“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you
about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and
urge you to contend for the faith that was
once for all entrusted to the saints.”
Thoughts… In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric, invading hordes to the north, so they built the Great Wall of China. It was 30 feet high, 18 feet thick, and more than 1500 miles long! It’s still there, so large that astronauts can see it from outer space.
The goal of the Chinese was to build an absolutely impenetrable defense—too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. But during the first hundred years of the wall’s existence China was successfully invaded three times, due to no fault of the wall. Rather, the barbarians simply bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right in through an open door.
God has provided us with a strong doctrinal wall, bigger and better than the Great Wall of China. That wall is the body of doctrine Jude refers to as “the faith.” It is our job—not just mine as a pastor, but yours, too, as a child of God—to guard that doctrinal gate, defend our spiritual borders, and contend for the faith.
Why this call to contend? Look at verse 4: “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
Apparently Jude, who by the way, was the younger half-brother of Jesus, preferred to write a happy little missive about “heaven,” but something called “hell” had gotten in the way. Something dark and dire was threatening the church—a hellish invasion of false teachers bearing false doctrine—so Jude uses this letter to tackle it head on, and he gives two ways in verse 4 to spot these dangerous spiritual phonies, who, by the way, are still at work in the church today:
One, we are to take note if they dilute the impact of sin. Jude says they “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” This false teaching says that since your good works can’t save you anyway—only God’s grace can, which is true—then you might as well not worry about sin. The theory is that since the sin nature that separates you from God is covered by grace at salvation, so also ongoing acts of sin are covered by grace as well. You’re covered, you’re forgiven, so if you sin, no big deal!
Well, that’s close to the truth, but it’s a shade off because it minimizes the offensiveness and destructiveness of sin! It’s a false and abusive view of grace that will lead people straight to hell!
And two, we are to take note if these false teachers deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Jude says, “They deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” To deny the deity of Jesus in any way, shape or form is to deny his authority and power, the veracity of his life and teaching, the efficacy of his death and resurrection, and with it, the entire foundation of the Bible and your Christian faith. If you weaken or deny this cardinal truth, your faith is a waste of time. The deity of Jesus Christ is ground zero in the fight for doctrinal purity—and ultimately, our eternal security—so you must contend for it.
The word “contend” in the Greek text came from the word, agonidzomai, which meant to agonize over something. It was used in athletics of a competitor straining every muscle to win the contest. You and I have been called to agonizingly compete, defend and contend for the once-for-all faith that God has entrusted to us.
You probably remember that unforgettable line from Marlon Brando, a washed up prize fighter in the movie, On the Waterfront: “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody”? Well, in a more important realm than either movies or boxing, the realm that counts for all eternity, the spiritual realm, you are called to be somebody who contends for the faith.
My friend, you and I must defend our doctrinal borders and contend for our faith, with vigor and passion! It’s not an option; it’s your calling—and mine, too!
So go ahead, be a contender!
Prayer… Father, keep me ever vigilant, contending for the faith that you’ve entrusted to me and every other follower who bears your name.
One More Thing… “A false interpretation of Scripture causes that the gospel of the Lord becomes the gospel of man, or, which is worse, of the devil.” —Jerome