Contending For the Faith P2

October 18, 2015 / No. 3798

Dear Radio Friends,
In our broadcast today we finish what we began in our last broadcast: the explanation of Jude verses 3 and 4. Let me read those verses once again. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” We discovered in our last broadcast that the reason Jude wrote this letter was to warn the church about evil men who had crept into the church unawares. And therefore the church of Jesus Christ and her saints must earnestly contend for the faith. These men were subtle. They had joined the churches under false pretenses. They confessed the truth of God’s Word with their mouths. But in their hearts they held reservations to what they confessed. They were dishonest, sounding pious with their words but hiding the evil that lurked within them. For that reason they were allowed into the church. They were now members of the church. But these men were lascivious, that is, they were guilty of unbridled sexual lust and impurity. Not only did they practice it but they also taught it to others. They did this, Jude tells us, by turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. In other words, they appealed to the work of God’s grace in their lives. They loudly boasted that they had been saved by God’s grace and were delivered therefore from the bondage of the law. God’s law no longer ruled over them. They had been set free from the law and its demands and now they lived under grace. If they did not feel guilty of sinning against God, then they were free to do what they felt was right. Evidently they felt that sexual impurity was not a sin and therefore the church may not condemn them.
We also considered the truth that this sin of the ungodly men in Jude’s day is the same sin that has infiltrated into the church of today. Today too fornication is no longer condemned in much of the church world. One might have children out of wedlock and unabashedly walk in that sin with no remorse or repentance and yet be considered a good member of the church.
Divorce and remarriage has become so common in the church that it is no longer frowned upon. Now even homosexuality has become commonplace in the church. The promiscuity of our society has become the promiscuity of the church. Jude recognized these men in the early church and condemned them out of hand. They denied the Lordship of God and of Jesus Christ. They denied that they had been set free from sin in order that they might be slaves to Christ to do His will. He rules on behalf of God. He is Lord, and all must bow before God’s commandments—not just some of them, but all of them.
So we have the command given us in this passage of God’s Word. “It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” In our broadcast today we are going to explore that exhortation and what it implies for the church of Jesus Christ. We want to consider that faith once delivered to the saints and the need to contend for it. And we want to consider as well just how urgent it is to do that now in these last days.
I. Earnest Striving
The term “contend” was well chosen by Jude to describe what must be the response of God’s saints to ungodly men who creep into the church. The church must contend, that is, strive, struggle, fight to maintain the faith over against these men. But we cannot fully appreciate the term “contend” without an illustration or two. The Greek word used here brings to mind, not so much a battle, but a contest between two rival teams or people. For example, when two hockey teams clash on the ice during the playoffs, they are contending for the Stanley Cup, the coveted prize given to the winning team. When watching these two teams play against each other, a spectator cannot help but see they are indeed contending, clashing, fighting to win the prize. The hockey players are skating at top speed and straining themselves with every effort to win. They are winded, sweating, weary but they keep pushing themselves. They are using their bodies and minds to their fullest capacity because they are intent on winning. That is the idea of contending: striving with a single eye set on winning the prize.
But there is something a bit different implied in this word “contend” than winning a prize. It has the idea of maintaining or retaining something that is a person’s possession. Again, we use an example. When a boxer has won his gold belt declaring him the heavy-weight champion of the year, then he must defend that title and that belt. Other men, rivals, will fight that man in order to take away that title. Then that boxer must strive, struggle, fight to defend that title. It is not a matter of winning the prize. The prize is already his, but he must defend himself in order to retain possession of that prize.
Once again, that is the idea of contend in this passage we consider. God’s saints in the church are called to defend, to maintain, and to oppose all those who seek to take away the faith that is already their possession. And that adds an important detail to the striving that takes place. Ungodly men had infiltrated the church, men who had no fear of God, and they were seeking to take away the prized possession of the church: the faith once delivered to the saints. They were using their wiles to oppose the faith, to overcome it, to replace it with ungodly living.
That made the fight personal for Jude. No wonder he uses the language that he does in this epistle to describe these men! This was no little thing going on in the church. It was a movement in the church that would rob her of her holiness, her very reason for existence. And that is why the word “earnestly” is so necessary to describe the fight that must go on. The church together as a whole must expend itself, must use all her strength to maintain the faith. God’s saints must struggle in their own individual lives to resist the temptations of those who would turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. But these saints must strive together too. They must stand together over against such. They must strain themselves in body and mind to resist these foes of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord God. What they had been given was precious and they must not lose it! They must retain the faith given to them.
Certainly if that was true in Jude’s day, it is true in our day too. Today too ungodly men creep into the church unawares—no, not even unawares anymore. They unashamedly walk right into many churches with no opposition. The result is, many churches today are defiled with the sin of lust and fornication. It has given in to this sin. Violation of the seventh commandment has become a part of society. And because this sin has been accepted in society for several generations now, it is so easy for believers to become callous to it, desensitized to it. It is in the movies, the TV sitcoms, the books and magazines we read. It is on billboards and in the windows of stores. We hear it sung to us in the siren songs of this world. It is plastered all over the Internet. So bombarded are we with lasciviousness that it has become a normal way of life. We hardly see any real wrong in it anymore. But it threatens the purity and sanctity of the church and of the lives of the saints. It threatens to take away the prize, the possession that is ours. Now Jude tells us: get focused! See this sin for what it is. And eradicate it from your lives and from the church! Contend—earnestly contend—fight, struggle, strive to walk in the faith once delivered to the saints. We are contending for a prized possession!
What is so precious about that faith that we should strive to maintain it? The faith is the blessed gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that has been passed down through the ages by the church of Christ as her particular possession and inheritance. The gospel of Christ includes everything contained in the Scriptures but focuses our attention on the person and work of Christ Himself. The gospel centers in the suffering and death of our Savior in order to earn for us salvation from sin. We learn of our fall into sin and the ensuing guilt and corruption that has enveloped the human race on account of that fall. We learn of the all-powerful work of our Savior in delivering His people from the guilt and power of sin. We hear the call of God to His redeemed: be holy as I am holy!
And there is much more too. But “the faith” that Jude speaks of here in verse 3 is synonymous with the gospel. It is called “the faith” because Jude is referring here to the objective content of what we believe. The church of Jesus Christ must at all times contend for the faith, that is, the truths contained in the Scriptures. What makes those truths so precious to us is indeed that they are the object of our faith! Faith is a certain knowledge of those truths of the gospel, but also a hearty confidence that they apply to us personally. In other words, people of God, “the faith” speaks to us of our salvation! And that is indeed a precious possession! Do not take away from us the knowledge that we are saved freely in Jesus by God’s grace and out of no merit of our own. Do not rob us of the assurance that we are justified by faith. Do not take away from us the precious knowledge that God is in control of all things and therefore nothing will separate us from His love! All of this is the objective truth, the gospel, the faith that belongs to us! Our hope is based on that. It is our comfort in life and death. It is our strength that holds us up under the most adverse of circumstances in life. The great, all-powerful, all-glorious God of heaven and earth is our God and we are His people! He holds us in His mighty hand all for the sake of the suffering and death of our Savior on the cross. That is our possession. Do not, Jude says, do not let anyone rob you of that! Contend for that faith! Strive with every ounce of your being to maintain that faith.
That faith ties us together with the church of the past. It has always been the precious possession of the saints. You know, there is another error that goes hand-in-hand with the lasciviousness that pervades the churches of today. Much of contemporary, evangelical Christianity, sad to say, has cut itself off from the church of the past as if that is a good thing. This is true in much of Pentecostalism today—a branch of the church that is rapidly growing in popularity today, because the church wants to be new and innovative in her worship and because she wants to accept on-going revelation rather than the objective standard of God’s Word. Because she wants to accept into her midst all kinds of people who walk openly in sin, she cuts herself off from the church of the past that condemns her. Ask members of the modern church about church history, ask them about the battles that were fought in the church of the past over issues that have crept back into the churches today, and they cannot tell you how the church answered those issues. The creeds of the church of the past are totally ignored. There is a total disregard for the biblical truth of the covenant and the promise God gives to His church that He will save believers and their believing children in the line of their generations. The church is not viewed as a body of people that God has gathered from one generation to the next since the beginning of time, engrafting many from nations and peoples while continuing the line of the church in generations. The contemporary church is of the mind that with each succeeding generation there is a whole new body of people who have to reinvent the wheel for themselves each time. Without referring to the church of the past, the church of today must set out on her own path to discover the faith. That is a horrible error. And Jude points that out clearly enough. This faith that we must strive to keep was once delivered unto the saints!
The word “once” here does not mean that at one particular time the faith was given to the saints. It does not make reference to the fact that Christ at one time passed on the faith to the disciples and from then on we must strive for that faith. The term “once” rather means “once for all,” or, “for all time.” The idea then is that we must contend for the faith that God has always for all times given to His saints. It is a faith that has existed from the beginning of time, when Christ was promised to Adam after the fall of man into sin. It is a faith that was passed on orally from father to son in the very early stages of the church. It was a faith that was taught by the patriarchs to their children and children’s children. It was taught in the ceremonies of the law of old and in the prophecies. It was taught by Jesus Christ to His apostles, who in turn taught it to the church of the New Testament. This faith has always been taught by God to His saints, that is, to the members of His church who are holy in the blood of Christ. One church of Christ. One body of saints, those sanctified and cleansed in His blood. And one faith passed down from father to son throughout the ages from one generation to the next. Contend for that one faith! A faith that has been defended in the past by the church. A faith that has been set forth in beautiful soul-stirring creeds of the church. It is a faith that our fathers and father’s fathers have deemed so precious that they were willing to die for it.
That faith is our possession, believing saints. God has, by His grace, freely given it to us! Contend for that faith! May we not lose the tie that binds us together with the saints of the past! That is what Jude was concerned with in the church of his day too.
II. Necessary Urging
So concerned was Jude that he changed the original intent of his epistle. He saw it necessary to exhort God’s saints to contend for the faith. “It was needful for me to write unto you,” Jude writes. It was needful. It was necessary. Oh yes, very necessary! Not so much because these ungodly men were teaching false theology. They were not like the Judaizers who were educated teachers. These men simply lived lascivious lives by appealing to the error of antinomianism. It was needful to exhort the saints to keep themselves unspotted from this sinful way of life that threatened the faith. They were saints, after all, saved in the blood of Christ and renewed after the image of God to live holy lives in conformity to the law of God.
It was needful, as well, that Jude exhort these saints. No, not strongly admonish and scold them. But to urge them. The word exhort in verse 3 here refers to an official summons in order to entreat, comfort, instruct and exhort. Christ, through Jude, summons the saints. He summons you and me to stand before Him today. And as we stand here He instructs us in the error so prevalent in the church today. He entreats us to recognize that error and consider it. Then He exhorts us to contend earnestly for the faith. Then Christ comforts us too. As we stand before our Lord we hear Him say, “I will preserve and keep my church. Ungodly men may assail My church because I have ordained them to this condemnation. But I sit at the right hand of God and all power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. And I will not leave My church defenseless.” With that assurance we contend for the faith!