Jude had definite ideas for his letter to his beloved Christians. From what he writes at the beginning of verse 3, I picture him mulling over his thoughts in anticipation of telling his readers glorious insights about salvation, perhaps mentally constructing and editing sentences the way I often do when I prepare a blog post.
Circumstances altered Jude’s plans, however, and the Holy Spirit convicted him to address the serious problem of false teachers that had risen from within the church. Without beating around the bush, therefore, Jude courageously launches into his amended purpose for writing his epistle.
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)
Those of us with any connection to discernment ministry cling to verse 3 as justification for speaking against false teachers and unbiblical trends that litter the evangelical landscape. We properly apply this verse, it turns out. If we look back to verse 1, we’ll recall that Jude aims his letter at people who are called, beloved and kept (Christians, in other words). He doesn’t single out pastors and elders, but instead makes his appeal to the Body of Christ at large.
He pleads with Christians to “contend.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary provides an interesting analysis of the Greek word used here.
epagōnízomai; fut epagōnísomai, from epí (G1909), for, and agōnízomai (G75), to strive, contend earnestly. To fight for or in reference to something, with the dat. of that which gives the occasion (Jud_1:3).
Syn.: máchomai (G3164), to fight; diamáchomai (G1264), to struggle against; erízō (G2051), to strive; athléō (G118), to contend in games; poleméō (G4170), to fight in war.
Ant.: eirēneúō (G1514), to keep peace or be at peace, reconcile; eirēnopoiéō (G1517), to make peace; anéchomai (G430), to tolerate; hēsucházō (G2270), to be quiet.
This word’s antonyms shed a fascinating light on how the Holy Spirit wants us to contend against false teachers, and I believe we learn a lesson applicable to our 21st Century attitudes. Notice in particular, G430 and G2270, which echo the demands of unregenerate culture (including many professing evangelicals) in our present time. Those demands order us to tolerate false teachers. They tell us to be quiet.
But through Jude, the Holy Spirit commands us to wage war on behalf of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” To understand that phrase, let’s go to the notes in the MacArthur Study Bible.
God’s revelation was delivered once as a unit, at the completion of the Scripture, and is not to be edited by either deletion or addition (cf. Deu_4:2; Deu_12:32; Pro_30:6; Rev_22:18-19). Scripture is complete, sufficient, and finished; therefore it is fixed for all time. Nothing is to be added to the body of the inspired Word (see notes on 2Ti_3:16-17; 2Pe_1:19-21) because nothing else is needed. It is the responsibility of believers now to study the Word (2Ti_2:15), preach the Word (2Ti_4:2), and fight for its preservation.
Simply put, Jude instructs Christians to fight for doctrinal purity rather than tolerate or make peace with error. We must categorically reject any attempt to alter God’s Word, regardless of how persuasive a teacher or pastor might sound.
As we proceed through Jude’s letter in these studies, we’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of why the Lord doesn’t want His people to tolerate false teachers and their doctrinal error. To my disappointment, however, time won’t allow me to move on to verse 4 today (like Jude, my plans got adjusted). Next Monday, Lord willing, we’ll more closely examine Jude’s reason for exhorting us to contend for the faith.
As a postscript, I need to announce that my sister expects to visit me this week (yay!), which means I will take a few days off from blogging. If you miss me, you can always explore my archives. I’ll see you Saturday with this week’s Sampler.