Sunday, November 15, 2009

Contend Earnestly - Jude 3-4

We continued today with our study of the epistle of Jude, covering vs 3-4 this morning. The central passage of the whole letter, as Jude commands his readers, and we faithful followers of Christ by extension, to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all handed down to the saints." If there is a less-heeded command in NT Scripture in our postmodern evangelical church, I can't think what it might be. Let's take apart what Jude says here a bit to understand more clearly the truth we need to hear.

First let's look at what it is we're commanded to contend for. It's "the faith" - that orthodox body of Christian biblical truth that constitutes authentic Christianity. Not individual trust in those truths, which is our faith, but rather the truths that we put our trust in. And not how Jude describes the source of this body of gospel truth.He says that it has been "handed down to the saints." The gospel and all the associated doctrines and implications are not something made up by men or developed and evolved over time. This faith has been entrusted to us, the saints. It's been revealed by Christ Himself to the apostles, who have taught and entrusted it to faithful men in the church, who have in turn delivered it to us.

And how does Jude qualify this delivery, this entrusting of the central gospel truth, to the saints? It is a delivery that is "once for all." The language speaks of a single, one time event. This faith that has been delivered from Jesus to the apostles to the church is complete. It is a singular revelation, not subject to addition, modification, new revelation, abrogation, creative reinterpretation, or other attempts at revising or improving. The faith that we as Biblical Christians trust in is complete and sufficient. In fact, any attempts to enhance this body of orthodox doctrine actually results in compromising the truth in one way or another.

So when we're commanded to "contend earnestly" for this faith, the implication is clear - we are to fight to preserve this once for all revelation and body of truth against those who would seek to distort it, add to it, de-emphasiize aspects of it, reinterpret the orthodox and historical meanings of it, or any other means of subtle of direct attacks on the central gospel truths of the Christian faith. The Greek term used here indicates this is not to be a casual defense of the faith, but an all-encompassing and agonizing struggle for the truth. And not just guarding ourselves from the deceptions of the false-teaching apostates that abound all around us, although we certainly must do that. But the command here is to fight for the faith, to directly and indirectly refute and stand against these would-be destroyers of the faith. For the preservation of the truth of the gospel, and for the protection of those who would be led astray by these apostates.

Strong words, these. And a command that if obediently followed will certainly not win popularity points in most churches these days. Certainly counter-Christian-cultural. Based on my recent visits to "Christian" bookstores, doing this command faithfully will involve pointing out most of the top 20 best selling "Christian" authors as apostates. But necessary if we are to be faithful stewards of what our Lord has entrusted to us. For the sake of God's truth, and for His glory.

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