To Contend For The Faith Delivered Once For All To The Saints

by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἀγαπητοί, πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει. (Jude 1:3 NA27)

3 Beloved, being extremely eager to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you encouraging you to contend for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

It has been brought to my attention that what we do here in the pursuit of being Biblical and having our Doctrines line up with what our Lord and His Apostles taught, if we also use the same black and white standards of contending for the faith that they used then we are too harsh and judgmental. When I use the Word of God to show the nature of genuine believers contrasting that with disingenuous professing Christians, then that is called judgmental and harsh, et cetera. The charge is also leveled at us if we use wisdom and discernment to point out the apostate behavior of certain Christian leaders or theologians who started out looking good, but have shown by their fruit to be highly suspect. For instance, how can we have a problem with John Piper since he has written such wonderful books that have blessed so many people? My response was, “But he hangs out now with known apostates and heretics and calls them his brothers in Christ while saying and doing things that no Christian leader of his caliber should do. Shouldn’t he be held accountable to these things as well? It is as if he is supposed to get a pass for what he does now because of what he did early in his ministry. If we do that are we contending for the faith delivered once for all to the saints? 

We have looked at the Epistle of Jude before, but it is imperative to answer these charges for I can think of no better way to counter these false charges meant to divide and disarm us through these sideways attacks that are truly divisive. At their heart is a form of Christian liberalism that stands for nothing definitive. That is, it will fight to the death against those who are totally non-relativistic. Therefore, let us look at vv3-4 and vv17-23.

3 Ἀγαπητοί, πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει. 4 παρεισέδυσαν γάρ τινες ἄνθρωποι, οἱ πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι εἰς τοῦτο τὸ κρίμα, ἀσεβεῖς, τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν χάριτα μετατιθέντες εἰς ἀσέλγειαν καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι. (Jude 1:3-4 NA27)

3 Beloved, being extremely eager to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you encouraging you to contend for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. 4 For certain men came in stealthily who long ago were written about for judgment, ungodly ones perverting the grace of our God and into licentiousness and denying our only master and Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

The verb “contend” in v3 translates ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι (epagōnizesthai), which is the Present, Infinitive of ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnizomai), “contend.” To understand why this is often translated in some English Bibles as “earnestly contend” or “contend earnestly” it is necessary to learn that ἐπαγωνίζομαι is a compound word. The root is ἀγών (agōn), “strife, contention, [a] contest for victory.” By adding the prefix ἐπί (epi), “”for,” Jude is telling us that we must fight for the faith. This is a spiritual war in which we are engaged, an all-out war that gives no quarter to error or to those who propagate it.

So we must be sure we are contending as the Spirit leads and not against him. That is not as hard as it would seem to be. Notice that we are to contend against those who are attacking the faith by propagating error. That error can be very subtle as in leading people to believe it is perfectly okay to profess to be a Christian, claim to be living by grace, while all they are doing is being licentious. That is very dangerous for us to not call out those people because of those whose faith is not as mature as ours. These are the ones denying our only master and Lord Jesus Christ through their licentiousness, perverting the grace of our God.

[17] But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. [18] They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” [19] It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. [20] But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, [21] keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. [22] And have mercy on those who doubt; [23] save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:17-23 ESV)

Yes, we are to be merciful and do all we can to counsel those in doubt and be quick to lead professing Christians who have sinned into repentance as they respond to the rebuke and conviction of the Holy Spirit. However, we are also to not allow the scoffers to divide us. Let us share our faith with all who will hear the truth and disciple all who obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into his teachings and those of his apostles. Let us stay in the Word of God, remain faithful, contend earnestly for the faith, and await our Lord’s return.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “To Contend For The Faith Delivered Once For All To The Saints

  1. [17] But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. [18] They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”

    ‘Ungodly passions’ like the desire ( passion ) for fame, fortune and the ‘high seats’ and ‘greeting in the marketplaces’.
    There is some really great looking ‘high seats’ in the so-called ‘Christian’ publishing ‘business’,, and some really great ‘greetings in the market place’ by ‘well known’ and ‘influential’ men! Like: ‘Who wrote the foreward to the latest christian book?’
    Danger… danger..danger when ‘all men speak well of you’.
    Wide is the path and broad is the way…

  2. Mike as I read Ezek 13,14 I see prophets who have visions and of course false prophets – as I got to Ezek 14:9 this must be the answer to our situation today – what do you think. The “true” Christian will see through this. Keep up your good work we need this. God Bless you efforts!!!

  3. Mike, contending for the faith is a very important ministry, especially to protect younger believers from those grievous wolves who have arisen from among us, who with smooth words deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting, and draw away disciples after themselves. Even a previously “sound” (what does that mean, anymore?) teacher who has gone astray from the truth must be marked so they can be avoided. False teachers must be silenced, because their erroneous teachings upset the faith of many.

    I thank God for you and those like you who are willing to take on this unpleasant task of being a watchman on the wall. Unpleasant because of the insults and adhom’s hurled at those who dare speak against the “anointed” teacher-idols.

  4. But Mike – the narrow Truth of God’s Word is so, um, so, narrow! Can’t we all just get along? Surely Piper’s “Christian hedonism” – which puts our experience as the rule of faith just as sure as seeker sensitive theology does – can’t be all that bad, can it? It’s Piper! Oh – not inspired by God. A mere man who is vulnerable to the sinful desires of the flesh – the allure and applause of men can be so seductive. We need other Christians to love God more than they “love” us and rebuke us and exhort us to walk the narrow path. For the glory of God – even if not for my personal joy.

    One of my favorite sermons from one of my favorite preachers, on the very passage you selected. May the Lord bless you and keep you, because you and I cannot keep ourselves, for His glory and not for any man.

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=5309038320

  5. The way is narrow…and there will be very FEW that are called to find it….soon and very soon!
    I cannot imagine the stench in our Lord’s nostrils at some of the things done and said in the name of
    “Christianity”.
    Lord, have mercy!!

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