from its pages as a guiding light to those being saved. It is the source of truth and doctrine.
Also, notice how the Holy Spirit led Jude to point out that this body of doctrine known as the faith was “delivered to the saints once for all.” Not twice delivered. Not three times delivered. It is not progressively being delivered. But it was once delivered! Those who claim that they are receiving revelations today are sadly mistaken. The bible tells us that the revelation of god is complete, and that no new revelation is being added. “But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end” (1 Cor 13:10). When the Word of God was completed, the temporal sign gifts were ended. The body of truth, the faith as the Bible calls it, was finalized at a point of time in history. It was “delivered to the saints once for all.” God’s word is both full and final.
John Phillips reminds us that “long ago, the Lord Jesus had made that fact perfectly clear: ‘He that is not with me is against me,’ He said (Matt. 12:30). Running away is not an option; pretending that there is no problem is no solution. When liberals, who deny all of the great fundamentals of the faith, entrench themselves in our seminaries and put their people in our pulpits, someone has to sally forth to war against them. Jude places that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of all of those whom he calls ‘beloved’ (NKJV).”3
1 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), 609.
2 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1973), 233.
3 John Phillips, Exploring the Epistle of Jude: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2004), 28.
Scripture quotations marked (CSB) are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.