Contend earnestly for the faith!

This exhortation is the theme of the letter of Jude, which is addressed: “To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1).

Contend earnestly for the faith! Jude’s letter is a spiritual call to arms, a call to defend the original faith against the destructive influence of false teachers in the church.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Jude’s exhortation is motivated by love.

Jude loves his brethren and is concerned about their eternal salvation. He begins and ends his letter with a blessing: “Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” (Jude 2); “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever” (Jude 24, 25).

Jude wants his fellow Christians to continue enjoying the mercy, peace and love that are theirs in Christ. He wants them to be kept from stumbling so they can stand in the presence of God “with exceeding joy.”

Let us carefully consider Jude’s exhortation. “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

What does Jude mean by “our common salvation”?

He addresses his letter to “the sanctified ones” (Jude 1), those who have been saved from sin by Christ. Their salvation is “common” or “mutual” because it is shared by all true believers.

Mankind can be saved only through Jesus Christ: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The saved have a common salvation because all the saved are added to the same church (Acts 2:47), the church of Christ, which is His body (Ephesians 1:22, 23).

On the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) they all eat at the Lord’s table (1 Corinthians 10:21) and partake of the loaf and cup as a communion with the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16) by which they are saved. “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).

What is the faith?

“The faith” is what is believed by the saved, which is “all the truth” as revealed by the Holy Spirit through the apostles (John 16:13) and believed by the church. It is “the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12), the convictions Jesus prescribes for His followers.

This collection of truths believed by the church of Christ is also called “the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19), “the word of Christ” (Colossians 3:16) and “the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9).

The Christian faith is “a common faith” (Titus 1:4). All true disciples of Christ have the same faith, they believe the same things. Their “common salvation” is based on their “common faith,” practiced, not in isolation, but in a community of believers, the church of Christ. Through their mutually held faith they have fellowship with God and with each other (1 John 1:3).

Because of division at Corinth, Paul admonished: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The spirit of our times would tell us that we may believe whatever we want, that one religion is as good as another, that we may join the denomination of our choice.

Once when I tried to strike up a conversation with a denominational preacher by saying that it was sad that we were divided, he objected. He thought it was good that people could select a faith they liked from among many choices!

But Jude tells us to earnestly contend for the faith. In the first century that faith was delivered to the saints once for all and it has been preserved for us as the New Testament.

There is only one faith that is from God. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

The one God is not the author of the thousands of conflicting “faiths” proclaimed and practiced in the guise of Christianity. “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The “one God” is the author of the “one faith” that includes “one baptism” and results in “one body” (one church).

Thus “the faith” consists of all the convictions Jesus has prescribed for His followers. This “most holy faith” is their foundation for edification and hope of eternal life: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20, 21).

Which faith was delivered once for all to the saints?

A lover of truth searching for the one faith is confronted by a bewildering multiplicity of conflicting “faiths” claiming to be Christian.

A few simple tests, however, can immediately eliminate most of them. If a faith originated after the time of the apostles, it cannot be the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. If a faith is based on alleged prophecies after the time of the apostles, it cannot be the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. If a faith changes items of faith, it cannot be the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. If a faith conforms itself to the spirit of the times, it cannot be the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. If a faith does not even try to be the original faith, it cannot be the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

With regard to those who claim adherence to the original faith, one must investigate whether their claim is correct. This eliminates all whose faith obviously differs from the original faith.

The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints has been preserved in the New Testament (John 20:30, 31; Romans 16:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 2:19-21). That is where the one faith is found. Our task is simply to learn that faith, accept it and put it into practice.

Why must we contend for the faith?

To contend for something means to proclaim it forcefully, prove it logically and defend it from all opposition.

Jude gives this reason for his exhortation: “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3, 4 NASB).

Jude is gentle and mild as he exhorts his brethren, but in his denunciation of false teachers, he uses extremely forceful language. It reminds us of the scathing condemnation of the Sadducees and Pharisees by Jesus and John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; 23:232-33). Jude condemns false teachers so vehemently because he loves his brethren and wants them to be saved.

Thus, we must contend for the faith because false teachers are constantly trying to lead Christians astray. Jesus predicted this: “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). Peter wrote: “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).

Paul warned the elders at Ephesus: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29, 30).

Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia who were being influenced by false teachers: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

Paul wrote to the saints at Rome: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). We may not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Thus Jude exhorts us to contend earnestly to defend the faith against false teachers.

To be saved we must adhere to the original faith.

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

Christians must be “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), they must “continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22), they must be “strengthened in the faith” (Acts 16:5), they must be “established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), they must “stand fast in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13), they must be “sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13), they must “keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7), they must “strive together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

Jude’s exhortation is urgently needed today.

Paul warned: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4). A better description of contemporary Christendom is hard to find!

In the midst of such widespread apostasy, it is not easy to remain true to the original faith.

In the first century there were Christians who fell away (1 Timothy 1:19; 6:21; 2 Timothy 3:8) and also in our time there are Christians who fall away. In the first century there were local congregations that went astray and today also there are local congregations that drift away from the truth.

This can also happen to us if we are not constantly on guard to avoid departures from the original faith. We must be faithful followers of Christ and the church of Christ as designated in the New Testament.

Let us take Jude’s exhortation to heart!

There is only one faith that saves, the original faith that was preached in the first century and is preserved in the New Testament. Let us therefore “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive