CONTENDING EARNESTLY FOR
“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. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).
Jude writes to encourage the called to maintain the purity of truth as a defense against the errorists among them. Even though Judaizers were in decline, their influence was still strongly felt. In addition, the Church experienced an increase in the number of Gentile converts, some of whom brought Greek philosophies with them.
False teachers in the latter half of the first century generated a spiritually poisonous blend of the Gospel, Jewish tradition, and contemporary wisdom of men. Jude warns of these purveyors of error: “For there are certain men crept in unawares…” (v 4). This warning closely parallels Paul’s admonition to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:28-30) and Peter’s cautionary about scoffers (2Peter 3:1-3).
Jude provides a solution to the problem of errorists in verse three. In order to be thorough in his letter about the common salvation, he had to impress upon the called the importance of defending the truth. “Contending earnestly for the faith” cannot be separated from “the common salvation.” There are five Divine implications in verse three that cannot be overlooked by anyone who wants to continue in the common salvation (“common” means shared by all disciples).
1) There is a single body of truth. “The” (singular article) “faith” (singular noun) means that there is one faith authorized by God. The New Testament does not speak of a multiplicity of acceptable “faiths.” (Eph. 4:5 – “one faith”; 2Tim. 1:13 – “the pattern of sound words”; 1Tim. 3:13 – “the faith which is in Christ Jesus”)
2) This one body of truth is apprehendable by all. God never gave a command beyond the ability of man to obey. Since God ordered the called to fight to maintain the purity of the single body of truth, it necessarily follows that they can discern the untainted faith from corrupted versions of it in order to contend for it. (Rom. 1:16-17, 10:17; Eph. 3:3-4)
3) This one body of truth is complete. Jude wrote: “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v 3, NKJV). All subsequent revelations in conflict with the faith are false doctrines. (Gal. 1:6-9)
4) This one body of truth is authoritative; it was “delivered” to them. Inspired scripture came from the mind of God through the Holy Spirit to the apostles and prophets who wrote it down word for word for posterity. (2Tim. 3:16-17; 2Peter 1:16-21, 3:1-2)
5) This one body of truth is exacting. It was delivered to the saints with no exemptions given to anyone for anything. All Christians must acknowledge this single body of truth, understand it alike, accept it in its fullness, recognize its authority, and contend for it earnestly against all false doctrines. Professed believers and followers of Jesus Christ need to develop the strength of character and moral courage to stand for sound doctrine. There are no neutral positions in the war against apostasy. (1Cor. 16:13)