In the previous two studies, we considered what I called a sacred salutation. Jude addressed his letter to those who are the called, beloved by God, and kept by Jesus Christ. Called we saw is a synonym for the elect. They comprise that vast multitude chosen by God from every age and kind of people to be His peculiar people. God actively loves them with a perfect love. God actively preserves and protects them for the day of Christ when He returns to receive His people to Himself. Jude wished 3 blessings of salvation – mercy, peace, and love to be multiplied, that is to inundate His redeemed people. That these blessings will overflow to others as we share the gospel by word and deed.
Today we begin by asking what do we know of the circumstances concerning the believers receiving this letter (vs.3-4).
As a pastor, Jude shows his affection for the members of the Christian community by calling them “beloved.” This term of endearment shows Jude cares deeply for them and their spiritual well being. Jude’s initial plan was to write on the theme of salvation. However, circumstances had arisen to cause Jude to change his plans. The initial content of the epistle was to be about what Jude called “our common salvation” or as the NIV translates it, “the salvation we share.” What is this ‘common salvation?’
All true believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have a personal and practical (daily real life experience) relationship with the Lord. Together they possess and share the common bond (that which links us together) of salvation.
Salvation is the work of God in rescuing sinners and restoring them to a right relationship with Himself. Paul called this great salvation “a common faith” (Titus 1:4) and Peter called it “a faith of the same kind or value” (2 Peter 1:1). This “common salvation” we share together unites Christians in the bond of fellowship with God and one another. We participate together in the interest, goal, and experience of the gospel. This in turn unites us in our purpose to proclaim the gospel and unites us in opposition to false teaching.
Although not the majority view, I thought about the possibility of Peter’s letter being written first (refer to part 1). Perhaps Jude at some point came across this letter of Peter. He read where Peter called attention to an imminent danger – false teachers who will be found among the people of God. Notice Peter says in chapter 2 of his second letter that false teachers, “will secretly introduce destructive heresies” – “many will follow their sensuality” – “the way of the truth will be maligned” – “they will exploit you” – Peter seems to be saying that this outbreak of evil will happen in the immediate future. At some point Jude in his itinerant ministry had seen this come to pass and it causes him to redirect his focus.
This scenario gives possible credence that 2 Peter was written first and Jude based his letter on Peter’s. When Peter was detained at Rome during the persecution under Nero and was martyred around AD 67 (Nero committed suicide in AD 68), Jude may have taken a more active role in the leadership of the churches. He discovered what Peter warned about come to the fore and takes his pen in hand to address this pressing problem of gospel perversion.
I tend to lean in the direction of this scenario because it seems that the errors Jude addressed took some time to develop. I would say then that Jude was written within 10 years of Peter’s death with a possible date in the 70s AD.
Whatever the underlying scenario, Jude is concerned for the spiritual life of the Christian community. He writes, “I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith…” First we ask, what is the faith?
Scripture speaks about two types of faith: objective and subjective. What Jude is not talking about is subjective faith. Subjective faith is faith which manifests itself in the trust and confidence a believer places in God. It is the practical side of faith or faith in action. It is as the saying goes, “Walking the talk.” Paul: “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith (trust, confidence) in the Son of God who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me (Gal. 1:20).
Jude then is referring to objective faith. It is the faith consisting of absolutely true facts. This faith is the recognized body of Christian teaching or beliefs. It is the gospel the apostles proclaimed. It is the “apostolic teaching” as Luke reminds us in Acts 2:42.
The faith – deposited in the Holy Scriptures - Jude says was once for all delivered to the saints. The saints are the body of believers, hence the church. As for its delivery we note the sequence of it’s transmission: God delivered the truth to Jesus Christ (John 3:34) – Jesus Christ conveyed it to His apostles - the apostles in turn committed this “acknowledged body of teaching” to the church -(2 Timothy 2:2) – the church (as the pillar and support for the truth) proclaims the Christian faith in the world (Great Commission).
The faith is refered to as “once for all.” “For all” means that the Christian faith does not discriminate. It knows no barrier, no skin color, no gender, no social class, and no economic condition or geographic position.
The faith is “once for all” - it is the final revelation of God to man. Hebrews 1:1-2a, “God after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…” In other words the former ways in which God revealed Himself and His will through His authorized servants and for example in visions and dreams are now ceased. The coming of Christ ushered in the “last days” – which the New Testament affirms is the period between the first and second coming.
Jesus Christ came as the final and superior Prophet (Deut 18:15, Acts 7:37-38) who declared God’s Word to us. The common people of His day were more discerning than many in our day when they testified that Jesus Christ taught with authority (Matthew 7:28). The officers or temple guards sent by the Jewish religious leaders at the Feast to arrest Jesus, when asked why they didn’t arrest Jesus, were more discerning than some religious leaders of our day when they said, “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks” (John 7:45-46).
There was a commercial many years ago for the old brokerage firm E.F.Hutton. The famous slogan was: When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen. E.F.Hutton has faded into oblivion as a financial investment authority.
Not so Jesus Christ. Heaven and earth will pass away but not His words. They stand forever. Jesus Christ, the Son of God speaks as the prophets did but as the Son His speaking, His revelation is final. When He who has all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ speaks, do people listen? Do we who say He is our Savior and Lord, do we listen? Jesus pronounced blessings on those who hear the Word of God and do it. Jesus speaks of those who love Him as those who keep His commandments. Do we listen and obey who claim to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Jesus says, “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and do not do the things that I say” (Luke 6:46)?
We need to have the spirit of Mary of Bethany “who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word” (see Luke 10:38-42). Jesus Christ is and has the final say!
The faith is “once for all” because nothing is to be added to or taken away from it (Revelation 22:18-19). Whether it is the claims of the Roman Catholic Church with its infallible pope and church, or anyone who claims to present revelations from the Spirit, or anyone who claims there is continuing revelation either deny or downgrade this “once for all” revelation of the faith deposited in the Holy Scriptures.
The faith – the body of Christian teaching embodied in the Bible - is the “once for all” God given authoritative message for everyone concerning all matters of faith (what we are to believe) and practice (how we are to live). The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.
Jude urges us to contend earnestly for the faith. Contend is an athletic word used to convey the thought of strenuous effort. When two teams line up in hockey match against one another, they ‘face off’. The most exciting play is when a player comes down the ice on a breakaway. No one stands in his way except the goal tender. He tries to put the puck in the net – the goal tender tries to keep it out. They contend against each other.
For the Christians of Jude’s day and each succeeding generation of Christians, in light of the opposition to the gospel we face in all its various aspects, we are called upon to contend for the faith. We are to confront – to fight – to wrestle - to defend – to guard – the truth of the gospel. The apostle Paul calls our precious faith the good deposit. Contend earnestly means employing maximum effort - at all costs – sparing no pains to guard this most precious treasure.
Walter Bauer comments, “He (Jude) encourages the believer not only to fight for the faith but also to depend on that faith for spiritual help.”
Concerning this dependence on the faith for spiritual help think of the Apostle Paul’s use of the imagery of a soldier dressed in battle array (Ephesians 6). Salvation is our helmet, faith our shield, and the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Our minds and hearts need protection as we go forth against those hostile to the gospel.
Dressed in our spiritual armor we go forth with an earnest contention. We are in a serious battle for truth. The forces of evil come at us with a battle plan characterized by both boldness and subtlety. The Christian faith is under siege from all four sides. We are assaulted both from without and within. Therefore, we must rely on the very Word of God for our defensive and offensive weapons. By the grace of God we strive to maximize our efforts individually and as a local church to contend – take up arms by proclaiming the good news – the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, With God’s help his people must make every effort to detect and defeat error – stand firm and not capitulate. We must not surrender any part of the faith as is happening in the churches at an alarming rate. Truth matters! Doing what God commands matters!
Remember the 19th century ‘downgrade controversy’ we spoke about – where every doctrine of the historic Christian faith was either denied or altered. It all began its downward spiral when Biblical inspiration, infallibility, authority was either denied or classified as one wave of truth in the ocean of relative truth. This form of truth was one which you can ‘take it or leave it’ in order to suit your own agenda of belief. We see its affects to this day in the world and the churches that don’t contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The forces of evil will stop at nothing to do away with the Christian faith altogether or blend it with anti-Christian religions, philosophies, and world views. Their goal is to steal away our minds and hearts from Christ. They will do all they can to discredit or misrepresent our Lord’s Person, Word, and Work.
As for myself, I rather be called narrow or old-fashioned or even Puritanical. One of the early Puritans, Richard Rogers, who wrote his Seven Treatises on the godly life which helped set the standard for Puritan piety, was told by someone, “Mr. Rogers, I like you and your company very well, only you are too precise.” Rogers replied, “O sir, I serve a precise God.”
I rather be labeled a fanatic because I take seriously all the words of the Bible. Like Wesley I rather join the company of those hundred men he desired who would hate nothing but sin and love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. Who would work and witness to turn our country, county, and community upside down for Jesus Christ rather than flirt with error masked as ‘progressive thinking.’ Who would not fall prey to sin disguised under the cloak of so-called Christian liberty stretched to it’s limit, or simply be a Sunday morning only Christian, or indifferent to the cause of Christ in the gospel.
Nor will I compromise this Book we Christians are to believe and obey. Like Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Owen, Wesley, Whitfield, Ryle, Spurgeon, Martin-Loyd Jones and like all the many heroes of the faith, I stand with them and for the truth of this Book and the God who gave us this Book. The only Book which reveals His majestic Person, Word, and Work. Here I stand so help me God, I cannot do otherwise! I pray all of us here will do the same.
So my friends, Jude’s is making a most compelling contention. May God open our eyes to discern the signs of the times so that we all will contend earnestly for our most precious faith.