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 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 3 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
Last week, on December 20th, as I was preparing to leave for Oklahoma to visit family over the weekend, I received an “odd” comment on my post Evil Personified. I approved it, but made no reply as I pondered what that person was trying to say. Then I received an email from that very same person later asking me to remove that comment. Here is part of that email:
…if you can, please remove my comments – i don’t want to get involved – was involved in another site and they mentioned reformed theology as you do. i agree with the article you wrote but i have not studied anything other than HIS word and HIS teaching – i have never studied doctrine – please, no hard feelings – HIS word has kept me and sustained me. i took HIM at His word that He would be my Teacher and He has fulfilled that promise. i still agree with the article…
Here was the basis of my reply:
…I’ll remove your comment, but you must understand that Reformed Theology and what our Lord taught are the very same thing. It is the exegesis of his word that is basis for Reformed Theology and it is Doctrine that is what the Apostles and Prophets taught us the is the foundation of the Church with Christ being the Chief Cornerstone holding that foundation together. You cannot say you believe his word and be a fence sitter when it comes to Doctrine….
That person replied:
…thank you for removing my blog – i am not a fence sitter, mike – i am a true believer who takes HIS word for what it says – we could argue what the early church taught – i am interested in what Yeshua taught and i take it just as HE states it. there is no go between in what i have been taught. i know it is pure and that it is TRUTH – why put doctrine into the mix?…
There were a few more “back and forth” comments, but I could not get this person to understand that truth and the doctrines given to us by the Lord and his apostles are one and the same.
13 ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. (1 Timothy 4:13 NA27)
13 Until I come attend to the public reading, the exhortation, and the teaching of scripture. (1 Timothy 4:13 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
In this passage, the Apostle Paul commands Timothy to attend to handling God’s Word diligently in a certain way. He is to read it publicly, that is, read it to his flock. He is to us it to exhort them. The last part of that command τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ or literally, “the teaching” or “the doctrine” or “the instruction.” Timothy was being commanded to impart “doctrine” to his flock. That is what Biblical teaching is. A Pastor’s primary function is this very thing. He is not to be an entertainer or entrepreneur nor even is he to place his love for his flock above the necessity to teach them the truth from God’s Word.
The person with whom I was in disagreement was all about just being a Jesus follower with no doctrinal boundaries while he and those he set as the foundational teachers of the Church teach us the very opposite. Go back to the passage I placed at the top of this post, which is Jude 3. I ask, how can we contend for the faith if we do not know the truth? If your truth is different than my truth then how can we do that?
The word “contend” in Jude 3 translates the verb ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι or epagōnizesthai the Infinitive, Present, Deponent case of ἐπαγωνίζομαι or epagōnizomai. This is a compound word made up of ἀγών or agōn, “”which means strife, contention, [a] contest for victory.” It along with the verb ἀγωνίζομαι or agōnizomai originally referred to the fighting and struggle involved in the Greek games.” By adding the prefix ἐπί or epi,. “for”, Jude is telling us that we must fight for the faith. The person with whom I was in discussion thought that was what was going on, but how can you ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι for the faith if all you have is doctrine-less Christianity? All you can do is point to your own experience not our immutable God and His doctrine that never changes.
My brethren, we can make an idol out of anything and pride is deceitful even masquerading as humility so we must always understand that Christ is our all and without him we can do nothing. God gave us his word and we are to read it, exhort others from it, and teach doctrine from it as commanded.
Soli Deo Gloria!