Shelby G. Floyd
Jude, the author of the next to the last book of the New Testament, was a brother of James and a servant of Jesus Christ. While Jude was earnestly and diligently endeavoring to write unto his brethren, concerning the salvation that was common to all, an emergency arose within the church requiring him to change his afore mentioned purpose, and exhort them to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. The salvation which he had contemplated writing about was common because its conditions and blessings are the same for everyone, regardless of station in life (Galatians 3: 26-28).
Jude Exhorted His Readers to Earnestly Contend For the Faith
Jesus commanded the gospel to be preached to every creature in the whole world, and he predicated salvation to all upon the conditions of faith, repentance, confession and baptism. Since this is true, then we are children of God after a common faith (Titus 1: 4). While this was a wonderful theme to contemplate and to explain to the brethren, an emergency required Jude to alter his original purpose and to exhort the brethren that they should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Ungodly Men Will Creep in and Teach False Doctrines
The reason this was necessary was because certain ungodly men had crept into the church unawares. They had perverted the gospel of Christ by turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and thereby denied the truth of God (Jude 14). God’s grace taught men to deny ungodliness and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2: 11-12). They denied this basic teaching of the gospel, and were encouraging the members of the church to live fleshly and sensual lives. They were encouraging rebellion against authority and they were also encouraging evil speaking and railing. Therefore, Jude emphasized that all who commit such ungodly deeds will be judged by the Lord, and they will be adequately punished at the last great day (Jude 5-7, 14-15).
The Common Faith Must Be Defended and Advocated
Because of these conditions in the church, it was necessary for those who did not indorse such, to earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. The phrase “the faith” is equivalent to the gospel (Acts 6: 7). Faith can either be used of the state of believing or the object of that belief. Therefore, they were to contend for that body of truth that had been once delivered to them as a trust (1 Timothy 6: 20). They were stewards over the truth of God (1 Corinthians 14: 1-2). It was a custody that had been committed to their keeping. Therefore, to be faithful unto God, they had to contend for it.
The Faith Had Been “Once Delivered”
The faith had been once delivered verbally, orally by earthen vessels, holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1: 21). The faith that was delivered by these men did not originate with man, but they were taught by God. Paul said, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1: 11-12). The faith that was once delivered was verbally inspired (1 Corinthians 2: 10-13). This faith that was from God and verbally inspired was once delivered, which means that it was complete and never needing to be repeated. It had been delivered once for all to those who were God’s children—the saints. Therefore, it was a trust committed to their keeping.
They were obligated to be faithful to God, to guard it, to defend it with their sacred honor and their lives. Therefore, Jude says, “to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). This is a battle cry for the members of the church to cross swords with anyone who would deviate or go beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11). It is a call for arms; it is a summons to stand up and to act like men, and to stand for the truth of God (1 Corinthians 16: 13).
We All Must “Strive Together” For the Faith
The gospel cannot be preached without contention. In the battle for the minds of men, there will be many adversaries. This will require the children of God to stand fast in one spirit, to be single minded and to strive together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1: 27). The word contend was used literally to describe an athletic contest between antagonists, but it is used in Jude figuratively to express the extreme effort necessary on the part of the children of God to resist the devil and false teachers (1 Corinthians 2: 14-27). We are to contend with moral persuasion and not carnal weapons (Ephesians 6: 10-17).
The apostle Paul was a militant contender for the faith once delivered. In writing to the Thessalonians he reminded them of the severe trial and hardships in which the gospel had been presented to them, “But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention” (1 Thessalonians 2: 2). This is a reference to the time when Paul and Silas visited Philippi, and were shamefully brought before the rulers of that city; their clothes were torn, they were beaten with many stripes and cast into the inner prison (Acts 16: 19-24). It is also a reference to the time when Paul left Philippi and entered the city of Thessalonica. After Paul had reasoned with the people for three Sabbaths out of the scriptures, many believed, but some of the Jews which didn’t believe were filled with envy; they gathered up the base, the lewd, the rebel rousers and stirred an uproar in the city, and troubled the people and the rulers of the city, and brought much suffering upon the brethren and the apostle Paul. These same persons later came to Berea and stirred up the people there (Acts 17: 5, 13).
Thus, we can see that Paul had to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. We must also contend for the faith in our day! Let us be set for the defense of the gospel (Philippians 1: 17).
Copyright © 2014 Shelby G. Floyd All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd